Pixel Scroll 2/12/19 Fans Scroll In, Where Pixels Fear To Tread

(1) RIDLEY SCOTT’S COGNAC AD. The noted director of Blade Runner, various Aliens movies, and the Apple Mac: 1984 commercial, Ridley Scott, has returned to commercial work this year. First to air was his Turkish Airlines ad for the Super Bowl, and now comes a short video tailored for airing online and on TV during the Oscars:

The liquor brand is promoting its Hennessy X.O cognac in “7 Worlds,” a mix of epic drama and sci-fi odyssey. The video highlights the seven notes of X.O and pays homage to the Oscars with a scene that includes colossal golden figures similar to the Oscars award statue.

Scott, who directed films including “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and “Gladiator,” created a four-minute film for the brand that will air on Hennessey’s site during the Oscars on Feb. 24. A 60-second version airs during the show on ABC.

The YouTube blurb explains:

Hennessy X.O – The Seven Worlds – Directed by Ridley Scott. Each time you taste Hennessy X.O, you go on an odyssey. Seven tasting notes, like seven unique worlds to explore. Seven oneiric stories to convey the incredible richness and complexity of this cognac. …The Seven Worlds are creative interpretations of each tasting note, described by Hennessy’s Comité de Dégustation as illustrations of Hennessy X.O’s taste and feel: Sweet Notes, Rising Heat, Spicy Edge, Flowing Flame, Chocolate Lull, Wood Crunches. Culminating in Infinite Echo. These seven notes are envisioned by Ridley Scott as individual worlds each brought to life through wonderous and extreme physiography.

(2) ZAK SMITH CALLED OUT. Game author Zak Smith, a four-time Ennie Award nominee in 2018, has been accused by several women of sexual assault. One company will no longer do business with him.

The Morrus’ Unofficial En World Tabletop RPG News site summarized the story: “RPG Writer Zak S Accused Of Abusive Behaviour”.

RPG writer Zak S (aka Zak Smith, Zak Sabbath) has been accused by multiple women of abusive behaviour in a public Facebook post by his ex-partner, and two other women.

Zak Smith appeared in the video series I Hit It With My Axe, and is known for the Playing D&D With Porn Stars blog. He has also written several RPG books, most recently for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, consulted on the D&D 5th Edition Player’s Handbook, has won multiple ENnies, and recently worked for White Wolf. As yet, he hasn’t made any public response to the accusations.

The Facebook post referred to is public, and can be accessed here. Consider ALL the content warnings given. Many reactions and links will be found using this search on Twitter.

OneBookShelf / DriveThruRPG President Steve Wieck says they basically won’t be doing business with Zak Smith going forward — “DriveThruRPG Responds to Current Industry News” at OneBlogShelf.

Thanks to everyone for your patience as we deliberated on the situation that has unfolded regarding Zak Smith (aka Zak Sabbath). At DriveThruRPG, we want to do our part to keep bad actors out of the roleplaying community, and we don’t want business relationships with such people. As such, you’d think there wouldn’t be much deliberation needed on our part. However, the situation posed a number of challenges for us to consider in terms of precedent and collateral impact on other parties.

I have decided that we will not accept future titles for sale on DriveThruRPG (or our other marketplaces) if Zak is a contributor on the title. If any publisher has a title-in-process to which Zak is a contributor and this policy would impact you financially, then we’d ask that you please reach out to us via the publisher services link to have a dialogue about that title…

So DriveThruRPG is now banning certain creators? Will whoever the “outrage brigade” complains about next be banned as well?
We all share a responsibility for the health of our hobby. Any demographic measure we’ve ever seen on the roleplaying hobby shows women are under-represented. Things won’t improve if people shirk the responsibility to make our hobby inclusive.

Zak Smith has a long and well-documented history of behaviors antithetical to a healthy community. In light of recent allegations, which we find credible, we think our business and our hobby is better off without him, so we’re doing our part.

Eric Franklin explained the significance of this decision in a comment: “DTRPG/OBS is the largest RPG PDF retailer on the planet, and are the ONLY legal source for many publishers’ games. This is equivalent to Amazon cutting a publisher off – without OBS, it’s super-hard to make money selling RPG PDFs.”

(3) LEGO CAMEOS. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “How LEGO MOVIE 2 Scored Those Surprising Celebrity Cameos (Spoilers!)” discusses how Bruce WIllis and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have cameos in the film, with Justice Ginsburg saying she would only be in the movie if her action figure had a small gavel.

But there are a few cameos in the new hit animated sequel that will catch you for a loop. While folks like Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return as superheroes Superman and Green Lantern, respectively, and DC stars Jason Momoa and Gal Gadot are onboard to voice Lego versions of Aquaman and Wonder Woman, fans who saw the film over the weekend got an unexpected surprise in the bricky form of Bruce Willis playing… well, Bruce Willis (though he bears a striking resemblance to Bruce Willis as Die Hard‘s John McClane).

(4) ERRM, NO. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber asks: “Does The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part match the original?”

Set five years after the original, a new film continues the story of Lego figure Emmet – and it fails to measure up.

Perhaps no sequel could ever have reached the giddy heights attained by The Lego Movie. Written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the best cartoon of 2014 was such a magnificently animated and dazzlingly inventive delight that there was probably only one way its follow-up could go. But it is still depressing to see The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part falling so far short of its glorious predecessor.

One obvious reason for the shortfall is that the first film caught everyone unawares. Those of us who walked into the cinema fearing a cynical advert for a Danish construction toy brand found ourselves gawping instead at a daring Orwellian satire, the exhilarating and hilarious adventure of a cheerfully conformist construction worker, Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), who learns that the tyrannical Lord Business (Will Ferrell) plans to glue every one of Bricksburg’s Lego citizens into place….

(5) NOT PRIME ENOUGH? The Counterpart TV series has been cancelled. (At least in this universe.)

Creator Justin Marks announced Monday on his verified Twitter account that the premium cable network has opted to cancel the drama starring J.K. Simmons after two seasons. The news comes ahead of Sunday’s season two finale, which will now serve as a series finale should another outlet not pick up the Media Rights Capital-produced drama.

(6) MARVEL MIGRATION. Hulu looks like the new home for Marvel TV programs: “Marvel, Hulu Set Four-Show Animated Slate”. The Hollywood Reporter has details:

As Marvel’s Netflix relationship sours, the comic book powerhouse is entering a new pact for a slate of four animated series with Hulu.

The streamer — soon to be majority controlled by Marvel parent Disney as part of the Fox asset sale — has greenlit four animated series (and a special) as part of a new partnership with the comic giant.

M.O.D.O.K. centers around an egomaniacal supervillain with a really big head and a really little body, who struggles to maintain control of his evil organization and his demanding family. Writers Jordan Blum and Patton Oswalt will also executive produce.

Hit-Monkey tells the tale of a wronged Japanese snow monkey, mentored by the ghost of an American assassin, as he cuts a wide swath through the Tokyo underworld in this darkly cinematic and brutally funny revenge saga. Writers Josh Gordon and Will Speck will executive produce.

Tigra & Dazzler Show is a story about two woke superheroes and best friends, Tigra and Dazzler, as they fight for recognition among powered people who make up the eight million stories in Los Angeles. Writers Erica Rivinoja and Chelsea Handler serve as executive producers.

Howard the Duck is trapped in a world he never made, but America’s favorite fighting fowl hopes to return home with the help of his unstoppable gal pal Beverly before the evil Dr. Bong can turn him the crispiest dish on the menu. Writers Kevin Smith and Dave Willis will also executive produce.

The Offenders follows MODOK, Dazzler, Tigra, Hit Monkey and Howard the Duck as they are all forced to team up in order to save the world and certain parts of the universe.

(7) HOLLOMAN OBIT. Master costumer D. Jeannette Holloman (1955-2019) died February 11.

Jeannette was a founding member of the Greater Columbia Fantasy Costumers Guild. Her costumes have been featured in Threads magazine and The Costume Makers Art. She has participated several WorldCon, CostumeCon and Malice Domestic award-winning costumes. She was a noted voice-over artist. She is survived by her husband Ron Robinson, author, costumer, and technocrat. She also leaves a vast number of good friends.

(8) SMITH OBIT. British fan Tony “Blindpew” Smith died of cancer on February 9 according to the Novacon 49 Facebook page. He is survived by his wife Wendy and his family. Smith was an early member of the Peterborough SF Club.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 12, 1920 Russ Chauvenet. He co-founded the National Fantasy Fan Federation, with Damon Knight and Art Widner, and was a member of First Fandom. He coined the word “fanzine” in the October 1940 issue of his fanzine Detours and was for many years a member of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association. He later coined prozine, a phrase for professionally published magazines containing SF stories. It looks like he wrote one piece of fanfic called “If I Werewolf”.  He shares credit for it with Harry Jenkins, Jr., Elmer Perdue, Jack Speer, Wilson Tucker and Arthur L. Widner, Jr. and it was published in Spaceways, January 1942. (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 12, 1922 Sam Youd. Best known for writing under the name of John Christopher, which he used when he penned The Tripods series. A BBC and Seven Network (Australia) series would be made from the books. He also wrote two other genre novels, The Death of Grass and The Guardians. (Died 2012.)
  • Born February 12, 1933 Juanita Ruth Coulson, 86. She apparently is well-known for her Children of the Stars books though I’ve not heard of them. She co-edited the fanzine Yandro for many years. The magazine won the Hugo in 1965, thus making Coulson one of the very first women editors to be so honored. She’s also known for being an excellent filker. She was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 1996.  She was nominated for several Pegasus Awards for filk music, winning the award for Best Writer/Composer in 2012.
  • Born February 12, 1942 Terry  Bisson, 77. He’s best known for his short stories including “Bears Discover Fire,” which won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award and “They’re Made Out of Meat.” His genre novels includes Talking ManWyrldmaker and a rather superb adaptation of Johnny Mnemonic
  • Born February 12, 1950 Michael Ironside, 69. Ahhhh, he of Starship Troopers fame. His first SF role was actually as Darryl Revok in Scanners. Later roles included Overdog in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, Ricther In Total Recall, General Katana in Highlander II: The Quickening and of course Lt. Jean Rasczak In Starship Troopers. Now he also did some series work as well including being Ham Tyler on V The Final Battle and V The SeriesseaQuest 2032 as Captain Oliver Hudson, General Sam Lane on Smallville and on the Young Blades series as Cardinal Mazarin. 
  • Born February 12, 1952 Steve Szilagyi, 67. This is going to get very meta. Photographing Fairies, his first novel, was short-listed for the 1993 World Fantasy Award. But the novel itself is based on the Cottingley Fairies hoax so is the novel a metanarrative? Ok I’ve been up too long again. At any rate the film made the novel starring Ben Kingsley is first rate.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • In its own way, Non Sequitur asks whatever happened to that sense of wonder?

(11) TOLKIEN TRAILER. Oxford, WWI, true love – it’s all in Tolkien, the biopic, arriving in theaters on May 10.  

TOLKIEN explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school. This takes him into the outbreak of World War I, which threatens to tear the “fellowship” apart. All of these experiences would inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-Earth novels.

(12) STAR STRUCK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] One of pop star Ariana Grande’s tracks on her new album is called “NASA,” though it’s more about self-empowerment than space exploration. That didn’t keep there from being some cross-talk (Bustle: “Ariana Grande’s Twitter Exchange With NASA & Buzz Aldrin Perfectly Shows Why She’s Such A Superstar”) featuring Twitter exchanges between NASA and Grande plus between Buzz Aldrin and Grande. For the latter, she seemed a bit, shall we say, star struck.

Another article (The Atlantic: “A Space Nerd’s Reading of Ariana Grande’s ‘NASA’ Song”) notes that the song begins “with a reimagining of Neil Armstrong’s famous line: ‘This is one small step for woman / One giant leap for womankind.’” Self-empowerment indeed.

(13) THE RIGHT-ER STUFF. TV will take another look at America’s space pioneers.Variety: “Nat Geo Orders Adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s ‘The Right Stuff’ to Series”.

National Geographic, in partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way and Warner Horizon Scripted Television, has greenlit to series an adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book “The Right Stuff,” which recounts the early days of the U.S. space program and its astronauts.

Using Wolfe’s book as a jumping-off point, the first season begins in 1958, the height of the Cold War, with the Soviets leading the space race and the U.S. launching NASA’s Project Mercury. The best-selling book was previously adapted into a feature film in 1983.

The show is described as taking “a clear-eyed, non-nostalgic look at the lives of these ambitious astronauts and their families, who became instant celebrities in a competition that would either kill them or make them immortal.” Following seasons will follow the Apollo Space Program, the moon landing, and other missions.

(14) THE FUTURE IS UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. BBC asks, “Sweden’s Cashless Experiment: Is It Too Much Too Fast?”

Cash is still king around the world, but there are pockets of places, especially in Europe, moving away from cash. And no one is dropping cash as fast as Sweden.

In 2018, only 13 percent of Swedes reported using cash for a recent purchase, according to a nationwide survey, down from around 40 percent in 2010. In the capital, Stockholm, most people can’t even remember the last time they had coins jingling in their pockets.

By contrast, around 70 percent of Americans still use cash on a weekly basis, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.

In Sweden, however, especially in bigger cities, going cashless is becoming the norm. Purchases usually happen as digital transactions — by card, online or with Sweden’s most popular mobile payment app, Swish.

…But all this change has also spurred a debate in the Nordic nation over the consequences of how quickly Sweden is going cashless, especially for the most vulnerable groups in society. Many retirees, people with disabilities and newly arrived refugees struggle with digital transactions.

“If you go to a bar or if you go to some shops, they say to you that the only way to pay is to pay with cards or this Swish system,” explains 75-year-old Christina Tallberg, who is president of the Swedish National Pensioners’ Organisation.

She says that even going to public toilets can pose a problem. These often cost 10 kronor (around a dollar) in Sweden, but the toilets rarely accept cash these days.

(15) OF THIS EARTH. Dylan Narqvist has translated his research into graphic form —  

He’d love to sell you a copy of the “World Map of Alien First Contacts in Popular Motion Pictures – Poster”. Here’s an excerpt of the detail —

(16) THE ONE ELLISON TOOK HIS NAME OFF. Cancelled SciFi tells you how to watch Cordwainer Bird’s 1973 TV show: “Streaming Finds: The Starlost Has Its Own Roku Channel”.

The Skinny: This oddity from the 70’s is not well known, but some sci fi fans may be interested in checking it out. It was a Canadian production that was syndicated in the U.S. and that ran for only one season of sixteen episodes. It was created by Harlan Ellison and his script for the pilot even received the Best Original Screenplay award from the Writer’s Guild of America. But Ellison distanced himself from the show after growing disillusioned with the production direction (the studio made many changes and recorded the show on video tape like classic Doctor Who), and had his name removed from the credits (replaced with his usual protest moniker Cordwainer Bird). The resulting series was not great, but still of interest to fans of 70’s sci fi. 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s Keir Dullea was one of the leads in the series and Star Trek‘s Walker Koenig showed up in a couple of episodes as an alien.

Apparently this series has slipped into the public domain and a Roku channel titled–what else?–The Starlost has been set up with the entire sixteen episodes available for streaming.

(17) LIVING ON MARS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Verge: “The company that promised a one-way ticket to Mars is bankrupt”.

As the subheading says, “What a shocker.” (Not.) 

Mars One Ventures — the company that claimed it was going to send hundreds of people to live (and ultimately die) on the Red Planet — is now bankrupt, according to Swiss financial notices. It’s an unsurprising development, as many experts suspected that Mars One has been a scam for years, preying on people’s desires to travel to space without having a real plan to get them there. 

—On the other hand—

CNBC:   “Elon Musk: Moving to Mars will cost less than $500,000, ‘maybe even below $100,000’”.

Elon Musk says he is “confident” moving to Mars will “one day” cost less than $500,000 and “maybe even” cost below $100,000.

While the final cost is “very dependent on [the] volume” of travelers, Musk said the cost of moving to Mars will be “low enough that most people in advanced economies could sell their home on Earth [and] move to Mars if they want.” (The median home price in the U.S. is $223,900, according to Zillow.)

Mike Kennedy says, “Hmmm, I move to Mars and weigh about 60% less? I would say ‘sign me up NOW,’ but I suppose that people who move there will be expected to work and I don’t want to un-retire.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/29/19 Dill Pixels

(1) TIPTREE ON TV? Jennifer Kent, who directed the exceptional horror film The Babadook, and is currently at Sundance screening her second film, the historical drama The Nightingale, is developing a project based on the life and stories of James Tiptree Jr. / Alice Sheldon: “Sundance 2019 Interview: Babadook Director Jennifer Kent on Her New Film, The Nightingale” at Rogerebert.com.

And Tiptree?

I don’t know where to start. There was this writer of short science fiction stories in ’60s and ’70s who was very feted, and of the level of Philip K. Dick, or Ursula Le Guin. He was really creating the most powerful stories of gender and of being an outsider. But they were so potent, very prescient; because it’s almost the world we’re living in now. So they were written 50 years ago. They’re incredibly relevant still, and then he was sort of well known. His stories were well known, but no one knew who he was for 10 years, and then eventually someone uncovered his identity to be a woman in her 60s, in I think Virginia. This woman’s story is unbelievable. Unbelievable. And she was a genius. So I want to tell her story.

So you’ll make something episodic at a network?

Yeah, but including her short stories within. It’s not a straight biopic; so aliens from her stories inhabit her true world, and then she will be in the world of her stories, and it’s so exciting to me. It’s science fiction, which I love. I came across that because I was being given a lot of science fiction scripts. And I thought, “Where are the female science fiction stories?” So I Googled “female science fiction”, and I came across her! It was so hard to get the rights. And then I got all the rights to these stories, so it’s just meant to be. I could sit for hours and tell you how we got these rights. I’m working with producer Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, who is wonderful. He’s engaged with a company called Imperative, and so that’s the deal at the moment. But Imperative has thrown some money at the development, but we want to keep control of it. So we didn’t want to go to HBO and have it sit on a shelf and not get made, for example. So, we want to come with a pilot and a bible, so I’m working on that at the moment.

(2) STOKERCON UK. In April 2020 the Horror Writers Association’s annual event, StokerCon, will be held in the UK, and A.K. Benedict will be the Mistress of Ceremonies.

Taking place in Scarborough, just down the coast from Whitby – the town that provided so much of the inspiration for Stoker’s iconic Dracula – this is an event not to be missed for writers and readers of horror fiction.

The event is delighted to confirm its Mistress of Ceremonies for the weekend will be author A.K. Benedict, who will be launching the weekend’s proceedings. A.K. Benedict was educated at Cambridge, University of Sussex and Clown School. Described by the Sunday Express as ‘one of the new stars of crime fiction with a supernatural twist’, AK Benedict’s debut novel, The Beauty of Murder, was shortlisted for an eDunnit award and is in development for TV by Company Pictures. Her second novel from Orion, The Evidence of Ghosts, is a love song to London and shows her obsession with all things haunted. Her radio drama includes Doctor Who and Torchwood plays for Big Finish and a modern adaptation of M.R. James’ Lost Hearts for Bafflegab/Audible.

(3) ODYSSEY WORKSHOP SCHOLARSHIPS. Here is an overview of “2019 Odyssey Writing Workshop Scholarship Opportunities”. The Odyssey Writing Workshop is an acclaimed, six-week program for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror held each summer in New Hampshire. Writers apply from all over the world; only fifteen are admitted.

  • George R.R. Martin sponsors the Miskatonic Scholarship, awarded each year to a promising writer of Lovecraftian cosmic horror, a type of fiction Martin loves and wants to encourage. The scholarship covers full tuition, textbook, and housing. Martin says, “It’s my hope that this new scholarship will offer an opportunity to a worthy applicant who might not otherwise have been able to afford the Odyssey experience.” Applicants must demonstrate financial need in a separate application. Full details at the link.
  • Bestselling author and Odyssey graduate Sara King is sponsoring the Parasite Publications Character Awards to provide financial assistance to three character-based writers wishing to attend this summer’s Odyssey. The Parasite Publications Character Awards, three scholarships in the amounts of $2,060 (full tuition), $500, and $300, will be awarded to the three members of the incoming class who are deemed extraordinarily strong character writers, creating powerful, emotional characters that grab the reader and don’t let go. No separate application is required.
  • The new Chris Kelworth Memorial Scholarship will be offered to a Canadian writer admitted to Odyssey. This scholarship, funded by alumni and friends of Chris, will cover $900 of tuition.
  • One work/study position is also available. The work/study student spends about six hours per week performing duties for Odyssey, such as photocopying, sending stories to guests, distributing mail to students, and preparing for guest visits. Odyssey reimburses $800 of the work/study student’s tuition.

(4) FREE READ. Arizona State University has published Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction, Volume II, an anthology featuring 10 short stories from ASU’s 2018 global climate fiction contest, plus a foreword by Kim Stanley Robinson, who also served as the lead judge for the contest.

The stories explore climate chaos, its aftermath, and possible ways forward through a variety of genres and styles, from science fiction and fantasy to literary fiction and prose poetry. It’s free to download in a variety of digital formats (HTML, EPUB, MOBI, and via Apple iBooks).

Table of Contents:

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, Foreword
  • Angie Dell and Joey Eschrich, Editors’ Introduction
  • Monarch Blue, by Barbara Litkowski
  • The Last Grand Tour of Albertine’s Watch, by Sandra K. Barnidge
  • Half-Eaten Cities, by Vajra Chandrasekera
  • Darkness Full of Light, by Tony Dietz
  • Luna, by David Samuel Hudson
  • Tuolumne River Days, by Rebecca Lawton
  • The Most Beautiful Voyage in the World, by Jean McNeil
  • Orphan Bird, by Leah Newsom
  • The Office of Climate Facts, by Mitch Sullivan
  • Losing What We Can’t Live Without, by Jean-Louis Trudel
  • About the Contributors
  • Honorable Mention: 2018 Contest Semifinalists

(5) HUGO VOTER ELIGIBILITY. Dublin 2019 is fixing this –

(6) MY KINGDOM FOR CANON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Retcons are king. Or kinda want to be. The Daily Dot stares into the abyss at the changing look of Klingons over the various Star Trek series and movies—and especially the significant changes between the first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery  (“Here’s Why the Klingons Look Different in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 2”).

In the grand tradition of sci-fi retcons, there’s a canon explanation for the Klingons’ new look. While the humanoid Original Series Klingons were retroactively explained as victims of a genetic diseaseDiscovery’s bald Klingons [in season 1] were apparently making a fashion statement.

According to actress Mary Chieffo (L’Rell), designer Glenn Hetrick decided that the Klingons weren’t “bald” in season one—they just shaved their heads. Speaking at New York Comic Con last year, Chieffo said Hetrick was inspired by the Next Generation episode “Rightful Heir.”

“There is a reference to when [legendary Klingon hero] Kahless is brought back as a clone. The way he proves himself is he tells the story of how he cut off a lock of his hair and dipped it into a volcano and made the first bat’leth, with which he killed Molor, the terrible tyrant who was running Qo’noS at the time. We took that one little beautiful seed… and kind of expanded on that, and we see that in a time of war the Klingons would shave their heads, and in a time of peace, we start to grow it back out. I really love the symbolism of that.”

Meanwhile, ScreenRant.com has a different take on the whole, um, different Klingon thing (“Star Trek Theory: Discovery Is Why The Original Series Klingons Look Different”).

Star Trek: Discovery could finally explain one of the franchise’s biggest discrepancies: why do the Klingons in The Original Series look human? The answer might be the former Starfleet Lieutenant Ash Tyler, who is the surgically altered Klingon named Voq.

[…] It’s possible Star Trek: Discovery season 1’s transformation of Voq into Ash Tyler is the forerunner to why the Klingons Captain Kirk faced in The Original Series didn’t have the ridged brows and wild hair of later Klingons. Voq was the former Torchbearer of T’Kuvma who underwent surgery to become human in a horrifically painful process that damaged his mind. His lover L’Rell oversaw the procedure to turn Voq into Ash Tyler, a Starfleet Lieutenant who was captured during the Battle at the Binary Stars. Voq ended up believing he really was Ash and fell in love with Michael Burnham but his inner Klingon kept fighting his way to the forefront.

[…] By the time Captain Kirk faced the Klingons for the first time in the Star Trek: The Original Series’ episode “Errand of Mercy”, the warrior race looked and behaved human, albeit with darker, exotic skin. Kor, the Klingon Commander, even told Kirk “our races aren’t so different”. He meant that both humans and Klingons are war-like species, but his words could also now have a deeper context: the Klingons have 24 Great Houses and it’s possible this group of Klingons underwent the same (perfected) procedure that turned Voq into Ash Tyler.

(7) CELEBRATORY YEAR. “150 years of the periodic table: Test your knowledge”. I scored 5 for 5 – how unusual!

You’ll find it on the wall of nearly every school chemistry laboratory in the land.

And generations of children have sung the words, “hydrogen and helium, lithium, beryllium…” in an attempt to memorise some of the 118 elements.

This year, the periodic table of chemical elements celebrates its 150th birthday.

…The United Nations has designated 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table to celebrate “one of the most significant achievements in science”.

In March, it will be 150 years since the Russian scientist, Dmitri Mendeleev, took all of the known elements and arranged them into a table.

Most of his ideas have stood the test of time, despite being conceived long before we knew much about the stuff that makes up matter.

On Tuesday, the year will be officially launched in Paris. So, what’s so special about this iconic symbol of science?

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 29, 1923 Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore. (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 29, 1940 Katharine Ross, 79. Yes, you know her as Elaine Robinson in The Graduate but that’s hardly genre, do shall we see what she done in our area of interest? Her first such work was as Joanna Eberhart in The Stepford Wives –scary film that. She shows up next as Helena in The Swarm and plays Margaret Walsh in The Legacy, both horror films. The Final Countdown sees her in the character of Laurel Scott.  And Dr. Lilian Thurman is her character in the cult favorite Donnie Darko. I’m fairly sure that the only genre series she’s done is on The Wild Wild West as Sheila Parnell in “The Night of the Double-Edged Knife” episode. I did debate if the I should could I count Alfred Hitchcock Presents aa genre or not as she did an episode there as well.
  • Born January 29, 1977 Justin Hartley, 42. Performer in the series as Green Arrow and Oliver Queen characters, season six on. Also director of the “Dominion” episode and the writer of the “Sacrifice” episode on that series. He’s also Arthur “A.C.” Curry in the unsold Aquaman television pilot. The latter is up on YouTube here. He’s also lead cast in a web series called Gemini Division.
  • Born January 29, 1978 Catrin Stewart, 31. Jenny Flint in five episodes of Doctor Who. She was friends with Madame Vastra and Strax (informally known as the Paternoster Gang) who appeared first during the Eleventh Doctor and last during the Twelfth Doctor. Big Finish has continued them in their audiobooks. She also played Stella in two episodes of the Misfits series, and was Julia in a performance of Nineteen Eighty-Four done at London Playhouse several years back. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest encounter a superhero with a not very pleasant power.
  • Not everybody gets off the ground at Hogwarts according to Berkeley Mews.
  • A super warning about the cold and flu season at Off the Mark.

(10) ELGIN AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association is taking nominations for the Elgin Award through May 15. Charles Christian will be the 2019 Elgin Awards Chair.

Only SFPA members may nominate; there is no limit to how many they can nominate, but they may not nominate their own work. Send title, author, and publisher of speculative poetry books and chapbooks published in 2017 and 2018 to elgin@sfpoetry.com by mail to the SFPA secretary: Renee Ya, P.O. Box 2074, San Mateo, CA 94401 USA. Books and chapbooks that placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, in last year’s Elgin Awards are not eligible.

(11) FOREVER YOUNG. A young Captain Picard steps up alongside a bunch of  Italian Renaissance turtles and other, um, beloved characters (SYFY Wire: “Exclusive: Young Captain Picard commands the U.S.S. Stargazer in Star Trek: IDW 20/20 one-shot”).

IDW Publishing’s big 20th anniversary celebration rolls on this month as the mini-major refreshes five of their major licensed titles with a time-traveling series of oversized one-shot releases. 

The January party sparkles with some of pop culture’s most treasured properties as GhostbustersJem and the Holograms, My Little Pony, Star Trek, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles uncover characters’ secrets and mysteries shot 20 years into the future or tugged back to the past.

(12) RUN, CAT, RUN! Camestros Felapton has the news — “Shock billionaire spoiler candidate enters presidential race”.

Timothy the Talking Cat, billionaire CEO of publishing multinational “Cattimothy House” entered the 2020 Presidential fray, with a shock announcement on Tuesday. At a book launch in Borstworth Library, the outspoken cat and business guru laid out his vision for a new kind of US President.

(13) NEW BENNETT NOVELLA DISCUSSED. Several star reviewers from Nerds of a Feather participate in “Review Roundtable: Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett”.

CONTENT WARNING: This review discusses gun violence throughout, and includes references to child death. Also, we’re discussing the whole novella, so BEWARE SPOILERS.

Vigilance, the new novella from Robert Jackson Bennett, is out today and it’s a searing look at gun violence in the US. In this near future dystopia, John McDean is tasked with running “Vigilance”, the nation’s favourite reality programme, which releases real shooters are released on unsuspecting locations with military-grade armaments, and the resulting carnage is broadcast as a “lesson” in how to protect oneself. McDean and his crew at ONT station think they have the variables of Vigilance down to a fine art, but in the novella’s ensuing escalation find themselves taken down by one of McDean’s own blindspots, to dramatic effect.

We’ve got a lot of Bennett fans on our team here at Nerds of a Feather and when this novella came to our attention, lots of us were interested in reading it to review. That’s why, instead of taking it on alone, today I, Adri, am joined by Paul Weimer, Brian, and Joe Sherry to unpack Bennett’s highly topical novella and our reactions to it.

(14) MARKET UPDATE. Coming over the air now —

(15) PREY WITHOUT CEASING. We linked to the trailer yesterday, now The Hollywood Reporter explains it all to you: “How ‘Birds of Prey’ Footage Builds on ‘Suicide Squad’ Look”.

Margot Robbie’s next take on Harley Quinn is steeped in ’80s music video sensibilities. Gotham City’s newest protectors have arrived. Tuesday morning, following an Instagram post by Margot Robbie teasing her return as Harley Quinn, Warner Bros. released the first official behind-the scenes look at Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). The first look teases viewers with quick glimpses of the main characters, who, alongside Robbie’s Harley Quinn, are comprised of Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), and Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Birds of Prey follows the events of Suicide Squad and finds Gotham City in a very different place following an apparent disappearance of Batman, and Quinn’s separation from the Joker. Harley finds herself on a continued path of redemption when she seeks to help a young girl, Cassandra Cain, escape the wrath of Black Mask by recruiting a force of Gotham heroines.

(16) OUT OF TIME. Vicky Who Reads makes it sound irresistible: “Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen (DRC): An Amazing Adult Sci-Fi Novel with Strong Family Themes”. Her review begins….

Kin Stewart used to be a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.

Now, stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.

(17) FROG STUFFING. Jon Del Arroz’ Happy Frogs lists are callbacks to what JDA thinks were the good old days of the Sad and Rabid Puppies. How much pull does he actually have? We’ll know if any of these names from “The Happy Frogs Hugo Award list” [Internet Archive link] show up on the 2019 ballot. (Well, it wouldn’t be a complete shock if David Weber got a nod for Best Series on his own – but that still leaves the rest of them.)

(18) WHERE FEW HAVE GONE. After five decades it’s hard to believe, but newly uncovered (or rediscovered) wide-format footage and uncatalogued audio was available as the basis for a new Apollo 11 documentary. Rolling Stone has the story of the doc plus a trailer (“‘Apollo 11’ Trailer: See Never-Before-Seen Footage From NASA’s Moon Mission”).

New footage from the lead-up to NASA’s first manned trip to the moon (and the landing itself) features in the upcoming documentary Apollo 11, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

“Crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings, Apollo 11 takes us straight to the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission—the one that first put men on the moon, and forever made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin into household names,” distribution company Neon said of the film.

“Immersed in the perspectives of the astronauts, the team in Mission Control, and the millions of spectators on the ground, we vividly experience those momentous days and hours in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future.”

(19) LAST THOUGHTS ABOUT BROADWAYCON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] On “Three on The Aisle:  Broadway Cosplay” at Americantheatre.org, Elisabeth Vincentelli gives a BroadwayCon report, which begins at sixteen minutes into the podcast and ends at 34 minutes.  She did see some cosplayers, such as a woman from West Virginia who sat on a bus wearing her costume as the Angel from Angels in America, and she occasionally did see fans wanting to get too close to the stars (which in the theatre world is known as “stagedooring.”)  But she also appreciated the substantive panels, such as one on Oklahoma where cast members sang songs they didn’t sing on stage, and noted that BroadwayCon is important enough that stars like Kristen Chenoweth show up there unannounced. Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout said he wanted to go next year and that “A critic incapable of being a fan is a critic that needs therapy.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/28/19 Untitled Pixel Scroll Reboot

(1) FROM BOOKER TO GENRE. This week’s New Yorker article “Why Marlon James Decided to Write an African ‘Game of Thrones’” tells about Marlon James, who won the Booker prize and then decided to write “an African Game of Thrones.”   

A couple of weeks before we met for coffee, I went to hear James speak on a panel about diversity in sci-fi and fantasy, at New York Comic Con, a convention that annually converts the Javits Center into a maelstrom of geekery and cosplay. The audience for the panel was a mixture of black, white, and brown faces; a few rows from me, a Harley Quinn in hijab took furious notes. After a fellow-panelist, Tochi Onyebuchi, the author of a young-adult fantasy series influenced by Nigerian myth, urged the crowd to read Jemisin’s books, James joked that Jemisin would be coming for the Booker next. (He told the crowd they should also read Nalo Hopkinson, a Jamaican-born Canadian writer whose début, “Brown Girl in the Ring,” from 1998, is a dystopian horror-fantasy story animated by the West African spirit-magic tradition of Obeah.) Even as condescension toward genre fiction has gone out of style, the universes of literary and speculative fiction remain distinct, with their own awards, their own publishers, and their own separate, albeit overlapping, communities of readers. “There are a lot of literary-fiction authors whose heads are super stuck up their asses,” James said, telling the attendees that writers ought to read widely across genres.

(2) BETTER WORLDS STORY #5. The magic number! Here’s the latest Better Worlds short story from Rivers Solomon: “St. Juju”. Video by Allen Laseter.

Andrew Liptak did a Q&A with the author: “Rivers Solomon on colonialism, the apocalypse, and fascinating fungus”.

Rivers Solomon

What was the inspiration for this story, and what about fungus attracted you to this world, in particular?

Lately, I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of the end of the world — how it’s never really real, though it may feel like it is to us living in the midst of climate change as we are. Except on the scale of billions of years, according to the kind of timeline where suns birth and die and so on, worlds are quite adaptive creatures. Earth has had five or so ice ages. Dinosaurs have come and gone, many dying, others living on as birds. Mass extinction is par for the planet’s course.

(3) ATWOOD MASTER CLASS. Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing is a 23-lesson video course from Masterclass. Cost, $90.

Called the “Prophet of Dystopia,” Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In her first-ever online class, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale teaches how she crafts compelling stories—from historical to speculative fiction—that remain timeless and relevant. Explore Margaret’s creative process for developing ideas into novels with strong structures and nuanced characters.

(4) PLUNK THOSE SILVER STRINGS. The Haffner Press will publish a very ambitious Manly Wade Wellman collection this year — The Complete John the Balladeer. The book will be released at the 2019 World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles.

John, whose last name is never revealed, is a wandering singer who carries a guitar strung with strings of pure silver. He is a veteran of the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army as a sharpshooter (in the novel After Dark, he mentions that his highest rank was PFC). In his travels, he frequently encounters creatures and superstitions from the folk tales and superstitions of the mountain people. Though John has no formal education, he is self-taught, highly intelligent and widely read; it is implied that his knowledge of occult and folk legendarium is of Ph.D level. This knowledge has granted him competent use of white magic, which he has used on occasion to overcome enemies or obstacles, but it is primarily his courage, wit and essential goodness that always enables him to triumph over supernatural evils (although the silver strings of his guitar and his possession of a copy of The Long Lost Friend are also powerful tools in fighting evil magic), while basic Army training allows him to physically deal with human foes.

Stories:
“O Ugly Bird!”
“The Desrick on Yandro”
“Vandy, Vandy”
“One Other”
“Call Me from the Valley”
“The Little Black Train”
“Shiver in the Pines”
“Walk Like a Mountain”
“On the Hills and Everywhere”
“Old Devlins Was A-Waiting”
“Nine Yards of Other Cloth”
“Then I Wasn’t Alone”
“You Know the Tale of Hoph”
“Blue Monkey”
“The Stars Down There”
“Find the Place Yourself”
“I Can’t Claim That”
“Who Else Could I Count On”
“John’s My Name”
“Why They’re Named That”
“None Wiser for the Trip”
“Nary Spell”
“Trill Coster’s Burden”
“The Spring”
“Owls Hoot in the Daytime”
“Can These Bones Live?”
“Nobody Ever Goes There”
“Where Did She Wander?”

Novels
The Old Gods Waken (1979)
After Dark (1980)
The Lost and the Lurking (1981)
The Hanging Stones (1982)
The Voice of the Mountain (1984)

(5) BO PEEP. Disney’s new trailer for Toy Story 4.

(6) MEMORIAL. NASA Watch “Remembering” is a wrap-up of several memorials to lost astronauts and cosmonauts posted the day before the anniversary of the Challenger shuttle disaster. Mike Kennedy sent the link with a note: “In my long-time home of Huntsville AL, we name schools after these people. I live just a few blocks from Roger B. Chaffee Elementary School and maybe 2-3 miles from Virgil I. Grissom High School. The former Ed White Middle School name was sadly lost when it and another school were combined a few years ago. Those were, of course, the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire. We also have Challenger Elementary/Middle school and Columbia High School. These wounds run deep around here, even after all the intervening years.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 28, 1929 Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.)
  • Born January 28, 1969 Kathryn Morris, 50. First played in Sleepstalker, a horror I’ll be gobsmacked if any of you have heard of. She has a small role as a teenage honey (IMDb description, not mine) in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. After that she was Lara Anderton in Minority Report. She played Najara on several episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess and was in Poltergeist: The Legacy series as Laura Davis in the “Silent Partner” episode.
  • Born January 28, 1973 Carrie Vaughn, 46. Author of the Kitty Norville series. She’s also been writing extensively in the Wild Cards as well. And she’s she’s got a new SF series, The Bannerless Saga which has two novels so far, Bannerless and The Wild Dead. Sounds interesting. 
  • Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 38. His first genre role was Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman In Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed. He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
  • Born January 28, 1985 Tom Hopper, 34. His principal genre role was on the BBC Merlin series as Sir Percival. He also shows up in Doctor Who playing Jeff during the “The Eleventh Hour” episode which would be during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. He’s been cast as Luther Hargreeves in the forthcoming The Umbrella Academy which is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. Yes I’m looking forward to seeing this! 
  • Born January 28, 1993 Will Poulter, 26. First genre role was as Eustace Scrubb in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He later appeared as Gally in The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: The Death Cure. He plays Colin Ritman In Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Series wise, he’s been in The Fades, a BBC supernatural drama,playing Mac.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Get Fuzzy posits the best book ever: Harry da Vinci’s Rings.

(9) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Thoughts and Prayers” by Ken Liu, which looks at how much worse trolling could get.

It was published along with a response essay by digital culture researcher Adrienne Massanari, “What’s in It for the Trolls?”

Ken Liu’s “Thoughts and Prayers” shows how the cruelest of online harassers convince themselves they’re doing the right thing….

When reading Liu’s piece, I was reminded again that the terms troll and trolling are maddeningly overused in popular culture. Trolling has come to mean everything from merely derailing a conversation with a purposefully nonsensical or impolite comment to actively harassing women with death and rape threats on Twitter. It’s a kind of linguistic shield that creates an easy way for abusers and harassers to dismiss their toxic behavior as “just trolling.”

(10) DOLLARS MISTER RICO, MILLIONS OF ‘EM! TVWeb says “Starship Troopers TV Show with Original Movie Cast Is Being Planned”.  

The Starship Troopers TV series would more than likely be pretty big, especially with the original cast and Ed Neumeier on board. One could easily see Netflix or Hulu jumping at the chance to put that out. However, it seems that they are in the early stages of talking about the project, and as Neumeier says, we don’t want to “jinx” it either. So for now, we’ll just think positive thoughts about the project actually happening.

Of course, you might have thoughts of your own about it.

(11) WIZARD OF OZ SETS RECORD. Cousin Judy’s film is still bringing ‘em into the theater — Variety: “Film News Roundup: ‘Wizard of Oz’ Sets Single-Day Record for Fathom”.

Fathom Events’ 80th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” took in $1.2 million at 408 North American sites on Sunday, setting a new Fathom record as the highest-grossing single-day classic film release.

“The Wizard of Oz” also had the highest per-screen average of any film in wide release on Sunday. The 1939 release is part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, which will include “My Fair Lady,” “Field of Dreams,” “Glory,” “Alien” and “Lawrence of Arabia” this year.

(12) BAUM’S AWAY. Coming to Oakland in February, the California International Antiquarian Book Fair poster has an Oz theme.

(13) LET’S GET ROVING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A trio of articles give different impressions on the fate of the Opportunity rover on Mars—silent since the planetwide dust storm several months ago—at least according to the headlines. At Futurism, they say, “NASA’s Opportunity Rover Feared Dead: ‘An Honorable Death’,” which sounds decidedly pessimistic. Over on Gizmodo, they say, “Wake Up, Oppy! NASA Sends New Commands to Mars Opportunity Rover,” a somewhat more optimistic take. Meanwhile, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory itself simply says, “Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars.” That article doubtless gives the clearest story, coming as it does straight from NASA.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have begun transmitting a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting. 

[…] “We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL. “These new command strategies are in addition to the ‘sweep and beep’ commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September.” With “sweep and beep,” instead of just listening for Opportunity, the project sends commands to the rover to respond back with a beep. 

[…] “Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times,” said Callas. “While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch.”

Time is of the essence for the Opportunity team. The “dust-clearing season” – the time of year on Mars when increased winds could clear the rover’s solar panels of dust that might be preventing it from charging its batteries – is drawing to a close. Meanwhile, Mars is heading into southern winter, which brings with it extremely low temperatures that are likely to cause irreparable harm to an unpowered rover’s batteries, internal wiring and/or computer systems. 

If either these additional transmission strategies or “sweep and beep” generates a response from the rover, engineers could attempt a recovery. If Opportunity does not respond, the project team would again consult with the Mars Program Office at JPL and NASA Headquarters to determine the path forward.

(14) MARGOT ROBBIE. Miss me? That’s what Margo Robbie’s asks while dressed as her DC alter ego in an Instagram post. Gizmodo/io9 has that story together with a short video clip showing off costumes for Quinn and several other Birds of Prey characters (“Harley Quinn Brings Fantabulous Fashion to Birds of Prey Video Introducing Black Canary, Black Mask, Huntress & More”).

While Warner Bros. upcoming Birds of Prey movie will introduce a number of DC’s formidable heroines like Huntress and Black Canary to the DCEU for the first time, it’ll also feature the return of one Harley Quinn who, judging from the film’s title, might embark upon some sort of redemptive arc. New year, new movie, new Harley—and Margot Robbie’s just revealed our first look at her.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/25/19 Eight Files High

(1) SINGING ABOUT PEASPROUT CHEN. Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with Henry Lien brought out a fascinating musical connection —

You’re the first author I’ve interviewed who’s had a Broadway singer perform at the book launch for their debut novel. I watched the promotional video of the one and only Idina Menzel performing the theme song from the first book of your Peasprout Chen series, Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword, with you. That’s so cool! What’s the backstory? How did that happen?

We’re represented by the same agency, ICM. She got a hold of the advance reader copy of the first Peasprout Chen book and flipped over it. She asked ICM if they could arrange for her to meet me. After I finished screaming into my pillow, I said, “Oh, well, let me see if I can find a slot in my calendar to squeeze in lunch with Idina Freeggin’ Menzel.” Then I screamed into my pillow some more. We met and really hit it off. She has become a dear friend. So I asked her to sing the theme song for the book at the launch. She said yes. Then I died of shock, and thus am conducting this interview with you from the Beyond.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to gobble goat cheese fritters with Scott H. Andrews while listening to Episode 87 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Scott H. Andrews, founder and editor and publisher of the online magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, celebrated the 10th anniversary of that magazine by hosting a party at the recent World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore, Maryland — which made it seem like the right time for us to discuss that first decade. So we raised a pint at Red’s Table in Reston, Virginia.

Well, he raised a pint — of bourbon-barrel aged Gold Cup Russian Imperial Stout from Old Bust Head Brewery in Fauquier County, Virginia — while I downed my usual bottle of Pellagrino. And as we sipped, we chatted about that work on Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which has so far earned him six World Fantasy Award nominations and six Hugo Award nominations — and won him a British Fantasy Award. He’s a writer as well, with his own fiction appearing in Weird Tales, Space and Time, On Spec, and other magazines.

We discussed the treatment he received as a writer which taught him what he wanted to do (and didn’t want to do) as an editor, how his time as member of a band helped him come up with the name for his magazine, why science fiction’s public perception as a literary genre is decades ahead of fantasy, what it takes for a submission to rise to the level of receiving a rewrite request, the time he made an editor cry (and why he was able to do it), how he felt being a student at the Odyssey Writing Workshop and then returning as a teacher, the phrase he tends to overuse in his personalized rejection letters (and the reason why it appears so often), the way magazine editing makes him like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian, why writers shouldn’t worry about the ratio of submitted stories to purchased ones, the reason he’ll probably never edit novels, what anyone considering starting a magazine of their own needs to know, and much more.

(3) GET ILLUMINATED. “Sacred Texts: Codices Far, Far Away” – Two University of Pennsylvania scholars are doing a series of videos about the ancient Jedi texts until Star Wars Episode 9 is released on December 20.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Luke Skywalker gathered a small library of ancient Jedi texts and placed them in an uneti tree on Ahch-To.

On October 8, 2018, Dr. Brandon Hawk and curator Dot Porter met to talk about these ancient books, and to compare them with manuscripts from the collection of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania.

Here are the first two videos:

(4) NEW HORIZONS PHOTOS ARRIVING SLOWLY. “Nasa’s New Horizons: Best image yet of ‘space snowman’ Ultima Thule” – BBC had the story.

The New Horizons probe has sent back its best picture yet of the small, icy object Ultima Thule, which it flew past on New Year’s Day.

The image was acquired when the Nasa spacecraft was just 6,700km from its target, which scientists think is two bodies lightly fused together – giving the look of a snowman.

Surface details are now much clearer.

New Horizons’ data is coming back very slowly, over the next 20 months.

This is partly to do with the great distance involved (the separation is 6.5 billion km) but is also limited by the small power output of the probe’s transmitter and the size (and availability) of the receive antennas here on Earth. It all makes for glacial bit rates.

The new image was obtained with New Horizons’ wide-angle Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) and gives a resolution of 135m per pixel. There is another version of this scene taken at even higher resolution by the probe’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), but this has not yet been downlinked from the probe.

(5) RSR PRO ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Greg Hullender says, “Based on the discussion on File770, we did the experiment of expanding our Pro Artist list using the ISFDB info. This actually expands it hugely. We ended up not trying to merge the lists for this year, but we posted the ISFDB data separately just so people could have it as a resource. It’s awfully nice data, if a bit overwhelming, and it’d be great to find a good way to use it. We’re hoping people will look at it and offer some ideas for how to make it a bit more manageable.” — “Pro Artists from ISFDB Novels 2018”.

Based on some conversations on File 770 about better ways to find candidates for the Best Professional Artist Hugo Award, we decided to try using the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB) as a source.  The result is spectacular, but maybe a bit overwhelming, so we decided not to try to integrate it with our regular Pro Artists page this year. Instead, we’re treating this as an experiment and inviting feedback on how we might best use this wealth of data in the future to help people who’re trying to find professional artists to nominate.

(6) FRANKENSTEIN AND ROBOTS. In the Winter 2019 Beloit College Magazine, Susan Kasten (“Why Frankenstein Will Never Die”)  discusses how an English professor, an anthropologist, a physicist, and a professor of cognitive science team-taught Frankenstein in a class called “Frankenstein 200:  Monster, Myth, and Meme.”

Robin Zebrowski, a professor of cognitive science, pointed out that the themes of Frankenstein — of creation, difference, empathy, monstrosity, and control–are the memes of artificial intelligence.  Zebrowski pointed out that early robot stories are about Frankenstein.  ‘They’re about building something no one can control once it’s unleashed,’ she said.  She noted that the first work of literature ever written about robots–a 1923 Czech play called R.U.R.–is a story about a robot uprising.

(Incidentally, Professor Zebrowski believes she is not related to sff author George Zebrowski.)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

January 25, 1915 — First transcontinental telephone call was made, between New York and San Francisco; Alexander Graham Bell and Dr. Thomas A. Watson exchanged greetings.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. His first first SF film have him as Dr. Dan Forbes in the 1953 The Magnetic Monster and as Dr. Ingersoll In The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The very next year, he plays James O’Herli in Riders to the Stars. And now we get to the film that you know him from — Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which he playsJack Belicec. After that, I show him only in Nothing Lasts Forever which has never been released here in the States. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1943 Tobe Hooper. Director of such such genre films as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the original of course), Poltergeist (damn scary film) Invaders from Mars and Djinn, his final film. He directed a smattering of television episodes including the “Miss Stardust” of Amazing Stories, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” of Freddy’s Nightmares, “Dead Wait” of Tales from the Crypt and the entire Salem’s Lot miniseries. He also wrote a horror novel with Alan Goldsher,  Midnight Movie: A Novel, that has himself in it at a speaking engagement. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 25, 1958Peter Watts, 61.Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower linked short stories sound intriguing. 
  • Born January 25, 1963 Catherine Butler, 56. Butler published a number of works of which the most important is Four British fantasists : place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Another important work is Reading History in Children’s Books, with Hallie O’Donovan. Her website is here.
  • Born January 25, 1970 Stephen Chbosky, 49. Screenwriter and director best-known I’d say for the Emma Watson-fronted Beauty and the Beast. But he also was responsible for the Jericho series which was a rather decent bit of SF even if, like Serenity, it got killed far too quickly. (Yes, I’m editorializing.) 
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 46. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him in on Batman: Gotham Knights, Justice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was over ambitious but really fun. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Michael Trevino, 34. Performer, Tyler Lockwood on The Vampire Diaries and now Kyle Valenti on the new Roswell, New Mexico series whose premises I’ll leave you to guess. His first genre appearance was in the Charm episode of “Malice in Wonderland” as Alastair. He also shows up on The OriginalsThe Vampire Diaries spin-off. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Claudia Kim, 34. Only four film films but all genre: she played Dr. Helen Cho Avengers: Age of Ultron followed by voicing The Collective In Equals which Wiki manages to call a ‘dystopian utopia’ film to which I say ‘Eh?!?’, and then Arra Champignon in the 2017 version of The Dark Tower and finally as  Nagini, Voldemort’s snake which I presume is a voice role (though I’ve not seen the film so I could be wrong) in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Hulk’s last words? Bizarro has them.

(10) ASIMOV REFERENCE. Yesterday on Late Night With Stephen Colbert (at about the 1:50 mark) the host said during a sketch —

“My self-driving car has stopped taking me to Taco Bell…citing the first law of Robotics.”

(11) RE-DEEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] press release from Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias in Spain addresses the latest “deep image” from the Hubble Space Telescope. The original Hubble Deep Field was assembled in 1995, only to be exceeded by the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field in 2004 and the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field in 2012. Each imaged galaxies further away and thus further back in time. Now there’s a new version of the Ultra-Deep Field that recovers “additional light” not included in earlier versions and showing thus additional information about the included galaxies.

To produce the deepest image of the Universe from space a group of researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) led by Alejandro S. Borlaff used original images from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST taken over a region in the sky called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF). After improving the process of combining several images the group was able to recover a large quantity of light from the outer zones of the largest galaxies in the HUDF. Recovering this light, emitted by the stars in these outer zones, was equivalent to recovering the light from a complete galaxy (“smeared out” over the whole field) and for some galaxies this missing light shows that they have diameters almost twice as big as previously measured.

A scientific paper on the image and analysis is on ArXiv at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1810.00002.pdf (technically a preprint, but it has been accepted for publication by Astronomy & Astrophysics). The data itself is at http://www.iac.es/proyecto/abyss.

(11) NOW BOARDING. James Davis Nicoll knows how we love the number 5 here — “5 SFF Stories About Surviving the Dangers of Boarding School” at Tor.com.

As a setting, boarding schools allow for the construction of thrilling narratives: concerned parents are replaced by teachers who may well prioritize student achievement over student welfare, e.g. maximizing points for Gryffindor over the survival of the students earning those points…

Are there any SFF novels featuring boarding schools? Why yes! I am glad you asked—there are more than I can list in a single article. Here are just a few….

(12) BETTER TECH, MARK 0. Scientists have now deduced that “Neanderthals ‘could kill at a distance'”.

Neanderthals may once have been considered to be our inferior, brutish cousins, but a new study is the latest to suggest they were smarter than we thought – especially when it came to hunting.

The research found that the now extinct species were creating weaponry advanced enough to kill at a distance.

Scientists believe they crafted spears that could strike from up to 20m away.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Lead researcher Dr Annemieke Milks, from UCL Institute of Archaeology, said: “The original idea was that Neanderthals would have been very limited using hand-delivered spears, where they could only come up at close contact and thrust them into prey.

“But if they could throw them from 15m to 20m, this really opens up a wider range of hunting strategies that Neanderthals would have been able to use.”

Extension of the above — “Why we still underestimate the Neanderthals”.

Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, explains why some old assumptions about the intellectual capabilities of our evolutionary relatives, the Neanderthals persist today. But a body of evidence is increasingly forcing us to re-visit these old ideas.

A paper out this week in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution reports the early arrival of modern humans to south-western Iberia around 44,000 years ago.

Why should this be significant? It all has to do with the spread of our ancestors and the extinction of the Neanderthals. South-western Iberia has been claimed to have been a refuge of the Neanderthals, a place where they survived longer than elsewhere, but the evidence is disputed by some researchers.

The latest paper, which is not about Neanderthals, has been taken by some as evidence of an arrival into this area which is much earlier than previously known.

By implication, if modern humans were in south-western Iberia so early then they must have caused the early disappearance of the Neanderthals. It is a restatement of the idea that modern human superiority was the cause of the Neanderthal demise. Are these ideas tenable in the light of mounting genetic evidence that our ancestors interbred with the Neanderthals?

(13) LOST ART? This certainly seems symbolic of the government shutdown: “Shutdown Leaves Uninflated Space Sculpture Circling in Orbit” in the New York Times.

…“Orbital Reflector,” a sculpture by Trevor Paglen that was recently launched into orbit.

The sculpture is not lost in space as much as stuck in a holding pattern before activation, pending clearance by the Federal Communications Commission. According to the artist, it might not survive the wait while F.C.C. workers are on furlough.

A 100-foot-long mylar balloon coated with titanium oxide, “Orbital Reflector” was designed to be visible to the naked eye at twilight or dawn while in orbit for a couple of months. It would then incinerate upon entering the Earth’s thicker atmosphere.

But although it was sent to space, the balloon was never inflated as planned.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/23/19 I Should Be Writing But I’m Sitting Home Watching Pixels Scroll

(1) PAGING MR. WIRE, MR. GUY WIRE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX had a little oopsie when one of their rockets fall-down-go-boom. Well, not so much “boom” as “crunch.” The Verge has the story (“SpaceX’s new test rocket topples over thanks to strong Texas winds”).

A prototype of SpaceX’s next big rocket fell over and sustained damage in south Texas, thanks to high winds in the area. Images from SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas show part of the vehicle sideways on the ground and slightly crumpled. The damage from the mishap will take a few weeks to repair, according to CEO Elon Musk.

Since the holidays, SpaceX engineers in south Texas have been building a prototype of the company’s new Starship rocket. Formerly known as the BFR, the Starship is the next-generation vehicle that SpaceX is developing to transport cargo and people to orbit, as well as to the Moon, Mars, and maybe even beyond. The full system actually consists of two big components: a large rocket booster, named Super Heavy, which will launch a crew-carrying spacecraft — the Starship — into space.

(2) BETTER WORLDS. Cadwell Turnbull’s “Monsters Come Howling in Their Season” is the latest story in the “Better Worlds” series from The Verge.

Listen to the audio adaptation of “Monsters Come Howling in Their Season” below or in Apple PodcastsPocket Casts, or Spotify.

(3) IN THE YEAR 2054. On January 30, The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents Freeman Dyson and Gregory Benford discussing the topic “Foreseeing the Next 35 Years–Where Will We Be in 2054?”

Gregory Benford and Freeman Dyson

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
4:00 – 5:30 p.m. 
Roth Auditorium, Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine 
UC San Diego

This event is free and open to the public; RSVP required.

35 years after George Orwell wrote the prescient novel 1984, Isaac Asimov looked ahead another 35 years to 2019 to predict the future of nuclear war, computerization, and the utilization of space. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the Division of Physical Sciences are honored to welcome two living luminaries in the fields of physics and futurism–Freeman Dyson and Gregory Benford (Ph.D. ’67)–to peer ahead another 35 years, to 2054, and share their insights into what may be in store for us.

Professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, Freeman Dyson is an English-born American theoretical physicist and mathematician….

Gregory Benford is a physicist, educator, author, and UC San Diego alumnus (MS ’65, PhD ’67)…. A two-time winner of the Nebula Award, Benford has also won the John W. Campbell Award, the British Science Fiction Award, the Australian Ditmar Award, the 1990 United Nations Medal in Literature, and the Robert A. Heinlein Award.

(4) RSR ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank has posted itsannual page that highlights work by over 100 professional artists who are eligible for the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. “2019 Professional Artists”. Eric Wong says —

It complements JJ’s Best Professional Artist Hugo: Eligible Works from 2018 page because only 19 artists overlap, meaning 24 are unique to JJ’s list and 83 are unique to RSR’s.

It takes about a minute to browse the thumbnails on the page, or 5-10 minutes to view all 300+ large images one by one with just a key press or screen tap each (no need to close tabs or hit the back key for the next one) thanks to the “lightbox” view. Creating a shortlist of ones you like is also easy by control-clicking or long pressing the artists’ name in the lightbox. Moreover, we’ve included links to the artists’ websites and search links to find artist interviews. If an image makes you curious about the book/magazine/story, there’s a link for that, too. 🙂

Performance-wise, the page is fine on phones and tablets because it’s a bit smaller and loads a bit faster than the File 770 home page (about 5 MB, under 2 seconds). If you view all 300+ large images in the lightbox, about 40 MB will be downloaded by the time you reach the end.

(5) SFWA STORYBUNDLE. The SFWA Fantasy Bundle curated by Terry Mixon is available from Storybundle for about another three weeks. Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Pay what you want!

For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • The Twenty-Sided Sorceress – Books 1-3 by Annie Bellet
  • Ashwin by Kit Rocha
  • Blade & Rose by Miranda Honfleur
  • Amaskan’s Blood by Raven Oak
  • Genrenauts – The Complete Season One by Michael R. Underwood

You choose how much you want to pay for these awesome books. (Click on each book above to check them out.) You decide how much of your purchase goes to the author and how much goes to help keep StoryBundle running. If your purchase price is $15 or more, you get SEVEN more books: Radiance by Grace Draven, The Arrows of the Heart by Jeffe Kennedy, The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher, Blood Dragon – Books 1-3 by Lindsay Buroker, Al-Kabar by Lee French, The Glass Gargoyle by Marie Andreas and Catching Echoes – Reconstructionist Series Book 1 by Meghan Ciana Doidge!

(6) LE GUIN ON SCREEN. Eileen Gunn has been to see the Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin documentary and paid it some compliments on Facebook:

“Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin,” a film by Arwen Curry, opened today in Seattle, exactly a year since Ursula died. John and I went to the first showing. It’s quite a wonderful film, lots of voiceovers by Ursula, lots of photos of Ursula, a few talking heads, and a number of interesting special effects. I was pleased to see Vonda N McIntyre there, in the film, and surprised to see a clip of Nisi Shawl and myself chatting with Ursula in an episode of our short-lived cable talk show, produced by Vonda. (I mean, we had all given our permission, but I had forgotten.) It was lovely to hear her voice again.

(7) WHAT I TELL YOU THREE TIMES IS TRUE. Andrew Liptak’s new Wordplay has as its anchor a segment titled, “Tolkien, Tolkien, Tolkien”.

…As I’ve been somewhat immersed in Tolkien’s lore, I’ve been thinking about what the future of Tolkien’s legacy might be. Clearly, there are huge Hollywood ambitious with it. Amazon is spinning up a fantastically expensive show that’s not *quite* an adaptation of LOTR, but which is said to follow Aragorn before the trilogy, which would be… interesting. It’s also supposedly set in Jackson’s particular vision of Middle-earth, which would make sense, given that that’s what the general public is most familiar with. After all, Guillermo del Toro apparently got the ax by deviating too much from Jackson’s world when he went to adapt The Hobbit.

Adapting Middle-earth is a huge challenge, and looking back on Jackson’s efforts on the first trilogy shows just how well they nailed it — Tolkien purists be damned — balancing the need for something accessible while getting the right tone of the world *right*.

(8) WHO LIVES UP TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS? [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Buzzfeed has a list of Twitter posts for “15 Times Meeting A Celeb Lived Up To Our Expectations,” and several of the named celebrities have genre ties. Carie Fisher appears on the list twice. Also on the list: Harrison Ford, Pierce Brosnan, George Takei, and Guillermo Del Toro.

Over the weekend, Twitter user Doug Tilley asked his followers to share stories about meeting their heroes and having the interaction live up to the hype: The thread quickly went viral, with people from all over sharing their heartwarming exchanges with celebs. The thread starts here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 23, 1939 Greg and Tim Hildebrandt. Greg is age 80, but Tim passed in 2006. I’d say best known for their very popular and ubiquitous Lord of the Rings calendar illustrations, also for illustrating comics for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. They also did a lot of genre covers so I went to ISFDB and checked to see if I recognized any. I certainly did. There was Zelazny’s cover of My Name is Legion, Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham and Poul Anderson’s A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. Nice.
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 76. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really a truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly, I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan created Star Trek: New Voyages.
  • Born January 23, 1944 Rutger Hauer, 75. Roy Batty In Blade Runner of course but did you know he was Lothos In Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That I’d forgotten. He’s also William Earle in Batman Begins, Count Dracula himself in Dracula III: Legacy, Captain Etienne Navarre in Ladyhawke, the vey evil John Ryder in The Hitcher, Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3D, King Zakour in, and no I didn’t know they’d done this film, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power and finally let’s note his involvement in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as President of the World State Federation.
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 69. Unless you count MacGyver as genre which I can say is open to debate, his main and rather enduring SF role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate Universe series. Well Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah, I really liked it.
  • Born January 23, 1964 Mariska Hargitay, 55. Did you know she’s the daughter of Jayne Mansfield? I certainly didn’t. Her first film appearance was as Donna in Ghoulies which is a seriously fun film. Later genre creds are limited but include playing Marsha Wildmon in the Freddy’s Nightmares – A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series. She also plays Myra Okubo in the Lake Placid film and voices Tenar in the not very good, indeed truly awful, Tales from Earthsea.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DR. DEMENTO. The LA Times interviews the Doctor about a huge tribute album that’s just been released: “Dr. Demento, comedic song hero and unsung punk rock legend, gets his due on new album”.

The punk connection takes center stage with “Dr. Demento Covered in Punk,” an exceedingly ambitious and densely packed double album — triple in the vinyl edition — being released Jan. 12.

The album comprises 64 tracks spread over a pair of CDs, pulling together new recordings of “mad music and crazy comedy” songs long associated with the quirky radio emcee. Participants include Yankovic, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, William Shatner, Adam West, the Vandals, Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, the Misfits, Japan’s Shonen Knife, Los Straitjackets, Missing Persons, the Dead Milkmen and at least a dozen more.

“I was always a fan of rock ‘n’ roll, and some of the early punk music of the ‘60s with groups like the Music Machine,” Hansen, 76, said in the cozy living room of his home in Lakewood, where he also records his shows that now reach listeners through subscriptions by way of his official website.

“So when the new punk rock showed up around 1976 and 1977, I played a few samples on my show,” he said. Hansen graduated as a classical music major from Reed College in Portland, Ore., and subsequently earned his master’s degree in folk music studies from UCLA.

“I got the Ramones’ first album and played several of those songs, including ‘Beat on the Brat,’ the song Weird Al did for this album,” said Hansen, who has been inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, the Comedy Hall of Fame and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.

(12) WORKAROUND. Now I Know calls it “A Fine Way to Encourage Reading”. Daniel Dern says, “I’d call ’em ‘BookBuster’.”

Imagine a bookstore that worked on a membership program — instead of buying books, you rented them. …Seems like a fancy Internetty startup? Nope. It’s your local library….

…And let’s face it, many kids with fines don’t have to have those conversations with their parents — they can avoid the fine simply by avoiding taking other books the library. (And at that point, the library is going to suspend their borrowing privileges anyway.) The result is a lose-lose situation: the kids read less and the library doesn’t get that $10 anyway.

So, the Los Angeles County library system fixed it. They call it the “Great Read Away.”

Cardholders under the age of 21 have a new way to pay their fines through the program, no money required. All they need to do is come to the library and read. For every hour of reading, the library system will forgive $5 worth of fines. And it needn’t be a book, either — magazines, newspapers, and comic books count. (Listening to audiobooks or watching movies based on novels does not, however.) Parents and caregivers can read to children to help the kids pay off the debt (but only the kids’ debt), and for those kids who don’t have the stamina to read for an hour, the librarians can give pro-rated credit.

(13) DOGGING IT. A federal worker I know spotted this clip while he was canvassing for jobs — Wienermobile drivers wanted:

Processed meats purveyor Oscar Meyer announced it is seeking a qualified “Hotdogger” to be the next driver of the famed Wienermobile.

The hot dog company said it is accepting applications until Jan. 31 to be the newest “Hotdogger,” Oscar Meyer’s term for Wienermobile drivers.

The job, which begins in June, would involve driving the iconic sausage across the United States, visiting locations including stores, military bases and charity events.

Did you know this job requires a four-year degree? Don’t ask me why.

(14) WELL-USED TECH.  “Facial recognition tool tackles illegal chimp trade”.

Wildlife criminals had better watch out! The same software that recognises you in a friend’s social media post is being adapted to tackle the illegal trade in chimpanzees.

The amber eyes in the image above belong to Manno, who was trafficked from Africa to Syria before being rescued.

Pictures of Mano are now being used to train the algorithm that could help save members of his endangered species from the same experience. It’s a first for chimpanzee conservation.

The algorithm will search through photo posts on social media looking for the faces of rescued apes.

If the technology recognises a trafficked animal, the owners of the accounts featuring the chimp can then be targeted by the authorities.

(15) BCS SIPS. Charles Payseur’s latest short fiction reviews — “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #269”.

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies has a lot to do with transformations, with the threat of revenge, and with the need for freedom. It finds characters who are caught in circumstances of waiting to be punished. To be found out. And trying to find a way free of the things hanging over them. Now, some of those things are no fault of their own and some of them…well, the characters aren’t always quite so innocent. But the piece looks at freedom and who can hope for it, and what it might cost. The stories deal with the weight of revenge and the feelings that can come when that weight is lifted and set down. To the reviews!

(16) DOES THAT BRAND NAME SOUND FAMILIAR? Eater reports “Furloughed Federal Workers Supposedly Surviving on Soylent Is So Very 2019”. I’m sure this is totally credible!  

It’s barely three-quarters of the way through January, and already a story has emerged that seems to perfectly encapsulate the early 2019 hellscape: According to a somewhat dubious Reddit post, two furloughed federal workers are subsisting solely on the Silicon Valley-born meal replacement known as Soylent so they can afford to feed their infant child.

Titling his post “Soylent has financially saved my family’s life amid the government shutdown,” the author thanks the company for offering a discount for affected federal employees, writing, “This has literally saved my family’s lives. I was in tears when I saw the [discount advertised] on their Instagram story.” Soylent is offering furloughed workers 35 percent off until the government resumes normal operations.

(17) IN JEOPARDY! Jeopardy! monitor Andrew Porter saw this come up on tonight’s show.

Answer: Dame Daphne Du Maurier’s works made into Hitchcock films include ‘Rebecca’ and this high-flying novelette.

Wrong question: What is “Vertigo”?

Correct question: What is “The Birds”?

(18) PERMISSION GRANTED. You know that thing about decluttering and how many books you should keep? Felipe Torres Medina of Points In Case says he heard it this way: “I’m Marie Fucking Kondo and You Can Keep All Your Fucking Books, You Ingrates”.

Hi, Marie Kondo here. Author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and host of the new Netflix show Tidying Up.

I know you guys are not used to listening to a small-framed Asian woman speak with authority, but I’m going to say this once and for all: You can keep all your fucking books, you ungrateful motherfuckers. All I wanted was to spark a little joy in your fucking miserable lives, which you’ve tried to make fulfilling by purchasing fucking stuff. But fuck me, I guess, for mentioning that I like to have only 30 books in my house.

See, the problem here is that some of you have interpreted my warm voice, bubbly attitude, and cheery disposition as a surefire sign that I will personally come to your home and build a bonfire out of your unread copies of those J. K. Rowling novels she wrote under a pseudonym that sounds like the name of a Hogwarts professor. Your ex-boyfriend gave you those for your anniversary three years ago. Had you ever mentioned wanting to read those books? Not really. But you did once tell your ex you were a Hufflepuff, so surely they must have some emotional value to you. What kind of fucking monster am I for suggesting you maybe consider donating those books to a local library or thrift shop? So yeah, go off. Enjoy the adventures of Cormoran Fucking Strike. Yeah, that’s the name of the main character. Buckle up, buddy…

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

Pixel Scroll 1/22/19 It’s A Long Way To The File If You Wanna Pixel Scroll

(1) DUBLIN 2019 CALL FOR PAPERS. The Dublin 2019 Worldcon’s academic track has put out a call for papers and posters. The submission form will be available at the link until February 22.

Academic tracks at Worldcon provide an opportunity for scholars to present critical reflections and research to an interested, knowledgeable and active audience….

We are particularly interested in three themes:

  1. Ireland has been home to many prominent writers in the genre, while Irish and Celtic history, culture and myth has provided inspiration for many works. We look to take this opportunity to explore this rich cultural background at Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon.
  2. We also welcome proposals which provide scholarly insights on the work of Worldcon Guests and visiting authors, and timely contemporary issues in the field.
  3. Mindful that Science Fiction is a powerful tool for envisioning the future, we welcome contributions that help the community to write a better tomorrow. These might address design fiction, future studies, or explore the relationship between work in the field and current and future societal challenges.

(2) MARVEL WOMEN. SYFY Wire’s “Fangrrls” have selected “The greatest Marvel women of all time”. Their justifications are compelling, for example, second on the list —  

Jubilation Lee

Jubilation Lee, specifically pre-M-Day, doesn’t have the coolest powers. (Plasmoids? Those are FINGER FIREWORKS, nice try.) She isn’t the strongest mutant. She’s not always the best in a fight. When I was a kid reading comics, she seemed the most like me — she just wanted to hang out and pal around with the other mutants. She never seeks to be the star, she just wants to be helpful. And that is what makes her so great: Jubilee is a good friend. She’s there when you need her, even if she is hopelessly in over her head. She’s dependable, she has your back — how many times did she save Wolverine? Jubilee never really fit in as one of the fighting X-Men, but she is always there when someone needs backup or support. She’s there in a pinch, using her stupid finger fireworks to help you out with whatever mess you’ve made now. Even when she lost her powers in M-Day, she didn’t stop being a buddy system expert. Jubilee is often mocked for her admittedly dumb powers, and beyond cameos, she’s been benched from the current run of superhero movies. She’s never been properly appreciated for her true power, that of being a good friend. Most superheroes suck at interpersonal relationships, but not Jubilee. She’s the one you call when you need bail money. And now she’s a vampire, so she has that going for her, too. – Sarah Marrs

(3) THE ORIGINAL SERIES, YEAR FIVE. IDW has new Trek comic books in the works: “‘Star Trek: Year Five’ Will Detail The Fifth Year Of TOS Enterprise’s Mission”.

IDW Publishing is going to be giving Trekkers who love The Original Series a new comic that we’ll be dying to read in ‘Star Trek: Year Five.’ While the show gave the first three years of the original voyages of the USS Enterprise, many assumed that the animated series which ran from 1973-1974 gave us the final two. That isn’t going to be the case here as we’ll explore new life and new civilizations with Captain Kirk who is taking his crew into the last year of their voyage. This will be the year that the Enterprise journies home. The comic won’t just focus on their adventures but also how each member of the crew feels about what their lives will be like when returning to Earth.

There is a massive creative team behind the book as well which consists of a full writer’s room including Brandon Easton, Jody Houser, Jim McCann, and the writing team Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing. Kelly and Lanzing will be penning the first part of this series which is set to be illustrated by Stephen Thompson.

Incidentally, notes The Hollywood Reporter,  “the first issue features an unexpected first: legendary illustrator Greg Hildebrandt working on Star Trek for the first time in a career that’s spanned 60 years.”

(4) TIME WAR RESUMES. Fansided points to “Doctor Who spin-off news: Gallifrey: Time War 2 – story details revealed!”

It’s the CIA versus the War Council, as more details of what we can expect in the second series of Doctor Who spin-off Gallifrey: Time War have been revealed.

The first series of Gallifrey: Time War was an absolutely amazing box set. Just four episodes, and yet there were so many twists and turns throughout, plus some really great drama. It was a great reminder of exactly why Gallifrey is one of the best Doctor Who spin-offs out there.

The Big Finish audio trailer can be heard here. The four new chapters in the Gallifrey saga are:

  1. Havoc by David Llewellyn
  2. Partisans by Una McCormack
  3. Collateral by Lisa McMullin
  4. Assassins by Matt Fitton

(5) ANSWERING FAN MAIL. Doug Ellis posted a bit of sff history on Facebook:

Here’s a letter from Astounding Science Fiction editor F. Orlin Tremaine to Jack Darrow, an eminent fan in the 1930’s. Dated February 18, 1936, I thought Tremaine’s comment on the circulation of SF pulps, compared to detective or western, was interesting.

A scanned copy of the letter is at the link.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 22, 1906Robert E. Howard. Pulp writer. You knew that. Created Conan the Barbarian and Kull the Conqueror. You know that too. Spawned some truly bad films. Yes, you know that. Generally thought to have created the sword and sorcery genre. Hell you know that. So tell me something that I’m not likely to know about him. (Died 1936.)
  • Born January 22, 1932 Piper Laurie, 87. Margaret White In Carrie, Catherine Martell / Mr. Tojamura In Twin Peaks, and Aunt Em in Return to Oz
  • Born January 22, 1934 Bill Bixby. Principal casting in several genre series, first in My Favorite Martian as Tim O’Hara, a young newspaper reporter for the LA Sun who discovers that alien, and then as Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk series, and in both The Incredible Hulk Returns and The Death of the Incredible Hulk films. He shows up in a number of other genre series including Fantasy IslandTales of the UnexpectedNight GalleryThe Ghost & Mrs. Muir and The Twilight Zone (original version). He also had the lead as Anthony Blake / Anthony Dorian in The Magician seriesbut as he was a stage illusionist, I couldn’t count it as genre. (Died 1993.)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt. If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty-year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down and The Lord of the Rings before appearing as Kane in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as Kane in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and was one of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. Ok, I’m at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull but I’ll freely admit I’ve not, nor am planning on watching, that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot. Later he shows up voicing General Woundwort in the Watership Down series. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And of course he played The War Doctor. Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. You can find their complete listings here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 22, 1959 Linda Blair, 60. Best known for her role as the possessed child, Regan, in The Exorcist. She reprised her role in Exorcist II: The Heretic. (I saw the first, I had no desire to see the second film.)  Right after those films she started she started starring in a lot of the really bad horror films. Let’s see… Stranger in Our HouseHell Night (fraternity slasher film), GrotesqueWitcheryDead Sleep and Scream name a few. She even starred in Repossessed, a comedy parody of The Exorcist
  • Born January 22, 1965 Diane Lane, 54.I’ve got her as Ellen Aim In Streets of Fire which I count as genre. She’s Chief Judge Barbara Hershey in Judge Dredd, a film I’ll freely admit that I actually like because it catches the pop culture feel of the 2000 A.D. comics in a way the second film doesn’t. Next up for her is playing Mary Rice in Jumper. She’s been playing Martha Kent in the DC Universe films as of late.
  • Born January 22, 1970 Alex Ross, 49. Comic writer and artist. His first work was as an artist was Terminator: The Burning Earth. My favorite work is Kingdom Come was written by Mark Waid and him and painted by him.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) DEL TORO CHAMPIONS BOOKSTORE BAILOUT. SYFY Wire spotlights the director’s help to rescue a bookstore: “The campaign to save horror bookstore Dark Delicacies got a huge burst from Guillermo del Toro”

The quest to save the iconic Burbank, CA horror-themed bookstore got a shot in the arm from one of the genre’s most prolific and respected filmmakers. 

Earlier this week, Del Howison, the owner of Dark Delicacies, posted a GoFundMe campaign he started with his wife, Sue, asking for help to save his business among skyrocketing rents in the Burbank metro area. Faced with rising costs, they’d expected to shutter their doors in May, just short of their 25th anniversary. That changed when a new storefront came available across the street, which the Howisons saw as their one shot to keep their “home of horror” going. 

To help their cause, Guillermo del Toro shared the campaign via his Twitter account earlier today, asking his followers to spread the word about Dark Delicacies, who are “asking for a little help in making a resurrection possible.” 

(9) DID ANYONE ASK JANE? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Them’s fightin’ words. At SYFY Wire, contributor Charlie Brigden chimes in with an opinion piece listing eight of the variants of the Enterprise by, well, the story lists the criteria  but it’s not clear how they are weighted or how they are applied (“From one generation to the next: Ranking the Starships Enterprise”).

“It’s been a long road, getting from there to here,” croons Russell Watson in the opening titles of Star Trek: Enterprise, and you might be forgiven to think he’s talking about the lineage of starships named Enterprise.

[…] Before we begin, please note: The following starships were judged based on four main factors: their warp speed, their weaponry and tactical ability, the crew serving on them, and their aesthetic qualities. They have been loosely put into two groups based on the technology gap between the 23rd and 24th centuries, where the warp scale was reconfigured to allow for the new velocities reachable by starships. Also, neither the new Enterprise from Discovery nor the Enterprise-J have been included in this list because they’ve only been seen for a minimal time and as such the Memory Alpha entries are pretty sparse.

Brigden discusses the evaluation of each ship in 3–4 paragraphs apiece. How did they rank, you ask? (And what did Brigden call them to differentiate different variants and timelines?)

8             Enterprise (NX-01)

7             The J.J.-prise

6             Enterprise-B

5             Enterprise-C

4             The Original Enterprise

3             Enterprise-E

2             Enterprise-D

1             The Constitution-refit

(10) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. Astronomer Mike “Pluto Killer” Brown responds to the idea that instead of a planet there might just be a ring of debris with the same mass. In “Is Planet Nine just a ring of icy bodies?” he essentially argues that a single planet is a much simpler hypothesis and that a ring would probably have already been detected if there were one.

The fact that no Planet Nine alternative was proposed for so long was a testament to the fact that it is really really hard to explain the quite good data in any other way.

Finally, however, after three years, a new hypothesis has been proposed which can at least explain the alignments without Planet Nine. The basic trick is to take Planet Nine and split it up into a massive ring of bodies on an eccentric inclined orbit like that of Planet Nine’s. Because Planet Nine’s long distance gravitational effects are mostly caused by the long term average position of Planet Nine (which is basically an inclined eccentric ring!) this ring has more or less the same effects that Planet Nine has. (For the aficionados out there, read this as “Planet Nine’s interactions are predominantly secular rather than resonant.”)

I am happy that there is finally an alternative explanation, even if that alternative is only Planet-Nine-ground-up-into-a-ring. 

So, is Planet Nine really just an eccentric inclined ring of icy bodies? 

As happy as I am to see alternative hypotheses, and as correct as I think the underlying physics of this paper is, I think it is utterly unlikely that our solar system has a massive eccentric inclined ring of material….

(11) A GIFT NOT FROM EARTH. Probably best to take care of the one you have, however, if that doesn’t work out — “Why your new heart could be made in space one day”.

Imagine a laboratory growing human hearts – and imagine that laboratory floating in space hundreds of miles above the surface of the Earth.

That may sound like science fiction, but bizarre as it seems, it could bring new hope for transplant patients within the next decade.

While about 7,600 heart transplants were carried out around the world in 2017, there’s a desperate shortage of organs, with thousands of people on waiting lists dying every year.

Efforts to grow human hearts in the lab are showing promise, but are hampered by the need for the organs to grow around a “scaffolding” to make sure they don’t collapse during the process. Reliably removing the scaffolding once the heart is complete is proving to be a challenge.

Space tech company Techshot believes zero gravity could be the answer.

(12) UNIQUE AND ANTIQUE JAPANESE FANTASY ART. “Visitors to Tokyo’s Nezu Museum display, open until February 17, are able to mark the visual evolution of the Shuten-Dôji legend (which originated in the 14th Century), from a colorful medieval handscroll to a sprawling eight-scroll illustrated epic made in the 19th Century that has never before been shown in its entirety.” “Yorimitsu and Shuten-Dôji: The drunken demon of Kyoto”.

A new exhibition looks at a legend that has gripped the Japanese imagination since the 14th Century – a myth whose graphic novel-like plot has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster

As the world braces itself for the unleashing later this year of another surge of comic-book sequels and spinoffs – from fresh instalments of Hellboy and The Avengers in the spring to a new chapter of the Spider-Man saga in the summer – an exhibition of Japanese scrolls in Tokyo’s Nezu Museum has me wondering just how far back the endless rebooting of superhero (and super villain) stories can be traced. A Tale of Expelling the Demon: The Shuten-dôji Picture Scroll is devoted to a popular medieval legend that for the ensuing centuries gripped the Japanese imagination – a myth whose graphic novel-like plot has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster.

The tale begins with news that young women are going missing from the streets of what was then the capital city, Kyoto. As the abductions accelerate, frustration mounts at the lack of evidence that might unmask the mysterious perpetrator. Desperate for answers, authorities turn to a shadowy mystic who conjures the identity of the villain responsible for the string of kidnappings: a fearsome demon (or ‘oni’) known as ‘Shuten-Dôji’ whose castle lair is hidden in a dark and forbidding mountain. The task of slaying the demon and freeing his countless captives is made all the more perilous, if not impossible, by the ogre’s ability to fly and assume the shape of any object or animal. The kingdom’s only hope is to enlist the agile mind and limber muscles of a fabled warrior, Minamoto no Yorimitsu, and his crack squad of skilled swordsmen known as the Four Guardian Kings. But can they succeed?

…Anticipating our own era’s insatiable obsession with serials, the legend of Yorimitsu quickly licensed itself into other popular myths and offshoot franchises beyond the narrative of Shuten-Dôji. Among the more thrilling of the fables associated with him is one that finds the warrior once again in chase of an airborne skull, which leads the reader through a mountain forest to the doorstep of another ferocious oni, Tsuchigumo: a Godzilla-sized spider with a tiger-like torso and striped furry legs.

(13) DELOS HARRIMAN WARNED US. Of course, he was worried about advertising on the moon. But a Russian firm has announced an ambitious plan to deploy “orbital billboards” using an array of small satellites by the early 2020s. Universe Today has the story (“Astronomers Aren’t Pleased About a Russian Plan to Put Billboards in Space”). Can we all just agree this is a terrible idea?

While the rest of us look up at the night sky, and wonder at what we’re seeing, ponder how it all fits together, and strain ourselves trying to understand how our origins are intertwined with all that we see, others don’t. They look up at the magnitude of the night sky and think none of these things.

Instead they think, “Hmmm…that’s a big, empty billboard. How can I make money from it?”

Russian company StartRocket is proposing to use Cubesats, small satellites with inexpensive launch profiles, to put billboards in space. At an altitude of about 450 km (280 miles), the satellites would unfurl a mylar sail about 9 meters (30 ft.) long. A group of CubeSats would work together to create a singe billboard, and the result would be a pixelated billboard with a viewable area of about 50 sq. km., visible in morning and evening twilight, when they catch and reflect sunlight.

(14) LATE NIGHT. Beginning about 4 minutes and 40 seconds into the interview, Sonequa Martin-Green explains “hipster Spock.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FANGRRLS: The slamming asteroid chapter?

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

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

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

The comics discussed in the rest of the article include:

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

(3) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(4) GET STARTED DECORATING THE SET IN LA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/24/18 One For My Pixel And One More For The Scroll

(1) A NEW YORK MIDDLE AGES MINUTE. The New York Time discovers the Society for Creative Anachronism: “The Weekend Warriors of the Crown Province of Ostgardr (Otherwise Known as New York City)”.

King Wilhelm and Queen Vienna — a Connecticut couple whose real names are Jackie and Brian Van Ostenbridge — reign over the East Kingdom, which encompasses the Northeast and parts of Canada.

It is one of the society’s 20 kingdoms in North America, each of which is subdivided into provinces, baronies and shires. There is the Crown Province of Ostgardr, which includes all five New York City boroughs and several surrounding counties, many of which also have their own medieval names.

Manhattan is known as Whyt Whey, a reference to Broadway’s White Way. Brooklyn is Brokenbridge, a reference to the Brooklyn Bridge. Westchester County is known as Northpas, and Nassau County is Lions End. Southwest Connecticut is the Barony of Dragonship Haven, while the rest of the state is the Barony Beyond the Mountain.

(2) INTRO TO ART. The Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott discusses Saul Steinberg’s The Labyrinth, reprinted by the New York Review of Books, which he thinks is an ideal introduction to the complexities of art: “Think you don’t understand art? This is the one book you’ll need.”

“The Labyrinth” has been republished by the New York Review of Books press, and looking back into it is a revelation. The book opens with an extended, tour-de-force version of a Steinberg classic, the Line, seven pages unified by a single horizontal line that functions in myriad ways, as a timeline of history, a horizon line, the line dividing water from land, the edge of a table, the top of a bridge, a topographical mark and a clothesline (with socks, towels and shirts appended). From there, the book unfolds as a set of interlocking mini-essays on Steinberg’s favorite and recurring subjects: music and musicians, architecture, the chatter of socialites, the vanity of power and ambition, and the iconography of mid-century America.

(3) LIT HISTORY. Princess Weekes draws her own “A (Brief) Timeline of Female Authors’ Influence on Sci-Fi and Fantasy” at The Mary Sue.

However, it’s because of the works of Leigh Brackett, who was the first woman to be shortlisted for a Hugo and worked on the original screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back, that we have certain concepts of the Space Opera in both literature and film.

Pop culture has downplayed a lot of Brackett’s additions to the Star Wars storyline, since George Lucas apparently didn’t like that screenplay, but as io9?s co-founder and award-winning author Charlie Jane Anders brought up years ago, “the basic story beats are the same,” and Brackett came up with the concept of Luke Skywalker having a twin sister.

Brackett was also a mentor to Ray Bradbury, and despite being mocked for writing “space fantasy,” rather than “hard” science-fiction, her influence on the genre still holds up.

(4) YOU BETTER NOT WATCH, YOU BETTER NOT SIGHT. FirstShowing.net tells us how to “Ring in the Holidays with Fox’s Stop-Motion ‘Predator Holiday Special'”.

“Looks like someone’s staying on the naughty list… Larry, light him up!!” What the craziness is this?! 20th Century Fox has released an extra-violent, stop-motion animated short film titled The Predator Holiday Special. And it’s actually all kinds of awesome. The funny short is just a new mash-up of Predator and the classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” animated TV movie, telling a story about a Predator invading the North Pole – but Santa has an elite defense force of his own that jumps into action and fights back….

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 24, 1910 Fritz Leiber. I can say that my fav work by him is The Big Time which I either read or listen to every year. And yes I’ve read the Change War Stories too, difficult to find as they were. Yes I know it won a Hugo — much, much deserved!  I’m also fond of Conjure Wife, but otherwise I prefer his short fiction to his novels. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 24, 1945Nicholas Meyer, 73. Lovely novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is.  Much better Ithan the film I think. Now his Time After Time film is spot on. And let’s not forget his work on the Trek films,  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (much of which went uncredited), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
  • Born December 24, 1964Mark Valley, 54. He made my Birthday list first by being the lead, Christopher Chance, in Human Target, a short-lived series created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino for DC. He was also John Scott In Fringe as a regular cast member. He voiced Clark Kent / Superman in the second part of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  • Born December 24, 1966 Dietrich Bader, 52. I know him best as the voice of Batman on The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. No, he’s not Kevin Conroy but his Batman is quite enjoyable and interesting in his own right. He’s best cast as Batman / Brace Wayne in the forthcoming Harley Quinn series on the DC Universe service.
  • Born December 24, 1969 Mark Millar, 49. Comic book write whose resume is long at both house so I’ll like of his work. The Millar/Quitely era on The Authority was politically edged and often got censored by DC as it commented on the Iraq War — well worth your reading. His run on Swamp Thing from 142 to 171 has a lot of other writers including Morrison. He the Ultimates at Marvels and a lot of the superb series ended in the Avengers film. Finally his excellent Civil War was the basis of the Captain America: Civil War film and his not to missed Old Man Logan was the inspiration for Fox’s Logan film.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

(7) SMALLER ON THE INSIDE. As a fellow blogger, let me applaud GeekTyrant for figuring out a way to get an entire post out of this little item –“GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Star Karen Gillan Responds to Being Featured on Jeopardy”.

There are some trademark signs in the industry that you’ve truly “made it.” Like if you’re a musician, and you hear your song on the radio, or even moreso, when that song gets remade by Weird Al Yankovic. Or if you’re an actor, and you get a beefy role in a Marvel movie, or get nominated for an award, or you get to go on Saturday Night Live, or in Karen Gillan’s case, you’re featured in a question/answer on Jeopardy! What a fun and exciting treat!

(8) UNEMPLOYED MEN TELL NO TALES. In case there was any doubt the other day – he’s out. The Independent has the tale:

Johnny Depp’s tenure as Captain Jack Sparrow has officially come to an end, following a Disney executive’s confirmation that the actor will no longer be a part of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

The studio’s production chief, Sean Bailey, was speaking about the previously announced reboot – set to be written by Deadpool‘s Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese – when he was asked whether the series could survive without Depp.

Rather than deny the reports, Bailey told The Hollywood Reporter: “We want to bring in a new energy and vitality. I love the [Pirates] movies, but part of the reason Paul and Rhett are so interesting is that we want to give it a kick in the pants. And that’s what I’ve tasked them with.”

(9) FRANKENSTEIN (1910) RESTORED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Slate shines a little light on the fact that “The First Film Adaptation of Frankenstein Has Been Restored, and You Can Watch It Right Here”. The 1910 silent movie by Edison Production was restored by the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center from the sole remaining print (and other source material) and posted on their site in 2017. It is also available on YouTube. Music for the restoration was composed and performed by Donald Sosin. The Edison Production title card bills it as “A liberal adaptation from Mrs. Shelly’s famous story” and indeed significant liberties are taken. (Then again, cramming the full story into about 13 minutes would have been difficult, though IMDb clams the original was about 16 minutes.) The LoC site describes the film thus:

“While he is in college, Frankenstein decides he must attempt to make a perfect human being. The being he creates is given life in a vat of burning chemicals. On the day Frankenstein weds his sweetheart, who has been living patiently at home, he sees the monster he created reflected in a mirror. Having disappeared, the monster returns to his creator to gain acceptance. However, when the creature is in front of the mirror he disappears again, with only his slowly vanishing reflection left. When Frankenstein arrives and stands in front of the same mirror he witnesses the fading image, signifying the monster’s destruction in the face of Frankenstein’s increased love for his wife and life.”

(10) TIS THE SEASON. New holiday, a new mission: “McEdifice: Ghosts of X-mas Past” at Camestros Felapton.

“Please sit down,” he said gesturing to a wooden crate marked “cheap tobacco”.

“I’m sorry,” he continued, “but all our furniture was replaced with old shipping crates due to budget cuts. I understand you’ve come out about the role we advertised?”

“Sure,” I responded, “the assistant to ‘Mr Scrooge’.”

I’d heard rumours of this Scrooge guy. A man of old but indeterminate age. Misanthropic, holed up inside an ageing house. A nexus of supernatural events. Everything about this Scrooge guy’s profile said ‘vampire’….

The End.

Straw Puppy: Um, isn’t the title ‘Ghost of X-mas Future?

Tiny Tim the Cat: Oh crap. Too late now, we’ve published it.

Chiseled McEdifice: Nooooooooo!!!!!!!

(11) NICE TRY. Another not-ready-for-prime-time app: the BBC tests “How well does Zozosuit measure up?” [Video.]

Japanese retailer Zozo, which operates Zozotown, the country’s largest online fashion marketplace, has developed a figure-hugging bodysuit featuring lots of uniquely patterned dots.

As you turn slowly round, your smartphone takes photos, building up a 360-degree image of your body shape. Then you can order clothes that really fit.

At least, that’s what the company claims. But how well does it work?

(12) MORE TO WATCH FOR. They have to worry about more than the name-brand seismic activity: “Indonesia’s tsunami shows the need to research unexpected dangers”.

Nobody had any clue. There was certainly no warning. It’s part of the picture that now points to a large underwater landslide being the cause of Saturday’s devastating tsunami in the Sunda Strait.

Of course everyone in the region will have been aware of Anak Krakatau, the volcano that emerged in the sea channel just less than 100 years ago. But its rumblings and eruptions have been described by local experts as relatively low-scale and semi-continuous.

In other words, it’s been part of the background.

And yet it is well known that volcanoes have the capacity to generate big waves. The mechanism as ever is the displacement of a large volume of water.

Except, unlike in a classic earthquake-driven tsunami in which the seafloor will thrust up or down, it seems an eruption event set in motion some kind of slide.

(13) TOP COMICS ARTIST. Complex shares “Spider-Man to Spawn, How Todd McFarlane Became the Biggest Comic Book Artist Ever.”

Todd McFarlane opens up about his career as a comic book artist that includes making Spider-Man cooler and creating the Spawn character. He also shares his blueprint to launching Image Comics and McFarlane Toys.

(14) BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS OTHER GUY? CBS Sunday Morning took viewers “Inside the studio of legendary comic book artist Alex Ross.”

In the world of comic book artists, Alex Ross is a superhero. He’s been called the Norman Rockwell of comics and has put his imprint on Superman, Spiderman, Aquaman and Captain America. Ross wields his superpower in his paintbrush and he allowed “CBS This Morning: Saturday” co-host Anthony Mason into his secret lair.

(15) WW84 WRAPS. USA Today says “Gal Gadot posts heartfelt message after production wraps on ‘Wonder Woman 1984′”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.] ked0 C

Pixel Scroll 12/23/18 Galileo, (Galileo) Galileo, Galileo Pixel Scroll

Abbreviated Scroll after a busy day of family celebrations.

(1) A BIG FISH TAIL. No, Jason Momoa is not the first actor to portray Aquaman in a live-action film (SYFY Wire: “How a $10,000 1984 fan film became the world’s first Aquaman movie”).

Warner Bros.’ Aquaman is poised to make a super splash this weekend as DC’s oft-maligned underwater wonder makes his solo feature debut. The $160 million fantasy adventure, directed by Saw and Insidious franchise helmer James Wan, already boasts optimistic box office predictions, targeting a $65 million opening.

But long before Jason Momoa emerged as the charismatic King of Atlantis in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2017’s Justice League, and, now, Aquaman, an officially authorized, $10,000 fan film became the world’s first Aquaman movie.

The film in question is on YouTube here. It runs about 20 minutes. I haven’t watched it – you’re on your own!

(2) SILVER BELLS. Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf celebrates the coming year at the newsstand: “[December 23, 1963] Ring Out the Old, Ring In the New (January 1964 Fantastic)”.

The Lords of Quarmall, by Fritz Leiber and Harry Fischer

You may not know the name Harry Fischer.  A new writer, perhaps?  Well, not exactly.  In fact, Fischer created the famous characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in a letter to his friend Leiber nearly three decades ago.  Since then, of course, the great fantasist has made the pair of adventurers his own.  In 1937, Fischer wrote about ten thousand words of a novel.  Leiber completed it, and it appears here for the first time.

Quarmall is a strange kingdom.  Its ruler lives in a keep above ground, but the rest of his realm lies deep down below.  He has two adult sons.  One reigns over the upper half of this underground land, the other the lower half.  The brothers are bitter rivals, each trying to destroy the other through treachery and magic.  They also plot against their father.  He, in turn, hopes to eliminate his sons and leave his kingdom to the unborn child of a concubine. 

Unknown to each other, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are each hired as a swordsman by one of the brothers.  When the king’s archmage announces the death of his master, the conflict between the siblings explodes into open warfare….

(3) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 23, 1945 Raymond E. Feist, 73. Best known for the Riftwar  series. The only novel I’ve read by  him is was Faerie Tale, a dark fantasy set in the state of New York, which is one damn scary work. 
  • Born December 23, 1971 Corey Haim. You’ll most likely remember him from the Lost Boys but he had a long career in genre film after that with roles in Watchers, Prayer of the Roller Boys, Fever Lake, Lost Boys: The Tribe  (no, I’ve never heard of heard it) and Do Not Disturb. He showed in two series, PSI Factor and Merlin. (Died 2010.)

(4) COMICS SECTION.

  • #TimesUpSanta at Pearls Before Swine.
  • John A Arkansawyer explains, “The strip is there, big as day, but you have to mouse over for the Christmas greeting. I’m sorry he’s not updating as regularly as he did, but this week and last week were both very fine send-ups of supercliches. Maybe it’s just as well that we have to wait longer for longer, consistently good strips” — The Non-Adventures of Wonderella.

(5) MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS. Mike Kennedy asks, “Is it just me, or does the idea of parallel walls comprising a whole-body security scanner (Wired: “Super-Fast Airport Scanners Are Coming—Eventually”) remind you, too, of the scene in the original Total Recall where Arnold Schwarzenegger is spotted carrying a gun into a restricted area? I wonder if they can get these wholesale?”

Some passengers traveling through Denver International Airport this holiday season are in for a treat—or what amounts to a treat in today’s high-throughput, high-stress security environment. As they go through TSA screening, they’ll be able to keep their hands at their sides because of a new type of rapid body scanner. Instead of standing sideways in a plastic tube while a scanner shwoop shwoops around them, Denver fliers will step between two white plastic walls, about 4 feet apart. There are no moving parts, and the scan takes less than a second; if all is clear, the passenger moves on. The Denver scanner is built by Rohde & Schwarz, which also has a system up and running in Cologne Bonn Airport, Germany.

Not having to raise your arms over your head is a tiny improvement, but it’s a big deal for people with limited mobility. And saving even a second per person adds up to shorter lines for everyone. The new scanner is an example of the booming, maturing field of full-body scanners. They are based on millimeter-wave technology, and they’re giving security personnel the equivalent of Superman’s x-ray vision. (But without the x-ray radiation concerns.)

(6) WHAT SHAT. Mr Bill says, “Ohh Nooo!!!” The headline in The Independent (“William Shatner criticises ‘hysterical’ Me Too movement: ‘Women use it as a weapon’”) really sounds bad. It’s up to you to read the article and find out if he’s being taken out of context or is seriously stepping in it.

(7) ANOTHER PILE. BBC overheard this one: “Sending astronauts to Mars would be stupid, astronaut says”.

One of the first men to orbit the Moon has told BBC Radio 5 Live that it’s “stupid” to plan human missions to Mars.

Bill Anders, lunar module pilot of Apollo 8, the first human spaceflight to leave Earth’s orbit, said sending crews to Mars was “almost ridiculous”.

Nasa is currently planning new human missions to the Moon.

It wants to learn the skills and develop the technology to enable a future human landing on Mars.

Nasa was approached for a response to Anders’ comments, but hasn’t responded.

Anders, 85, said he’s a “big supporter” of the “remarkable” unmanned programmes, “mainly because they’re much cheaper”. But he says the public support simply isn’t there to fund vastly more expensive human missions.

“What’s the imperative? What’s pushing us to go to Mars?” he said, adding “I don’t think the public is that interested”.

(8) FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS. Patti Abbott returns with links to the following reviews at her blog: “Friday ‘s Forgotten Books, December 21, 2018”.

  • Frank Babics, SENTENCED TO PRISM, Alan Dean Foster
  • Les Blatt, MORE MURDER IN A NUNNERY, Eric Shepherd
  • Brian Busby, BEST BOOKS read in 2018
  • Kate Jackson/CrossExaminingCrime. MYSTERY IN WHITE. J. Jefferson Farjeon
  • Martin Edwards, FIVE ROUNDABOUTS TO HEAVEN, Francis Iles
  • Rich Horton, THE CONFIDENCE MAN, HIS MASQUERADE, Herman Melville
  • Jerry House, THE CALIGARI COMPLEX, Basil Copper; THE SECRET OF SHARK REEF by “William Arden” (Dennis Lynds)
  • George Kelley, TIED UP IN TINSEL, Ngaio Marsh 
  • Margot Kinberg, ALL SHE WAS WORTH, Miyuke Miyabi 
  • Rob Kitchin, COP HATER, Ed McBain; SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE, Kurt Vonnegut
  • B.V. Lawson, DANGLE, Meg Elizabeth Atkins 
  • Evan Lewis, THE KING’S COAT, Dewey Lambdin 
  • Todd Mason, “The Faithless”, a novella by John D. MacDonald, plus stories by James McKimmey, Jr. et al.: REDBOOK, May 1958
  • J.F. Norris, THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS GHOST STORIES, V. 3, edited by Simon Stern
  • Mike Lind/Only Detect, CHARLIE CHAN: HIS UNTOLD STORY, Yunte Huang
  • Matt Paust, THE DEATH OF MR. LOMAS, Francis Vivian James Reasoner, LONGARM AND THE COLDEST TOWN IN HELL, Tabor Evans  Richard Robinson, A HOLIDAY FOR MURDER, Agatha Christie Gerard Saylor, THE TOMB, F. Paul Wilson  Andi Shechter, NO HUMAN INVOLVED, Barbara Seranella
  • Kevin Tipple, FLASHBACK, Ted Wood 
  • TomCat, “Time Wants a Skeleton”, Ross Rocklynne 
  • TracyK, THE SHORTEST DAY, Jane Langton

(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. James Cordon: 22 Musicals In 12 Minutes w/ Lin Manuel Miranda & Emily Blunt. Daniel Dern says, “No real sfnal aspect here, but hey, who doesn’t love a quick zoom through great musical moments…and see the current ‘Ms. Poppins’ strut some other stuff.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/18/18 Just One Pixel Of Scrolls Is Better Than A Lifetime Alone

(1) NOT THE DOCTOR WHO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. A nice placeholder, though. Io9 sets the frame: “Doctor Who Saves Christmas (Again) in This Adorable Holiday Short”:

Doctor Who’s Twitter account has shared a cute animated holiday short telling the story of how the Doctor (voiced by Whittaker) helped save Christmas once again this year. Narrated by Bradley Walsh (Graham), the Twas The Night Before Christmas-style tale is all about Santa getting stuck in a jam after his sleigh breaks down. Who can he possibly call to save the day? The Doctor, of course!

(2) HARD SF. James Davis Nicoll dares to tell us about “Five Works of Hard Science Fiction That Bypass the Gatekeepers” at Tor.com.

….Still, I think there’s a gap between hard SF defined so narrowly only Hal Clement could be said to have written it (if we ignore his FTL drives) and hard SF defined so broadly anything qualifies provided the author belongs to the right social circles … that this gap is large enough that examples do exist. Here are five examples of SF works  that are, to borrow Marissa Lingen’s definition:

playing with science.

and doing so with a verisimilitude that’s not just plot-enabling handwaving….

(3) MYTHCON 50. Introducing artist Sue Dawe’s logo for Mythcon 50, with the theme “Looking Back, Moving Forward.” The convention will take place August 2-5 in San Diego – register here

(4) TAFF NEWS. Avail yourself of the official Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund news – click to retrieve the PDF file: 

(5) CODE OF CONDUCT GUIDANCE. Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner have made available as a free download their book on Code of Conduct enforcement for those who put on conventions and conferences: “Free code of conduct enforcement book available now”.

You can now download a free book detailing how to enforce a code of conduct, “How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports,” written by Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner and edited by Annalee Flower Horne. This comprehensive guide includes:

  • Basic code of conduct theory
  • How to prepare to enforce a code of conduct
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to respond to a report
  • In-depth discussion of relevant topics
  • Dozens of real-world examples of responding to reports

Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner were the lead authors of the Ada Initiative anti­-harassment policy, which is the basis of thousands of codes of conduct in use today. Valerie has more than 7 years of professional experience writing and implementing codes of conduct for software-related companies, venture capital firms, and non-profits.

(6) NOT GOING TO DUBLIN 2019? Then a clue as to what you’ll be missing from the Science GoH is contained in this 1/2 hour BBC interview with Jocelyn Bell Burnell. “Of course, if you are going to Dublin, then don’t listen to this,” warns SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “as there are spoilers.”

Jim Al-Khalili talks to astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Jocelyn Bell Burnell forged her own path through the male-dominated world of science – in the days when it was unusual enough for women to work, let alone make a discovery in astrophysics that was worthy of a Nobel Prize. As a 24-year old PhD student, Jocelyn spotted an anomaly on a graph buried within 100 feet of printed data from a radio telescope. Her curiosity about such a tiny detail led to one of the most important discoveries in 20th century astronomy – the discovery of pulsars – those dense cores of collapsed stars. It’s a discovery which changed the way we see the universe, making the existence of black holes suddenly seem much more likely and providing further proof to Einstein’s theory of gravity.

(7) FILMS THAT BELONG ON YOUR LIST. Looper says these are “The Best Fantasy Movies Everyone Missed In 2018.”

With major blockbusters and huge franchises taking up most of our attention these days, it can be easy to lose track of all the great releases sneaking by under the radar but these 2018 fantasy movies are well worth seeking out…

(8) TV HISTORY. Echo Ishii revisits another sff TV classic, The Stone Tape:

The Stone Tape was a television play broadcast by the BBC in 1972.

The Stone Tape begins with a man named Peter who is head of a research team for an electronics company. Like many of the characters in Beasts, the protagonist is not a pleasant person. Peter Brock, though likely very skilled at his job, is arrogant, self-absorbed, sexist, and condescending. Whereas someof the sexism and the bigoted comments may be a representation of the realities of the the business world (and TV) at the time, you are clearly meant not to like Peter Brock as a person which only amps up the unease surrounding the main plot….

(9) HOW FAR IS IT? Far out. Like, literally Far Freekin’ Out. A newly announced minor planet is the most distant known object in the Solar System (Phys.org: “Outer solar system experts find ‘far out there’ dwarf planet”). The body’s official name is 2018 VG18, but it’s nicknamed “Farout” and it’s current orbital distance is about 120 AUs.

A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our Solar System. It is the first known Solar System object that has been detected at a distance that is more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the Sun.

The new object was announced on Monday, December 17, 2018, by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center and has been given the provisional designation 2018 VG18. The discovery was made by Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo.

2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout” by the discovery team for its extremely distant location, is at about 120 astronomical units (AU), where 1 AU is defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The second-most-distant observed Solar System object is Eris, at about 96 AU. Pluto is currently at about 34 AU, making 2018 VG18 more than three-and-a-half times more distant than the Solar System’s most-famous dwarf planet.

(10) COMING YOUR WAY. The Raven Tower, Ann Leckie’s new fantasy novel, arrives February 26, 2019. “My library’s already let me reserve it,” says Daniel Dern.

(11) THE WISDOM OF P.L. TRAVERS. The Washington Post’s Jerry Griswold profiles Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, whom he interviewed for the Paris Review, saying that Travers “was the wisest woman I’ve ever met,” a deep student of Zen, and the author of novels about Mary Poppins that are much darker than the movies. “Disney tried to erase ‘Mary Poppins’ creator P.L. Travers. She’s still more fascinating than fiction.”.

…Travers was the wisest woman I’ve ever met. She was the second Western woman to study Zen in Kyoto, part of the inner circle of the famous mystic G.I. Gurdjieff and did yoga daily (an exotic practice in the 1970s). One afternoon in her Manhattan apartment, we had a conversation that would later appear in Paris Review. She spoke about the meanings of Humpty Dumpty, how her book “Friend Monkey” had been inspired by the Hindu myth of Hanuman, the Zen expression “summoned not created,” the sacredness of names in aboriginal cultures and a spiritual understanding of the parable of the Prodigal Son. And as for linking “this store of wisdom and our modern life,” she lead me step by step through parallels between the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and the myth of Persephone. It was one of the richest afternoons of my life.

As she often did, Travers emphasized that she “never wrote for children” but remained “immensely grateful that children have included my books in their treasure trove.” She thought her books appealed to the young because she had never forgotten her own childhood: “I can, as it were, turn aside and consult it.”

(11) NASA POSTERS. Bored Panda is a bit skeptical — “Turns Out NASA Creates Posters For Every Space Mission And They’re Hilariously Awkward” – but Michael J. Walsh says, “Contrary to the headline, I think many of them are really good.”

…However, when astronauts got bored of the standard group photos they decided to spice things up a bit. And what’s a better way to do that other than throwing in some pop culture references? Fair warning the results are quite cringy, making it hard to believe that these images are actually real.

First on the list:

(12) DINJOS OBIT. Nigerian sff writer Emeka Walter Dinjos has died. Future Science Fiction Digest editor Alex Shvartsman paid tribute in “RIP Emeka Walter Dinjos”:

It is with a heavy heart that I must share the news that Emeka Walter Dinjos, a Nigerian writer of science fiction and fantasy whose novelette “SisiMumu” is featured in our first issue, passed away at the age of thirty-four on Wednesday, December 12.

Walter was admitted to the hospital a little over aweek ago, on the eve of his birthday. In his last Facebook post he shared a photo of himself in a hospital bed, writing “I once swore I would never find myself in a place like this.” He was quick to point out, “It’s just fatigue.Will probably be out in a few days.” But unfortunately he succumbed to complications related to unmanaged diabetes. Walter is survived by his siblings and extended family, to whom I extend deepest condolences on behalf of everyone at Future SF and his many friends in the SF/F community….

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 18, 1839 — John William Draper took the first photo of theMoon. (Say “Cheese!”)
  • December 18, 1957The Monolith Monsters hit theatres.
  • December 18, 1968 — Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flew into theaters.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He is best remembered for perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook— a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939Michael Moorcock, 79. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well. Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection, Mother London and The English Assassin: A Romance of Entropy
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 72. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost ArkE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialTwilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok so the quality of the last film wasn’t great… He’d repeated that feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook which I both love followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed along a string of so-so films,  A.I. Artificial IntelligenceMinority Report, War of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullThe BFG is simply wonderful. Haven’t seen Ready Player One so I’ll leave that up to y’all to opine on. 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober,65. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including V, The Twilight Zone, Alien Nation, the Poltergeist series,The X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, SupernaturalStar Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead. 
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 49. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers movie. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films! He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3000, James K. Polkin, and — oh really Casper — the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Sequels short, Rumpelstiltskin in Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. That’s a lot of really bad film. 

(15) GOOD PLACE/BAD PLACE. At Vice, D. Patrick Rodgers believes, “The Best Thing on TV This Year Was: ‘The Good Place’.”

The unseen presence of one character has haunted The Good Place from the beginning, lingering like one of Bad Janet’s legendary farts since the very first moments of the very first episode: Doug Forcett.

As we all know — at three seasons and 35 episodes in — the afterlife hinges on a cumulative point system, with good deeds adding to an individual’s point total and bad or selfish deeds subtracting. People with high enough point totals enter The Good Place, while those who don’t make the cut do the whole burn-for-eternity thing down in The Bad Place. Despite all the twists, developments, reveals, and red herrings of the uniquely sharp and wacky sitcom, one constant has remained: that only one mortal has figured out the system, and he did it while on a mushroom trip back in 1972.

“Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By” opens with the song of the same name by the Mamas and the Papas’ “Mama” Cass Elliott, itself a 70s artifact that portends something darker than its sunny melody suggests —that life is short, and if we’re not careful, we’ll screw it up. We watch as some as-yet-unnamed character tends to a series of mundane tasks, his face hidden from view. But there’s something familiar about that grizzled-blond shock of hair we see only from behind. It belongs to someone we know. Turns out that’s doubly true, as the head we’re looking at is that of legendary comedic actor Michael McKean in character as the aforementioned Forcett, now several decades older and committed to obtaining the requisite number of Good Place points.

(16) MEMORIAL FOR A BOT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Mashable brings us word that, “A delivery robot caught on fire at UC Berkeley, students then set up a vigil.” The KiwiBot was one of a fleet of over 100.

A KiwiBot, an automated food delivery robot which is present on UC Berkeley’s campus, caught fire on Friday afternoon.

In a post, the company explained the incident was due to a faulty battery which had been mistakenly installed instead of a functioning one. 

The errant battery started smoldering while the robot was idling, leading to smoke, then fire outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

“A member of the community acted swiftly toextinguish the flames using a nearby fire extinguisher. Within moments ofthe incident occurring, it had already been contained,” the post read.

“The Berkeley Fire Department arrived shortly thereafter to secure the scene, and doused the robot with foam ensuring there was no risk of re-ignition.”

Unsurprisingly, the fire was caught on both video and stills. Pics of the subsequent candlelight memorial also appeared online. Deliveries had been taking place by the bots since 2017 but were suspended following the fire. Since then, software has been updated to more closely monitor the battery state and the fleet is back in service.

(17) MOCKERY. This is the kind of promo I’d expect from JDA or Richard Paolinelli, except you’d have to take their books, too: “Popeyes is launching ‘Emotional Support Chicken’ for stressed travelers craving fried chicken”.

On Tuesday, the chicken chain announced that it is selling three-piece chicken-tenders meals packaged in “Emotional Support Chicken” carriers at Philadelphia International Airport. The special chicken will be available as supplies last starting Tuesday at the Popeyes location in Terminal C.

Emotional-support animals have been making headlines recently, as passengers have pushed for the ability to bring increasingly bizarre companions on flights.

The number of emotional-support animals traveling aboard commercial flights has jumped 74% from 481,000 in 2016 to 751,000 in 2017, according to trade group Airlines for America. In January, a woman tried to bring an emotional-support peacock on a United Airlines flight. And, in February, another woman said Spirit Airlines told her to flush her emotional-support hamster down the toilet.

(18) NICE TRY. Somehow the trash in the Pacific is moving faster than the catcher: “Creator Of Floating Garbage-Collector Struggling To Capture Plastic In Pacific”.

Slat’s system, a 10-foot skirt attached beneath an unmoored, 2000-foot-long plastic tube, takes advantage of the wind and waves to move through the Pacific Ocean. The system aims to collect plastic from the water’s surface, which would then be picked up every few months by a support vessel and transported back to land for recycling. The garbage trap uses solar-powered lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas to communicate its position to Slat’s team and passerby vessels.

(19) MAYBE TOMORROW. “SpaceX And Blue Origin Scrub Rocket Launches, Dashing Hopes Of A 4-Launch Day” – NPR has the story.

Weather and other delays marred what had been anticipated as a banner day for space launches Tuesday, as both SpaceX and Blue Origin were forced to postpone launches that had been scheduled to take place within minutes of each other. Both companies say they will look at moving their launches to Wednesday morning.

(20) BANNED ARTWORK. The New York Times reports some work by international artists has been banned from a forthcoming exhibit at the Guangdong Museum of Art: “Their Art Raised Questions About Technology. Chinese Censors Had Their Own Answer.”

Artificial intelligence bots. 3-D printed human organs. Genomic sequencing.

These might seem to be natural topics of interest in a country determined to be the world’s leader in science and technology. But in China, where censors are known to take a heavy hand, several artworks that look closely at these breakthroughs have been deemed taboo by local cultural officials.

The works, which raise questions about the social and ethical implications of artificial intelligence and biotechnology, were abruptly pulled last weekend from the coming Guangzhou Triennial on the orders of cultural authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

The artists, from Europe, Australia and the United States, were not given an official reason why their works were rejected for the show, which opens on Dec. 21 at the Guangdong Museum of Art. The pieces did not touch on the Tiananmen democracy crackdown of 1989, independence for Taiwan or Tibet or the private wealth of Chinese Communist Party leaders —topics that are widely known to be off-limits for public discussion in China.

As a result, some of the show’s curators and the affected artists havebeen left guessing as to why the works were banned. Their conclusion? The works were perhaps too timely, too relevant and therefore too discomforting for Chinese officials.

…The other banned works include “The Modular Body,” an online science fiction story about using human cells and artificial organs to create a living organism. Created by a Dutch artist, Floris Kaayk, the work is intended to raise questions about the potential for 3-D printing of human organs, about extending life with the help of technology and about the desire to design life from scratch.

(21) OUT OF THE BOT BUSINESS. Engadget reports “Sphero is done making licensed Disney bots like BB-8 and R2-D2”:

Say goodbye to Sphero’s cute BB-8 robot. In fact, say goodbye to all the company’s licensed products, including R2-D2, BB-9E and Cars’ Lighting McQueen. According to The Verge, Sphero plans to sell its remaining inventory of licensed toys, but it will no longer manufacture more once it runs out. Indeed, the products’ listings on Sphero’s website says “This is a legacy product and no longer in production.” The company isn’t just discontinuing the models, though: It’s ending its licensing partnerships completely, because it’s no longer worth dedicating resources for their production.

Sphero chief Paul Berberian explained that while the toys sold well when their tie-in movies were released, fewer and fewer people purchased them as the years went by. “When you launch a toy, your first year’s your biggest. Your second year’s way smaller, and your third year gets really tiny,” he said….

(22) ALL YOU HAD TO DO IS ASK. Rocco the parrot apparently knows how to get what he wants (BGR Media: “An intelligent parrot used Alexa to play music and order food from Amazon”).

An African grey parrot has made headlines recently for inadvertently making orders via his owner’s Amazon Echo. Originally reported via The Times of London [paywall], the parrot — whose name is Rocco — would mindlessly activate Alexa and have the virtual assistant tell jokes and play music. Rocco even tried to order a few items from Amazon, but the owner wisely had set up controls to prevent unauthorized purchases.

What makes the somewhat lighthearted story even more amusing is that Rocco previously had a stint living at the UK’s National Animal Welfare Trust (NAWT) but was kicked out — yes, kicked out — because he was swearing too much. As the old adage says, truth is stranger than fiction. Rocco was subsequently placed under the care of a NAWT employee named Marion Wischnewski whereupon he quickly started activating Alexa.

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