Pixel Scroll 4/23/20 Send Me The Pixel That You Scroll On

(1) THE TEN DOCTORS. The BBC’s Big Night In fundraising telethon broadcast April 23 included “The Doctors’ inspiring message to all frontline workers” delivered by regiment of actors who have played Doctor Who — Jodie Whittaker, Peter Capaldi, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Peter Davison, Tom Baker, and Jo Martin.

Doctors, past and present, unite together to send a powerful message to all frontline workers in the fight against coronavirus. Comic Relief and Children in Need join forces for the first time to deliver a very special night of television during these unprecedented times.The Big Night In brings the nation an evening of unforgettable entertainment in a way we’ve never seen before. More importantly, it will also raise money for and pay tribute to those on the front line fighting Covid-19 and all the unsung heroes going that extra mile to support their communities.

An excerpt from the YouTube transcript:

…We have all come together together together together together together together together for one important reason to praise salute and give the heartfelt thanks to real-life special doctors nurses and everyone everyone working on the phone lines in our NHS and care homes and hospices what you all do and have done for all of us is amazing it’s crucial phenomenal…

(2) HOLLAND CON DELAYED. Kees Van Toorn’s Reunicon 2020, a 30th anniversary celebration of the Worldcon in The Hague, has been postponed until August 2021.

Due to official regulations enforced by many countries worldwide concerning the covid-19 virus, all public events and travelling restrictions have been scrapped or postponed. That includes REUNICON 2020, alas. However, we have rescheduled the convention in August 20-22 in 2021. We are confident we will be able to host REUNICON next year, making it a good place to come to and share memories of CONFICTION 1990 as well as to remember all those we have lost in the past years and the grim period we now face. In the meantime, be well, stay healthy and take care of each other. And stay tuned for more information!

(3) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Steven Saus found a problem: “Minecraft Bug: Despawning Named Zombie Villagers”.

We discovered what seems to be a bug in Minecraft. Named mobs are not supposed to despawn when the chunk unloads, but named villagers that are turned into (named) zombie villagers end up despawning too.

.. My named villager “Bait” was turned into a named zombie villager all right, but he also immediately despawned when the chunk unloaded.

If you want to spend 90 seconds you can watch it happen – yes, I admit I did…

(4) ACHIEVEMENTS TO UNLOCK. At the SFWA Blog, Cat Rambo begins “Effective Goal Setting for Writers” with this overview:

Something I work on with my coaching clients is goal setting, which is made up of several parts:

  • figuring out where they want to be in six months to a year
  • figuring out what the milestones of that goal are and mapping them against the schedule
  • figuring out the monthly goals they need to hit in order to achieve that schedule
  • figuring out the weekly goals necessary to achieve those monthly goals

(5) US IN FLUX. The third story for Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “When We Call a Place Home,” by Chinelo Onwualu.

On Monday, April 27 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Chinelo in conversation with Robert Evans, a conflict journalist and host of the podcasts Behind the Bastards and The Women’s War about the story “When We Call a Place Home” and the real-world community in Northern Syria that inspired the tale.

(6) REASONS REVISITED. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] In a free reprint from 2001, The London Review of Books’ Jenny Turner discusses “Reasons for liking Tolkien” — long, meaty, and balanced.

A writer, born around 1890, is famous for three novels. The first is short, elegant, an instant classic. The second, the masterpiece, has the same characters in it, is much longer and more complicated, and increasingly interested in myth and language games. The third is enormous, mad, unreadable. One answer is Joyce, of course. Another – The Hobbit (1937), The Lord of the Rings (1955), The Silmarillion (1977) – is J.R.R. Tolkien.

A writer, born around 1890, raged against ‘mass-production robot factories and the roar of self-obstructive mechanical traffic’ and ‘the rawness and ugliness of modern European life’. Instead he loved the trees and hedgerows of the English Midlands he had known as a boy, and the tales of ‘little, ultimate creatures’ he came across in the legends of the North. Clue: it wasn’t D.H. Lawrence.

A writer, born around 1890, worked bits of ancient writings into his own massive masterwork, magnificently misprising them as he went. Clue: it wasn’t Pound.

…A writer, born around 1890, declared himself a monarchist and a Catholic; and no, it wasn’t Eliot. In form, in content, in everything about it, The Lord of the Rings is the most anti-Modernist of novels. It is really very funny to think about how similar it is in so many ways to the works of the great Modernists.

(7) WHAT’S A WRITER TO DO? From The Guardian: “Margaret Atwood’s lockdown diary: life as an eccentric self-isolationist”.

As the first world war dragged on, volunteer women’s groups of all kinds formed in aid of the troops in the trenches: bandage rolling, preserved foods box packing, knitting. My grandmother joined a knitting group in rural Nova Scotia. You started on washcloths, progressed to scarves; then, if you were sufficiently adroit, you moved on to balaclavas and socks, and ultimately – the pinnacle! – to gloves. My grandmother was a terrible knitter. She never got beyond washcloths.

I’ve often wondered about these knitting groups. What were they for, really? Were they providing much-needed knitted items, or were they boosting morale by giving a bunch of otherwise very anxious civilians, whose sons and husbands were in jeopardy, something to do with their hands while waiting, waiting, endlessly waiting? I can see the socks and gloves making it to the frontlines, but the washcloths? Photographs of muddy, cramped, stinky trench life don’t show much washing going on. And my grandmother’s wonky, hole-filled washcloths in particular – were they sent to a secret depot where they were unraveled, and their wool reclaimed for something more functional?

So, in the spirit of my grandmother’s washcloths – not ultimately useful, perhaps, but let’s hope they focused the mind and gave a sense of accomplishment – I present some of my more bizarre self-isolation activities. You can do some of them at home. Though perhaps you won’t wish to.

…Another activity I’ve been doing lately is squirrel foiling. Hear a gnawing sound in the ceiling? These are your choices, in this part of the world: raccoons, possums, rats, squirrels, Google Earth. Probably squirrels, I thought, and so it proved to be. At first I foiled them by playing hot jazz and acid rock right under their gnawing station, but they got used to the wailing and screaming, so I climbed up a stepladder, placed a large steel bowl against the ceiling, and whacked it with a big metal serving spoon. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have been doing that alone at night – the Younger Generation will scold when they read this – because people my age fall off ladders and break their necks, especially when not holding on because you need two hands for steel bowl banging. I won’t do it again, promise. (Until next time.)…

(8) MANDALORIAN MAKERS. Here’s a two-minute teaser for the next season of The Mandalorian, with appearances by Jon Favreau (creator/writer/executive producer), Dave Filoni (writer/director/executive producer), Deborah Chow (director), Bryce Dallas Howard (director), Taika Waititi (director/IG-11), Pedro Pascal (Din Djarin), Gina Carano (Cara Dune), and Carl Weathers (Greef Karga). Starts starts streaming May the 4th, on Disney+.

(9) MILLER OBIT. Ryder W. Miller (1965-2020)  passed away March 15 after a six-month fight with pancreatic cancer. A critic, poet, writer, and journalist, he was a regular contributor to The Mythic Circle, Beyond Bree, Mythprint, EGJ, and Rain Taxi, and also appeared in Mythlore. He published stories at The Lost Souls website. He is the author of Tales of Suspense and Horror, co-author of San Francisco: A Natural History, and editor of From Narnia to a Space Odyssey: The War of Letters Between Arthur C. Clarke and C.S. Lewis (ibooks, 2005).

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

Through reading and the celebration of World Book and Copyright Day, 23 April, we can open ourselves to others despite distance, and we can travel thanks to imagination.

In concert, Wikipedia has selected as its word of the day unputdownable:

Of a person, etc.: difficult or impossible to put down (in various senses). (specifically) Of a book or other written work: so captivating or engrossing that one cannot bear to stop reading it.

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the series was aired in the United KingdomUnited States, and Canada.

Doctor Who is a sci-fi series that first aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1963. The show follows the adventures of the Doctor, a time-travelling alien, who travels through time and space in a time machine and spacecraft called Time and Relative Dimension in Space or TARDIS. The TARDIS looks like a London police box from the 1960s.

Called The Impossible Astronaut, the episode became one of the most appreciated and watched episodes of the series.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 23, 1974 Planet Earth premiered. Created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, it was — not surprisingly – also based on a story by Roddenberry. It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. The rest of cast was Diana Muldaur, Ted Cassidy, Janet Margolin, Christopher Cary. Corrine Camacho and Majel Barrett. It was intended  as a pilot for a new weekly television series, but that never came to be. It was the second attempt by him to produce a weekly series set on a post-apocalyptic future Earth with Genesis II being the previous pilot.  Roddenberry recycled both the concepts and characters used in Genesis II. Some of the characters here would show up in the Andromeda series such as Dylan Hunt. It was generally well-received by critics at the time, and it currently has a 45% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 23, 1879 Talbot Mundy. English-born, but based for most of his life in the States, he also wrote under the pseudonym of Walter Galt. Best known as the author of King of the Khyber Rifles which is not quite genre and the Jimgrim series which is genre, much of his work was published in pulp magazines. (Died 1940.)
  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels like The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 23, 1935 Tom Doherty, 85. Publisher of Ace Books who left there in 1980 to found Tor Books. Doherty was awarded a World Fantasy Award in the Lifetime Achievement category at the 2005 World Fantasy Convention for his contributions to the fantasy field.
  • Born April 23, 1946 Blair Brown, 74. Emily Jessup In Altered States (based on the Paddy Chayefsky novel) was her first genre role. Later roles include Nina Sharp, the executive director of Massive Dynamic, on Fringe, an amazing role indeed, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 2004 television remake of Dark Shadows. Her last genre role was Kate Durning on Elementary.
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 65. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won a Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction, 
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 64. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 58. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a more meaty role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 47. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a  Hugo Award winner at  MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off iBooks so I could read it. It was superb as is her newest novel Catfishing on CatNet which is nominated for a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book at this year’s Hugos.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) STILL IN THE DUGOUT. Last year Chris Barkley sent retiring Cincinnati Reds baseball broadcaster Marty Brennaman a copy of his “So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask” column full of advice about how to improve Major League Baseball, and he was ecstatic to finally receive an answer.

(15) EARTH DAY. Brain Pickings will celebrate Earth Day on April 25 with its The Universe in Verse event, a charitable celebration of science and nature through poetry, streaming on Vimeo.

“I don’t think it would have been conceivable to me when I was seventeen that science would ever need defending, let alone by a poet,” the poet Jane Hirshfield says in her beautiful and poignant meditation on her memory of the first Earth Day in 1970, prefacing her reading at the 2020 Universe in Verse, celebrating 50 years of Earth Day. (Tune into the global broadcast at 4:30PM EST on Saturday, April 25, to hear Hirshfield and a constellation of other radiant minds.

…Expect readings of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich, Pablo Neruda, June Jordan, Mary Oliver, Audre Lorde, Wendell Berry, Hafiz, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, and other titans of poetic perspective, performed by a largehearted cast of scientists and artists, astronauts and poets, Nobel laureates and Grammy winners: Physicists Janna LevinKip Thorne, and Brian Greene, musicians Rosanne CashPatti SmithAmanda PalmerZoë KeatingMorley, and Cécile McLorin Salvant, poets Jane HirshfieldRoss GayMarie Howe, and Natalie Diaz, astronomers Natalie Batalha and Jill Tarter, authors Rebecca SolnitElizabeth GilbertMasha GessenRoxane GayRobert Macfarlane, and Neil Gaiman, astronaut Leland Melvin, playwright and activist V (formerly Eve Ensler), actor Natascha McElhone, entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, artists Debbie MillmanDustin Yellin, and Lia Halloran, cartoonist Alison Bechdel, radio-enchanters Krista Tippett and Jad Abumrad, and composer Paola Prestini with the Young People’s Chorus. As always, there are some thrilling surprises in wait.

(16) ANATOMY OF A BLACK HOLE. “In a photo of a black hole, a possible key to mysteries” from the Harvard Gazette.

So little is known about them and the image hints at a path to a higher-resolution image and more and better data

Billions of people worldwide marveled at the first image ever captured of a black hole. The photo of the glowing, blurry doughnut, taken by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team, showed the massive dark region, a monster the size of our solar system, that, like its peers, gobbles up everything — even light — that ventures too close.

“I definitely got shivers down my spine,” said Alexander Lupsasca, a junior fellow in Harvard’s Center for the Fundamental Laws of Nature, remembering the moment he saw the photo for the first time. It was thrilling because so very little is known about black holes. And now, Lupsasca and a team of scientists at Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative say the image may help provide more answers: Hidden within the glowing ring are an infinite number of sub-rings that offer a way to capture an even higher-resolution image and more precise data on the massive enigmas of the universe.

“They’re paradoxical objects. They’re the epitome of what we don’t understand,” said Andrew Strominger, the Gwill E. York Professor of Physics at Harvard. “And it’s very exciting to see something that you don’t understand.” Black holes are one of the great puzzles of modern physics — where Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and quantum mechanics collide. Scientists still know so little about them — their mass, how fast they spin, what’s inside their warped space-time. Until the EHT produced the first actual image, Strominger could only investigate their mysteries with complex mathematics, pencil, and paper. “I cried when I saw their picture,” he said. Then, he asked: “What can we learn from this?”

…“As we peer into these rings, first, second, third, etc., we are looking at light from all over the visible universe; we are seeing farther and farther into the past, a movie, so to speak, of the history of the visible universe,” said Peter Galison, the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics, in the Black Hole Initiative’s press release.

(17) A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A new project at MIT may allow one to control lucid dreams (those in which you’re aware you’re dreaming)… at least a bit. As one drops into hypnagogia, that liminal state between being awake and being asleep, a wearable in development detects this and triggers a pre-selected one-word audio cue. In theory this may help the wearer to be like David Beckham and bend a lucid dream to follow a desired trajectory.

To say that the Popular Mechanics article’s author, Caroline Delbert, is skeptical of the usefulness of this would be an understatement. “Would You Wear This Glove to Hack Your Dreams?”

(18) DRAWING FOR HEALTH. “The Japanese monster going viral” – BBC has the story.

People across the world are drawing images of a mythical Japanese spirit believed to help ward off plagues.

In Japan, as parts of the country declare a state of emergency, people here have been reacting to the Covid-19 pandemic in a unique way: by sharing images online of a mystical, mermaid-like being believed to ward off plagues.

Largely forgotten for generations, Amabie, as it’s known, is an auspicious yokai (a class of supernatural spirits popularised through Japanese folklore) that was first documented in 1846. As the story goes, a government official was investigating a mysterious green light in the water in the former Higo province (present-day Kumamoto prefecture). When he arrived at the spot of the light, a glowing-green creature with fishy scales, long hair, three fin-like legs and a beak emerged from the sea.

Amabie introduced itself to the man and predicted two things: a rich harvest would bless Japan for the next six years, and a pandemic would ravage the country. However, the mysterious merperson instructed that in order to stave off the disease, people should draw an image of it and share it with as many people as possible.

(19) HEAL, SPOT HEAL! Spot the Robot Dog is trying out for a job as a telemedicine worker reports Forbes: “Spot The Robot Dog Roams The Coronavirus Pandemic’s Front Lines”.

Spot, the famous robot dog from Boston Dynamics, has been conscripted into service to work on the front lines helping medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineers at the company, which was formerly a subsidiary of Google before being purchased by Softbank, have been working for the past six weeks to develop the means for Spot to help reduce the exposure of healthcare workers.

So far Spot has been working with Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where robots outfitted with a special payload are deployed in triage tents and parking lots to help staff receive patients suspected to have COVID-19 and perform initial assessments.

“With the use of a mobile robot, hospitals are able to reduce the number of necessary medical staff at the scene and conserve their limited PPE supply,” explains a release from Boston Dynamics.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A video on YouTube as “vol. 5 Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798/1861)” is an animation by Pasquale D’Amico of works by a 19th-century macabre Japanese artist.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/18/20 You Can’t File All Of The Pixels All Of The Time

(1) EASTERCON 2021. Next year’s UK Eastercon site has been selected reports the Friends of Eastercon blog.

ConFusion 2021 won an online bidding session for the 2021 Eastercon, to be held at the Birmingham NEC again, with 95% of the vote. Permission to record the session was refused.

(2) AID FOR ARTISTS. Publishers Lunch linked to the newly announced  “Maurice Sendak Emergency Relief Fund”.

The Maurice Sendak Foundation has granted $100,000 to the New York Foundation for the Arts for an emergency relief grant program “to support children’s picture book artists and writers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.” They will provide grants of up to $2,500 a person, and hope to raise at least another $150,000 in the initial phase.

(3) AND RESCUE FOR RETAILERS. The New York Times tells how “Comic Creators Unite to Benefit Stores”.

A large group of comic book creators are banding together to help support comic book retailers whose business have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Using the Twitter hashtag #Creators4Comics, more than 120 creators will be auctioning comic books, artwork and one-of-a-kind experiences. The auctions will run from Wednesday through Monday and will benefit the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which is accepting applications from comic book shops and bookstores for emergency relief.

The effort was organized by the comic book writers Sam Humphries and Brian Michael Bendis, along with Kami Garcia, Gwenda Bond and Phil Jimenez. Humphries will be auctioning “How to Break Into Comics by Making Your Own Comics,” which are video-chat sessions with aspiring writers. “It mirrors my own comic book secret origin story,” he said in an email. More information can be found at the Creators 4 Comics website….

(4) CONZEALAND VIRTUAL ATTENDING MEMBERSHIPS. The 2020 Worldcon website has been updated with information about attending memberships for its Virtual Convention.

An Attending Membership is for people who will engage in the live, interactive Virtual Convention. There are a number of different types of Attending Memberships. Attending Memberships are all inclusive. You do not have to pay anything more for access to any of our online activity.

You will receive all our publications. This also comes with the right to nominate and vote in the Hugo Awards in 2020. You can also vote in Site Selection for the 2022 Worldcon.

  • Young Adult Attending is based on being born in 2000.
  • Unwaged Attending is a NZ resident of any age who does not have a consistent wage. This includes students, retirees, beneficiaries etc. Please contact us if you have questions about this.
    • We will trust that if you become waged by the convention, that you will upgrade to a Full Attending.

(5) RE-VOYAGER. “Garrett Wang And Robert Duncan McNeill Are Launching A ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ Rewatch Podcast” reports TrekMovie.com. The podcast’s twitter account is @TheDeltaFlyers.

This morning, Star Trek: Voyager star Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris) announced that he has teamed up with co-star Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) on a new podcast called The Delta Flyers. The new pod promises inside stories as the pair plan to rewatch every episode of Voyager, with the first episode arriving in early May. 

(6) EISNER AWARDS. Newsarama reassures that “2020 Eisner Awards Going Forward Despite SDCC Cancellation”.

“I’m happy to report that the judging has been handled mostly virtually to date,” SDCC’s Chief Communications and Strategy Officer David Glanzer told Newsarama. “Things are in flux as you can imagine but our hope is to be able to have a list of Eisner winners for 2020.”

Longtime awards administrator Jackie Estrada is working with this year’s judges Martha Cornog, Jamie Coville, Michael Dooley, Alex Grecian, Simon Jimenez, and Laura O’Meara.

(7) OUT OF PRINT. In “This Is The Book That Outsold Dracula In 1897″, CrimeReads’  Olivia Rutigliano shows why an old bestseller is likely to remain in obscurity despite that singular achievement.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula has remained in print since it was first published in April 1897. A bestseller in its day, it has gone on to spawn countless derivatives and become one of the most indelible pop-cultural touchstones in recent history. Obviously. But, upon its first release, it was seriously outsold by another novel, a supernatural tale of possession and revenge called The Beetle, which fell out of print after 1960. And let me tell you, it’s something else.

Written by Richard Marsh, the author of extremely successful commercial short fiction during this era, The Beetle is actually rather like Dracula in form and plot. In addition to its being an epistolary novel, it is similarly about a seductive, inhuman, shape-shifting monster who arrives in England from the East, entrances a citizen into becoming its slave, and wages an attack on London society. And civilization’s only hope against this invader is a motley group of middle-class individuals (including one forward-thinking young woman and one expert on the supernatural), who must figure out what the creature actually is and ascertain why it has arrived to England, before finally destroying it….

(8) A FRIGID FORMULATION. Dann is “Re-Visiting Those Damned Cold Equations” at Liberty at all Costs.

… There is a forthcoming anthology of rebuttals to The Cold Equations.  I expect many essayists to add elements that are not present in the original story to reach their own preferred conclusions.  Rather than address the story as written, they will probably add in a factor that is not otherwise evident as a lever to be used against the main purpose of the story.

Rather than discussing the merits and criticism of the story, I’m first going to travel to Texas, rhetorically.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick implied that he was willing to die to ensure the survival of his children and grandchildren.  He went on to suggest that lots of grandparents would make the same choice.  The context of his comments was the “choice” between maintaining our self-quarantine that is significantly damaging our economy or resuming normal social habits at the demonstrable risk of killing off a substantial number of our elderly.

…We are not currently at the point where we need to be deciding who lives and who dies.  We are most certainly not at the point where we need to risk the lives of senior citizens by prematurely restarting the economy.

That being said, we do have to make choices; sometimes hard choices….

…The fact is that we all have to make choices based on what we hope is the best of information.  We are all learning now about the importance of certain types of medical and personal protective equipment.  We are learning that we had manufacturing and import capacity to cover the usual needs of society, but not enough to cover our needs during a pandemic.  We are learning that we had stockpiles sufficient to cover a few significant regional calamities, but such stockpiles were entirely insufficient for a larger catastrophe.

…Will the critics of The Cold Equations pause in their rush to suggest alternative conclusions to acknowledge the practical limitations, however ham-handedly presented, that were in play?

(9) WHAT BOX? In a review of Bishakh Som’s new collection, NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky reports that “‘Apsara Engine’ Doesn’t Break The Graphic Novel Rules — It Ignores Them”.

There’s something a bit uncanny about Apsara Engine, the new comics collection by Bishakh Som. The world of comics is all about genre — superhero, sci-fi, fantasy, horror — and most of the time it’s pretty easy to match any book to its proper slot. Even highbrow graphic novels tend to categorize themselves through the style of art they employ and the types of stories they tell. Not this book, though. Its images and concepts seem to come from a place all their own. Som’s imagination is science-fictiony, without being particularly technological, mythic without being particularly traditional, and humanistic without cherishing any particular assumptions about where we, as a species, are headed.

You might classify these comics as “literary,” but Som’s approach to storytelling is as uncanny as her style and themes. Even the book’s structure keeps the reader off-balance. Som intersperses tales of future civilizations and half-human hybrid beasts with vignettes of run-of-the-mill contemporary life, so the reader never knows if something odd is about to happen.

You might classify these comics as “literary,” but Som’s approach to storytelling is as uncanny as her style and themes.

…Som’s artistic style breaks boundaries, too. She’ll employ traditional comic-book techniques for page layouts and character designs, then toss them aside with the turn of a page. A character who’s drawn iconically, with just a few efficient lines defining her features, will become lushly realistic at a pivotal moment. A story drawn in the usual square panels will suddenly burst forth into a series of flowing, uncontained two-page spreads.

Such moments of explosive transition provide the book’s heartbeat. It’s a mesmerizing arrythmia. The deceptiveness of what we think of as “ordinary life” is a running motif, one Som explores through unexpected juxtapositions. In “Come Back to Me,” a pretty young woman engages in an utterly mundane inner monologue while walking on the beach. Her reminiscences about the time she cheated on her boyfriend, which appear above and below the drawings, continue to unspool implacably even as she’s pulled into the ocean by a mermaid….

(10) BINNS OBIT. Merv Binns’ obituary, written by Leigh Edmonds, has appeared in The Age: “A luminary of Australian science fiction”. An excerpt:

In 1970, Binns established Space Age Books, with the help of his friends Lee Harding and Paul Stevens. It soon established a reputation as the best source of science fiction, fantasy and counter-culture literature in Melbourne, and probably Australia.

Space Age became the hub of a growing science fiction community and Binns became associated with leading authors, editors and publishers, as well the growing number of fans, in Australia and internationally.

As a result, Binns and Space Age were integral to the hosting of World Science Fiction Conventions in Melbourne in 1975 and 1985. 

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 18, 1938 — Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, a comic book published by National Allied Publications even though the cover said June. The character was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. This was actually an anthology, and contained eleven features with the Superman feature being the first thirteen inside pages. Five years ago, a pristine copy  of this comic sold for a record $3,207,852 on an eBay auction. It was one of two hundred thousand that were printed. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 18, 1884 Frank R. Paul. An employee of editor Hugo Gernsback, he largely defined the look of both cover art and interior illustrations in the pulps of the Twenties from Amazing Stories at first and later for Planet StoriesSuperworld Comics and Science Fiction. He also illustrated the cover of Gernsback’s own novel, Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660. You can see his cover for Amazing Stories, August 1927 issue , illustrating The War of the Worlds here. (Died 1963.)  
  • Born April 18, 1922 Nigel Kneale. Writer of novels and scripts merging horror and SF, he’s  best remembered  for the creation of the character Professor Bernard Quatermass. Though he was a prolific British producer and writer, he had only one Hollywood movie script, Halloween III: Season of the Witch. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 18, 1945 Karen Wynn Fonstad. She designed several atlases of fictional worlds including The Atlas of Middle-earthThe Atlas of Pern and The Atlas of the Dragonlance World. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 18, 1946 Janet Kagan. “The Nutcracker Coup” was nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, winning the Hugo at ConFrancisco. She has but two novels, one being Uhura’s Song, a Trek novel, and quite a bit of short fiction which is out in The Complete Kagan from Baen Books and is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 18, 1952 Martin Hoare. I’m not going to attempt to restate what Mike stares much better in his obituary here. (Died 2019.) 
  • Born April 18, 1965 Stephen Player, 55. He’s deep into Pratchett’s Discworld and the fandom that sprung up around it. He illustrated the first two Discworld Maps, and quite a number of the books including the25th Anniversary Edition of The Light Fantastic and The Illustrated Wee Free Men. Oh but that’s just a mere wee taste of he’s done as he did the production design for the Sky One production of Hogfather and The Colour of Magic. He did box art and card illustrations for Guards! Guards! A Discworld Boardgame. Finally he contributed to some Discworld Calendars, games books, money for the Discworld convention. I want that money. 
  • Born April 18, 1969 Keith R. A. DeCandido, 51. I found him with working in these genre media franchises: such as Supernatural, Andromeda, FarscapeFireflyAliensStar Trek In its various permutations, Buffy the Vampire SlayerDoctor WhoSpider-ManX-MenHerculesThorSleepy Hollow,and Stargate SG-1. Has he ever written a novel that was a media tie-in? 
  • Born April 18, 1971 David Tennant, 49. Eleventh Doctor and my favorite of the modern Doctors along with Thirteen whom I’m also very fond of. There are some episodes such as the “The Unicorn and The Wasp” that I’ve watched repeatedly.  He’s also done other spectacular genre work such as the downright creepy Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, and and Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He’s also in the Beeb’s remake of the The Quatermass Experiment as Dr. Gordon Briscoe.
  • Born April 18, 1973 Cora Buhlert, 47. With Jessica Rydill, she edits the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a most excellent site. She has a generous handful of short fiction professionally published, and she’s also a finalist for the Best Fan Writer Hugo this year. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro tells us what monsters sing.

(14) TOUGHER THAN DIAMOND? “DC to Sell New Comics. Here’s Why it Matters” is a Nerdist analysis of a potentially revolutionary development.

It’s been a wild month for comic book fans everywhere. Since the COVID-19 crisis fully took hold we’ve been getting used to new ways of living, working, and accessing our favorite art, even SDCC has been canceled! It was only a few weeks ago that Diamond–the comic book industry’s only physical distributor–would stop distributing single issues to comic shops. Since then, there have been plenty of rumors, failed plans, and new ideas. But now DC Comics has announced they will be selling comics directly to shops via two new distributors.

It’s great news for comics fans but also has massive implications for the future of the industry as a whole. We’re here to break down why.

… The fact that DC Comics is breaking with the exclusive deal Diamond has had with them for decades means that they are introducing two new distributors into the market for the first time in 20 years. It could essentially break the monopoly that Diamond has had on the industry. Possibly freeing up the proverbial trade routes that have long been under the control of one massive company….

(15) LEGACY OF THE PLAGUE. Sari Feldman looks ahead to “Public Libraries After the Pandemic” at Publishers Weekly.

…In a previous column, I wrote about the unprecedented library closures around the country in the wake of the pandemic. The value of public libraries is rarely questioned in times of crisis—think of the New Orleans Public Library after Hurricane Katrina, or the Ferguson Municipal Public Library during the unrest there. But this crisis—more specifically, the social distancing required to address this crisis—strikes at the very foundation on which the modern public library rests. And as the days go by, I find myself increasingly concerned about how libraries come back from these closures.

For one, I suspect that Covid-19 will change some people’s perspective on what can and should be shared. I fear many people will begin to overthink materials handling and the circulation of physical library collections, including books. It’s a reasonable assumption that people will emerge from this public health crisis with a heightened sense of risk related to germ exposure. How many of our patrons—particularly those with means—will begin to question the safety of borrowing books and other items from the library?

In terms of our buildings, open access for everyone has long been a celebrated library value. Public libraries have evolved, survived, and have even managed to thrive through a digital transformation by reconfiguring our spaces to be more social, more functional, and by offering more programs and classes. Can we maintain that in an age of social distancing? Will libraries need to supply gloves for shared keyboards? Will parents and caregivers still want to bring their children to a “Baby and Me” program? Will seniors still find respite in a library community?

(16) ONE PICTURE AND A THOUSAND WORDS. In “Revisiting Ursula K. Le Guin’s Novella About Interplanetary Racism” at New York Times Books, artist Ben Passmore visually comments on a Le Guin story.

A graphic novelist renders “The Word for World Is Forest,” a work that mixed the reality of racism with the fantasy of retribution.

(17) COUNTDOWN. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says NASA has authorized the first human spaceflight launching from the U.S. since 2011, with veterans Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley scheduled to go to the International Space Station on a SpaceX craft. “NASA sets a date for historic SpaceX launch, the first flight of NASA crews from U.S. in nearly a decade”.

…This time, though, the launch will be markedly different from any other in the history of the space agency. Unlike Mercury, Gemini, Apollo or the space shuttle era, the rocket will be owned and operated not by NASA, but by a private company — SpaceX, the hard-charging commercial space company founded by Elon Musk.

(18) KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. The Washington Post’s Travis M. Andrews says that last Saturday a giant music festival was held “featuring emo titans American Football, chiptune pioneers Anamanaguchi and electropop pioneer Baths,” but social distancing protocols were followed because this was a virtual festival that took place inside Minecraft. “Thousands gathered Saturday for a music festival. Don’t worry: It was in Minecraft.”

… Interested parties could “attend” in a few different ways. Some watched on the video game streaming site Twitch. To really get into the action, though, you needed to log into Minecraft, plug in the proper server info and, voilà!, you’d pop to life in a hallway and then explore the venue through your first-person viewpoint.

Purchasing a VIP pass (with real money) allowed access to special cordoned-off parts of the venue and the chance to chat with the artists on the gamer hangout app Discord. Meanwhile, the nearly 100,000 unique viewers on Twitch were encouraged to donate money to disaster recovery org Good360, which ended up with roughly $8,000 in proceeds.

(19) BIG SQUEEZE. “‘Bath sponge’ breakthrough could boost cleaner cars”

A new material developed, by scientists could give a significant boost to a new generation of hydrogen-powered cars.

Like a bath sponge, the product is able to hold and release large quantities of the gas at lower pressure and cost.

Made up of billions of tiny pores, a single gram of the new aluminium-based material has a surface area the size of a football pitch.

The authors say it can store the large volume of gas needed for practical travel without needing expensive tanks.

…As well as developing electric vehicles, much focus has been on hydrogen as a zero emissions source of power for cars.

The gas is used to power a fuel cell in cars and trucks, and if it is made from renewable energy it is a much greener fuel.

However, hydrogen vehicles suffer from some drawbacks.

The gas is extremely light – In normal atmospheric pressure, to carry 1kg of hydrogen which might power your car for over 100km, you’d need a tank capable of holding around 11,000 litres.

To get around this problem, the gas is stored at high pressure, around 700 bar, so cars can carry 4-5kg of the gas and travel up to 500km before refilling.

That level of pressure is around 300 times greater than in a car’s tyres, and necessitates specially made tanks, all of which add to the cost of the vehicles.

Now researchers believe they have developed an alternative method that would allow the storage of high volumes of hydrogen under much lower pressure.

The team have designed a highly porous new material, described as a metal-organic framework.

(20) CREDENTIAL TO KILL. NPR reveals what your SJW credential already knew — nature is full of self-propelled cat food: “The Killer At Home: House Cats Have More Impact On Local Wildlife Than Wild Predators”.

What does an outdoor cat do all day? According to new research, it could be taking a heavy toll on local wildlife.

A tracking study of more than 900 house cats shows when they kill small birds and mammals, their impact is concentrated in a small area, having a bigger effect than wild predators do….

“Even though it seems like their cat isn’t killing that many, it really starts to add up,” said Roland Kays, a scientist at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. (Full disclosure: Kays isn’t a cat or dog person but a “ferret person.”)

Kays and colleagues collected GPS data from cats in six countries and found most cats aren’t venturing very far from home.

“These cats are moving around their own backyard and a couple of their neighbors’ backyards, but most of them are not ranging very much further,” Kays said. “So initially I thought: ‘Oh, this is good news. They’re not going out into the nature preserves.’ “

Then Kays factored in how much cats kill in that small area. Some cats in the study were bringing home up to 11 dead birds, rodents or lizards a month, which doesn’t include what they ate or didn’t bring home to their owners.

“It actually ends up being a really intense rate of predation on any unfortunate prey species that’s going to live near that cat’s house,” he said.

(21) FLASHER. “Deep Sea Squid Communicate by Glowing Like E-Readers”NPR item includes video so readers can test whether they see the patterns.

Deep in the Pacific Ocean, six-foot-long Humboldt squid are known for being aggressive, cannibalistic and, according to new research, good communicators.

Known as “red devils,” the squid can rapidly change the color of their skin, making different patterns to communicate, something other squid species are known to do.

But Humboldt squid live in almost total darkness more than 1,000 feet below the surface, so their patterns aren’t very visible. Instead, according to a new study, they create backlighting for the patterns by making their bodies glow, like the screen of an e-reader.

“Right now, what blows my mind is there’s probably squid talking to each other in the deep ocean and they’re probably sharing all sorts of cool information,” said Ben Burford, a graduate student at Stanford University.

Humboldt squid crowd together in large, fast-moving groups to feed on small fish and other prey.

“When you watch them it looks like frenzy,” Burford said. “But if you pay close attention, they’re not touching each other. They’re not bumping into each other.”

(22) THE HORROR. Consequence of Sound introduces a video publicizing Stephen King’s novella collection — “Stephen King Reads From New Book If It Bleeds: Watch”.

Stephen King jumped into the live stream game on Friday afternoon. The Master of Horror flipped on the camera to read the first chapter from his new book If It BleedsAs previously reported, the book collects four different novellas — similar to Different Seasons or Four Past Midnight — and is available for Constant Readers on April 21st.

Wearing a Loser/Lover shirt from It: Chapter One, which is just all kinds of charming, King read from the first novel Mr. Harrigans Phone. The story continues the author’s mistrust of technology in the vein of Cell, and should make us all think twice about our respective smart phones. So, think about that as you watch King from your couch.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/17/20 Let’s Build Robots With Genuine Pixel Personalities, They Said

(1) SPRNG THAW. Book borrowers cheer as Publishers Weekly reports “Macmillan Abandons Library E-book Embargo”.

In a surprise announcement today, Macmillan abandoned its controversial embargo on new release e-books in libraries, effective this week.

“There are times in life when differences should be put aside,” reads a brief memo from Macmillan CEO John Sargent addressed to librarians, authors, illustrators, and agents. “Effective on Friday (or whenever thereafter our wholesalers can effect the change), Macmillan will return to the library e-book pricing model that was in effect on October 31st, 2019. In addition, we will be lowering some e-book prices on a short term basis to help expand libraries collections in these difficult times. Stay safe.”

A Macmillan spokesperson confirmed that the removal of the embargo covers all titles, including new release Tor titles (which were technically still under a “test” embargo on October 31, 2019).

The news comes as libraries across the nation are (or soon will be) closing down their physical locations in an attempt to slow the outbreak of Covid-19….

(2) MORE NON-CORONA NEWS. The South China Morning Post has the story: “Xiao Zhan scandal – why millions of Chinese shoppers boycotted Piaget, Cartier and Estée Lauder because of homoerotic idol fan fiction”.

Things escalated quickly after A03’s takedown. Enraged by Xiao fans’ censorship plot, millions of free speech activists began boycotting the dozens of brands Xiao campaigns for, including Estée Lauder, Piaget and Qeelin. But they’ve gone further than the usual boycott by promoting competitors of Xiao-promoted brands, crashing Xiao-sponsored brands’ customer service lines, and pressuring those brands to end their collaborations with Xiao. So far, the Chinese Weibo hashtag #BoycottXiaoZhan has exceeded 3,450,000 posts and 260 million views.

.. But the idol economy has a sinister side. In the Chinese model of idol adoration, fans are the ones in control of the idol’s reputation and commercial worth – not the idol. And since fan communities are so actively involved in their idol’s brand sponsorships, it also falls on them to attack brands that they perceive to be opposing their idol’s interests.

(3) FUN STORY. A wonderful spin on a beleaguered classic: Cora Buhlert’s “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign” begins –

Save the Girl and Save Me From Having to Toss Her Out of the Airlock

Organised by Captain C. Barton

Started on August 4, 2178, 08:48     Category: Accidents and emergencies

My name is Barton and I’m the pilot of an EDS (Emergency Dispatch Ship) currently en route to the frontier world of Woden to deliver some desperately needed medical supplies.

I have a problem, because I just discovered a stowaway aboard my ship, an eighteen-year-old girl named Marilyn Lee Cross. Upon questioning, Marilyn explained that her brother Gerry works on Woden as part of the government survey crew. She wants to visit him and since there is no regular passenger traffic to Woden because of the current medical crisis, she snuck aboard my ship…..

(4) WINDY CITY PULP CON POSTPONED. Chicago’s Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, originally set for next month, has been rescheduled to September 11-13.

On March 16, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker mandated that social gatherings of 50 or more people be cancelled for the next eight weeks.  Given other recent developments in the Covid-19 crisis, we anticipated that some sort of ban might be imposed that would make it impossible to hold our convention at its scheduled time in April, 2020.  Out of concern for the health of our extended family of attendees, dealers and staff, for the past week we had been working with our hotel — the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard, Illinois — to attempt to reschedule our convention.  

We can now announce that we’ve just reached an agreement to postpone the convention to September 11-13, 2020. The location of the convention remains the same, and we thank the fine folks at the Westin Lombard for working with us to make this change….

More information about memberships and hotel reservations at the link.

(5) EDGAR AWARDS. Mystery Writers of America have cancelled the Edgar Awards event planned for April 30: “Edgar Week Events – Update”. How the awards will be announced is under discussion.

It is with heavy heart that we have to let you know we are cancelling both the Edgar Awards banquet and the symposium.

All bars and restaurants have been closed in New York City due to the pandemic (other than for delivery and pick-up), and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement on Sunday urging people to cancel or postpone all events bringing together 50 or more people for the next eight weeks, including weddings. “Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities,” the CDC said on their website. “Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies.

This year is the 75th anniversary of MWA; our Edgar week festivities were to be a celebration of that anniversary.

But the health, safety, and well-being of our nominees, guests, members and the hotel staff have to be paramount, and it is not in anyone’s best interest that we go forward with the festivities.

(6) LEPRECON LOSES GOH. At the moment LepreCon 46 is still scheduled for April 10-12 in Chandler, Arizona, however, one of their guests of honor has stepped down. A decision about the con’s future is coming this week.

LepreCon has had some participant cancellations, most notably our Author Guest of Honor, Robert McCammon, who lives in Alabama. He stated: “I’ve gone back and forth on this, and back and forth again, and unfortunately I feel the need to cancel my appearance at LepreCon. I hate to do this because I’d been looking forward to the con and also because never before in my life have I said I would be somewhere and not shown up… but in all honesty I just don’t feel confident in traveling right now and am uncertain of what another month may bring.”

We are restricted in our decision to postpone or cancel Leprecon 46 by our contract with the hotel. We must work in conjunction with them to come up with a solution, since Governor Ducey & ADHS haven’t yet prohibited all public gatherings. We will speak with them Monday to begin the process of determining whether the convention can be postponed or canceled. A decision will be announced by the end of the week.

(7) NO LAST DANCE IN LOUISVILLE. It was going to be the last con in a series that started a decade ago, but now ConGlomeration won’t be taking place. The Louisville, Kentucky fan event was planned for April 10-12.

All good things, as they say, must come to an end. And so it comes to ConGlomeration.

In accordance with current COVID-19 safety recommendations, as well as local, state, and federal mandates, and to ensure the health and well-being of our membership, the Convention Committee has elected to cancel our final ConGlomeration

For those asking why we are cancelling, rather than merely postponing, we simply have no idea if or when a suitable replacement date and venue would become available. We cannot hold our guests, staff, or resources in limbo for an indeterminate amount of time. And, as this was our final convention, we have no “next year” to simply “roll over” this year’s plans and people into.

So, rather than “see you later,” we must instead say “goodbye.”

(8) COMIC RELIEF. Courtesy of George Takei.

(9) BACK TO THE BAD NEWS. Mark George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema closed, too. The Santa Fe, NM theater posted this “Important Announcement”.

To our Jean Cocteau & Beastly Books Supporters:

We like to keep our community as informed as we can. We regret to say that we have decided to close the Jean Cocteau Cinema for a month starting 03/17 and hope to reopen on 04/15. TBD. The Jean Cocteau Cinema is fortunate enough to continue to pay our employees for the interim….

(10) LIBRARIANS’ DAY RECALENDARED. Horror Writers of America have moved HWA Librarians’ Day to November 12, 2020. The Naperville, IL event is another casualty of coronavirus restrictions.

(11) WHITMAN OBIT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Actor Stuart Whitman has died at the age of 92. Whitman was probably best known for his work in action, war, and western films, but did have some genre roles, the first being an uncredited appearance in When Worlds Collide (1951).

Perhaps most notable were 10 episodes as Jonathan Kent scattered across 4 seasons of the 80s/90s TV series Superboy Other genre and adjacent TV work included seven episodes of Fantasy Island (as different characters), plus episodes on more than a half-dozen other shows including Night Gallery and Tales from the Dark Side

He appeared in sf and horror movies such as Omega Cop, Deadly Intruder, Vultures, Invaders of the Lost Gold, The Monster Club, Demonoid, The Cat Creature, and City Beneath the Sea.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 17, 1846 Kate Greenaway. Victorian artist and writer, largely known today for her children’s book illustrations. So popular was she and her work that the very popular Kate Greenaway Almanacks appeared every year from 1883 to 1895. Among her best-known works was her edition of Robert Browning’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Rosa Mulholland’s Puck and Blossom and Bret Harte’s Pirate Isle. She’s readily available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1901.)
  • Born March 17, 1906 Brigitte Helm. German actress, Metropolis. Her first role as an actress, she played two roles, Maria and her double, the Maschinenmensch, plus several uncredited roles as well.  She’s got some other genre credits including L’Atlantide (The Mistress of Atlantis) and Alraune (Unholy Love). Her later films would be strictly in keeping with the policies of the Nazis with all films being fiercely anti-capitalist and in particular attacking Jewish financial speculators. (Died 1996.)
  • Born March 17, 1945 Tania Lemani, 75. She played Kara in the Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”. She first met Shatner when she was offered her a role in the pilot for Alexander the Great which starred him in the title role (although the pilot failed to be picked up as a series). She had parts in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Bionic Woman and she shows up in the fanfic video Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. I assume as Kara, though IMDb lists her as herself. 
  • Born March 17, 1947 James K. Morrow, 73. I’m very fond of the Godhead trilogy in which God is Dead and very, very present. Shambling Towards Hiroshima is a lot of satisfying satirical fun as is The Madonna and the Starship which is also is a wonderful homage to pulp writers.
  • Born March 17, 1948 William Gibson, 72. I’ve read the Sprawl trilogy more times than I can remember and likewise the Bridge trilogy and The Difference Engine. The works I struggled with are Pattern RecognitionSpook Country and Zero History. I’ve tried all of them, none were appealing. Eh? 
  • Born March 17, 1949 Patrick Duffy, 71. Surely you’ve seen him on Man from Atlantis? No?  Oh, you missed a strange, short-lived show. His other genre credits are a delightfully mixed bag of such things as voicing a Goat on Alice in Wonderland, appearing on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne as Duke Angelo Rimini  in the “Rockets of the Dead” episode and voicing  Steve Trevor in the incredibly excellent “The Savage Time” three-parter on Justice League
  • Born March 17, 1951 Kurt Russell, 69. I know I saw Escape from New York on a rainy summer night in a now century-old Art Deco theatre which wasn’t the one I later saw Blade Runner in. I think it’s much better than Escape from L.A. was. Of course, there’s Big Trouble in Little China, my favorite film with him in it. And let’s not forget Tombstone. Not genre, you say. Maybe not, but it’s damn good and he’s fantastic in it. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • About today’s Wallace the Brave Rich Horton commented, “I’m just surprised he didn’t wear a propeller beanie!”

(14) BEYOND 404. Bleeding Cool tells about a new comedy that’s on the way — “’Upload’: Your Afterlife Depends on Your Wi-Fi Strength in Greg Daniels’ Upcoming Amazon Prime Comedy Series”.

If we’re reading things correctly, Greg Daniels‘ (The Office, Space Force) new comedy series Upload for Amazon Prime Video makes the case that the future of your afterlife may depend on how strong your Wi-Fi signal is. At least that’s the premise vibe were getting from the 10-episode series, which includes an ensemble cast fronted by The Flash alum Robbie Amell and Andy Allo (Pitch Perfect 3, The Hero) and a debut date of May 1 for the streaming service….

(15) SPACE COLLECTIBLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Kickstarter: “DeskSpace: Lunar Surface“. Inspired by the Apollo 11 lunar landing, this Kickstarter project is selling a detailed replica landscape of part of the Moon’s surface. 

Made from “jewelry grade concrete,“ they plan to make it available in two sizes — roughly 7” (180 mm) square & roughly 4“ (100 mm) square. Introductory pledge levels – which are about to run out – are about 75 & 99 US dollars respectively. (Actual pledges appear to be in HK$.)

For a bit more, they’ll sell you the entire solar system.

(16) POMP AND MINECRAFT CIRCUMSTANCES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SoraNews24: “Japanese students hold graduation ceremony in Minecraft amid school cancellation”. Tagline: “As usual, kids are way ahead of adults.”

Japanese schools have been closed for over two weeks now due to coronavirus quarantine, and they will remain closed until after spring vacation.

Because the Japanese school year ends in March and begins in April, for many students this closing period means that they will miss their graduation ceremonies. Whether they’re leaving elementary school, middle school, or high school, it’s a sad feeling for them to go out with a whimper instead of a bang.

But some creative elementary school graduates in Japan came up with a great workaround. If they couldn’t have a graduation ceremony at school, then why not have one digitally in a place they all meet often anyway… in Minecraft!

(17) SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL CRITTER. At Dogpatch Press, Patch O’Furr has an animal-centric post about the plague, with a side order of furry con fraud. “Good news! Doggos won’t make you vom-o — and more to know about a zoonotic pandemic.”

Need something wholesome for a time like this?  Investigation found no reason to fear that people might catch COVID-19 from dogs. That’s good for me and my chihuahua child. No more worry about going “aww” for little sneezes!

(18) COMBAT NEWS AFFECTED DISORDER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch is running a “March Sadness Special” which includes the offer of a couple free books to people signing up for a newsletter.

The last week has been…well, a year in stress and changes and everything else. I’ve been blogging about it to help people through the changes. Those blogs are currently on Patreon, but will hit here, starting tomorrow night.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that people worldwide are staying home. Inside. With computers and streaming and books to keep them occupied.

Last week, Allyson of WMG, Dean, and I discussed a way to provide weekly content to readers and writers. The Stay At Home And Chill Newsletter will tell you about deals and discounts...and if you sign up now, you’ll get two free books to help you relax through this crisis.

[Thanks to Doug Ellis, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Camestros Felapton, Brian Z., Patch O’Furr, Dann, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 3/14/20 In Dublin’s File City, Where The Scrolls Are So Pixely

(1) RSR ASSESSES STRAHAN’S NEW BEST TOC. Rocket Stack Rank has prepared an annotated list of the 28 stories in Jonathan Strahan’s new Year’s Best Science Fiction series (highlights are free online), along with the tweet by Saga Press that shows the stories. To see how the 28 stories ranked among the 2019 Best SF/F, click this link (JStrahan TOC highlighted).

(2) MIDSOUTHCON CANCELLED. MidSouthCon has been “postponed until 2021”, which is to say cancelled. The administrator of the Darrell Awards gave an update now that the presentation can’t take place there.

What About the 2020 Darrell Awards?

First, they will be given.

Second, the Winners and Runners-up and other Finalists will be announced here and on other social media.

Third, the details of how and when for the above will be decided by the Jury shortly.

(3) ANOTHER SHUTDOWN. Add Anime Boston (April 10-12) to the list of cancelled cons: “Anime Boston 2020 Cancellation Announcement”.

 As you may be aware, Governor Charlie Baker recently announced a ban on all gatherings of 250 people or more in Massachusetts. This ban is set with no current end date, until the governor announces otherwise. With Anime Boston 2020 scheduled for less than four weeks from now, it is highly likely this ban will still be in place. Given the uncertainty around these new circumstances, we have no choice but to cancel Anime Boston 2020….

(4) PLAN FOR LEFTY AWARDS. The Left Coast Crime mystery convention was brought to an abrupt end on Thursday when the coronavirus outbreak caused local San Diego health officials to restrict gatherings. The event’s Lefty Awards would have been voted on by members at the con. Now con committee member Stan Ulrich says they’re working on an alternative plan.  

As you may know, we vote with paper ballots, and of course the voting period was unexpectedly cut short within a 2-hour period, due to conflicting and poorly-worded San Diego edicts.

We told the assembled folks at the last event, where about 200 attendees were in the room, that we will not be counting the paper ballots that had been cast, but rather would conduct an online vote by all registrants to this convention.

I don’t know when that will take place, but I’d hope we can do it very soon. We have many issues to deal with, ones we don’t even know about yet, so it will depend on when I can find the time to concentrate on getting it done right. But for now, my intention is to get the e-ballots out in the next few days, after we get home to Santa Fe, and set the system up.

(5) VIRUS-FREE AUDIO. Scott Edelman invites listeners to chow down on crab cakes with Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michael Dirda in Episode 117 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Michael Dirda

Early this week, before it occurred to me that leaving the house to break bread might not be the wisest thing to do considering the times in which we live, I headed to Silver Spring, Maryland for lunch with Michael Dirda at All Set restaurant. Luckily, you won’t have to risk contagion from the coronavirus to take a seat at the table and eavesdrop on our conversation.

Michael is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post Book World with a special love for genre fiction. He’s the author of the memoir An Open Book, plus four collections of essays: Readings, Bound to Please, Book by Book and Classics for Pleasure. Since 2002, he’s been a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, and his book On Conan Doyle was awarded the 2012 Edgar Award in the Best Critical/Biographical category. He’s currently at work on The Great Age of Storytelling, an appreciation of British popular fiction of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

We discussed the convention at which he thought he was about to be punched out by Harlan Ellison, the book he wants to write but which he realizes he could probably never publish, how discovering E. F. Bleiler’s Guide to Supernatural Fiction opened a whole new world for him, whether he faced judgment from his peers for believing Georgette Heyer is as important as George Eliot, why he wants to be buried with a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo, how Beverly Cleary’s Henry Huggins is like a Proustian madeleine, the way he navigates the tricky act of reviewing the fiction of friends, the word he used which annoyed Gene Wolfe, and much more.

(6) HIS FACE MASK ISN’T ENOUGH. SoraNews24 reports “Jason calls off Friday the 13th activities due to coronavirus”.

Hockey-masked Jason has been creeping into everyone’s nightmares since making his killing debut in the ’80s, and later resurfacing for some more bloodshed in the early 21st century as well. While he’s been keeping a curiously low profile recently, this year Jason appeared in Japan in the lead-up to Friday the 13th, giving a surprise press conference to inform everyone that the coronavirus would be impinging on this year’s activities.

(7) GAMING THE SYSTEM. BBC finds “Minecraft ‘loophole’ library of banned journalism”.

It started out as a project in an online forum and turned into the best-selling video game of all time, but now Minecraft is being used for something even its creator would not have dreamt of.

The iconic game based around placing Lego-like blocks with more than 145 million players each month has been turned into a hub of free speech.

A virtual library has been meticulously created to host articles written by journalists which were censored online.

Work by Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed by Saudi agents in 2018, can be read among the plethora of books in the library.

Minecraft has declined to comment.

The project was created by non-profit organisation Reporters Without Borders, which seeks to defend the freedom of information worldwide, and the Minecraft library itself was built by design studio Blockworks.

Christian Mihr, executive director of Reporters Without Borders Germany, told the BBC that Minecraft was good for the project as he believes it is not seen as a threat by governments which censor their media.

“We chose Minecraft because of its reach,” he said. “It is available in every country. The game is not censored like some other games which are under suspicion of being political.

(8) WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ BABIES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] GeekMom isn’t shy about sharing this opinion. My advice is to not click through to the article unless you’re prepared to read about several major bummer outcomes for these fictional tykes. “Stop With the Superhero Babies! It Never Works”.

This is going to sound callous, but I wish creators would stop adding superhero babies to their stories.

Because I hate it when the big two superhero comic companies introduce babies and young children into their stories.

When I saw the teaser panel of a pregnant Catwoman for the upcoming Batman/Catwoman series, I winced.

Do I have anything against little kids and babies? No.

Do I think good stories of superhero parents can be told? Yes.

Do I think that’s ever been done on a consistent basis at DC and Marvel?

Heck no.

There are only a few fates available for babies or little kids with superhero parents in comics.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 14, 1994 Robocop: The Series premiered. It stars Richard Eden as the title character. A Canadian produced and directed series, it lacks the graphic violence and intent of Robocop and Robocop 2 that preceded it, and adds a lot more humor. You can see the two-hour pilot episode here. It was adapted from the unused RoboCop 2 script, Corporate Wars which was from the writers of the first  RoboCop film, Edward and Michael Miner. 
  • March 14, 1995 Cyborg Cop II  premiered.  It’s directed by Sam Firstenberg as written by Jon Stevens and Firstenberg. It’s obviously the sequel to Cyborg Cop, and stars David Bradley, Morgan Hunter, Jill Pierce, and Victor Melleney. Needless to say, a Cyborg Cop IIII film followed. You can see it here. Unlike Robocop: The Series, it is R rated, so you’ll need to sign in to prove you of an an appropriate age.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 14, 1869 Algernon Blackwood. Writer of some of the best of the best horror and ghost stories ever done according to the research I just did. Most critics including Joshi say his two best stories are “The Willows” and “The Wendigo”. The novel that gets recommended is The Centaur. If you’re interested in reading him, he’s readily available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1951.)
  • Born March 14, 1918 Mildred Clingerman. Most of her stories were published in the Fifties in F&SF whenBoucher was Editor. Boucher included “The Wild Wood” by her in the seventh volume of The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction and dedicated the book to her, calling her the “most serendipitous of discoveries.”  A Cupful of Space and The Clingerman Files, neither available as a digital publication, contain all of her stories. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 14, 1948 Valerie Martin, 72. Her novel Mary Reilly is the retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from the point of view of a servant in the doctor’s house. It is a film of the same name with John Malkovich in the lead role. It was nominated for Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. 
  • Born March 14, 1957 Tad Williams, 63. Author of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, Otherland series, and Shadowmarch series as well as the most excellent Tailchaser’s Song and The War of the Flowers
  • Born March 14, 1964 Julia Ecklar, 56. She’s the Astounding Award–winning author for The Kobayashi Maru which is available in English and German ebook editions. She’s also a filk musician who recorded numerous albums in the Off Centaur label in the early 1980s, including Horse-Tamer’s Daughter, Minus Ten and Counting, and Genesis.
  • Born March 14, 1971 Rebecca Roanhorse, 49. Her “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™“ which was first published  in the August 2017 of Apex Magazine won both a Nebula and a Hugo as best short story. She also won the 2018 Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Her novel Trail of Lightning was also a Nebula and Hugo nominee.
  • Born March 14, 1974 Grace Park, 46. Boomer on the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. She’s been on a fair amount of genre over the years with her first acting role being the Virtual Avatar in the “Bits of Love” episode of Outer Limits. After that, she shows up on Secret Agent Man, This Immortal, The Outer Limits again, Star Gate SG-1, Andromeda, and oddly enough, Battlestar Galactica in a number roles other than her main one. I’m sure one of you can explain the latter. 
  • Born March 14, 1978 Butcher Billy, 42. Brazilian artist and graphic designer known for his art pieces and illustration series based on popular culture. Though ISFDB only lists his Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded and Jurassic Park piece, he’s active right to the present as he did artwork based on Black Mirrior which in turn led him to being commissioned to do work for the series by series creator Charlie Brooker. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) HIGH CAPACITY. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid 13th March 2020”  has a report from planet-forming vessel The Future about their recent…Dalek…unpleasantness. Plus —

We’ve also got a detailed look at new James Bond sourcebook Bond Vs Bond, an offer of help for anyone whose projects are marooned due to the ever receding tide of events, an update on where I’m at right now and my favorite Kids in the Hall sketches! Which may not be the ones you think…

Signal Boost this week covers Ginger Nuts of Horror and their series on horror and mental health. It also takes a look at Geek Syndicate‘s latest project, The Nugeroom and the most recent episode of always excellent comics podcast House to Astonish.

Over on the dark side of the street, The Lurking Transmission are one of my favorite new horror podcasts and Dread Singles, home of my favorite esoteric postal deliveries, is launching a newsletter!  We’ve also got the imminent end of season 3 of Flying In The Face of Fate, one of the Lid’s favorite shows. Get caught up here.

Elsewhere, Kat Kourbeti is one of my favorite people and she’s just started a writing/commentary/media newsletter. If you like The Lid you’ll love Honest to Blog
Finally, Liberty is a constellation of podcasts and comics. It’s one of my personal high watermarks for cyberpunk/urban SF and they’ve just lost some listeners due to a server migration. Treat yourself and go check them out.

(13) THE WAY OUT OF HELL. James Davis Nicoll picks out “Five SFF Characters Seeking Redemption and Trying to Do Better”. Here’s one of them:

Harry Connolly’s Twenty Palaces series protagonist Ray Lilly would have been right at home in a hardboiled crime novel. In the weird horror setting in which he lives, Ray’s combination of criminal smarts, blind loyalty, and diminished executive function led him to dabble in the Dark Arts. Unlike most fools who flirt with inadvertently letting extradimensional predators into our world, Ray is given a chance to make amends for his bad judgement. Indeed, he’s not given any choice: Ray will spend the rest of his life fighting the horrors he enabled.

(14) ARE YOU SMURFING ME? Never let it be said they blue their opportunity: “‘It was the chance to say that we are alive’: France hosted a record-breaking Smurf festival amid the escalating coronavirus epidemic”.

The novel coronavirus has assailed more than 100 countries, infecting over 121,000 people and causing over 4,300 deaths. And while the outbreak sparked in China, Europe has not been spared: Italy is on lockdown, cases are escalating in Spain and France, and German leaders are bracing for nearly 70% of the country’s population to contract the illness. Tourist haunts, shops, universities, and entire towns are deserted.

But the mounting fear of this contagion didn’t stop people in western France from setting a Guinness World Record on March 7.

Some 3,500 people dressed up as Smurfs — in blue and white outfits, with painted faces, and toting the characters’ trademark pointed hats — gathered in the town of Landerneau. Their goal was to set a record for the largest-ever gathering of the blue, human-like Belgian comic characters. 

(15) TIMELY QUESTION. The BBC asks “How do you keep a space station clean?”

The astronauts and cosmonauts on board the International Space Station have brought with them a host of bacteria from Earth. How do they keep them from creating havoc?

By 1998, after 12 years in orbit, Russian space station Mir was showing its age. Power cuts were frequent, the computers unreliable and the climate control system was leaking. But when the crew began a study to assess the types of microbes they were sharing their living space with, even they were surprised at what they found.

Opening an inspection panel, they discovered several globules of murky water – each around the size of a football. Later analysis revealed the water was teeming with bacteria, fungi and mites. Even more concerning were the colonies of organisms attacking the rubberised seals around the space station windows and the acid-excreting bugs slowly eating the electrical cabling.

When each Mir module launched from Earth it was near-pristine, assembled in clean rooms by engineers wearing masks and protective clothing. All the unwanted life now living on the station had been carried into orbit by the multinational group of men and women who subsequently occupied the orbiting laboratory.

We share our lives, and bodies, with microbes. From the bacteria lining our gut, to the microscopic mites nibbling at our dead skin, it’s estimated that more than half the cells in our body aren’t human. Most of these microbes are not only harmless but essential, enabling us to digest food and fend off disease. Everywhere we go, we take our microbiome with us and – just like humans – it’s learning to adapt to life in space….

Her research is timely. By November this year, the ISS will have been occupied continuously for 20 years. After the experience of Mir, biologists have been concerned about what else might be living on board and particularly any microbes that might endanger the station, or worse, the astronauts.

(16) SOUL TRAILER. Disney and Pixar’s Soul, in theaters June 19.

Joe Gardner is a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22, who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.

(17) THAT’S COOL. Lyles Movie Files praises the decision to speed up the release date: “Frozen 2 debuts on Disney+ tomorrow”.

With little in the way of excitement with the box office delay of Mulan and likely Black Widow, Disney decided to give fans something to be exciting about by releasing Frozen 2 to Disney+ three months ahead of schedule starting Sunday. It was originally set to release June 26.

The film will also arrive on Disney Plus in Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday, March 17.

In a statement, new Disney CEO Bob Chapek said “the themes of perseverance and the importance of family are messages that are incredibly relevant during this time, and we are pleased to be able to share this heartwarming story early with our Disney+ subscribers to enjoy at home on any device.”

(18) MAN TROUBLE. Andrew Porter was tuned into Jeopardy! the other night when contestants collided with this topic:

Category: Male Writers

Answer: “Me, Alex. Him, this serial novelist who oldest WWII correspondent in South Pacific theatre at age 66”

Wrong question: “Who is Michener?”

Right question: “Who is Edgar Rice Burroughs?”

(19) BETTER THAN JURASSIC PARK. “Blood sucking insect stuck in amber with dinosaur DNA is nothing. Whole dinosaur skull preserved in Amber – now you’re talking.” — John Hammond.

In this week’s Nature: “Tiny fossil sheds light on miniaturization of birds”. Tagline “A tiny skull trapped in 99-million-year-old amber suggests that some of the earliest birds evolved to become miniature. The fossil illustrates how ancient amber can act as a window into the distant past.”

Dinosaurs were big, whereas birds — which evolved from dinosaurs — are small. This variation is of great importance, because body size affects lifespan, food requirements, sensory capabilities and many other fundamental aspects of biology. The smallest dinosaurs weighed hundreds of grams, but the smallest living bird, the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), weighs only 2 grams. How did this difference come about, and why? In a paper in Nature, Xing et al. describe the tiny, fossilized, bird-like skull of a previously unknown species, which they name Oculudentavis khaungraae. The discovery suggests that miniature body sizes in birds evolved earlier than previously recognized, and might provide insights into the evolutionary process of miniaturization.

Full research paper abstract (subscribers only for full paper).

(20) STARGIRL. Here’s the extended version of the Stargirl trailer. Stargirl debuts Monday, May 11 on DC Universe. It will debut on The CW the next day, Tuesday, May 12.

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