Minicon Joins List of Cancelled Conventions

Minicon 55, planned for April 10-12 in Minneapolis, has been called off, although “if for any reason it is deemed safe to do so before that date” they will fulfill their agreement with the DoubleTree by holding a relaxacon. If it remains unsafe to hold an event, there will be none.

The chairs issued this statement:

Dear Minicon Community,

On Friday, March 13, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declared a “State of Emergency” for Minnesota, and his Dept. of Public Health has advised that gatherings of more than 250 people “should not” occur. Minicon 55 was planned for about 500 people, and thus, cannot occur.

The Minicon 55 Chairs and Concom have agreed to postpone Minicon 55 to April 2-4, 2021 at the Saint Louis Park Doubletree. If you already have a membership to Minicon 55, your membership will remain valid. This is a date change to Easter weekend next year. If next year’s date will not work for you, please contact chair@minicon55.mnstf.org to work out an alternate solution.

Though we won’t be able to host Jo Walton and Elise Matthesen this year, we look forward to their attendance as our Guests of Honor next year in 2021. We wish our guests and their families’ safety and good health.

We, the Minicon 55 Chairs and ConCom, have had many discussions over the past few weeks about Covid-19 and its impact on our community. We recognize that much of our membership is 60+, and many of us are especially at-risk due to respiratory ailments and compromised immune systems. The health and well-being of our community is incredibly important to us. We also need to respect the health and well being of the larger Minnesota community, and avoid unnecessary contact. Without all of us, Minicon wouldn’t be the same.

We have an agreement with the DoubleTree Park Place to have a convention on Easter weekend of 2020, and if for any reason it is deemed safe to do so before that date, we will announce a relaxacon-style event tentatively called “Mini-Consolation”, where we will all cheerfully celebrate the safety and camaraderie of our happy community with enthusiasm yet unseen in suburban Minneapolis. If it remains unsafe to do so, we will, of course, hold no event. The Hotel has released a statement to let people know that all rooms reserved before April 30 of this year can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival. If you would like to remain hopeful about a 2020 event, you are welcome to keep your room reservation. We will send a reminder to cancel rooms on about April 4, along with a final update about any events in 2020.

We are all very sad to delay Minicon for an entire year, but we understand it is in the best interests of our entire community at this time. Thank you all for your patience and support. We very much look forward to seeing all of you at future events, and in better times ahead.
Sincerely,
Don & Sharla Stremski, Co-Chairs, Minicon 55

Pixel Scroll 3/13/20 The Sun Comes Shining As I Was Scrolling, The Pixels Waving And The Dust Clouds Rolling

(1) BUTTIGIEG INTERVIEWS SIR PAT. “Recently unemployed” Mayor Pete Buttigieg guest-hosted The Jimmy Kimmel Show. Due to public health concerns over the coronavirus, they cancelled their studio audience. Sir Patrick Stewart was a guest on the show.

Sir Patrick talks about Mayor Pete’s huge “Star Trek” fandom, civil disobedience, Sir Ian McKellen performing the multiple marriage ceremonies he had to his wife, and he surprises Mayor Pete with one of his original scripts from “Star Trek.”

They also did a sketch about “a Star Trek trivia game show for the ages called ‘Who’s the Captain Now?’” hosted by LeVar Burton.

(2) HELIOSPHERE CANCELLED. Heliosphere, which was to have been held April 3-5 in Tarrytown, NY has been called off. The committee has not yet decides whether to try and hold it later this year.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, HELIOsphere 2020 will not be running as scheduled for April 3-5. At this time, we don’t know whether we will be postponing or simply cancelling for this year. We will keep you posted as we work out the details with the hotel.

(3) STOKERCON STATUS. The Horror Writers Association’s annual StokerCon is scheduled to be held in the U.K. next month. HWA President John Palisano gave this update to Facebook readers today:

At this time, more than two-thirds of attendees are based in the U.K., you should all be aware that the political situation has been changing by the hour. Only in the last 24 hours has travel in Europe (with the exception of the U.K.) been generally banned. The U.K. may take a similar step, or the U.S. may prohibit travel to and from there. So it’s a very real possibility that in the next few days, the decision of whether to hold the Con may be taken out of our hands. We don’t want to cancel the event unnecessarily, because that could cause severe financial hardship to many of our attendees and volunteers. On the other hand, we want to be respectful of individual decisions about whether or not to travel. We ask for you to be patient for a few more days while we try to sort out various options, including streaming the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony.

Meanwhile, our Librarians Day event, scheduled for May 7th of this year in Chicago, is still a go at this point. The organizers are also carefully watching this pandemic and are working on contingencies should the issues stretch that far into the future. They will have an announcement tomorrow.

Know that heading my first StokerCon as President of the HWA carries no small weight, and that my main priority is and will remain our members’ safety and well-being as we navigate these treacherous and unmapped waters.

(4) UP IN THE AIR. Fans inquiring about the status of Minicon 55, planned for April 10-12 in Minneapolis, have been told there’s a committee meeting this weekend and an announcement one way or the other may follow.

(5) MORE COVERAGE. Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak is also tracking the status of sff events. “Coronavirus: The Sci-Fi/Fantasy Conventions Canceled So Far”.

Those events include major science fiction, fantasy, and gaming conventions, as well as adjacent events like conferences. We’ve compiled a list of major and regional events that have been postponed, canceled, or which are as of now still running.

(6) SMITHSONIAN’S OPEN ACCESS IMAGE COLLECTION. We ought to be able to do a lot with this: “Smithsonian Releases 2.8 Million Images Into Public Domain”.

Culture connoisseurs, rejoice: The Smithsonian Institution is inviting the world to engage with its vast repository of resources like never before.

For the first time in its 174-year history, the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million high-resolution two- and three-dimensional images from across its collections onto an open access online platform for patrons to peruse and download free of charge. Featuring data and material from all 19 Smithsonian museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives and the National Zoo, the new digital depot encourages the public to not just view its contents, but use, reuse and transform them into just about anything they choose—be it a postcard, a beer koozie or a pair of bootie shorts.

And this gargantuan data dump is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting.

When I searched “science fiction” lots more photogenic things came up – from lunch boxes to C3PO – but I was intrigued by this 1951 Astounding advertising rate card:

(7) SCIENCE IN THE HOUSE. That’s candidate Brianna Wu’s latest appeal:

Media has focused on the dangers of Coronavirus. Brianna Wu speaks with Geneticist Frank Wu about the possible treatments and vaccines being developed by the biotech industry

(8) ANOTHER WORLD. Henry Lien posted this thought experiment on Facebook.

WHAT WOULD THE WORLD BE LIKE IF EVERYONE WERE LIKE YOU?
I used to play a game and ask people what the world would be like if everyone were like you. Here are some features of my world.
1. Restaurants would be filled with constant people traffic as everyone went to wash their hands after touching the menu and after touching cash.
2. Doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, hotel TV remotes, and ATM interfaces would all be redesigned for elbows.
3. There’d be no shoes in the house and people would bow instead of shaking hands.
4. Everyone would be at home on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights happily writing, making music, reading, or playing Nintendo.
5. No one would get a cold more than once every ten years.
6. Extroverts and free-spirited folks would be miserable.

(9) SPEAKER IN THE HOUSE. Cat Rambo shares her experience in “How to Stay Sane and Productive While Working at Home”. One of her eight main headings is —

Exercise is good. You may not be able to get to the gym — I’m currently avoiding it, myself — but you will be happier and healthier if you are doing something. For me, that’s walking, because I’m lucky enough to live in a great area for it. I also have a standing desk that I got from Ikea years back. Your mileage may (literally) vary, but at least stretch when you can and be mindful of your back.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 13, 1927 Metropolis premiered in Germany. It was directed by Fritz Lang. It was written by Thea von Harbou in collaboration with Lang. It stars Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Brigitte Helm. The film’s message is encapsulated in the final inter-title of “The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart.” In 2001 the film was placed upon UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, the first film so distinguished. It is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and has a 92% rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 13, 1911 L. Ron Hubbard. Ok I’ll admit that I tried reading Battlefield Earth and really didn’t like it. Some of his early pulp fiction is actually quite good. So what do y’all think of him as a genre writer? (Died 1986.)
  • Born March 13, 1928 Douglas Rain. Though most of his work was as a stage actor, he was the voice of the HAL 9000 for 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel. He’s in Sleeper a few years later as the voices of the Evil Computer and Various Robot Butlers. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 13, 1932 Richard Lawrence Purtill. He’s here because EoSF list him as the author of  Murdercon, a1982 novel where a murder is discovered at a SF Convention. I’ve not heard of it but was wondering if y’all had heard of this work. (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 13, 1938 David McKail, 82. He was Sergeant Kyle in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He also was Sir Henry Roscoe in Beatrix: The Early Life of Beatrix Potter, and was in the adaptation of Iain Banks’ The Crow Road which I know is neither genre or genre adjacent but it had Peter Capaldi in it.  
  • Born March 13, 1950 William H. Macy Jr., 70. I’ll start his Birthday note by noting that he was in the superb Pleasantville as George Parker. He’s shown up in a lot of genre works including but limited to Somewhere in Time, Evolver, The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, The Night of the Headless Horseman, Jurassic Park III, Sahara and The Tale of Despereaux.
  • Born March 13, 1956 Dana Delany, 63. I’ve come today to praise her work as a voice actress. She was in a number of DCU animated films, first as Andrea Beaumont in Batman: The Mask of The Phantasm, then as Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series, Superman: Brainiac Attacks and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. (That’s not a complete listing.) Remember that Wing Commander film? Well there was an animated series, Wing Commander Academy, in which she was Gwen Archer Bowman. 
  • Born March 13, 1966 Alastair Reynolds, 54. As depressing as they are given what they lead up to, The Prefect Dreyfus novels are my favorite novels by him. That said, Chasm City was fascinating. The only ones by him that I absolutely failed to get any enthusiasm for is his Revenger Universe series.
  • Born March 13, 1967 Lou Anders, 53. Hugo-winning Editor. He’s has been editorial director of Prometheus Books’ SF  imprint Pyr since its launch fifteen years ago. He’s a crack editor of anthologies. I’ve very fond of his Live Without a Net, Sideways in Time and FutureShocks anthologies. I note that he has a fantasy trilogy, Thrones and Bones, but I’ve not heard of it til now.
  • Born March 13, 1968 Jen Gunnels, 52. Writer and genre theater critic, the latter a rare thing indeed. She does her reviews for Journal of the Fantastic in the ArtsFoundation: The Review of Science Fiction and New York Review of Science Fiction. With Erin Underwood, she has edited Geek Theater: Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Plays

(12) KGB TO STREAM. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series with Daniel Braum and Robert Levy has been converted to a livestream. Hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel invite everyone to see it here on YouTube on March 18 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

We will, for the first time in our history, be live-streaming readings from both of our authors on YouTube. We hope you will join us for this historic event.

UPDATE March 13, 2020: For the safety and well-being of our readers and guests, we have decided to cancel this month’s in-person Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading with guests Daniel Braum & Robert Levy.

Instead, we will be hosting a YouTube Live event with both authors, who will be reading their work. Anyone with YouTube access can watch.

(13) PIKE PEEK. We Got This Covered confirmed “Captain Pike Star Trek Spinoff Series Reportedly In Development”.

… Of course, there’ve been calls for CBS to move ahead with such a spinoff for the past couple of years. EP Alex Kurtzman has addressed the possibility in the past, refusing to rule it out and commenting that they’re trying to find ways to bring these characters back. True, they did all appear in a few episodes of the Short Treks anthology series, but this didn’t fully satiate our appetite to see more of Pike and his crew.

As Discovery itself addressed, Pike is fated to meet a tragic end. As detailed in an episode of TOS, he’s eventually left paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair after rescuing Starfleet cadets from a delta ray radiation leak. Our intel says that this spinoff show will build up to that fate, properly filling the gap between TOS‘ pilot, “The Cage,” and his return in “The Menagerie.”

(14) WEEKEND NEWS BACKDATE. Galactic Journey’s John Boston has a 1965 news flash: “[March 12, 1965] Sic Transit (April 1965 Amazing]”.

The big news, previously rumored, is that Amazing and its stablemate Fantastic are to change hands.  The April Science Fiction Times just arrived, with the big headline “ ‘AMAZING STORIES’ AND ‘FANTASTIC’ SOLD TO SOL COHEN.” Cohen is the publisher of Galaxy, If, and Worlds of Tomorrow, but will resign at the end of next month to take up his new occupation. 

Why is this happening?  Probably because circulation, which had been increasing, started to decline again in 1962 (when I started reviewing it!).  The SF Times article adds, tendentiously and questionably, that “the magazine showed what appeared to be a lack of interest by its editors.” Read their further comment and draw your own conclusions on that point.

(15) ACROSS THE DIVIDE. Law & Liberty’s Brian A. Smith, in “Ursula Le Guin and the Persistence of Tragedy”, looks at The Dispossessed from the right.

At least when their authors avoid offering a thesis, novels acquire peculiar value in deranged times. They allow us to see cracks in our political and social foundations from another perspective, and as a result, open paths to conversation and thought that might otherwise remain closed. Lots of genres can unsettle us, but one peculiarity of science fiction is that its authors have the freedom to create worlds.

At the genre’s most stereotypical, this license to invent lends itself to both ham-fisted allegories and didacticism. But if the author happens to be coming from the “right” direction, so to speak, and has some real talent, it’s relatively easy to take an imaginative leap into their world. Reaching beyond one’s own tribe may present a challenge, however. It is difficult to read David Drake, Iain Banks, China Miéville, Robert Heinlein, or John Varley without observing how they view human nature, what they think family means, or the political order they endorse—and a lot more besides.

Critics often complain that such novels fail precisely because they think the author is stacking the deck in favor of their pet ideas. It’s easy for partisans to forgive this because such novels entertain while also fortifying our opinions against a hostile world. And it’s not surprising that sci-fi readership so often divides along partisan lines.

The Work of Sympathy

It is harder to name many great works of science fiction that offer a definitive point of view, while also presenting us with unresolvable tensions and latent anxieties that no attentive reader can quite escape. Neal Stephenson’s best work probably qualifies. Arguably Frank Herbert’s Dune or Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos also do this. We need the sympathy and broadening of horizons that such novels can cultivate more than ever, and for the present moment, the most compelling book of this kind remains Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.

(16) STANDING UP. “Disney promises LGBT ‘commitment’: ‘We want to represent our audience'”.

Disney has promised to continue making films and TV shows with “an increased commitment” to diversity in its output, according to its boss Bob Chapek.

“We want to represent our audience,” he said at a meeting for the company’s shareholders this week.

“We want to tell stories that our audience wants to hear, that reflects their lives.”

He was responding to a question about LGBT characters in their films and pride events at theme parks.

There will be a transgender character in a future Marvel film, and upcoming superhero movie The Eternals will introduce Marvel’s first openly gay lead character to cinema screens.

…At the shareholder’s meeting, Disney CEO Bob Chapek was asked a question by Catholic campaigner Caroline Farrow, who represents conservative group Citizen Go.

As part of her question, she asked: “Is it perhaps time to reconsider what you can do to make Disney more family friendly, to make it safe for people around the world, not just one particular minority?”

She also claimed a petition which asks Disney not to hold gay pride events in its parks was signed by “almost 700,000 people”

(17) CLIMB EV’RY MOUNTAIN – NOT. From the BBC — “Mount Everest: Nepal’s government shuts off mountain amid virus outbreak”.

Mount Everest has shut down for the rest of the expedition season because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Nepal’s government announced that it would cancel all climbing permits from 14 March until 30 April.

China had already cancelled expeditions from the northern, Chinese-controlled, side of the mountain.

According to the Kathmandu Post, Nepal earns $4m (£3.1m) by issuing Everest climbing permits every year, aside from wider tourism revenue.

(18) THAT IS NOT DEAD… “Marine pollution: Russian fly spray and 1800s shoes among beach litter”.

Russian fly spray, US prohibition-era rum, shoes from the 1800s and a council bin have been among the stranger items to have washed up on British shores.

To highlight pollution, the National Trust has revealed the oddest objects to wash up on beaches it manages.

The 19th Century shoes, Russian insect spray and an aerosol from Saudi Arabia were all found at Orford Ness, Suffolk.

The National Trust saidit illustrated the “deluge” of marine litter and how long items such as plastic could last.

(19) NO PICTURES! They tore it out by the roots: “Christmas Island: ‘A giant robber crab stole my camera'” — video, including some impressively mangled equipment and a crab walking off with a coconut.

Researcher Annabel Dorrestein set up a thermal imaging camera to study flying foxes, or bats, at night on Australia’s Christmas Island.

But when she returned one morning to collect the camera, she discovered it had been stolen – almost certainly by the island’s famous robber crabs.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/10/17 Who Knows What Pixels Lurk In The Hearts Of Scrolls?

(1) GAIMAN ON PRATCHETT. The BBC says this is the first time it has featured Neil Gaiman’s complete tribute to Terry Pratchett from his memorial.

In April last year, friends, fans and colleagues of Sir Terry Pratchett gathered for a celebratory memorial service. The writer NEIL GAIMAN, Pratchett’s longtime friend and collaborator, read his funny and moving tribute, featured here in its entirety for the first time.

(2) HEAT CHECK. Jaym Gates is gauging interest in a speculative fiction anthology titled Nevertheless, She Persisted.

…Okay, so should I do an anthology of NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED, what female authors would be interested in contributing? What awesome female authors (especially POC and LGBTQ, ESPECIALLY immigrant and trans authors) should I be reaching out to?

And why only female authors?

Because this is a project about the struggles that women face from the moment their gender is announced, and the courage and tenacity that helps them rise above that deep and unending opposition.

It is a book about the experience of women, told in their voices. It is not a book about how others imagine it to be, but one deeply and personally influenced by their own fights and victories.

And sure, I’ll do an anthology as a stretch goal, titled I’M WITH HER. Men are welcome to submit to that one. But men are over-represented in the SF and political world as it is, and I want more women to be heard.

Yes, it’s fucking political. This project will be incredibly political. Intentionally. It will have middle fingers everywhere, between the lines and sometimes in them….

Gates has been editor/co-editor of spec fic anthologies Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling, Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place,  War Stories: New Military Science Fiction, Broken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales in the Roaring ’20s, and Rigor Amortis.

(3) BUSIEK INTERVIEW. Filers may be interested to know that comics guru Kurt Busiek is interviewed in the latest edition of SciFiNow magazine (issue 129). Kurt talks about his love for all things Wonder Woman in the interview.

There appears to be no sign of the interview on the SciFiNow website, so anyone wishing to read Kurt’s words will have to head to the nearest newsstand and purchase a print edition or download the digital edition.

Kurt’s name appears on the bottom line of the cover.

(4) HAWKING COMICS. Never let them tell you comics aren’t educational.

Stephen Hawking is one of the most brilliant minds of this century.  Bluewater Productions is bringing you his life story in this unique comic book format.  Find out all about the man the myth and the legend!

This 2013 comic book is currently for sale on Comic Flea Market.

(5) AIDING LITERACY. Ann Totusek, chair of Minicon 52, has a request:

Minicon is partnering with Little Free Libraries this year. If your club/organization or any individuals in your club or organization are stewards of a Little Free Library, and you think the Library is particularly photogenic or relevant to SF/F, or just generally well done, we’d love to have pictures of it for a display at Minicon to showcase how fandom supports literacy! Picture files could be sent to me – chair@minicon52.mnstf.org, or hard copy photos could be sent to our snail mail address- Minicon 52 PO Box 8297 Lake Street Station Minneapolis, MN 55408-0297

If you know of a fannish club mailing list that this would be appropriate for an announcement to, please feel free to forward it.

(6) FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE. And now a word from 1962 – via The Traveler at Galactic Journey: “[Feb. 10, 1962] Here Is The News (March 1962 IF”.

If “no news is good news,” then this has been a very good week, indeed!  The Studebaker UAW strike ended on the 7th.  The Congo is no more restive than usual.  Laos seems to be holding a tenuous peace in its three-cornered civil war.  The coup is over in the Dominican Republic, the former government back in power.  John Glenn hasn’t gone up yet, but then, neither have any Russians.

And while this month’s IF science fiction magazine contains nothing of earth-shattering quality, there’s not a clunker in the mix – and quite a bit to enjoy!

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 10, 1957 — Roger Corman’s Attack of the Crab Monsters opens in theaters

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WOLFMAN

  • February 10, 1906 — Creighton Tull Chaney (stage name Lon Chaney, Jr.) is born in Oklahoma.

(9) POOHDUNIT. As noted in the Scroll the other day, the house A.A. Milne lived in (with Christopher Robin) while writing Winnie-the-Pooh is for sale for lots of pots of honey. Not noted in the article is that Milne wrote a Manor House mystery, his only work outside of the Pooh stories, based on living there – learn more at The Green Man Review:

The Red House Mystery, published shortly before he became world-famous as the creator of Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh, is his only detective novel. In his tongue-in-cheek introduction, written after the Pooh craze had struck, he explains that “it is obvious now that a new detective story, written in the face of this steady terrestial demand for children’s books, would be in the worst of taste.”

For mystery enthusiasts, this is a pity…

(10) INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. Steven H Silver says you’ll get a better deal buying J.R.R. Tolkien’s old home, which also is on the market right now.

(11) AVOIDING A CRASH. Poor machines – humans always gumming up the works. On All Tech Considered at NPR – “Self-Driving Cars Could Ease Our Commutes, But That’ll Take A While”.

The promise of automated cars is that they could eliminate human-error accidents and potentially enable more efficient use of roadways. That sounds, at first blush, like self-driving cars could also mean traffic reduction and lower commute times.

But researchers aren’t so sure.

(12) NUTS WANTED. In “How do you stop astronauts going mad?”, the BBC has a look at early space program history,when the shrinks had some bizarre ideas about what would make a great astronaut.

“Impulsive, suicidal, sexually-aberrant thrill seeker.” What kind of person might that describe? A Big Brother contestant? A Base jumper? A cult leader? Guess again. It is how some US Air Force (USAF) psychiatrists, back in the early days of the space race, imagined the psychological profile of would-be astronauts. Unless they were crazy, wreckless, hedonists, the doctors reasoned, there was no way they were going to be let anyone strap them into a modified intercontinental ballistic missile and then fire them into orbit.

Of course, the men in white coats were wrong, and were guided more by their lack of knowledge about space and the tropes of science fiction than reason. Instead, the personality traits of cool-headedness under pressure, deep technical know-how and sheer physical and mental endurance – “the right stuff” of Tom Wolfe’s book – ultimately led Nasa to six successful Moon landings and an utterly ingenious escape for the crew on Apollo 13, the mission that very nearly took the lives of its three crew members.

(13) MOOD MUSIC. The BBC answers the question “Can this radio detect your mood and play songs to match?”

Take Solo, the “emotional radio”, for example. A wall-mounted device that resembles a large clock, it features a liquid crystal display at its centre. When you approach it, the pictogram face shows a neutral expression.

But it then takes a photo of your face, a rod or antenna on the side cranks into life, and the LCD display indicates that it’s thinking.

“When it’s doing this, it’s analysing different features of your face and deciding how happy, sad or angry you are,” explains Mike Shorter, senior creative technologist at the Liverpool-based design and innovation company, Uniform, Solo’s creator.

“It will then start to reflect your mood through music.”

(14) UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM. What should Hollywood learn from Deadpool?

(15) LAMPOON ON THE WAY. Inquisitr reveals a “’Star Wars’ Spoof In The Works – ‘Scary Movie’ Team Continues ‘Lazy Comedy’?”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens and other Lucasfilm movies move forward into the sci-fi genre, but what of the parody/spoof genre of film? The Scary Movie team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer will be moving forward as writers and directors of a new Star Wars spoof called Star Worlds Episode XXXIVE=MC2: The Force Awakens the Last Jedi Who Went Rogue, according to an exclusive from The Hollywood Reporter.

(16) SPIDERLY ASPIRATIONS. “Scarlett Johansson Says Black Widow Movie ‘A Case of Timing’”Comic Book Resources has the story.

Scarlett Johansson is ready to star in a “Black Widow” movie, but according to the actress, a standalone film might be a long time coming. Johansson recently sat down with Total Film Magazine to talk about the upcoming cyberpunk thriller “Ghost in the Shell,” but eventually ended up touching on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s notable lack of a “Black Widow” film. Marvel Studios currently has a slew of superhero movies planned as far out as mid-2019, but despite vocal fan support for the idea

[Thanks to Michael O’Donnell, David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Cats Laughing Again

Cats Laughing, a psychedelic folk rock band with authors Emma Bull, Steven Brust, and Adam Stemple, plus Lojo Russo and new addition Scott Keever, will play a reunion concert Friday, April 3 at Minicon.

Livestream audio and video from the concert, presented free on ConcertWindow, begins at 9:00 p.m. EDT. SisterTree, featuring Kerri Joy and Dee Brust, will open with a short set. Richard Tatge will provide a light show.

David Dyer-Bennet, part of the concert’s Beyond Conventions team, is spreading the word. “We don’t get paid for number of people connected, but it would still be cool if people wanted to have Cats Laughing parties at conventions or elsewhere, or even go so far as to present the stream in a program item.”

The reunion was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign that Neil Gaiman promoted in this amusing video —

The Cats Laughing Facebook page has plenty of photos of the band. And here is a clip of Emma Bull singing a bit of “Signal to Noise” at a recent rehearsal.

Blue Petal (1950-2014)

Blue Petal in 2007. Photo by Baron Dave Romm.

Blue Petal in 2007. Photo by Baron Dave Romm.

Minneapolis fan Blue Petal (originally Louis Fallert) died February 16 from central nervous system lymphoma first diagnosed following his stroke on December 29.

Blue Petal joined Minn-Stf, the Minneapolis sf club, in the late Sixties.

He started Lou’s Apa in 1968 — changed to Blue’s Apa with the second distribution, after he renamed himself for the Vaughn Bodé character Blue Petal.

He transferred allegiance to Minneapa when it was founded in the early Seventies. (In this photo of Minneapans from 1974 he’s in the second row on the right.)

I was also a member of Minneapa in its early days, a mesmerizing window on Minneapolis faannishness. I learned about many things – such as Spiderism, the fannish religion originated by John Kusske, Al Kuhfeld, and Blue Petal. (As you know, Bob, The Great Spider eats peoples’ souls when they die, unless they have bribed one of the priests of the Great Spider.) They provided Minneapans with copies of a trifold brochure with a voracious spider on the front and contents explaining the faith, which they claimed to be handing to evangelists who came to their door. Fans were invited to order copies and follow their example.

Blue Petal provided leadership for two early Minicons. He chaired Minicon 5, the second Minicon in 1971 and a relaxacon-style convention (no GoH, less programming than Minicons held in the spring) and co-chaired Minicon 7 in 1973.

Local gamers revered him for initiating them to Dungeon-style games:

In February of 1974, a Minneapolis science-fiction fan named Louis Fallert (better known as Blue Petal) began running a game called “Castle Keep” which he based on his experiences playing in dungeon adventures with the MMSA (Fallert wrote a blurb about this for Alarums & Excursions #3). While it seems likely that Fallert himself was vaguely aware of Dungeons & Dragons, he presented “Castle Keep” to local science-fiction fans as a game of his own invention. Much as Gygax ran Blackmoor with Arneson and then largely implemented his own rules from his experience, so did Fallert build a system for dungeoneering that followed his own subjective impressions as a player.

By the summer of 1974, the Minneapolis area featured 9 dungeon campaigns that traced their roots to his “Castle Keep” game.

Blue Petal also was appreciated for his music and songwriting.

Many old photos of Blue Petal appear on his Caring Bridge page and in David Dyer-Bennet’s archivesAmazing Stories blog also features a remarkable shot of a very young Blue Petal at the 1969 Worldcon taken by Fred A. Levy Haskell

[Thanks to John Purcell for the story.]

Chicon 7 Sets Hugo Nominating Vote Record

The 2012 Hugo Award nominees will be announced simultaneously at five conventions in the United States and Europe on April 7. Arrangements are also being made to broadcast all five convention presentations via Ustream.

This is the fourth consecutive year Worldcon members have cast a record-breaking number of Hugo nominating ballots. Chicon 7 received 1,101 nominating ballots, exceeding the 1,006 received by Renovation last year. Prior to that Aussiecon 4 received 864 in 2010 and Anticipation received 799 in 2009, each a record-setting figure at the time.

Conventions taking part in the announcement are:

  • Norwescon 35, a Pacific Northwest sf convention, at Seatac, WA (1 p.m. PDT)
  • Leprecon 38, an annual Arizona sf convention, at Tempe, AZ (1 p.m. MST)
  • Minicon 47, Minnesota’s longest-running sf con, at Bloomington, MN (3 p.m. CDT)
  • Marcon 47, an annual Midwest sf con, at Columbus, OH (4 p.m. EDT).
  • Olympus 2012, the British Eastercon, (9 p.m. BST).

The final ballot voting deadline will be July 31, 2012, midnight PDT. The winners will be announced at the Hugo Awards Ceremony on Sunday, September 2.

The full press release follows the jump.

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