Pixel Scroll 12/31/19 God Stalk Ye Merry Gentle Kzin

(1) PREACH IT! As the decade comes to an end, Cat Rambo comments on the writers driving the changes she aspires to keep pace with — “The New Rude Masters of Fantasy & Science Fiction – and Romance”.  One segment addresses “The Weaponization of Civility” —

As I’ve said, one cudgel used in this fight is a demand for civility, and I’m seeing it raised again in the debate surrounding the RWA ejecting Courtney Milan for speaking up. Courtesy becomes weaponized, a way of silencing. A way of forcing others to wait for the conversational turn that never gets ceded. Note Silverberg calling Jemisin’s speech “graceless and vulgar” and Spinrad weighing in to call Ng “swinish.” I cannot help but think that these men are less upset by what was said, than that it was not delivered with the deference that they felt Campbell, a proxy for themselves, deserved.

Hegemonic structures replicate themselves, continually pretending to reinvent and innovate but doing so in the same old forms. Traditional publishing is as prone to this as any other social structure. Indie writers get treated as though they were the nouveau riche, obsessed with money, when many of them are actually making a living at writing in a way our forebears—Chaucer, Shakespeare, Gilman—would have totally approved of. The truth is being a New York Times best-selling author doesn’t mean one is rolling around on moneypiles like Scrooge McDuck unless you’re part of a very very small group. For things to truly change, publishing must bring in new voices and not just allow them, but encourage them to speak.

Those voices are a diverse group, but one thing they often share is a lack of economic privilege, the sort that allows one to work as an unpaid intern, or pay for the grad school that gives one time enough to write or resources for focusing on craft rather than survival. That’s part of the undercurrent in those cries about vulgarity: an unease with people who haven’t undergone the same social shaping features, who may not have been signed off on by society with a standardized degree. To ignore the ways otherness has been used to justify discouraging those others is to be complicit in that act of silencing. And that, I would argue, is about as rude as it gets.

(2) SHORT STORY MARKET. Heather Rose Jones’ Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast will be open for short story submissions for audio publication during the month of January 2020.

Stories should be set in an identifiable pre-1900 time and place but may include fantastic elements that are either consistent with the setting or with the literature of that setting. And, of course, stories should center on a female character whose primary emotional orientation within the context of the story is toward other women.

Payment is the current SWFA rate of $0.08 per word. For full details, see the “Call for Submissions”.

(3) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. At Dragonmount: A Wheel of Time Community, JenniferL gets the logs rolling with “How Wheel of Time can Win a Hugo Award”.

Wheel of Time’s last chance

Despite its popularity and far-reaching impact on the fantasy genre, Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time have never won a Hugo Award. 

In 2014 the entire WoT series was nominated for (but did not win) the “Best Novel” award. The “Best Series” category did not exist at the time. WoT’s nomination caused a controversial stir, as some people didn’t feel it was appropriate to consider the entire 15-book Wheel of Time series as one single work. This helped prompt the World Science Fiction Society, which awards the Hugos, to add a new category in 2017, the “Best Series” award. 

At the time, it didn’t mean much for The Wheel of Time, but it did enable several other long-running and popular series (including Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive) to be recognized with nominations and awards. 

And now The Wheel of Time will have one more chance to potentially earn a Hugo Award. 

Earlier this year, in 2019, Brandon Sanderson published “A Fire Within the Ways”, a short story that was included in the Unfettered III anthology from Grim Oaks Press. This written sequence contained a lng set of “deleted scenes” from A Memory of Light. With Harriet’s permission, the scenes were lightly edited and submitted for publication in the Unfettered III anthology, with proceeds going to support health care needs for writers in need.  According to the WSFS bylaws, any new installment to a written series, regardless of length, makes The Wheel of Time eligible for the Best Series award. Therefore, A Fire Within the Ways makes WoT eligible for the first–and likely only–time.

(4) AUSTRALIAN FIRES CLAIM FAN’S HOME. BBC has been reporting all day on the fate of the Australian resort town of Mallacoota as the east Victoria bush fires overtook it. Moshe Feder reports, “I just heard from Carey Handfield that longtime fan Don Ashby has lost his home to the fire.”

(5) CHANGE BACK FROM YOUR DECADE. Andrew Liptak’s “Reading List, December 30th, 2019” sums up the decade in 8 news stories.

…Plus, I think that there’s a better way to look at the decade: how did science fiction and fantasy storytelling change in the last ten years? Why? After consulting with a number of authors, editors, and agents, it’s clear that the entertainment industry and SF/F have experienced major changes in the last ten years, from the introduction of streaming services, to Disney’s franchise domination, gender and politics within SF/F, self-publishing, and a growing acceptance of SF/F content within mainstream culture. This list is broken down into those categories, with a representative example or two from each section.

Here’s how the decade changed in 8 stories.

(6) FUTURE TENSE. Slate has put up a list of the sff stories they published this year as part of the Future Tense Fiction series: “All of the Sci-Fi Stories We Published This Year”.

Future Tense started experimenting with publishing science fiction in 2016 and 2017, but we really invested in it in 2018, publishing one story each month. That year was capped off by Annalee Newitz’s quirky and urgent “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis,” which won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction of the year. Our hope was that these glimpses into possible futures could provide a thought-provoking parallel to our coverage of emerging technology, policy, and society today, inviting us to imagine how the decisions we’re making today might shape the way we live tomorrow, illuminating key decision points and issues that we might not be giving enough attention.

(7) MEN IN THE RED. “The greatest work of science fiction I’ve ever been involved with – my Men in Black profit statement” — “1997 hit ‘Men In Black’ is still yet to make a profit says screenwriter”.

Men In Black, the 1997 sci-fi comedy starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, remains in the red despite making $589 million (£448 million) at the global box office over 20 years ago. Adjusted for inflation, that translates to $944 million (£718 million) in 2019 money, not taking into account extra ticket prices for 3D or IMAX.

This is according to the film’s screenwriter Ed Solomon, who adapted Lowell Cunningham’s comic book seriews for Sony Pictures, who then turned it into a mega-blockbuster with a $90 million (£68 million) budget that spawned three sequels and an animated series, not to mention shifting piles of merchandise.

Solomon, who also wrote all three Bill & Ted films, Now You See Me, and Charlie’s Angels (2000), shared on Twitter that he had received his “Men In Black profit statement” from the studio over the festive period which said that the film had lost “6x what it lost last period”, linking back to a previous tweet from June this year that said the film was “STILL in the red”….

(8) MEAD OBIT. In sadder news, Syd Mead, an artist who worked on Blade Runner, Aliens, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, has passed away. Variety has the story.

…Mead started his design career in the auto, electronics and steel industries working for Ford Motor Co., Sony, U.S. Steel and Phillips Electronics. He then transitioned to film. His career began as a production illustrator working with director Robert Wise (“West Side Story”) to create Earth’s nemesis V’Ger in the 1979 “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”

He continued fusing technology with creativity, bringing to life some of the biggest films in science fiction. In 1982, he served as a visual futurist on “Blade Runner,” before collaborating as a conceptional artist with director Steven Lisberger  on the 1982 “Tron.”

He explained his inspiration for “Blade Runner” to Curbed in 2015, “For a city in 2019, which isn’t that far from now, I used the model of Western cities like New York or Chicago that were laid out after the invention of mass transit and automobiles, with grids and linear transport. I thought, we’re at 2,500 feet now, let’s boost it to 3,000 feet, and then pretend the city has an upper city and lower city. The street level becomes the basement, and decent people just don’t want to go there. In my mind, all the tall buildings have a sky lobby, and nobody goes below the 30th floor, and that’s the way life would be organized,” Mead said.

(9) INNES OBIT. Neil Innes, best known for his work with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Rutles and in collaboration with Monty Python, has died at the age of 75.

…A spokesperson for the Innes family said he had not been suffering from any illness and had passed away unexpectedly on Sunday night.

…In the 1970s, Innes became closely associated with British comedy collective Monty Python, contributing sketches and songs like Knights of the Round Table and Brave Sir Robin, as well as appearing in their classic films The Holy Grail and Life of Brian.

He wrote and performed sketches for their final TV series in 1974 after John Cleese temporarily left, and was one of only two non-Pythons to be credited as a writer, alongside The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams.

A film about Innes called The Seventh Python was made in 2008.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 31, 1958 The Crawling Eye premiered. In the U.K, it was called The Trollenberg Terror. Directed by Quentin Lawrence, it stars Forrest Tucker, Laurence Payne, Jennifer Jayne, and Janet Munro. Les Bowiec who worked on Submarine X-1 did the special effects. The film is considered to be one of the inspirations for Carpenter’s The Fog. Critics found it to be inoffensive and over at Rotten Tomatoes, it currently a thirty percent rating among reviewers. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 31, 1937 Anthony Hopkins, 82. I think one of his most impressive roles was as Richard in The Lion in Winter but we can’t even call that genre adjacent, can we? He was, during that period, also King Claudius in Hamlet. I’ll say playing Ian McCandless in Freejack is his true genre role, and being Professor Abraham Van Helsing In Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a plum of a genre role. It’s a better role than he as Odin has the MCU film franchise. What else have I missed that I should note? 
  • Born December 31, 1943 Ben Kingsley, 76. Speaking of Kipling, he voiced Bagherra in the live action adaptation that Disney did of The Jungle Book. He was also in Iron Man 3 as Trevor Slattery, a casting not well received. He’s The Hood in Thunderbirds (directed by Frakes btw), Charles Hatton in A Sound of Thunder and Merenkahre in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, the third of three great popcorn films.
  • Born December 31, 1945 Connie Willis, 74. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards for her work, a feat that impresses even me, someone who isn’t generally impressed as you know by Awards! Of her works, I’m most pleased by To Say Nothing of the Dog, Doomsday Book and Bellwether, an offbeat novel look at chaos theory. I’ve not read enough of her shorter work to give an informed opinion of it, so do tell me what’s good there.
  • Born December 31, 1945 Barbara Carrera, 74. She is known for being the SPECTRE assassin Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again, and as Maria in The Island of Dr. Moreau. And she was Victoria Spencer in the really awful Embryo, a film that that over five hundred review reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a sixteen percent rating. 
  • Born December 31, 1949 Ellen Datlow, 70. Let’s start this Birthday note by saying I own a complete set of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror which yes , I know it was titled The Year’s Best Fantasy for the first year. And I still read stories for them from time to time. If that was all she had done, she’d have been one of our all-time anthologists but she also, again with Terri Windling, did the Fairy Tale and Mythic Fiction series, both of which I highly recommend. On her own, she has the ongoing Best Horror of Year, now a decade old, and the Tor.com anthologies which I’ve not read but I assume collect the fiction from the site. Speaking of Tor.com, she’s an editor there, something she’s also done at Nightmare MagazineOmni, the hard copy magazine and online, and Subterranean Magazine. 
  • Born December 31, 1953 Jane Badler,  66. I first encountered her on the Australian-produced Mission Impossible where she played Shannon Reed for the two seasons of that superb series. She’s apparently best known as Diana, the main antagonist on V, but I never saw any of that series being overseas at the time. She shows up in the classic Fantasy Island, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, Bitch, Popcorn & Blood and Virtual Revolution.
  • Born December 31, 1958 Bebe Neuwirth, 61. She’s had but one television SF credit to her name which is playing a character named Lanel in the “First Contact” episode of the Next Gen series during season four, but I found a delightful genre credential for her. From April 2010 to December 2011, she was Morticia Addams in the Broadway production of The Addams Family musical! The show itself is apparently still ongoing. 
  • Born December 31, 1959 Val Kilmer,  60. Lead role in Batman Forever where I fought he did a decent job, Madmartigan in Willow, Montgomery in The Island of Dr. Moreau, voiced both Moses and God in The Prince of Egypt, uncredited role as El Cabillo in George and the Dragon and voiced KITT in the not terribly we’ll conceived reboot of Knight Rider. Best role? Ahhh, that’d be Doc Holliday in Tombstone.
  • Born December 31, 1971 Camilla Larsson, 48. Therese in the first series of Real Humans on Swedish television. She was Jenny in the Mormors magiska vind series which is definitely genre given it’s got a ghost and pirate parrots in it! 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio warns us that pocket universes can pop up unexpectedly.
  • Scroll down to the third cartoon – a classic from The Far Side as cops deduce what killed these cats…

(13) THE LONELINESS OF GENERAL HUX. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Nobody really understands the motivations of General Hux in the most recent Star Wars movie, so Slate Magazine’s Dan Kois (@DanKois) gets into Hux’ head with excerpts from the General’s private diaries: “The Lost Diaries of General Hux”. The results are laugh-out-loud funny: 

Kylo Ren loves making little comments about Starkiller Base. “I sense a great regret in your heart about the failure of your planet-sized death machine,” he says. It hurts my feelings. I spent years managing that project, prime years of my career, and I only got to blow up one star system before the whole thing was destroyed. Which, incidentally, was the fault of those horrid contractors, not me. I can’t complain to Ren, obviously. I wish there was someone I could talk to! I ordered a therapist droid from the medical bay but Snoke had them all reprogrammed to say “Your problems are inconsequential, focus only on crushing the Resistance.” No one knows how to reboot them. It’s too bad—therapy is supposed to be covered in the medical plan, and a lot of our nameless young stormtroopers could stand to talk things out about their kidnapping, parents being killed, etc.

(14) BACKSTAGE. NPR’s Petra Mayer finds out that “‘Harry Potter And The Cursed Child’ Makes Its Magic The Old-Fashioned Way”.

When the creators of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child were working on adapting the wizarding world for the stage, they knew a lot of people have seen the Harry Potter movies. And they didn’t want to reproduce the things most people have already seen.

The result is a spectacle that relies much more on human-powered magic than special effects trickery. And the show’s creators have documented that process in a lavish new coffee-table book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: The Journey. So I went on my own journey, backstage at the current Broadway production, to see how that magic is made.

Around and under the stage of Manhattan’s Lyric Theater, there’s a warren of corridors and staircases so complex you almost expect to pop out in Hogsmeade. But instead, I end up in a rubber-floored workout room where today’s cast is warming up for the show, directed by movement captain James Brown III (who also plays the magisterially surly Bane the Centaur).

It’s pretty intense. There’s yoga, stretching, and some hard-core calisthenics. Grunts and groans ripple around the room as Brown leads everyone through their paces. This isn’t usual for a Broadway show, but then not that many shows are this physical. The actors in Cursed Child create effects that would have been done digitally onscreen with their own bodies, and with the help of some special crew members.

(15) PAST GAS. BBC posted its collection of “The best space images of 2019”.

With some blockbuster space missions under way, 2019 saw some amazing images beamed back to Earth from around the Solar System. Meanwhile, some of our most powerful telescopes were trained on the Universe’s most fascinating targets. Here are a few of the best.

Up in the clouds

Nasa’s Juno spacecraft has been sending back stunning images of Jupiter’s clouds since it arrived in orbit around the giant planet in 2016. This amazing, colour-enhanced view shows patterns that look like they were created by paper marbling. The picture was compiled from four separate images taken by the spacecraft on 29 May.

(16) FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE. Oscar and Grammy-winning film composer Hans Zimmer wrote the theme music for the BBC podcast 13 Minutes to the Moon. He shares how Nasa’s historic Apollo 11 mission influenced his work in the BBC video “Hans Zimmer: What inspired 13 Minutes to the Moon’s music?”

“The problem is when you write about space, [as] we all know, there is no sound in space.”

Click the link to hear the full theme music from 13 Minutes to the Moon.

(17) UNDEAD SUPERHEROES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The LARGE majority of this list had me mentally screaming, “Noooooooo.“ In my very loudest mental voice. I’ve left out the reasons cited for wanting to bring each of them back in reproducing the list below. It’s kinder that way. CBR.com lists “10 Saturday Morning Cartoon Superheroes That Need To Be Resurrected”

Saturday morning cartoons. Before the advent of 24-hour cartoon networks and streaming services, this was the only way for kids to get their fill of both animated fare and sugary cereals. It was a Golden Age filled with characters that ran or drove past the same scene several times, animals that talked, and scrappy puppies that saved older cartoon franchises.

In the 1960s and 70s, it was also the place where superheroes came to life. Not only familiar ones like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four. But also ones created for that precious five hours of time on Saturday’s. Some would continue on beyond this era. Others would vanish around the same time they premiered. Yet, they all have a space in our dusty and aging hearts. To honor these pioneers, here are 10 Saturday morning cartoon superheroes that need to be resurrected.

10 Captain Caveman

9 Superstretch and Microwoman

8 Frankenstein, Jr.

7 Web Woman

6 The Galaxy Trio

5 Freedom Force

4 Blue Falcon

3 Super President

2 Birdman

1 Space Ghost

(18) THIS IS THE CARD YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. Baby Yoda’s trading card — “Star Wars: The Mandalorian TOPPS NOW” — you have only five days left to order it.

TOPPS NOW celebrates the greatest moments… as they happen!

(19) CLEVER COMMERCIAL. “Not genre but will put a smile on your face,” promises John King Tarpinian.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Darrah Chavey, Mike Kennedy, N., Heather Rose Jones, Nina Shepardson, Chip Hitchcock, Moshe Feder, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/29/19 Who Sawed Courtney Milan’s Boat?

(1) STABBY VOTING. Reddit’s r/Fantasy forum hasopened voting for the Stabby Awards. They’ve suffered voting shenanigans in the past, too, and here’s what they’ve done to stop them —

It’s now time to vote for the /r/Fantasy Best of 2019 Stabby Awards. Due to the sub’s growth over the past year (from the time that the nomination thread went live to now, we’ve grown by over 8,000 subscribers!) and to issues we experienced with vote gaming last year, voting will be taking place off Reddit.

We’re using a Google Form (same as we’ve used for our demographic census for years) and in order to vote you’ll need to include a link to your own user profile. Profiles will need to be at least 1 month old for their votes to count – we chose this cutoff to ensure that folks who created accounts solely to nominate and thus aren’t really part of our community aren’t going to affect the results.

Voting will end January 4, 2019 at 9 p.m. PST. Results should be live by January 6, 2019 by 1 p.m. PST.

(2) SPARKS TOO MUCH JOY? In The Guardian‘s “It’s ‘Day of the Triffids’ for today’s Britain, but with antidepressants as the monster”, critic Vanessa Thorpe analyzes the filmmaker’s challenge:

…An award-winning science-fiction thriller billed by critics as a modern Day of the Triffids takes a provocative approach to Britain’s growing dependence on mood-lifting chemicals and antidepressants.

Little Joe, released in UK cinemas in February, and starring Ben Whishaw, Emily Beecham and Kerry Fox, has divided reviewers with its odd, disturbing story of a newly bred plant designed to spread joy.

On set in a vast greenhouse laboratory, the acclaimed Austrian director Jessica Hausner first told her actors to forget about finding “the truth” of their characters.

Little Joe looks at the question of how do you perceive whether someone has changed or not,” Hausner told the Observer. “That was the big issue when I talked to the actors. And so even when we were shooting, we were shooting different versions of each scene.”

(3) ENDANGERED BY IDEAS. Maria Popova tells “How Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe” at Brain Pickings.

…In the anxious winter of 1617, unfigurative wheels are turning beneath Johannes Kepler as he hastens to his mother’s witchcraft trial. For this long journey by horse and carriage, Kepler has packed a battered copy of Dialogue on Ancient and Modern Music by Vincenzo Galilei, his sometime friend Galileo’s father — one of the era’s most influential treatises on music, a subject that always enchanted Kepler as much as mathematics, perhaps because he never saw the two as separate. Three years later, he would draw on it in composing his own groundbreaking book The Harmony of the World, in which he would formulate his third and final law of planetary motion, known as the harmonic law — his exquisite discovery, twenty-two years in the making, of the proportional link between a planet’s orbital period and the length of the axis of its orbit. It would help compute, for the first time, the distance of the planets from the sun — the measure of the heavens in an era when the Solar System was thought to be all there was.

As Kepler is galloping through the German countryside to prevent his mother’s execution, the Inquisition in Rome is about to declare the claim of Earth’s motion heretical — a heresy punishable by death….

(4) NOT MUSED. “And it occurs to me that this is disrespectful to the Nine” at It’s Always More Complicated, (a post inspired by Anne Bilson’s piece for The Guardian, “Anna Karina, Catherine Deneuve: how movies malign women by calling them muses”.)

…But is this view of the Muse, who is after all a goddess, a being at whose feet the artist is supposed to lay the offering of the art created in order that she may judge it worthy, not very disrespectful? In assuming that the muse is just some empty thing to fill up with M. L’Artiste’s (and it is M., is it not) geeenyus?

François Truffaut once said of Catherine Deneuve: “I wouldn’t compare her to a flower or a bouquet, since there is a certain neutrality in her that leads me to compare her to the vase in which all the flowers are placed.” He meant that her reserve and air of mystery enabled spectators to “fill the vase” themselves; but the history of male film directors and their female muses is also a history of vase-filling: men translating their erotic fantasies into cinematic terms while failing to get to grips with the women themselves, who are invariably depicted as quixotic and inscrutable, even dangerous.

Not that I am sure which of the Nine would be the muse of movies – or would it vary by specific genre?

(5) BLUE GENES. Cora Buhlert presents “The 2019 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents”.

… Let’s have a bit of background: I have been informally awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award since sometime in the 1980s with the earliest awards being retroactive. Over the years, the list of winners migrated from a handwritten page via various computer file formats, updated every year. Last year, I finally decided to make the winners public on the Internet, because what’s an award without some publicity and a ceremony? The list of previous winners (in PDF format) up to 2017 may be found here, BTW, and the 2018 winner was announced here.

In 2017 and 2018, a clear frontrunner emerged early on. 2019 was different, because there were several likely and unlikely candidates.

Warning: Spoilers for several of things including The Rise of Skywalker behind the cut…

(6) THE MOST OF BABY YODA. You wouldn’t want to miss this! (Well, some of you would, but your loss!)

BABY YODA from The Mandalorian season 1. Best of Baby Yoda taken from episodes 1 to 8 of The Mandalorian….

(7) GRAY OBIT. Scots author Alasdair Gray died December 29 at the age of 85. His publisher, Canongate, posted this retrospective:

A renowned polymath, Alasdair Gray was beloved equally for his writing and art. His debut, Lanark, which Canongate published in 1981, is widely regarded as being one of the masterpieces of twentieth century fiction. It was followed by more than thirty further books, all of which he designed and illustrated, ranging from novels, short story collections, plays, volumes of poetry, works of non-fiction and translations – most recently, his interpretation of Dante’s Divine Trilogy.

The Guardian’s tribute said he “blazed a trail for contemporary Scottish fiction with his experimental novels.”

In 1954, Gray began writing the novel that would occupy him on and off throughout the 1960s and 70s. Lanark divides the story of a life into four books, alternating between Glasgow and a shadowy version of the city called Unthank. The novel opens with book three, in which a young man finds himself in a dark metropolis filled with strange diseases, and then jumps back to fill in the story of Duncan Thaw, who grows up in Glasgow just before the second world war. The Guardian called it “fluent, imaginative”, a novel “of undeniable quality, but rare, and not for all tastes, like an oyster, or a truffle”.

He made an indelible impression on both the literary and fannish worlds. Alasdair Gray and Russell Hoban were the guests of honor at the first Mexicon (1984) in the UK. As David Langford recalls, he made ink sketches of various fans there, and his “[John] Brosnan drawing is inscribed: ‘The Author of Slimer, a seminal work which has influenced everything I have ever written.”

(8) WOLLEN OBIT. Peter Wollen (1938-2019), author of the influential film theory book Signs and Meaning in the Cinema, who also directed films and wrote screenplays, died December 17. The New York Times appreciation notes:  

Mr. Wollen didn’t just talk and write about cinema; in the 1970s and ’80s he was actively involved in making it. Perhaps his best-known film, which he both wrote and directed, was “Friendship’s Death” (1987), an unusual science-fiction film about an extraterrestrial robot who is on a peace mission but takes a wrong turn and winds up in Amman, Jordan, in 1970, a time of conflict there.

Tilda Swinton, in one of her first film roles, played the robot. In a tribute to Mr. Wollen published by the film website IndieWire, she said “Signs and Meaning” was “the first seminal book I read about film that actually made sense while bopping you to bits with its braininess and taking the engine of cinema completely apart in front of you while making you even more excited to jump in and go racing about in it just as soon as you possibly could.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 29, 1967 — “The Trouble with Tribbles” first aired. Written by David Gerrold and directed by Joseph Pevney, with some of the guest cast being Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as Station Manager and Michael Pataki as Korax. Memory Alpha says ”Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around.” It would come in second in the Hugo balloting to “The City on the Edge of Forever” written by Harlan Ellison. All five final Hugo nominees at Baycon (1968) were Trek episodes.
  • December 29, 2009 Princess of Mars premiered. This film from Asylum had Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris and Antonio Sabàto Jr. as John Carter. Rather loosely based on A Princess of Mars by Burroughs, the film was released in Europe as The Martian Colony Wars. Currently this film has a 10% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 29, 1901 William H Ritt. US cartoonist and author, whose best known strip, Brick Bradford, was SF. Two of the early Thirties strips, Brick Bradford and the City Beneath the Sea and Brick Bradford with Brocco the Mountain Buccaneer, became Big Little books. in 1947, Brick Bradford, a 15-chapter serial film starring Kane Richmond, was produced by Columbia Pictures. (Died 1972.)
  • Born December 29, 1912 Ward Hawkins. Alternative universes! Lizard men as sidekicks! He wrote the Borg and Guss series (Red Flaming BurningSword of Fire, Blaze of Wrath and Torch of Fear) which as it features these I really would like to hear as audiobooks. Not that it’s likely as I see he’s not made it even to the digital book realm yet. (Died 1990.)
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins, 91. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film (with Peter Cushing movie as The Doctor.) He would make it into canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special.
  • Born December 29, 1949 Ian Livingstone, 70. Co-founder of Game Workshop whose flagship products are are Warhammer Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000. (Have I mentioned that Game Workshop has local shops where fans can buy their unpainted miniatures and other goodies?) He was the first Editor of White Dwarf whichyes, I read a long time ago. 
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 56. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well, and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. 
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 53. Did you know Sax Rohmer’s novels were made into a film? I didn’t. Well, she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’d also be in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Neilsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Neither will be mistaken for quality films. 
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 47. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow In Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I., with my fav role for him being the title role in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy In Repo Man and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians

(11) FIRST IMPRESSIONS. ComicBook.com invites us to “Star Wars: Watch Mark Hamill’s Perfect Harrison Ford Impression”, rendered during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

(12) TEN YEARS FROM NOW. New York Magazine did a future-themed issue in November included a batch of predictions about 2029 based on the newsmaking events of 2019: “The Weirdness Is Coming A glimpse of the near future as seen through the recent past.”.

Today In 2029…This odd future came into view…

We Will Never Know If a Movie Is a Hit

All of the entertainment we used to consume in more independently quantifiable ways — via TV ratings, box office, album sales — has moved to streaming, where we just have to trust Netflix or Spotify or Apple to tell us how popular it is, and they will almost certainly lie. Netflix occasionally releases random stats about how many people watched something, and they usually strain credibility. In June, it claimed 30.9 million watched a new Adam Sandler movie in its first three days, which would have made it one of the biggest openings in history if it had been released in theaters. And we never know how successful any movie is when it’s released on for-pay VOD (via iTunes, Amazon, or your cable box) because nobody shares any numbers at all, which is strange because streaming is how plenty of non-superhero movies make most of their money now. Obviously, they will know — the producers and stars who benefit. But the public will be living entirely in the dark, never knowing if something is actually a hit or just totally Astroturfed. This will be really disorienting; today, at least, the popularity of an artist accounts for like half of the way we feel about them. And hard audience figures were, for a generation of barroom debaters about pop culture, the closest thing anyone actually ever got to a “fact.” —Lane Brown

(13) OBAMA’S 2019 PICKS. “Barack Obama Lists His Favorite Films And Television Shows For 2019”Deadline has the story.

Former President Barack Obama is making a list, and checking it twice. A day after he released the list of his favorite books of 2019, he’s issued a film/TV faves ledger, including one of his own creations….

(14) NOT BEWITCHED. Eneasz Brodski pans a new show in “The Witcher, Episode 1: A Festivus Airing of Greivances” at Death Is Bad.

I saw the first episode of The Witcher on Festivus, and boy did that unintentionally fit the holiday theme. tldr is that the writers are just phoning this in, and hoping the strength of the fight choreography will keep people watching.

Full Spoilers below.

(15) ROVER COME OVER. LAist reveals, “We Got A Sneak Peek At JPL’s Mars 2020 Rover Before It Heads To Its Launch Site, And It’s Rad”. Photos at the link.

… On Friday, JPL gave a rare media tour to show off the interplanetary robotic vehicle to reporters inside a meticulous dust, hair and oil-free “clean room.” It’s the last time it will be viewed before it’s shipped off to Florida for its July liftoff.

That meant this reporter had to don a full body “bunny” suit and take an air bath with jets to blow away any wayward dust or hair left on the suit.

It took a lot of time and trouble, but NASA’s Dave Gruel said it’s crucial to keep the rover from getting contaminated.

“It’ll be a real bad day for us in the future if those samples come back from Mars and guess what? They’ve got my whisker in that sample,” Gruel said. “That’ll be bad.”

(16) WITH GREAT POWER COMES MINOR LEAGUE HOCKEY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] ComicBook.com: “Minor League Hockey Team Suits Up in Spider-Man Uniforms on Stan Lee’s Birthday”.

Today, Saturday December 28, would have been the legendary Stan Lee‘s 97th birthday. To mark the occasion fans all around the world are taking a moment to reflect on and honor the prolific and influential comics figure who was responsible for helping to create many of the most iconic characters in comics history — The X-Men, The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Dr. Doom, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and more. It’s one of those characters that a minor league hockey team is using to help honor Lee on his birthday with special Spider-Man uniforms.

On Twitter on Saturday, the Indy Fuel hockey team shared a photo of their uniforms for the evening’s game against the Kansas City Mavericks. The special jerseys are part of the Fuel’s Marvel Super Hero Night event, which just so happens to land on Lee’s birthday. The team also posted thanking the creator for “creating a pretty awesome universe.” You can check out both posts below.

(17) BIZARRE TOY. Nerdbot wants us to know “Monty Python Black Knight Figure Talks & Has Removable Arms”. If they also make one like this for Gandalf, imagine posing them opposite one another yelling, ”None shall pass, none shall pass!”

 [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Dann, Martin Morse Wooster, David Langford, John Hertz, and Rich Lynch for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dennis Howard – classic faanish reference explained here.]

Pixel Scroll 10/7/19 Yet There’s Much More To Be Said

(1) FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION. Here is the cover of the Nov/Dec 2019 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  The cover art is by Bob Eggleton.

(2) FIYAH SURVEY. FIYAH Literary Magazine’s “The Black Speculative Fiction Writer Survey” is open for responses again through November 30th.

This survey is designed to provide context to reports like Fireside Fiction’s #BlackSpecFic Reports. We invite Black SFF writers to submit information about their practices and insights on submission to SFF short fiction markets with a focus on a 13 month period. The responses we receive will allow us to:

  • Quantify the existence of Black speculative fiction writers seeking publication.
  • Provide submission context to existing publication data.
  • Expose the impact of doleful publication statistics on Black writers.
  • Enable markets to pinpoint their failings in attracting or publishing Black writers.

… For the purposes of this survey, participating writers:

  • must have submitted at least one piece of short speculative fiction to a paying market in the last 12 months. You do not have to be published in order to participate in the survey. Speculative fiction includes fantasy, science fiction, horror, paranormal and all of their included subgenres. “Short” fiction includes flash, shorts, novelettes, and novellas (under 40,000 words).
  • must identify as Black or of the African Diaspora (to include mixed/biracial)

(3) INSPIRED CREATURES. The “Natural History of Horror” exhibit will open October 10 at Los Angeles County’s Museum of Natural History, and run through April 19.

We have a strange curiosity for mysterious, eerie, and grotesque monsters. We love the thrill of intense, heart-pounding bursts of adrenaline that only horror movies can provide. In our new exhibition Natural History of Horror, explore the scientific inspiration for classic monsters from DraculaFrankensteinThe Mummy, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Get a glimpse of rare movie props, film footage, hands-on activities, and museum specimens.  

…Your senses will tingle as you hear about the scientific experiments and discoveries that inspired filmmakers to create four of the world‘s most iconic movie monsters: the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and Dracula. Whether these classics spotlighted sinister figures lurking in the shadows or creatures waiting unseen beneath the water, one thing is true: Each larger-than-life character had a surprisingly rich real-world backstory.

(4) UNTWIST THOSE KNICKERS. Shelf Awareness has retracted an earlier report. Now they say “U.S. Tariffs on E.U. Won’t Include Books”.

The report last week that books were included in the new tariffs on E.U. products imported to the U.S. was inaccurate. In fact, books will not be included in the $7.5 billion of tariffs, which are being imposed after the World Trade Organization ruled last Wednesday that the U.S. could tax $7.5 billion of E.U. goods to recoup damages after the WTO had determined in May that the E.U. illegally subsidized Airbus.

(5) ATWOOD’S LATEST. Kyra reviews The Testaments in a comment on File 770’s 2019 Recommended SFF List.

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from this book. What I absolutely did not expect was … a pretty good young adult dystopian adventure story. It was a bit jarring when I realized that was what I was reading, as if I’d discovered that The Hunger Games had somehow been intended as a direct sequel to 1984….

(6) YOUR MONEY’S NO GOOD HERE. FastCompany reports: “In latest streaming wars move, Disney bans Netflix ads from its entertainment networks”.

In a move that reminds us that the streaming wars are already well underway, Disney has banned all Netflix advertising from its entertainment properties, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Netflix spent $99.2 million on U.S. TV ads during 2018, with about 13% going to Disney-owned networks, according to estimates made by the ad-measurement firm iSpot.TV. But with Disney’s new streaming service Disney+ launching next month, the Mouse has ramped up its competitive edge to gain any traction it can against its newest, biggest rival. Notably, the ban only applies to Disney’s entertainment networks, not Disney-owned ESPN.

Back in August, Disney announced that it had banned ads from any of its streaming rivals but then walked that back, citing complex, mutually beneficial business relationships with partners who are also competitors such as Apple and Amazon.

(7) DRIVE THEM CRAZY. Engadget has discovered “Tesla will let you customize your car’s horn and movement sounds”. One hilarious option is coded but not yet operative:  

Electrek also found references in the Tesla Android app’s code to a currently unavailable “Patsy Mode” (named after Arthur’s sidekick in Holy Grail) that could play the coconuts when you summon your car from Auto Park. Things are about to get very silly in your EV, then, whether or not you’re actually moving.

(8) TAYLOR OBIT. Comedian Rip Taylor, a staple of daytime TV back in the day, died October 6 at the age of 84. SYFY Wire reminded readers about his genre resume.

…Aside from his career as a shtick-happy comic, he had a number of noteworthy genre roles, particularly in animation, where his unique vocal delivery got to breathe real life into his cartoon counterparts. His first major role animated role was in 1979’s Scooby Goes to Hollywood in 1979. Years later, he’d appear in two more Scooby-Doo projects, What’s New, Scooby-Doo in 2002 and Scooby-Doo and the Monster of Mexico in 2003. He also voiced the genie in 1990’s DuckTales the Movie.

Additionally, he had roles in Popeye and Son, The Snorks, and The Jetsons. Later, he had a recurring role as Uncle Fester in the early 1990s animated series The Addams Family. More recently, he was the voice of the Royal Recordkeeper in the Disney short film series The Emperor’s New School, and he played another genie in the superhero family series The Aquabats! Super Show! His last role was in the 2012 horror flick Silent But Deadly.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 7, 1959 — First photos taken of the far side of the Moon, by Luna 3.
  • October 7, 1988 — The War of the Worlds series premiered. Starring Jared Martin and Lynda Mason Green, it would last for two seasons. Andria Paul of Highlander fame would join the cast in season two. 
  • October 7, 1988 Alien Nation debuted as a film. Written by Rockne S. O’Bannon, it starred James Caan and Mandy Patinkin. It received a nomination for Best Dramatic Presentation in the Hugo Awards losing out at Noreascon 3 to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Both the movie and the series rate a 43% at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 7, 1926 Ken Krueger. Krueger co-founded and organized the first San Diego Comic-Con International convention, then called “San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con,” in 1970. He attended the first Worldcon in 1939. I’ll leave it up to y’all to discuss his activities as a fan and as a pro as they won’t fit here! (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 7, 1942 Lee Gold, 77. She’s a member of LAFA and a writer and editor in the role-playing game and filk music communities. She published Xenofilkia, a bi-monthly compilation of filk songs which has been published since 1988, four issues of the Filker Up anthology; and has published for forty-four years, Alarums and Excursions, a monthly gaming zine. She’s edited more fanzines than I care to list here, and is a member of the Filk Hall of Fame along with Barry Gold, her husband. 
  • Born October 7, 1946 Chris Foss, 73. UK Illustrator known for the Seventies UK paperback covers for Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman and Skylark series among many that he did. He also did design work for the Jodorowsky version of Dune. Alien has his Spaceship design, and he did redesign of Gordon’s rocket cycle for the 1980 Flash Gordon film. 
  • Born October 7, 1950 Howard Chaykin, 69. Comic book artist and writer. His first major work was for DC Comics, drawing The Price of Pain” which was an adaptation of author Fritz Leiber’s characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in Sword of Sorcery #1. He would illustrate damn near everything else from Batman and The Legion of Super-Heroes for DC to Hulk and Iron-Man for Marvel (to name but two series) but I think his best genre work was his own American Flagg! series.
  • Born October 7, 1958 Rosalyn Landor, 61. She played Guinevere in Arthur the King, and Helen Stoner in “The Speckled Band” of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes. She was the red headed colleen Brenna Odell in the “Up the Long Ladder” episode of Next Generation.
  • Born October 7, 1959 Steven Erikson, 60. He’s definitely  most known for his Malazan Book of the Fallen series, which began with the publication of Gardens of the Moon and was completed with the publication of The Crippled God, ten novels later. Though I’ve not read it, and didn’t know it existed, he’s written the Willful Child trilogy, a spoof on Star Trek and other tropes common in the genre. 
  • Born October 7, 1963 Tammy Klein, 56. She’s getting Birthday Honors because of the most-likely-unauthorised Trek audioseries she’s involved in called Star Trek: Henglaar, M.D. in which she’s Subcommander Nonia but she also been in some definitely really pulpy works such as Lizard ManJurassic City, Awaken the Dead and Zoombies.
  • Born October 7, 1970 Nicole Ari Parker, 49. She’s getting a Birthday Honor because she was Vanessa Anders in Time After Time, a short lived series (twelve episodes aired in 2017) based off the H.G. Wells novel of that name. Freddie Stroma played Wells. Anyone see it? Oh, and she had a recurring role in the Revolution series as Justine Allenford. 
  • Born October 7, 1979 Aaron Ashmore, 40. He‘s known for being Jimmy Olsen on Smallville and Steve Jinks on Warehouse 13. He also is Johnny Jaqobis on Killjoys. He also had a recurring role as Dylan Masters in XIII: The Series which I think is SFF. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio intercepts a message from outer space. It sounds pretty familiar…
  • Moderately Confused amuses by combining Halloween with a sff trope joke. I laughed.
  • On the other hand, today’s Off the Mark is truly bizarre.

(12) THE INTERNET SAYS “OOPS!” At Examined Worlds, Ethan Mills asks “Was Social Media a Huge Mistake?” Of course it was, that’s why I hurried to read his post…

My concern isn’t so much that social media makes new bad things. Humans have always been intellectually and morally fallible. My concern is that it exacerbates our weaknesses in a deeply unhealthy way.

Cognitive Biases and Logical Fallacies

Social media exacerbates our cognitive biases and tendencies toward fallacious reasoning. “Fake news” and conspiracy theories are shared more quickly and are believed more widely. Social media successfully exploits cognitive biases like availability heuristic and confirmation bias. Social media echo chambers make us think our views are more popular or more correct than they actually are. 

Logical fallacies like Ad Hominem, Tu Quoque, Strawman, Red Herring, Appeal to Popularity, Appeal to Authority, and No True Scotsman frequently pass for good arguments. And social media algorithms and click bait headlines deliberately exploit all of this to keep us clicking, liking, and sharing too quickly, long before we have time to digest or examine anything philosophically. (Indeed, I suspect philosophical thinking is too slow for social media, although a lucky few on philosophy Twitter may be exceptions.)…

(13) SHORT SFF AT ANGRY ROBOT. Tomorrow Angry Robot releases its “first foray into short-form fiction” Duchamp Versus Einstein, by Christopher Hinz and Etan Ilfeld, something we reported this last week. But we’ve subsequently learned the interesting fact that co-author Etan Ilfeld is also the owner of Watkins Media, of which Angry Robot has been part since 2014. Does that change how likely it is there will be more short sff forthcoming?

(14) O2. The Nobel Prizes are being announced this week. First up – the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine: “How cells sense oxygen wins Nobel prize”.

Three scientists who discovered how cells sense and adapt to oxygen levels have won the 2019 Nobel Prize.

Sir Peter Ratcliffe, of the University of Oxford and Francis Crick Institute, William Kaelin, of Harvard, and Gregg Semenza, of Johns Hopkins University share the physiology or medicine prize.

Their work is leading to new treatments for anaemia and even cancer.

The role of oxygen-sensing is also being investigated in diseases from heart failure to chronic lung disease.

…Why does this matter?

The oxygen-sensing ability of the body has a role in the immune system and the earliest stages of development inside the womb.

It can trigger the production of red blood cells or the construction of blood vessels.

So, drugs that mimic it may be an effective treatment for anaemia.

Tumours, meanwhile, can hijack this process to selfishly create new blood vessels and grow.

So, drugs that reverse it may help halt cancer.

(15) NOT THE BIGGEST BANG, BUT STILL PLENTY BIG. “Milky Way’s centre exploded 3.5 million years ago”.

A cataclysmic energy flare ripped through our galaxy, the Milky Way, about 3.5 million years ago, a team of astronomers say.

They say the so-called Sifter flare started near the super massive black hole in the centre of the galaxy.

The impact was felt 200,000 light-years away.

The discovery that the Milky Way’s centre was more dynamic than previously thought can lead to a complete reinterpretation of its evolution.

(16) PRIVACY V. SAFETY. “Facebook encryption: Should governments be given keys to access our messages?” BBC has the story.

Governments in the UK, US and Australia have asked Facebook, in an open letter, to roll back plans to bring end-to-end encryption to all of its platforms.

Facebook, rocked by privacy scandals, responds that everyone has the right to a private conversation.

It is the latest in an age-old battle between privacy and safety, which has played out between governments and tech firms ever since digital communication became mass market.

What is end-to-end encryption?

As the name suggests, this is a secure way of sending information so that only the intended receiver can read it.

The information is encrypted while it is still on the sender’s device and is only decrypted when it reaches the person intended. Nobody, not even the platform owner, has the keys to unlock it.

Is there evidence encryption has hampered police enquiries?

When the BBC asked the Home Office to provide examples, it could not do so.

The real issue is the fact that Facebook will no longer be able to police its own content, it said.

It pointed to the fact that last year Facebook sent 12 million reports of child exploitation or abuse to the US’s National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and it would no longer be able to do this if it had encryption on all its platforms.

It is something that Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg addressed directly in a Q&A with staff about the issue.

“When we decided to go to end-to-end encryption across the different apps, this is one of the things that just weighed the most heavily on me,” he said.

(17) RUBY ROSE. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Ruby Rose, star of “Batwoman,” who explains that even though she identifies as gay and Batwoman is gay, “you don’t fight crime in a gay way or a lesbian way.” “Ruby Rose knows Batwoman is a step forward for LGBTQ superheroes — but she’s more interested in how she saves the day”.

…Rose did a bit of soul searching when CW called. Shooting a network TV season often means filming almost year round, leaving a limited window for Rose to make movies. She would have to move from Los Angeles to Vancouver, where most of the CW’s DC shows film.

But ultimately, Rose answered the bat-signal call — the role was too emotionally appealing to pass up. She tried to think of any upcoming role she’d been offered that could make her feel the same way. There weren’t any.

“[This role is] something that we all wish did exist when we were growing up [watching] television. It would have helped [us] as well as other people feel less alone and less misunderstood or all confused or isolated and different and not unlike many other things that come with being young and gay,” Rose said. She hopes the show will impact people who feel alone — “and empower them to feel like they’re a superhero too and that they can change the world too.”…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. 2001 A Space Odyssey, Epilogue. Featuring Frank Poole on Vimeo.

Some 203 years after astronaut Frank Poole is murdered by the Discovery’s A.I. HAL 9000, his body encounters a Monolith.

Using practical models and digital versions of the tricks used in the original, with respect to Stanley and Wally.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, 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 Cliff.]

Pixel Scroll 10/6/19 Ground Control To Major Scroll, Take Your Pixel Pills And Put Your Helmet On

(1) SPACEWALKING, STEP-BY-STEP. Mary Robinette Kowal livetweets a spacewalk. Thread starts here.

(2) TICKET TO RIDE. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport looks at the people who have been waiting to go to space on SpaceShipTwo for a decade.  He also examines the effort NASA made in the 1980s to place civilians in space that ended with the Challenger disaster in 1986. “How much does a ticket to space cost? Meet the people ready to fly.”

When Lori Fraleigh unwrapped the present her husband had given her for her 38th birthday, she found a curious surprise: a model of a spaceship. It was cool, sure, but a toy would be better suited for her young children, then 5 and 1, not her.

Then she noticed the ticket. It took Fraleigh, a Silicon Valley executive, a moment to realize what her husband had purchased for her: a trip to space with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. “I went through a lot of crazy emotions, like, ‘Did you really buy this?’ ” she recalled of the moment in 2011. “ ‘Do we still have enough money to remodel the kitchen?’ ”

Today, her children are 13 and 9. The kitchen remodel has long since been completed. But Fraleigh is still waiting for her trip to space.

…But now, 15 years after Branson founded Virgin Galactic, space tourism could be tantalizingly close to becoming a reality. The company has flown to the edge of space twice and says its first paying customers could reach space next year. Another space venture, Blue Origin, founded by Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos almost 20 years ago, hopes to conduct its first test flight with people this year, though it hasn’t announced prices or sold any tickets. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

And NASA recently announced that it would allow private citizens to fly to the International Space Station on spacecraft built by SpaceX and Boeing.

Which means that Fraleigh may soon finally get her five minutes of weightlessness, a view that promises to be spectacular and a test to see if she has the right stuff.

(3) THE CANALES OF MARS. The Cylinder Floats? International Trailer 3. BBC War of the Worlds. With Italian titles.

(4) I WILL SURVIVE. Leah Price contends “Books Won’t Die” at The Paris Review.

Increasingly, people of the book are also people of the cloud. At the Codex Hackathon, a convention whose participants spend a frenetic weekend designing electronic reading tools, I watch developers line up onstage to pitch book-related projects to potential collaborators and funders….

…The term “ebook” endorses such optimism. Whatever replaces the codex, it implies, will be functionally equivalent: the same textual content in a new and improved (usually shrunken) package. A darker strain of futurology, in contrast, emphasizes political decline over technological progress. Fahrenheit 451 represents book burning as an end in itself, not just a means to suppressing sedition whose medium happens to be print. A few years earlier, 1984 opened with the purchase of a “thick, quarto-sized blank book with a red back and a marbled cover.” A blank notebook speaks louder than a printed volume: “Even with nothing written in it, it was a compromising possession.” The final piece of evidence of thoughtcrime that sends Winston Smith to Room 101? A paperweight found in his possession. Here, as in Amtrak’s Quiet Car, the idea of the book remains more powerful than any ideas that it contains.

(5) THE TESTAMENTS ON BBC RADIO. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] As promised, the collected links to the BBC Radio 4 Book at Bed Time — Margret Atwood’s The Testaments. It ran for three weeks but Auntie has three omnibus episodes combining each week’s five. Enjoy….

15 years after Offred stepped into the unknown, the stories of three women whose fates are tied to Gilead concludes. Readers: Sara Kestelman, Katherine Press, Samantha Dakin.

This will only be available online for a couple of weeks so check it out while you can. (It’s a great advert for buying the physical book.)

(6) PYTHON ARCHIVES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] And now for something completely different…

Monty Python at 50: The Self-Abasement Tapes: To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Monty Python, Michael Palin hunts down lost Python sketches. This programme contains rare and historical material never heard before.

This programme contains rare material never heard before on UK radio, or anywhere else – including the infamous Fat Ignorant Bastards sketch and a Country & Western version of Terry Jones’ I’m So Worried.

In this episode, the historical curiosities include a lost verse from Brave Sir Robin and an all new King Arthur Song. Also, Terry Jones remembers what it was like filming The Holy Grail at Doune Castle.

This third episode digs deep into the archives to excavate recordings relating to the controversial 1979 film, Life of Brian. Eric and Graham negotiate a voiceover fee for the film, John Cleese press-gangs his mother into doing a free radio advert and we meet the infamous freedom fighter Otto – with a deleted scene suggesting that, while the film was causing outrage and offence, even more contentious content was lying on the cutting room floor.

In this episode, Michael reveals a song for Mr Creosote that was left out of The Meaning of Life, and a quiz from the Big Red Book which will test your knowledge of goats.

This programme contains rare material of historical interest, never heard before from the 2014 O2 Shows, including run-throughs of The Argument Sketch and a sensational duet between Eric Idle and Professor Stephen Hawking.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 6, 1997  — Earth: Final Conflict premiered. Based on ideas developed by Gene Roddenberry, it was produced under the guidance of his widow, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. It ran for five seasons. The ratings success of the show led to the development of other posthumous Roddenberry projects, most notably Andromeda

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 6, 1942 Britt Ekland, 77. She starred in The Wicker Man as Willow MacGregor, and appeared as a Bond girl, Goodnight, in The Man with the Golden Gun. She was also Queen Nyleptha in King Solomon’s Treasure based off the H. Rider Haggard novels. 
  • Born October 6, 1946 John C. Tibbetts, 73. A film critic, historian, author. He’s written such articles as “The Illustrating Man: The Screenplays of Ray Bradbury” and “Time on His Hands: The Fantasy Fiction of Jack Finney”. One of his two books is The Gothic Imagination: Conversations on Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction in the Media, the other being The Gothic Worlds of Peter Straub.
  • Born October 6, 1950 David Brin, 69. Author of several series including Existence (which I do not recognize), the Postman novel, and the Uplift series which is superb. I’ll admit that the book he could-wrote with Leah Wilson, King Kong Is Back! An Unauthorized Look at One Humongous Ape, tickles me.
  • Born October 6, 1955 Ellen Kushner, 64. If you’ve not read it, do so as her now sprawling Riverside seriesis amazing. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read all of it. And during the High Holy Days, do be sure to read The Golden Dreydl as it’s quite wonderful.
  • Born October 6, 1955 Donna White, 64. Academic who has written several works worth you knowing about — Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. Le Guin and the Critics and Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom.
  • Born October 6, 1963 Elisabeth Shue, 56. Best known as Jennifer, Marty McFly’s girlfriend, in Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III, she also had roles in Hollow Man and Piranha 3D.
  • Born October 6, 1986 Olivia Jo Thirlby, 33. She is best known for her roles as Natalie in Russian SF film The Darkest Hour and as Judge Cassandra Anderson in Dredd. And she was Holly in the supernatural thriller Above the Shadows

(9) COMIC SECTION.

  • Grant Snider shares a comic about The Book Fair.

(10) PLAYING THE JOKER. The Washington Post’s David Betancourt ranks the actors who have played the Joker, including Zach Galifiankis as Lego Joker.  While he admired Joaquin Phoenix, he ranked Phoenix third, behind Heath Ledger and the greatest Joker of all, Mark Hamill in Batman:  The Animated Series. “Our definitive ranking of the Jokers, from Jack Nicholson to Joaquin Phoenix”.

This week, along comes yet another Joker, Joaquin Phoenix, in the bat-villain’s self-titled movie, which earned the top prize at the Venice Film Festival and generally positive reviews, although there were a handful of harsh ones. In the era of ever-expanding superhero entertainment, it appears we’ll have a new Joker for every generation. There will never be a last laugh.

(11) DEMYSTIFYING SPIDER-HAM. Looper will be happy to explain to you “The untold truth of Spider-Ham”, which also requires that they dispose of a few popular misconceptions, beginning with —

…One of the more well-remembered scenes of 2007’s The Simpsons Movie features the clueless Homer Simpson doing something characteristically stupid and hilarious — holding the family’s pet pig Plopper upside down and forcing it to walk on the ceiling. Meanwhile, Homer sings to the tune of the old ’60s Spider-Man cartoon, “Spider-Pig, Spider-Pig, does whatever a Spider-Pig Does. Can he swing from a web? No, he can’t. He’s a pig.”

It would be understandable if, in light of this, you wondered if Marvel swiped the idea for Spider-Ham from The Simpsons Movie. But alas, it isn’t so. Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, pre-dates Homer Simpson’s Spider-Pig serenade by over 20 years, as he first appeared in 1983’s Marvel Tails #1. So in this is case — as opposed to just about every other example you can think of — the Ham came before the Pig.

(12) FROM PRUFROCK TO CASTLE ROCK. Brenna Ehrlich, in “Stephen King Is Quietly Enthralled By ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’” on CrimeReads, says that Stephen King loves the famous T.S. Eliot poem and quotes it many times in his novels.

…I first noticed King’s proclivity for Eliot when I delved into Pet Semetary in 2018. “Oh, do not ask what is it; let us go and make our visit,” Louis Creed tells himself as he recalls carrying the stiff body of his daughter’s cat Church to the magical burial ground. 

When I was a teen, that line was about possibility, in this context, though, it throbs with anxiety and horror. Creed doesn’t want to acknowledge what he did when he brought the moment “to its crisis,” when he “followed Victor to the sacred place,” as the Ramones put it. Church came back and now he owns that horror.

It was jarring to see my old friend Prufrock waving at me from one of the scariest books I have ever read….

(13) BEFORE YOU BUY. Looking for tons of book reviews? See the links at Friday’s Forgotten Books for October 4. These all were posted in the past week. The name of the reviewer comes first, then the work and author.

  • Patricia Abbott: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
  • Stacy Alesi: The I List: Fiction Reviews 1983-2013
  • Frank Babics: Starshine by Theodore Sturgeon
  • Mark Baker: O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton
  • Angie Barry: Bootlegger’s Daughter by Margaret Maron
  • Anne Beattie: “The Earliest Dreams” by Nancy Hale, American Mercury, April 1934, edited by H. L. Mencken
  • Brian Bigelow: Life Comes to Seathorpe by Neil Bell
  • Paul Bishop: A Mule for the Marquesa (aka The Professionals) by Frank O’Rourke
  • Les Blatt: Champagne for One by Rex Stout; The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories edited by Martin Edwards
  • Joachim Boaz: Xenogenesis: Tales of Space and Time by Miriam Allen deFord
  • Paul D. Brazill: GBH by Ted Lewis
  • Brian Busby: Kosygin is Coming (aka Russian Roulette) by Tom Ardies
  • Alice Chang: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Martin Edwards: Twisted Clay by Frank Walford
  • James Enge: The Deathworld Trilogy by Harry Harrison
  • Peter Enfantino: Atlas (proto-Marvel) horror comics, October 1952
  • Peter Enfantino and Jack Seabrook: DC war comics, October 1975
  • Will Errickson: Gene Lazuta’s horror novels; The Orpheus Process by Daniel H. Gower
  • José Ignacio Escribano: Bats in the Belfrey and other work by “E. C. R. Lorac” (Edith Caroline Rivett)
  • Curtis Evans: The Murder of the Fifth Columnist by Leslie Ford; “The Last of Mrs. Maybrick” and “The Ordeal of Florence Maybrick” by Hugh Wheeler
  • Olman Feelyus: The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes; She and Allan by H. Rider Haggard
  • Paul Fraser: New Worlds SF, October 1965, edited by Michael Moorcock
  • Barry Gardner: The Innocents by Richard Barre
  • John Grant: Shadow by Karin Alvtegen (translated by McKinley Burnett); The Crimes of Jordan Wise by Bill Pronzini
  • Jason Half: X v. Rex (aka The Mystery of the Dead Police) by “Martin Porlock” (Philip MacDonald)
  • Aubrey Hamilton: Not Dead, Only Resting by Simon Brett; Dead Anyway by Christopher Knopf
  • Bev Hankins: The Restless Corpse by Alan Pruitt; The Mind of Mr. Reeder (aka The Murder Book of J. G. Reeder) by Edgar Wallace
  • Rich Horton: The Marquis and Pamela by Edward H. Cooper; In the Courts of the Crimson Kings and short stories by S. M. Stirling; “The Engine of Desire” and other stories by William Barton
  • Jerry House: “Crime on the Coast” (News Chronicle, 1954) and “No Flowers by Request” (Daily Sketch, 1953) by “the Detection Club” (the first by John Dickson Carr, Valerie White, Laurence Meynell, Joan Fleming, Michael Cronin. and Elizabeth Ferrars, the second by Dorothy L. Sayers, “E. C. R. Lorac”, Gladys Mitchell, “Anthony Gilbert”, and “Christianna Brand”)
  • Kate Jackson: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
  • Tracy K: Heartshot by Steven F. Havill
  • Colman Keane: Grinder by Mike Knowles; The Hard Cold Shoulder by L. A. Sykes
  • George Kelley: The Super Hugos, annotated by Isaac Asimov, Charles Sheffield, Edie Stern and Joe Siclari, et al.
  • Joe Kenney: Black Massacre by “Lionel Derrick” (Mark Roberts); From Russia, with Love by Ian Fleming
  • Rob Kitchin: The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonio Hodgson
  • B. V. Lawson: Is Skin Deep, Is Fatal by H. R. F. Keating
  • Des/D. F. Lewis: Vastarien, Summer 2019, edited by Jon Padgett
  • Evan Lewis: “Introducing the Author” by Robert Leslie Bellem, Fantastic Adventures, July 1941, edited by Raymond Palmer; “The Cutie Caper”, written by “Sam Hill” and art by Harry Lucey, Sam Hill, Private Eye #1, 1950
  • Steve Lewis: “Multiple Submissions” by Catherine L. Stanton and “A Deceitful Way of Dying” by Dick Stodgill, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, September 1989, edited by Cathleen Jordan; Footsteps in the Night by C. Fraser-Simpson; “Gone Fishing” by Jim Davis, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, November 2012, edited by Janet Hutchings
  • Gideon Marcus: Analog Science Fact->Science Fiction, September 1964, edited by John W. Campbell, Jr.
  • Todd Mason: The Year’s Best Horror Stories annual, edited by Richard Davis, Gerald W. Page and Karl Edward Wagner; US Best of the Year Fiction Annuals published in 1979; Harlan Ellison and divers hands: Partners in Wonder
  • Francis M. Nevins: The Sins of the Fathers by Lawrence Block
  • John F. Norris: Dead to the World by David X. Manners
  • John O’Neill: The World of Science Fiction: The History of a Subculture by “Lester Del Rey” (Leonard Knapp)
  • Matt Paust: Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck and Edward E. Ricketts
  • James Reasoner: Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (translated by Stuart Gilbert)
  • Richard Robinson: Norman Rockwell: 332 Magazine Covers, edited and annotated by Christopher Finch
  • Sandra Ruttan: Wilted Lillies by Kelli Owen; Kelli Owen interview
  • Gerard Saylor: Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score graphically adapted from The Score by “Richard Stark” (Donald Westlake) by Darwyn Cooke
  • Steven H Silver: Donald A. Wollheim
  • Kerrie Smith: Sleeping Partner by James Humphreys
  • Kevin Tipple: The Bottom by Howard Owen
  • “TomCat”: The Tattoo Murder Case by Akimitsu Takagi (translated by Deborah Bolivar Boehm); The Spiked Lion by Brian Flynn; “The Stalker in the Attic” by “Edogawa Rampo” (Taro Hirai), Shin-Seinen, August 1925
  • David Vineyard: Lady Macbeth by Nicholas Freeling
  • Bill Wallace: You Can’t Win by Jack Black; Weird Tales, March 1926, edited by Farnsworth Wright
  • Mark Yon: Science Fantasy, September/October 1964, edited by Kyril Bonfiglioli

(14) PULLMAN SERIES. Trailer for HBO’s His Dark Materials: Season 1, premiering November 4.

His Dark Materials stars Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Adapting Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy of the same name, which is considered a modern masterpiece of imaginative fiction, the first season follows Lyra, a seemingly ordinary but brave young woman from another world. Her search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and becomes a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. As she journeys through the worlds, including our own, Lyra meets Will, a determined and courageous boy. Together, they encounter extraordinary beings and dangerous secrets, with the fate of both the living?—?and the dead?—?in their hands.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/5/19 You Don’t Scroll On Pixelman’s Cape, You Don’t File In The Wind

(1) DID AMAZON CHEAT? The American Booksellers Association is on the warpath: “ABA Condemns Amazon for Breaking ‘Testaments’ Embargo”.

The fallout from Amazon violating Penguin Random House’s September 10 embargo of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood continues to roil the industry.

Late yesterday, the American Booksellers Association released a strongly worded statement condemning Amazon. The ABA disclosed that it had contacted PRH “to express our strong disappointment regarding this flagrant violation of the agreed protocol in releasing this book to the public.”

In a statement released to PW late Thursday morning, Amazon acknowledged it had unintentionally shipped some books ahead of the sale date. “Due to a technical error a small number of customers were inadvertently sent copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments,” the statement said. “We apologize for this error; we value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers.”

Before the broken embargo, the ABA was already working on initiatives that would put pressure on Amazon. In an organization-wide newsletter the ABA sent last week, ABA president Oren Teicher said the group is continuing its ongoing discussions with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission about looking into whether Amazon is violating antitrust laws. (ABA executives were in Washington, D.C., yesterday, when the news broke about Amazon’s violation of the PRH embargo.)

…The Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, NY, created a digital postcard that it posted on its website and on social media with the heading, “Loyal Customers and Supporters of Independent Bookstores: A Request.” In it, the store said Amazon had shipped pre-orders of The Testaments to customers a week early, in clear violation of the “legally binding” embargo that all retailers had to sign.

The store went to ask customers to “please pre-order your own copy at your local or nearby independent bookstore” or to visit a story “on Tuesday, Sept. 10, the day the book legally is on sale.” The post closed with a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale, the bestselling prequel to The Testaments: “Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

(2) MEANWHILE IN VIDEOLAND. The question is — “Handmaid’s Tale: Was it right to take the series beyond the book?” Warning for those who click through — Excerpt ends at point where spoilers start.

The second series of the Handmaid’s Tale came to an end on Sunday night.

Writing in iNews, Mark Butler calls the finale “a nail-biting conclusion to the season, with a controversial twist”, but Vanity Fair’s Sonia Saraiya termed the climax “a singularly frustrating end to a season that, despite its high points, often struggled to find its purpose”.

The series went beyond Margaret Atwood’s original novel – with her blessing – but how well did the show do in extending the novel beyond its intended lifecycle and how difficult is it to go beyond the book of an acclaimed author like Atwood?

“The novel ends quite ambiguously,” says Julia Raeside, who has written The Guardian’s episode-by-episode guide to series two of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Speaking to BBC News, she adds: “It’s really interesting when someone takes up the mantle of an unfinished story. If they’ve got something to say about what happens when you repress women for so long, then it’s something I welcome.”

The second series has been criticised by some for its brutal scenes, with some viewers switching off entirely due to what’s been termed by some as “needless torture porn”.

“I think the first couple of episodes were slightly misjudged,” says Raeside, “and I wonder how much brutality Atwood really agreed with.”

(3) GREAT LINES FROM SFF. Discover Sci-Fi is running a poll: “What are the best one-liners from sci-fi books?” There are 13 choices. I’d say about half of them shouldn’t even be under consideration. And it doesn’t include one of my all-time favorites, the line that opens E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman Series –

“Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other.”

I’m writing it in. So there.

(4) GAME HUGO? The Hugo Book Club Blog, in “Game Over”, casts doubt on the qualifications and capability of Worldcon members to choose a winner of a proposed Best Game Hugo. Here are some of the reasons they say the proposal should be rejected:

Ira Alexandre, who has been the driving force in arguing for a Best Game Hugo, has done their research. They looked at the amount of gaming content at Worldcons, examined the burgeoning field of interactive works, and made some significant arguments in favour of the suggested award.

But none of their work addresses the fact that gaming has never been a primary focus of Worldcon. Alexandre’s number-crunching even showed that the amount of gaming-related programming has never exceeded nine per cent of the convention — and is usually much smaller. We would suggest that the majority of Hugo voters are unlikely to have played a wide-enough and diverse-enough range of games and interactive experiences to make adequate nominations in a category dedicated to gaming. 


It’s already difficult enough for Hugo voters to get through a voting package with six works on the shortlist in 15 categories. Games and Interactive Works individually take up to 150 hours to play through – with a short time between the announcement of the shortlist and the voting deadline, it would be difficult to play through, and be able to adequately assess, even one such game.

(5) A CAT BY ANY OTHER NAME. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.]  Not sure if this is newsworthy, but a cheap laugh for others at my own expense is surely a good thing.

One of our rescue cats, Baldur, who we’ve had for about two years, came down very sick and has spent the last week at the vet’s. Recovering well, thankfully, but in the process we discovered something surprising about “him”. Tweeted it here:

In some follow-up tweets, I discussed a possible renaming for our newly-female cat:

Hope the tweets are amusing. I wouldn’t say “amused” for myself, but certainly bemused.

(6) SUPERBRAWL. Alyssa Wong has written all three issues of these Future Fight Firsts comics from Marvel.

Introduced in the Marvel Future Fight mobile game, White Fox, Luna Snow, and Crescent & Io recently made their Marvel comic book debut in War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas and now, because you demanded it, all three will have their origin stories revealed in Marvel Future Fight Firsts! Check out these gorgeous covers by In-Hyuck Lee and prepare yourselves for an up close look at these new fan-favorite characters!

Marvel Future Fight Firsts arrives in October in comic shops, on the Marvel Comics App, and on Marvel.com.

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: WHITE FOX #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by KEVIN LIBRANDA
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: LUNA SNOW #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by GANG HYUCK LIM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: CRESCENT AND IO

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by JON LAM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

(7) POLLY WANNA CONVERSATION? “The Great Silence” by Ted Chiang in Nautilus is a short story excerpted from Chiang’s new collection Exhalation.

The humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe.

But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices?

We’re a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?

(8) SOLUTION UNSATISFACTORY. Randall Munroe will soon be bringing us How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems. His book tour started this week.

For any task you might want to do, there’s a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally bad that no one would ever try it. How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems is a guide to the third kind of approach. It’s the world’s least useful self-help book.

It describes how to cross a river by removing all the water, outlines some of the many uses for lava around the home, and teaches you how to use experimental military research to ensure that your friends will never again ask you to help them move.

With text, charts, and stick-figure illustrations, How To walks you through useless but entertaining approaches to common problems, using bad advice to explore some of the stranger and more interesting science and technology underlying the world around us.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 5, 1936 Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played twin androids in I, Mudd, a classic Trek episode. Both appeared as policewomen in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. (Died 2009 and 2005.)
  • Born September 5, 1939 George Lazenby, 80. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film. 
  • Born September 5, 1939 Donna Anderson, 80. She was Mary Holmes in On The Beach, based on Neal Shute’s novel. She also appeared in, and I kid you not, Sinderella and the Golden Bra and Werewolves on Wheels
  • Born September 5, 1940 Raquel Welch, 79. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though her appearance in One Million Years B.C. with her leather bikini got her more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in BewitchedSabrina the Teenage WitchThe Muppet ShowLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy
  • Born September 5, 1951 Michael Keaton, 68. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! He also has the title roles of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. His most recent role is The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Born September 5, 1964 Stephen Greenhorn, 55. Scriptwriter who has written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series with Doctor Who star Alex Kingston. 
  • Born September 5, 1973 Rose McGowan, 46. Best known as Paige Matthews on Charmed. She played two different roles in the Grindhouse franchise, Cherry Darling in  Planet Terror and Pam in  Death Proof. She was Miss Kitty in Monkeybone, a very weird film indeed.

(10) MYTHBUSTING. The results of test purport to explain “Why phones that secretly listen to us are a myth”.

A mobile security company has carried out a research investigation to address the popular conspiracy theory that tech giants are listening to conversations.

The internet is awash with posts and videos on social media where people claim to have proof that the likes of Facebook and Google are spying on users in order to serve hyper-targeted adverts.

Videos have gone viral in recent months showing people talking about products and then ads for those exact items appear online.

Now, cyber security-specialists at Wandera have emulated the online experiments and found no evidence that phones or apps were secretly listening.

(11) IN A SNAP, IT’S GONE. “Trolls cause shutdown of official Jeremy Renner app” – BBC has the story.

Superhero Hawkeye may have helped defeat Thanos – but trolls have proved too tough a foe for him to best.

Actor Jeremy Renner, who plays Marvel’s eagle-eyed hero, has shut down his app after it was hijacked and used to harass people.

Abuse and harassment mushroomed after trolls found a way to impersonate the actor and others on the Jeremy Renner Official app.

Renner apologised for the shutdown in a post explaining what had happened.

Identity crisis

Created in 2017, the app, on which Renner regularly posted exclusive images and content and occasionally messaged users, also operated as a community hub where fans could post their own stories and communicate with each other.

In his explanatory post, Renner blamed “clever individuals” who had found a way to pose as other users.

(12) FRIENDLY (?) NIEGHBORHOOD SPIDER-DRONE. What flies through the air and snares its enemies in webs? CNN has the answer: “China says its drone can hunt like Spiderman”.

               China says it has developed a new hunter drone that can disable other drones — or even small aircraft — by firing a 16-square-meter (172 square feet) web at them.

               “Caught by the web, the hostile drone should lose power and fall to ground,” said a report on the Chinese military’s English-language website.

               Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, the drone can work alone but also can integrate with China’s defense system for small, slow and low-flying targets, according to the report.

The hexacopter drone can also perform surveillance and reconnaissance, it said.

(13) NECRONOMICON. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda gives a con report for Necronomicon, including the panels he enjoyed and the art and books he brought home: “Dispatch from a ‘horror’ convention: It began in a dark, candlelit room .?.?.”

… Because NecronomiCon runs a half dozen simultaneous tracks, you can’t help but miss wonderful-sounding panels and events. On Friday alone I would have liked to have heard “Unsung Authors,” “Pulp History,” “Providence in Weird Fiction,” “Children’s Horror Anthologies of the 1960s and 70s,” and a discussion of the lushly decadent fantasist Tanith Lee, which featured, among others, her bibliographer Allison Rich, science fiction writer and critic Paul Di Filippo and popular Washington author Craig Laurance Gidney.

Still, along with my friend Robert Knowlton — a Toronto book collector who has read more weird fiction than anyone else alive — I did catch the program devoted to the specialty publisher Arkham House. Its participants included Donald Sidney-Fryer, who in his youth got to know that most poetical of Weird Tales writers, Clark Ashton Smith. Donaldo, as he likes to be called, generously inscribed my copy of “The Sorcerer Departs,” his memoir of that friendship. Not surprisingly, among the many films shown during the con was Darin Coelho Spring’s superb documentary “Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams.”…

(14) PYTHON RECOVERIES. Not exactly SF but Monty Python does a surreal riff. The BBC in a two part series of just 15 minutes are revealing newly discovered material from the cutting room floor — Monty Python at 50: The Self-Abasement Tapes.

Part one here.

On the 50th anniversary of Python, Michael Palin hunts down lost sketches. This programme contains material never heard before, including the infamous Fat Ignorant Bastards sketch.

(15) DRESS FOR EXCESS. Jezebel claims “The Woman Who Wore a T-Rex Costume to Her Sister’s Wedding Is the Best Person in America”. Photo at the site.

…As chill as many soon-to-be-married couples pretend to be, weddings are all about control. This is why bridesmaids are forced to purchase matching dresses that make them look like bipedal draperies, often to the tune of several hundred dollars. But this wedding season, one woman had the courage to say “no” to wrapping herself in an ill-fitting puff of chiffon for her sister’s nuptials. Instead she went with an outfit she loved, something she knew she’d wear again and again: A T-rex costume….

(16) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Live Proms from the Royal Albert Hall, London: London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames in music from Sci-Fi films. On the BBC Sounds website: “Prom 27: The Sound of Space: Sci-Fi Film Music”. You can listen anytime.

A Late Night Prom with a futuristic spin brings together some of the best sci-fi film music. Excerpts from cult soundtracks come together with recent works by Hans Zimmer and Mica Levi. The award winning London Contemporary Orchestra – whose collaborators include Radiohead, Goldfrapp and Steve Reich – perform music from Under the Skin, Interstellar and the recent Netflix series The Innocents, among other titles, as well as from Alien: Covenant, whose soundtrack the LCO recorded.

  • Steven Price: Gravity 
  • Mica Levi: Under the Skin 
  • John Murphy: Sunshine 
  • Wendy Carlos: Tron (Scherzo) 
  • Carly Paradis: The Innocents 
  • Clint Mansell: Moon 
  • Louis and Bebe Barron: Forbidden Planet (Main Titles – Overture) 
  • Jed Kurzel: Alien: Covenant Jòhann Jòhannsson arr. 
  • Anthony Weeden: Arrival (Suite No 1) 
  • Hans Zimmer: Interstellar 

(17) SWEET. The Harvard Gazette calls it “Pancreas on a chip”.

By combining two powerful technologies, scientists are taking diabetes research to a whole new level. In a study led by Harvard University’s Kevin Kit Parker and published in the journal Lab on a Chip on Aug. 29, microfluidics and human, insulin-producing beta cells have been integrated in an islet-on-a-chip. The new device makes it easier for scientists to screen insulin-producing cells before transplanting them into a patient, test insulin-stimulating compounds, and study the fundamental biology of diabetes.

The design of the islet-on-a-chip was inspired by the human pancreas, in which islands of cells (“islets”) receive a continuous stream of information about glucose levels from the bloodstream and adjust their insulin production as needed.

“If we want to cure diabetes, we have to restore a person’s own ability to make and deliver insulin,” explained Douglas Melton, the Xander University Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology and co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). “Beta cells, which are made in the pancreas, have the job of measuring sugar and secreting insulin, and normally they do this very well. But in diabetes patients these cells can’t function properly. Now, we can use stem cells to make healthy beta cells for them. But like all transplants, there is a lot involved in making sure that can work safely.”

Before transplanting beta cells into a patient, they must be tested to see whether they are functioning properly. The current method for doing this is based on technology from the 1970s: giving the cells glucose to elicit an insulin response, collecting samples, adding reagents, and taking measurements to see how much insulin is present in each one. The manual process takes so long to run and interpret that many clinicians give up on it altogether.

The new, automated, miniature device gives results in real time, which can speed up clinical decision-making.

(18) BUT IT’S NOT RIGHT. BBC reports “Left-handed DNA found – and it changes brain structure”.

Scientists have found the first genetic instructions hardwired into human DNA that are linked to being left-handed.

The instructions also seem to be heavily involved in the structure and function of the brain – particularly the parts involved in language.

The team at the University of Oxford say left-handed people may have better verbal skills as a result.

But many mysteries remain regarding the connection between brain development and the dominant hand.

(19) HAVING A MELTDOWN. Global Meltdown:My Ice on YouTube explains what happens when the last man on Earth stands on the last piece of ice.

[Thanks to Bruce Arthurs, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 8/23/19 Pixels Of Lily Help Me Scroll At Night

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share subcontinental cuisine with Lucy A. Snyder in episode 103 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Lucy A. Snyder

Lucy A. Snyder’s a seven-time Bram Stoker Award finalist and a five-time winner, including for her first novel Spellbent in 2009, and most recently for her collection While the Black Stars Burn in 2016. She has published more than 80 short stories in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Strange Horizons, Weird Tales, and more. Her nonfiction book Shooting Yourself in the Head for Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide. was published in 2014. She was a Bram Stoker Award nominee at this year’s StokerCon for her collection Garden of Eldritch Delights.

We took off for lunch one afternoon to Punjab Cafe, which has been operating in Quincy since 2000, and is by all accounts the best Indian restaurant in the area. They had a tasty looking buffet option available, but we ordered a la carte instead, because a buffet is definitely not the way you want to go when you’re trying to maintain the flow of a conversation and are both wired to a recorder.

We discussed how Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time made her want to become a writer, the rare bad advice she got from one of her Clarion instructors, the way Hunter S. Thompson and Truman Capote taught her about consensual truth, how she learned to embrace her uneasy relationship with horror, the time Tim Powers said of one of her early stories that “this is an example of everything that’s wrong with modern science fiction,” why if you want to write flash fiction you should learn to write poetry, what you should consider if you’re starting a new writing workshop, how best to prepare for public readings of emotionally difficult stories, the way she used Kickstarter to continue her Jessie Shimmer series (plus everything you need to know to start your own campaign), what it was like writing in the Doctor Who and X-Files universes, and much, much more.

(2) CAT’S GOT HIS TONGUE. Another work of feline genius! “On Writing by Timothy the Talking Cat” at Camestros Felapton.

…Being a writer is a lot like being on a roller coaster. For a start, if you are a small child or a cat some spotty gatekeeper won’t let you be a writer. “You have to be this tall to be a writer!” they say. “Keep you arms inside the carriage while writing is in motion” they say. Ignore these self-appointed petty tyrants in the fairground of publishing! You only need TWO things to be a writer 1. the willpower 2. the determination and 3. a valid ticket from the ticket booth….

(3) KEEPS ON BURNIN’. Slate’s Evan Urquhart brings history up to date in “Gamergate Never Died”.

… Last but not least there’s Gamergate itself, which has survived not just as an influence on current events and a template for subsequent harassment campaigns, but in something close to its initial form: The Gamergate subreddit is still very active. Its participants still mob journalists who report critically on them and games. So “gamers” didn’t die, and neither did socially conscious games journalism, nor efforts to increase diversity in games. Even individual Gamergate targets like Quinn, Sarkeesian, and others continue to work in their respective fields. But neither, it seems, did Gamergate.

Recent topics on the Gamergate subreddit—in 2019!—include lists of video games and game development studios to avoid because they pander to “social justice warriors” and complaints about Kotaku’s coverage of diversity in games and the industry. There are posts in the past month continuing to detail, and criticize, everything Quinn does. The lesson for all of us is that reactionary ideas and movements and cults of personality—ones that oppose progress and equality—won’t simply disappear even if they “lose,” even with the passage of time. Reporters who write about Gamergate—or any of the topics it reacted against—can still expect a brigade of hundreds of negative replies on social media. It hasn’t died. It never ends….

(4) SF DISTINCTIVES. John Plotz interviews “Samuel Delany on Capitalism, Racism, and Science Fiction” at Public Books.

JP: This focus on the technical aspects of writing reminds me of what you’ve said before about the sentence: that the sentence is the most important unit of writing for you.

SD: For me, yes. I do go along with Gertrude Stein, in that the paragraph is the emotional unit of the English language. It’s also a point about the sentence instead of the word.

JP: Is that how you think of your own writing? Do you think of it as sentence-making?

SD: Basically, yes.

JP: And is that different for science fiction, versus fantasy and other kinds of genres?

SD: No, that’s not where the difference lies; I think all writing requires that. But I do think science fiction allows some unique combinations of words. It’s a genre that is distinguished, because certain things can happen in the language of science fiction that don’t happen anywhere else. Science fiction tends to take the literal meaning. If it has a choice between a figurative meaning and a literal meaning, the literal meaning is always available. Her world exploded. In science fiction, it’s not an emotionally fuzzy metaphor. Instead, it can literally mean a planet belonging to a woman blew up. As in, Princess Leia: Her world exploded.

(5) TREND INTERRUPTED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says that  “In The Brisk Horror-Comedy ‘Ready Or Not,’ Bluebloods Are Out For Blood”.

Call it The Film About Rich People Hunting Poor People … That Lived.

But that’s a mouthful. Maybe The Hunt Strikes Back; it’s pithier.

Just two weeks ago, Ready or Not seemed poised to represent a second data point in 2019’s “Murderous, Mansion-Dwelling One-Percenters In Film” trend graph, preceded by Craig Zobel’s “blue bloods vs. red staters” thriller The Hunt and followed in November by Rian Johnson’s latter-day Clue riff, Knives Out.

But with The Hunt withdrawn from release, Ready or Not assumes pride of place … albeit in the doggiest of days of the dead of August. And what should have blossomed into a delicate arc describing an emerging cinematic trend (and launching a thousand thinkpieces in the process) instead reverts to a flat line connecting two 2019 movies that both feature 1. rich jerks wielding bladed weapons in elegantly appointed rooms and 2. dumbwaiters, probably. One assumes.

(6) CUTTING THE WEB. The Hollywood Reporter chronicles “How ‘Spider-Man’ Divorce Shows Ugly Side of Fandom”.

…While both studios should be enjoying a victory lap after a successful summer, with Disney, hot off of their Marvel Studios Comic-Con announcements, set to make D23 this weekend’s event, and Sony releasing an extended cut of Far From Home over labor day weekend. Instead, Spider-Man has become victim of a messy custody battle that has dominated social media and shown just how ugly Disney fandom can get with #SaveSpiderMan and #BoycottSony hashtags trending this week.

Battle lines have been drawn on social media, and by way of willful ignorance on the parts of adults online behaving like children, Sony has been made the bad guy for refusing to give up its asset. While details surrounding Disney and Sony’s split have varied, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the breakup comes down to money. Disney, already possessing the merchandizing rights for Spider-Man and benefiting from the use of the character in the MCU, sought at least a 30 percent stake in future Spider-Man grosses. Others have reported figures as high as 50 percent. However you cut it, those numbers are a significant uptick from Disney’s previous 5 percent stake. It’s also worth noting that while Sony’s Spider-Man films may receive an uptick in box office grosses for their MCU connection, the studio doesn’t receive a share of the grosses for the Marvel Studios films in which Holland’s Spider-Man appears.

(7) ALL IN THE FAMILEE. TMZ, in “Stan Lee’s Daughter Sides W/Sony Over Disney in SPIDER-MAN/MCU SPLIT,” says that Stan Lee’s daughter, J.C. Lee, approves of Sony withdrawing Spider-Man because “Marvel and Disney seeking total control of my father’s creations must be checked and balanced by others.”

…She goes on … “Whether it’s Sony or someone else’s, the continued evolution of Stan’s characters and his legacy deserves multiple points of view.”“When my father died, no one from Marvel or Disney reached out to me. From day one, they have commoditized my father’s work and never shown him or his legacy any respect or decency.” JC’s parting words … “In the end, no one could have treated my father worse than Marvel and Disney’s executives.” Ouch!!!

(8) AVENGERSLAND. Cnet took notes: “Disneyland’s ‘Avengers Campus’ theme park unveiled at D23: Here’s everything we know” Tagline: “At least Spider-Man will definitely be involved with this one.” Disney’s Paris and Hong Kong parks also have MCU attractions on the way.

Disney finally unveiled new details about its new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)-themed area arriving at Disneyland at its D23 expo on Thursday. Disney had originally announced the new superhero areas coming to three Disney parks in March last year, dreamed up in partnership with Marvel Studios.

Here’s what we know so far.

Disneyland, California

“We’re building an immersive super hero-themed land at Disney California Adventure to enable our guests to join the Avengers to save the world,” Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said at D23 Expo, ComicBook reported.

The Avengers Campus will open in summer, 2020.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 23, 1965  — In the United Kingdom, Dr. Who And The Daleks was released which starred Peter Cushing as Doctor Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 23, 1869 Edgar Lee Masters. Author of the Spoon River Anthology which, since each poem is by someone who’s dead, should count as genre, shouldn’t it?  (Died 1950.)
  • Born August 23, 1927 Peter Wyngarde. Not a lead actor in any genre series but interesting none-the-less. For instance, he shows up in the two Sherlock Holmes series, one with Peter Cushing and one with Jeremy Brett. He’s one in a series of Doctor Who with the Fifth Doctor and he faces off against the classic Avenger pairing of Steed and Peel. He shows up as Number Two in The Prisoner as well. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 23, 1929 Vera Miles, 90. Lila Crane in Psycho which she reprised in Psycho II. On a much more family friendly note, she’s Silly Hardy in Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle, the very last of the twelve Tarzan pictures released by RKO. She has done one-offs on Buck Rogers in Twentieth Century, Fantasy Island, The Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock Presents, I Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 
  • Born August 23, 1939 Barbara Eden, 80. Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie. Her first genre role however was on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Lt. Cathy Connors though she’d show up a few years later as Greta Heinrich on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Some thirty-five years after I Dream of Jeannie went off the air, she had a recurring as Aunt Irma on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch
  • Born August 23, 1944 Karl Alexander, 75. Author of Time after Time, which was filmed directed and written by Nicholas Meyer. Cast includes Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen and David Warner. Sequel of Jaclyn the Ripper is not as well known. 
  • Born August 23, 1963 Ed Gale, 56. Ok I now introduce you to the man inside of Howard the Duck. (Sorry JJ.) Well someone has to play that crappy role. And did you know that it’s been retooled to be called by the studio, and I kid you not, Howard: A New Breed of Hero? Did you know Seth Green voices Howard the Duck in Guardians of The Galaxy?
  • Born August 23, 1965 Chris Bachalo, 54. Illustrator well known for his work on DC Comics’ Shade, the Changing Man and Gaiman’s two Death series, Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life
  • Born August 23, 1970 River Phoenix. The Young Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was his best known genre role. He was also Wolfgang Müller in Explorers, and he’s Talbot Roe in Silent Tongue, a horror film most likely you’ve never heard of. (Died 1993.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John A Arkansawyer sent the link to Wondermark with a note, “I’m surprised this technology was never used during the glory days of the APA era.”

(12) WILSON LEAVES WW. ComicBook.com is there when “Wonder Woman Writer Announces She’s Leaving the Title”.

Today marks the end of an era for DC’s Wonder Woman, as G. Willow Wilson is set to exit the title in the coming months. On Thursday, Wilson took to Twitter to confirm the news, citing that the exit will be so she can schedule out time for a “bucket-list-dream-project”.

Wilson also confirmed that Steve Orlando will be taking over the title, something that had previously been hinted at in DC’s solicitations….

(13) SHIRLEY JACKSON. LitHub does a post of clippings of quotes from “11 Famous Writers on the Genius and Influence of Shirley Jackson”.

Victor LaValle:

I’ve probably reread The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson more than any other book. It’s not her greatest, that would be We Have Always Lived at the Castle, but I got to it when I was a teenager and so it entered my bloodstream early. I read it three or four times in high school alone.

There are lots of reasons why I love it, Jackson is an underrated literary stylist, and I love the way she loathes human beings. It’s cruel, but it’s almost always funny, too. Misanthropy always goes down better with a sense of humor. But maybe the reason I most love that book is for the house itself. Jackson does a wondrous job of animating Hill House without ever really answering the question of whether its truly haunted or merely haunted by the imagination of a lonely young woman.

(14) HISTORY. “Life of Brian: The most blasphemous film ever?” What are the other contenders?

Forty years after Life of Brian was first released, Nicholas Barber looks at why the Monty Python film was banned – and went on to become a box office hit.

It may not be true that all publicity is good publicity, but in the case of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which was released 40 years ago, some of the bad publicity was heaven-sent. The comedy team’s irreverent Biblical romp had been due to open on 200 screens across the US, but after various religious groups protested against it, the number of screens was tripled. “They actually made me rich,” said John Cleese of the protesters on one American talk show. “I feel we should send them a crate of champagne or something.”

The idea for Life of Brian came about when the team was promoting its previous film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Eric Idle joked that their next project would be called “Jesus Christ: Lust For Glory”, and his team-mates realised that no one had ever made a comedy about the Messiah. Initially, they planned to lampoon Jesus himself, but the more they read up on him, the less keen they were. “It was quite obvious that there was very little to ridicule in Jesus’s life, and therefore we were onto a loser,” said Michael Palin in 1979. “Jesus was a very straight, direct man making good sense, so we decided it would be a very shallow film if it was just about.”

They moved onto the character of Brian, a 13th disciple who never made it into the Bible because he always arrived five minutes late and missed the miracles. But they eventually settled on the premise that the hapless Brian (Graham Chapman) wouldn’t have any connection with Jesus at all; he would be someone who happened to live in Roman-occupied Judea at the same time, and who was mistaken for a Messiah by the fanatical masses.

The Pythons’ satire wouldn’t target Jesus or his teachings, instead caricaturing political militants, credulous crowds, the appeal of throwing stones at people, the complexities of Latin grammar, and the difficulties of being a tyrant when you’ve got a speech impediment. “I thought we’d been quite good,” said Idle in Robert Sellers’ behind-the-scenes book, Very Naughty Boys. “We’d avoided being specifically rude to specific groups.”

(15) PRESENT. “Hail Satan?: The Satanists battling for religious freedom” – BBC has the story.

Everything you know about Satanism is wrong.

At least that’s what a new documentary about the Satanic Temple could be about to prove.

Despite the similarity of the name, the Temple is different to The Church of Satan, established in 1966 by chat show circuit celebrity Anton LaVey in San Francisco, California.

Human sacrifice? Wrong. Blood drinking? Wrong. Black Mass? Well, sort of right.

The Temple was founded in 2013 with a mission statement “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will”.

Hail Satan? directed by US film-maker Penny Lane, follows the Temple’s attempts to curtail what they see as the encroachment of Christianity on US life through its growing political influence….

(16) UNDERWORLDS. Alix Nathan looks beneath the surface in “The Art of Subterranean Fiction” at CrimeReads.

…Perhaps the most famous novel of the subterranean genre is Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, in which Verne’s hero, Professor Lidenbrock, and his nephew, Axel, believe that there are volcanic tubes leading to the earth’s centre. Verne is a great story-teller and the adventures of these two very different characters and their guide Hans, involve natural dangers like running out of water and deadly storms as well as encounters with creatures from a far distant past.

Although there’s no actual time travel, Verne’s underworld seems located in prehistory, where everything is gigantic, whether it be insects, mushrooms or petrified trees; where an Icthyosaurus wins a battle with a Plesioraurus. The travellers’ most terrifying experience is an encounter with an enormous prehistoric man, all of 12 feet tall, watching over a herd of huge mastodons….

(17) D23 NEWS. SYFY Wire shares some of the exhibits from D23: “Disney unveils first look at Monsters at Work, Forky shorts, and new Phineas & Ferb film at D23”.

…The monsters aren’t the only Pixar creations headed to Disney+ for new adventures. Toy Story 4‘s Forky, the fan-favorite piece of trash who became a toy, will return in a new series of short films called Forky Asks a Question, starring Tony Hale reprising his role from the film. Fans in attendance at the presentation got a sneak peek of the first short, which features Forky talking to Hamm the Piggy Bank about the concept of money. That clip hasn’t landed online yet, but we’ve got the poster for the shorts right here:

(18) MARVEL STUDIOS UNVEILINGS. The Hollywood Reporter also picked up some news at D23: “Marvel Unveils 3 New Disney+ Shows Including ‘She-Hulk’ and ‘Moon Knight'”.

Kevin Feige also revealed new details for ‘WandaVision’ and ‘Falcon & The Winter Soldier.’ Marvel Studios confirmed three new series in the works for Disney+ at D23: She Hulk, Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel.

She-Hulk — AKA attorney Jennifer Walters, cousin to Bruce Banner, whose blood transfusion was responsible for her powers — first appeared in 1980’s The Savage She-Hulk No. 1, and was the last major Marvel character co-created by Stan Lee. After her original series ended after two years, she became a member of both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four as the character developed more of a distinct personality from her male counterpart, gaining a stronger sense of humor and intelligence and deciding that she preferred being super-strong and green permanently — or, at least, as much as possible. (Unlike the male Hulk, She-Hulk traditionally maintains her smarts and personality when Hulked out.)

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

Pixel Scroll 7/24/19 Credentials Asleep On The Shoulder Of John Scalzi

(1) RUTGER HAUER DIES. Variety pays tribute: “Rutger Hauer, ‘Blade Runner’ Co-Star, Dies at 75”.

Rutger Hauer, the versatile Dutch leading man of the ’70s who went on star in the 1982 “Blade Runner” as Roy Batty, died July 19 at his home in the Netherlands after a short illness. He was 75.

Hauer’s agent, Steve Kenis, confirmed the news and said that Hauer’s funeral was held Wednesday.

His most cherished performance came in a film that was a resounding flop on its original release. In 1982, he portrayed the murderous yet soulful Roy Batty, leader of a gang of outlaw replicants, opposite Harrison Ford in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi noir opus “Blade Runner.” The picture became a widely influential cult favorite, and Batty proved to be Hauer’s most indelible role.

More recently, he appeared in a pair of 2005 films: as Cardinal Roark in “Sin City,” and as the corporate villain who Bruce Wayne discovers is running the Wayne Corp. in Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins.”

… Hauer increasingly turned to action-oriented parts in the ‘80s: He toplined the big-budget fantasy “Ladyhawke” (1985), reteamed with fellow Hollywood transplant Verhoeven in the sword-and-armor epic “Flesh & Blood” (1985), starred as a psychotic killer in “The Hitcher” (1986), and took Steve McQueen’s shotgun-toting bounty hunter role in a modern reboot of the TV Western “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1986).

WIRED kicks off its collection of memories with the iconic speech: “Remembering Rutger Hauer, Black-Armored Knight of the Genre”.

Let’s get the monologue on the table, first thing, because he wrote it himself, and it’s brilliant:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

That’s Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner, playing the artificial person Roy Batty in his death scene…

(2) ACCESSIBLE GAMING. The Mary Sue has discovered “The Surprising Ways Blind Players Have Made Games Like Dungeons & Dragons Accessible”.

… Then, in 2017, a friend introduced me to Roll20, an online platform that serves as a digital tabletop, and everything changed. On a computer, I have the power to alter my settings—I can zoom in, change colors, and make whatever tweaks I need in order to make things accessible for my specific visual impairment. And things I lacked the power to change, my DM could: giving tokens borders with higher contrast, adjusting the lighting on a map, or—if I got lost looking for something—shifting my view in the direction I needed to be focusing.

I could roll dice directly on the platform and see my result easily, and best of all, I had a digital character sheet I could alter easily and at will, rather than a few pieces of paper I’d require another player to edit for me. And then I discovered other websites, like DnDBeyond, which made it easy to look up stats and spells online—again, in a medium far more accessible for me.

I still required a dungeon master willing to take the time to describe certain things to me and to make whatever color and contrast adjustments I needed, but even playing with strangers via Roll20’s Looking For Game system, my experience has been positive. Thanks to the websites I used, the things I needed didn’t require all that much work on their end, and now I was able to fully immerse myself in a hobby I’d once believed would be impossible for me because of my disability.

(3) ABLEGAMERS. And in the Washington Post Magazine, Christine Sturdivant Sani has a profile of AbleGamers, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities enjoy video games: “How a West Virginia group helped make video games accessible to the disabled”.

In 2018, when Sony Interactive Entertainment unveiled the latest versions of two of its top-grossing video game titles — “God of War” and “Marvel’s Spider-Man” — they included new features that meant a lot to a specific subset of players: those with disabilities. To aid people with motor skill impairments, for instance, “God of War” introduced an option to press and hold a single button instead of tapping it repeatedly; it also let players with hearing disabilities adjust individual audio settings such as volume, dialogue and sound effects. For players with visual impairments, the subtitles in “Spider-Man” are now resizable and include tags that always indicate who is speaking.

Five years ago, according to Sam Thompson, a managing senior producer at Sony Interactive, it was possible to count on one hand the number of video games that had features catering to people with disabilities. Today, there are hundreds of such games. The shift, says Thompson, is “kind of amazing” — and he gives credit to a small nonprofit in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

The group, called AbleGamers, was the brainchild of Mark Barlet, a 45-year-old disabled Air Force veteran and entrepreneur…

 (4) GAIMAN AUDIOBOOKS. AudioFile editorJenn Dowellsays – lend Neil Gaiman an ear! “Good Omens and Good Audiobooks: The Best of Neil Gaiman”.

… Where to start? Whether you’re a longtime fan of GOOD OMENS, Gaiman’s funny book about the apocalypse co-written with the late Terry Pratchett almost 30 years ago, or a new convert thanks to the sparkling new Amazon/BBC series, now is the perfect time to hear (or revisit) the audiobook.

… For something darker that’s perfect for an extended road trip, Gaiman’s 2001 epic novel AMERICAN GODS, in which old gods clash with new ones, also comes in two unabridged versions: one narrated by Golden Voice George Guidall, and a Tenth Anniversary Edition performed by a full cast. Can’t get enough gods? Follow up with ANANSI BOYS, about trickster god Anansi, read by Lenny Henry, and NORSE MYTHOLOGY, read by Gaiman.

… In the mood for nonfiction? THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS and ART MATTERS collect Gaiman’s essays and speeches and will give listeners insights into Gaiman’s wide-ranging interests and his writing process—and maybe even inspire you to make your own art.

… P.S. If you fell in love with Michael Sheen and David Tennant’s performances in the Good Omens series, don’t miss their own star turns on audio: Sheen gives a wonderfully immersive, Earphones Award-winning narration of Philip Pullman’s THE BOOK OF DUST: La Belle Sauvage, and Tennant brings his acting chops and Scottish charm to The Wizards of Once and How to Train Your Dragon series by just-named UK Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell.

(5) INKLINGS. Bruce Charlton revisits “Humphrey Carpenter’s The Inklings – 1978″ at The Notion Club Papers blog.

…Yet, in the end, Humphrey Carpenter failed in his attempt to throw the Inklings into the dustbin of irrelevance; because overall the book had the opposite effect of its intent – awakening for many, such as myself, a long-term and intense fascination with a ‘group of friends’ who were also, in reality, so much more than merely that.

(6) FROM THE BEEB. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has aired the second in the science and SF series Stranger Than Sci-Fi where astro-physicist Dr Jen Gupta and comedian Alice Fraser travel the parallel worlds of science and sci-fi.

Last week’s was on artificial wombs.  Today’s is on black holes (or frozen stars if you are of Russian persuasion and wish to avoid the rude connotation) — “Black Hole Jacuzzis”.

The program will be downloadable from BBC for a month once it is broadcast

(7) MINORITY REPORT? Atwood’s novel is not in bookstores but it’s already up for the Booker. BBC has the story — “Booker Prize 2019: Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sequel on longlist”.

Margaret Atwood’s follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale is one of 13 novels on the Booker Prize longlist, despite not being published for several weeks.

The Testaments is out on 10 September and comes 33 years after the original book was nominated for the same award.

(8) KRASSNER OBIT. Pop culture figure Paul Krassner died July 21: the New York Times has a profile — “Paul Krassner, Anarchist, Prankster and a Yippies Founder, Dies at 87”.

Paul Krassner being interviewed in the men’s room during the 1978 ABA convention. (photo: Andrew Porter)

Mr. Krassner was writing freelance pieces for Mad magazine in 1958 when he realized that there was no equivalent satirical publication for adults; Mad, he could see, was largely targeted at teenagers. So he started The Realist out of the Mad offices, and it began regular monthly publication. By 1967 its circulation had peaked at 100,000.

“I had no role models and no competition, just an open field mined with taboos waiting to be exploded,” Mr. Krassner wrote in his autobiography.

The magazine’s most famous cartoon was one, drawn in 1967 by the Mad artist Wally Wood, of an orgy featuring Snow White, Donald Duck and a bevy of Disney characters enjoying a variety of sexual positions. (Mickey Mouse is shown shooting heroin.) Later, digitally colored by a former Disney artist, it became a hot-selling poster that supplied Mr. Krassner with modest royalties into old age.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 24, 1948 — Debut of Marvin the Martian in Bugs Bunny’s “Haredevil Hare.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 24, 1802 Alexandre Dumas. The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. Are they genre? Good question. (Died 1870.)
  • Born July 24, 1878 Lord Dunsany whose full name and title was a jaw dropping Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany. So ISFDB lists him as genre for the Jorkens body of work among works. H’h. Gary Turner, who some of you will recognize from Golden Gryphon Press and elsewhere, reviewed The Collected Jorkens: Volumes One, Two, and Three, for Green Man, so I’ve linked to the review here. They also list The King of Elfland’s Daughter which I’m going to link to another review on Green Man as it’s an audio recording with a very special guest appearance by Christopher Lee. (Died 1957.)
  • Born July 24, 1895 Robert Graves. Poet, historical novelist, critic. Author of, among other works, The White Goddess (a very strange book), two volumes called the Greek MythsSeven Days in New Crete which Pringle has on his Best Hundred Fantasy Novels list and more short fiction that bears thinking about. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 24, 1916 John D. MacDonald. Primarily a mystery writer whose Travis McGee series I enjoyed immensely, he wrote a handful of genre works including the sublime The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything.  ISFDB lists a collection, End of the Tiger and Other Short Stories, which I presume is genre. (Died 1986.)
  • Born July 24, 1936 Mark Goddard, 83. Major Don West, the adversary of Dr. Zachary Smith, on Lost in Space. Other genre appearances were scant. He played an unnamed Detective in the early Eighties Strange Invaders and he showed up on an episode of The Next Step Beyond which investigated supposed hauntings as Larry Hollis in “Sins of Omission”. Oh, and he was an unnamed General in the Lost in Space film. 
  • Born July 24, 1945 Gordon Eklund, 74. He won the Nebula for Best Novelette for “If the Stars Are Gods”, co-written with Gregory Benford. They expanded it into a novel which was quite good if I remember correctly. So would anyone care to tell the story of how he came to write the Lord Tedric series which was inspired by an E.E. Doc Smith novelette? 
  • Born July 24, 1951 Lynda Carter, 68. Wonder Woman of course. But also Principal Powers, the headmistress of a school for superheroes in Sky High; Colonel Jessica Weaver in the vampire film Slayer;  Moira Sullivan, Chloe Sullivan’s Kryptonite-empowered mother in the “Prodigy” episode of Smallville; and President Olivia Marsdin In Supergirl. 
  • Born July 24, 1964 Colleen Doran, 55.  Comics artist and writer. work worth particularly  worth noting she’s done includes Warren Ellis’ Orbiter graphic novel, Wonder Woman, Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans, “Troll Bridge” by Neil Gaiman and her space opera series, A Distant Soil. She also did portions of The Sandman, in the “Dream Country” and “A Game of You”. She’s tuckerised Into Sandman as the character Thessaly is based on Doran.
  • Born July 24, 1981 Summer Glau, 38.  An impressive run in genre roles as she’s was. River Tam in Firefly and of course Serenity, followed by these performances: Tess Doerner in The 4400, as Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bennett Halverson in Dollhouse (Is this worth seeing seeing?), Skylar Adams in Alphas and lastly Isabel Rochev who is The Ravager in Arrow.
  • Born July 24, 1982  — Anna Paquin, 37. Sookie Stackhouse in the True Blood series. Rogue in the X-Men franchise. She also shows up in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams as Sarah in the “Real Life” episode. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Poorly Drawn Lines has a funny entry that actually references the phrase “sense of wonder.”
  • A well-known nanny visits the seashore in Rhymes With Orange.
  • Bizarro shows how to bring the full social media experience to live book signings.

(12) STRONG KEEP. John Scalzi tells what he thinks about “A Couple of Bits on Hugo Award Proposals and Attempted Wikipedia Deletions” which we have been covering here. When it comes to the Wikipedia —

… You might think that I, who was the target of much Sad Puppy whining and mewling, would be sitting here happily munching on popcorn while this bit of Wikidrama unfolds. But in fact I think the deletion attempt is a problem. Neither Williamson nor Hoyt are exactly on my Christmas card list at the moment, but you know what? Both of them are solid genre writers who for years have been putting out work through a major genre publisher, and who are both actively publishing today. They are genuinely of note in the field of science fiction and fantasy. One may think their politics, in and out of the genre, are revanchist as all fuck, or that their tenure and association with the Puppy bullshit didn’t do them any favors, or that one just doesn’t care for them on a day-to-day basis for whatever reason. But none of that is here or there regarding whether, on the basis of their genre output, they are notable enough to be the subject of a damn Wikipedia article. They are! Wikipedia notability is kind of a middlin’-height bar, and they get themselves over it pretty well.

Or to flip it around, if neither Williamson nor Hoyt is notable enough for inclusion in Wikipedia, there’s gonna be some bloodletting in the site’s category of science fiction and fantasy writers, because there are a fair number of Wikipedia-article-bearing genre authors who are no more notable than Hoyt or Williamson. If they go, there are legitimately many others on the chopping block as well.

According to Camestros Felapton, “John Scalzi is wading into the Wiki-fuss”, Scalzi also made entries to the Wikipedia deletion discussion itself. He probably did, and although the links aren’t working for me Camestros has the full quotes anyway.

(13) FUTURE SHOCK. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing in The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum takes a look at the BBC/HBO co-produced near-future science fiction series Years And Years.  The series, which is built around the conceit of moving through years at a rapid pace — often three years in a one-hour episode, provides a mostly-realistic future that won’t fill many viewers with hope. ““Years and Years” Forces Us Into the Future”.  

“Years and Years” keeps leaping forward, forcing us into the future, as the economy crumbles, the ice caps melt, authoritarianism rises, and teen-agers implant phones into their hands. It’s an alarmist series, in a literal sense: it’s meant to serve as an alarm, an alert to what’s going on in front of our eyes, and where that might lead, if we don’t wake up.”

In the wake of Boris Johnson’s elevation to the post of Prime Minister, I’d say that the series might seem overly optimistic about the future of the United Kingdom. But I’d heartily recommend seeking out the series. 

(14) MORE URGENT. “Climate change: 12 years to save the planet? Make that 18 months”

Do you remember the good old days when we had “12 years to save the planet”?

Now it seems, there’s a growing consensus that the next 18 months will be critical in dealing with the global heating crisis, among other environmental challenges.

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5C this century, emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be cut by 45% by 2030.

But today, observers recognise that the decisive, political steps to enable the cuts in carbon to take place will have to happen before the end of next year.

The idea that 2020 is a firm deadline was eloquently addressed by one of the world’s top climate scientists, speaking back in 2017.

“The climate math is brutally clear: While the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder and now director emeritus of the Potsdam Climate Institute.

The sense that the end of next year is the last chance saloon for climate change is becoming clearer all the time.

(15) CLOSING THEIR EARS. Meanwhile, the \outpatients\troglodytes were out in force: “Greta Thunberg speech: French MPs boycott teen ‘apocalypse guru’”.

Teen activist Greta Thunberg has lashed out at French lawmakers for mocking her in a speech to parliament that was boycotted by far-right politicians.

The 16-year-old addressed legislators on Tuesday, telling them to “unite behind the science” of climate change.

She and other children were invited to France’s parliament by a cross-party group of politicians.

“You don’t have to listen to us, but you do have to listen to the science,” she said.

Ms Thunberg, whose solo protest outside the Swedish Parliament inspired the school climate strike movement, has been lauded for her emotive speeches to politicians.

But lawmakers from French parties, including the conservative Republicans and far-right National Rally, said they would shun her speech in the National Assembly.

Urging his colleagues to boycott Ms Thunberg’s speech, leadership candidate for The Republicans, Guillaume Larrive, wrote on Twitter: “We do not need gurus of the apocalypse.”

Other French legislators hurled insults at Ms Thunberg ahead of her speech, calling her a “prophetess in shorts” and the “Justin Bieber of ecology”.

Republicans MP Julien Aubert, who is also contending for his party’s leadership, suggested Ms Thunberg should win a “Nobel Prize for Fear”.

Speaking to France 2 television, Jordan Bardella, an MEP for the National Rally, equated Ms Thunberg’s campaigning efforts to a “dictatorship of perpetual emotion”.

(16) TO SIR WITH LOVE. BBC reports “Sir Michael Palin to have heart surgery”.

Comedian and broadcaster Sir Michael Palin is to have surgery to fix a “leaky valve” in his heart.

The Monty Python member discovered a problem with his mitral valve – a small flap that stops blood flowing the wrong way around the heart – five years ago.

It had not affected his general fitness until earlier this year, he said.

“Recently, though, I have felt my heart having to work harder and have been advised it’s time to have the valve repaired,” he wrote on his website.

“I shall be undergoing surgery in September and should be back to normal, or rather better than normal, within three months.”

(17) PICARD & COMPANY. TV Line did a mass interview — “’Star Trek: Picard’ Cast on the Return of Patrick Stewart’s Iconic Captain.”

The cast of ‘Star Trek: Picard’ previews the CBS All Access series with TVLine’s Kim Roots at San Diego Comic-Con 2019.

[Thanks to John A Arkansawyer, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Hampus Eckerman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 6/28/19 A Pixel’s A Pixel, No Matter How Scrolled

(1) LEADING EFFECTS ARTISTS GATHER. Last night in Beverly Hills, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted “Galactic Innovations: Star Wars and Rogue One”, with some people who have made special effects history.

Over the last 40 years, technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. But the impetus to create and inspire remains the same. This event contrasted the analog technologies developed for the first STAR WARS released in 1977 with the all-digital toolsets used to create ROGUE ONE released in 2016.

Key contributors from both STAR WARS and ROGUE ONE shared the journey of creating the impossible with their breakthrough visual effects. Our list of stellar participants included: John Dykstra, Dennis Muren, John Knoll, Ben Burtt, Marcia Lucas, Bill George, Harrison Ellenshaw, Bruce Nicholson, Richard Edlund and Rachel Rose. Hosted by Kiri Hart, co-producer of ROGUE ONE.

A recording of the livestreamed video is available today:

I learned from Craig Miller, “Lucasfilm has donated the original Dykstraflex Camera – used to do the miniature photography for Star Wars – to the Academy Museum and the significance of the camera prompted them to put together this event.”

(2) CELEBRATE. FIYAH Literary Magazine is making headway to fund its staff Hugo Meetup in Atlanta. Any donation helps.

(3) NEXT YEAR’S HUGOS. Renay has kicked off what some admirers call 2020 Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom to collect recommendations of works published this year.

(4) THE FIFTH SEASON AUTHOR ON TV. See video of N.K. Jemisin’s appearance on the PBS News Hour in connection with her book being a selection for their #NowReadThis book club.

(5) ANTHOLOGY NEWS. Haka is an anthology of speculative / science fiction in Filipino by European authors, organized by Julie Novakova and Jaroslav Olsa Jr. that will include stories from 15 authors of different nationalities.

The publisher, Anvil Publishing, will announce the launching date soon.

Line Up:

  • Peter Schattschneider: Brief aud dem Jenseits (Austria)
  • Ian Watson: Walk of Solace with My Dead Baby (Britain)
  • Hanuš Seiner: Hexagrammaton (the Czech Rep.)
  • Richard Ipsen: The Null in the Nought (Denmark)
  • Johanna Sinisalo: Äänettömät Äänet (Finland)
  • Aliette de Bodard: Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight (France)
  • Michalis Manolios: Aethra (Greece)
  • Péter Lengyel: Napkelet Cím? (Hungary)
  • Francesco Verso and Francesco Mantovani: iMATE (Italy)
  • Tais Teng: Silicium Snelwegen (the Netherlands)
  • Stanislaw Lem: Podró? siódma (Poland)
  • Pedro Cipriano: Seeds of Hope (Portugal)
  • Zuzana Stožická: ?repiny z oblohy (Slovakia)
  • Bojan Ekselenski: ?asovni kredita (Slovenia)
  • Sofía Rhei: Secret Stories of Doors (Spain)
  • Bertil Falk: Gjort är gjort (Sweden)

(6) NEVER STEAL ANYTHING SMALL. Meanwhile, back at the slushpile, Neil Clarke thought he might have seen this one before:

(7) KEENE TELETHON CANCELLED. Brian Keene has announced they will not be holding the 3rd annual The Horror Show with Brian Keene telethon, which was scheduled to take place at Dark Delicacies in September. One of the hosts is medically not in a condition to do what needs to be done and the rest of the hosts are unwilling to proceed without him. Keene explained on Facebook:

It is with profound regret that I have to announce the cancellation of the 3rd annual The Horror Show with Brian Keene telethon, which was scheduled to take place at Dark Delicacies in September.

Listeners to the show know that co-host and engineer Dave Thomas has been experiencing some health problems. I am not going to share the private details of what has been occurring, but while Dave’s condition so far hasn’t greatly impacted his abilities to participate on the weekly program, his doctors this week have strongly advised against doing the telethon, given what is required for it. He can’t travel to California. And doing it here on the East Coast isn’t an option either because — to be blunt — staying awake and energized for 24 hours will kill him….

If Dave’s health fortunes change, I will absolutely reschedule this for early-2020. But as it stands right now, he simply can’t do it, and we simply won’t do it without him.

Keene hopes people will still find the cause worth supporting

If you’d still like to help, you can donate to Scares That Care by clicking here. And you can shop at Dark Delicacies from anywhere in the world by clicking here.

(8) ANIME MILWAUKEE BANS RYAN KOPF. Anime News Network reports “Convention Runner Ryan Kopf Banned from Anime Milwaukee Following Alleged Sexual Assault”, the consequences of a 2018 incident:

Anime Milwaukee (AMKE) staff confirmed with Anime News Network that Ryan Kopf, the chief executive officer of the AnimeCon.org convention organization, is banned from future Anime Milwaukee conventions following an incident that took place during the 2018 convention between February 16-18 at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee hotel. Police were called to the hotel to respond to an alleged sexual assault involving Kopf.

Anime Milwaukee made a statement (full text at the linked post) which begins:

As the leadership of Anime Milwaukee, we take safety standards seriously. That is why we, AMKE’s parent non-profit organization (the Entertainment and Culture Promotion Society, Inc.) are choosing to come forward about an incident that happened at our show, and the preventative action we have taken since.

Anime Milwaukee can confirm there was an incident involving Mr. Kopf, a representative of Anime Midwest, at AMKE 2018. In this case, per protocol, Milwaukee PD were called by Hyatt staff. Convention staff also responded to assist the attendee as needed, until we were dismissed by police upon their arrival. Our details are pretty sparse from there, since this became a matter for law enforcement personnel. For our part, Mr. Kopf was immediately banned from Anime Milwaukee for 2018 and all future years. He is not permitted to attend AMKE in any capacity. We were also informed that the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee banned him from their property.

Our convention chair at the time, Corey Wood, acted decisively to ensure Mr. Kopf, all associated events staff, and promotional materials were ejected fully from Anime Milwaukee events space….

ANN asked for Kopf’s side of things:

Anime News Network reached out to Kopf for comment on alleged incidents at Anime Milwaukee 2018 and Anime-zing! 2013. Kopf denied he was removed from the Anime Milwaukee 2018 event or that any incident took place. He also denied anything improper took place at Anime-zing 2013.

“When attending Anime Milwaukee in 2018, I was always in the company of at least one of my staff members. We were not approached by anyone and we were not asked to leave. The precise nature of these allegations remain [sic] unclear to me. I have not done anything improper at either of these events, and I fully intend to pursue holding accountable those who have continued to repeat defamatory statements about me,” Kopf wrote.

Kopf has been involved in a number of incidents, and some litigation against those who reported them, over the pat few years – see File 770’s 2016 post “Ryan Kopf Refiles Suit Against Nerd & Tie”.

(9) NASA MISSION TO TITAN. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced yesterday that “NASA’s Dragonfly Will Fly Around Titan Looking for Origins, Signs of Life”.

NASA has announced that our next destination in the solar system is the unique, richly organic world Titan. Advancing our search for the building blocks of life, the Dragonfly mission will fly multiple sorties to sample and examine sites around Saturn’s icy moon.

Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034. The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth. Dragonfly marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet; it has eight rotors and flies like a large drone. It will take advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere – four times denser than Earth’s – to become the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.

Titan is an analog to the very early Earth, and can provide clues to how life may have arisen on our planet. During its 2.7-year baseline mission, Dragonfly will explore diverse environments from organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater where liquid water and complex organic materials key to life once existed together for possibly tens of thousands of years. Its instruments will study how far prebiotic chemistry may have progressed. They also will investigate the moon’s atmospheric and surface properties and its subsurface ocean and liquid reservoirs. Additionally, instruments will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life.

… Dragonfly took advantage of 13 years’ worth of Cassini data to choose a calm weather period to land, along with a safe initial landing site and scientifically interesting targets.

(10) MALTIN AND GRRM. Leonard Maltin interviewed George R.R. Martin for his podcast Maltin on the Movies.

The prolific author behind Game of Thrones is also a lifelong movie buff and invited us to interview him at his very own theater, The Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico. George and Leonard compared notes about starting out as a fan and contributing to fanzines, back in the pre-Internet era. (For more on this, go to www.leonardmaltin.com.) George went on to teach writing and enjoyed success as a novelist before moving to Hollywood, where he spent a decade working in television. Ultimately he returned to his roots as an author, little dreaming that his novels would inspire one of the most elaborate and successful television shows ever produced. George is a great conversationalist and was a gracious host to Leonard and Jessie; you can join them vicariously by listening in.
Read more at http://maltinonmovies.libsyn.com/george-rr-martin#rKoWVaWd6LogrJmZ.99

Maltin also wrote a post about his fanpublishing roots: “My Link to Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin: Fanzines”. (Apropos to our current discussion of gatekeeping, Maltin put out a movie fanzine, and obviously would be shocked if anyone didn’t consider that a link to young GRRM’s fanac.)

We had a great conversation for our podcast, Maltin on Movies, which you can find HERE. In doing homework for that chat I discovered that Mr. Martin and I have at least one thing in common, other than growing up in New Jersey: we both got our start writing for fanzines….

It turned out that the school paper had no use for cocky freshmen, so another friend, Barry Gottlieb, and I launched a more ambitious publication we called Profile. It reflected my growing interest in film history and Barry’s love of magic and magicians. Profile was reproduced on a used mimeograph machine, which was given to me by my father’s cousin, who was in the printing business. It lacked an automatic paper feed, so it was truly labor-intensive—and messy, to boot. I still feel like I have black ink under my fingernails from that experience. Barry had artistic skills and graced our covers with lineoleum-block prints. When we felt flush we sprang for wraparound covers featuring photos and posters from a local job-printer. That spruced up our little magazine, which was starting to build a following outside of our schoolmates.

I was 13 years old when Forrest J. Ackerman’s popular newsstand magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland printed a survey of fanzines. That’s how I learned of The 8mm Collector, published by Samuel K. Rubin in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Film Fan Monthly, published by Daryl Davy in Vancouver, B.C. I submitted articles to them both and they were accepted. That’s when I saw my byline in print for the first time in a publication other than my own. Believe me, that was a heady experience. Only after they published my pieces did I tell them that I was 13. Sam Rubin said he didn’t care and Daryl Davy said the same, adding that he was 19 at the time. I became a regular contributor to both magazines.

(11) COWBOY V. ROBOTS. The Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles is running a “Weird West Film Series” and on July 13 will host a marathon screening of the cowboy star’s serial The Phantom Empire (1935)”

Join us for a marathon screening of all 12 chapters of the classic sci-fi Western serial The Phantom Empire! The underground empire of Murania threatens the world with robots, ray-guns, and Thunder Riders—and only Gene Autry, in his first starring role, can save the day! Watch for Griffith Observatory (the super-scientific, highly advanced kingdom of Murania 20,000 feet below Gene Autry’s Radio Ranch). Chapters are screened every half hour and introduced by Karla Buhlman, President of Gene Autry Entertainment. Drop in or stay for the whole show, cliffhangers and all.

For more details on the cast and songs in this film, visit the Official Gene Autry website page for The Phantom Empire.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 28, 1957 Beginning of the End premiered. (Think giant grasshoppers)
  • June 28, 1957The Unearthly debuted in theaters.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 28, 1926 Mel Brooks, 92. Blazing Saddles I’ve watched, oh, at least two dozen times. Get Smart several times at least wholly or in part. Spaceballs, errr, once was enough. And let’s not mention Robin Hood: Men in Tights though The Producers (not genre I grant you) was brilliant. So what do you like or dislike by him? 
  • Born June 28, 1941 Martin Greenberg. Founder of Gnome Press who’s not to be confused with Martin H Greenberg. Not on Asimov’s list of favorite people despite being the first publisher of the Foundation series. Not paying authors is a bad idea. (Died 2011.)
  • Born June 28, 1944 Peggy Rae Sapienza. Anything I could possibly say, Mike has said of this fan of the first order far more eloquently here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 28, 1946 Robert Asprin. I first encountered him as one of the editors (along with Lynn Abbey) of the Thieves’ World Series for which he wrote the superb “The Price of Doing Business” for the first volume. I’m also fond of The Cold Cash War novel. His Griffen McCandles (Dragons) series is quite excellent. I’m please to say he’s well stocked on both Apple Books and Kindle. (Died 2008.)
  • Born June 28, 1948 Kathy Bates, 71. Her performance in Misery based on the King novel was her big Hollywood film. She was soon in Dolores Claiborne, another King-derived film. Other genre roles included Mrs. Green in Dick Tracy, Mrs. Miriam Belmont in Dragonfly, voice of the Sea Hag in Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, voice of Bitsy the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson in The Day the Earth Stood Still , a very loose adaption of the Fifties film of the same name.
  • Born June 28, 1951 Lalla Ward, 68. She is known for her role as Romana (or Romanadvoratrelundar in full) on Doctor Who during the time of the Fourth Doctor. She has reprised the character in Dimensions in Time, the webcast version of Shada, and in several Doctor Who Big Finish productions. In addition, she played Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet in the BBC television production.  And she was Helga in an early horror film called Vampire Circus.
  • Born June 28, 1954 Alice Krige, 65. I think her first genre role was in the full role of Eva Galli and Alma Mobley in Ghost Story. From there, she plays Mary Shelley (née Godwin) in Haunted Summer before going onto being Mary Brady in Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers. Now Star Trek: First Contact in which she first plays the Borg Queen, a role she’ll repeat in the 2001 finale of Star Trek: Voyager, “Endgame”. She’s had a number of other genre roles but I only note that she was Eir in Thor: The Dark World.
  • Born June 28, 1954 Deborah Grabien, 65. She makes the Birthday list for her most excellent Haunted Ballads series in which a folk musician and his lover tackle the matter of actual haunted spaces. It leads off with The Weaver and the Factory Maid. You can read the first chapter here. Oh, and she makes truly great dark chocolate fudge. 
  • Born June 28, 1954 Raffaella De Laurentiis, 65. Yes, she’s related to that De Laurentiis hence she was the producer of the Dune film. She also did Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, both starting Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Kull the Conqueror. She also produced all films in the Dragonheart series.
  • Born June 28, 1957 Mark Helprin, 72. Author of three works of significance to the genre, Winter’s TaleA City in Winter which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella and The Veil of Snows. The latter two are tastefully illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. I know Winter’s Tale was turned into a film but color me very disinterested in seeing it.  
  • Born June 28, 1966 Sara Stewart, 53. Martha Wayne in Batman Begins, she played the Sheriff of Nottingham’s sister, Davina, in “Sister Hood”, the opening episode of Season 2 of Robin Hood, her voice appears in the Dr Who episode “The End of the World”, and a loa possess her in the London Voodoo film.
  • Born June 28, 1979 Felicia Day, 40. She was Vi in  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Holly Marten in Eureka, and had a recurring role as Charles Bradbury on Supernatural. She also appears as Kinga Forrester in Mystery Science Theater 3000.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Flying McCoys shows somebody who’ll be surprised that Dracula doesn’t think this is good news.

(15) ST:P. Picard is slated to debut later this year, and famed genre figure Michael Chabon will be at the helm: “‘Star Trek: Picard’ Names Michael Chabon Showrunner”.

“‘Star Trek’ has been an important part of my way of thinking about the world, the future, human nature, storytelling and myself since I was ten years old,” said Chabon. “I come to work every day in a state of joy and awe at having been entrusted with the character and the world of Jean-Luc Picard, with this vibrant strand of the rich, intricate and complex tapestry that is ‘Trek.’”

(16) UP, PERISCOPE. The Cut brings its investigative powers to bear on “A Close Reading of the Most Deranged Sandwich Commercial Ever”.

Those of you who’ve spared yourselves of Twitter might have missed the absolute calamity that ensued when Simmons shared this example of advertising run wild. At the time of writing, it had been retweeted tens of thousands of times, received thrice as many faves, generated roughly 5,000 comments, and immediately cemented itself as a meme. It has also raised a lot of questions:

(17) FRANKENSTEINLY SPEAKING. Daniel Kimmel, a film critic and author of several humorous sf novels, is interviewed by the Jewish Journal: “In new book, Somerville author explores ‘What is it like to be Jewish in the 21st century?’” The accompanying photo shows Kimmel posed with his Skylark Award

…Kimmel’s earlier novels include “Jar Jar Binks Must Die … and Other Observation about Science Fiction Movies,” and “Time On My Hands: My Misadventures In Time Travel.” He’s the winner of the 2018 Skylark Award, given by the New England Science Fiction Association for lifetime contributions to the genre. It’s a distinction he shares with such notables as Isaac Asimov, Jane Yolen, and Bruce Coville.

…In a recent conversation, Kimmel said his new novel is a mashup of two classic films, “Father of the Bride” (1950, remade in 1991), and “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), an irresistible challenge for the 63-year-old who lives in Somerville.

It’s Kimmel’s first work of explicitly Jewish fiction, with memorable characters – including a rabbi – enlivened with Kimmel’s Jewish sensibilities from growing up in Queens, N.Y.

“Father of the Bride of Frankenstein” opens with a prologue from the father-narrator, a bank executive who sets the stage of the wildly imaginative tale of the unlikeliest Jewish wedding about to unfold: the marriage of his darling daughter Samantha, a college philosophy major, to Frank, the charismatic human who, only a few years earlier, was brought to life from tissues taken from a corpse in an (illegal) experiment by scientists (who are now behind bars).

With a witty pen, Kimmel manages to touch on issues of the day, from bioethics to politics and human rights, all wrapped up in hilarious family dynamics bursting with Borscht-Belt humor.

(18) LOVECRAFT BOBBLEHEAD. World Fantasy Award winners didn’t want little Lovecraft statuettes, but maybe you do. Especially if it’s a bobblehead. On sale at MVD Entertainment Group: “H.P. Lovecraft – Limited Edition Bobblehead By Rue Morgue Rippers”.

Rue Morgue Magazine’s next release in the Rue Morgue RIPpers line is the father of cosmic horror, H.P. Lovecraft. This 7-inch polyresin figure of Lovecraft is limited to 1500 numbered units. Sculpted with incredible accuracy, the H.P. Lovecraft Rue Morgue RIPper will surely please fans worldwide.

(19) DEAD CERT. There’s not a ghost of a chance that the lease will be renewed – details in The Brag: “Melbourne’s Haunted Bookshop lease denied on account of landlord’s ‘Spiritual Beliefs’”.

A Melbourne paranormal bookstore has had a lease application denied because of the potential landlord’s “spiritual beliefs.”

The Haunted Bookshop was established in 1997 but will be closing permanently this year. Any hope of remaining open at a new, nearby location seems to have been diminished with the establishment becoming the latest flashpoint to dominate national discourse in the debate around a perceived attack on religious expression.

… In the post, Sinton mentioned that the landlord is “a high-profile member of the Buddhist community” though The Brag is unable to confirm this at the time of publish. The Brag has also reached out to the agent representing the property for comment.

(20) ALL KNIGHT LONG. “Michael Palin to produce Radio 4 specials for Monty Python birthday” – BBC has the story. Chip Hitchcock comments, “A pity the world record attempt is too late for Worldcon-related tourism — I bet a lot of fans would have shown up.”

Sir Michael Palin is to serve as the executive producer on five new Radio 4 specials to mark the 50th anniversary of the Monty Python comedy troupe.

The shows, to air in September, will feature “never-before-released material from the Monty Python sound archives”.

The 50th anniversary of Monty Python’s Flying Circus first airing on BBC One will be marked as well by a month-long season at BFI Southbank in London.

The 5 October anniversary will also be marked by a world record attempt.

Organisers are hoping to encourage the largest gathering of people dressed as Gumbys – the spectacle-wearing, knotted handkerchief-sporting imbeciles who became part of Python lore.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/14/19 Of All The Pixel Joints In All The Scrolls In All The World, She Files Into Mine

(1) DUBBED. The Daily Mail’s headline is apt: “The knight who says Ni! Actor Michael Palin receives his knighthood from Prince William in 50th anniversary year of Monty Python”.

Sir Michael Palin managed to suppress a joke when collecting the ‘unbelievable’ honour of a knighthood from the Duke of Cambridge for his post-Monty Python career.

The writer and broadcaster was dubbed a knight by William for services to travel, culture and geography, making him the first star of the sketch show to receive the honour.

(2) CHANGING FORMULAS IN STORYTELLING. In “Love isn’t what it was” on Aeon, graduate student Sophus Helle says that animated films Disney has released in this decade, including Brave, Frozen, Finding Dory, and Inside Out, show that in these films “the ideal of heterosexual romance has been replaced by a new ideal: family love. The happy ending of our most watched childhood stories is no longer a kiss.”

…It’s not just the word ‘love’ that has changed meaning over the past 10 years of Disney. The word ‘family’ has done the same. Neither Mother Gothel nor the fairy godmother of Maleficent are the biological parents of the films’ main characters, but they still end up taking emotional centre-stage because the actual biological parents are either cruel and psychotic, as in Maleficent, or distant and idealised, as in Tangled. Parenthood is determined by one’s emotional bonds. As a result, the very question of what counts as a ‘family’ in Disney has become more ambiguous and more modern.

(3) BOMBS AWAY. NPR’s Scott Tobias advises, “Erase The Awful ‘Men In Black: International’ From Your Mind”.

If Hollywood studios are content to cannibalize the vaults in search of new hits, the first thing they should remember is why the original films were hits in the first place. For all the bells and whistles that went along with the original 1997 Men in Black, with its cutting-edge alien effects, the reason it works is extremely old-fashioned, rooted in an effective cross-pollination between fish-out-of-water comedy and mismatched buddy comedy.

…There’s a lot of plotting in Men In Black: International, which makes room for a diabolical three-armed seductress (Rebecca Ferguson) and a compact weapon of planet-destroying power, but the more the story unfurls, the deeper the film sinks into quicksand. Director F. Gary Gray and his screenwriters, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, have made the crucial mistake of believing the franchise needs complex world-building instead of streamlined comedy. Even if the events in the film made any kind of sense, they were never going to matter as much as the good time Hemsworth, Neeson and the two Thompsons are supposed to be showing us. And yet that’s where the emphasis lies.

The Boston Globe gives it 2.5/4 stars.

(4) FIRE TWO. NPR’s Andrew Lapin says “‘The Dead Don’t Die’ In Jarmusch’s Latest, But Your Patience Will”.

“This is going to end badly,” Adam Driver says, over and over with slight variations, in the new zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die. It’s both the movie’s catchphrase and raison d’être. Things tend not to end well in general, because people have a habit of taking bad situations and making them worse, and there’s no reason to suspect that will change when the dead are rising from their graves and feasting on the bodies of the living. To the extent that the film has a joke, this is it: Humans mess everything up, and in the end probably aren’t worth saving.

All fair points. But does that sound fun to watch? Maybe it could have been, in another universe, with this exact cast and this exact director. Jim Jarmusch is a national treasure, after all, and he’s already proven himself a master of idiosyncratic, cracker-dry comedies that play with our love of dead or dying cultural icons, from Elvis to diners to samurai. But as The Dead Don’t Die smirks through its ironic corpse pile-up, dispatching a parade of beloved actors like rancid meat and playing the same original Sturgill Simpson tune on loop, it’s hard not to wonder if the joke is on us for watching it.

And the Boston Globe gives this one only 1.5 stars.

(5) THEY LOVE TOY STORY 4. But wait! BBC says this one’s getting good reviews — Toy Story 4: What did the critics think?” Out today in the UK, the fourth (and supposedly final) instalment of Toy Story has been warmly welcomed.

Woody, Buzz and Jessie are returning nine years after they said goodbye to Andy and settled into their new home with Bonnie at the end of Toy Story 3.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy said: “It’s now certain what one of the summer’s blockbusters will be.

“More than that, how many other film series can legitimately claim to have hit four home runs in a row?” he added.

Variety’s Peter Debruge said the movie gives “satisfying emotional closure”, adding that “the fourth movie wraps up the saga beautifully”.

He added the film “explores the idea of purgatory: What’s it like for a plaything to be ignored, overlooked or entirely unused?”

(6) WOODY ON TOUR. Tom Hanks went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to promote the movie, and showed he didn’t think much of the heavy-handed guidance he was given by the marketing division: “Tom Hanks Shares Disney’s Strict Rules for ‘Toy Story 4’ Media Tour”.

Hanks also decided to poke more fun at the late-night host by reading a surprising note Disney gave him for any time he would make an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! “When doing Kimmel, please do not mention the Academy Awards. What’s that about?” Hanks asked. After Kimmel questioned why they would add that note, the actor replied: “You got bounced, my friend!” 

With fans anticipating the fourth installment of the popular franchise, Hanks celebrated Toy Story 4 for adding new talent in Tony Hale, Keanu Reeves and Carl Weathers. Though he’s starred as Woody since the original film, Hanks revealed that Toy Story 4 may be the best film in the franchise. 

“I know it sounds ridiculous because I’m in it, but it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen in my life.” 

Hanks also revealed that he didn’t know Weathers was in the film. “We never see each other. We maybe will run into each other when somebody’s session finishes and the other is waiting to go on, but at the premiere I saw Carl Weathers and I had to go shake the man’s hand because not only was he Apollo Creed, he was Action Jackson,” said Hanks.

(7) FAMILIAR VOICE. The new Maltin on Movies podcast brings us “Alan Tudyk”.

Alan Tudyk is a gifted actor and a familiar face who achieved cult status as a costar of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and its follow-up feature-film Serenity…but he’s also become the man of a thousand voices. If you’ve seen Wreck-it Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, or even Rogue One: A Star Wars Story you’ve heard his facility with accents, dialects, and the ability to embody colorful characters. He also stars in one of Leonard and Jessie’s favorite unsung movies, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. Alan is only too happy to demonstrate his vocal talents during our hilarious interview. Angelenos can currently see him onstage in Mysterious Circumstances at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 14, 1908 Stephen Tall aka Compton Crook. Stephen Tall was the most common pseudonym of American science fiction writer Compton Newby Crook. He wrote two novels, The Ramsgate Paradox (in his Stardust series) and The People Beyond the WallThe Stardust Voyages collects the short stories in that series. The Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award was established by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in his name for best first novel in a given year. He is not available in digital form in either iBooks or Kindle. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 14, 1909 Burl Ives. No, I’m not including because of being him voicing  Sam the Snowman, narrator of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in that film though I could argue it is  genre. No, I’m including him because he was on The Night Gallery (“The Other Way Out” episode) and appeared in several comic SF films, Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Earthbound. He also appeared in The Bermuda Depths which is more of a horror film. (Died 1995.)
  • Born June 14, 1914 Ruthven Todd. Scottish author of mostly children’s books whose series The Space Cats begins with Space Cat and features a cat who stows away on a spaceship.  He wrote several more conventional genre novels as well, Over the Mountain and The Lost Traveller. A Space Cats omnibusand The Lost Traveller are available at iBooks and Kindle. (Died 1978.)
  • Born June 14, 1921 William L. Hamling. He was a lifelong member of First Fandom. Editor of the Stardust fanzine in 1940, and Imagination and Imaginative Tales in the Fifties. He did the 1940 Chicon program book with Mark Reinsberg.  And his Regency publishing concern in the Fifties would do paperback editions of Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Bloch and Philip José Farmer. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 14, 1949 Harry Turtledove, 70. I wouldn’t know where to begin with him considering how many series he’s done. I’m fairly sure I first read novels in his Agent of Byzantium series and I know his Crosstime Traffic series was fun reading. 
  • Born June 14, 1972 Adrian Tchaikovsky, 47. He is best known for his Shadows of the Apt series, and for Children of Time which won an Arthur C. Clarke Award. The After War series is multi author. He wrote the first, Redemption’s Blade, and Justina Robson wrote the second, Salvation’s Fire

(9) THINKGEEK SALE. The ThinkGeek website is moving its business the main GameStop website, and they’re doing a 50% off sales-final sale on the whole site if you use the code MOVINGDAY. While supplies last, of course. As for the future —

IS THINKGEEK SHUTTING DOWN?

Nope. On July 2nd, 2019, ThinkGeek.com will be moving in with our parent company GameStop. After this move, you will be able to shop a curated selection of unique items historically found on ThinkGeek.com via a ThinkGeek section at GameStop

Daniel Dern returns from a personal scouting expedition to say, “Alas, the Con Survival Bag of Holding is out of stock, and I don’t even see the class Bag of Holding (which had been revised/updated in the past year, although I haven’t yet seen it up close and personal).”

(10) TROJAN APP. According to NPR, “Spain’s Top Soccer League Fined For Using App To Spy On Fans In Fight To Curb Piracy”.

On Tuesday, Spain’s premier soccer league, La Liga, was hit with a 250,000-euro fine — about $280,000 — for using its mobile phone app to spy on millions of fans as part of a ploy to catch venues showing unlicensed broadcasts of professional matches.

The country’s data protection agency said the league’s app, which was marketed as a tool to track game scores, schedules, player rankings and other news, was also systematically accessing phones’ microphones and geolocation data to listen in on people’s surroundings during matches. When it detected that users were in bars, the app would record audio — much like Shazam — to determine if a game was being illegally shown at the venue.

(11) VENICE OF THE NORTH. Like they say, if it’s not Scottish, it’s… “Scotland’s crannogs are older than Stonehenge”

Archaeologists have discovered that some Scottish crannogs are thousands of years older than previously thought.

Crannogs were fortified settlements constructed on artificial islands in lochs.

It was thought they were first built in the Iron Age, a period that began around 800 BC.

But four Western Isles sites have been radiocarbon dated to about 3640-3360 BC in the Neolithic period – before the erection of Stonehenge’s stone circle.

(12) BUILT TO LAST. BBC asks “How to build something that lasts 10000 years”.

Alexander Rose and a team of engineers at The Long Now Foundation are building a clock in the Texan desert that will last for 10,000 years. He explains what he’s learnt about designing for extreme longevity.

…Over the last two decades, I have been working at The Long Now Foundation to build a monument-scale “10,000 Year Clock” as an icon to long-term thinking, with computer scientist Danny Hillis and a team of engineers. The idea is to create a provocation large enough in both scale and time that, when confronted by it, we have to engage our long-term future. One could imagine that if given only five years to solve an issue like climate change, it is very difficult to even know where to begin because the time scale is unreasonable. But if you reset the scale to 500 years, even the impossible can start to seem tractable.

Building a 10,000-year machine required diving into both history and the present to see how artefacts have lasted. While we can slow the workings of the clock itself down so that it only ticks as many times in 10,000 years as a watch does in a person’s lifetime, what about the materials and location? Over the last 20 years I have studied how other structures and systems have lasted over time, and visited as many of them as I can. Some sites have been conserved by simply being lost or buried, some have survived in plain sight by their sheer mass, others have had much more subtle strategies.

(13) URSA MINOR. In Mission: Unbearable, Kuma Bear is tasked with a Mission to SpikeCon.

(14) DOCTOR SLEEP. The official trailer has been released for Doctor Sleep, based on Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/15/19 These Groots Are Made For Walking, Ent That’s Just What They’ll Do

(1) HOGWASH, POPPYCOCK & BALONEY. George R.R. Martin quashed a current rumor in his post “Idiocy on the Internet”.

…All of a sudden this crazy story about my finishing THE WINDS OF WINTER and A DREAM OF SPRING years ago is popping up everywhere. No, I am not going to provide links. I don’t want to reward purveyors of misinformation with hits.

I will, however, say for the record — no, THE WINDS OF WINTER and A DREAM OF SPRING are not finished. DREAM is not even begun; I am not going to start writing volume seven until I finish volume six

It seems absurd to me that I need to state this. The world is round, the Earth revolves around the sun, water is wet… do I need to say that too? It boggles me that anyone would believe this story, even for an instant. It makes not a whit of sense. Why would I sit for years on completed novels? Why would my publishers — not just here in the US, but all around the world — ever consent to this? They make millions and millions of dollars every time a new Ice & Fire book comes out, as do I. Delaying makes no sense. Why would HBO want the books delayed? The books help create interest in the show, just as the show creates interest in the books.

So… no, the books are not done. HBO did not ask me to delay them. Nor did David & Dan. There is no “deal” to hold back on the books. I assure you, HBO and David & Dan would both have been thrilled and delighted if THE WINDS OF WINTER had been delivered and published four or five years ago… and NO ONE would have been more delighted than me.

(2) BUT THIS STORY IS TRUE. Martin confirmed a different report quoting his opinion of two characters created by Tolkien and Rowling:

At the Q&A following the premiere of the new TOLKIEN film in Los Angeles last week, I did indeed say that Gandalf could kick Dumbledore’s ass.

Gandalf COULD kick Dumbledore’s ass. I mean, duh. He’s a maia, folks. Next best thing to a demigod. Gandalf dies and come back. Dumbledore dies and stays dead.

But if it will calm down all the Potterites out there, let me say that Gandalf could kick Melisandre’s ass too.

(3) HORRORMENTARY. The new drama Years and Years, which follows a British family over the next 15 years began Tuesday night on BBC1 in the UK, and will be screened on HBO in the US later in the year. BBC contemplates: “How the near future became our greatest horror”.

…But if [J.G.] Ballard’s thinking was subversive at the time, now we’re beset by the nearest of ‘near future’ narratives. They are intent on imagining not what will become of us in thousands of millennia, or even in a few decades’ time – à la dystopian works like Blade Runner and Soylent Green, previously understood as ‘near future’ – but in as little as the next few years. In doing so, these near-near-future stories create realities that feel immediately recognisable to us, but invariably with a pretty unpleasant twist or three. In literature, these have gone hand in hand with the rise of the ‘mundane science fiction’ movement – which began in the mid-noughties and was built on “not wanting to imagine shiny, hard futures [but give a] sense of sliding from one version of our present into something slightly alienated”, says Roger Luckhurst, a professor in Modern and Contemporary Literature at London’s Birkbeck College and an expert in science fiction.

And, at the moment, such stories are particularly prevalent on the small-screen….

(4) BLACK MIRROR. The show returns to Netflix on June 5:

(5) BEAUMONT REMEMBERED. Pulpfest’s Mike Chomko profiles “THE TWILIGHT ZONE’S Magic Man — Charles Beaumont”, who died too soon —

…At the height of his writing career, Beaumont began to suffer from a mysterious ailment. “By 1964, he could no longer write. Meetings with producers turned disastrous. His speech became slower, more deliberate. His concentration worsened. . . . after a battery of tests at UCLA, Beaumont was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s Disease; he faced premature senility, aging, and an early death.” He died on February 21, 1967 at the age of thirty-eight.

(6) STORIES REBORN. Paula Guran’s anthology Mythic Journeys: Retold Myths and Legends was released yesterday by Night Shade Books.

The Native American trickster Coyote . . . the snake-haired Greek Gorgon Medusa, whose gaze turned men to stone . . . Kaggen, creator of the San peoples of Africa . . . the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend . . . Freyja, the Norse goddess of love and beauty . . . Ys, the mythical sunken city once built on the coast of France . . . Ragnarok, the myth of a world destroyed and reborn . . . Jason and the Argonauts, sailing in search of the Golden Fleece . . .

Myths and legends are the oldest of stories, part of our collective consciousness, and the source from which all fiction flows. Full of magic, supernatural powers, monsters, heroes, epic journeys, strange worlds, and vast imagination, they are fantasies so compelling we want to believe them true.

(7) FRIEDMAN OBIT. “Stanton Friedman, famed UFO researcher, dead at 84”CBC has the story.

A nuclear physicist by training, Friedman had devoted his life to researching and investigating UFOs since the late 1960s.

He was credited with bringing the 1947 Roswell Incident — the famous incident that gave rise to theories about UFOs and a U.S. military coverup — back into the mainstream conversation.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

Apparently a big day in the history of B-movies.

  • May 15, 1953 Phantom From Space premiered in theaters.
  • May 15, 1959Invisible Invaders debuted in movie houses.
  • May 15, 1969 Witchfinder General, starring Vincent Price, screened for the first time.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 L. Frank Baum. I adore The Wizard of Oz film and I’m betting you know that it only covers about half of the novel which is a splendid read indeed. I’ll confess that I never read the numerous latter volumes in the Oz series, nor have I read anything by him. What’s the rest of his fiction like? (Died 1919.)
  • Born May 15, 1877 William Bowen. His most notable work was The Old Tobacco Shop, a fantasy novel that was one runner-up for the inaugural Newbery Medal in 1922. He also had a long running children’s series with a young girl named Merrimeg whom a narrator told her adventures with all sorts of folkloric beings. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 15, 1926 Anthony Shaffer. His genre screenplays were the Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man. Though definitely not genre, he wrote the screenplays for a number of most excellent mysteries including Death on the NileMurder on the Orient Express and Sleuth. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 15, 1955 Lee Horsley, 64. A performer who’s spent a lot of his career in genre undertakings starting with The Sword and the Sorcerer (and its 2010 sequel Tales of an Ancient Empire), horror films Nightmare ManThe Corpse Had a Familiar Face and Dismembered and even a bit of SF in Showdown at Area 51. Not sure where The Face of Fear falls has a it has a cop with psychic powers and a serial killer. 
  • Born May 15, 1960 Rob Bowman, 59. Producer of such series as Alien Nation, M.A.N.T.I.S.Quantum LeapNext Generation, and The X-Files. He has directed these films: The X-Files, Reign of Fire and Elektra. He directed one or several episodes of far too many genres series to list here.  
  • Born May 15, 1966 Greg Wise, 53. I’m including him solely as he’s in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. It is a film-within-a-film, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves as egotistical actors during the making of a screen adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s 18th century metafictional novel Tristram Shandy. Not genre (possibly) but damn fun. 

(10) VIRGIN GALACTIC. The company’s press release, “Sir Richard Branson Announces Virgin Galactic Move to Spaceport America this Summer, as Company Readies for Commercial Service”, does not state when service will commence.

At a press conference [on May 10] at the New Mexico State Capitol Building in Santa Fe, hosted by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson announced that Virgin Galactic’s development and testing program had advanced sufficiently to move the spaceline staff and space vehicles from Mojave, California to their commercial operations headquarters at Spaceport America, New Mexico. The move, which involves more than 100 staff, will commence immediately and continue through the summer, to minimise schooling disruption for families.

Virgin Galactic partnered with New Mexico in an agreement which saw the state complete construction of Spaceport America, the world’s first, purpose-built commercial spaceport, and Virgin Galactic committing to center its commercial spaceflight activities at the facilities once its vehicles and operations were ready for service.

(11) ZUBRIN’S CASE. The Space Review hosts Jeff Foust’s coverage of Robert Zubrin’s new book The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility.

…The second part of the book tackles the question of why humanity should move out in the universe. The reasons are familiar ones, from scientific discoveries to new technologies to the survival of humanity itself. For example, Zubrin reiterates a belief, dating back to his The Case for Mars book more than 20 years ago, that a human settlement on Mars will require ingenuity to survive, stimulating new technologies from robotics to fusion power that might not be developed on Earth.

Zubrin offers a comprehensive plan, one rich in technical detail—perhaps too rich at times, with some passages filled with equations describing chemical processes needed to extract resources on Mars or other worlds or discussing the physics of advanced propulsion technologies. But it seems a little fanciful to talk about concepts for interstellar travel like antimatter and magnetic sails when we find it so difficult today simply to get to low Earth orbit reliably and inexpensively.

(12) DAGGERS. The longlists for the The Crime Writers Association Dagger Awards have been posted.

Lavie Tidhar’s “Bag Man”, in The Outcast Hours anthology, edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin, is one of the works longlisted for the CWA Short Story Dagger Award.

(13) REBELS WITH A CAUSE. Marie Kondo really struck a nerve.The Independent had no trouble finding people who have no plans to winnow their book stacks: “Going against the decluttering craze: the book hoarers who defy Marie Kondo”. For one example —  

Jane Green, bestselling author who traded England for New England

I’ve run out of space. Books are starting to get stacked up on the floor, underneath tables, underneath chairs, on top of tables. They’re everywhere. With no more room on the bookshelves, I’ve been eyeing this gorgeous French armoire that takes up an entire wall. That wall is just perfect for shelves and would make the room warmer. I know, however, that my husband really likes the armoire. He sees: storage, storage, storage. I see: books, books, books. We’ll see who wins. 

For years, I couldn’t get rid of anything. I have had to learn to manage the flow. Paperbacks I tend not to keep unless I love them and know I’m going to reread them. Hardcovers are really hard for me to get rid of. They all signify a time in my life. They all have stories around the stories. I will sometimes just stand there and look at my books and remember.

(14) ANOTHER BRICK IN THE PAYWALL. Digiday elaborates on a trend that has made it more challenging for me to research Scroll items at sites that think I should pay for their material (the noive!): “Incognito no more: Publishers close loopholes as paywall blockers emerge”.

Subscription publishers have tightened their paywalls, plugging leaks and reducing the number of articles readers access before subscribing. But as reader revenue becomes more of a focus, more sophisticated ways of dodging paying have emerged.

There have always been a number of low-tech ways to circumvent cookie-based metered paywalls, where the same content is freely available in some but not all cases. For instance deleting cookies, using multiple browsers and copying the URL are go-to methods, and are near impossible to mitigate against. However, over the last 18 months, publishers have started plugging these gaps.

In February, The New York Times started tightening its paywall so readers couldn’t access paywalled content by switching their device to incognito mode. A New York Times spokesperson said it’s too early to glean the impacts of these tests.

(15) MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE NOMMOS. The announcement of the 2019 Nommo Awards shortlist was followed by a press release with additional details:

The 2019 Nommo Awards for Speculative Fiction by Africans announce the shortlists for the Nommo Awards in all four categories – novel, novella, short story and comics/graphic novels.

The roughly 170 members of the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) nominated works for the Awards long list and short lists.  They will now have a three-month period to read the works and vote for the winners of the Awards. 

The short-listed works must be speculative fiction created by Africans and published in calendar year 2018. The winners of the Ilube Nommo Award and the Comic/Graphic Novel award receive UD$ 1000.00.  The winners of the novella and short story awards receive US$ 500.00.  The ASFS thanks its patron Tom Ilube, CBE for his generosity.

The ASFS was founded in 2015. The creation of the Nommo Awards was announced at the Ake Festival in Abeokuta in November 2016.  The winners will be announced at the Ake Festival in Lagos Nigeria in November.

(16) DOES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN. BBC:“Spider Uses Web As Slingshot To Ensnare Prey, Scientists Find”.

This high-velocity maneuver is a nightmare if you’re a fly.

There’s a type of spider that can slowly stretch its web taut and then release it, causing the web to catapult forward and ensnare unsuspecting prey in its strands.

Triangle-weaver spiders use their own web the way humans might use a slingshot or a crossbow. Scientists from the University of Akron say this is a process called “power amplification,” and they published their research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

(17) WWW. Cute name: “Wood wide web: Trees’ social networks are mapped”.

Research has shown that beneath every forest and wood there is a complex underground web of roots, fungi and bacteria helping to connect trees and plants to one another.

This subterranean social network, nearly 500 million years old, has become known as the “wood wide web”.

Now, an international study has produced the first global map of the “mycorrhizal fungi networks” dominating this secretive world.

Details appear in Nature journal.

Using machine-learning, researchers from the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and Stanford University in the US used the database of the Global Forest Initiative, which covers 1.2 million forest tree plots with 28,000 species, from more than 70 countries.

(18) ANCIENT PUNCH. “Chang’e-4: Chinese rover ‘confirms’ Moon crater theory” says the BBC.

The Chinese Chang’e-4 rover may have confirmed a longstanding idea about the origin of a vast crater on the Moon’s far side.

The rover’s landing site lies within a vast impact depression created by an asteroid strike billions of years ago.

Now, mission scientists have found evidence that impact was so powerful it punched through the Moon’s crust and into the layer below called the mantle.

Chang’e-4 has identified what appear to be mantle rocks on the surface.

It’s something the rover was sent to the far side to find out.

Chunlai Li, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, and colleagues have presented their findings in the journal Nature.

(19) GAME OF PYTHONS. Funny or Die shows why “Cersei isn’t the only hard-nosed negotiator Tyrion’s ever faced.”

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