Charles E. Gannon Q&A with Jim Freund Today

Author Charles E. Gannon will discuss Nebula Awards finalist Marque Of Caine, with Jim Freund today. The livestreamed discussion hosted by Mysterious Galaxy bookshop in San Diego begins at 7:00 p.m.

Tune into their Facebook page under the “discussion” tab at the time listed to participate. See ticket link for details on purchasing a book. If you can’t make the schedule time, check out the archived stream in Mysterious Galaxy’s Virtual Event Archive after the event.

Award-winning author Dr. Charles E. Gannon is a Distinguished Professor of English and a Fulbright Senior Specialist. A recipient of five Fulbright Fellowships and Travel Grants and is a Nebula finalist, his book Rumors of War and Infernal Machines won a 2006 American Library Association Choice Award. His latest sci-fi novel, Marque of Caine, is the fifth book in his Caine Riordan series. It has been two years since Caine was relieved of his command for following both his orders and his conscience. Now he’s finally received the message he’s been waiting for: a summons to visit the ancient and enigmatic Dornaani; the same Dornaani that still have his mortally wounded love, Elena Corcoran. As clues and new threats push Caine’s quest beyond the edge of known space, he discovers that the Dornaani empire is in decline, meaning his beloved Elena is now only half the mission…

Signed bookplates are available for books purchased through the shop. Indicate the request in the comment field at checkout.  All bookplate orders are due July 13, and will be are arriving separately from the books free of charge.

Pixel Scroll 2/25/20 I Don’t Know, Batman. Why *Is* A Pixel Like A Writing Desk?

(1) HWA SERIES. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its Women in Horror Month series of interviews with “Females of Fright: Linda Addison”.

3) Who were/are your biggest influences?
That is a long list of people. The first person that influenced me to write is my mother. She was a fantastic storyteller and would entertain the nine of us with fables she made up. This made it feel very natural to create stories for me. Also, two strong female characters from the Star Trek television series were huge influences: Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) as the first Black female officer in a SF series and Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) whose character said more with a look than words.

When I was in high school, I loved Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Eudora Welty, and Langston Hughes because of the music in their writing. In college, I discovered genre writers Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, and Connie Willis. In horror, some of my female influences were Anne Rice, L. A. Banks, Elizabeth Massie, Marge Simon, and Charlee Jacob. Looking back, I see that I read more male SF and horror writers than female because the field didn’t have as many in print as they do now and even fewer Black female writers.

When my story was published in Sheree R. Thomas’ Dark Matter anthology in 2000, it gave me so much exposure and made a huge difference in my career. Others lifted me up with their belief in my writing early on: Jack Ketchum, Terry Bisson, Nancy Kress, Straub, L. A. Banks, Douglas Clegg, and so many more…

(2) CHANGING OF TH GUARD AT DISNEY. “Bob Iger steps down at Disney, Bob Chapek named new CEO” – the LA Times has details:

In a stunning move that marks the end of an era for one of the entertainment industry’s great corporate success stories, Bob Iger on Tuesday stepped down as chief executive of Walt Disney Co. after 15 years in the job.

Bob Chapek, a 27-year Disney veteran who most recently led the company’s massively important parks and consumer products business, was named Iger’s successor, effective immediately.

Iger, 69, has assumed the role of executive chairman, the company said. In that role, he will direct the Burbank entertainment giant’s creative endeavors and help guide the company’s board through the leadership transition until the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021, Disney said in statement.

Disney’s CEO succession plan was the subject of speculation for years as Iger delayed plans to leave the company. Disney’s board last extended Iger’s contract was in December 2017, when Disney announced that it was buying much of 21st Century Fox from Rupert Murdoch. As part of those negotiations, Murdoch requested that Iger stay on to run the company rather than leave when he’d planned….

(3) RETRO DRAMA. Mark Leeper has finished his complete overview of all feature-length dramatic presentations eligible for the Retro Hugo. Originally done in three installments, the full article now is available here — “Comments on the 1945 Retro Hugo Nominations in the Dramatic Presentation Category”.

Members of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention will be given an opportunity to vote retroactively for Hugo Awards for 1945, for works from 1944. I am not actually old enough to have been around in 1944. The year 1944 was roughly a flowering when fantastic media was seen by much of the public. I am not sure when I started seeing fantastic media from the year 1944 until about 1960, but I do remember the early general public availability of some of the films nominated for a 1944 Retroactive Hugo. They had science fiction and fantasy for which the fiction was absurdly bad (but fun) and the “science” contained no science at all. It can still be fun to be misinformed by science from someone who knows less science than you do and by fiction that is just written. There is a certain charm to science fiction written by someone with no obvious understanding of science trying their best to make it sound credible

Many true fans of science fiction and fantasy still retain an interest in the fantasy fiction from 80 years earlier. Reading it creates an atmosphere from a writing style of decades ago. Few fans delude themselves into believing that this prose eight decades old is true artistry.

Personally I see only one or two titles among the nominees that say to me “classic.” By the time I finish this article you will probably have very little doubt which two are the ones that I consider the true classics. In the meantime I will hint for the reader think about which would the real classic be. Evelyn and I will both be viewing the choice of nominees and independently recording our opinions.

Enjoy your sojourn to the fun films of 1944. I know I will.

(4) SEES RIGHT THROUGH IT. “‘The Invisible Man’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

This is not your father’s or, for that matter, grandfather’s The Invisible Man, even though it marks the launch of Universal’s revived attempt to seriously refresh and refashion its 1930s/’40s horror lineup for the modern age. Rather, enterprising writer-director Leigh Whannell (writer of Saw and Insidious and director of Insidious: Chapter 3) has imaginatively gone in a different direction by meeting the requirements of the title both literally and figuratively. At the same time, the movie stakes a claim for new mystery-horror territory worthy of a talent like Elisabeth Moss, who amplifies the qualities of the script with a top-shelf woman-in-severe-jeopardy performance…. 

(5) DON’T OPEN THE BOX! Last night on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow:

Caution: this appraisal may melt your face off! Watch as James Supp appraises a prototype Ark of the Covenant from the 1981 Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA.

(6) A STEP ON THE WAY TO MARS. The LA Times reports “SpaceX gets approval to build its Mars spaceship at Port of L.A.”

The Los Angeles City Council approved a permit Tuesday that allows the Elon Musk-led company to use a site on Terminal Island at the port to build aerospace parts.

With the vote, SpaceX is now cleared to start work at the site; last week, the L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners green-lighted the permit.

SpaceX representatives told L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office that the company was interested in the port site because it needed additional manufacturing capacity for its Starship spaceship and rocket booster. A SpaceX representative at last week’s harbor commissioners meeting did not mention Starship by name during his presentation of the project, but he said the company would use the port site to further its goal of creating an interplanetary society that includes Mars.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 25, 1999 Escape from Mars premiered on UPN. It was directed by Neill Fearnley and produced  by Peter Lhotka. It was written by im Henshaw, Peter Mohan. It starred Lia Poirier, Allison Hossack , Peter Outerbridge, Allison Hossack and Michael Shanks. There are no critical reviews of it but the reviews at IMDB and Amazon make it clear that this is a horrible film.  And the audience numbers at Rotten Tomatoes are simpatico withose opinions at 27%. You can see it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 25, 1906 Mary Chase. Journalist, playwright and children’s novelist. She’s best remembered for the Broadway playwright who penned Harvey which was later adapted for the film that starred James Stewart. Her only other genre work was the children’s story, “The Wicked, Wicked Ladies In the Haunted House”. The latter is available at the usual digital publishers but Harvey isn’t. You can get Harvey as an audiobook. (Died 1981.)
  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His Tales of a Darkening World work is certainly well-crafted and entertaining. He’s deeply stocked at reasonable prices at the usual digital publishers. (Died 1976.)
  • Born February 25, 1913 Gert Fröbe. Goldfinger in the Bond film of that name. He also the Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Professor Van Bulow in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Colonel Manfred von Holstein in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, a film that’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.)
  • Born February 25, 1922 Robert Bonfils. Illustrator, known for his covers for pulp paperback covers, many of an erotic nature. I’ve not heard of him but ISFDB lists quite a few genre works that are, errr, graced by his work. Sex is certainly his dominant theme as can be seen in the covers of Go-Go SADISTO, Orgy of the Dead and Roburta the Conqueress. I’ve included the cover of From Rapture with Love, an obvious rip-off a Bond film, as an example of his work. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 25, 1938 Diane Baker, 82. She starred in Journey to the Center of the Earth with James Mason,  and shortly thereafter, she’s Princess Yasmin in The Wizard of Baghdad.  She’s Kathy Adams in the “Beachhead” episode of The Invaders, and Fran Woods in the “Saturday’s Child” episode of the original Fantasy Island. I think her last genre role was as Dolores Petersen in the “Water, Water Everywhere” episode of Mann and Machine.
  • Born February 25, 1938 Malcolm Tierney. He’s Lt. Shann Childsen, the Imperial Prison Officer who questions Skywalker and Solo on what they are doing with Chewbacca in Star Wars, he’s in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Trial of a Time Lord” as Doland. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 25, 1944 Mary Hughes. Solely here because she was a bikini-clad robot in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, a too obvious Bond ripoff made entertaining by Vincent Price in the lead role. Her career spanned but three years. Another film she was in was The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini where she played, errr, a bikini clad Mary, and Boris Karloff played The Corpse.
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 52. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short works since the Eighties. Her first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but she now has five novels published with her latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Her story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in  Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1971 Sean Astin, 49. His genre roles include Samwise Gamgee in the Rings trilogy, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, and Bob Newby in the second season of Stranger Things. He also shows up in Justice League: War and in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis filmsvoicing both aspects of Shazam, a difficult role to pull off. He reprises that role on the Justice League Action series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds one size does not fit all when it comes to being abducted by aliens.

(10) SQUOOBS AND COMPANY. When Mysterious Galaxy bookstore reopened in San Diego this month, representatives of the Mandalorian Mercs and Imperial Sands Garrison were on hand: “Mercs ‘Haran’galaar – Mysterious Galaxy Grand Opening’ Event Report”.

Event location: San Diego, CA
Date: February 08, 2020
Clan(s) Involved: Haran’galaar Clan
Mission Objective: Photo ops
Event Report: Mysterious Galaxy book store opened its doors again and Haran’galaar member Squoobs Jaro was there to show support. Guests were treated to photo ops with Squoobs along with members of the Imperial Sands Garrison.

(11) LAW LAW LAND. In “Useful Laws of the Land” on the Collaborative Fund website, Morgan Heusel discusses “Benford’s law of controversye:  “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available,” which Gregory Benford promulgated in Timescape.

8. Benford’s law of controversy: “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.”

The line appeared in science fiction author Gregory Benford’s book Timescape.

Data has a way of keeping excitement in check, whereas if you have to take a leap of faith on something you’re likely to leap as far as your mind allows.

The median income of the people of another state: data I can confirm and everyone can agree on.

The feelings and political beliefs of the people of another state: no way for me to easily tell. But I can guess and draw conclusions, some of which are wrong and missing content, and might anger me, which angers them, and so on.

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale once said, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

He wasn’t serious, but it seriously explains a lot of things.

(12) IT’S A BABY! In the Washington Post, David Betancourt, reporting from the Toy Fair New York, says the market is about to be flooded with Baby Yoda merchandise, including a doll that makes baby noises if you hold his left hand and the theme from “The Mandalorian” if you hold the right.  He interviews “Mandalorian” producer Dave Piloni, who says that one reason why Baby Yoda merchandise is becoming available now is that they wanted to surprise people with the character and couldn’t start production of Baby Yoda stuff until after the show was launched: “Baby Yoda toys are finally arriving. Sure, they missed the holidays — but at least that prevented spoilers.”

And on Thursday at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan, the Child was everywhere. Legos, action figures, costumes, backpacks, hats, shirts, wallets and socks were all on display. An image of the now-classic moment in “The Mandalorian” when a young Baby Yoda reaches out of a capsule and extends the cutest finger in the universe for the first time? Framed and ready for your wall. The capsule itself? Also available, and featuring an animatronic Baby Yoda that blinks, coos and will melt your heart, for $60.

(13) YOU’RE INVITED TO GO APE. Fathom Events is selling tickets to a theatrical screening of King Kong on March 15.

In the classic adventure that made her a star, Fay Wray plays the beautiful woman who conquers the savage heart of a giant ape.

(14) FROM DA VINCI TO DA CAPO. Dan Brown’s next project is for young children. Wild Symphony, a hybrid picture book and album, featuring a mouse conductor who recruits other animals to join his orchestra.

Before he became a best-selling writer, Dan Brown was an aspiring musician. In 1989, he self-produced an album of children’s music he arranged on synthesizers, titled “Musica Animalia.” It sold around 500 copies, and Brown soon forgot about it.

He had better luck as a novelist, with page-turners like “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Lost Symbol” and other thrillers that collectively have more than 220 million copies in print.

Now, three decades later, Brown is reviving his musical career with a hybrid children’s album and picture book that grew out of the music and poems he wrote for “Musica Animalia.”

(15) STEALING COMEDY GOLD. James Davis Nicoll acquaints Tor.com readers with a Donald Westlake series in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Heist”.

…Just as Parker was the perfect lead for noir crime novels, hapless, likeable Dortmunder was the perfect lead for a comic heist series. There’s always stuff that needs stealing in New York; there are no end of unanticipated complications that can transform what was on paper a simple plan into a hilariously inconvenient maze of stumbling blocks for Dortmunder and his crew. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Westlake wrote fourteen novels and eleven or so short stories about John Dortmunder, Kelp, Murch, Tiny, and the rest of the crew before the author’s death put an end to the series.

(16) TEAMING WITH A ROBOT. “What do we look for in a ‘good’ robot colleague?” BBC devotes a long article to answering the question, with field observations as well as speculation.

How can we make our robot colleagues feel more at home? Teams of psychologists, roboticists and managers are trying to find out.

With a tank-like continuous track and an angular arm reminiscent of the Pixar lamp, the lightweight PackBot robot was designed to seek out, defuse and dispose of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that killed and injured thousands of coalition soldiers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bomb disposal was and is highly dangerous work, but the robot could take on the riskiest parts while its human team controlled it remotely from a safer distance.

US Army explosive ordinance disposal technician Phillip Herndon was assigned a PackBot during his first tour in Iraq. Herndon’s team named their robot Duncan, after a mission when the robot glitched and began spinning in circles, or doughnuts (doughnuts led to Dunkin Donuts, hence Duncan). His fellow bomb disposal techs named theirs too, and snapped photos of themselves next to robots holding Xbox controllers, dressed in improvised costumes or posing with a drink in their claws.

A PackBot was a piece of lifesaving kit, but it also felt like a comrade. No other equipment evoked the same kind of emotional pull, said Herndon, who retired from the army in 2016 as a first sergeant. Duncan’s final mission came one night when an enemy combatant fired on the robot as it worked to defuse a bomb. The strike disabled the IED, potentially saving lives, but destroyed the robot. “It was actually kind of a sad day for all of us,” says Herndon. “You do wind up in this situation where you have this robot for a tremendous amount of your operations, and all of a sudden you’re without a robot… There’s this emotional and operational missing link.”

Herndon was hardly alone in his attachment. Bomb-disposal robots have proven to be highly effective both at clearing explosives and at eliciting affection from their human handlers, some of whom have held robot funerals and award ceremonies for favoured bots.

These relationships offer illuminating insights into the experience of working with a robotic teammate, something an increasing number of workers in fields from healthcare to retail will be called on to do.

…‘Helping, not taking jobs’

“You need to think from the beginning of how you’re going to put these teams together, and give the robot [or] AI the job that the robot or AI does best and that the human doesn’t want to do, or that’s too boring or dangerous for the human,” says Nancy Cooke, a professor of cognitive science and director of Arizona State University’s Center for Human, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot Teaming.

(17) WHERE DID THE VIRUS COME FROM. “Coronavirus: The race to find the source in wildlife” – BBC has the story.

…Somewhere in China, a bat flits across the sky, leaving a trace of coronavirus in its droppings, which fall to the forest floor. A wild animal, possibly a pangolin snuffling for insects among the leaves, picks up the infection from the excrement.

The novel virus circulates in wildlife. Eventually an infected animal is captured, and a person somehow catches the disease, then passes it on to workers at a wildlife market. A global outbreak is born.

Scientists are attempting to prove the truth of this scenario as they work to find wild animals harbouring the virus. Finding the sequence of events is “a bit of a detective story”, says Prof Andrew Cunningham of Zoological Society London (ZSL). A range of wild animal species could be the host, he says, in particular bats, which harbour a large number of different coronaviruses.

So how much do we know about the “spillover event”, as it’s known in the trade? When scientists cracked the code of the new virus, taken from the body of a patient, bats in China were implicated.

The mammals gather in large colonies, fly long distances and are present on every continent. They rarely get sick themselves, but have the opportunity to spread pathogens far and wide. According to Prof Kate Jones of University College London, there is some evidence bats have adapted to the energetic demands of flight and are better at repairing DNA damage. “This might enable them to cope with a higher burden of viruses before getting sick – but this is just an idea at present.”

…The second part of the puzzle, then, is the identity of the mystery animal that incubated the virus in its body and possibly ended up in the market at Wuhan. One suspect for the smoking gun is the pangolin.

(18) COMPUTERIZED INCOMPETENCE. BBC reports “Pets ‘go hungry’ after smart feeder goes offline”.

Owners of a device designed to release food for pets say their animals were left hungry during a week-long system failure.

Petnet allows owners to schedule and control feeding via a smartphone app.

When the BBC contacted Petnet on its advertised email address, the email bounced back with a delivery failure notice.

One pet owner tweeted: “My cat starved for over a week”, while others complained about other hardware issues.

“My three Gen2 feeders constantly jam and won’t dispense food,” wrote another.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/31/20 The Cat That Scrolled Through Pixels

(1) NEW FAN FUND. Marcin Klak writes about efforts to bring the European Fan Fund to life in “European Fan Fund – update”.

…Right now the fund has €367.00 and £84.00. It is both a lot and not so much. It will be enough for the airfare for sure, but may not be enough for accommodation on top of the plane tickets. We also need to gather the money for the years to come. Still, this amount means that we can do it and EFF may start – maybe this year, maybe next, but we should manage to have it working and for that I am really grateful to all the fans who helped.

Future plans

The first thing ahead of us is to ensure we will have proper funds to start the race. If this happens, we will hold a race and choose a candidate that will travel to Eurocon. If this is possible to happen this year, we will have the first EFF delegate at Futuricon in Rijeka (Croatia). This would be really awesome. Then we need to remember that just a few months after Futuricon there will be a Eurocon in Fiugii (Italy). Having two trips within half a year would be challenging but maybe not impossible….

(2) RING IN THE NEW YEAR. On The Blerdgurl Podcast, “N. K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell describe the world of a powerful new Green Lantern”.

Happy Holidays everyone! Today’s episode features the award-winning writer N.K. Jemisin and the incredible artist Jamal Campbell who I spoke to recently about their new comic book Far Sector on the DC Young Animal Imprint. The comic introduces us to a brand new member of the Green Lantern Corp. Sojourner “Jo” Mullein. The first black woman to wield a Power Ring.

(3) HARLAN WOULD BE SO PROUD. Yahoo! Movies has “The most disturbing talking animals in film – ranked!” BEWARE SPOILERS!

9. Blood – A Boy and His Dog (1975)

If you have children and A Boy and His Dog appear on any streaming services, don’t watch it. At first glance, it looks like the sort of earnestly dumb Disney movie that Kurt Russell would have made in the 70s, but it is not that at all. A Boy and His Dog takes place in the aftermath of nuclear war, as a young man scavenges for food with a dog of contemptible character. Voiced by Tim McIntire, Blood’s one job is to find post-apocalyptic women for Don Johnson to have sex with in return for food. They eat a woman at the end. Like I said, not for kids.

After reading that description you might ask, “How in hell is that movie not Number One on the list?” But after you read what Yahoo! has in first place, your question will be answered —

1. Jennyanydots – Cats (2019)

You will have noticed by now that the top 5 of this Ranked! are all cats. That’s because I saw Cats at the cinema and I now hate cats. Picking a weirdest cat from the Cats lineup is almost impossible (the railway cat? The cat with boobs? Jason Derulo’s Towie cat? The suicidal cat?) and yet Rebel Wilson’s Jennyanydots makes the choice a little easier. Because Jennanydots is the masturbating cat who unzips her own skin and eats mice that for some reason have the voice of screaming children. I hate cats now.

(4) BOOKS IS EVERYWHERE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] While reserving more Bujold (see my Arisia 2020 report), I noticed this unexpected field in the library network’s REFINE BY choices. (See pic.)

Interestingly, it seems to only appear except when I’ve done some choices of criteria. I’m still experimenting, and haven’t yet gone to chat with the library.

Stay tuned!

(5) AMAZING! So Steve Davidson really answers Amazing Stories’ spam? A 10-point declaration: “Not That It Will Do Any Good, But….”

To all content mills, web-marketing firms, SEO factories and anyone else who thinks that having an article with your “do follow” links in them published on the Amazing Stories website will help your/your client’s business, or that our website is in desperate need of your technical know-how designed to increase our traffic or raise our internet profile:

1.  WE. ARE. NOT. INTERESTED.  That’s blanket and across the board.

…BONUS:  This post was written so I can reduce my correspondence with the SEO mills by simply sending them a link.

(6) ASIMOV CENTENNIAL. Yosef Lindell skeptically inspects “Isaac Asimov’s Throwback Vision of the Future” for The Atlantic.

When Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy won the Hugo Award for best all-time science-fiction series, in 1966, no one was more surprised than the author. The books contained “no action,” Asimov complained years later, adding, “I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did.” As a young reader, I devoured the Foundation books, the short-story collection I, Robot, and other works by Asimov. Though these tales entranced me with their bold strokes of imagination, when I revisit them as an adult, their flaws stand out more than their virtues. It’s not so much that nothing happens, but that the reader doesn’t get to see anything happen. Asimov’s stories are dialogue-driven; the action happens off-stage while men (and, less frequently, women) huddle to debate the significance of what occurred or what ought to be done in the best Socratic fashion.

Asimov was aware of these quirks. “I don’t see things when I write,” he once apologized. “I hear, and for the most part, what my characters talk about are ideas.” Still, his stories often evoke the smoke-filled corporate boardrooms of the past century more than a progressive tomorrow. And his writing is striking for its optimism, betraying a faith in technology and humanity that seems especially naive and out of place today. When considering Asimov’s tales now, I’m reminded of what another famous science-fiction author, Neil Gaiman, once cautioned about rereading older works in the genre: “Nothing dates harder and faster and more strangely than the future.” (It doesn’t help Asimov’s case that he was known for groping women, an aspect of the author’s legacy that Alec Nevala-Lee wrote about in depth for Public Books earlier this month.)

(7) MYSTERIOUS NEW LOCATION. “Independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy opening in Point Loma”sdnews.com has the story.

Despite changing locales and ownership, patrons of iconic independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy can expect the same incomparable service and variety.

Patrons-turned-booksellers, couple Matthew Berger and Jennifer Marchisotto were regular patrons of Mysterious for six years after moving to San Diego. Of the timing of their acquiring the 27-year-old bookstore specializing in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, young adult, romance, Berger said, “That’s something I always wanted to do.” 

Though they didn’t expect to be in retail so soon, Berger noted, “When that opportunity arises, how can you say no?,” while describing Mysterious as our “favorite bookstore in the world. I’ve been familiar with Mysterious Galaxy since I was a kid when I used to go with my dad to book signings,” said Berger who, along with Marchisotto and newborn child, acquired the store Jan. 3 moving it after its lease in Clairemont had expired, into its new 5,650-square-foot space at 3555 Rosecrans St., Suite 107, in Point Loma. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 31, 1936The Green Hornet made its radio debut.
  • January 31, 1986 Eliminators premiered. It was directed by Peter Manoogian who did such horror films as Demonic Toys, and was involved in Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Sy.  It had a cast of Andrew Prine, Denise Crosby and Patrick Reynolds. It bombed upon its release, and the Rotten Tomatoes of 35% reflects that. It is unfortunately not available fir viewing online.
  • January 31, 1993 Space Rangers aired its final episode. Only six episodes were made of this series which starred Jeff Kaake, Jack McGee, Marjorie Monaghan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Danny Quinn,  Clint Howard,  Linda Hunt and  Gottfried John. It was created by Pen Denshem who wrote and produced such series such as The Outer Limits and Poltergeist. (Well of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as well.) There’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes but all the critics hated it with a passion calling it cliched, predictable and lame. There’s not much on the series on the net but Starlog did a very nice piece you can read here.
  • January 31, 1997 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope: The Special Edition premiered. A New Hope was re-released along with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, under the campaign title The Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition.  It has a number of minor changes from the the original print, an enhanced Mos Eisley spaceport For one, and major ones such as Greedo shooting first and the CGI Jabba the Hut. The changes made many fans unhappy inspiring such things as the t-shirt’s that said “Han shot first.” Currently it holds a stellar 93% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see the trailer here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1921 John Agar. Between the early Fifties and the Sixties, he appeared in many SFF films such as The Rocket Man, Revenge of the Creature, Tarantula, The Mole People, Attack of the Puppet People, Invisible Invaders, Destination Space, Journey to the Seventh Planet, Curse of the Swamp Creature, Zontar: The Thing from Venus,  Women of the Prehistoric Planet and E.T.N.: The Extraterrestrial Nastie. (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 31, 1922 William Sylvester. He’s remembered as Dr. Heywood Floyd in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. Genre, he later shows up in The Hand of Night (horror), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (dark fantasy) and Heaven Can Wait (fantasy) but none gain him the fame of 2001. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 83. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a fragmentary listing of his works that have a SFF underpinning.   
  • Born January 31, 1941 Jonathan Banks, 79. First genre role was as Deputy Brent in Gremlins, a film I adore. In the same year, he’s a Lizardo Hospital Guard in another film I adore, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Ahhh, a good year indeed. Next I see him playing Michelette in Freejack, another better that merely good sf film. The last thing I see him doing film wise is voicing Rick Dicker in the fairly recent Incredibles 2. Series wise and these are just my highlights, I’ve got him on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Shel-la in the “Battle Lines” episode, in Highlander: The Series as Mako in the “Under Colour of Authority” episode and as Kommander Nuveen Kroll in short lived Otherworld series. SeaQuest 2032 also had him for two episodes as Maximillian Scully. 
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 60. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the DC Universe series that started this past fall is based on his work and is quite spectacular), Seven Soldiers and his very weird The Multiversity
  • Born January 31, 1968 Matt King, 52. He’s Peter Streete in the most excellent Tenth Doctor story, “The Shakespeare Code”. His other genre performances are Freeman in the superb Jekyll, Cockerell in Inkheart based off Caroline Funke’s novel of that name, the ghost Henry Mallet in Spirited andClyde in the recent maligned Doolittle.
  • Born January 31, 1970 Minnie Driver, 50. She’s Irina in the seventeenth Bond film GoldenEye. Later on she’s voices Lady Eboshi in the English language version of Princess Mononoke, does the same for Jane Porter in Tarzan, and is Mandy in Ella Enchanted.  She was Lara Croft in the animated Revisioned: Tomb Raider series was distributed through the online video game service GameTap. 
  • Born January 31, 1973 Portia de Rossi, 47. She first shows up as Giddy in Sirens which would be stretching things to even include as genre adjacent but is definitely worth watching. For SFF roles, she was in Catholic Church tinged horror film Stigmata, music Zombie comedy Dead & Breakfast and werewolf horror Cursed. She was Lily Munster in the deli weird Mockingbird Lane pilot that never went to series. 

(10) IS THE BOOK BETTER THAN THE MOVIE? Either way, Gallup’s survey shows “In U.S., Library Visits Outpaced Trips to Movies in 2019”.

Visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far. The average 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults report taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities. Americans attend live music or theatrical events and visit national or historic parks roughly four times a year on average and visit museums and gambling casinos 2.5 times annually. Trips to amusement or theme parks (1.5) and zoos (.9) are the least common activities among this list.

(11) ACTOR IN THE FAMILY. William Ketter, son of well-known book dealer Greg Ketter, will perform in an off-Broadway production of Animal Farm in February.

The animals on a farm drive out their master and take over and run the farm for themselves. The experiment is successful, except that someone has to take the deposed farmer’s place. Leadership devolves upon the pigs, which are cleverer than the rest of the animals. Unfortunately, their character is not equal to their intelligence. This dramatization remains faithful to the book’s plot and intent and retains both its affection for the animals and the incisiveness of its message.

(12) JOCULARITY. McSweeney’s Carlos Greaves declares “As a 28-Year-Old Latino, I’m Shocked My New Novel, Memoirs of a Middle-Aged White Lady, Has Been So Poorly Received”.

…When I set out to write this novel, which takes place in Iowa and centers around 46-year-old Meradyth Spensir and her 8-year-old son Chab, my goal was to shed light on the struggles that white middle-aged women in America face — struggles that I, a 28-year-old Latino man, don’t know much about but I would imagine are pretty tough. And as far as I’m concerned, I freaking nailed it….

(13) WHEN MOVIES WERE SMOKIN’. From “Who’s There?” by Dan Chiasson, in the April 23, 2018 New Yorker, in a piece on the 50th anniversary of 2001:

Hippies may have saved 2001. ‘Stoned audiences’ flocked to the movie.  David Bowie took a few drops of cannabis tincture before watching, and countless others dropped acid.  According to one report, a young man at a showing in Los Angeles plunged through the movie screen. shouting, ‘It’s God! It’s God!’  John Lennon said he saw the film ‘every week.’  2001 initially opened in limited release, shown only in 70mm on curved Cinerama screens,  M-G-M thought it had on its hands a second DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) or BEN-HUR (1959),or perhaps another Spartacus (1960), the splashy studio hit that Kubrick, low on funds, had directed about a decade before.  But instead the theatres were filling up with fans of cult films like Roger Corman’s The Trip, or Psych-Out, the early Jack Nicholson flick with music by the Strawberry Alarm Clock.  These movies, though cheesy, found a new use for editing and special effects:  to mimic psychedelic visions.  The iconic Star Gate sequence in 2001, when Dave Bowman, the film’s protagonist, hurtles in his space pod through a corridor of swimming kaleidoscopic colors, could even be times, with sufficient practice, to crest with the viewer’s own hallucinations.  The studio soon caught on, and a new tagline was added to the movie’s redesigned posters:  ‘The ultimate trip’….

…For the final section of the film, ‘Jupiter and Beyond The Infinite, (Frederick) Ordway, the film’s scientific consultant, read up on a doctoral thesis on psychedelics advised by Timothy Leary.  Theology students had taken psilocybin, then attended a service at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel to see if they’d be hit with religious revelations.  They dutifully reported their findings: most of the participants had indeed touched God.  Such wide-ranging research was characteristic of Clarke and Kubrick’s approach, although the two men, both self-professed squares, might have saved time had they been willing to try hallucinogens themselves.

(14) LIFE SIZE? At $350, “The Child” is a heckuva lot better than a garden gnome. Of course, you may never see another frog in your backyard.

Sideshow presents The Child Life-Size Figure, created in partnership with Legacy Effects to bring you the galaxy’s most sought-after bounty. 

Lovingly referred to by audiences as ‘Baby Yoda’, the mysterious alien known as The Child has quickly become the breakout fan-favorite of Star Wars™: The Mandalorian on Disney+. Now eager collectors can become a clan of two and bring home the asset as an incredible 1:1 scale Star Wars collectible, no tracking fob needed.

The Child Life-Size Figure measures 16.5” tall, standing on a simple ship deck base that lets this adorable alien steal all of the focus- along with the Mandalorian’s ship parts. Inspired by its unique onscreen appearance, this mixed media statue features a tan fabric coat swaddling The Child as it gazes up with charming wide eyes, hiding the silver shift knob from the Razor Crest™ in its right hand. 

(15) DYSTROPES. Dwight Garner reviews Gish Jen’s The Resisters for the New York Times: “In a New Dystopian Novel, the Country is AutoAmerica, but Baseball Is Still Its Pastime”.

The best thing about being God, Iris Murdoch wrote, would be making the heads. The best thing about writing speculative or dystopian fiction, surely, is updating human language, pushing strange new words into a reader’s mind.

Gish Jen’s densely imagined if static new novel, “The Resisters,” is set in a future surveillance state known as AutoAmerica. The ice caps have melted, and much of the land is underwater. A racial and class divide has cleaved the population.

The “Netted” have jobs, plush amenities and well-zoned houses on dry land. The “Surplus,” most of whom live on houseboats in “Flotsam Towns,” have scratchy blankets, thought control and degradation. Members of this underclass have not begun to grow gills, like the buff men and women in Kevin Costner’s “Waterworld,” but that may not be far off.

(16) CITIZEN SCIENCE. “A New Form Of Northern Lights Discovered In Finland – By Amateur Sky Watchers” — includes video.

People in northern climes have long gazed at the wonder that is the aurora borealis: the northern lights.

Those celestial streaks of light and color are often seen on clear nights in Finland, where they’re so admired that a Finnish-language Facebook group dedicated to finding and photographing them has more than 11,000 members.

There aurora aficionados gather to discuss subjects like space weather forecasts and the best equipment to capture the northern lights.

Among its members is Minna Palmroth. She’s a physicist and professor at the University of Helsinki, where she leads a research group that studies the space weather that causes auroral emissions.

When members of the group posted photos of the auroras they’d seen and wanting to learn more, Palmroth would often reply with the aurora’s type and the scientific explanation for its form. The discussions led Palmroth and two collaborators to publish a field guide to the northern lights.

But even after the book came out, some questions remained unanswered. A few of the citizens’ photos showed a form of aurora that didn’t fit into any of the known categories. It had green, horizontal waves running in parallel. Its undulations reminding some observers of sand formations, and it was christened “the dunes.”

(17) ROLLING OUT THE DOUGH. Delish brings word that “Pillsbury Is Selling The Cutest Ready-To-Bake R2-D2 Sugar Cookies”.

And while you may look at the adorable packaging and think you’re getting cookies with different Star Wars characters on each of them, this is really just for R2-D2 die-hards as that’s the only design included. That said, @Pillsbury, I’m fully expecting a roll-out of BB-8 cookies now, as R2-D2 is fantastic and all, but my heart belongs to that tiny round bb always. Actually, I’d take some C-3PO-topped desserts, too. Can we just get all of them ASAP, please? TYSM!

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

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore Changes Hands, Will Stay Open

San Diego’s Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore has struck a deal with new owners who will save the business from closing its doors.

Last month current owner Terry Gilman announced they had lost the lease for their Balboa Avenue storefront and would have to move in 60 days. They needed a buyer and a new location.

Matt and Jenni

Matt Berger and Jenni Marchisotto will take over the store, which for nearly 27 years has been a science fiction and fantasy landmark in San Diego.

And the new location has already been secured. Mysterious Galaxy will in remain open at its current location until mid-January, then afterwards, its new home will be 3555 Rosecrans St. Suite #107 San Diego, CA 92110, where they have a five-year lease.

Gilman says he spoke to a number of qualified prospective buyers and corresponded with dozens of others before striking a deal. “It was clear to me very quickly that Matt Berger and Jenni Marchisotto stood out as the perfect new owners for Mysterious Galaxy. They are long-time customers and passionate readers who understand our mission and want to take the business to the next level and ensure its future.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 11/14/19
By Grabthar’s Pixel,
What A Scrollings

(1) NEXT TIME, JUST WALK THERE IN THE BAT-SHOES. No more BIFF! or POW! Looks like Batman and The Joker are getting involved in the UK general election campaign in this ad from the Labour Party-supporting Momentum organization: 

(2) THE DEAD BODY PROBLEM. “The Supernova Era by Cixin Liu review – a world without adults” – the Guardian’s Steven Poole weighs in on Liu’s book (translated by Joel Martinsen).

…Admirers of that sensational triptych [The Three-Body Problem and sequels] will find something rather different in The Supernova Era, which Liu actually wrote in 2003, before the first Chinese edition of The Three-Body Problem in 2007. Though it is adorned with the colourful nebulae of space-opera art, it is primarily a work of speculative sociology.

That only becomes clear, though, after a masterful opening sequence detailing the death of a star. Liu is superb at creating drama from technical description (before becoming a writer, he worked as an engineer at a power plant), and he ramps up slowly to the moment of a supernova with exquisite tension. Why should we care about another supernova? Because this one is happening all too close to us: a mere eight light years away, a star that had been hidden from human eyes behind a dust cloud is now exploding.

Eight years later, the radiation arrives at Earth, lighting up the atmosphere and wrecking DNA in all the life forms on the planet. The authorities soon realise that everyone will die in a matter of months, except for children aged 13 and under: they are young enough, it is discovered, that their bodies can repair the DNA damage. In the time remaining, the adults have somehow to train the children in the disciplines required to keep agriculture and technological civilisation going, and select national leaders to take over when they die. The novel focuses on the three 13-year-old Chinese children who are to rule the country, and later on their American counterparts….

(3) TREK PARALLELS. Slate has an article in which Carmen Maria Machado talks about the influence an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation had on her while she was working on her memoir In the Dream House: “How an Episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation Wound Up in a Memoir About Domestic Abuse”.

…The episode is widely regarded as one of the series’ best, in large part thanks to Stewart’s performance. But “Chain of Command, Pt. II” struck a chord with Machado for another reason: She saw parallels between the torture of Picard and her own experiences with domestic abuse.

“It feels like a weird comparison to make because it’s literally an episode about physical torture. I was not physically tortured,” she said. “But on the other hand, it’s this sense that there’s something else happening underneath […] I kept thinking, this feels so on the nose. Like, as I’m working on this memoir, this episode just happens to be in the queue.”

Madred’s gaslighting technique reminded Machado of elements from her own relationship. “My ex-girlfriend would play these bizarre, possessive games. If I talked about anyone or looked anyone in any way, she would accuse me of wanting to sleep with them. She would call me and leave me voicemails if I didn’t pick up right away and be like, ‘Who are you sleeping with? What are you doing? Where’ve you been? Why haven’t you picked the phone up?’ And I came to believe that I was really a problem,” Machado said.I think it took me a long time to figure out that it actually wasn’t about any of those things. It was about this need to exert control.”

(4) BRIAN KEENE. The episode people have waited for all week is now online: “THE RISE AND FALL OF CHIZINE – The Horror Show With Brian Keene – Ep 244”. I haven’t listened to it yet – maybe you can fill me in about what I’m missing.

Brian, Mary and Matt cover the disturbing facts, allegations, and opinions surrounding ChiZine Publications. Plus, editor Stephen Jones declares war on logic!

(5) ANOTHER CZP WITHDRAWAL. Add co-editors Mark Shainblum and Andrea D. Lobel to the list of people who have pulled their book from ChiZine:

Hello everyone. We are taking this opportunity to inform you that we have pulled our anthology, Other Covenants: Alternate Histories of the Jewish People, from ChiZine Publications. It was originally scheduled to be published in spring 2020.

This was a difficult, but absolutely necessary decision. We could make no other.

Other Covenants is a labour of love that we have been working on for more than two years, and its story does not end here. We are in ongoing discussions to find a new home for the book.

We would like to thank our wonderful contributors for all their patience and trust.

(6) NEW STARTING TIME FOR AMAZING TORONTO READINGS. Steve Davidson sends an update that the starting time for the Toronto readings from Amazing Stories has been changed to 6:30 p.m. from 5 p.m. The dates, readers, and location all remain the same.

(7) ON SECOND THAWED. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber says Frozen II is an avalanche of half-formed ideas.

Disney has produced a few hit films in its time, but Frozen stands as one of the most staggering successes in the studio’s nine-decade history. Released in November 2013, the animation became the highest-grossing film of the year – and that was just the beginning. In 2014, every car with children in the back seat – and some without – had the hit single Let It Go on the stereo.

Inevitably, a sequel was made. And, almost inevitably, it’s nowhere near as good. Like the first film, this one is directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, scripted by Lee, and punctuated with songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. But the catchy Broadway show-stoppers have been replaced by thudding rock-opera power ballads; the glacial clarity of the coming-of-age theme has been replaced by a flurry of mythological codswallop; and the urgency of Anna’s journey to bring her sister home has been replaced by the apathy of Elsa’s wish to learn about her past….

(8) CLYDE KONG. BBC says the “Secrets of the largest ape that ever lived” include that it was related to the orangutan.

A fossilised tooth left behind by the largest ape that ever lived is shedding new light on the evolution of apes.

Gigantopithecus blacki was thought to stand nearly three metres tall and tip the scales at 600kg.

In an astonishing advance, scientists have obtained molecular evidence from a two-million-year-old fossil molar tooth found in a Chinese cave.

The mystery ape is a distant relative of orangutans, sharing a common ancestor around 12 million years ago.

“It would have been a distant cousin (of orangutans), in the sense that its closest living relatives are orangutans, compared to other living great apes such as gorillas or chimpanzees or us,” said Dr Frido Welker, from the University of Copenhagen.

(9) BOOKSTORE CALLS FOR HELP. A new owner is needed to save San Diego’s Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore  from closing its doors.? In a message sent to the store’s distribution list they said:

The staff of Mysterious Galaxy just received notice that they are losing their lease for their Balboa Avenue storefront, and will need to move in 60 days. It is with heavy hearts that we share that unless a new buyer and new location are found immediately, Mysterious Galaxy will be forced to close its doors. 

For nearly 27 years, Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore has been a vibrant part of the book community in San Diego, and a safe and welcoming place for those with a passion for books. The past several years have seen 5-10% growth in sales and increasing profits. The store’s participation in regional and industry conventions, and its stellar in-store events, have earned it a special place in the hearts of authors and readers alike, and created a well-respected brand in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Mystery praised throughout the publishing and bookselling industry.

The purchase of Mysterious Galaxy is expected to be a turn-key sale, retaining the staff and mission of Mysterious Galaxy to grow and expand the already established brand. We eagerly hope to find the right buyer, who will focus on the future success and growth of Mysterious Galaxy, and consider the best interests of its expert staff

…For serious inquiries about purchasing the store, please contact current Mysterious Galaxy Store Owner Terry Gilman (Terry@mystgalaxy.com) by November 20.

(10) MAIN SQUEEZE. Paramount dropped a trailer for The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run. It splashed.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 14, 1991 Dark Season, a six-part UK YA series, premiered. It lasted for a single season and it starred Victoria Lambert, Ben Chandler and Kate Winslet. It’s noteworthy for being Winslet’s first major television role. And it was created by Russell T Davies, then a BBC staff producer working for the children’s department at BBC Manchester who sent His story proposal in on spec. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 14, 1907 Astrid Lindgren. Creator of the Pippi Longstocking series and, at least in the States, lesser known Emil i Lönneberga, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, and the Six Bullerby Children series as well. In January 2017, she was calculated to be the world’s 18th most-translated author, and the fourth most-translated children’s writer after Enid Blyton, H. C. Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. There have been at least forty video adaptations of her works over the decades mostly in Swedish but Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter as an animated series in Japan recently.  (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 14, 1928 Kathleen Hughes, 91. She was Jane in It Came From Outer Space. Released on May 27 from the original story treatment  of Ray Bradbury. It was Universal’s first entry into the 3D-film medium. She would also be in Cult of the Cobra, Swamp Women Kissing Booth and Where the Sidewalk Ends, adaptation of the Silverstein book.
  • Born November 14, 1948 John de Lancie, 71. Best known for his role as Q in the Trek multiverse. He also was Jack O’Neill enemy Frank Simmons in Stargate SG-1. He has an impressive number of one-offs on genre shows including The Six Million Dollar Man, and Battlestar Galactica (1978 version), The New Twilight ZoneMacGyverMission: Impossible (Australian edition), Get Smart, Again!Batman: The Animated SeriesLegend (if you’ve not seen it, go now and watch it) and I’m going to stop there. 
  • Born November 14, 1951 Beth Meacham, 68. In 1984 she became an editor for Tor Books, where she rose to the position of editor-in-chief. After her 1989 move to the west coast, she continued working for Tor as an executive editor. She does have one novel, co-written with Tappan King, entitled Nightshade Book One: Terror, Inc. and a handful of short fiction. 
  • Born November 14, 1959 Paul McGann, 60. Yes, he only did one film as the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who television film, but that role he has reprised in more than seventy audio dramas and the 2013 short film entitled “The Night of the Doctor”. Other genre appearances include Alien 3, FairyTale: A True Story, Queen of the Damned and Lesbian Vampire Killers.
  • Born November 14, 1963 Cat Rambo, 56. All around great person. Really. Just finished up a term as SWFA President. She was editor of Fantasy Magazine for four years which earned her a 2012 World Fantasy Special Award: Non-Professional nomination. A story of hers,  “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain”, was a Nebula Award finalist. Her first novel, Beasts of Tabat, is the beginning of what I suspect will be an impressive fantasy quartet. Hearts Of Tabat came this year.  She also writes amazing short fiction as well. The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is her long-standing school for writers that provides her excellent assistance in learning proper writing skills both live and on demand as well. You can get details here.
  • Born November 14, 1976 Christopher Demetral, 43. He also played the title character on the oh, so excellent The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne series. He shows up in the “Future Imperfect” episode of Next Gen, and had the recurring role of Jack on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
  • Born November 14, 1978 Michala Banas, 41. Australian actress whose main genre acting has been the Nowhere Boys series and the film, Nowhere Boys: The Book of Shadows. She has a lot of other genre appearances, to wit in the Mirror, Mirror time travel series, the Scooby-Doo film, The Lost World series and the BeastMaster series as well. 

(13) GETTING EVEN. NPR’s Jason Heller finds that “‘Queen Of The Conquered’ Serves Revenge With Delicacy And Savagery”.

Revenge is the most primal of motivations, and as such, it’s the basis of much fantasy literature. In Queen of the Conquered, Kacen Callender’s debut novel for adults, the author wields revenge with supernatural skill. But that’s not all they do: Callender also weaves a vast, fictional backdrop that’s based on the colonial history of the Caribbean, a refreshing break from the stereotypical, pseudo-European setting of most epic fantasy. But rather than scatter its narrative across numerous characters and points of view, Queen of the Conquered effectively concentrates its entire focus on one character, Sigourney Rose — a black woman and deposed noble with strange abilities who has the most profound of axes to grind against her island’s Norse-like conquerors.

(14) NEW COMIC FEATURES THANOS’ DAUGHTER. Marvel’s Nebula will get her first series in February, created by by Vita Ayala and Claire Roe.

This February, follow the exploits of one of the most feared women in the galaxy in NEBULA, an all-new six-issue series from rising Marvel star Vita Ayala with art by Claire Roe! In NEBULA, the daughter of Thanos and sister of Gamora will finally get her time in the spotlight — and she has her eye on a very secret device. But will one of the galaxy’s most notorious bounty hunters get to it first? Marvel fans know that Nebula rarely lets anyone get in her way…

“[Since] the movies kind of reinvigorated interest in her, we’ve gotten to see her pop up more and more in the comics. And now, here’s her solo title where all we do is really dive deep and explore who she is and why she does what she does. That’s kind of my jam,” Ayala said in an exclusive interview with Refinery29. “I really want to kind of showcase how cool Nebula is even though she’s a bad guy, and how much more complex she is than what we might assume….it was my mission to try and show who she is on a kind of two-dimensional level. Being able to be in her head and fill out all the corners is really given me an appreciation for her, and I want other people to also love her and want her to do her best.”

 (15) YOUR FISH IS READY, SIR. Gollum is Alfred? Yes, if ScienceFiction.com is to be believed: “Andy Serkis Is The Alfred To Robert Pattinson’s ‘The Batman’”.

…Rumors were swirling earlier this week that Serkis was being eyed for the role. The actor previously played Ulysses Klaue in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ and ‘Black Panther’ and while he could likely return to the MCU to do motion capture work down the line, for now, his live-action work will be confined to cleaning up after Batman.

… Serkis is joining a long line of Alfreds from Alan Napier on the iconic 1966 television series to Sean Pertwee on ‘Gotham’ and Jack Bannon on ‘Pennyworth.’ In feature films, Michael Gough played Alfred in the Tim Burton film, Michael Caine in “The Dark Knight” trilogy, and Jeremy Irons in the more recent films.

(16) ORANGE YOU GLAD? The Drum shares Sainsbury’s Christmas 2019 ad, sparkling with fantastic touches.

In celebration of its 150th anniversary, Sainsbury’s has travelled back in time to Victorian London in a spot that highlight’s the supermarket’s humble origins.

Nicholas, a poor orphan, is banished from the city after being falsely accused of stealing an orange from the original Sainsbury’s stall.

After being sent to the North Pole as punishment, he is rescued by Mrs Sainsbury who knows of his innocence and gifts him a bag of oranges saying “If you can’t do something special for someone at Christmas, then when can you?”

Nicholas then passes the kindness forward, gifting oranges to all the children in the orphanage before donning a red hat a cape – alluding that he will grow up to be Father Christmas himself.

(17) FORTEAN CONNECTION. Crimereads has an interesting article by Curtis Evans about the 1937 murder of publisher Claude Kendall — “The Playboy and the Publisher: A Murder Story”. “Claude Kendall” (the company name) was best known for spicy, controversial books, many with a gay subtext (sometimes not very “sub” at all), and for mystery novels. But Kendall was also the original publisher of Charles Fort’s Lo! and Wild Talents.

The most notorious and successful of the Claude Kendall books were four novels authored by Tiffany Ellsworth Thayer, aka “Tiffany Thayer.” With several hundred thousand copies sold during the early 1930s, the Tiffany Thayer novels, particularly Thirteen Men and Thirteen Women, earned Claude Kendall a great deal of publicity. Other controversial books from the early 1930s that bore the Kendall name include: the first American edition of Octave Mirbeau’s Torture Garden, a primary text of the Decadent Movement originally published in France in 1899, of which pulp writer Jack Woodford expressed his amazement that Claude Kendall had been able to publish its “splendid” edition (“I don’t see how it would be possible to write a more ‘dangerous’ book [from the standpoint of the censor] yet it was published.”); Mademoiselle de Maupin, an American edition of Théophile Gautier’s gender-bending 1835 novel about a real-life French cross-dresser; G. Sheila Donisthorpe’s Loveliest of Friends, a novel dealing with lesbianism; Cecil De Lenoir’s seedy The Hundredth Man: Confessions of a Drug Addict; Beth Brown’s Man and Wife, about prostitution and the divorce racket; Lionel Houser’s Lake of Fire, described as a “bizarre tale of identity theft, mutilation, lust and murder, provocatively illustrated with strikingly explicit woodcuts”; R. T. M. Scott’s, The Mad Monk, purportedly about the early life of Rasputin; Lo! and Wild Talents, two of Charles Fort’s bizarre collections of “anomalous phenomena”; and, last but not least, Frank Walford’s Twisted Clay, a lurid tale, recently reprinted, about a psychopathic, patricidal bisexual female serial killer that was banned by government authorities in both Canada and Australia. (“She loved…and killed…both men and women,” promised Twisted Clay’s salacious jacket blurb.)

Ever eager where controversy was concerned, Kendall also unsuccessfully attempted to secure the American publication rights for James Joyce’s Ulysses, which had been banned in the United States on obscenity grounds since 1920.

(18) WHAT IF? ScienceFiction.com invites fans to “Get A First Look At ‘What If Peggy Carter Took The Super Soldier Serum?’” Concept art at the link.

In addition to the live-action MCU-based on the movies, Disney+ is offering the animated ‘What If…?’ series, which borrows its name from the popular comic book that told stories set in hypothetic realities where things went very differently from the mainstream Marvel Universe.  The ‘What If…?’ animated series will be based on the MCU, so all of the stories will reinvent events from the hit films. The first will imagine a reality where it was Peggy Carter who became the Super Soldier, not Steve Rogers.  Instead, skinny weakling Rogers will make his contribution to the Allies’ World War II efforts with the help of Howard Stark, who suits him up with a bulky suit of armor, reminiscent of Tony Stark’s Mark I armor.  Together, the pair resemble DC’s ‘Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.’ duo of Courtney Whitmore and her stepfather Pat or “Stripesy,” with Peggy flying to battle while essentially riding Steve’s armor like a steed.

(19) FOOD WITH AN EDGE. If you’re in the need of a blue condiment, step right up! Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Cookbook is a $34.99 deal at BigBadToyStore (and doubtless other places.)

Inspired by the cuisine from the exciting new Walt Disney World and Disneyland Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge-themed lands, this cookbook is the ultimate source for creating out-of-this-world meals and treats from a galaxy far, far away!

Featuring delicious delicacies found in Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu, this cookbook provides Star Wars fans with a wealth of delicious intergalactic recipes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This blog may be less frequent until science operations resume

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/2/18 Pixel Squared Plus Scroll Squared Equals File770 Squared

(1) THAT LITTLE VOICE. Publishers Weekly’s Antonia Saxon does a “Q & A with Diane Dillon” about her new children’s book. Diane and the late Leo Dillon had a long history as sff cover artists.

How hard was it to tackle the project on your own?

That was one of the fears in doing this book. Even if we had done something separately, we always signed everything Leo and Diane. Now Leo is gone and that little voice in my head says, “What if they say this is not up to our standard?” It was hard getting started. I kept thinking, “I’m going to be judged separately now.” It was uncomfortable.

So you have a little voice, too. What does it say?

The voice just says the same things over and over. But you don’t have to listen to it! The story is autobigraphical, that’s for sure.

Having Leo to bounce something off of, an extra pair of eyes to see something, that worked very well. A lot of people asked, “How can you work with someone else? Don’t you think, ‘This is your work, this is his work?’ ” But early on we realized we needed to join forces. We said, “We are one artist. We do something that neither one of us can do individually.”

It sounds as if you took your own doubts and made them into a book.

Yeah! I think it’s important that children know that that little voice can be stilled if you ask it questions. They can have courage to be anything they want to be. When I started this, it was before the Women’s March, and this new awareness of women’s self-image and strength, and the #MeToo movement—it was serendipitous that it’s come out at this time. I hope it has a long life.

(2) “WAITING TO WORSHIP A RAT.” February 2 — “Groundhog Day 2018: Punxsutawney Phil predicts 6 more weeks of winter”.

They reported that Phil communicated in “groundhogese” that he had cast a shadow.  According to legend, that means the weather will be wintry for the next six weeks.

That’s his typical prediction: It has happened more than 100 other times in the 132-year history of the tradition.

Even so, there’s some good news: Phil is usually wrong.

…Since 1887, the groundhog has seen his shadow 103 times, to forecast a longer winter, and not seen it 18 times, to predict an early spring. (There is no record of the prediction for 10 times in the late 19th century.)

(3) BASKERVILLE. Europa SF reports the winner of the 2017 Guillermo de Baskerville Award in the anthology category is Dark Fantasies, edited by Mariano Villarreal.

The award is named for the protagonist in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, and is given for the best indie books of the year that has been reviewed on the Spanish-language Libros Prohibidos (Prohibited Books) website. (The other categories were won by non-genre works.)

A jury composed of the writer, bookseller and blogger, David Pierre, the writers Sonia Rico, Javier Font and Diego Marcapáginas chose Dark Fantasies., from Sportula, a Spanish science-fiction and fantasy publishing house.

(4) IT’LL HOLD YOU TO YOUR DEADLINE. I haven’t seen one of these before! “1938 Underwood 14″ Tentacle Typewriter”:

(5) CASE IN POINT. The Traveler from Galactic Journey tells us what he thinks about the opening episodes of The Twilight Zone’s fourth season: “[February 2, 1963] Whither the Prodigal Son?  (Twilight Zone, Season 4, Episodes 1-4)”.

In His Image, by Charles Beaumont

A young man is plagued by blackouts and half-memories of murder.  When he takes his fiancee (who has known for all of four days) back to his home town that he left just a week before, he finds twenty years appear to have elapsed — and his family has no trace of existence at all.  Who is this man?  Where did he come from?  And what is the cause of his manic episodes?

George Grizzard gives a fine turn as the afflicted protagonist in a story that has more than one reveal.  While the pacing is a little slow, the course of the characters and the nuanced storytelling keeps it going for the expanded length of the show.  Four stars.

(6) YOU, TOO, CAN VISIT 1963. Some sort of time dialation will allow San Diego’s Mysterious Galaxy bookstore to host “Galactic Journey: Interview with a Time Traveler (1963 edition)” on February 17 at 2 p.m. (Full details at the link.)

Blast back to February 1963, three years before the Five Year Mission, nine months before the blue Police Box, when the Fantastic Four were on issue eleven — that “Mad Men” time that set the stage for everything that came after.

Hugo Nominee-Runner up and Serling Award-winning Galactic Journey, portal to 55 years ago, presents a window on sci-fi and the Space Race, comics and pop culture, in that fascinating, tumultuous era of change. Visit galacticjourney.org to see what we’re all about — we are a time-shifted blog living the fan’s life, 55 years in the past, day-by-day. This panel is the blog’s road show: always new, always different. Completely free of charge.

…Come to Mysterious Galaxy for a most unique engagement: a question-driven panel presented by a host of entertaining time travelers. YOU, the audience, determine the course of the event as they take you on a literary tour of the early 60s. Prizes will be given out for the best questions: See if YOU can stump the Traveler team!

…So don your skinny tie and/or cocktail dress, strap your slide-rule to your belt, and come see the event that has electrified congoers across the Western United States!

(7) STAN LEE IN, OUT OF HOSPITAL. The comics icon intends to be at a con in St. Louis this weekend: “STAN LEE Released From Hospital Early, Plans To Keep Weekend Convention Plans”.

Stan Lee has been released from the hospital following an overnight stay, and the 95-year-old writer plans on making his weekend convention plans. In an interview with Los Angeles’ KABC, Lee said was “feeling good” and appreciated the public outpouring of concern.

“All I really want to do is tell you that I’m feeling great,” Lee said. “I figured a little check-up wouldn’t be bad for me. And in fact it turned out to be pretty good, it got me a lot of publicity. I’m feeling good now and I can’t wait to get in there and tangle with all the competition.”

Lee was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday evening after experiencing shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. At that time, a spokesperson for Lee said the writer would remain hospitalized “for a few days for some check-ups as a safety precaution.”

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian finds puberty hit this monster hard, in Bliss.
  • John also passed on a horrible horror pun in Brevity.

(9) NOW IT CAN BE DONE. BYU only just announced this–the Princess Leia Projector. Ultra-kewl!

(10) SO LET’S CELEBRATE. New from Palette-Swap Ninja: “Leia Organa,” their latest Star Wars/Beatles parody.

(11) PURE TOMATOES. The Hollywood Reporter’s Pamela McClintock in “Rotten Tomatoes Denounces Group Taking Aim at Black Panther Audience Score”, says that Rotten Tomatoes has denounced a Facebook group called “Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises And Their Fanboys,” which says that it is going to flood Rotten Tomatoes with bad reviews of Black Panther as retaliation for what it claims is a Disney attempt to push bad reviews of DC franchises.

Not long after Rotten Tomatoes issued its statement, the group’s Facebook page was no longer available and appeared to have been deactivated. Facebook could not immediately be reached for comment. After the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in summer 2017, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed to curb hate speech on his social media platform.

(12) LIDAR DISCOVERIES. A new application of technology is revolutionizing Mayan archeology: “Sprawling Maya network discovered under Guatemala jungle”.

Researchers have found more than 60,000 hidden Maya ruins in Guatemala in a major archaeological breakthrough.

Laser technology was used to survey digitally beneath the forest canopy, revealing houses, palaces, elevated highways, and defensive fortifications.

The landscape, near already-known Maya cities, is thought to have been home to millions more people than other research had previously suggested.

The researchers mapped over 810 square miles (2,100 sq km) in northern Peten.

Archaeologists believe the cutting-edge technology will change the way the world will see the Maya civilisation.

(13) ARCHEOLOGICAL FINDS TAKEN. The Guardian reports: “Thieves steal hundreds of priceless artefacts from Canterbury charity”.

Priceless artefacts including 850 Anglo-Saxon beads have been stolen from an archaeological charity in Canterbury during a series of break-ins.

Thieves broke into the store of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, which undertakes excavations and research and educates the public about archaeology, twice last week and once over the weekend.

As well as the beads, large quantities of coins and metal artefacts, and an assortment of bone objects have been stolen.

The charity has put on an appeal asking the public to look out for the historical items being offered for sale.

A very large photo gallery of missing items has been posted by the group on Facebook.

(14) HONOR TO THOMAS. SF Site News reports Lynne M. Thomas will be named to a University of Illinois endowed professorship.

Hugo Award winner Lynne M. Thomas will be named Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book & Manuscript Professor on April 6 at the University of Illinois…. Thomas is also one of the co-editors and publishers of Uncanny.

(15) REWRITING HISTORY. Another thing everybody knows that’s wrong — ” What’s The Real Story About The Milkmaid And The Smallpox Vaccine?”

The Trend: Inoculate Yourself

To understand what really happened, Boylston, whose research interest is the history of smallpox inoculation, explored letters, medical notes and research papers, going back to about 1720. He has self-published a book about it, Defying Providence: Smallpox and the Forgotten 18th Century Medical Revolution. At that time, he says, doctors were attempting to prevent smallpox through a process called variolation, in which oozing matter was taken directly from the smallpox sores of sick people and scratched onto the skin of healthy people “There are records of women inoculating their own children with smallpox,” says Boylston. “People got a mild case of smallpox, but then they were immune.”

They were immune, that is, if they survived. Using actual smallpox virus to induce the disease in healthy people was risky. If people naturally caught smallpox during an epidemic, the chance of dying from the disease was 1 in 5 or 6. When they got smallpox after being inoculated, they generally developed a mild form of the disease, and the risk of dying dropped to about 1 in 50, Boylston says. Whether they got the disease naturally or from deliberate inoculation with the smallpox virus, survivors were immune for the rest of their lives. Historical records show that many people were willing to take the risk by exposing themselves — even their children — to smallpox.

But then Jenner showed that people could become immune to smallpox by being vaccinated with cowpox. It was safer because cowpox rarely kills.

But was the milkmaid really Jenner’s muse? Boylston thinks not.

(16) LOVE IT TO DEATH. NPR’s Mark Jenkins has mixed feelings about Before We Vanish: “Before The Invasion, A Crash Course In Sensitivity Training: ‘Before We Vanish'”.

What is love?

That query proves even more complicated than usual in Before We Vanish, Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s engaging if messy, and overstuffed, 20th feature. It’s a riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers that meanders from action to satire to romantic affirmation.

The man who poses the question is Shinji (Ryuhei Matsuda) — or, rather, the alien who just seized control of Shinji’s form. This new but physically unchanged man is suddenly clinical, inquisitive, and physically wobbly, so his bewildered wife takes him to a doctor. Narumi (Masami Nagasawa) doesn’t especially want her old husband back. Their marriage has rotted, and as Shinji learns more about being human, Narumi begins to like the new model more than the previous one.

Shinji is one of three advance scouts for the extraterrestrials’ conquest of mankind, a “run-of-the-mill species.” Introduced first is Akira (Yuri Tsunematsu), the most violent of the contingent. After an initial miscalculation, Akira grabs the body of schoolgirl and commits a brutal crime. This opening sequence, which invokes Kurosawa’s past as a horror-flick director, is a gory bit of misdirection.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Dave Doering, JJ, Robin Reid, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Will R., ULTRAGOTHA, Francis Hamit, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, and Carl Slaughter. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Redondo Beach Mysterious Galaxy To Close

Mysterious Galaxy bookstore will shutter its Redondo Beach location on June 15. The closure will be preceded by a store-wide sale from June 5-15. 

It wasn’t so long ago that the Redondo Beach Mysterious Galaxy originally opened – 2011.

Reassuring their San Diego customers, the owners say business at that store has increased:

In fact, we have outgrown our physical location and we are in conversation with a new landlord for a new, larger space in a location … not so very far away. This new space will enable us to have larger events in the store, and accommodate our need for a warehouse to support our many outside events, including Comic-Con International, Men of Mystery, Bouchercon, and author events in support of numerous Southern California libraries and organizations, to name only a few.

The Redondo Beach store closing will be a blow to touring authors. One thing I’m curious about is whether the SFWA Reading slated to happen there in August will move or be cancelled?

 [Via David Brin.]

SFWA Readings in SoCal

Science Fiction Writers of America is launching a Southern California Reading Series on May 31. Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore will host these free, quarterly events at its San Diego and Redondo Beach locations.

The inaugural readings will take place Saturday, May 31 at 2 p.m. at the San Diego store (7051 Clairemont Mesa Bl.). Featured authors will be Cecil Castellucci, Nalo Hopkinson, and a third to be announced.

The second event is scheduled for Saturday, August 30 at 2 p.m. at Mysterious Galaxy’s Redondo Beach location (2810 Artesia Blvd, Redondo Beach). Readers that day will be Stephen Blackmoore, Sofia Samatar, and Sherwood Smith.