Pixel Scroll 3/24/20 A Robot Shall Not Stand Less Than Six Feet From A Human, Nor, Through Inaction, Let One Get That Close

(1) MAKE IT SO. Entertainment Weekly brings word that “All episodes of Star Trek: Picard are now free to non-subscribers”.  

More entertainment fodder for your shelter-in-place: Star Trek: Picard is now free to non-subscribers to CBS All Access.

Or, put more accurately: Non-paid subscribers. You’ll still have to sign up for the CBS streaming service to watch the show, but now there’s a coupon code that unlocks Picard: “GIFT.”

There are nine episodes from the show’s first season available now, and the season finale drops on Thursday.

(2) SIT LIKE A CAPTAIN. While you’re binge-watching, you might think about refurnishing your living room with an assortment of the “Commercially Available Chairs in Star Trek”.

Countless off-the-shelf office chairs, lounge chairs or car seats appeared in Star Trek productions. Here is a list of the models that we identified, among them many design classics.

See also a list of unidentified chairs and help us track their origin.

(3) WISCON. Today this year’s WisCon was cancelled:

We are currently working on an online event to replace it — a WisCOnline, if you will. More details will be coming in a second blog post by next Monday (March 30).

WisCon 45, in May 2021, will be a banger, with all the elements of WisCon 44 that we are unable to carry off online, as well as all of the normal elements of WisCon 45! More details will be coming soon on W45 as we confirm them; watch this space!

(4) TOLKIEN READING DAY IS MARCH 25. Actors, scholars and fans will participate in the livestreamed Tolkien Reading Day tomorrow. The Tolkien Collector’s Guide tells where to link up and who’ll be reading. The participants’ schedule is at the link (scroll down).

The live streaming event will take place on Discord, a wonderful service for audio and text chatting – a free account will be needed to participate. The link you will need for the event is https://discord.gg/ZJfh7xD if you want to participate in the live text chat or want to be a reader. If you just want to listen, the live stream should be available on YouTube, thanks to the excellent support of the German Tolkien Society (Deutsche Tolkien Gessellshaft e.V.) – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCerbg8qXXeiQEvxq7u6Kz6w

You are welcome to join in at any time, though there will not be any scheduled readings until March 25th. If you would like to schedule a time to read something, please contact me through private message and we will work it out. Open mic readings will take place all day long as well if you just want to drop in.

Some of the guest readers will be: Marcel Aubron-Bülles, Dr. Luke Shelton, John Garth, Carl Hostetter, Dr. Andrew Higgins, Jason Fisher, Brian Sibley, Chica Chubb (Japan), Dr. Sara Brown, Stephen Hunter (“Bombur” in The Hobbit movies), Bruce Hopkins (“Gamling” in The Lord of the Rings movies), Ted Nasmith, Verlyn Flieger, and Dr. Una McCormack

(5) KAYMAR. Fan artist Jose Sanchez is the winner of the 2020 Kaymar Award, given by the National Fantasy Fan Federation.

Jose’s artistic contributions have added brilliance to the covers of the N3F’s magazines, including N’APA, Tightbeam, and Eldritch Science. Three cheers for Jose’s contributions! And may they long continue!

(6) POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE INFLUENCES. In “How N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became came to be”, Entertainment Weekly interviews he author about influences on the work.  

Jemisin cites the recent debates over the World Fantasy Award (which has traditionally been shaped as a bust of H.P. Lovecraft despite the “Call of Cthulhu” author’s public record of vile racism) as one of the main inspirations for The City We Became. That aforementioned “otherworldly threat” facing New York resembles both Lovecraft’s work and his life. The Enemy, as the characters refer to their many-headed foe, sometimes appears in the form of strange tentacled monsters (very reminiscent of Lovecraft’s signature Great Old Ones), but other times disguise themselves in human form as white gentrifiers and alt-right racists. Lovecraft himself lived in New York for a time, and documented in letters how repellent he found the city’s signature mix of people from all ethnicities and walks of life.

“It’s basically me mentally and spiritually engaging with the whole idea of how so much fantasy owes itself to Lovecraft, while overlooking his glaring flaws,” Jemisin says. “I also read some of his letters where you can see him just being horrifically racist, using the same language to refer to people in New York City the same way he refers to the Great Old Ones and Nyarlathotep and all the other creations of his. It’s kind of a deep dive into how pathological racists think. You cannot read Lovecraft without understanding that this is what’s in Stephen Miller’s head. There are all these people out there who sadly and horrifyingly now have positions of power, and they think of their fellow human beings this way.”

(7) UDERZO OBIT. Albert Uderzo (co-creator of Asterix) has died at 92 according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Astérix, which has a cult following, particularly in Europe, has also become a major film franchise, both in animated and live-action form. The property has spawned a number of cinematic adaptations, most notably 1999’s Asterix & Obelix Take on Caesar, starring Gerard Depardieu and Roberto Benigni.

Asterix debuted in October 1959 in the French magazine Pilote, created by René Goscinny and Uderzo. Two years later, the first stand-alone effort, Astérix the Gaul, was released. Since then, the series has gone on to sell more than 380 million copies, translated into more than 100 languages internationally. The duo collaborated on the comic until the death of Goscinny in 1977. Uderzo then took over the writing until 2009.

The Guardian accompanied its main obituary (“Asterix creator Albert Uderzo dies at 92”) with two sidebar articles about the comic and its creators:

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 24, 1946 The Shadow’s “The Walking Corpse” first aired. Like most of The Shadow stories aired after the brief glorious run of Orson Welles as The Shadow in the Thirties, little is known about who was involved it in though it is known that Eric Walker was the writer. We were unable to pin down who were the actors involved, nor who the sponsors were. If you listen to the episode, do tell us what you find out! 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 24, 1834 William Morris. Credited with creating the modern fantasy literature genre, he certainly wrote some of its earlier works, to note his epic poem The Earthly ParadiseThe Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World’s End, plus his entire artistic motif fits nearly within a fantasy literature and artistic design that looks as if it was created by the Fey Themselves. All of his works can be found at the usual digital suspects, often at no cost. (Died 1896.)
  • Born March 24, 1874 Harry Houdini. His literary career intersects the genre world in interesting ways. Though it’s not known which, many of his works were written by his close friend Walter B. Gibson who as you know is the creator of The Shadow. And one famous story of his, “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs”, was actually ghost-written by Lovecraft! ISFDB lists another piece of genre fiction for him, “The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstad.” (Died 1926.)
  • Born March 24, 1897 Theodora Kroeber. Mother of Ursula K. Le Guin. Anthropologist. Ishi in Two Worlds is the work she’s most remembered for. ISFDB lists her as having but one genre work, a children book titled Carrousel with illustrations by Douglas Tait. (Died 1979.)
  • Born March 24, 1924 Peter George. Welsh author, most remembered for the late Fifties Red Alert novel, published first as Two Hours To Doom and written under the name of Peter Bryant. The book was the basis of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. (Died 1966.)
  • Born March 24, 1930 Steve McQueen. He got his big break by being the lead, Steve Andrews, in The Blob. Setting aside the two different roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents he had which are at least genre adjacent, The Blob is his only genre appearance in his brief life. (Died 1980.)
  • Born March 24, 1941 Henry Glassie, 79. Folklorist who’s the author of one of my all-time fav Christmas books, All Silver and No Brass: An Irish Christmas Mumming. I was delighted to see that ISFDB say he has two works of genre fiction, “Coals on the Devil’s Hearth“ and “John Brodison and the Policeman”. Both are to be found in the Jane Yolen anthology, Favorite Folktales from Around the World which is available at all the usual digital suspects.
  • Born March 24, 1946 Gary K. Wolfe, 74. Monthly reviewer for Locus for twenty-seven years now and yes, I enjoy his column a lot. His brief marriage to Ellen R. Weil which ended with her tragic early death resulted in them co-writing Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever.  Old Earth Books has reprinted many of his reviews done between 1992 and 2006 in  Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996. He’s also written several critical looks at the genre, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction.
  • Born March 24, 1946 Andrew I. Porter, 74. Editor, publisher, fan.  Major member of NYC regional fandom starting in the early Sixties. APA publisher and edition in mind boggling numbers with Algol: The Magazine About Science Fiction which became Starship. He won a Hugo for Best Fanzine in 1974, in a tie with Richard E. Geis. who was doing SFR. He sold Science Fiction Chronicle which he founded in May 1980 to DNA Publications in May 2000 and was fired in 2002. Algol/Starship lasted less than five years despite the exceedingly superb reading it was. He has won myriad awards, including the Big Heart Award at a recent Worldcon. He has attended hundreds of science fiction conventions and nearly forty Worldcons since his first in ‘63. He was Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1990 Worldcon.
  • Born March 24, 1949 Tabitha King, 71. Wife of Stephen, mother of that writing brood. I met her but once on the lot of the original Pet Sematary a very long time ago. ISFDB to my surprise lists only two novels she’s written solely by herself, Small World and Wolves at the Door, and one with Michael McDowell, Candles Burning. None of her books are with her husband which surprised me. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio explains to us why some aliens might wish to visit our planet: 
  • Half Full, using a Batman reference, proves again that English is a funny language.
  • The Argyle Sweater has a horror, and horrible, pun.
  • Grant Snider’s cartoon is not genre, but is apropos to the times.

(11) CALLING SHORT ORDER COOKS. The editorial team of Journey Planet is looking for articles, artwork, creative writing, or anything printable for their upcoming issue dedicated to DC’s Swamp Thing.  Anything related to that character in comics, film, and television — live action or animated — is all good.  They’ve received great submissions already. They’d like yours as well.  Send entries to Chuck Serface at ceserface@gmail.com by April 1, 2020. The issue will appear shortly thereafter.

(12) FREE BOOK OFFER. To encourage folks to STAY AT HOME, Black Coat Press is now offering one free book to anyone who will write to them and request one! You have a choice between four titles:

Send them an email at info@blackcoatpress.com telling (1) which title you desire, and (2) if you want to receive it as a PDF or an EPUB file. That’s all! No strings! No archiving of email addresses! Please stay home!

(13) THE ROOTS OF HORROR. The Horror Writers Association is rolling out a “Haunted Library of Horror Classics”.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) and Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of SourceBooks, present the Haunted Library of Horror Classics, a line of reissued classic horror literature books from over the past 250 years. These books are recognized as literary masterpieces of their era and are either remembered today only through distorted theatrical or movie versions, have been relegated to academic study, or have otherwise been nearly forgotten entirely.

Series editors Eric J. Guignard and Leslie S. Klinger now bring back these seminal titles of the genre, making them easily available to modern readers!

(14) IT’S A LONG WAY FROM AMPHIOXUS. Earlier than even the earliest bird — “Fossil worm shows us our evolutionary beginnings”.

A worm-like creature that burrowed on the seafloor more than 500 million years ago may be key to the evolution of much of the animal kingdom.

The organism, about the size of a grain of rice, is described as the earliest example yet found in the fossil record of a bilaterian

These are animals that have a front and back, two symmetrical sides, and openings at either end joined by a gut.

The discovery is described in the journal PNAS.

The scientists behind it say the development of bilateral symmetry was a critical step in the evolution of animal life.

It gave organisms the ability to move purposefully and a common, yet successful way to organize their bodies.

A multitude of animals, from worms to insects to dinosaurs to humans, are organised around this same basic bilaterian body plan.

Scott Evans, of the University of California at Riverside, and colleagues have called the organism Ikaria wariootia.

(15) NOT JUST HAMBURGERS. “Could synthetic fish be a better catch of the day?” It’s not impossible…

…”Simply put, we are running out of fish,” says Daniel Pauly, a professor of fisheries at the Institute of Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia. “And the situation, the trend line, is getting worse every year.”

“Maybe centuries ago we could live off hunting for our food but we can’t live off hunting today and fishing is hunting. The notion of hunting in the 21st century to feed 10 billion people is absurd.”

A handful of start-up firms think they might have the answer. They are experimenting with growing fish “meat” in the lab.

Mainly based in Silicon Valley with a couple in Europe and Asia, they have developed techniques to extract fish stem cells and grow them into commercial quantities of edible flesh.

Stem cells are a type of cell, found in embryos or adult creatures – which can grow into a number of different specialised cells. They can grow into the muscle cells which make up most the parts of fish people like to eat.

(16) SORRY, WRONG NUMBER. Here’s how NASA dresses up its 404 error messages.

(17) COUNTRY AND MANDALORIAN WESTERN MUSIC. Funk Turkey’s “El Mando” is the sequel to “Big Mandalorian Iron”.

They’ve also released “The Jedi Went Down to Tattooine” –

What happens when you mix The Phantom Menace with Charlie Daniels? An outer rim ho-down, ya’ll. Strap in and enjoy this before the mouse yeets it.

(18) JIM BUTCHER DOUBLE PLAY. A new trailer for Peace Talks (the next Dresden) just came out — and at about the 1:49 mark of the trailer comes the announcement that another new Dresden, called Battle Ground, will be coming out in September of this year.

PEACE TALKS by Jim Butcher, Book 16 of the five-time #1 NYT Bestselling Dresden Files book series. Coming July 14th in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats from Penguin Random House.

And if that’s not enough for you, Andrew Liptak has rounded up “More Details From Jim Butcher and Priscilla Spencer on The Dresden Files Short Film and Surprise Book Announcement” at Tor.com.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Dann, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Chuck Serface, Nina Shepardson, Darrah Chavey, Daniel Dern, Danny Sichel, Paul Di Filippo, Contrarius, and birthday boy Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/19/20 Using The Robotic Arm To Push The Mole

(1) JEMISIN EVENT CONVERTED TO LIVESTREAM. N.K. Jemisin’s in-person appearance at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has been converted to a virtual event, due to steps being taken to protect the health of the UC San Diego community and slow the spread of COVID-19. Use the Eventbrite link to secure access.

N.K. Jemisin’s in-person event for The City We Became has, unfortunately, had to be canceled, but we are pleased to be able to offer you access to an exclusive virtual event streamed live. You’ll get a chance to hear about The City We Became and ask Jemisin questions. Only ticket-holders will have access-plus, you will still receive a copy of the book, with an option to sign up for a signed bookplate from Orbit during the event.

The virtual event will take place at the same time as the original event, 7pm on Friday, April 3rd. Tickets are still available through Eventbrite. If you have already purchased a ticket and would like to request a refund, you may do so through Eventbrite. However we hope you choose to join us in celebrating The City We Became! All ticket purchases help support the author, Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, the publisher, and this thing we call human imagination.

And you have to buy the magazine to see this next Jemisin-related item. Kevin Hogan reports: “I was surprised but pleased to see a one-page The Making of the Book segment in Entertainment Weekly (April 2020, issue # 1586, page 90) on N.K. Jemisin and her upcoming novel, The City We Became. It’s always nice to see genre covered in ‘popular media’-type publications.”

(2) BALTICON NEWS. Dale S. Arnold, the Balticon 54 Hotel Liaison, asks for understanding about how reservation cancellations were sent by the hotel before the con could notify its members.

We sent a letter to the Balticon hotel asking for their opinion as to if they would be able to host Balticon this year and if they could not do so we would need to cancel the event.

The hotel management determined that it was very unlikely they would be able to host Balticon 54 and at a staff meeting on the morning of 03/18/2020 the general manager told his staff to send us an email explaining that it was unlikely they would be able to host Balticon and to cancel reservations once we confirmed we had told our people. Apparently, the head of reservations did not hear the part about waiting for us to send out notice and took immediate action by using an automated cancellation program.

Cancellations from the reservations department went out several hours before the email to us from the general manager letting us know they could not host Balticon 54 and would not attempt to collect cancellation fees and that they hope to see us next year was sent. A follow up email with apology for sending the cancellations before we told the hotel we had announced the cancellation of Balticon has already been received from the hotel. Given the stress many people are under during this pandemic I hope we can all forgive the hotel reservations department jumping the gun by a day or so.

A message concerning membership refunds (and roll-overs if you want to Balticon 55) and dealers tables refunds  etc. with the process to let us know what you want to do will be sent out soon.

(3) THE MAN WHO LEARNS BETTER. “Heinlein’s Juveniles, Pt. 1” is a fine article by Sourdough Jackson in the latest DASFAx clubzine. Click here – then scroll down to the March (202003) issue. Starts on page 2.

…When discussing the juveniles, I’ll be taking them two books per column. The first pair are Rocket Ship Galileo(1947) and Space Cadet (1948), both products of a troubled time in the author’s life—a typhoon was blowing his marriage toward the rocks, and the prospects for his writing career weren’t much better. Among his attempts to claw off that marital and literary lee shore was a projected series of books for boys: The Young Atomic Engineers. He thought to begin with a blockbuster—a trip to the Moon.

(4) MONSTROUS DISCOVERIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 16 Financial Times, Simon Ings reviews “Monsters of The Deep,” a show about giant aquatic creatures that will be at Britain’s National Maritime Museum through January.

Back in 1893, the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley wrote in The Times:  ‘There is not an a priori reason that I know of why snake-bodied reptiles, from fifty feet long and upwards, should not disport themselves to our seas as they did those of the cretaceous epoch, which, geologically speaking, is a mere yesterday.’

Palaentologist Darren Naish, who is lead curator of the Falmouth exhibition,, is willing to entertain Huxley’s theory.  “His was the right attitude at the time, because the life of the deep oceans was only just being discovered. (Monsters of the Deep makes much of the ground-breaking research led by HMS Challenger, which between 1872 and 1876 discovered 4,700 species of marine life.) Large fossil dinosaurs and early whales, and amazing gigantic living animals, had been discovered only relatively recently,’ Naish pints out.’The whale shark, the world’s biggest fish, was a mid 19th century discovery.

(5) AGAINST THE LAW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Six Great Novels About Crime That Aren’t Quite Crime Novels” on CrimeReads, Mat Osman looks at six novels, two of which, China Mieville’s The City & The City and Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, are Hugo winners.  He also writes about Michel Faber’s Under The Skin, noting the novel is a “very different beast” than the filmed version.

The joy of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is the way it lures you in with the most comforting of literary tropes. It’s a hard-bitten detective story about a boozy, lovelorn policeman with a seemingly unsolvable case. There are hard-drinking cops. There are underworld kingpins. There are unspoken codes of honor. So far, so Raymond Chandler. But under the surface another kind of book is flexing its muscles. It’s a what-if novel in which the post-WWII Jewish homeland is Alaska rather than Israel and the Messiah may (or may not) be on his way. It’s a setting that lets Chabon riff on his favored themes. Tall tales are told, language is toyed with (the Alaskan Jews call themselves The Frozen Chosen) and it builds to a denouement as vast as it is unexpected.

(6) BABY YODA ON THE COVER. That made me 1000% more interested. On sale May 26 from Titan Comics, Star Wars: The Mandalorian The Art & Imagery–Collector’s Edition Vol.1.

This deluxe edition collects the stunning artwork from the first four chapters of the Disney+ smash hit, highlighting the characters, creatures, allies, enemies and environments of this all-new Star Wars story.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 19, 1990 Repo Men premiered. It was directed by Miguel Sapochnik. It starred Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber and Alice Braga. It was based on Eric Garcia’s The Repossession Mambo who co-wrote the screenplay with Garrett Lerner. It wasn’t well-received by critics at the time, nor does the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes care for it giving it a 21% rating.
  • March 19, 1999 Farscape premiered on Syfy. The series was conceived by Rockne S. O’Bannon and produced by The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment.  The Jim Henson Company was responsible for the various alien make-up and prosthetics, and two regular characters, Rygel and Pilot were completely Creature Shop creations. Filmed in Australia, it would would last for four seasons ending in The Peacekeeper Wars.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 19, 1821 Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS. He was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist when that term wasn’t a curse word, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. And the translator of an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights. Along with Vikram and the Vampire or Tales of Hindu Devilry. Mind you, he was also the publisher of both Kama Sutra and The Perfume Garden. (Died 1890.)
  • Born March 19, 1919 Patricia Laffan. She was the alien Nyah in Devil Girl from Mars, a Fifties pulp film which you can see here. (Died 2014.)
  • Born March 19, 1926 Joe L. Hensley. He was a First Fandom Dinosaur which is to say he was  active in fandom prior to July 4, 1939 and he received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He is also a published genre author with ”And Not Quite Human” in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction being his first published work, and The Black Roads being his only genre novel. It does not appear that his genre works are available in digital editions. (Died 2007.)
  • Born March 19, 1928 Patrick McGoohan. Creator, along with George Markstein, of The Prisoner series with him playing the main role of Number Six. I’ve watched it at least several times down the years. It never gets any clearer but it’s always interesting and always weird.  Other genre credits do not include Danger Man but does comprise a short list of The Phantom where he played The Phantom’s father, Treasure Planet where he voiced Billy Bones and Journey into Darkness where he was The Host. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 19, 1936 Ursula Andress, 84. I’msure I’ve seen all of the original Bond films though I’ll be damned I remember where or when I saw them. Which is my way of leading up to saying that I don’t remember her in her roles as either as Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, or as as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Bond girls aren’t that memorable to me it seems. Hmmm… let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in L’Infermiera, oops wrong genre, The Mountain of the Cannibal GodThe Fifth MusketeerClash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films. 
  • Born March 19, 1945 Jim Turner. Turner was editor for Arkham House after the death of August Derleth, founder of that press. After leaving Arkham House for reasons that are not at all clear, he founded Golden Gryphon Press which published really lovely books until it went out of existence. Too bad their original website doesn’t exist anymore, but you can still view captures at the Wayback Machine. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 19, 1955 Bruce Willis, 65. So do any of the Die Hard franchise count as genre? So even setting them aside, he has a very long  genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird shit), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon (eight tentacles down),  Looper (most excellent), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill). 
  • Born March 19, 1964 Marjorie Monaghan, 56. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted much, much longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series, and on The Great War of Magellan film. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CORONAVIRUS IMPACT ON COMICS MARKETING. “Image Comics Publisher Asks for Retailer Relief Amid Coronavirus Pandemic”. The Hollywood Reporter explains the new returns strategy adopted by the publisher of Saga, The Walking Dead, Monstress and many other famous titles.

As the comics industry reacts to the social isolation response to the coronavirus, Image Comics publisher and CEO Eric Stephenson has released an open letter about what his company — the third-largest publisher in the U.S. market — is doing to lessen pressure on retailers struggling with reduced traffic to stores and enforced closures. He is also asking other publishers to follow suit.

In normal times, comic book stores must estimate how many issues of each comic they will sell, and pay upfront for inventory from publishers. However, as the coronavirus has dramatically shifted how many customers are coming into shops, Stephenson said Image will allow comic book stores to return orders for the next 60 days. 

(11) THE WAY THROUGH. Elizabeth Bear, in her latest newsletter, looks for the tunnel that has the light at the end of it: “Adapt, improvise, overcome. And some strategies for coping with that cabinet full of shelf-stable STUFF.”

One of the precepts of emergency response is the title of this email: Adapt, improvise, overcome. It’s a phrase that gets mentioned several times in Machine, and I found myself thinking of it last night as I chatted with friends in various corners of the internet about the economic repercussions of the current xombie apocalypse. I see a lot of fear, and a lot of people saying “If we have to do this quarantine bullshit for 18 months the economy will never recover.”

A problem here is that we’ve been taught (by entertainment) to think of massive catastrophes as The End Of The World because that makes a better story. And I don’t want to minimize the grief and suffering that we endure in a catastrophe, be it a hurricane or an earthquake or a war or a pandemic. That is real.

But it’s also true that we adapt….

(12) AS CHAYKIN SEES IT. “Graphic Content: At The Intersection Of Comics And Crime With Howard Chaykin” is a fascinating profile by CrimeReads’ Alex Segura.

….Like the best crime fiction, Chaykin’s work is well versed in the morally ambiguous protagonist, as opposed to the steel-jawed, superheroic superman.

“My work more often than not betrays that hero with a wound thing, with a protagonist who is far from morally sound—and informs my interest in telling stories without a hero who does the right thing, that right thing as defined by an audience trained to love this romantic vision of the world,” Chaykin said. “And don’t get me started with the “rich guy who had a bad day when he was eight and turns to wage war on crime” model, either.”

(13) COME TIME TRAVEL WITH ME. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus will be doing a “Come Time Travel with Me” show on March 27. Sign up online.

It’s been a pretty difficult set of weeks lately.  In addition to normal life grinding to a halt, conventions and gatherings have been canceled.  Galactic Journey was scheduled to present at a number of venues over the next several months.  That’s all fallen by the wayside.

But!

Thanks to the miracle of TELSTAR, SYNCOM, and RELAY, Galactic Journey can still perform for you, coming to you Live, Coast to Coast, in the comfort of your own living rooms!

That’s right — we are reviving Galactic Journey’s “Come Time Travel with Me” show, an hour-long (more or less) trip back in time exactly 55 years.

We’ll be covering science fiction, the Space Race, the recent civil rights march in Alabama, fashion, politics — you name it.  And we mean YOU.  After our introduction, it’ll be your questions that guide the course of the program.  And the best questions will win a prize!

So come join us, March 27, 1965 (2020) at 6PM PDT.  All you need is a screen and an hour.  We’ll provide the rest.

See you there!

(14) IT FEELS SO GOOD WHEN I STOP. “At long last, NASA’s probe finally digs in on Mars” – the PopSci version.

NASA unsticks its Martian digging probe by whacking it with a shovel.

Every day, the InSight lander’s suite of instruments sends back data proving that the Red Planet isn’t really dead. Marsquakes rumble the seismometer. Swirling vortices register on onboard pressure sensor. And temperature sensors help track the weather and changing of the seasons.

Despite the lander’s successes, however, one gauge has met with resistance from the Martian environment while trying to carry out its mission. Something has stopped InSight’s 15-inch digging probe, dubbed “the mole” for its burrowing prowess. Instead of diving deep into the Martian sand where it could take the planet’s temperature, it’s been stuck half-buried. An intercontinental team of MacGyvers has spent a year devising successively daring plans to get the mole digging again, but still it flounders on the surface. Now their final gambit—directly pushing the mole into the soil—has shown tentative signs of success, NASA announced Friday on Twitter.

The goal of the mole, which is the measurement probe of InSight’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (or HP3), is to track the temperature variations of Mars itself. This heat comes from Mars’s core, which, like Earth’s core, remains warm from the planet’s birth. By measuring it, researchers hope to learn about Mars’s formation—but from the rod-shaped mole’s current position they can get readings only of the surface temperature. Mission planners hope to ideally reach 15 feet underground to escape the warming and cooling from the Martian seasons that would interfere with reading the planet’s true temperature.

“I always thought, ‘let’s ask Mark Watney [the fictional protagonist of the book The Martian] to just go over there and just push a little bit on the mole,’” said Tilman Spohn, the HP3’s principle investigator.

But without any Martian explorers to lend a hand, Spohn and his colleagues on the “anomaly response team” have had to improvise with the only tool available—a small shovel-like “scoop” on the end of InSight’s robotic arm. Over the last year they’ve tried to punch down the walls of the hole around the mole, to fill in the hole with nearby sand, and to give the mole more purchase by pinning it against the side of the hole with the scoop. But to no avail.

(15) UNDER DEADLINE. Nature reports “How China is planning to go to Mars amid the coronavirus outbreak”.

China’s first journey to Mars is one of the most anticipated space missions of the year. But with parts of the country in some form of lockdown because of the coronavirus, the mission teams have had to find creative ways to continue their work. Researchers involved in the mission remain tight-lipped about its key aspects, but several reports from Chinese state media say that the outbreak will not affect the July launch — the only window for another two years…

(16) BEHIND THE SCENES. “We Spent 24 Hours Searching for the Elusive ‘Butthole Cut’ of Cats”. You probably don’t really need the Vanity Fair article – you intuited the whole story immediately.

You can blame—or thank—Seth Rogen.

On Tuesday, the actor and writer partook in the ancient theatrical tradition that is trying to understand the baffling, inscrutable movie-musical Cats (recently available on digital). Rogen wrote a long Twitter thread about the experience, marveling at the impossibly small cat shoes worn by several characters and wondering what the hell a “Jellicle” is, anyway. (For the record, that made-up word is a play on how posh Brits pronounce “dear little” cats).

In the process, Rogen also tweet-quoted a post from screenwriter Jack Waz, who claimed to know a visual effects artist who had been tapped to work on Cats back in November. That VFX person’s job? “To remove CGI buttholes that had been inserted a few months before,” Waz wrote. “Which means that, somewhere out there, there exists a butthole cut of Cats.”

(17) AREA 51. “Rise of Skywalker Has An Awesome John Williams Easter Egg You Missed”ScreenRant points the way.

…With The Rise of Skywalker concluding the iconic Skywalker saga and wrapping up Williams’ time in a galaxy far, far away, J.J. Abrams made sure to put Williams in front of the camera in the film. Williams has a minor Rise of Skywalker cameo, appearing in a seedy establishment on Kijimi as the Resistance heroes make their way to meet Babu Frik. Getting the opportunity to see Williams onscreen was thrilling enough for fans, but the scene also includes several nods to his unparalleled career.

The making-of documentary in the Rise of Skywalker home media release has a segment focused on Williams. In it, Abrams reveals each of the props surrounding Williams represents the 51 Oscar nominations Williams received up to that point. Examples include Indiana Jones’ whip from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the barrels from Jaws, and the iron from Home Alone….

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

Coronavirus Threat Causes
Some Conventions to Cancel or Reschedule

Book fairs and sff conventions, like all public events, were already making decisions whether to proceed in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, but today’s World Health Organization announcement will step up the level of concern even higher. From the New York Times: “W.H.O. Declares Pandemic as Number of Infected Countries Grows”.

…“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief of the W.H.O., said at a news conference in Geneva.

“We cannot say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough,” he added. “All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”

But now there is evidence on six continents of sustained transmission of the virus, which has infected more than 120,000 people and killed more than 4,300, and by most scientific measures the spread qualifies as a pandemic. The designation itself is largely symbolic, but public health officials know that the public will hear in the word elements of danger and risk.

PopCult HQ has been tracking 8 conventions worldwide that are planned for next weekend and as of yesterday, only two have been called off.

Seattle’s large Emerald City Comic Con, which was planned for March 12-15, announced on March 9 that it has been postponed until Summer 2020 (the date to be named later.)

Each year the Emerald City Comic Con team works their hardest to do right by the thousands of fans that come together in Seattle. We want to create a space for you to gather, be yourselves and make memories with those who matter to you most. We have been closely monitoring the situation around the COVID-19 virus in Seattle, and, after many hours of conversation internally and consultation with local government officials and the tourism bureau, we have decided to move next week’s Emerald City Comic Con to Summer 2020 with date and detail announcement forthcoming. We did everything that we could to run the event as planned, but ultimately, we are following the guidance of the local public health officials indicating that conventions should now be postponed.

The Manga Comic Con in Leipzig, Germany is part of the Leipzig Book Fair, which also will not take place. Public health policies contributed heavily to the decision:

…The Leipzig Public Health Office decided to follow the directive of the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Economics, which states that the traceability of contact persons at major events must be guaranteed. The directive explicitly stipulated that every participant in the fair must provide written proof that he or she is not from any of the identified risk locations and has not had contact with people from such locations. Considering the approximately 2,500 exhibitors and 280,000 expected visitors, this was not a reasonable task. The health of our exhibitors, visitors, guests, partners and employees is our top priority. The City of Leipzig and Leipziger Messe have therefore decided to cancel the event entirely.

However, next weekend’s conventions in Canada, Ireland, and several U.S. cities east of the Mississippi are going forward.

On the other hand, the Burning Cat gaming con slated for May in Portland, OR has already canceled.

Not on PopCult HQ’s list, Consonance 2020, the Bay Area filk convention slated for March 20-22, has been cancelled. Chair Lynn Gold made the announcement today.   

And Perth, Australia’s Swancon 2020, calendared for April 25-27, has been called off. The convenors told Facebook followers, “This Really is The Darkest Timeline”:

In light of information from the Department of Health, the Western Australian Department of Health, and the advice of medical professionals in our community such as Dr Karen McKenna, the Convention Committee, Convention Steering Committee and WASFF Board have voted to cancel Swancon 2020.

Early projections indicate that the height of the pandemic is likely to be late April to early May, and as such we would be irresponsible to hold a large public gathering, regardless of the amount of hand sanitizer and tissues we provided.

The governor of Washington state today set a policy banning large gatherings in three counties which could impact Norwescon“Inslee orders halt on large gatherings in Seattle region, asks schools to prepare for closure, to slow coronavirus spread”

Flanked by the leaders of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett, and of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, Inslee said he was ordering the cancellation of large church services, sporting events, concerts, festivals and conventions.

“Today I am ordering, pursuant to my emergency powers, that certain events in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties with more than 250 people are prohibited by order of the governor,” Inslee said, at a King County government building in downtown Seattle. The three counties are “experiencing significant community transmission, significant outbreaks and they are large population centers.”

The order is in effect through the end of March, Inslee said, but it is “highly likely” it will be extended beyond that time.

Norwescon is scheduled for April 9-12. The convention committee has posted this response:

The Executive team is aware of the March 11 announcement by WA Gov. Inslee regarding COVID-19 containment plans. We are in active discussion within the Executive team and with the hotel to determine our best options. We will provide updates as soon as possible, but do need some time to coordinate. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we do our best to adjust to a quickly moving situation.

BALANCING ACT. Where public health officials have not yet instituted any restrictions, few events can unilaterally cancel without jeopardizing their future.

The International Association For The Fantastic In The Arts, in “COVID-19, Cancellations, and Credits/Refunds”, said their economic survival would be in doubt if they cancelled the event, therefore ICFA 41 will still take place March 18-21 in Florida.

The conference will meet. We have to meet certain guaranteed minimums for room occupancy, food and beverage expenditures, etc., specified in our contract with the hotel, or pay out of pocket. It is not an exaggeration to say that cancellation would jeopardize the very existence of the IAFA.

All conrunners have a recent example in Arisia of what happens when penalty clauses kick in because an event has been cancelled for reasons outside the provisions of their facilities contracts.

In that vein, after conferring with their hotel the chairs of UK’s Eastercon, Concentric 2020, planned for April 10-13, put out this statement on March 8:  

The Eastercon committee met with the Hilton on Friday and discussed with them the concerns of the Eastercon membership. We asked about their policies on refunds for the event and any rooms booked with the potential issues from Covid-19. The Hilton have confirmed to the committee that, as the government’s stance at this point is business as usual, they will not be offering any additional or exceptional circumstances towards bookings that have already been made.

We have discussed if there would be any possibility of a change in their stance on this matter. We have been advised that the only time at which there would be a change would be if running the convention would be either impossible or illegal due to requirements put in place either from the Government or from an authorised public body such as Public Health England or the World Health Organisation….

Pittsburgh’s furry fandom Anthrocon (July 2-5) has also been consulting with and monitoring information from public health agencies, and in a March 9 statement said they plan to go on with the con:

At this time, there is no intention of canceling or delaying the Anthrocon 2020 convention. None of the agencies listed above has advised either course of action. We continue to monitor the situation daily, however, and should circumstances warrant either a cancellation or rescheduling, we will issue that announcement without delay on our web site and through all of our social media outlets. Please be patient. None of us can predict the course that this epidemic will take, and to what extent – or even if – it will be a concern in July. Our only choice is to rely on the advice of the medical professionals who are best situated to offer such advice.

At this time, no U.S. medical agency is advising travelers to cancel plans to travel to Western Pennsylvania, whereas of this date no cases of COVID-19 have been reported.

Today, the SFWA Board of Directors today said the Nebula Conference (May 28-31) is going forward, because of the penalties that would result from cancellation: “A Message from SFWA Regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19)”.

…At the moment, SFWA is planning to hold the conference with adjustments to reduce the risks of spreading the virus. The SFWA Board and the Nebula Conference events team are talking about this evolving situation daily including the possibility that things may shift enough that we need to cancel the in-person event. We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments.

The Nebulas are 80 days away and every day brings us a better understanding of what’s happening with COVID-19.

Our challenge is that the hotel will not allow us to cancel the event without paying penalties unless it is “illegal or impossible” to host it. Similarly, they will not offer us any refunds. This limits our choices. With that said, the board’s priority in decision-making still remains with the health and safety of our attendees and by extension their families.

The chairs of CoNZealand, the 2020 Worldcon, Norman Cates and Kelly Buehler made this public statement on March 6:

Although New Zealand has not been affected by Covid-19 to the extent of the rest of the world, our government and the NZ Ministry of Health have extensive civil defence plans. We are monitoring the situation and will be prepared for what the future brings.

As usual, we strongly advise all members purchase their own comprehensive travel insurance for any foreign travel, including cancellation insurance. If you have already purchased insurance for your journey to New Zealand, we recommend that you check the full terms with your insurance provider.

We are in touch with the Ministry of Health as well as with our venue planning managers. We want everyone to have a safe and healthy convention, and we will be following best practices.

CRUISE SHIPS. While the Canadian government’s coronavirus disease guidance warns citizens to avoid all cruise ship travel, and the United States’ Center for Disease Control recommends cruise ship travel be deferred, N.K. Jemisin, Rebecca Roanhorse, Patrick Rothfuss, John Scalzi, and Martha Wells are among the many pop culture guests currently aboard the 2020 JoCo Cruise, which ends March 13.

READINGS: The Fantastic Fiction at KGB readings series today canceled its March event with guests Daniel Braum & Robert Levy, promising instead, “both authors will be reading their work over an online livestream at the same scheduled date and time (March 18th, 7pm). Details on that livestream will be forthcoming.”

BOOK FAIRS. Outside of fandom, a series of publishing industry events have shuttered or rescheduled due to the withdrawal of participating book companies and sponsors.

The National Book Critics Circle in New York has canceled both its finalists reading on Wednesday, March 11, and its awards ceremony on Thursday, March 12. The Tucson (AZ) Festival of Books, which was planned for March 14-15, has canceled. 

The Los Angeles Times has postponed its Festival of Books and Food Bowl events, “in light of public health concerns related to the coronavirus and out of an abundance of caution.” “Los Angeles Times postpones Festival of Books and Food Bowl due to coronavirus concerns “

The 25th Festival of Books, originally scheduled for April, will now take place the weekend of Oct. 3-4 on the USC campus. The 4th Food Bowl, previously set for May, will also be moved to the fall, with dates to be announced later.

While the Book Prizes awards ceremony will not be held this year, honorees and winners will still be acknowledged via an announcement to be released on April 17.

With Italy already a center of the outbreak, publishers are shying away from the Bologna Book Fair:

Penguin Random House has become the second of the Big Five U.S. publishers to announce it would not attend this year’s rescheduled Bologna Children’s Book Fair, scheduled for May 4–7,

Shelf Awareness has a growing list of book fairs and bookstore events that have been called off, or adjusted their plans: “COVID-19 Update: More Cancellations & Postponements”.

SHOW UP BUT KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. Events that are proceeding have instituted whatever safety measures they think are appropriate.


UPDATE: Ace Comic Con Northeast (March 20-22), which had publicized their decision to go on, has now cancelled. Note that the following segment was written before the announcement.


Despite fannish complaints, ACE Comic Con Northeast is running March 20-22 in Boston, and chirpily told the Boston Globe: “ACE Comic Con is still on. Just don’t touch the Chrises (Hemsworth or Evans).”

…Ace Comic Con, which is hosting a Northeast fan event from March 20-22 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, will go on as planned, despite coronavirus concerns, according to organizers. That said, there are some new rules regarding social distancing, posted on ACE’s Facebook page:

“During Photo Ops & Autographs – Handshakes, hugs, requests to hold props during Photo Ops, and physical contact will not be permitted. No gifts, letters, or cards will be accepted by celebrity guests so we ask that you do not bring in those items.

…Of course, some have fans have posted complaints on Facebook. They bought special autograph packages expecting to get hugs and handshakes from stars.

“I am coming from FL and I wanted a hug from both Chris’. Now I’m gonna stand side by side with them? How is that fair? … I honestly don’t want to come anymore,” one Facebook user said.

FALLOUT. The economic consequences from not holding events will ripple far beyond the hotels and committees. For example, the SXSW cancellation has caused major layoffs:

On March 6, SXSW canceled its 2020 festival due to concerns surrounding the recent coronavirus outbreak. It marked the first cancellation in the annual Austin event’s 34-year history. Now, SXSW’s parent company SXSW LLC has laid off roughly a third of its 175 year-round employees, according to a new report by local paper the Austin American-Statesman,

DECISION TIME. To hold the con or not?

Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn agrees that “Every Convention Staff Needs to Have the COVID-19 Conversation”.

…The fact is we are dealing with a disease where it’s possible that some infected people can be contagious while appearing healthy for weeks. Transmission happens when people are in close proximity, and since this is a new form of the disease, odds are if you’re exposed you’re going to get it. And you can talk about how mortality rates as a percentage are only slightly higher than the flu, a lot of people don’t get the flu. There are plenty of people who walk our convention halls who have a good chance of dying if they get infected.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a fan of having none of my convention’s attendees die.

So yeah, it’s time to talk. How drastic your conversation is depends on how bad things are where you are physically along with who might come to your event. If you’re an event like SXSW where people come from all over the world… consider not holding your event immediately. Postpone it if you can, but no event is worth people’s lives. If you’re a regional event, you need to look at the landscape. If you’re in a city or area with an active outbreak, do not hold your event, I beg of you.

And Chuck Wendig has written several virus-related blog posts in the past 10 days, beginning with “Running A Con, Conference Or Festival In The Age Of A Burgeoning Pandemic!” These are things that convention guests will have on their minds:

e) Recognize that we’re probably anxious about this. Many of us will go to our events via two or more airports, likely international ones. We will then be at your event with hundreds to thousands of people. If we’re writers, we’re gonna be theoretically up close and personal with folks, signing their books, some want photos — and trust me, writers are already a pretty anxious lot. Our brains are carousels of crawling ants. We’re already imagining worse case scenarios. (Seriously, have you read Wanderers?) You talking to us about that before we have to talk to you about it would be very nice.

f) Recognize too we don’t want to get stuck anywhere. We have families! Pets! Extreme introversion! Note that some people who have traveled overseas have found themselves in exactly this scenario. Best case scenario, it’s a travel delay. Worst case, it’s full restriction or quarantine. Who knows how the fuck this current administration will bungle this up — they might not do anything, or they might clamp down hard when it’s not needed. Either way? We don’t wanna find out. So, what happens if it does? Are you gonna cover our hotels if we’re guests? One night? Ten? Certainly your responsibility ends somewhere, but I’d sure like you to be thinking about that.

Right now, all the choices are hard.

25th Audie Awards Winners

The winners in the 24 competitive categories for the 2020 Audie Awards, including the Audiobook of the Year, were announced by the Audio Publishers Association (APA) on March 2.

The Audie Awards® recognize excellence in audiobook and spoken word entertainment.

At the Audie Awards® Gala a special Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Stephen King.

Winners of genre interest include:

FANTASY

  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, narrated by January LaVoy, published by Hachette Audio

SCIENCE FICTION

  • Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin, narrated by Jason Isaacs, published by Brilliance Publishing

SHORT STORIES/COLLECTIONS

  • Full Throttle by Joe Hill, narrated by Zachary Quinto, Wil Wheaton, Kate Mulgrew, Neil Gaiman, Ashleigh Cummings, Joe Hill, Laysla De Oliveira, Nate Corddry, Connor Jessup, Stephen Lang, and George Guidall, published by HarperAudio

THRILLER/SUSPENSE

  • The Institute by Stephen King, narrated by Santino Fontana, published by Simon & Schuster Audio

The other winners are —

AUDIOBOOK OF THE YEAR

  • The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff, narrated by a full cast with Holter Graham, published by Simon & Schuster Audio

AUDIO DRAMA

  • Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes by Tony Kushner, performed by Andrew Garfield, Nathan Lane, Susan Brown, Denise Gough, Beth Malone, James McArdle, Lee Pace, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Bobby Cannavale, and Edie Falco, published by Penguin Random House Audio

AUTOBIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR

  • Becoming, written and narrated by Michelle Obama, published by Penguin Random House Audio

BEST FEMALE NARRATOR

  • Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson, narrated by Marin Ireland, published by HarperAudio

BEST MALE NARRATOR

  • Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny, narrated by Robert Bathurst, published by Macmillan Audio

BUSINESS/PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

  • So You Want to Start a Podcast?, written and narrated by Kristen Meinzer, published by HarperAudio

FAITH-BASED FICTION & NON-FICTION

  • How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim, narrated by Tavia Gilbert, published by Oasis Audio

FICTION

  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, narrated by Blair Brown, published by Penguin Random House Audio

HISTORY/BIOGRAPHY

  • American Moonshot by Douglas Brinkley, narrated by Stephen Graybill, published by HarperAudio

HUMOR

  • More Bedtime Stories for Cynics by Kirsten Kearse, Gretchen Enders, Aparna Nancherla, Cirocco Dunlap, and Dave Hill, narrated by Nick Offerman, Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, Ellen Page, Jane Lynch, John Waters, Anjelica Huston, Wendell Pierce, Mike Birbiglia, Rachel Dratch, Matt Walsh, Nicole Byer, Harry Goaz, Aisling Bea, and Gary Anthony Williams, published by Audible Originals

LITERARY FICTION & CLASSICS

  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, narrated by Joe Morton, published by Penguin Random House Audio

MIDDLE GRADE

  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, narrated by Meryl Streep and a full cast, published by Penguin Random House Audio

MULTI-VOICED PERFORMANCE

  • The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff, narrated by a full cast with Holter Graham, published by Simon & Schuster Audio

MYSTERY

  • The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup, narrated by Peter Noble, published by HarperAudio

NARRATION BY THE AUTHOR or AUTHORS

  • With the Fire on High, written and narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo, published by HarperAudio

NON-FICTION

  • Grace Will Lead Us Home by Jennifer Berry Hawes, narrated by Karen Chilton and Jennifer Berry Hawes, published by Macmillan Audio

ORIGINAL WORK

  • Evil Eye by Madhuri Shekar, narrated by Nick Choksi, Harsh Nayaar, Annapurna Sriram, Bernard White, and Rita Wolf, published by Audible Originals

ROMANCE

  • Devil’s Daughter by Lisa Kleypas, narrated by Mary Jane Wells, published by HarperAudio

YOUNG ADULT

  • Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, narrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Jeanne Birdsall, Richard Ferrone, Jenna Lamia, and a full cast, published by Scholastic Audio

YOUNG LISTENERS (up to age 8)

  • The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!, written and narrated by Mo Willems, published by Weston Woods

[Via N.K. Jemisin.]

Romance Writers of America Board Resigns, Calls Special Election

[This is the seventh update in a series which includes “Courtney Milan Suspended by RWA, Banned from Leadership”, “Courtney Milan Controversy Decimates RWA Leadership”, “As Criticism Snowballs, RWA Keeps Trying to Justify Treatment of Courtney Milan”, “Kathryn Davis Says RWA Encouraged Her To File Ethics Complaint Against Courtney Milan”, “As More Issues Raised, RWA President Resigns, RITA Awards Postponed, and Many Publishers Withdraw Sponsorship of RWA Conference”, and “RWA Las Vegas Chapter Disbands in Aftermath of Courtney Milan Censure, RWA Appoints Interim Executive Director”.]

The remaining members of the Romance Writers of America Board of Directors resigned from office today, February 12. Prior to their resignations, the Board set a special election for the RWA membership to elect a newly constituted Board of Directors to serve out their current terms (through August 31, 2020). The special election will begin on Friday, March 13, and will end on Friday, March 20, at 11:59 p.m. CDT. Details about the election process are here.

The complete Board resignation announcement is here — “RWA Board Members Set Special Election, Announce Resignations”.

“We believe that stepping down to allow for new leadership chosen by the membership is in the best interests of the association. The Board has always wanted what is best for Romance Writers of America, and we still do. This desire has been the driving force behind every decision we have made to try to navigate RWA during this difficult time. We have tried hard to keep the best interests of RWA front and center as we have confronted the challenges of the last eight weeks.

“We believe that the Board must have the trust of the membership and that this is the best way forward to achieve that. We believe RWA can and will be a place of inclusion and respect. We tender our resignations in support of the organization and its mission.

“Under RWA’s Bylaws and the Texas nonprofit corporation law, RWA must be governed by a Board of Directors. In order to ensure continuity of governance and based on legal counsel’s advice, we voted to set special elections for all board positions beginning on March 13, 2020 (30 days from today) and ending one week later (on March 20, 2020). This will provide RWA’s General members with the opportunity to elect an entirely new Board of Directors. The new Board members will be elected to fulfill the remaining Board terms that end on August 31, 2020, and no individual elected will automatically accede to any other office following their term. This special election will not replace the normal 4th quarter election cycle as required by RWA’s Bylaws, which will occur in August 2020.      

“Our decision to resign will not affect the ongoing independent audit being conducted by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP, or the Board’s commitment to share the audit report with the membership in unedited, non-redacted form.” –Nan Dixon (Treasurer), Hanna Rhys Barnes, Kate McMurray, Maria Powers, Mellanie Szereto, Eliana West (Directors-at-Large)

PAST RWA PRESIDENTS RESIGN. Before the Board’s action today, another pair of past RWA Presidents Leslie Kelly and Dee Davis had proposed a way forward, which the Board did not accept. Now Leslie Kelly has resigned.

PAST PRESIDENT HELENKAY DIMON QUITS. Dimon, who served as President of the Romance Writers of America in 2018-2019, also announced she was leaving the organization after rejection of the Kelly/Davis plan.

FOLLOWING THE BOARD OUT THE DOOR. Immediately after today’s announcement, this member tweeted a resignation:

Ellie Finch

In the past few weeks many other members tweeted that they had resigned, are intending to let their membership lapse, or are resigning from a chapter position. Claire Ryan’s “Implosion of the RWA” lists over two dozen names in the entry for February 11.

CIMWRA HOLDING DISSOLUTION VOTE. CIMRWA, the Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Chapter of Romance Writers of America, a chapter dedicated to advocating diversity and inclusion within RWA and publishing as a whole wrote, is voting on whether to dissolve. Thread starts here.

MEDIA COVERAGE. Quill & Quire interviewed Farah Heron about her resignation as Toronto RWA chapter president: “Farah Heron on stepping down as Toronto Romance Writers president and a future outside the RWA”.

…Until about six weeks ago, Toronto Romance Writers – an official chapter of the RWA – had been a thriving group, serving more than 100 local members. But the fallout of the group’s association with the U.S.–based parent organization has been severe. Many authors are choosing not to renew their memberships, and now Farah Heron, author of the bestselling novel The Chai Factor, is stepping down from her position as chapter president….

How has what happened with RWA affected the Toronto membership? 

Since Jan. 31, we are down 20 members, and by the end of February, we will lose another 15. These are all members whose membership was expiring, and they chose not to renew due to the issues in the national organization. And as rolling expiry dates continue, we expect to lose more members each month. Also, we have lost speakers for both our annual conference and our monthly workshops, and we have had agents and editors tell us they cannot support and attend our conference unless we disaffiliate with the national organization.

But more than anything else, our members are angry. They feel betrayed by RWA leadership, and are frustrated by the lack of communication, and poor decisions board and staff have made. Many of our members feel they can no longer support an organization that is so resistant to taking an anti-racist stance, and has long allowed ableism, anti-Semitism, and intolerance towards LGBTQ+ members to continue.

EXTENDED COMMENTS BY COURTNEY MILAN. Well before today’s developments, Sarah Wendell interviewed Courtney Milan on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books podcast: “391. RWA One Month Later, Part IV: A Conversation with Courtney Milan”. It was released February 3. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

Sarah: So one of the questions that I’ve had from people in my community, people on my, my podcast Patreon, are, what can, what can readers do? What, what do we do to move this community forward?

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: And I, I don’t have an easy answer for that! And I was wondering if that’s a question you’ve also received.

Courtney: I have. I, I’ve received this question often, and I don’t have an easy answer either, because it’s not an easy thing.

Sarah: Nope! Sure isn’t.

Courtney: It is a, it’s truly shitty thing, in fact, and if we had easy answers to any of this, we would know what was going on. And I think, I think that the, to the extent that there is an answer, and I’m not sure that there is one, I think the answer is, like, work to be less racist and to reduce the amount of racism in your community. That’s literally the only thing. Like, because what we’re butting up against here is this hard problem that I mentioned earlier that was in, like, the last part of the diversity report, like, bunches of people are racist! What do we do about it? Like, I don’t know! Like, one of the things that I think this has really underscored for me is that you cannot actually make someone less racist. And this is, this is one of those things like, I am such a process person in so many ways, it’s like, oh, don’t like this? Here’s a process for you!

Sarah: [Laughs]

Courtney: I’m going to fix it with a process! And, like, there is no process!

Sarah: There’s no manual.

Courtney: And – it’s not just that there’s no manual. There is a manual! But you can hand it to people and they’re like, okay, I read it; I hate it. Ugh.

Sarah: Yep.

Courtney: Nothing! Nothing you can do about somebody who determinedly does not want to change, right? Nothing. There is no process. And so, like, I think your choices at this point are, you know, what do you do with RWA – question mark. I think there are a lot of people in RWA who mean well? I think there are a lot of people in RWA who are committed to diversity. And I think there are a lot of people in RWA who have not examined what it means to be in an anti-racist community and what it means to be in one that is supporting white supremacy.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: And the, the group of people that exists there is vastly overlapping. So I think one of the issues with RWA is this: I think a lot of people of color are going to leave, because it’s just not a safe place to be. Right?

Sarah: Yeah.

Courtney: And I think a lot of white people – not, not all white people – I think a lot of white people, including some very well-meaning white people, are going to see all the people of color leaving, and they’re going to say, well, we have to prove that this place is safe, so I’m going to stay here and make it better. And I’m going to tell you that what you are doing at this point is reinforcing white supremacy when that happens. And you don’t want to hear that, and it’s going to make you mad to hear that a group of all-white people staying in RWA and continuing to give money to an organization that is white by design at this point, you know – like, they specifically did a thing knowing the effect that this would have on the community of color.

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

N.K. Jemisin

PRESERVING THE HISTORY. Meanwhile, my alma mater (BGSU, MA Popular Culture, 1975) made this appeal —

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 2/8/20 Why Are There So Many Scrolls About Pixels, And What’s On The Other Side

(1) BRADBURY CENTENNIAL. Tomorrow at the 53rd California International Antiquarian Bookfair in Pasadena, Ray Bradbury will be celebrated by panelists Steven Paul Leiva, author, film producer, and long-time friend of Ray Bradbury, is the author of Searching for Ray Bradbury (2013), John F. Szabo, City Librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library and Chair of the OCLC Board of Trustees, Tim Powers, two-time winner of both the World Fantasy and Philip K. Dick awards, and Obadiah Baird, owner of The Book Bin in Salem Oregon, and editor/publisher of The Audient Void: A Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy.

Sunday, February 9

SOMETHING WONDERFUL THIS WAY CAME: 100 YEARS OF RAY BRADBURY
12:00 PM: Honoring the centennial of the celebrated science fiction writer Ray Bradbury’s birth, our panel of experts explores his mastery of the subject and enduring legacy. This event is moderated by David Kipen, former literature director of the National Endowment for the Arts. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Kipen opened the Boyle Heights lending library Libros Schmibros in 2010, contributed to multiple volumes of California cultural history, and teaches in the UCLA writing program.

(2) ALTERNATE HISTORICAL EXHIBITS. Patrick Coleman, Assistant Director of the Clarke Center, writer, and a former curator, will deliver a lecture at the San Diego Museum of Art titled “Imagination and the Museum: Alternate Interpretations” on February 21, 2020.

The talk will explore various alternate interpretations and practices within the museum experience that expand our definition of what is allowable knowledge in these spaces, making a case for that unique and sometimes misunderstood form of knowledge — imagination — as a key force for creating meaning in the museum experience.

The talk begins at 10:00 a.m. in the James S. Copley Auditorium of the San Diego Museum of Art. Tickets here.

(3) JEMISIN COMING TO SAN DIEGO. Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in partnership with the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will host An Evening with N.K. Jemisin reading from her new novel The City We Became on April 3, 2020.

Every great city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got six.

But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.

Jemisin will read from her latest and answer questions, with a signing to follow. Shelley Streeby (Professor at UC San Diego and Director of the Clarion Workshop) will introduce Jemisin. The event runs from 7:00-8:30 p.m. in the MET Auditorium at UC San Diego. Tickets are required; $30.17 for one or two seats + one signed copy of The City We Became. Tickets are available here.

(4) GOING UP. CoNZealand’s Adult Attending Membership rate will increase from NZ$425 to NZ$450 on midnight, February 15, 2020 (NZT).

The cost of the other classes of memberships will remain the same. They are available for purchase through CoNZealand’s website.

(5) WHEN IN ROME. Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes gets you current (in 1965) with Doctor Who: “[February 8, 1965] Roman Holiday (Doctor Who: The Romans)”.

This month, we’ve got a bit of a surprise in Doctor Who: comedy. Yes, comedy. Do not adjust your television set. We’ve got Dennis Spooner back in the writer’s chair, and it seems that Mr. Spooner is having a little experiment with the format. Does it work, or like the reign of so many emperors, does it fall apart and die an undignified death? Let’s find out.

(6a) CONRAD OBIT. Robert Conrad, who rode to genre fame playing a presidential agent with a private train car in The Wild Wild West, died February 8 at the age of 84. He also was in a few episodes of Mission: Impossible, otherwise throughout his prolific career he was usually cast as a detective, prosecutor, or Marine (Black Sheep Squadron).

(6b) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 8, 1964 Doctor Who premiered the first episode of  “The Edge of Destruction”.   Originally aired in two episodes, this was the first story to take part entirely with the TARDIS. Sometime referred as “ Inside the Spaceship”, it was commissioned as a filler episode in cased the show wasn’t renewed after its initial run. The premise is that something is inside the TARDIS causing The Doctor and his Companions to turn on each other. David Whitaker wrote it in two days and Verity Lambert and  Mervyn Pinfield were the producers for it, with Richard Martin directing the first episode and Frank Cox the second episode. It is recommended by Charlie Jane Anders at io9 as an excellent example of the classic series for new viewers to watch. 
  • February 8, 1968 Planet Of The Apes premiered at the Capital Theater in NYC. Based  on Pierre Boulle’s 1963 La Planète des singes, translated into English as Planet of the Apes, it was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and produced by Arthur Jacobs. It starred, as you well know, Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall,  Kim Hunter and James Whitmore. It was exceedingly well received then by reviewers and audiences alike, and currently holds a 90% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It was also a box office success Earning back twice what it cost to make on its initial release. And in 2001, Planet of the Apes was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 8, 1828 Jules Verne. So how many novels by him are you familiar with? Personally I’m on first-hand terms with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the SeaJourney to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days. That’s it. It appears that he wrote some sixty works and a lot were genre. And, of course, his fiction became the source for many other works in the last century as well. (Died 1905.)
  • Born February 8, 1905 Truman Bradley. He was the host of syndicated Science Fiction Theatre series which ran from 1955 to 1957. It aired its last episode on this day in 1957.  On Borrowed Time, a fantasy film, is his only other SFF work. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 8, 1918 Michael Strong. He was Dr. Roger Korby in the most excellent Trek episode of “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” He also showed up in Green Hornet, Mission Impossible, I Spy (ok, I consider that genre even if you don’t), Galactica 1980, Man from Atlantis, The Six Million Dollar Man, Planet of The Apes, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and The Immortal. (Died 1980.)
  • Born February 8, 1938 Ned Brooks. A Southern fan involved for six decades in fandom and attended his first Worldcon in 1963. Brooks’ notable fanzines included It Comes in the Mail. He wrote two associational works, Hannes Bok Illustration Index and Revised Hannes Bok Checklist back in the days when print reigned surpreme. ISDBF shows that he was quite the letter writer. Mike has an appreciation of him here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 8, 1944 Roger Lloyd-Pack. He was John Lumic in the “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel”, both Tenth Doctor stories. (He was the voice of the Cyber-Controller in these episodes as well.) He was also Barty Crouch, Sr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And he played Quentin Sykes in the Archer’s Goons series. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 8, 1953 Mary  Steenburgen, 67. She first acted in a genre way as Amy in Time After Time. She followed that up by being Adrian in A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy which I suppose is sort of genre though I’ll bet some you will dispute that. She shows up next in the much more family friendly One Magic Christmas as Ginny Grainger. And she has a part in Back to the Future Part III as Clara Clayton Brown which she repeated in the animated series. And, and keep in mind this is not a full list, she was also in The Last Man on Earth series as Gail Klosterman.
  • Born February 8, 1962 Malorie Blackman, 58. Her excellent Noughts and Crosses series explores racism in a dystopian setting. (They’re published as Black & White in the States.) She also wrote a Seventh Doctor short story, “The Ripple Effect” which was published as one of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary e-Shorts. She’s readily available on all digital platforms. 
  • Born February 8, 1969 Mary Robinette Kowal, 51. Simply a stellar author and an even better human being. I’m going to select Ghost Talkers as the work by her that I like the most. Now her Forest of Memory novella might be more stellar.  She’s also a splendid voice actor doing works of authors such as John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire and Kage Baker. I’m particularly amazed by her work on McGuire’s Indexing series. So let’s have Paul Weimer have the last words on her: ‘I thought it was Shades of Milk and Honey for a good long while, but I think Calculating Stars is my new favorite.’
  • Born February 8, 1979 Josh Keaton, 41. He voiced the Hal Jordan / Green Lantern character in the most excellent Green Lantern: The Animated series which is getting a fresh series of episodes on the DC Universe streaming service. Yea! I’m also very impressed with his Spider-Man that he did for The Spectacular Spider-Man series. 

(8) HALF AN HOUR FROM TARZANA. In “Edgar Rice Burroughs and The City of Los Angeles”  on CrimeReads, Steph Cha, in a preface to a new edition of The Girl From Hollywood, explains why Burroughs’s 1919 novel is an important book about Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Hollywood’s culture of sexual harassment.

…Burroughs’s outrage is strong and apparent. He recognizes the vulnerability of young naïve women trying to make it in Hollywood, and condemns the industry men who abuse their position and power. Unsurprisingly, though, his attitudes are far from feminist. He wants men to behave honorably and protect women: “It brought the tears to her eyes—tears of happiness, for every woman wants to feel that she belongs to some man—a father, a brother, or a husband—who loves her well enough to order her about for her own good,” and for women to maintain their sexual purity.

Burroughs has a lot of sympathy for Shannon, and that sympathy makes her a substantial protagonist, a flawed female character who is easy to root for—a bit of a feat for a pulp writer in the 1920s. …

(9) ON THE MENU FOR ARMAGEDDON. Eater chronicles “The Doomsday Diet: Meet the all-purpose survival cracker, the US government’s Cold War-era nutrition solution for life after a nuclear blast”. Wow. I remember coming across stacked cartons of these in the storage area of a department store where I worked in 1976.

…Other experiments were little more than publicity stunts, dreamed up by entrepreneurs who seized on public hysteria to market survival kits for basements and prefabricated shelters for backyards. Bomb Shelters, Inc., convinced Melvin Mininson and his new bride, Maria, to spend their honeymoon in Miami, 12 feet below ground in an 8-by-14-foot steel-and-concrete bunker; the pair emerged hot and dusty after 14 days, then promptly left for a real, company-paid, two-week honeymoon in Mexico. All told, during the peak of the fallout shelter craze, from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s, the government tallied that some “7,000 volunteers had participated in over 22,000 man-days of shelter living in occupancy tests ranging from family size to over 1,000 people.”

These experiments ultimately produced enduring national standards for underground shelters, such as a minimum of 10 square feet of space per person — which, while only half the space allotted inmates in crowded jail cells, was more than three times the amount of space given to prisoners at the Nazis’ Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and six times as much space per person as inside the notorious Black Hole of Calcutta, the government explained helpfully in one report on shelter life. The tests also zeroed in on answers to fundamental questions that had plagued doomsday planners for more than a decade: What’s the minimum level of sustenance one needs to survive the apocalypse, and how do you get that to some 50 million hungry survivors?

…“This is one of the oldest and most proven forms of food known to man,” Paul Visher, deputy assistant secretary of defense for civil defense, explained to Congress as he presented a plan to mass-produce the crackers. “It has been the subsistence ration for many portions of the earth for thousands of years. Its shelf life has been established by being edible after 3,000 years in an Egyptian pyramid.” After millions of dollars and years of research, it turned out that after a nuclear apocalypse, the remnants of the American civilization would survive by chowing down on whole-wheat crackers. The government dubbed its creation the “All-Purpose Survival Cracker.”

(10) SWEET MADNESS. Gastro Obscura tells what happens to people who gobble dow “Mad Honey”.

When bees feed on the pollen of rhododendron flowers, the resulting honey can pack a hallucinogenic punch.

It’s called mad honey, and it has a slightly bitter taste and a reddish color. More notably, a few types of rhododendrons, among them Rhododendron luteum and Rhododendron ponticum, contain grayanotoxin, which can cause dramatic physiological reactions in humans and animals. Depending on how much a person consumes, reactions can range from hallucinations and a slower heartbeat to temporary paralysis and unconsciousness.

There have been no modern deaths recorded from eating mad honey. But as rhododendrons flourish at high altitudes, and as the bees often nest on sheer cliffs, gathering the honey may be more dangerous than consuming it. In Nepal, honey hunters make dangerous vertical climbs—while enduring stings from enormous bees—to harvest mad honey. 

(11) DUALING GENRES. At CrimeReads, Olivia Rutigliano asks “‘The Outsider’ Is a Classic Monster Story. So Why Disguise It as a Detective Show?”

HBO’s new ten-episode miniseries The Outsider, based on the recent Stephen King novel of the same name, fundamentally operates on the requirement of doubleness: the principle that one thing can exist in two versions, similar in outward aesthetics but differing in nature and method. About a beloved small-town English teacher who is caught having committed a child-murder but who has an airtight alibi and fervently denies any connection to the violent, deplorable crime, The Outsider quickly suggests an explanation to its own impossible gambit: that there exists a shape-shifting doppelgänger-monster capable of taking on the exterior identity of another to easily pursue its own nightmarish agenda. Though there are lots of characters who inhabit peripheral spaces, this monster is the most likely candidate for the “Outsider” of the show’s title, partially for its being a stranger to the town, and partially for its being a stranger to this metaphysical realm, but also because of its behavior: indeed, it literally steals ‘outsides’ that belong to other people, in order to accomplish what it wants. 

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

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.]

Pixel Scroll 1/20/20 The Filers Scroll Round And Round, And They Come Out Here

(1) DREAMER’S BIOGRAPHY. “N. K. Jemisin’s Dream Worlds” in The New Yorker is Raffi Khatchadourian’s profile of the extraordinary author.

…In 2018, she released “How Long ’til Black Future Month?,” a collection of short stories. She also completed her next novel, “The City We Became,” the first installment of another trilogy, which is due out this March. Submitting the novel to her editor, a few hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve, she felt depleted; for more than a decade, she had been writing nearly a book a year. She resolved to take 2019 off, but she couldn’t stay idle. She sketched out the new trilogy’s second installment, while also navigating calls from Hollywood, speaking engagements, side gigs. Marvel Comics invited her to guest-write a series—an offer she declined, because she had already agreed with DC Comics to create a “Green Lantern” spinoff. As we sat in her office, the first issue of her comic was slated for release in a few weeks. “This is an unusual year for me,” she said. “Usually, I have only one thing to concentrate on.”

Above her desk she had hung family photos: glimpses of a truncated generational story. “Like most black Americans descended from slaves, it basically stops,” she told me. She once wrote about this loss—not merely the erasure of a backstory but also the absence of all that a person builds upon it; as she put it, the “strange emptiness to life without myths.” She had considered pursuing genealogy, “the search for the traces of myself in moldering old sale documents and scanned images on microfiche.” But ultimately she decided that she had no interest in what the records might say. “They’ll tell me where I came from, but not what I really want to know: where I’m going. To figure that out, I make shit up.”

(2) DROPPING THE PILOT. Jeremy Szal’s tenure at StarShip Sofa has run its course: “All Good Things Must End: A statement from Jeremy Szal”.

As of today, 20th of January 2020, I am stepping down from being the fiction editor-in-chief and producer of StarShipSofa.

I delayed stepping down this as long as I could. For almost two years, in fact, but it’s come to this inevitable write-up.

…See, I was never an editor at heart. I am and always will be a writer. I spent years and years handling other people’s writing and enjoyed it immensely. But it wasn’t what I ultimately wanted to do. And being an editor, particularly for audio format, is hard. It’s time-consuming. It’s exhausting. It’s draining. Not going to run through the process and all its shenanigans. Take my word for it that it’s nothing less than a part time job. And I did it because I loved it.

But I love writing more….

(3) THE ISABEL FALL STORY. Doris V. Sutherland, self-described “tubular transdudette”, weighs in with “Copter Crash: Isabel Fall and the Transgender SF Debate” at Women Write About Comics. The in-depth summary and analysis of the issues ends —

…Meanwhile, Isabel Fall has maintained her justifiably low profile. Even during the height of the controversy, she issued statements through mediators — first “Pip,” then Neil Clarke — rather than take a public platform herself. It remains to be seen what paths her creative career will take after her needlessly hostile reception this month.

Another concern is the lasting effect that the controversy will have on trans authors as a whole. The affair of “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” makes plain a dilemma for contemporary transgender literature: fiction that is personal and boundary-pushing, that takes insults and abuse and turns them on the head to create something new, clearly runs the risk of being wildly misinterpreted and misrepresented. But the alternative — of creating only art that conforms to a narrow notion of “proper” transgender experience, that strives to avoid even the hypothetical possibility of causing offence or discomfort — is hardly appealing.

If transgender fiction is to soar, then it cannot afford for people like Isabel Fall to be bullied off the launchpad.

(4) OSHIRO RETURNS. Mark Oshiro recently announced plans to resume work. Thread starts here.

(5) LET ROVER COME OVER. Future Engineers’ student contest to Name the Rover announced the semifinalists on January 13. There are over 150 – see them all in this gallery.

The finalists will be announced January 21, and the winning name on February 18.

(6) TRAINS IN SPACE. Featured in the 2020 Lionel Train Catalog are Star Trek trains. New: Tribble Transport Car; Romulan Ale Tank Car; Capt. Kirk Boxcar; Capt. Picard Boxcar… (They also have trains from other shows and movies – Thomas the Tank Engine, Toy Story, Frozen II, and other Pixar productions, Scooby-Doo, and Harry Potter.

Batman looks pretty wild, too,

(7) MAYBE THERE’S A PONY UNDERNEATH. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll unleashes the panel on “The White Pony” by Jane Rice.

Jane Rice is an author familiar to me solely though this story. Everyone gets to be one of the ten thousand sooner or later. She was a respected author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. If this story is an example of her skill, I can see why her fans followed Rice. This meet-cute gone wrong is engaging enough for me to seek out more of Rice’s writing1. But what will my Young People think?

(8) RIDE AT GALAXY’S EDGE. When LAist made it to the head of the line, here is what they experienced: “We Traipsed Around A Star Destroyer: Your Guide To Disneyland’s ‘Star Wars: Rise Of The Resistance'”. Lots of detail and photos, without spoiling the dramatic conclusion.

…As the transport’s doors open, actual humans playing First Order villains usher you out of the ship for you to be interrogated. They’re empowered to be a little strict with you — we witnessed one of them putting their evil fascist power to use in shushing someone who dared to speak during a speech they were giving to visitors.

“I know growing up, all I wanted to do was run around the corridors of a Star Destroyer — so hey, why not do it for real?” Imagineer John Larena said.

But as Imagineer Scott Trowbridge noted, “It turns out that it’s actually hard to make those experiences that we saw on the massive screen, to bring those to life with that sense of epic scale.” The ride was notably delayed from initial plans to open it alongside the rest of Galaxy’s Edge.

But looking around the ride, it feels like they actually did it. It may not feel quite as massive as some of the scenes from the Star Wars films, but there is a real sense of scale as you walk around what feel like movie sets….

(9) ASK THE FANTASY WRITERS. Be one of today’s lucky 10,000! View this old episode of the BBC quiz show Only Connect featuring a team of fantasy writers composed of Geoff Ryman, Paul Cornell, and Liz Williams. In the series, teams compete in a tournament of finding connections between seemingly unrelated clues. The show ran from 2008 til 2014.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 20, 1936 Cosmic Voyage Is remembered as being one of the first films to depict spaceflight, including weightlessness in realistic terms. It was shot as a silent film and had only a short release window being banned by Soviet censors until the collapse of the USSR. And yes you, can indeed see it here.
  • January 20, 1972 — The first Star Trek convention took place in New York City from this day for two very full days.  Memory Alpha notes that “Although the original estimate of attendees was only a few hundred, several thousand had turned up before the end of the convention, which featured a program of events of an art show, costume contest, a display provided by NASA and a dealers room.“ Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett, D.C. Fontana and Isaac Asimov were among the SFF community members who showed up.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. His first fantasy story was published in 1917, “Through the Dragon Glass” in the November 14 issue of All-Story Weekly. His SFF career would eventually consist of eight novels and fifteen (I think) short stories. I’m sure that I’ve read The Moon Pool, his novel, and much of that short fiction, but can’t recall the other novels as being read by me. In the digital release, Apple Books is clearly the better place to find his work as they’ve got everything he published whereas Kindle and Kobo are spotty. (Died 1943.)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 86. The Fourth Doctor of course and the longest serving one to date with a seven-year run. My favorite story of his? “The Talons of Weng Chiang”. He wrote an autobiography, Who on Earth Is Tom Baker?, and just did his first Doctor Who novel, Scratchman, co-written with James Goss. 
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 62. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing to be doing indeed. If you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally, I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories
  • Born January 20, 1981 Izabella Miko, 39. OK, she was in The Clash of Titans as Athens. Why Goddess tell would anyone remake such a perfect film? She also had a recurring role on the very short lived The Cape series as Raia, and she had a recurring role as Carrie on Deadwood
  • Born January 20, 1983 Svetlana Viktorovna Khodchenkova, 37. I think her only SFF role was in the most excellent  Hugh Jackman led The Wolverine in which she had the dual role of Dr. Green who becomes The Viper. Marvels fans will recognise that this is a new version of the character. But most of her career involves Russian titled productions so I’m not sure…

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur finds two guys who are unprepared for a UFO to land in their bar, but not for the reason you might expect.

(13) N3F SHORT STORY CONTEST WINNERS. The winners of the National Fantasy Fan Federation’s 2019 Short Story Contest were announced in TNFF.

First Prize: “As Day Follows Night” by Karen L. Kobylarz, a tale of heroic fantasy, highly embla-zoned with both heroism and fantasy, a “quest” story following a magic student on a harrowing journey into myth and sacrifice.

Second Prize: “The Safety of Thick Walls” by Gus-tavo Bondoni, a tale of the Roman Republic…with zombies!

Third Prize: “Where You G-O-H When You Die” by Adam R. Goss, following a fallen space hero in his astonishing afterlife, more fantastic than he could possibly have imagined.

Honorable Mention: “The Captain” by Michael Simon, a three-time loser is sentenced to serve as the captain of a spaceship: does the punishment really fit the crime?

(14) INSIDE DIVERSITY. Whether Tim Waggoner’s advice proves valuable to the reader, it does surface a lot of good questions for writers to think about: “Mix it Up! Handling Diversity in Your Fiction”.

…I understand the basic idea of staying in your lane when it comes to diversity in fiction, and to a certain extent, I support it. I think writers shouldn’t try to tell a story meant to illuminate important aspects of another group’s experience. Only a person who was raised in and still is steeped in a culture/race/gender/etc. can ever know it well enough to write in-depth fiction exploring the issues that group faces. No amount of research can ever give you as authoritative an experience as someone who actually belongs a group other than your own, and you will never do as good a job as a writer from that group would at telling those stories. That said, I think if your story isn’t about the African-American experience or the gay experience, or the fill-in-the-blank experience, you can write from the point of view of a character unlike yourself if their racial/gender/cultural identity isn’t central to the story. Men in Black is a good example. Agents J and K could be people of any race, gender, or sexuality without having an appreciable impact on the film’s plot. (One does need to be older than the other, though.) Some character bits, such as J’s jokes which arise from his race would change, but the characters’ essential personalities and how they solve problems would remain the same. The story isn’t about J being black and K being white. It’s about the weird aspects of their job and saving the world. I’m perfectly comfortable writing from the point of view of someone with a different racial/ethnic/gender/sexual orientation background than myself in this circumstance. I focus on the character’s personality, and while their backgrounds will affect the expression of their character to a certain extent, I don’t attempt to delve very deep into their race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. And if I do go a little deeper than usual, it’s because I have close relationships with people from those backgrounds, and I’m comfortable asking them if I misrepresented the group they belong to (or rather one of their groups, since we all belong to multiple ones).

(15) STREAMING GHIBLI. If you’re paying for the right streaming service, you’re in for a treat: “Studio Ghibli: Netflix buys rights to iconic animated films”.

Next month 21 films from the legendary Studio Ghibli are coming to Netflix.

It means new people will be introduced to “the ultimate escapism” of Studio Ghibli’s films – up until now they’ve only been available on DVD or illegally.

Some of its most famous films include the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro, and Howl’s Moving Castle.

“It will really give people the chance to enjoy a lot of classics that they may not know about but are famous in the anime world,” says Sarah Taylor, whose heart has “been with Ghibli” since she was 16 years old.

(16) WHAT GOES UP. BBC says “Barometric pressure in London ‘highest in 300 years’ at least” but no one’s head exploded.

The weather forecasters have just given us an impressive display of their skill by predicting the scale of the current high pressure zone over the UK.

Overnight, Sunday into Monday, London’s Heathrow Airport recorded a barometric pressure of 1,049.6 millibars (mbar).

It’s very likely the highest pressure ever recorded in London, with records dating back to 1692.

But the UK Met Office and the European Centre for Medium Range Forecasts had seen it coming well ahead of time.

“Computerised forecast models run by the Met Office and the ECMWF predicted this development with near pinpoint precision, forecasting the eventual position and intensity of the high pressure area several days in advance, before it had even begun to form,” said Stephen Burt, a visiting fellow at Reading University’s department of meteorology.

…”The reason for the extremely high pressure can be traced back to the rapid development of an intense low-pressure area off the eastern seaboard of the United States a few days previously (this is the storm that dumped around 75cm of snow in Newfoundland),” he explained.

(17) COULD CARRY ASTRONAUTS THIS YEAR. “SpaceX Celebrates Test Of Crew Dragon Capsule That Will Carry NASA Astronauts”, following up yesterday’s Pixel.

…With Sunday’s successful test, Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, said it is now “probable” that the first mission with astronauts on board could happen as early as the second quarter of 2020. He told reporters the test “went as well as one could possibly expect.”

(18) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Something else to do around CoNZealand:“‘Earth sandwich’ made by two men 20,000km apart”.

Two men in New Zealand and Spain have created an “Earth sandwich” – by placing slices of bread on precise points, either side of the planet.

The man behind the sandwich, Etienne Naude from Auckland, told the BBC he wanted to make one for “years”, but had struggled to find someone in Spain, on the other side of the globe.

He finally found someone after posting on the online message board, Reddit.

The men used longitude and latitude to make sure they were precisely opposite.

That meant there was around 12,724km (7,917 miles) of Earth packed between the slices – and some 20,000km between the men, for those forced to travel the conventional route.

…Mr Naude only had to travel a few hundred metres to find a suitable public spot on his side of the world. His Spanish counterpart had to travel 11 km (6.8 miles).

“It’s quite tough to find a spot which isn’t water on the New Zealand end – and where public roads or paths intersect in both sides,” Mr Naude said.

As if he hadn’t gone to enough effort, Mr Naude – a computer science student at Auckland University – made specially-decorated white bread for the occasion.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Horror Musical Instrument — The Apprehension Engine” on YouTube shows off a machine that comes up with the electronic scary music used in horror movies.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/5/20 The Third Attempt Was With Canned Pumpkin

(1) FOUND IN SPACE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Lifehacker’s Brendan Hesse has figure out “How to Explore the Solar System in Google Maps via Hyperspace”. I’ve briefly tried this, and it works. I wonder if [we] can add tags etc. for sf story/video locations, etc…

Note, the article says, “You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome,” but I’m seeing something that seems to be that effect on my (Win 10 desktop) Firefox browser.

You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome, but it’s easy to find and use:

  1. Go to Google Maps.
  2. Click the “Satellite view” button at the lower-left of the screen.
  3. Click the super-tiny “Global view” button at the top of the navigation controls in your browser’s lower-right corner.
  4. Using either the “-” key, your mouse wheel, or the Google Maps zoom controls, zoom out until you’re in the planetary view of Earth.
  5. Select one of the various planets and moons from the list on the left, and you’ll blast through hyperspace to your new destination. Eligible destinations include Mars (to visit Dr. Manhattan), Europa (to recreate the journey of that 2013 sci-fi film), and the International Space Station (to say hello to everyone currently zooming around our planet).

(2) CROSSING THE STREAMS. “Netflix’s Dracula Easter Egg Sets It In The Same Universe As Doctor Who”ScreenRant noticed the hatchling immediately.

A throwaway line spoken early into the first episode of the newly released Dracula places the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss-produced vampire series within the expansive Doctor Who universe.

…As an oblivious Jonathan rides a rickety carriage towards Dracula’s castle, he pours over a letter from his beloved fiancée, Mina. In it, she writes of life back in England. Whovians were quick to notice that among the details mentioned by Mina was one familiar to watchers of the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who. Doctor Who as run by Steven Moffat has a history of being self-referential itself.

Mina writes to Jonathan of “the adorable barmaid at the Rose and Crown.” The 2012 Doctor Who Christmas special (re)-introduces audiences to Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman). Although the character eventually goes on to become the sharp companion to both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors, in the 1892-set episode, she is a barmaid-cum-governess once earning her income at the Rose & Crown Inn.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The December 2019 entry in Slate’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Actually Naneen,” by Malka Older, a new short story about robot nannies from the author of Infomocracy.

There’s also a response essay by Ed Finn on the role technology should play in childhood.

…The question of automating child care is political, economic, and ideological all at the same time. Despite decades of educational research, we still put most children through systems designed a century ago to train factory workers and farmhands. Mountains of psychological studies have done little to prevent me from making parenting mistakes—some of them, inevitably, recapitulating my childhood, while others are totally new mistakes I’m adopting into our family like so many holiday traditions. Parenting is the most intensely personal, long-haul project many humans ever take on. What other task averages so many hours over so many years, with such little external oversight or reliable feedback? There is no one correct way to parent because every parental situation is different, and navigating those differences requires all the intelligence, compassion, patience, and humanity we can throw at it.

But it also requires resources, and the idea of outsourcing parenting has always tempted those who could afford it….

(4) HE CAN TALK TO REPORTERS, TOO. In Parade, “Robert Downey Jr. Opens Up About Life After Iron Man, Kung Fu Fighting and Managing a Menagerie in Dolittle.

When Robert Downey Jr. was preparing for his new role in Dolittle, a movie in which he plays a doctor who lives with a house full of animals—and talks with them—he began to wonder, “How does anyone relate to this guy?” And then he looked out the window of his home in Malibu, Calif., and saw his alpaca Fuzzy looking back at him.

In addition to his wife of 14 years, Susan, and their two kids, son Exton, 7, and daughter Avri, 5, Downey lives with dozens of animals they’ve taken in over the past 10 years. There are pigs (kunekunes, a New Zealand breed), Oreo cows (with that distinctive white belt), pygmy goats, a larger rescue goat named Cutie Boots, a bunch of chickens and two cats, Montgomery and D’Artagnan. “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah,’” he says with a laugh. “‘You’re completely surrounded by animals!’”

(5) BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL. Aaron Bady is thumbs down on the series:“Dr. Manhattan is a Cop: “Watchmen” and Frantz Fanon” at the LA Review of Books.

… I’ve been thinking about why it’s disappointing. In the ’80s, it could seem plausible to “solve” the looming threat of nuclear war by creating the worldwide fear of an alien invader, “a force so dreadful it must be repelled, all enmities aside,” as Veidt declares. But this elegant twist — by which the savior of mankind is also a supervillain who kills millions of people, and gets away with it — was an elegant genre subversion because the antihero really was novel and subversive in the mid-’80s. By making the original Superman a Hitler-sympathizing vigilante literally clothed in KKK iconography, Moore and Gibbons were demonstrating the genre’s disavowed logic, and what Moore says so explicitly in that 2017 interview is pretty easy to find in the comic itself. There’s literally a comic within the comic, in which a shipwrecked sailor tries to save his family and town from pirates and ends up killing his family and town and then joining the pirates, all to hammer the point home: to save humanity from a nuclear holocaust, Veidt kills three million people; because he calculates the inevitability of The Event, he intervenes to bring it about; to be the hero, he becomes the villain. Since 1985, this once-novel idea has been absurdly generative and influential to the point of cliché: from the Watchmen-esque “The Killing Joke” through the Nolan Batman movie through the MCU up to Thanos, the superantihero has been at the heart of the modern post-9/11 revival of the superhero movie. What if the villain is the hero? What if the hero is the villain? “You know how you can tell the difference between a superhero and supervillain?” the comic asked, and then answers, “Me neither!”

(6) NOT EVERYONE CAN DO THIS. A New York Times interviewer found out “How Ursula K. Le Guin Fooled the Poet Robert Hass”.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I tend to binge, so I have to try to avoid genre fiction, but I’m attracted to mysteries, detective novels partly because they come in a series — so I would find myself working through the 10 novels Simenon wrote in 1931 to see what that explosion was about. I had a Patrick O’Brian addiction at one point. When I read Ursula Le Guin, who grew up in Berkeley, I thought that I had discovered that I loved science fiction, and read a lot of it and discovered that I just loved Ursula Le Guin, unless Calvino and Borges count as science fiction.

(7) LESS THREAD, MORE FILLING. N.K. Jemisin will still be on Twitter, just not as much.

(8) MORE PLEASE. In The Hollywood Reporter, “‘Star Wars’ Star Dominic Monaghan Hopes for ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Director’s Cut”.

…Since the release of The Rise of Skywalker, viewers have been divided over their feelings about the film. This came to a head Thursday as an anonymous, unverified Reddit post suggested that the film was subject to a significant amount of studio meddling, prompting the hashtag #ReleaseTheJJCut to trend across social media. While Monaghan didn’t speak to these latest conspiracy theories, he does wish for the release of a director’s cut given the sheer volume of unused footage that Abrams shot.

“Like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m hoping there will be a director’s cut so we’ll get to see more and more of the stuff that was filmed,” Monaghan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version…. Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”

(9) SHATNER’S CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. ComicBook.com tells how one Captain celebrated the holiday: “Star Trek’s William Shatner Surprised the LAPD on Christmas Day”.

Star Trek‘s William Shatner is famous for playing Captain James T. Kirk. In 2019, he took on the role of local Santa Claus for the Los Angeles Police Department. Sources within the organization tell TMZ that Shatner visited his local precinct’s police station. He didn’t show up empty-handed, reportedly coming with corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, bagels, lox, and cream cheese to help feed the officers on duty on Christmas Day. Shatner reportedly thanked the on-duty officers and left a holiday card behind as well as a few hundred dollars to help feed the officers throughout the remainder of the day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film Drácula, although Wolfman certainly helped make him famous as wellNow tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Yes, he was just forty five when he apparently committed suicide. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one long running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen-part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorist who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a SFF connection that’s will take some explaining. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that time about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones but barely nine to this day. Among the SFF folk that have had a role in the band are Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 61. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out his voice work as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of My best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle.
  • Born January 5, 1975 Bradley Cooper, 45. He’d be here just for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the MCU. In fact, he is here just for that role.
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 42. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I just finished listening to The Girl in the Green Silk Gown which was quite excellent and earlier I’d read her Chaos Choreography, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. I did read at a few of the first October Daye novelsbut they didn’t tickle my fancy. Not sure why though. 

(11) PICARD RECRUITS. ComicBook.com is keeping an eye open for new Picard promos — “Star Trek: Picard Teaser Spotlights Romulan Agent Narek”.

The latest features the new character Narek, played by Harry Treadaway. Narek is a Romulan agent who joins up with Jean-Luc Picard and his crew to investigate the Romulans’ new interest in Borg drones. You can watch the teaser above. And speaking of Borg drones, last week’s teaser featured Seven of Nine, again played by Star Trek: Voyager‘s Jeri Ryan.

(12) ON TARGET. The GoFundMe to help Virgil Finlay’s daughter met it $5,000 goal. She sent her thanks in an update.

I want to thank everyone who so kindly contributed to help me save my father’s artwork, letters, and poetry. We will continue to work on restoring them piece by piece.
My daughter and I both thank you for your kindness!
Sincerely,
Lail and Brien

(13) RETRO RESEARCH. SF Magazines’ Paul Fraser put together a page on his blog listing nearly all of the Retro-Hugo eligible stories from 1944, with hyperlinks to copies on archive.org, as well as one or two other bits and pieces.

The table below* contains the 1944 fiction eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards, and links to copies of the stories on archive.org. Please use the contact form below to inform me of any omissions.

(* The table includes the contents of Amazing Stories, Astounding Science-Fiction, Captain Future, Fantastic Adventures, Planet Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales magazine, plus miscellaneous others—e.g. Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius, Robert Graves’ The Golden Fleece. There was no original fiction in Famous Fantastic Mysteries during 1944.)

(14) GETTING THEIR GOAT. “California Cities Turn To Hired Hooves To Help Prevent Massive Wildfires”. In fact, there’s a place in the foothills a few miles from me where they brought in goats – I don’t know whether they still do.

California has gone through several difficult fire seasons in recent years. Now, some cities are investing in unconventional fire prevention methods, including goats.

Anaheim, a city southeast of Los Angeles, has recently re-upped its contract with the company Environmental Land Management to keep goats grazing on city hillsides nearly year-round.

The goats are stationed in places like Deer Canyon Park, a nature preserve with more than a hundred acres of steep hills. Beginning in July, roughly 400 goats worked through the park, eating invasive grasses and dried brush.

The company’s operations manager Johnny Gonzales says that Deer Canyon, with its peaks and valleys, is just the right kind of place to use goats for fire prevention.

“This is the topography that poses challenges during these wildfire events,” Gonzales says. “And we can go ahead and reduce the fuel loads and take out the invasive plants, and establish the native plants on these banks; you’re re-establishing the ecology.”

…What makes the goats important isn’t just their ability to climb steep hillsides. According to Hogue and Gonzales, the animals eat invasive plants and grasses while only minimally grazing on native plants.

(15) SPACE FORCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Vulcans choose this time to finally drop in on us here on Earth, the US Space Force has a new unit designation ready made for at least one of them. Air Force News press release: “14th Air Force redesignated as Space Operations Command”.

By order of Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett, effective Dec. 20, Fourteenth Air Force was officially redesignated as Space Operations Command.

[…] The SPOC directly supports the U.S. Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.

[…] The SPOC provides space capabilities such as space domain awareness, space electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile warning, nuclear detonation detection, environmental monitoring, military intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, navigation warfare, command and control, and positioning, navigation and timing, on behalf of the USSF for USSPACECOM and other combatant commands.

[…] Additional details about SPOC will be available in early 2020 – highlighting Space Operations Command’s critical roles and responsibilities in support of national security objectives.

(16) THESE ARE THE JOKES. If you pooh-poohed this idea – well, the writers beat you to it. “‘Avenue 5’ review: Iannucci’s sci-fi sitcom is the funniest thing on HBO” promises Inverse.

…The best part of an Iannucci show is typically the insults. (I can’t remember the plot of Veep, but when I close my eyes I can still see and hear Julia Louis Dreyfus cursing out Jonah Ryan or calling him an “unstable piece of human scaffolding.”). Avenue 5 cares more about its plot than its barbs. There are twists, turns, big reveals, and cliffhanger endings that will have you impatiently waiting for next Sunday’s episode. It’s still funny, but don’t expect the mile-per-minute foul-mouthed humor that made Veep so great.

The setting of HBO’s new sci-fi comedy is as impressive as the comedy: A massive gleaming vessel — or, as one character describes it, a “giant dildo floating through space.” The interior sets are all curved, shiny white surfaces and huge windows revealing the infinite outer space all around them; this backfires after some unfortunate space debris ends up orbiting the ship, which is somehow large enough to create its own gravity field.

(17) UNINTENTIONAL WAR GAMES. “Pika-Who? How Pokémon Go Confused the Canadian Military” – the New York Times has the story.

Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality game, had soared to the top of the download charts. Within weeks, millions of people were chasing the digital animated creatures all over the world — and going places they should not go.

More than three years later, Canadian military officials have shared internal documents with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News Network that show how the military, both curious and confused, reacted to the wildly popular app.

Maj. Jeff Monaghan, an official based in Kingston, Ontario, wrote in an email: “Plse advise the Commissionaires that apparently Fort Frontenac is both a Pokégym and a Pokéstop. I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.”

At least three military police officers, stationed at different bases, were assigned to wander around with smartphones and notepads in hand to search for Pokémon, Pokéstops and Pokégyms, according to the documents. (Users can find Pokéballs at Pokéstops, use their Pokéballs to capture Pokémon, and train and join teams at Pokégyms.)

“We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this,” David Levenick, a security expert at a military base in Borden, Ontario, wrote in an email.

Weeks after the app became available, Canadian officials noticed an increase in suspicious activity.

One woman was found on a military base as three children with her climbed on tanks. She was playing Pokémon Go.

(18) THE BEGINNING. In the Washington Post, John Kelly discusses an exhibit at the University of Maryland about Jim Henson’s college years, including sketches and drawings Henson made at college and how Henson created a silk-screening business in school to make money and help perfect his art. “Jim Henson was born gifted. At U-Md., he became even more talented.”

…Though the single-room exhibit is composed of just a few cases, a few walls and a few TV screens, it gives a good sense of the breadth of Henson’s interests and his love of experimentation. In his short animated film “Drums West,” colored shapes dance across a black background in time with a percussive soundtrack. Yellow and orange rectangles make starburst patterns as the (unseen) drummer, Chico Hamilton, plays the high-hat; blue dots pop as he thumps the bass drum. It’s an abstract visual representation of the music.

How was it done? At the end, the camera pulls back to reveal Henson seated at a workbench. In front of him is a black surface about the size of an LP cover. It’s surrounded by bits of colored paper that Henson has been painstakingly arranging with tweezers, then filming a frame at a time.

As for those souvenir Wilkins and Wontkins Muppets, they’re there too, inside a glass case. In 1958 you could have had a pair by sending in $1 and the last inch of winding band from a can of Wilkins Coffee or a Wilkins Instant Coffee label. “Made of soft but durable vinyl,” a newspaper ad explained, “you only need to move your fingers inside to create 1,001 funny faces.”

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

As Criticism Snowballs, RWA Keeps Trying to Justify Treatment of Courtney Milan

[This is the third update in a series which includes Courtney Milan Suspended by RWA, Banned from Leadership and Courtney Milan Controversy Decimates RWA Leadership.]

Romance Writers of America’s remaining leadership and staff, under heavy criticism from members, today issued another statement in an attempt to retrieve the situation.

Meanwhile, incoming RWA President Damon Suede is the subject of a recall petition.

And top romance author Nora Roberts, who dropped out of RWA several years ago, reminded people why she left, but also apologized for (as a result) not being aware of the problems now surfacing:

Nora Roberts posted “MY POV on RWA” on December 29.

… Writer, the middle word in Romance Writers of America, is a word without gender, a word without color or race, a word without sexual orientation, without creed. We’re writers, and as such must expect to be treated, must demand to be treated, fairly and equitably by our professional organization.

…Again, I regret all the years I didn’t hear, didn’t see, didn’t listen, remained unaware of all the sad and unfair things that are now coming to light.

I hope that light continues to shine, and by doing so may change RWA for the good, may remind those in leadership positions what the purpose was all those years ago. To support and advocate for romance writers. Not specific kinds of romance writers.

Let me add, as a personal note, that over the course of my life, the course of my career, the couple hundred books I’ve written, I may have–most likely have–said or done or written something that was offensive, racist, homophobic. Without intent–but intent doesn’t mean a damn to those hurt. So I’ll apologize without qualification.

I hope I’ve learned along the way. I intend to continue to learn and do better.

RESOURCES. Links to new developments are continually added at these two sites:

DISCUSSION. Lynn Spencer’s post “Has RWA Lost Its Way?” at All About Romance is followed by a wide-open comments section with opinions from all sides of the issue. Spencer says in conclusion:

It’s obvious at this point that RWA screwed up. Frankly, as more information becomes available, it appears obvious that they made more than just one mistake. Their internal procedures are clearly flawed and while Courtney Milan is an author with a high enough profile to draw attention to the problems, one can only imagine how many people who are not so well-known may have been treated equally poorly by the organization. Story after story after story of alleged irregularities and bias at RWA(some going back to the early days of the organization) have been pouring out ever since this particular story broke and I can only imagine that will continue.

So, where does RWA go from here? Over the short term, I honestly think that the organization has broken trust with too many people. This isn’t a situation where they can apologize and hope we will all forget about it. Perhaps if they:

(1) clean house and start over by electing a brand new board who would then hire a new executive director;

(2) audit what has been happening not just with the complaints against Courtney Milan but with the ethics committee in general and make those findings publicly available, including the names of everyone on the shadow ethics committee, and

(3) show by their actions that RWA is willing to listen and to really do the work of becoming more diverse, inclusive and anti-racist, then over the long term they may survive.

However, RWA has damaged its reputation with a significant portion of its membership and with the romance community at large, and one can understand those of us who will be slow to risk trusting it again. There are lots of questions to be answered here, and from what is already known, it is apparent that once those questions are answered, the organization will have to change if it is to survive.

OTHER COMMENTARIES.

Ilona Andrews charts what she thinks is the underlying cause of the conflict. Thread starts here.

Ivy Quinn assembled a thread of screencaps of comments left on RWA’s Facebook page. The thread starts here.

Diana Hicks described her experience with racism in the RWA. Thread starts here.

Former RWA President HelenKay Dimon a few days ago tweeted a series of steps that, if taken, might let the organization move forward. Thread starts here.

RWA PRESIDENT DAMON SUEDE. He got his message out to RWA Chapter Leaders, but what he’s telling them has been challenged by Courtney Milan and others. An effort to remove him from office is under way.

Alyssa Day tweeted screencaps of RWA President Damon Suede’s message to RWA Chapter Leaders.

Courtney Milan contradicted some of what Suede wrote in a thread that starts here.

CIMRWA (Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Chapter of Romance Writers of America) is ready to submit its petition to recall incoming RWA President Damon Suede.

RWA has been caught swapping out its December 26 and December 30 statements at the top of the organization’s webpage.

The distilled essence of Tessa Dare’s take is –

REACTION FROM THE SFF COMMUNITY.

N.K. Jemisin contrasted how SFWA and RWA handled the challenge of racism. Thead starts here.

Mad Genius Club’s Sarah A. Hoyt and Dave Freer posted word salads disapproving the motives and purposes they imputed to Courtney Milan.

Meanwhile, Chuck Tingle is still pissed off at RWA President Suede for saying, in effect, that he is a pen name of two collaborators.

NEW RWA STATEMENT. On December 30 RWA leadership and staff emailed a Google Docs link to this statement (and also posted it on the RWA website).

December 30, 2019

The purpose of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) is to support, advocate, and provide resources for approximately 9,000 romance writers, advocate for the genre, and provide a safe and respectful environment for writers to discuss and express their ideas. 

We do not take positions for or against specific literary criticism or authors’ points of view. We do, however, have explicit policy for our members’ professional conduct. RWA’s Member Code of Ethics is designed to induce RWA members, especially RWA’s leaders, to exhibit integrity, honesty, and other good professional practices, thereby enhancing the romance writing profession.

RWA is fully committed to the confidentiality and integrity of the ethics process at all levels. Our Code of Ethics and procedures cannot be selectively or inconsistently applied on a situational basis. All ethics complaints received must be properly reviewed and addressed according to our policy manual, and the organization must apply a single standard consistently and equitably.  

Beginning in August of 2019 and subsequently, the RWA Ethics Committee received complaints filed by two members, Suzan Tisdale and Kathryn Lynn Davis, against former Board member Courtney Milan. These complaints allege several violations of the RWA Member Code of Ethics by Ms. Milan while she was serving in an RWA leadership position and that this led to the loss of a three-book contract by Ms. Davis. 

At the time of the complaint, Ms. Milan served as Chair of the Ethics Committee and was now subject to review by the Committee for allegations by the aforementioned RWA members. Ms. Milan was asked to voluntarily step down as the Ethics Committee Chair to eliminate any conflict of interest, which she did, and the Board appointed additional Committee members and a new Chair. Those members made up a diverse Ethics panel – the standard RWA protocol in RWA Ethics cases – that had not served under Ms. Milan because of the need for confidentiality and the potential for conflicts of interest.

In accordance with RWA policy, the Ethics panel met and delivered its report to the Board, dismissing all charges against Ms. Milan except one: a violation of the association’s express purpose of creating a “safe and respectful environment” for its community of writers. 

While the Ethics panel unanimously recommended a series of sanctions against Ms. Milan, the Board chose to reduce these to a one-year suspension and a permanent ban on leadership positions in RWA. After this private information was made public on December 23, it led to an intense backlash online – including the spreading of false information, threats, and personal information. The Board then held an emergency executive session, rescinding the remaining sanctions. That is where things stand and where they will remain unless a future Board decides to revisit the issues. Several Board members have subsequently resigned for a variety of reasons.

RWA is not alone in trying to balance free speech with civil discourse and the damage – personal and financial – its absence can do. It is, however, up to us to find a pathway forward to meet the competing needs of free expression without subjecting our members to harassment, intimidation, and financial loss. 

To provide a path forward, we are taking or have taken the following actions:

  1. In an abundance of caution over confusion regarding RWA’s policies and procedures, the complaint against Courtney Milan has been closed and no action is being taken at this time. Ms. Milan remains a member of RWA.
  2. RWA affirms our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are in the process of recruiting and nominating strong, diverse candidates for the vacant Board seats to foster a Board culture rooted in transparency and accountability; all candidates are subject to Board approval.
  3. RWA will authorize a full, complete, and transparent review of the Member Code of Ethics and enforcement procedures. 
  4. RWA is hiring an independent, outside law firm to conduct an audit of the process and these events to provide a clear report of the facts.

Our members have strong opinions, which we applaud. But when expressed inappropriately, and in some cases far worse, by our organizational leadership – past and present – these can result in personal and financial harm to members. Other members have inappropriately shared personal and/or private information which has legal consequences and has resulted in members feeling threatened, exposed, and unsafe. This is unacceptable behavior. As writers we know more than most, words have consequences. 

The Board and staff remain committed to serving our members and fulfilling our mission. We can and will do better. RWA is not alone in these challenges, but as writers, we must lead the way.  

Sincerely, RWA Board and Staff

Courtney Milan tweeted two threads reacting to the statement.

Esi Sogah deconstructed the statement in a thread that starts here.   

Former RWA President HelenKay Dimon commented:

N.K. Jemisin also put up a thread about the latest RWA statement:

MAINSTREAM PRESS. The media are covering the RWA story. Some outlets are running the AP article, others have had reporters contacting the principals, or a local RWA member.

Associated Press – December 27.

“Controversy hits Romance Writers of America this holiday”  

There’s not a lot of love at the Romance Writers of America this holiday season. Lots of passion, but not too much love.

The organization, which bills itself as the voice of romance writers and cites 9,000 members, has been upended over the way it has treated one of its authors, Courtney Milan, a Chinese American writer and a former chair of its Ethics Committee.

The Texas-based trade association initially accepted the vote of its Ethics Committee that Milan had violated the group’s code with negative online comments about other writers and their work. Then, just before Christmas, it reversed course, rescinding its vote ”pending a legal opinion.” Now its entire leadership has changed….

Houston Chronicle – December 29.

“Houston-based Romance Writers of America sees board exodus after racism allegations

Nine board members of the Houston-based Romance Writers of America resigned this week in a startling exodus that took place during a holiday lull. The organization — which represents a billion-dollar industry and celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2020 — will enter the new year with decimated leadership and lingering questions about its focus and future after several romance authors questioned the association’s commitment to a diverse community.

“I knew this kind of thing could happen, but I certainly didn’t see it happening this way, over Christmas week,” said author Piper Huguley. “I knew there was a big push coming, a resistance against this. I believe we’re in a fight for the soul of this organization, which to a number of people who observe it is not unlike what’s going on in the country politically. Right now the big question is, ‘What’s going to happen?’”…

New York Times – December 30.

“Racism Dispute Roils Romance Writers Group”

…Ms. Milan, who is Chinese-American, took issue with the depiction of 19th-century Chinese women in the book, including a description of “slanted almond eyes” and a quote from a character describing them as “demure and quiet, as our mothers have trained us to be.” “The notion of the submissive Chinese woman is a racist stereotype which fuels higher rates of violence against women,” Ms. Milan wrote on Twitter.

Ms. Davis, who is an honorary R.W.A. member, disagreed with Ms. Milan’s assessment, saying her book was historically accurate and based on years of research. She filed an ethics complaint with the R.W.A., saying that Ms. Milan’s comments were “cyberbullying” and cost her a publishing contract.

…Ms. Davis, who filed one of the complaints, said she was “stunned” by the R.W.A.’s judgment against Ms. Milan and said the penalty “far exceeded the substance of the complaint.” “We asked for an apology. That was what we wanted,” she said.

HelenKay Dimon, who was president of R.W.A. until her term ended in late August, said that she thought there had been a series of breakdowns in the process and is calling for a full audit.

“People care enough to get that upset,” she said. Now, the organization needs to “step up and take responsibility and have a plan.”

“I think the organization and the membership and the people who drove this decision are not the same things,” Ms. Milan said. “The response of the membership should be heartening to anyone who cares about diversity in R.W.A. and romance.”