Pixel Scroll 1/16/21 I Was Deleted You Won The War, Pixel Scroll, Promise To Read You Forevermore

(1) LE GUIN IN PERSPECTIVE. “It’s not Jung’s, it’s mine: Language-Magic” at the London Review of Books, Colin Burrow offers an overview of Ursula Le Guin’s career.

…But in the hands of an author like Ursula Le Guin, science fiction ‘isn’t really about the future’, as she put it in The Last Interview. ‘It’s about the present.’ It changes one or two structuring facts about the world as it is and asks: ‘What would humans do if this and this were true?’ The questions Le Guin asked were big, and her answers to them were subtle. Half a century ago she wondered: ‘What if people were gender-neutral most of the time, but changed between male and female at random when they came on heat, so that you could write sentences like “The King was pregnant”?’ (as in her Left Hand of Darkness). Or, ‘what if a capitalist planet had a moon on which there was a society with no laws and no private ownership?’ (as in her Dispossessed). Alongside these large questions her fiction also poses less visible challenges to its readers. Are you so unconsciously racist that you didn’t notice this woman or this wizard was brown-skinned? Didn’t you realise that the person you thought was an alien is actually from Earth?

For Le Guin these questions almost always led back to one core idea about people. They get stuff wrong even when they want to get it right, and the more they think they’re in control the worse the mistakes they’re likely to make. In The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (first published in 1988 and now reissued with a thoughtful introduction by Donna Haraway), she described her writing as a ‘great heavy sack of stuff, my carrier bag full of wimps and klutzes … full of beginnings without ends … full of space ships that get stuck, missions that fail and people who don’t understand’. Her modesty downplays how deeply her fiction gets inside the darker parts of the human mind….

(2) CLASS ACTION. “Amazon.com and ‘Big Five’ publishers accused of ebook price-fixing” in a recently-filed class action lawsuit reports The Guardian.

Amazon.com and the “Big Five” publishers – Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster – have been accused of colluding to fix ebook prices, in a class action filed by the law firm that successfully sued Apple and the Big Five on the same charge 10 years ago.

The lawsuit, filed in district court in New York on Thursday by Seattle firm Hagens Berman, on behalf of consumers in several US states, names the retail giant as the sole defendant but labels the publishers “co-conspirators”. It alleges Amazon and the publishers use a clause known as “Most Favored Nations” (MFN) to keep ebook prices artificially high, by agreeing to price restraints that force consumers to pay more for ebooks purchased on retail platforms that are not Amazon.com.

The lawsuit claims that almost 90% of all ebooks sold in the US are sold on Amazon, in addition to over 50% of all print books. The suit alleges that ebook prices dropped in 2013 and 2014 after Apple and major publishers were successfully sued for conspiring to set ebook prices, but rose again after Amazon renegotiated their contracts in 2015….

(3) URSA MAJOR AWARDS. [Item by N.] The furries are at it again. No virus can hold them down. I mean this as a positive. Nominations for the 2020 Ursa Major Awards have opened and will continue until February 13. Click here to participate.

What’s eligible? Consult the Recommended Anthropomorphics List.

(4) A DISH NAMED WANDA. Camestros Felapton screens the latest Disney+ offering: “Review: WandaVision Ep 1 & 2”

…We are primed for an genre mash-up of superheroes, sit-com pastiche and surreal horror. On the one hand, that is a bold move and on the other hand what we have is essentially a kind of “holodeck episode” in which familiar characters are placed in a contrasting genre for sci-fi or fantasy reasons. Your tolerance for holodeck episodes may vary but they can be fun — the bold choice here is making it the premise of the series and centring two characters who have limited time to develop their characters in the movie…

(5) ROLE YOUR OWN. StryderHD presents Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown as Princess Leia in this #Deepfake video.

At some point in time we are going to either recast or totally CGI parts of actors if you ever want to see them younger or a prequel of a movie they were in or unfortunately great actors we have lost, maybe to ever see them again. In this specific video everyone voted to see who would play a good Princess Leia Organa in a possibly TV series/prequel in the Star Wars universe and you all picked Millie Bobby Brown from “Stranger Things” fame as well as being in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and other things. What do you all think of her as playing the part?

(6) DIE BY THE DICE. SYFY Wire says to expect a “Dungeons & Dragons live-action TV series by John Wick creator Derek Kolstad”.

Tread carefully with torch in hand, because there’s a new Dungeons & Dragons TV series reportedly around the corner — and it’s coming from a creative mind with a whiplash action pedigree.

John Wick creator and screenwriter Derek Kolstad is reportedly rolling the 20-sided dice as the newly-recruited writer for a live-action D&D series from Hasbro & eOne, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Kolstad, who helped propel Keanu Reeves to new levels of action stardom as the mind behind John Wick’s fast-paced brand of slick secret-society infighting, will reportedly write and develop a pitch for the as-yet unnamed D&D series.

(7) MISSING INGREDIENT. Don’t hold your breath expecting it to happen, but Tim Allen would still like to do the film. “Tim Allen Offers Update on Galaxy Quest 2” at ComicBook.com.

…”It’s a fabulous script,” Allen said in an interview with EW, “but it had a hiccup because the wonderful Alan Rickman passed. So it all got very sad and dark because [the script] was all about [Lazrus] and Taggart. It was all about their story. It doesn’t mean they can’t reboot the idea, and the underlying story was hysterical and fun….I haven’t reached out to anybody in the last week, but we talk about it all the time. There is constantly a little flicker of a butane torch that we could reboot it with. Without giving too much away, a member of Alan’s Galaxy Quest family could step in and the idea would still work.”

Allen also maintained that the years between the film and now, or five years from now, wouldn’t have any huge effect on their ability to make the sequel either, adding: “[The sequel] could happen now or in five years and it doesn’t matter at all because when you travel at light speed, when you come back it can be like only 20 minutes, but 20 years have passed, right? That part is wonderful for the sci-fi freak in me. But right now it’s in a holding pattern.”

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2001 — Twenty years ago, Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio wins the Nebula Award and would also win the Endeavour Award. It was nominated for the Locus and Campbell Awards as well the same year. It was followed by a sequel, Darwin’s Children which would receive nominations for the Arthur C. Clarke, Locus, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • January 16, 1895 – Nat Schachner.  Chemist, lawyer, author.  President of American Rocket Society.  Director of public relations, Nat’l Council of Jewish Women.  History and historical fiction e.g. The Mediaeval Universities, biographies of Burr, Hamilton, Jefferson, The Wanderer about Dante and Beatrice.  For us two novels, a hundred shorter stories.  (Died 1955) [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1905 Festus Pragnell. Ok, he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of KilsonaThe Green Man of Graypec, and The Terror from Timorkal), plus he wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.) (CE) 
  • Born January 16, 1943 Michael Atwell. He appeared in Doctor Who twice, first in a Second Doctor story, “The Ice Warriors”, and later in the in the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack of the Cybermen.” He also voiced Goblin in the Labyrinth film, and had a recurring role in Dinotopia. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born January 16, 1945 – Russell Letson, age 76.  Journalist and technical writer.  Plays acoustic guitar, wrote about Hawaiian slack-key (Aloha Guitar, 2014).  Taught English awhile.  Book reviewer for Locus since 1990.  Introduced the Gregg Press edition of Leiber’s Wanderer.  Filer.  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 73.  My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His gems include the Halloween franchise, The ThingStarman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to done that you like, or don’t like for that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is. (CE)
  • Born January 16, 1952 – Cy Chauvin, age 69.  Fan Guest of Honor at Fan Fair III, at Lunacon 27, see here.  Edited the Wayne Third Foundation’s clubzine.  Co-founded MISHAP.  Stippler.  Reviewed for Amazing.  Anthologies A Multitude of Visions (criticism), The Tale That Wags the God (Blish’s only).  Letters, essays, fanart, in AlgolJanusMatrixNY Rev SFRiverside QuarterlySF CommentaryVector.  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1958 – Marla Frazee, age 63.  Illustrated It Takes a Village, three dozen more including eight Borrowers, wrote some of them.  Two Caldecott Honors, Boston Globe – Horn Book Award.  “Study the genre and the best books of the time.  Read all the time.  Read everything you can.  Be passionate and honest about what you are doing and why you are doing it.”  Has a little Free Library in her front yard.  Here is The Planetoid of Amazement.  Here is Bed-Knob and Broomstick.  Here is The Farmer and the Monkey.  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1961 – Karen McQuestion, age 60.  Eight novels for us, a dozen others, sold a million copies.  “I believe in almost everything, which makes the world seem both miraculous & terrifying.”  Her home-office has a mahogany desk, a recliner, bookcases, framed prints from one of her illustrators, and an electric fireplace “which some of my family think is tacky, but I don’t care.”  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1968 – Rebecca Stead, age 53.  Lawyer, married another; spent a few years as a public defender.  Vassar woman (as was my grandmother).  Newbery Medal; The Guardian prize (first winner outside the Commonwealth).  For us, four novels including both of those prizewinners, one shorter story.  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 51. Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for  Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties. What by him should I be reading?  (CE) 
  • Born January 16, 1974 Kate Moss, 47. Yes, she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here. (CE)
  • Born January 16, 1976 Eva Habermann, 45. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok, I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner. (CE) 

(10) HOT SHOT. “Don’t Miss the Hot Fire Test for NASA’s Artemis Moon Missions” – Well, it already happened this afternoon, but the video will be replayed today at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on NASA Television. Which is probably just minutes away by the time the Scroll will be posted.

Editor’s note: This advisory was updated Jan. 16 to update the window for the hot fire test, as well as start time for NASA TV coverage. Because test preparation is running ahead of schedule, NASA TV coverage will begin at 3:20 p.m. EST for a test start time of 4 p.m.

NASA is targeting a two-hour test window that opens at 4 p.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 16, for the hot fire test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Live coverage will begin at 3:20 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website, followed by a post-test briefing approximately two hours after the test concludes.

(11) JEOPARDY! John King Tarpinian proudly snapped this while watching Jeopardy! on Friday night.

(12) LOCAL CHOW. BBC Sounds has audio of The Food Chain episode “The arctic eating adventure”.  Andrew Porter urges everyone to listen to the show and watch the linked video.

When the only road into her town was blocked by a landslide, documentary filmmaker Suzanne Crocker was shocked by how quickly supermarket shelves went bare. It set her mind racing; would her remote Canadian town – just 300km from the Arctic circle – be capable of sustaining itself? She decided to undertake a radical experiment: an entire year of eating 100% local. 

Emily Thomas hears how she grew, hunted, foraged and negotiated her way through the seasons with a cupboard bare of salt, sugar and caffeine. How did she persuade three hungry teenagers to come on board, and what did a year of eating local do to family dynamics? 

Suzanne’s film about the experience is available on FirstWeEat.ca until February 1.

(13) THE PROGNOSTICATORS LOOK UP. At Literary Hub, Rob Wolf  interviews the author to find out “Why Kim Stanley Robinson Wrote a New Cli-Fi Novel… in Which Things Actually Get Better”.

Rob Wolf: The book opens with a heat wave in the Indian province of Uttar Pradesh. We see it unfold through the eyes of a Western aid worker, Frank May. Could you talk about what happens, what this disaster is and how it sets the story in motion?

Kim Stanley Robinson: I began to read about wet-bulb temperatures, which is a heat index that combines heat and humidity. Everybody who watches weather channels is already familiar with heat indexes, and everybody who lives in humid areas knows about the heat and humidity in combination. There’s been discussion amongst a certain portion of the people trying to think about climate change that maybe we just have to adapt to higher global average temperatures. They aren’t so worried about crossing the 2-degree centigrade Celsius rise in global average temperature and all that. We’ll go to three. We’ll go to four. We’ll just adapt.

But the problem is this wet-bulb 35 is only about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, plus 100 percent humidity, and human bodies can’t deal. They die. You would have to be in air conditioning. And in heat waves like that, power systems and grids often fail, in which case there would be mass deaths. There’s been a wet-bulb 34s all over the tropics and even in the Chicago area, and a few wet-bulb 35s have already been seen for an hour or two across the globe. They’re going to be more and more common.

What it suggested to me was that we can’t actually adapt to a three- or four-degree average rise because we’ll be getting these heat waves that will be deadly and power grids will fail and millions will die. So I thought, well, okay, let’s follow that thought into a novel where one of these happens and everything gets radicalized, everything goes crazy. What would that look like? And can I start from that and actually thirty years later come to a better place?

(14) TROLL BRIDGE ‘CAUSE WE’RE COMIN’ TO A TOWN. Snowgum Films has posted their 2019 Pratchett tribute Troll Bridge: The Moving Picture on YouTube.

Cohen the Barbarian was angry. Angry that he never died in battle, angry that the world had forgotten him, and angry that his knees were starting to play up in the cold. He was also angry that his faithful mount had been gifted the ability of magical speech. The horse was insisting that they had made a wrong turn back at Slice. He was also angry that the horse was probably right. This was not how it was supposed to end for the barbarian. This was not how the Discworld’s greatest hero imagined it at all.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Godzilla–The Soul of Japan” on YouTube, Kaptain Kristian says the original Japanese version of Godzilla was a powerful anti-nuclear allegory (Godzilla’s head is shaped like a mushroom cloud, and he has no scales so his skin looks like radiation burns) but the film was re-shot and censored for its substantially different American release.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Danny Sichel, Nina Shepardson, John Hertz, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 1/15/21 Scroll With A Pixel Earring

(1) LET THERE BE LIGHT. Besides the Le Guin stamp coming out this year, the United States Post office has announced they will release a series of stamps highlighting images of the Sun captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

…The 20-stamp set features ten images that celebrate the science behind NASA’s ongoing exploration of our nearest star. The images display common events on the Sun, such as solar flares, sunspots and coronal loops. SDO has kept a constant eye on the Sun for over a decade. Outfitted with equipment to capture images of the Sun in multiple wavelengths of visible, ultraviolet, and extreme ultraviolet light, SDO has gathered hundreds of millions of images during its tenure to help scientists learn about how our star works and how its constantly churning magnetic fields create the solar activity we see.

(2) IN DEMAND. How many Hugo winners have AO3’s problem? “People Are Reading So Much Fanfiction It’s Crashing the Biggest Fanfic Website”Vice has the story. (Well, I used to have that problem, however, it only took 15 people doing a certain thing for it to happen, and now that it’s fixed I don’t need to raise my hand.)

Over the weekend fanfiction website Archive of our Own went down, to the dismay of fanfic readers everywhere. While it’s not the result of any one fic, despite what some fans thought, it’s a reflection of how much the pandemic has changed our fanfiction reading habits.

Archive of our Own is a website to archive transformative works, also known as fanfiction. Fanfiction uses the fictional boundaries of someone else’s fiction in order to tell new stories with those characters and in those universes. While fanfiction is mostly associated with lovesick, teenage Twilight fans who insert themselves into their favorite novels, fanfiction and the associated cultural force of fandom has become the default view of what it means to be a fan. For some fans, especially in particularly online fandoms, reading fanfiction and reacting to it is a huge part of how they express their fandom. Over time, Archive of Our Own has been recognized as both a very popular website and a culturally important one, eventually winning a Hugo Award for best related work.

Over the weekend, Archive of Our Own went down, much to the surprise and chagrin of people who were in the middle of their fics. The beleaguered posting from people who were hoping to relax with the two new chapters of fanfiction like the Mandalorian fic “Rough Day” were funny enough. I only knew about the outage because Kotaku writer Ash Parrish was lamenting that she’d planned an entire night of relaxing with fanfiction, only for the site to go down…. 

(3) DISCON III. K. Tempest Bradford had one of the more thorough critical responses to Colette H. Fozard’s post about resigning as DisCon III co-chair. Thread starts here.  

(4) RENAME THE SPACE FORCE? Once reports circulated that the Biden administration will retire the “Operation Warp Speed” name for its push to vaccinate Americans for the coronavirus, Twitter answered with a suggestion to also eliminate the Space Force name – or the military branch itself.

C. Stuart Hardwick, Analog writer and six-time Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award finalist, offered this defense.

(5) NEW TABLET. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green, in “The ReMarkable Tablet–First Impressions”, reviews a tool that some writers will find helpful.

After watching the tablet make its way from Hong Kong to various states around the country before reaching the DFW area, I finally have my ReMarkable tablet….

… I’m one of those writers who has to resort to pen and paper from time to time to work through plot problems, etc. I’ve been using my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil 2 when I’ve reached that point, taking advantage of the handwriting to text apps. It worked but it never really “felt” right. I knew I wasn’t putting pen to paper. That, in turn, kept reminding me all I needed to do was open an app or the internet and . . . shiny!

The ReMarkable is an e-ink tablet. It doesn’t have a web browser. There are no games. It is a productivity tool only. You can set up folders and notebooks and take notes or draw. You can convert your notes to text. Using the desktop or phone app, you can sync your work between your tablet and your other devices. You can also email your work to yourself or someone else….

(6) A DIVE INTO THE TANK. Cora Buhlert has her second installment of “Fanzine Spotlight: The Drink Tank”.

Today’s featured fanzine is The Drink Tank, a seven-time Hugo finalist (if I’ve counted correctly) and Hugo winner for Best Fanzine in 2011.

And now I’d like to welcome Christopher J. Garcia of The Drink Tank.

Tell us about your site or zine.

I started doing The Drink Tank is in 2005. That series ended in 2015, and I took a 3 year break and started back up with two new co-editors. The concept this time around is that we take a different theme for every issue. Some aren’t SFF, like our issues on The Tower of London or Musicals, but many are, like our look at Science Fiction Comics and Universal Monsters. Our issues range anywhere from 12 to 50-ish pages and tend to be from a wide-range of writers and artists. We’ve been lucky enough to get some amazing material from some amazing people.

(7) WILL GET PAID. SF critic Paul Kincaid shares some good news — he got results after contacting a publisher that had announced a volume containing a reprint of his essay which they did not have permission to use.

It looks like the saga of the Routledge volume is drifting towards a conclusion. Routledge have offered me compensation, which I have accepted. And it looks like a couple of science fiction journals at least are reconsidering their policy on copyright, which is the real principle of the thing. But we do need to be wary about copyright on our essays and reviews from now on.

(8) AURORA AWARDS. The Eligibility Lists for the Auroras are now open for submissions from members of the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association.

To view works already submitted, you can view our public eligibility listings. Keep in mind that these will change throughout the eligibility submission period.
You need to be logged in to submit works to the eligibility lists.
If you do do not wish to vote in the Aurora Awards but wish to submit works to the Eligibility lists, please contact us to request a non-voting account.
Eligibility closes February 28, 2021.

(9) CONSTANTINE OBIT. British sff author Storm Constantine (1956-2021) died January 14 at the age of 64. She was primarily known for her Wraeththu series. The author of over 30 published novels and non-fiction books, Constantine’s novel Scenting Hallowed Blood was a British Fantasy Award finalist in 1997. Her story “Priest of Hands” was a nominee for the British SF Association Award in 1993, and “The Oracle Lips” was shortlisted for the Otherwise Award in 1998. Constantine also headed Immanion Press, an independent publishing company she founded in 2003.

 Storm Constantine, at the 1995 Glasgow World SF Convention. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

(10) RICHMAN OBIT. Many, many genre roles. He was even the Voice of God once —“Peter Mark Richman Dies: Versatile Actor For Broadway, Film, TV Was 93”Deadline remembers:

Peter Mark Richman… died [Jan 14] in Woodland Hills, Calif. of natural causes. He was 93. Born on April 16th, 1927. …film roles in …Friday the 13th Part 8. In television, … over 500 guest star appearances on such shows as  The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Fantasy Island, and Star Trek the Next Generation. 

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 15, 1995 Star Trek: Voyager premiered on UPN. It originally aired from January 1995 to May 2001 on UPN, lasting for one hundred seventy-two episodes over seven seasons. The fifth series in the Star Trek franchise, it served as the fourth sequel to Star Trek: The Original Series. Voyager would be the first Trek series to feature a female captain, Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), as the lead character. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-seven percent rating overall. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 15, 1860 – Eleanor Hull.  Co-founder of the Irish Texts Society, honorary secretary thirty years.  President, Irish Literary Society.  Eight books, some ours e.g. Folklore of the British Isles.  Hard to say how much the tale of Cuchulain is fantasy; anyway, see here.  (Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born January 15, 1913 Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, but  I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed because it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. He’s the Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M, Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.) (CE) 
  • Born January 15, 1928 Joanne Linville, 93. She played the Romulan commander in Trek’s “The Enterprise Incident” episode.  She previously starred in the Twilight Zone’s “The Passersby”, and been in two episodes of One Step Beyond as Aunt Mina in “The Dead Part of the House” episode and as Karen Wadsworth in the “A Moment of Hate” episode. She’d have later one-offs on The InvadersI-Spy and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.(CE)
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 86. I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man a very long time ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years. So what should I have read by him that I haven’t? (CE) 
  • Born January 15, 1944 Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if I find sometimes excessive dollop of humor. His best known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series which I’ve read some of years ago. Who here has read his Starship Troupers series? It sounds potentially interesting. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born January 15, 1945 Ron Bounds, 76. A fan who was one of the founders of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in the Sixties. He co-chaired Discon 2, was a member of both the Baltimore in ’67 and Washington in ’77 bid committees.  He chaired Loscon 2.  He published the Quinine, a one-shot APA. He was President of the Great Wall of China SF, Marching & Chop Suey Society which is both a cool name and a great undertaking as well. Played the barbarian alongside Jerry Jacks in the immortal Worldcon masquerade entry “Fafhrd & the Gay (sic) Mouser”. (CE)
  • Born January 15, 1963 – Bruce Schneier, Ph.D., age 58.  He was in Minneapa during its last years, as in a way was I through the Minneapa – APA-L combination (can an apa belong to another apa? why not? of course Tom Digby thought this up).  With Karen Cooper he co-authored the Minicon 34 Restaurant Guide, which placed 5th for the Best-Related-Book Hugo.  Eventually his interest, and expertise, in electronic security dominated.  [JH]
  • Born January 15, 1965 James Nesbitt, 56. Best genre role was as Tom Jackman and Hyde in Jekyll which was written by Steven Moffat. He’s also appeared in Fairy TalesThe Young Indiana Jones ChroniclesStan Lee’s Lucky Man and Outcast. Yes, I know he played Bofur in the Hobbit films. I still consider Jekyll his better by far genre role. (CE) 
  • Born January 15, 1974 – Shaun Tan, age 47.  A score of short stories; mostly known for visual art.  Six dozen covers, two hundred interiors.  Guest of Honor at Swancon 2004, at Aussiecon 4 the 68th Worldcon.  Five Ditmars, two Hugos, one Oscar.  Lindgren Award.  Greenaway Medal.  Here is Lost and Found.  Here is The Arrival.  Here is City of Birds.  Here is Moonfish.  Here is The Bird King.  Here is A Bear and Her Lawyer.  [JH]
  • Born January 15, 1986 – Rosamund Hodge, age 35.  Seven novels, as many shorter stories.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Has read The Yellow WallpaperThe Man Born to Be KingFuenteovejunaAs I Crossed a Bridge of DreamsThe Divine ComedyHide Me Among the Graves, four by Trollope, two by Hambly, one by Heyer (and it’s A Civil Contract, yay).  [JH]
  • Born January 15, 1989  – Kaveh Akbar, Ph.D., age 32.  Two Pushcart Prizes.  Levis Reading Prize.  Zacharis First Book Award.  Medwick Award.  Poetry Editor of The Nation.  Some of his poetry seems ours; anyway, strange.  Here is “The Perfect Poem”.  [JH]
  • Born January 15, 1999 – Arula Ratnakar, age 21.  Two short stories for us, but rather than give you a thousand words I recommend seeing her at Portfolio Lounge.  [JH]

(13) EATING THE FANTASTIC. It’s time to savor spanakopita with writer/editor Nick Mamatas in Episode 136 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Nick Mamatas

Nick has published fiction in genre publications such as Asimov’s Science Fiction and Tor.com, literary journals including New Haven Review and subTERRAIN, and anthologies such as Hint Fiction and Best American Mystery Stories 2013. His fiction and editorial work has been nominated for the Bram Stoker award five times, the Hugo Award twice, the World Fantasy Award twice, and the Shirley Jackson, International Horror Guild, and Locus Awards.

His novels include Under My RoofThe Damned Highway (cowritten with Brian Keene), Love is the LawThe Last Weekend, and I Am Providence, while his fiction has been collected in You Might SleepThe Nickronomicon, most recently, The People’s Republic of Everything. His writing guide Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life has prevented many a beginning writer from, well, starving, and I suspect also convinced a few to seek a different line of work. Upcoming in 2021, Solaris will be publishing his novel The Second Shooter, and The Planetbreakers Son will appear as part of the Outspoken Authors series from PM Press.

We discussed why there’s a generational divide when it comes to what potential readers might think his upcoming novel The Second Shooter is about, our joint Brooklyn heritage and history with professional wrestling, why he threw away the first dozen stories he wrote, the reason Marvel Comics was always better than DC, his encounters with the famed monologuist Brother Theodore, the first bad book he ever read, the way having been a journalist helps him collaborate without killing his co-writers, why work for hire assignments can be difficult, how we feel about our refusal to pick a genre lane, and much more.

(14) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1996 – Twenty-five years ago at L.A. Con III in Anaheim where Connie Willis was the Toastmaster, Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age as published by Bantam Spectra the previous year wins the Hugo for Best Novel. The other nominated novels were The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer, The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter, Brightness Reef by David Brin and Remake by Connie Willis. It would also be chosen by Locus as their Best SF Novel of the Year, and garnered a John W. Campbell Memorial Award as well. It was nominated for a number of other Awards as well. 

(15) VAMOOSING THROUGH THE VACUUM. James Davis Nicoll brings us “Five Thrilling SF Stories About Patrolling Space” at Tor.com.

After a painstaking process that apparently consisted of determining from which movie/comic books they wanted to lift a name, members of the US Space Force have officially been dubbed “Guardians.” Whether this is in reference to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy or the interfering blue dome-heads from Green Lantern is unclear. Either way, please enjoy five exciting stories about space patrols patrolling… SPACE!

(16) TOMORROW PRIZE. “Celebrity Guests Read Stellar Sci-Fi by Young Writers” is an online event happening January 16 to raise awareness for The Tomorrow Prize teen sci-fi writing competition. Runs 11:00am – 12:00pm PST. FREE (donation requested). RSVP for the link: B5events.com.

Celebrity guests return to B5 Events for a reading of original sci-fi by young writers! These stories — all finalists of The Tomorrow Prize for short sci-fi competition — are riveting. They’ll make you laugh and they’ll break your heart and you’ll love them all.

The Tomorrow Prize was founded in 2014 to inspire the next generation of sci-fi writing talent and motivate teens to explore today’s pressing issues through the sci-fi lens. The Tomorrow Prize 2021 entry deadline is February 1. 

(17) PLAYING THE LOTTERY. “Home inventor accidentally multiplies cat in New York Lottery ad”Campaign US has the story. Video at the link.

McCann New York’s creative spot dreams up a hilarious invention gone wrong.

New York Lottery brought the laughs in a hilarious new spot featuring an inventor, who unveils a clunky contraption in his garage called “The Multiplier.” His wife tries to get him to play the Lottery X Series scratch off card instead, where he can multiply his winnings. But the man,  enthralled by his invention,  accidentally clones the family cat, Professor Bunsen. Oops.

(18) REFUGE 31. The Faith in Imagination Series is a three-part series being produced by Refuge 31.  The first part, already released, is The Fantasy Makers. The second part is forthcoming, The Science Fiction Makers: Rousseau, Lewis and L’Engle. “This feature documentary examines the unique story of the Christian Science-Fiction sub-genre and three writers that played a role in its emergence.” Diana Pavlac Glyer, one of the scholars interviewed for the documentary, appears in this trailer.

(19) THE GREEN GIRL. That there is a documentary about actress Susan Oliver may be news to you, too, even if it was released in 2014: “The Green Girl Official Trailer (2014)”. She was a qualified commercial jet pilot and a television director as well as an actor. She died of colorectal cancer at age 58.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, James Davis Nicoll, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/9/21 Magnetic Monopology: Do Not Exceed C, Do Not Collect 200 Zorkmids

(1) NOT MY FAULT. The designer of the coin that shows H.G. Wells’ Martian tripods with four legs, Chris Costello, is passing the buck to the unknown artist of an old paperback cover which he displays as part of the following statement:

It appears that I have once again drawn ire from the sci-fi community. First it was the Papyrus/AVATAR thing, and now this. No disrespect to H.G. Wells or any of you. To give more context, I will share about this specific coin design challenge and my creative process on a permanent page next month, but for now…

The characters in War of the Worlds have been depicted many times, and I wanted to create something original and contemporary. My design takes inspiration from a variety of machines featured in the book—including tripods and the handling machines which have five jointed legs and multiple appendages.

(2) WHAT YOU’D EXPECT AT BAEN. Tom Kratman is coaching the next stage of the insurrection in the storefront window. Here’s an excerpt from a comment made in his Baen’s Bar author forum.

So where do Trump and the nation go from here?

He needs to do three things; start his own news channel, start his own party, and start his own well-armed militia as part of the party.

The militia – again, a _well_armed_ militia – is necessary to present a threat in being to the powers that be such that, should they use extra-, pseudo-, and quasi-legal means to try to suppress the party, the price presented will be far too high.  The militia will be heavily infiltrated; this is a given.  No matter; it will not be there for any purpose but to present a serious threat of major combat, and the shame of defeat, and the reality of death, to the tactical elements, police and military, that may be used against the party.

It ought to be made clear that, “I can start the civil war with a stamp of my foot.  I’ve refrained, so far, but you cannot count on that restraint under all circumstances.  And if I am infiltrated, you are even more so.”

The militia should probably be neatly but simply uniformed, nothing flashy.  Solid colors, no camo.  Haircuts and facial hair trimmed.  A simple shirt and bluejeans for non-firearms related activities / head busting….

(3) WHEN AUTHORS DON’T GET PAID. Sff critic Paul Kincaid shares an email he has written to the publisher that has announced a book containing his essay which they didn’t buy the rights to. It begins — 

Following my ongoing posts relating to the unexpected appearance of my essay in Science Fiction published by Routledge, I have just sent the following email to Taylor & Francis. Let us see what sort of response this brings….

(4) TA-NEHISI COATES’ BLACK PANTHER FINALE. The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda Saga continues next month in Black Panther #23, which hits the stands on February 24. Featuring art by Daniel Acuña and Ryan Bodenheim, the issue marks the beginning of the epic conclusion of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ redefining work on Black Panther that began in 2016.

Deep in space, T’Challa has discovered an alternate Wakandan society. Known as the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda, these ruthless warriors present a dark reflection of T’Challa’s kingdom. Having abandoned their peaceful ways, this powerful empire looks to conquer the cosmos… and Earth’s Wakanda is their next target. This daring, thought-provoking take on the Black Panther mythology also features surprising developments for supporting characters such as Shuri, Storm, and Black Panther’s greatest foe, Erik Killmonger.

(5) JEWISH SF. Jewish Museum of Maryland will host a panel discussion “People of the (Futuristic) Book” on March 4 at 7:00 Eastern about Jewish science fiction with Steven H Silver, Valerie Estelle Frankel and Michael A. Burstein.

What makes a science fiction story Jewish? Jewish writers have worked in the science fiction genre since the very beginning, thought you might not always know it from reading their work. But some stories are clearly Jewish, whether through tone and theme or explicitly based on Jewish ideas and culture. Join us for an exploration of Jewish sci-fi and fantasy – and a discussion of what makes them Jewish stories.

This Zoom event is presented by the museum in relation to the special exhibit Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit, on view through April 11, 2021. 

(6) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Leah Schnelbach lines up “The Most Anticipated Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of 2021” at Book Marks, including Andy Weir’s next novel.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
(Ballantine Books, May 4)

The author of The Martian and Artemis is back with another interstellar thriller! When Ryland Grace wakes up in a small makeshift spacecraft, he can’t remember his own name—but that’s not even his biggest problem. Why is he on this ship? And should he know the two corpses who are on the ship with him?

As his memories return, he realizes that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. His ship was thrown together by dozens of different governments. And, unfortunately, his mission is to stop a terrifying threat which, if it reaches Earth, will mean the destruction of the human race. If only he had any idea how to do that.

(7) REDISCOVERING THE WRITER IN AMERICA. On Todd Mason’s Sweet Freedom blog he collects links to the 1963 KQED documentary Take This Hammer with James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison, Janet Flanner and “Ross Macdonald” and others on The Writer In America, and producer/director/editor/interviewer Richard O. Moore. Mason says, “With luck, I might find some more of these. I’d hope this would be the kind of thing World Channel would be dusting off, along with Take This Hammer.” About the link to the Toni Morrison episode of The Writer In America he says, “These old film or video source copies certainly mangle their fine musical soundtracks, but Morrison’s voice particularly manages to retain its musicality.” 

KQED’s mobile film unit follows author and activist James Baldwin in the spring of 1963, as he’s driven around San Francisco to meet with members of the local African-American community. He is escorted by Youth For Service’s Executive Director Orville Luster and intent on discovering: “The real situation of Negroes in the city, as opposed to the image San Francisco would like to present.” He declares: “There is no moral distance … between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham. There is no moral distance … between President Kennedy and Bull Connor because the same machine put them both in power. Someone’s got to tell it like it is. And that’s where it’s at.” Includes frank exchanges with local people on the street, meetings with community leaders and extended point-of-view sequences shot from a moving vehicle, featuring the Bayview Hunters Point and Western Addition neighborhoods. Baldwin reflects on the racial inequality that African-Americans are forced to confront and at one point tries to lift the morale of a young man by expressing his conviction that: “There will be a Negro president of this country but it will not be the country that we are sitting in now.”

(8) INSIDE HOLLYWOOD. Interesting discussion about making Terry Gilliam’s classic film. “The oral history of 12 Monkeys, Terry Gilliam’s time travel masterpiece” at Inverse.

Charles Roven (producer): I was given the short film La Jetée by Chris Marker by a gentleman by the name of Robert Kosberg. I then gave that to Dave and Jan [Peoples].

David Peoples (screenwriter): We had missed seeing La Jetée in the ‘60s when we should have seen it. They sent us a terrible video of it, but in spite of the fact that it was an awful video, it really was such a wonderful movie. We said, “We’ll spend a weekend on it and see if there’s anything we can come up with that would be interesting.” It did come to us that people hadn’t been doing a lot of stuff with the threat of germs – man-made germs or germs from nature. We had an image of a city with no people and just animals roaming around, totally out of place. Chris [Marker] hadn’t said it was OK to make a movie out of his movie. He hated all Hollywood movies except Vertigo.

Janet Peoples (screenwriter): We bumped into a friend of ours from Berkeley: Tom Luddy. Tom laughed and said, “Oh, I know Chris. You know, Chris loves Francis Coppola. And Francis is in town.” So we all met at a Chinese restaurant – writers and a couple of directors; no producers, no suits – and Chris Marker at one end of the table and Francis at the other. Francis looks up and says, “Chris!?” and Chris says, “Yes, Francis?” and Francis says, “Jan and Dave want to make this movie. They’re good people; I think you oughta let them do it.” And Chris says, “Oh, OK, Francis.”…

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 — Thirty years ago, Ellen Kushner’s Thomas the Rhymer wins both the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and the World Fantasy Award. (It was the last single Award given out before it was split into into Adult and Children’s Awards.) Based off Thomas the Rhymer myth who was carried off by the Queen of Elfland and returned having gained the gift of prophecy.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 9, 1886 – Walter Brooks.  Two hundred stories; ours are two dozen about Mister Ed, a talking horse (these got onto television), and two dozen novels about Freddy the Pig and more talking animals on the upstate New York farm of a man named Bean.  The Freddy books have some science fiction; Uncle Ben, Mr. Bean’s brother, is an inventor, and beside that some Martians show up (Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars).  As with much good art, what matters is less the so-called contents than the manner of telling, at which Freddy is deft and enough fun to please both The NY Times and The Imaginative Conservative.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1890 – Karel Capek.  (The software won’t allow a caron over the C, a diacritical mark like a showing the has the sound of ch in English chat.)  Three novels for us, as many others; thirty shorter stories for us, as many others; timeless for the play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) introducing the word robot (although, being chemical not mechanical, they’re what we’d later call androids) and portraying the fundamental unease about them.  (Died 1938) [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1906 – Barbara Sleigh.  Five novels, four anthologies for us; two other novels, shorter stories, radio scripts, film criticism, picture books, memoirs.  Best known for books about Carbonel the King of Cats.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1925 Lee Van Cleef. The Warden of the Prison in Escape from New York but he was best known for acting in Spaghetti Westerns. Genre wise, he was also Col. Stone in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and Dr. Tom Anderson in Corman’s It Conquered the World. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born January 9, 1931 Algis Budrys. I am trying to remember what I read by him and I think it was Some Will Not Die which I remember because of the 1979 Starblaze edition cover. I’ve also read and enjoyed his Rogue Moon. Setting aside his work as a writer which was exemplary, he was considered one of our best genre reviewers ever reviewing for GalaxyMagazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and wrote genre reviews even in the more mainstream Playboy. He edited a number of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthologies which I’ll admit I’ve not read any. I should note his Tomorrow Speculative Fiction prozine was quite excellent.(Died 2008.)  (CE) 
  • Born January 9, 1950 David Johansen, 71. He’s the wisecracking Ghost of Christmas Past in the oh-so-perfect Scrooged, he played Halston in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie in “The Cat from Hell” episode, and he appeared as a character named Brad in Freejack. I think the brief Ghost of Christmas Past riff in the aforementioned Scrooged is enough to earn him as Birthday Honors here. (CE) 
  • Born January 9, 1955  J. K. Simmons, 66. You may know him as J. Jonah Jameson in the various Spider-Man films but I find his more interesting genre role to be as Howard Silk in the Counterpart series where he plays two versions of himself in two versions of parallel Berlins in a spy service that may or may not exist. He also portrayed Commissioner James Gordon in Justice League. (CE) 
  • Born January 9, 1957  — Greg Ketter, 64.  Leading Minneapolis fan and bookseller; chaired Minicon 40-41 and the 1993 & 2003 World Fantasy Conventions; Guest of Honor at DucKon 16; has written for Rune and Minneapa; published the DreamHaven Fortieth Anniversary Scrapbook having earned his way there with a press so named and a shop, which last year suffered but is thankfully recovering from a disaster.  [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1954 – Philippa Gregory, Ph.D., age 67.  Half a dozen novels for us; thirty others (half about Plantagenets and Tudors), also picture books.  Outside our field The Other Boleyn Girl won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award; it and successors are also bemoaned as failing the historical accuracy they’re promoted for.  PG’s charity Gardens for the Gambia has dug two hundred low-budget wells, teaches bee-keeping, and funds batik and pottery workshops.  [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1975 – Gunnhild Øyehaug, age 46.  Two dozen of her short stories for us available in English, see the collection Knots.  Also poetry, teaching, criticism.  Co-edits literary journal Kraftsentrum (in Norwegian).  Dobloug Prize.  [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1976 Jenna Felice. Tor Books Editor. She suffered what the doctors are called a massive allergic reaction compounded by asthma. She died having never emerged from her coma. There’s a memorial page for her here. (Died 2001.) (CE)
  • Born January 9, 1981 Julia Dietze, 41. She’s Renate Richter in Iron Sky: The Coming Race, a Finnish-German film in which the Nazis are occupying the moon after a nuclear war. (It garnered a 31% rating by reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. And yes critics were really, really hostile.) It wasn’t her first bad film as she was Princess Herzelinde in 2  Knights: In Search of the Ravishing Princess Herzelinde (1+ 1 / 2  Ritter – Auf der Suche nach der hinreißenden Herzelinde) which it won’t surprise you  didn’t exactly make the German reviewers gush over it. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TAKING TO THE LIFEPODS. Alexandra Petri provides some much-needed comic relief in “I see no choice but to resign from this Death Star as it begins to explode” at the Washington Post.

It is with a heavy heart and a deep sense of responsibility that I must submit my resignation, effective immediately, from my post on this Death Star. However, I see no other choice.

Now is the time for all of us to stand up from our posts and do what is right.It’s been an honor to work on this Death Star. I love the aesthetic. I love how I’ve been able to pursue my greatest passion: destroying planets and pressing buttons. I love my little hat that is a sunshade for no reason!

(13) GOTHAM’S SISTER CITY, ISTANBUL. Take a look at “Turkey’s legacy with sci-fi and superheroes in film” at Daily Sabah.

Last week marked the start of Turkey’s first-ever science fiction television series, “Ak?nc?,” which tells the story of an Ottoman superhero tasked with guarding over the Istanbul of Sultan Mehmed II, also known as Mehmed the Conqueror, in contemporary times.

A teacher by day and a superhero by night, the handsome Ak?nc?, whose name refers to the advanced troops of the Ottoman Empire, is tasked with stopping terrorism while being followed by an equally attractive female journalist who has been on his trail for the past three years. An enthralling and entertaining watch, the highly anticipated Ak?nc? premiered on Jan. 1 and will continue to air on Friday evenings at 8 p.m. on ATV.

In light of this exciting addition to Turkish primetime television, which is also the first of its kind within the genre of science fiction and superhero television series, it might be an opportune time to reflect back on Turkey’s famous legacy of its films in these genres….

(14) SF2 CONCATENATION HERALDS SPRING WITH NEW ISSUE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] The latest edition of SF2 Concatenation is now up. The spring season sees the return of a full news-page and the return of its forthcoming SF and fantasy books listings.

SF2 Concatenation is about the only place on the net with a forthcoming books listing from several genre imprints and major UK publishers.

As done every January, SF2 Concatenation has its choices as to the Best SF books and Best SF films of the previous year.  Just a bit of fun, yes, but over the years every year, one of either their choices of books or films, often both, subsequently go on to be short-listed for a major award (Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Locus etc.) some even win.  See their track record (scroll down).

Also in the mix are half a dozen articles covering conrunning, publishing, fanzines, convention reviews and an SF diary, as well as another in the series of articles by SF author scientists on their science heroes. Plus there’s over 30 standalone fiction reviews. Hopefully something for everyone.

v31(1) 2021.1.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Spring 2021

v31(1) 2021.1.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v31(1) 2021.1.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. What will NASA be doing this year?

Sending the first Artemis mission to the Moon in preparation for human missions, landing a new rover on Mars, and launching the James Webb Space Telescope into space, expanding our ability to see deep into the universe, are just a few of the things NASA has planned for 2021.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Steven H Silver, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Mlex, Todd Mason, Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/27/20 The Right To Scroll Pixels Is The Right To Be Filed

(1) EVADING DUTIES. Richard Garriott’s announcement that he secretly hid some of James Doohan’s ashes on the ISS inspired Steven H Silver’s post “A Brief History of Space Smuggling” for Amazing Stories.

…The first mission to orbit the moon was the Apollo 8 mission on December 24 and 25, 1968. Knowing that the crew would be in orbit around the Moon on Christmas, NASA wanted to make sure that they had an appropriate Christmas dinner and provided dehydrated versions of the appropriate foods. Deke Slayton went a step further, and despite an official no-alcohol policy, he slipped in three mini bottles of Coronet Brandy for the crew to enjoy. William Borman, however, confiscated the bottles explaining that if there was any subsequent problem with the space craft, it would be blamed on the men drinking the brandy. In a 2019 article, space writer Jeffrey Kluger claimed that all three men (it is the only Apollo crew with all its members still alive) still have their unopened bottle of brandy….

(2) JP: COLLECT ‘EM ALL. [Item by James Bacon.] Journey Planet: Collector’s Edition is all about collectors, collections, and collecting! Our contributors share their treasure troves, which range from Prince records to nerdy paintings to Leia merchandise. What makes their collections special to them? Why did they start collecting them in the first place? Where do they keep all that stuff?

There’s also a very special interview with Seanan McGuire, My Little Pony collector extraordinaire! Take a tour of her “Pony Room”, meet her favorite Ponies, and hear why collecting them brings her so much joy. We hope that reading her story and the others breathes new life into your enjoyment of your own collection, whatever that may be.”

Co-edited by Sarah Gulde the issue can be found free to download here.

(3) THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND BOOKS. “Library of 1000 Believes You’ve Read Less Than 10 of These Books”. The Library may have a thousand, but there are only 150 titles in this challenge. Cliff submitted the link along with a confession: “I scored two. I could maybe give myself half a point for Raymond Feist’s Magician, but it was so terrible I couldn’t bring myself to finish it.” Whereas I scored 5 — big whoopee!

(4) WW BUT WHAT YEAR? “’Wonder Woman 3′ in the Works With Director Patty Jenkins” SAYS Variety. It would be a wonder if it wasn’t, right?

(5) ACROSS THE POND. The UK bookstore chain Waterstones has listed its favorite science fiction and fantasy books of 2020: “The Best Books of 2020: Science Fiction & Fantasy”.

The Science Fiction universe saw the return of two seminal modern series this year, as Ernest Cline finally followed up his pop-culture packed cult favourite Ready Player One and Suzanne Collins took us all back to Panem and the backstory of the future President Snow in her prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy. Meanwhile, the realms of Fantasy saw the contemporary fiction debuts of Young Adult titans, Sarah J. Maas and Veronica Roth. Elsewhere, we defended a future New York with N.K. Jemisin, traded our souls for immortality with V.E. Schwab and learned to live side by side with bunnies thanks to Jasper Fforde. Where will we boldly go in 2021?

(6) ROADS LESS TRAVELLED. Book Riot’s Margaret Kingsbury writes interesting takes about her picks in “10 of the Best 2020 Under the Radar SFF Books”.

PHOENIX EXTRAVAGANT BY YOON HA LEE

This unique standalone is set in a fantasy world reminiscent of Korea during the Japanese occupation of the early 1900s. The Ministry of Armour hires nonbinary artist Jebi to paint magic sigils onto masks for the government’s automata. Their sister hates the conquering government, but Jebi, who doesn’t consider themself political, needs the cash and doesn’t see another way of acquiring it. Jebi is oblivious to anything that isn’t art. At the armory, Jebi befriends a pacifist dragon automata, and their political reluctance slowly begins to shift. As their friendship strengthens and Jebi sees more of the inner workings of The Ministry of Armour, they decide they’ll do whatever it takes to keep the dragon from becoming a weapon. I loved the way queerness is normalized in the social structure of the world Yoon Ha Lee builds, as well as the focus on art and pacifism, and Jebi’s slow character arc. Phoenix Extravagant is a fantastic standalone.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 27, 1904 —  J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan ; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up premiered at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London. Nina Boucicault, daughter of playwright Dion Boucicault, was the title role. Barrie continued to revise the play for years after its debut until publication of the play script in 1928.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 27, 1888 Thea von Harbou. She penned the novel Metropolis based upon her uncredited screenplay for husband Fritz Lang on that film.  She also collaborated with him on other projects, none of which save her Phantom and Dr. Mabuse the Gambler screenplays appear to be genre. (Died 1954.) (CE)
  • Born December 27, 1917 – Ken Slater.  Fan and bookseller.  Ran Operation Fantast, then eventually Fantast (Medway) Ltd.  “Something to Read” six years in Nebula.  Founding member of BSFA (British SF Ass’n).  Fan Guest of Honour at Eastercon 10; with wife Joyce, at Conspiracy ’87 the 45th Worldcon.  Co-founded OMPA; in FAPA too.  When Forry Ackerman won the “No. 1 Fan Personality” Hugo – the only time we’ve given it – he left it onstage saying it should have gone to KS.  Doc Weir Award (U.K., service), Big Heart (our highest service award).  Note by Our Gracious Host here.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1931 – Perdita Boardman.  Long-time hostess of the Lunarians (New York); ran the Hospitality Suite at their annual Lunacon; Fan Guest of Honor with husband John Boardman at Lunacon 41.  Made a WSFS banner (but not this one).  Earlier married to Ray Nelson inspiring poetry, hello Ray.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1943 – Diane Stanley, age 77.  A dozen novels, three covers for us; sixty books all told; particularly applauded for children’s biographies, many illustrated by herself, e.g. CleopatraCharles Dickens, the Man Who Had Great Expectations (CD wrote Great Expectations and was a social reformer); Joan of ArcMozart the Wonder Child, a Puppet Play in Three ActsSaladin, Noble Prince of IslamShaka, King of the Zulus.  With an M.A. in medical illustration she has done that too; graphic designer for Dell; art director for Putnam’s.  Shaka was a NY Times Best Illustrated Book.  Orbis Pictus Award.  Boston Globe – Hornbook Award and Golden Kite Award, twice each.  Washington Post – Children’s Book Guild Award for body of work.  Here is her cover for the May 88 Cricket.  Here is Lost Magic.  Here is The Silver Bowl.  Here is an interior for Cleopatra.  [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1945 – Fred Lerner, Ph.D., age 75.  Doctorate in library science, Modern SF and the American Literary Community based on his dissertation.  Co-founded the Beaker People Libation Front.  NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) Press published A Bookman’s Fantasy, essays; put his “Silverlock” Companion in its ed’n of Silverlock; also for NESFA Press he edited Jack Speer’s memoir Fancestral Voices.  Special Guest at Boskone 32 (which has no Fan Guest of Honor).  His Lofgeornost (last word of Beowulf, “desirous of fame or renown”) for FAPA circulates widely, won a FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Award last year.  [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1951 Charles Band, 69. Exploitation film maker whose here because some of his source material is SFF in origin. Arena was scripted off the Fredric Brown “Arena” short story which first ran in the June 1944 Astounding, and From Beyond which was based on H P Lovecraft’s short story of the same name which was first published in June 1934 issue of The Fantasy Fan. (CE) 
  • Born December 27, 1960 Maryam d’Abo, 60. She’s best known as Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights. Her first genre role was her screen debut in the very low-budget SF horror film Xtro, an Alien rip-off. She was Ta’Ra in Something Is Out There, a miniseries that was well received and but got piss poor ratings. Did you know there was a live Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book? I didn’t. She was Elaine Bendel, a recurring role in it. (CE)
  • Born December 27, 1969 Sarah Jane Vowell, 51. She’s a author, journalist, essayist, historian, podcaster,  social commentator and actress. Impressive, isn’t she? Ahhh but she gets Birthday Honors for being the voice of Violet Parr in the Incredibles franchise. I say franchise as I’ve no doubt that a third film is already bring scripted given how successful the first two were.  (CE) 
  • Born December 27, 1972 – Igor Posavec, age 48.  Covers for Perry Rhodan 2436-39: here is The Immaterial City (in German); here is People for Stardust (in German).  Note that P Rhodan, co-created by our own Walter Ernsting, has appeared weekly since 1961; its first billion of worldwide sales came in 1986.  More recently IP has been doing digitals; here is Do Machines Dream of Electric Sheep? (with Sven Sauer; I haven’t seen the untranslated title so don’t know if this is a deliberate variation on P.K. Dick’s Do Androids…).  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1977 Sinead Keenan, 42. She’s in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The End of Time” as Addams but her full face make-up guarantees that you won’t recognize her. If you want to see her, she’s a Who fan in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her final Who work is a Big Finish audio drama, Iterations of I, a Fifth Doctor story. And she played Nina Pickering, a werewolf, in Being Human for quite a long time. (CE) 
  • Born December 27, 1986 – Mirelle Ortega, age 34.  As she says, “Illustrator for kidlit and animation”.  Animation! prize at Ideatoon.  Three covers for Linda Chapman’s Mermaids Rock stories; here is The Ice Giant.  Here is A Dash of Trouble from Love Sugar Magic.  MO’s Website is full of swell images; someone better with Electronicland than I may be able to tell which have been used and which merely proposed.  [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1987 Lily Cole, 33. Been awhile since I found a Who performer and so let’s have another one now. She played The Siren in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Curse of The Black Spot”. She’s also in some obscure film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a character named Lovey. And she shows up in the important role of Valentina in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Not mention she’s in Snow White and The Huntsman as Greta, a great film indeed. (CE)

(9) FEAST FOR THE EYES. Artnet News says “A New Book Makes the Case That Fantasy Art Is America’s Least Understood Fine-Art Form—See the Wild Images Here” See sixteen great and vividly-colored examples from Masterpieces of Fantasy Art at the link.

Dragons, sexy maidens, and epic sword fights are getting the fine-art treatment in Masterpieces of Fantasy Art, Taschen’s new 532-page illustrated tome celebrating the genre.

Lest you think fantasy art is nothing more than a lightweight endeavor, the massive volume weighs a hefty 16 pounds. Tracing the evolution of the genre from 1400 to the present, it showcases the works of Old Masters Jan Van Eyck and Hieronymus Bosch as well as contemporary heavy-hitters like H.R. GigerFrank Frazetta, and Boris Vallejo.

“Since fantasy art is largely created as work for hire, no matter how talented the artist,” author Dian Hanson writes, “it has always been accessible, displayed prominently on the newsstand, to its advantage and curse.” The genre’s predilection for provocative, sexualized scenes has also hurt its credibility among the art-world cognoscenti—not to mention that the mass-produced fantasy books were literally printed on cheap pulp paper in the 20th century.

Hanson amassed more than 100 superlative examples of this oft-misunderstood form for the book. The compilation speaks to the genre’s considerable appeal—which has also translated into impressive art-market success. Original Frazetta oil paintings have sold for as much as $5.4 million. The book’s cover image, Frazetta’s Princess of Mars (197), fetched $1.2 million at Dallas’s Heritage Auctions in September….

(10) MEME MUTATION. Forget about stainless steel — “Ephemeral edible: gingerbread monolith appears on San Francisco hilltop, then collapses” – photos in The Guardian.

Like the other monoliths that have mysteriously appeared across America and the world in the waning weeks of 2020, the one that popped up on a California hilltop on Christmas Day seemed to come out of nowhere.

Also like the others, it was tall, three-sided and it rapidly attracted crowds of curious visitors before an untimely destruction.

Unlike the others, this monolith was made of … gingerbread.

(11) 2020 ENVISIONED. NASA’s video shows that in space the year was not wasted – “NASA Discoveries, R&D, Moon to Mars Exploration Persevere in 2020”.

In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

(12) SKY’S THE LIMIT. Leonard Maltin reviewed George Clooney’s sf film The Midnight Sky. He didn’t like it. “The Midnight Sky: Been There, Done That”.

George Clooney stars in this space parable that starts out well, then goes adrift. Set in the stereotypically bleak near-future, the story focuses on a defeated scientist who chooses to stay behind in the Antarctic, knowing his days are numbered, while his colleagues get the hell out of there. But when he discovers that he has company—a silent 7-year-old girl—his priorities shift completely…

(13) HUSTLING TO EARTH. The New York Times fills in the late arrivers to Tevis fandom: “Walter Tevis Was a Novelist. You Might Know His Books (Much) Better as Movies”.

The wildly popular Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” has done for chess what Julia Child once did for French cooking. Chess set sales have skyrocketed; enrollment in online chess classes has surged. The series has been the subject of hundreds of articles and interviews. The novel that inspired the show, first published in 1983, has been on The New York Times’s trade paperback best-seller list for five weeks.

Yet little attention has been paid to Walter Tevis, the author whose creation has stirred all the commotion.

…Born in 1928, Tevis wrote six novels, a surprising number of which made high-profile leaps to the screen: “The Hustler,” about a young pool shark played by Paul Newman; “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” starring David Bowie as a lonesome alien; and “The Color of Money,” a follow-up to “The Hustler,” which won Mr. Newman his first Oscar. Tevis’s 1980 science fiction book, “Mockingbird,” a commentary on humanity’s dwindling interest in reading, has long had a modest cult following.

(14) BODY OF KNOWLEDGE. “The next The Crown or The Queen’s Gambit? Netflix’s Chinese sci-fi series The Three-Body Problem is sparking hype – and controversy – already”: a roundup of what is known, in the South China Morning Post.

The show’s release date is still unconfirmed

Despite the hype – good and bad – surrounding Netflix’s announced adaptation and the impressive list of names who will feature on the creative team, the production of The Three-Body Problem is still in its early days. Writers and producers might be signed up, but there have been no casting reveals yet and, crucially, no release date announced. The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly delayed progress, but fans of the books might expect further details next year.

(15) DROPPING THE OTHER. Mental Floss coached viewers about “’A Christmas Story’: Fun Mistakes, Anachronisms, and Other Things to Look For”. It’s only poetic justice that a movie featuring a leg lamp would have missing footage.

25. FLASH GORDON GETS CREDIT, TOO.

Keep watching the end credits roll and you’ll see Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless among the names that scroll by. Though it never made the final cut, the credits for an additional fantasy sequence in which Ralphie and his trusty firearm help Flash Gordon face off against Ming remain.

Michael Toman sent the link with this enthusiastic intro: “Am sure that I’m not the only Filer who would appreciate the opportunity to see ‘an additional sequence in which Ralphie and his trusty firearm help Flash Gordon face off against Ming.’ Has anyone considered adapting this movie as a Graphic Novel?”

(16) HO HO IO. Io9’s Julie Muncyinvites everyone to “Relax With This Classic Addams Family Christmas Short” posted on YouTube by MGM.

…And of course, even they adore Santa Claus. I love it. What a perfect family.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, James Bacon, Cliff, Contrarius, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/20 Continued
On Next Orc

(1) DIGITAL DIAGNOSIS. N. K. Jemisin tries to work out what the symptoms of social media indicate. Thread starts here.

(2) OF THE GALAXY? “U.S. Space Force unveils name of space professionals” – and that name is: Guardians.

Today, after a yearlong process that produced hundreds of submissions and research involving space professionals and members of the general public, we can finally share with you the name by which we will be known: Guardians.

The opportunity to name a force is a momentous responsibility. Guardians is a name with a long history in space operations, tracing back to the original command motto of Air Force Space Command in 1983, “Guardians of the High Frontier.”

The name Guardians connects our proud heritage and culture to the important mission we execute 24/7, protecting the people and interest of the U.S. and its allies.

Guardians. Semper Supra!

(3) OBAMA’S READS. Former President Barack Obama tweeted a list of his favorite books from this year. Kim Stanley Robinson’s book seems to be the only genre work. Emily St. John Mandel is also here, a name well-known to fans, but not here for a sff novel.

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners tobinge brownies with William F. Wu in Episode 134 of Eating the Fantastic podcast.

William F. Wu

William F. Wu attended the Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University in the summer of 1974 — the same year I would have gone had I not been turned down. (But don’t worry — I was accepted in 1979). I first became aware of Bill not from his fiction, but from the letters he wrote to Marvel commenting on the depiction of Asians in the company’s Master of Kung Fu comic book. He made his first professional sale in 1975, and since then has published more than 70 short stories and more than a dozen novels. He’s been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards twice each, as well as a World Fantasy Award. He wrote all six novels in Isaac Asimov’s Robots in Time series, two entries in the Isaac Asimov’s Robot City series, and is one of the writers in George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards anthology series.

We discussed how the two of us almost ended up at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop together (and why we didn’t), the reason he wasn’t terrified when he got the chance to play in Issac Asimov’s robot universe, how an assignment from Harlan Ellison gave birth to one of his more famous short stories (which was later adapted as an episode of The Twilight Zone, what he found easy about writing in George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards universe, how you might never have read his science fiction if crime editors had been kinder to him, what Kate Wilhelm told him which helped fix a story problem, why Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu comic books attracted him (and how he’d have written the book if given the chance), how he manages to collaborate with other writers without killing them, and much more.

(5) WHY IT BULGES. Galactic Journey brings you a Battle of the Bulge game review, movie call-out, and F&SF issue review all in one fully-packed post! “[December 18, 1965] (January 1966 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”

Sitzkrieg

If The Battle of the Bulge represents the essence of the blitzkrieg, this month’s Fantasy and Science Fiction is a recreation of World War 1 — overlong, with little movement, ultimately pointless.  Such a sad contrast to last month’s issue, which was the best in years.  Ah, such are the vicissitudes of war.  Come slog along with me, would you? …

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 — Twenty five years ago, Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt was published by Harcourt Brace in a wonderful edition profusely illustrated by the late Francisco Xavier Mora. This tale of two boys and a most unusual cat battling the Horned God at the Winter Solstice is most excellent reading. Harper Jo Morrison who reviewed at Green Man says “Buy the book, bring it home, and luxuriate in something fresh and different. Read it aloud to your child, your cousin, your special someone; anyone who can appreciate a sense of magic in a real world.” 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 —  Alfred Bester. He’s best remembered perhaps  for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook — a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It?  He’s decently stocked at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born December 18, 1916 – Walt Daugherty.  Co-founded the National Fantasy Fan Federation.  Published a Directory of Fandom in 1942.  Invented Westercon, chaired Westercon 2, Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 50.  Recorded (by phonograph!) Denvention I the 2nd Worldcon, so we have all of Heinlein’s GoH speech; chaired Pacificon I the 4th; Fan GoH at Baycon the 26th; Special Committee Award from L.A.con III the 54th (chaired by Our Gracious Host).  Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  Also Gene Lucas Award from the Int’l Betta Congress (betta are the “Siamese fighting fish”), world champion in NY “Harvest Moon” contest (ballroom dancing), prize-winner with parakeet “King Tut” (archaeology another hobby), quick-draw demonstration in the X Olympiad (1932; 22/100 second).  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1936 – Dave Hulan, age 84.  Chaired DeepSouthCon 1, Fan Guest of Honor at DSC 50.  Active in various apas e.g. APANAGEFAPAGestaltSAPSSFPA.  Served a term as editor of Tightbeam.  Rebel Award.  Mythopoeic Society.  Lived in Los Angeles awhile and made friends there too.  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1937 – Fran Skene, age 83.  Chaired Westercon 30; VCON VI, 9, 14; co-chaired Rain Cinq, chaired Rain Finale.  Served a term as editor of BCSFAzine (British Columbia SF Ass’n).  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 35, MileHiCon 10, Ad Astra 8, Keycon 5.  Fanzines Love Makes the World Go AwryWhat Do You Know of Love?  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1939 – Michael Moorcock, age 81.  Six dozen novels, fifteen dozen shorter stories, a dozen poems, a score of anthologies.  Editor of New Worlds and Vector.  Guest of Honor at LoneStarCon II the 55th Worldcon.  One Nebula.  World Fantasy Award and another for life achievement.  Campbell Memorial Award.  Five British Fantasy Awards.  Prix Utopia and Bram Stoker Awards for life achievement.  SFWA Grand Master (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).  SF Hall of Fame.  Musician with the Deep Fix, Hawkwind, Blue Öyster Cult, Spirits Burning.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Hartison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels, are available in digital form. His only award is a Phoenix Award which is a lifetime achievement award for a SF professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom, quite a honor indeed. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 74. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such genre work followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,  Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok so the quality of the last film was terrible…  He’d repeated that amazing feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook (YEA!) which I both love followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t.  The BFG is simply wonderful. (CE) 
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta, 66. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think of it as being an exemplary genre cred? Well I do. On a much sillier note, he’s in two Muppet films, Muppets from Space and Muppets Most Wanted. (CE)
  • Born December 18, 1954 J.M. Dillard, 66. Yes, I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid Eighties And her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts. She also wrote one of the many, many non-fiction works that came out on TrekStar Trek: ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’: A History in Pictures, which was actually largely written by Roddenberry’s assistant on a work for hire contract as a another book that didn’t get published, a woman named Susan Sackett. Memory Alpha has the story here. (CE)
  • Born December 18, 1958 – Steve Davidson, age 62.  Fan, editor, publisher, often seen here.  Four reviews in Ray Gun Revival.  Interviewed in StarShipSofa.  Among his Amazing adventures, he’s currently the publisher; with Jean Marie Stine, half a dozen Best of “Amazing” anthologies 1926-1943.  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1962 – Maiya Williams, age 58.  First black editor of the Harvard Lampoon.  Three novels for us.  Television writer and producer, e.g. FuturamaThe Haunted Hathaways.  Loves forests, especially old-growth redwoods.  Website quotes “A book is a device to ignite the imagination” (A. Bennett, The Uncommon Reader p. 34, 2007; fictionally attr. to Queen Elizabeth II).  [JH]
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 52. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film  Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films!   He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt in Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really Casper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin In Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro has a horrible math pun. So I naturally recommend it.

(9) LIGHTS IN THE SKY. NASA advises everyone how to watch “The ‘Great’ Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn” on December 21.

Skywatchers are in for an end-of-year treat. What has become known popularly as the “Christmas Star” is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible in the evening sky over the next two weeks as the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together, culminating on the night of Dec. 21.

In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope to the night sky, discovering the four moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. In that same year, Galileo also discovered a strange oval surrounding Saturn, which later observations determined to be its rings. These discoveries changed how people understood the far reaches of our solar system.

Thirteen years later, in 1623, the solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, traveled together across the sky. Jupiter caught up to and passed Saturn, in an astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.”  

“You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium,” said Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21.”

The planets regularly appear to pass each other in the solar system, with the positions of Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky about once every 20 years.

What makes this year’s spectacle so rare, then? It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”..

(10) MALFUNCTION JUNCTION.  [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Allegra Frank, in the Vox story “Cyberpunk 2077, the year’s most controversial video game featuring Keanu Reeves, explained”, says that Cyberpunk 2077, years in development, has been roundly attacked for numerous glitches, including male and female wardrobe malfunctions and strobe effects that caused seizures in epileptics.

…When the game’s first reviews came out just before its December 10 release, they were mostly positive. It turned out, however, that this was because reviewers were only given early access to the Windows PC version, the one best optimized and representative of the expansive, graphically intensive game’s potential. Once the game was released on consoles as well (for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, versions that also work — much better — on the companies’ newer consoles), players discovered a litany of technical issues.

Characters’ faces were obscured, some environments were unsightly. The game would make consoles crash repeatedly, sometimes sacrificing players’ progress. One glitch even exposed characters’ detailed penises and breasts, which would poke out of their clothes. The memes and mockery were relentless and swift….

(11) BIG DEALS. If you wondered “Why Is the Star Wars Universe Full of Megafauna?” then James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com post is what you’ve been waiting for.

Whilst watching an episode of The Mandalorian, I noticed something in the  background that was odd enough that I should have taken note of it ages ago: the Star Wars universe sure has a lot of large apex predators for a setting that has been civilized for tens of thousands of years.

This is not the case on present-day Earth. Biodiversity has taken a sharp nosedive in the last 20,000 years. Pretty much any large species that looks tasty, which might have a taste for humans, or lives on land for which we have other purposes in mind has vanished or been greatly reduced in numbers. Because human lifespans are so short, we take the Earth’s depleted state as normal, so are spared angst over all the cool beasts no longer extant.

In the Star Wars universe, the story is very different. When visiting a world in that setting, one should always have a contingency plan for attacks from the local whale-sized predators. What the heck is going on?

(12) YOU’VE GOT YOUR CHOCOLATE IN MY PEPSI. Mashed assures us “Pepsi is planning to release a strange new soda flavor”. Another source headlines it as a “Chocolate Marshmallow ‘Cocoa’ Cola.” (Will it go well with your McRib sandwich?)

…While seasonal sodas don’t get the love that holiday-themed coffee drinks and even cocktails do, they’re still a kind-of-sort-of thing, at least for two soda brands: Mountain Dew and Pepsi. Mountain Dew’s got their Merry Mash-Up, a surprisingly divisive cranberry/pomegranate flavor, and next year they plan to drop a gingerbread-flavored Dew. Pepsi’s gotten in the game in past years with the not-so-successful Holiday Spice flavor, while this year saw Pepsi Apple Pie just in time for Thanksgiving. Sadly this newest flavor was only available if you won a social media contest related to baking fails — it seems their version of apple pie in a bottle was maybe meant as a substitute for those unable to master the art of baking their own pies.

…The newest Pepsi flavor is meant to evoke everybody’s (well, over 40 percent of people’s) favorite wintertime beverage, hot chocolate. Sounds a bit weird? Not really — if you’ve ever had a soda fountain black cow, you already know that cola and chocolate play nicely together, and marshmallow flavor only adds more sugar.

(13) A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING. Shelf Awareness points viewers to a video of the “’First Annual Lighting of the Leg Lamp’ at Page 158 Books.”

Fans of the holiday classic movie A Christmas Story will find seasonal joy and laughs in the “first annual lighting of the leg lamp” Facebook video from Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, N.C.

(14) KNOCK-OFFS. Ranker had readers decide which are the worst among “47 Hilarious Bootleg Toys That Are Obvious Knock Offs”. Second on the list is this improbable superteam:

2. Worst. Avengers. Ever.

(15) VIDEO OF THE SEASON. “We’re Despicable–Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” on YouTube is a song written by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill for a Mr. Magoo special broadcast by NBC in 1962.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, N., Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to Fil 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/4/20 The Rest Of The File, To Scroll Man, It’s… It’s A Filkbook!

(1) SFPA OFFICER ELECTIONS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association announced the outcome of its recent elections. Incumbent President, Bryan Thao Worra, was voted in to continue.The new Vice President is Colleen Anderson, and the new Secretary is Brian U. Garrison.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. “Chow down on pizza with Ignatz Award-winning Alison Wilgus” in episode 133 of Scott Edelman’s Eating The Fantastic podcast.

Alison Wilgus

Alison Wilgus is a writer and cartoonist who’s been working in comics for more than a decade, and whose latest work is Chronin, a science fiction duology published by Tor. Their first professional gig was as a colorist and staff writer for Cartoon Network’s Codename: Kids Next Door, and since then has been published by Scholastic, Del Rey, DC, Nickelodeon Magazine, Dark Horse, and First Second Books. They’ve also written works of graphic non-fiction, including The Mars Challenge (illustrated by Wyeth Yates) and Flying Machines: How the Wright Brothers Soared (illustrated by Molly Brooks). Alison is also co-host of Graphic Novel TK, a podcast about graphic novel publishing.

We discussed how their life might have gone an entirely different way if not for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, why they describe themselves to people as “a feral nerd,” how an unsolicited pitch on a Post-it note led to selling their first script, what fanfic taught them about writing professionally in other people’s universes, the best way to interact with sensitivity readers, why they’ve retired from Hourly Comics, what would have happened with Odo and Kira if their Deep Space Nine spec script been accepted, the big surprise about the way they made their first sale to Analog, and much more.

(3) HOPE FOR LIBRARIES. Publishers Weekly has learned “Amazon Publishing in Talks to Offer E-books to Public Libraries”.

In what came as a surprise to many librarians and industry observers, a report in The Hill this week revealed that the nonprofit Digital Public Library of America has been in discussions with Amazon Publishing on a potential a deal to make Amazon’s e-book content available in public libraries. And in a call with PW, DPLA officials confirmed that a deal could be done soon.

“I don’t want to get too far out over my skis,” said Michele Kimpton, director of business development and senior strategist for the Digital Public Library of America, when asked to characterize how close a potential deal was to completion. Kimpton told PW that talks with Amazon have been ongoing since spring, adding that the discussions have gone well and that the parties were making “good progress.” And while she expressed hope that Amazon titles could be available to libraries on the DPLA Exchange sometime in early 2021, she also tempered expectations, stressing there were still details to be worked out….

(4) GROGU ENCOURAGES READING. “Baby Yoda stars in new READ® poster and bookmark from the American Library Association”.

Star Wars fans, book lovers, and collectors from around the universe can use their powers to help libraries this holiday season. The Child (a.k.a. Grogu or Baby Yoda), the breakout star of Disney+’s hit series The Mandalorian, is featured in several new must-have products from the American Library Association (ALA), a 501c3 non-profit. All proceeds will fund advocacy, awareness, and accreditation programs for library professionals worldwide.

ALA’s READ® campaign, supported by ALA Graphics, celebrates the joy of reading and the importance of lifelong learning. For more than 30 years, the iconic READ® posters have featured celebrities, musicians, award-winning authors and illustrators, and library advocates who’ve lent their star power to support our nation’s libraries.

Reminiscent of the original Yoda poster ALA Graphics offered in the early 1980s, The Child’s poster and bookmark continue the tradition of previous Star Wars™ READ® collaborations, including with C3PO and R2D2, as well as other timeless characters.

(5) ARECIBO ENDING. “Analyzing Video Footage Of Collapse of Massive Arecibo Telescope” a 13 minute video and analysis.

The collapse was on Tuesday morning, but yesterday the NSF made video of the catastrophic collapse available, and so many viewers asked I continue my long tradition of ‘coping by analyzing failure’ and document what I see in this footage. It’s hard to watch because this magnificent structure has always been part of the world of astronomy for me.

Ars Technica’s text article also explains how the video was obtained: “NSF releases footage from the moment Arecibo’s cables failed”.

The video of that collapse comes from a monitoring system put in place in the wake of the cable failures. Due to the danger of further cable breaks, the NSF had instituted no-go zones around each of the three towers that supported the cables. With no personnel allowed to get close enough to inspect the cables, the staff started monitoring them using daily drone flights, one of which was in progress during the collapse. In addition, a video camera was installed on top of the visitor’s center, which had a clear view of the instrument platform and one of the support towers.

(6) ANSWERS FROM DAW BOOKS. Keystroke Medium hosted a “Behind-the-Scenes Look at Traditional Publishing” with Betsy Wollheim.

What do Patrick Rothfuss, Tad Williams, Mercedes Lackey, C.J. Cherryh, and Nnedi Okorafor all have in common? Besides being A-List fantasy wordcrafters, all were published by DAW Books. Tonight we meet the woman behind one of science fiction and fantasy’s most beloved publishing houses, DAW Books’ President, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief, Betsy Wollheim. Betsy’s here to pull back the curtain on what goes into the traditional publishing process, give you tips on how to get published, and discuss where she thinks the publishing world is headed.

(7) VIDEO GAME DOCUMENTARY PREVIEW. “Chicago was a video game powerhouse in the ’90s. ‘Insert Coin’ looks at the company behind ‘Mortal Kombat’”MSN.com.

…Midway was among the first to use digitized actors — walking, running, punching, all of it — in its games, giving them a simulacrum of reality unique to the time.

“Up until that point, in most games the artwork was hand-drawn,” said Tsui. “Japanese video game development houses back then were huge and had teams of artists drawing beautiful artwork. So what Midway brought in was this ability to digitize actors and get them into the game and make them look really great” — plus it was cheaper and faster than employing artists.

The documentary captures a moment in time when a homogenous workforce prompted nary a second glance in the world of video games, and it is a harbinger of many of the same issues that the industry is still working through today. More on that in a bit.

Tsui remains off-camera throughout the film, but his connection to Midway is personal. After attending Columbia College for film school, he worked at Midway from 1993 to 1999. “They hired me as a video artist. We couldn’t use a blue screen or green screen background to key out the actors, so for every frame of a character we would hand cut them out, pixel by pixel, to keep the image as clean as possible. That was one of my first jobs when I started working there and it was painstaking. But the teams working on a game were so small back then, usually about five people — nowadays it’s hundreds of people — so everybody had to multitask.” he said.

“The amount of hours we worked was just crazy. But it was almost like being in a secret society, where everybody had this passion for what they were working on. So even though we had these long hours, we would work all day for 10 or 12 hours, and then after work we would stay and play games with each other well into the night and then go home, sleep for a bit and rinse and repeat.”

(8) NEWSTEAD OBIT. Automata creator Keith Newstead has died reports The Guardian:

Keith Newstead, who has died aged 64 of cancer, was the UK’s pre-eminent maker of automata – artistic mechanical devices that are built to look like human or animal figures and which give the illusion of acting as if under their own power.

Newstead had a straightforward, even humble relationship with his chosen artform. Although his work drew on a rich tradition of makers of kinetic art from Leonardo da Vinci to Jean Tinguely, he considered himself an entertainer as much as an artist, and was unconcerned with raising the status of automata as sculpture. Instead he wanted, as he put it in 2015, to “bring enjoyment and entertainment to both young and old alike.”

An example of his work is the Gormenghast Castle Automata.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2010 — Ten years ago, Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making wins the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy with Kage Baker’s Hotel Under the Sand coming in second and Sarah Beth Durst’s Ice placing third. Valente’s novel was first published online at her website, so it was the first book to win the Norton award before traditional publication by Feiwel & Friends. It would also win a Nebula. The series would eventually reach five novels. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 4, 1886 – Lawrence Stevens.  Seventy covers, two hundred eighty interiors.  Here is the Mar 44 Famous Fantastic Mysteries (note “The Man Who Was Thursday”).  Here is a 1948 interior.  Here is the Jan 49 Super Science.  Here is an interior for “The Eye of Balamok”.  Here is the Jul 52 Amazing.  Outside our field, newspaper cartoonist, designer & illustrator for General Motors.  Knew Conan Doyle in Belgium.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born December 4, 1937 David Bailie, 83. He played Dask in “The Robots of Death,” a Fourth Doctor story, and also appeared in Blake’s 7 as Chevner in the “Project Avalon” story. Also he played the mute pirate Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. Intriguingly he shows up in The Creeping Flesh film which starred Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. (CE) 
  • Born December 4, 1945 Karl Edward Wagner. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as it was originally written by the author.  He is quite likely best known for his invention of the character Kane, the Mystic Swordsman who I think is in as many as thirty novels by Wagner. Anyone here read all of them? Rhetorical question I know as I’m someone here will have. I ask because I don’t think I’ve read more than a few. His Carcosa publishing company issued four volumes of stories by authors of the Golden Age pulp magazines. Anything I left off that folks should know about him? (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born December 4, 1945 – Bill & Dick Glass, age 75.  Of these two too little-known now fans I can tell too little now. Bill’s interior for Double:Bill 13 (thus triple Bill?) was just reprinted in Afterworlds; he had reviews in Delap’sShangri-L’AffairesSF ReviewThrust.  Dick had a graphic-novel treatment of “The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm” (The Fellowship of the Ring Bk. 2 ch. 5) and an essay about doing it in I Palantir, a short story in Nova 3.  [JH]
  • Born December 4, 1949 – Richard Lynch, age 71.  In the famous misspelling of Rick Sneary (rhymes with very; most of us didn’t realize the “Snearyisms” were unintentional, bad health kept him out of school, although brilliant he never learned to spell), a publishing jiant.  RL and wife Nicki Lynch did Chat for their local club in Chattanooga, then won six Best-Fanzine Hugos with their remarkable Mimosa , see here.  Rebel Award for both, Fan Guests of Honor at Rivercon XI, Chattacon XV, DeepSouth Con 40, Conucopia the 7th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  RL edited the Souvenir Book for Bucconeer the 56th Worldcon; he now and then publishes My Back Pages.  [JH]
  • Born December 4, 1951 Mick Garris, 69. Best remembered  for his work in the horror genre. He has worked with Stephen King several times, such as directing Sleepwalkers, written by King and starring Mädchen Amick, and on the Bag of Bones series. Garris was also the co-screenwriter and executive producer of Hocus Pocus, and he’s  the creator of the Masters of Horror series. (CE)
  • Born December 4, 1954 Tony Todd, 66. Let’s see… He was a memorable Kurn in  Next Gen and Deep Space Nine, he plays Ben in Night of the Living Dead, he’s of course the lead character in the Candyman horror trilogy, William Bludworth in the Final Destination film franchise, Cecrops in Xena: Warrion Princess and Gladius on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Those are just selected highlights. He reprises the lead role in the forthcoming Candyman. (CE)
  • Born December 4, 1954 – Sally Kobee, F.N., age 66.  Bookseller and filker.  See here for her and her late husband Larry Smith.  SK & LS chaired World Fantasy Con in 2010, SK chaired in 2016 and also Ohio Valley Filk Fest 4 & 10.  Both were Fan Guests of Honor at Windycon XXVII; elected Fellows of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  [JH]
  • Born December 4, 1957 – Kathryn Reiss, age 63.  A dozen novels for us, nine others.  Fulbright Scholar.  American Lib’y Ass’n Best Book for Young Adults award, three YA Lib’y Services Ass’n awards.  Professor of English at my mother’s alma mater, Mills.  [JH]
  • Born December 4, 1957 Lucy Sussex, 63. Fan, reviewer, author, and editor. Born in New Zealand, resident in Australia, she’s been writing SFF ever since attending a Terry Carr-led workshop. And she’s an editor as well having edited several anthologies such as She’s Fantastical, the first collection of Australian women’s speculative fiction. She’s won three Ditmar Awards, an A. Bertram Chandler Award and an Aurealis Award to name some of her awards — impressive indeed!  I’ve not heard of her before now, so I’ve not read her, so who has read her? (CE) 
  • Born December 4, 1974 – Anne Gray, age 46, the Netmouse.  Poet and physicist.  Five years working with Cheryl Morgan on Emerald City.  Chaired ConFusion 30-31 & 35.  Fan Guest of Honor at Apollocon 2008.  Reviews in Subterranean Online.  Born Anne Gay, became Gray with husband Brian Gray, jointly TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates.  She was Murphy for a while, and seems to have been in Yellow Springs, Ohio, during November 2009; speaking of which, Netmouse, how’s Wellspring?  [JH]
  • Born December 4, 1989 Nafessa Williams, 31. She had only two genre roles but with the first being the revival series of Twin Peaks where she was Jade. The other is what gets her Birthday Honors — She’s Anissa Pierce who is the Thunder superhero on the Black Lightning series. Superb series, great character! (CE) 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side can tell the difference between Frankenstein and Fred Astaire.
  • The New Yorker has a weekly Cartoon Caption Contest. Bruce Arthurs noticed: “This week’s has two dinosaurs (I think?) conversing; one is wearing a rainbow-striped propeller beanie, which reminded me of Ray Nelson’s beanie cartoons in old fanzines.” The cartoon is here.
  • The online webcomic “Could Be Worse” offered their take on paleontology today 

(12) FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says NASA sold rights to several companies for mining concessions for the Moon, including one to Lunar Outpost for $1 because NASA believed the company had the capacity to launch mining efforts. “NASA names companies that will mine moon”.

NASA announced Thursday that several companies had won contracts to mine the moon and turn over small samples to the space agency for a small fee. In one case, a company called Lunar Outpost bid $1 for the work, a price NASA jumped at after deciding the Colorado-based robotics firm had the technical ability to deliver.“You’d be surprised at what a dollar can buy you in space,” Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for international and interagency relations, said in a call with reporters.

But the modest financial incentives are not the driver of the program. Nor to a large extent is the actual lunar soil. NASA is asking for only small amounts — between 50 and 500 grams (or 1.8 ounces to about 18 ounces). While there would be scientific benefits to the mission, it’s really a technology development program, allowing companies to practice extracting resources from the lunar surface and then selling them.It would also establish a legal precedent that would pave the way for companies to mine celestial bodies in an effort blessed by the U.S. government to help build a sustainable presence on the moon and elsewhere.

To do that, NASA says it needs its astronauts, like the western pioneers, to “live off the land,” using the resources in space instead of hauling them from Earth. The moon, for example, has plenty of water in the form of ice. That’s not only key to sustaining human life, but the hydrogen and oxygen in water could also be used as rocket fuel, making the moon a potential gas station in space that could help explorers reach farther into the solar system….

(13) LEAKAGE. “Leaked reports from Pentagon UFO task force discuss ‘non-human technology,’ mysterious objects”FOX News has the story.

Two classified reports from the Pentagon’s task force used to “detect, analyze and catalog” UFOs have been leaked, both of which include photos of unidentified objects….

The leaked photo, taken off the East Coast of the U.S. by a “pilot’s personal cell phone,” was a part of the 2018 position report, one source told the news outlet. This report discussed what the unidentified silver “cube-shaped” object could be, with a list of possible explanations discussed, including the fact it could be “alien” or “non-human” technology.

The 2020 photo, which has been leaked but is not widely available yet, is described as a triangle with white lights in each corner. This may be the more interesting photo, Nick Pope, a former employee and UFO investigator for Britain’s Ministry of Defense, told Fox News.

“I’m more interested in the fact that this first photo has been leaked, and in the related leaking of information about the Pentagon’s Unidentified Aerial Task Force, where serving intelligence community personnel have shared insights from two intelligence position reports,” Pope said via email. “With my own defense background in this subject, three things stand out. Firstly, the description by one insider of the reports as ‘shocking’ — a word that begs the question what about UAP do these people find shocking. Secondly, the fact that the intelligence reports seem to have been given a surprisingly wide distribution in various intelligence agencies, and thirdly, the fact that the extraterrestrial hypothesis seems genuinely not to have been taken off the table.”

Pope added he expects further leaks, noting he believes there is “a faction within government clearly wants this information to be released to the public.”

(14) NICE TRY. “Man’s Wife Makes Him Sell His PlayStation 5 After Realizing It Wasn’t an Air Purifier” reports Yahoo!

A Taiwanese man was forced to part with his PlayStation 5 last month after his wife discovered that he had lied to her about it being an air purifier, Taiwan News reports.

This heartbreaking story comes courtesy of Jin Wu, who turned out to be the lucky recipient of Sony’s next-gen console. Wu detailed his interaction on Facebook, claiming that one day after agreeing to buy the PlayStation 5 from a reseller in person, he called the individual he believed to be a man on the phone only to hear a woman pick up.

After his brief conversation with the mysterious woman, Wu could ascertain that she didn’t know much about the PS5, but was adamant about selling it, even at a remarkably low price…

(15) LUKE TREETALKER. Tree communication is posited in “The Social Life of Forests”, a New York Times Magazine article.

…Now a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, Simard, who is 60, has studied webs of root and fungi in the Arctic, temperate and coastal forests of North America for nearly three decades. Her initial inklings about the importance of mycorrhizal networks were prescient, inspiring whole new lines of research that ultimately overturned longstanding misconceptions about forest ecosystems. By analyzing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest — even trees of different species. Carbon, water, nutrients, alarm signals and hormones can pass from tree to tree through these subterranean circuits. Resources tend to flow from the oldest and biggest trees to the youngest and smallest. Chemical alarm signals generated by one tree prepare nearby trees for danger. Seedlings severed from the forest’s underground lifelines are much more likely to die than their networked counterparts. And if a tree is on the brink of death, it sometimes bequeaths a substantial share of its carbon to its neighbors….

(16) PUSS IN MORE THAN JUST BOOTS. Credentials suit up!“Cosplay costumes for cats earn former teacher a living” – video at MSN.com.

(17) SUPERPOSITIONED CREDENTIALS. “Schrödinger’s Cat Explained: Does Schrödinger’s Cat Really Exist?” asks Popular Mechanics.Tagline: “But don’t worry—they’re not going to harm any cats.”

For the first time, scientists believe they might be able to show that Schrödinger’s cat could exist in real life—not just in thought experiments. With larger and larger quantum objects, they say, a superpositioned cat seems inevitable. In the meantime, the scientists only have to figure out what’s preventing superpositioning at all in the largest quantum objects.

This one gets a little wavy gravy, so let’s first go over what Schrödinger’s cat even is. It’s a thought experiment, or what cognitive philosopher Daniel Dennett might call an intuition pump, that leads people to a new understanding of quantum mechanics. First, you put a hypothetical cat in a box. Then you basically flip a coin, and either the cat is killed or not killed inside the box.

The box remains closed and opaque the entire time, and there are no weasely workarounds like listening to the cat or seeing the box move. Is the cat alive or not? Since there’s no possible way to tell, the cat is effectively both alive and dead. Like a quantum particle, it’s superpositioned in two states at once.

From this description, you can see why the idea of a “real” Schrödinger’s cat is so stupefying. If a complex mammal could experience superpositioning, that would unlock far-out ideas like teleportation.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/20 Trapped In A Pixel He Never Scrolled

(1) “THE FUTURE WAS SO BAD.” “HOW BAD WAS IT?” The Library of Congress’ National Book Festival Blog introduces “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Dystopian Worlds”.

Why is it that some of us love dystopian novels, the kind of fiction that takes a dim, bleak view of the future? Is it because writers of this genre show us how bad things can become if we aren’t careful? Or that we can feel better about the current state of affairs because they aren’t nearly as bad as the book’s scenario?

The “Dystopian Worlds” conversation at the 2020 National Book Festival featured Dark Star trilogy novelist Marlon James, who spoke with sci-fi/fantasy writer Jeff VanderMeer. James’s most recent novel is “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” (Riverhead), and VanderMeer’s is “A Peculiar Peril” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Everdeen Mason, senior audience editor of The Washington Post, moderated and, in her words, is an “occasional book critic.”

(2) BLOOM’S FINAL LE GUIN APPRECIATION. “The Strange Friendships of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’” in The New Yorker is an essay was drawn from The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread by Harold Bloom (d. 2019), out this month.

…Though I have written about “The Left Hand of Darkness” before, in 1987 and again in 2000, I have forgotten what I said and do not want to consult it now, but, rather, make a fresh start on this marvellous romance. In one of her letters, Ursula remarked that writing “The Dispossessed” was liberating for her, and she seemed to prefer it to “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Rereading both, I find myself torn between the two. The protagonist, Shevek, in “The Dispossessed,” is far more interesting than anyone in the earlier book, and yet he and his story manifest something of the ambivalence of Le Guin’s subtitle: “An Ambiguous Utopia.”

In a fierce introduction to “The Left Hand of Darkness,” Le Guin charmingly remarks, “A novelist’s business is lying.” She adumbrates:

“I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.

“The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie. Psychologically defined, a symbol. Aesthetically defined, a metaphor.”

Always in Le Guin we hear reverberations of Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching,” which she translated, with J. P. Seaton, as “A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way” (1997). We corresponded about her understanding of the Tao, yet I had to confess my permanent difficulty in absorbing this way that is not a way. I myself always keep to hand a copy of “The Bhagavad-Gita” as rendered by Barbara Stoler Miller, which I purchased in the autumn of 1986, the year of its publication. After hundreds of readings, I think I know what Krishna means by “dark inertia,” “passion,” and “lucidity,” but a dozen readings of the Le Guin-Seaton “Tao Te Ching” have left me muttering that I do not apprehend the water and stone of the Way. Is it that I am not enough open to my own female component? That seems not right. I am more my late mother than my late father. What moves me most in Ursula is the serenity. I lack it utterly….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to loaf around with A.C. Wise in Episode 132 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast as they nibble — she on chocolate zucchini bread and he on cherry pecan bread.

A.C. Wise

Wise is a two-time finalist for the Nebula Award, two-time finalist for the Sunburst Award, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Plus she’s won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her fiction has appeared in UncannyTor.comShimmer, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies. Her work can also be found in two collections, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, both published with Lethe Press. Her debut novel, Wendy, Darling, will be out from Titan Books in June 2021, and a new short story collection, The Ghost Sequences, will be published by Undertow Books next August.

We discussed how her first professionally published fiction ended up printed on a coffee can, the 24-hour challenge which led to the creation of her Lambda Award-nominated collection, which comic book character obsesses her the most, how individual stories can act as commentary on all stories, why she enjoys wielding the power of ambiguity, how workshopping with other writers can help make stories better, what The Queen’s Gambit can teach us about dealing with reader expectations, the unexpected way a flash fiction piece turned into her first novel, and much more

(4) SLF WANTS ENTRIES FOR ILLUSTRATION OF THE YEAR. The Speculative Literature Foundation is making an open call for original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustrationof the Year or Artwork) for 2021.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats.

The winning artist will receive $500.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s second international open call for Illustration of the Year, and the fourth consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

Criteria: Each artist (Artist) may submit one (1) artwork for consideration. The artwork may be created digitally or by hand (no photography). The subject matter must combine fantasy and science fiction elements as well as incorporate SLF’s literary focus. All artwork must be submitted in both jpeg and pdf formats. Aspect ratio must work for the website banner, being at least 1500 points wide, and 400-500 points high. Final resolution for print must be at least 11 inches wide and 300 dpi. Files are limited to 10MB.

Submit artwork to development@speculativeliterature.org, including your name, email address, phone number and short bio.

(5) DON’T INVITEMS. LitHub’s Chris Gosden explains “Why Harry Houdini DID NOT Like Arthur Conan Doyle”.

… Later in 1924 Houdini wrote a book exposing mediums and their activities at séances—A Magician among the Spirits.

Houdini’s position was complex and interesting. The greatest illusionist of the last century became the great debunker of illusions. Conversely, Houdini was keen to stress the physical skill and strength that formed the basis for his act and to reveal the tricks employed by others, many of whom claimed not to be tricksters. Houdini himself became the subject of myth-making, seen by some as having shamanistic powers; and Conan Doyle was not alone in considering Houdini to be a magician, a view expressed in his book The Edge of the Unknown (1930).

Conan Doyle’s two-volume work The History of Spiritualism (1926) was an argument for the veracity and validity of the spiritualist movement, citing, among many other cases, the Davenport brothers and the Spirit Cabinet as an instance when people were able to summon spirits.

Important issues were contained in the disagreements between Houdini and Doyle that resonated elsewhere. First was the issue of evidence and how different people were either convinced by, or skeptical of, exactly the same set of events, such as the activities within the Davenports’ Spirit Cabinet. The creator of the arch-empiricist and logician, Sherlock Holmes, was famously credulous. Houdini took a lot to be convinced of other-worldly phenomena.

Deeper issues were also involved, concerning the nature of the person and of reality more broadly. Were people divided into body and spirit, with the latter surviving the death of the body? As skepticism concerning religious belief grew, so did doubts about life after death, which in turn threw notions of the composition of the person into doubt—perhaps people did not have souls or some form of immaterial reality?…

(6) THE G.O.A.T. In “An Oral History of ‘Marge vs The Monorail’, the Episode That Changed ‘The Simpsons'” on Vice, Sean Cole interviews the people involved in “Marge vs. The Monorail,” which many think is the greatest episode of The Simpsons.  The episode was written by Conan O’Brien, directed by Rich Moore (who won an Oscar for Zootopia) and had guest spots by Phil Hartman and Leonard Nimoy.

Jeff Martin: Mindless groupthink is a recurrent theme on The Simpsons, and I think the monorail episode is the best – and certainly my favourite – example of Springfield mob mentality. Watching the episode, I decided to go ahead and time it. From Lanley whistling in the back of the auditorium to the entire town marching on the town hall steps singing “Monorail!” is a little less than two minutes. I think it took Harold Hill at least four minutes to whip up River City.

Rich Moore: That musical number was almost harder to pull off than the whole third act climax. I’d done “A Streetcar Named Marge” before. That was a big musical spectacular, so it felt like, ‘Okay, we’re going to have to pull off what we did on that episode.’ That’s hard to do when you’re not working under the same roof as the animators. We would send a very complete blueprint, with all the key posing and animation timing, to Korea [where the bulk of animation is done by a studio called AKOM], but there was a bit of crossing your fingers and hoping, since you’re not there in the room to direct them. Everything is being communicated through instructions on exposure sheets, which have been translated from English to Korean.

Jeff Martin: Every single word of the monorail song was unchanged from Conan’s first draft, which is impressive. My niche on the show in those days was to actually write the tunes to the songs. I wrote a bunch of songs, so I was assigned to set the monorail song to music. It’s sort of like, “Bum, bum, bum, bum. I think I’m done!” It’s barely a song. It’s just sort of a rhythm and “Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!” The notion that Conan and I co-wrote that song is laughable. I’ve told Conan over the years that he had his part in that song. Elton John, meaning me, needs Bernie Taupin, meaning him.

(7) VOSS OBIT. Actor Philip Voss has died of COVID-19 at the age of 84. The Guardian ran anoverview of his career.

…His television career had begun in the first (1963) season of Doctor Who, with William Hartnell, as Acomat, the leader of Mongolian bandits, in the Marco Polo story, and as a young Dulcian, Wahed, a humanoid pacifist killed by Quarks, a few years later, with Patrick Troughton as the second doctor. His last television role was as Ian McKellen’s acid-tongued brother, Mason, in the sitcom Vicious (2013-16).

In the late 1970s he was also a member of the BBC Radio Drama Company, working with the directors Jane Morgan and Celia De Wolff, in subsequent years, on The Lord of the Rings (he was Lord of the Nazgûl)… On film, he popped up in Octopussy (1983) with Roger Moore as James Bond, Trevor Nunn’s Lady Jane (1986), Bob Rafelson’s Mountains of the Moon (1990) and as Laura’s father in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago, Roger Zelazny would win the Balrog Award for “The Last Defenders of Camelot”. It was originally published in Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine, Summer 1979. The Balrog Award were a set of awards given annually from 1979 to 1985 for the best works and achievements of genre fiction in the previous year. You knew what they were named after. The awards were originally announced by editor Jonathan Bacon in Issue #15 of Fantasy Crossroads and presented at the Fool-Con II convention on April Fool’s Day, 1979. Bacon says that they were not to considered serious awards. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 20, 1964 The First Men in the Moon premiered. It’s an adaptation by screenwriter Nigel Kneale of H. G. Wells novel of the same name. It was produced by Charles H. Schneer, and directed by Nathan Juran. It  starred Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries. Ray Harryhausen of course did the special effects with sculptor Bryan Kneale constructing the Selenites from Harryhausen’s designs. With the exception of the grinch critic at the New York Times, critics loved it, though it was a box-office bomb which Harryhausen thought was the fault of too much comedy in the script. It holds a respectable sixty-seven percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 20, 1858 – Selma Lagerlöf.  Nine novels, a score of shorter stories for us, many others of each outside our field.  First woman to win Nobel Prize in Literature; given “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination, and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1923 – Len Moffatt.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 25.  Forry Award (for life contribution to SF; given to pros and fans, some people are both).  With wife June, Fan GoH at Loscon 8; TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates, publishing The Moffatt House Abroad; Evans-Freehafer Award (for service to L.A. Science Fantasy Society); fanzine Moonshine; L & J and I published Button-Tack (memorial zine for Rick Sneary – rhymes with “sherry”); L & J posthumously in First Fandom Hall of Fame.  My appreciation of Len here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1926 John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin, 91. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum Leap, StarmanBrimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voiceLong John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies as well. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1936 – Don DeLillo, 84.  A dozen novels, half as many shorter stories, for us; four other novels, a score of other shorter stories, plays, a screenplay.  Nat’l Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), PEN / Saul Bellow Award, Lib’y of Congress Award.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 76. She received the Otherwise Award for her Wild Life novel, and nominated for another one for The Dazzle of Day novel.  Much of her excellent short stories are collected in the recently released Unforeseen which along with her two genre novels are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1950 – Donita Paul, 70.  A dozen novels.  Romances and juveniles under another name.  Why shouldn’t a Christian author write of dragons – what about St. George? [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 64. She makes the Birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as wellas the two Sharknado films she just did. (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1959 Sean Young, 61. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in Dune. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1972 – Cerece Rennie Murphy, 48.  Seven novels, one shorter story.  Ardent fan of John Donne, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut, and Alexander Pope from an early age.  A 2nd Grade teacher applauds a CRM book for children, “I have struggled to find books with African-American characters who are not stereotyped or set in a time period of racial struggle.”  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1980 – Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, 40.  Illustrator and conceptual artist.  Here is Beneath Ceaseless Skies 101.  Here is The Fall of Io.  Here is Welcome.  Here is an astronaut.  Here is a robot bartender.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton says this Rhymes With Orange reminded him of Howard Waldrop’s first sale (to Analog! Possibly even to Campbell!) — “Lunchbox”.

(12) GREAT DAYS OF ANIMATION. Join legendary animator Glen Keane, director of Over The Moon, for a virtual retrospective conversation with filmmaker and animator Sergio Pablos. Free event on Saturday, December 5 at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

A 38-year veteran of Walt Disney Feature Animation, Glen Keane trained under Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. Keane went on to create many beloved Disney characters such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Beast, Tarzan, and Rapunzel. In 2012, Keane departed Disney to begin Glen Keane Productions as a way to further his artistic explorations in animation, design, and film. He has since gone on to collaborate with Google, the Paris Ballet, and Kobe Bryant. In 2017, he animated and directed the Academy Award-winning animated film “Dear Basketball” in collaboration with legends Kobe Bryant and John Williams. Most recently, he directed OVER THE MOON, now available on Netflix.

(13) A STARCHY PARABLE. [Item by rcade.] The AmITheAsshole subreddit is a place for people to find out whether they’ve done something to someone else that makes them an asshole.

A woman asked: “AITA for “ruining” the rice that my boyfriend cooks with by consolidating the multiple bags of rice which he claims are “different” into a single container?”

Here’s where it becomes fodder for File 770. Commenter SelectNetwork1 has responded in the form of a fairy tale in this thread. [There are now over 4K comments, and it took OGH 10 minutes to find it again, so we’re just going to quote it in full.]

Once there was a princess who always wanted things her way. There were three bags of rice in the kitchen and every day she asked, why can’t all the rice be in the same bag? They are all the same.” And every day her boyfriend replied, “They look the same to you because you only look at them from a distance, but they are not the same. They won’t cook right if they’re mixed together.”

One day, the princess’s boyfriend went away for the weekend, leaving the princess home alone. The three bags of rice sitting were all she could think about. They are the same! she thought, over and over. Why are they not in the same bag together! At last she could stand it no more. She went to the kitchen, found a single, big container, and dumped all three bags of rice into it. Then she shook it very hard so the grains would mix. There, now all the rice is together, she thought. At last, she was at peace.

A few hours later, there was a knock at the door. The princess went to answer it, and on the front step was a mysterious woman. “Did you mix three bags of rice all together?” asked the mysterious woman. “They were all the same, they belonged in one bag,” said the princess. The mysterious woman seemed to grow to a hundred feet tall! The princess cowered, and let out a squeak. She covered her eyes with her hands, and realized her hands were paws! She had been turned into a mouse.

The mysterious woman picked her up and put the mouse princess on her shoulder. The mouse princess clung to her shirt as the mysterious woman went into the house and walked straight to the kitchen. She took the big bag of rice and dumped it out on the kitchen table, then gently lifted the mouse princess off her shoulder and set her down beside the rice, which towered above her mouse head like a mountain. “Do you wish to become a human princess again?” the mysterious woman asked, and the mouse princess nodded and squeaked. “Then you must separate these grains of rice that you have mixed together. Only then will you return to your true form.”

The mouse princess stared up at the mountain of rice: it was too large to contemplate, and the rice was all the same! It seemed like an impossible task. She turned back to the mysterious woman, but she had vanished: the kitchen was empty.

For a while, the mouse princess sulked. Eventually, she got bored, and picked up a grain of rice between her paws. “It’s just rice, it’s all the same,” she tried to say, but it came out as “squeak.” She put it aside, and picked up another grain of rice. “See, just rice?” she tried to say, but that, too, came out as “squeak.” This grain was heavier than the first one, and she looked more closely at it. The first grain was long and thin, and this one was a little shorter, and fatter at the middle. She pawed through the pile and came up with another: this grain was shorter and fatter still. “They are not the same!” she tried to exclaim, but it came out as “Squeak!”

The mouse princess contemplated the mountain of rice, and for the first time since she had been turned into a mouse by the mysterious stranger, she felt a little hope. She took the three grains of rice and set them down in three corners of the table, then went back to the mountain of rice and began to take it apart, one grain at a time.

The longer she worked, the easier it became. After a while, she didn’t have to examine the grains to tell them apart, she could see the difference as soon as she as much as glanced at them. She worked until she was exhausted, then she fell asleep on a pile of rice, and woke up again a few hours later to begin working again. She worked and slept, worked and slept, and worked again.

After three days and three nights, the mouse princess was finished. As soon as she pushed the last grain of rice into its pile, she felt as if the room were shrinking around her! She leapt off the table before she could spill the rice, and landed on the floor on her human feet.

Just as she was getting her bearings, she heard the front door open. Her boyfriend was home! She swiftly found the original bags and swept the three piles of rice into their three separate containers. Just as she set the last bag of rice on the table, her boyfriend walked into the room. When he saw the bags of rice, he sighed. “I’ve told you before, they are not the same just because they look the same to you,” he said. The princess smiled. “I know,” she said. “All the rice looked the same to me when I looked at them only from a distance; now I have looked closer, and I understand that each rice is unique.”

The human princess’s boyfriend looked surprised, but happy. “I’ll start making dinner,” he said. “What kind of rice would you like to eat?”

“The medium-length one,” the princess said. “But rinse it carefully… I think I saw a mouse around here somewhere.”

(14) STAY FROSTY. Variety peeks behind the curtain as “George Clooney Navigates Two Worlds in Sci-Fi Drama ‘The Midnight Sky’”.

Netflix’s sci-fi drama “The Midnight Sky,” set for release next month, will see George Clooney as a scientist in the Arctic trying to protect a little girl, and prevent a group of astronauts from coming back home after a global catastrophe.

“It’s two different worlds; we were basically saying we were going to shoot ‘The Revenant’ and stop, and then shoot ‘Gravity,’” said Clooney about his seventh feature as a director during an online seminar at EnergaCamerimage Film Festival dedicated to “The Midnight Sky,” an adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton novel “Good Morning, Midnight.” He was accompanied by the film’s cinematographer Martin Ruhe.

“Usually, when space movies are shot, up is up and down is down, and that’s not exactly how it works. In ‘Gravity,’ the camera was constantly rotating. We wanted to keep the idea of the horizon being different, without making everyone throw up along the way. But our first conversation was: ‘How do we shoot winter’?,” said Clooney, mentioning that while two-thirds of Earthbound sequences were shot in Iceland, one-third was completed on the sound stage, “which was as cold as Iceland for some reason!,” he said.

(15) A LITTLE GAFFE. “Star Wars: The Mandalorian Has Its Own Game of Thrones Coffee Cup Blunder” in “Chapter 12: The Seige.”

…For the second time on The Mandalorian, an on-set mistake has been noticed, reminding fans of the infamous coffee cup on Game of Thrones. Photo at the link.

Without giving too much away, this episode sees Mando and Baby Yoda return to Nevarro, where Din Djarrin reunites with Greef Carga and Cara Dune to shut down an old Imperial base on the planet. While they’re working through the base, getting into a shootout with a few stormtroopers, a pretty obvious mistake can be noticed in the background….

In the back-left corner of the frame, a man can be seen that clearly isn’t a part of the Star Wars universe. He’s wearing a t-shirt, blue jeans, and a watch. You can only see the left side of his body, and his head is thankfully out of the frame, but it’s still very noticeable.

(16) LAST LIGHTNING. People reports “The CW’s Black Lightning to End with Season 4”.

Black Lightning is coming to an end, the CW announced Friday.

The superhero drama will conclude with its upcoming fourth season, set to premiere in February 2021. Though the network did not give a reason for the series’ end, showrunner Salim Akil released a statement thanking the cast, crew and fans.

“When we first started the Black Lighting journey, I knew that Jefferson Pierce and his family of powerful Black women would be a unique addition to the superhero genre,” the statement said, according to Entertainment Weekly.

He continued, “The love that Blerds and all comic book fans around the globe have shown this series over the past three seasons proved what we imagined: Black people want to see themselves in all their complexities.”

(17) NIGHT OF THE GAS GIANTS, Mental Floss urges everyone, “Don’t Miss Saturn And Jupiter’s Great Conjunction on the Winter Solstice” on December 21.

In 2020, skygazers were treated to meteor showers, a new comet, and a Halloween blue moon. One of the last major astronomical events of the year is set to fall on the night of the winter solstice. On December 21, look up to catch Saturn in conjunction with Jupiter.

WHAT IS THE CONJUNCTION OF SATURN AND JUPITER?

In astronomy, a conjunction occurs when two planets appear exceptionally close in the night sky. Two of our solar system’s gas giants will share a celestial “kiss” on the longest night of the year. The rare meeting of Saturn and Jupiter is known as the “great conjunction” by astronomers.

(18) A MODEST DESIGN PROPOSAL. The election coverage is winding down, so here’s what Fox News has moved on to: “Grow-your-own human steaks meal kit is not ‘technically’ cannibalism, makers say”.

…A “DIY meal kit” for growing steaks made from human cells was recently nominated for “design of the year” by the London-based Design Museum.

Named the Ouroboros Steak after the circular symbol of a snake eating itself tail-first, the hypothetical kit would come with everything one needs to use their own cells to grow miniature human meat steaks.

“People think that eating oneself is cannibalism, which technically this is not,” Grace Knight, one of the designers, told Dezeen magazine.

(19) THAT’S NO MOON! The Planetary Society pointed readers to NASA’s story “Earth May Have Captured a 1960s-Era Rocket Booster”. This one’s not a conjunction – it’s just regular junk.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were puzzled over Earth’s newest moon: an object in orbit around the Earth, temporarily captured by our planet’s gravity. Tracing the object’s trajectory back through time, they discovered it came from Earth itself in 1966, when NASA launched Surveyor 2 to the Moon. The object is likely the rocket’s upper stage.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Rich Horton, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, rcade, Contrarius, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 10/24/20 I Have Come To Scroll The Autumnal Pixel

(1) NEXT YEAR’S BOSKONE ONLINE. The NESFA just announced today on the convention website that the 2021 Boskone will be a virtual convention. Memberships will be $25 for the weekend.

(2) A LEAK IN SPACE? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA believes it has collected a suitable sample of asteroid regolith on the OSIRIX-REx mission, but some of the material is leaking out. So, they are changing some plans in order to stow it as quickly as possible. The material will be placed in the Sample Return Capsule for eventual return to Earth. “NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Collects Significant Amount of Asteroid”. [GIF image at the link.]

… The spacecraft captured images of the sample collector head as it moved through several different positions. In reviewing these images, the OSIRIS-REx team noticed both that the head appeared to be full of asteroid particles, and that some of these particles appeared to be escaping slowly from the sample collector, called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) head. They suspect bits of material are passing through small gaps where a mylar flap – the collector’s “lid” – is slightly wedged open by larger rocks.

“Bennu continues to surprise us with great science and also throwing a few curveballs,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “And although we may have to move more quickly to stow the sample, it’s not a bad problem to have. We are so excited to see what appears to be an abundant sample that will inspire science for decades beyond this historic moment.”

(3) FINDING HISTORIC FILMS. “What the flip! The chance discovery that’s uncovered treasures of the very earliest cinema” in The Guardian.

Some lost films are more lost than others. There are very early works that no one now alive has seen, and we have little hope of recovering. While later silent feature films were duplicated and distributed widely, there are hundreds of short experiments by the first film-makers, movies no more than a few seconds long, that no longer exist even as a memory.

It seemed too good to be true, then, that lost films by Georges Méliès could really have been found by chance in a German bookshop in 2013. Yet a dogged research project by an independent scholar from France, Thierry Lecointe, has helped uncover miraculous images from lost films, not just by Méliès, but also by Alice Guy-Blaché.

The frames were preserved as images printed on to the card pages of tiny flipbooks. With digital technology, the flipbooks, known as folioscopes, have now become something like film fragments again. The photographer Onno Petersen shot each page in high-resolution and the motion-picture restoration expert Robert Byrne, from the San Francisco Silent Film festival, produced animations revealing such treats as a long-lost magic trick, dance, comic sketch or a train caught on camera more than a century ago.

(4) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1995 — Twenty-five years ago, the Mythopoetic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature went to Something Rich and Strange by Patricia A. McKillip.  It was the first of four such awards for her plus the Lifetime Achievement Award as well. The runner-ups were Rachel Pollack’s Temporary Agency, Pamela Dean’s The Dubious Hills and Robert Holdstock‘s The Hollowing. It was written as part of  Froud’s Faerielands series under the inspriation of the Froud illustration on the first edition. The title itself comes a line in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. The first edition was published by Bantam Spectra the previous year. 

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 24, 1954 Jane Fancher, 66. In the early 80s, she was an art assistant on Elfquest, providing inking assistance on the black-and-white comics and coloring of the original graphic novel reprints. She adapted portions of C.J. Cherryh’s first Morgaine novel into a black-and-white comic book, which prompted her to begin writing novels herself. Her first novel, Groundties, was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award, and she has been Guest of Honor and Toastmaster at several conventions. (CE)
  • Born October 24, 1954 Wendy Neuss, 66. Emmy-nominated Producer. As an associate producer for Star Trek: The Next Generation, her responsibilities included post-production sound, including music and effects spots, scoring sessions and sound mixes, insertion of location footage, and re-recording of dialogue (which is usually done when lines are muffed or the audio recording was subpar). She was also the producer of Star Trek: Voyager. With her husband at the time, Patrick Stewart, she was executive producer of three movies in which he starred, including a version of A Christmas Carol which JJ says is absolutely fantastic, and a rather excellent The Lion in Winter too. (CE)
  • Born October 24, 1971 Dervla Kirwan,49. Miss Hartigan in “The Next Doctor”,  a very delightful Tenth Doctor story. She’s Maeve Sullivan in the Shades series, and she played Petra Williams in the “Painkillers” episode of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased). (CE) 
  • Born October 24, 1971 Sofia Samatar, 49. Teacher, Writer, and Poet who speaks several languages and started out as a language instructor, a job which took her to Egypt for nine years. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and is the author of two wonderful novels to date, both of which I highly recommend: Stranger in Olondria (which won World Fantasy and British Fantasy Awards and was nominated for a Nebula) and The Winged Histories. Her short story “Selkie Stories are for Losers” was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, and BFA Awards. She has written enough short fiction in just six years that Small Beer Press put out Tender, a collection which is an amazing twenty-six stories strong. And she has a most splendid website. (CE)
  • Born October 24, 1972 Raelee Hill, 48. Sikozu Svala Shanti Sugaysi Shanu (called Sikozu) on Farscape, a great role indeed enhanced by her make-up and costume. She’s also in Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. Genre wise, she’s also been on The Lost World series, Superman ReturnsBeastMaster and Event Zero. (CE) 
  • Born October 24, 1899 – Leo Morey.  For us, a hundred twenty covers, seven hundred interiors.  Here is the Sep 31 Amazing.   Here is the Nov 40 Super Science.  Here is an interior from the 1950s.  Here is one from the Mar 62 Analog.  Here is an acrylic from outside our field.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born October 24, 1948 – Peggy Ranson.  1993 Hugo as Best Fanartist.  Her Harlequins the sign of Nolacon II the 46th Worldcon.  Artist GoH at DeepSouthCon 34, Guest of Honor at Armadillocon 20.  Here is Unmasking.  Here is a greeting card “Tiger in the Jungle”.  Here is the May 92 Astromancer Quarterly.  Here is an interior from Mimosa 14.  Here is a collection of eight images.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation (with more images) here; don’t miss the comments.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born October 24, 1952 – David Weber, 68.  Best known for Honor Harrington, fourteen HH novels plus a score of books more in the Honorverse, some with co-authors; Royal Manticoran Navy fan clubs.  Four more series, notably Safehold (ten novels); part of others’ shared universes e.g. John Ringo’s Empire of Man, Linda Evans’ Mulitverse.  Phoenix Award, Hal Clement Award.  Thirty times Guest of Honor from ConClave XXI to Spikecon.   United Methodist lay preacher.  John Clute credits DW’s success to “narrative clarity and focus … skill at managing large universes [where] actions count.”  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born October 24, 1956 – Jordin Kare, Ph.D.  Scientist and singer.  Co-founded Off Centaur Productions, which was placed in the Filk Hall of Fame; two Pegasus Awards; after Columbia astronaut Buzz Aldrin on live television tried to read aloud Kare’s “Fire in the Sky”, overcome by emotion he could not continue.  Last time as Guest of Honor, Archon 39.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born October 24, 1977 – Gabrielle Zevin, 43.  Harvard woman.  Kirkus Reviews called Margarettown “a droll piece of romantic whimsy with an unexpected resonance.”  Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac became, screenplay by GZ and Hans Canosa, the Japanese movie Someone Kissed Me with Maki Horikita.  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry New York Times Best-Seller.  Four novels for us.  [JH]
  • Born October 24, 1981 – Sarvenaz Tash, 39.  For us, The Mapmaker and the Ghost; otherwise e.g. Virtually YoursAmazon Best Book of the Year The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited LoveThree-Day Summer.  How to pronounce her name.  “All I want for my birthday is VOTER TURNOUT.”  [JH]

(6) POSTAPOCALYPTIC COOKIE. [Item by Carolyn Frank.] Not too sure if this falls under SF or fantasy or possibly horror, but it certainly includes apocalyptic thinking. “If the apocalypse happens this year, Oreo is prepared” at The Takeout. Be sure to watch the movie, though you might need to find a cookie to eat while you watch…

… This morning Oreo announced that it has completed the Global Oreo Vault, a concrete bunker filled with Oreos and powdered milk (that can be mixed with snow). It is also in Svalbard, just down the road from the Global Seed Vault. Oreo also produced a making-of video to show the genesis of the Oreo Vault from start to finish.

(7) CANDY HIERARCHY. The LA Times steps into a cultural minefield with “The official Halloween candy power rankings”. Number one is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which won’t get any argument from me. How many of those do I wear around my hips?

…It’s in that spirit that I present to you the totally unassailable, airtight and indisputable L.A. Times Halloween Candy Power Rankings. I’ve ranked candy before and I’ll likely do it again, but for this particular piece I’m changing up the metrics a bit: First, I’m judging by taste as well as what I’m calling Spirit of Halloween (SOH) — how much does the candy capture the je ne sais quoi of the season? Second, I’m judging by Halloween Trade Value (HTV): Everyone knows that a big part of trick-or-treating is swapping candy with your friends and siblings when the evening is over. Certain pieces are worth more than others….

(8) SUPER MATERIAL. This could be handy stuff. Yahoo! News has the story — “Physicists made a superconductor that works at room temperature. It could one day give rise to high-speed floating trains.”

…Superconductors – materials that transport electricity with no energy lost – have until now only worked at extremely cold temperatures, from about -100 degrees Fahrenheit to the near-absolute zero of space. But this month, that changed.

In a study published October 14, a team of researchers described a superconductor they engineered, which works at 59 degrees Fahrenheit. The material is composed of carbon, sulfur, and hydrogen, so is appropriately called carbonaceous sulfur hydride.

Physicists had previously found that a combination of hydrogen and sulfur worked as a superconductor under intense pressure and at -94 degrees Fahrenheit. With the addition of carbon, the team was able to create a material that worked at a higher temperature.

(9) MONSTROUS VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The B-Movie Monsters That Time Forgot!” on YouTube, Leigh Singer takes us back to the days when people fought crabs, shrews, and other monsters.

[Thanks to JJ, Carolyn Frank, Rich Lynch, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Jeffrey Jones, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Pixel Scroll 10/17/20 The Eliot Ness Monster

(1) CARRYING OUT THEIR LAST WISHES. J. Michael Straczynski posted on Facebook today about his all-consuming role as executor for Harlan and Susan Ellison.

… “How do YOU know what the deal is, huh? My guy talked to the executor just yesterday, who told him this straight-up. How do YOU know better than HE does?”

How do I know better? How do I know these are just rumors?

Because I am the Executor of the Harlan and Susan Ellison Trust.

I’ve kept a low profile since accepting this position in order to focus on of the million-and-one details that have to be addressed. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been appointed an executor, but it is a massive undertaking. To be an executor is to inherit nothing but be responsible for everything, and to implement the last wishes of those who entrusted you with the totality of their life’s work.

Consequently, ever since Susan’s passing, 80% of my day, every day, has gone into establishing the Trust, dealing with tax issues, creditors, court documents, lawyers, accountants, affidavits, death certificates, corporate minutes…in simpler cases, the process only takes a few months, and usually ends by parceling out bequests or auctioning off the estate.

But that is not the case here, because there is the legacy of Harlan’s work that must be preserved and enhanced. Looking after all this, and seeing to Harlan and Susan’s wishes, is something I will likely be doing for the rest of my life.

Everything that Harlan ever owned, did or wrote will be fiercely protected. Steps are being taken to certify Ellison Wonderland as a cultural landmark, ensuring that it will remain just as it is long after I have gone to dust.

To revive interest in his prose, literary representation has been shifted to Janklow & Nesbit, one of the largest and most prestigious literary agencies in the world. Film and TV rights will be handled through A3, previously known as the Abrams Agency, also a leading and influential agency. I will be working hand in glove with them to get Harlan’s work back into print in a big way.

There is more to say on future plans – much more – but all of that will come in time….

(2) WORD MAGIC. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick promises that Alix E. Harrow’s “‘The Once And Future Witches’ Will Have You Spellbound”.

…Harrow likes a secret society in the best way, and Witches is riddled with secrets, honeycombed with groups working toward overlapping or opposing goals. The Sisters engage in imaginative skulduggery, scrounging plans from overlooked skills and ignored know-how. She also likes an uprising, and here, where witchery and sickness both run deep as water under a layer of oil, that’s heady stuff. We all (I hope) agree women getting the vote was long overdue. Framing the reclamation of magic and power against that real-world struggle, which we know turned out a certain way, feels particularly apt to themes of once and future, poignant to the powerlessness many feel this year.

I adored watching characters as their expectations were subverted, as their understanding of their world expanded. Harrow revels in many-layered mysteries, in a story of many acts, in wordplay….

(3) MAUS ARTIST. The Guardian’s Sam Leith interviews “Graphic artist Art Spiegelman on Maus, politics and ‘drawing badly'”.

…Spiegelman’s success had the disconcerting effect of placing an artist who had been happy in the comix-with-an-x underground – a lysergic disciple of R Crumb – very firmly in the literary establishment. He became a staple of Tina Brown’s New Yorker, a darling of academics, and came to be regarded by many, not without resentment, as a sort of capo of the US comics scene.

“I remember when I first got this Pulitzer prize I thought it was a prank call,” he says, “But immediately after I got back to New York, I got an urgent call from a wonderful cartoonist and friend, Jules Feiffer: ‘We have to meet immediately. Can you come out and have a coffee?’ And we met. He said: ‘You have to understand what you’ve just got. It’s either a licence to kill, or something that will kill you.’”

That comics are now considered “respectable” – thanks in part to Maus – is something Spiegelman never quite looked for. But he acknowledges it has its advantages. “I’m astounded by how things have changed. And I would say I might have been dishonest or disingenuous when I said I wasn’t interested in it being respectable. I love the medium. And I love what was done in it from the 19th century to now. But I know that on some level, I want it to be able to not have to make everything have a joke, or an escapist adventure story.”

His rocket launch into canonicity was both “liberating and also incredibly confining – trying to find places to go where I wouldn’t have to be the Elie Wiesel of comic books”. Even at the time, Spiegelman seems to have been conscious that Maus would be in danger of defining him. The next project he took on was illustrating Moncure March’s jazz-age poem The Wild Party for a small press: “This was going to be a kind of polar opposite [to Maus]: decorative, erotic, frivolous in many ways and involved with the pleasures of making; although it didn’t turn out to be so pleasurable in its third year. Every project I start turns into a coffin.”

(4) MAKE IT SO. “‘I Longed To See Something Different, So I Wrote It’: Questions For Rebecca Roanhorse” at NPR.

… In an email interview, Roanhorse tells me that’s something she’s always wanted to write about. “I have been reading epic fantasies inspired by European settings since I was a child, and while I’m still a fan of many of these works, I longed to see something different,” she says. “So I wrote it. I never made a conscious decision to go in that direction. That direction was simply the natural culmination of my love of the architecture, poetry, politics, and history of these places and people that I’ve been learning about forever.”

(5) IN MEMORY NOT GREEN. The actress says it ain’t so: “Tatiana Maslany Refutes She-Hulk Casting Report: Lead Role In Disney+ Series ‘Not Actually A Thing” at SYFY Wire.

Previous reports that Tatiana Maslany was getting ready to go green may have been premature. The Canadian-born Orphan Black star recently told an Ontario newspaper that she’s not been cast, after all, as the star of Marvel’s upcoming She-Hulk series at Disney+.

Speaking with the The Sudbury Star this week, Maslany tapped the brakes on all the She-Hulk hype, saying she’s “unfortunately” not currently tied to the series. First reported by Variety in September, word quickly spread that Marvel had tapped Maslany to play Jennifer Walters (aka She-Hulk), the comics-based cousin of Bruce Banner.

(6) GAME FACE. Ty Schalter’s “Personal Canons: Ender’s Game” is the latest guest post in Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series.

…So why, then, am I putting on my cape and riding out for this book as one that Everyone Must Read?

It’s not just because it remains a beautiful piece of art. Neither is it just because many other great books Card wrote have been silenced by his own inability to let them speak for themselves. Nor is it just because Ender’s Game deserves to be snatched from the canonical pyre and preserved for future generations.

It’s because Ender’s Game is a warning.

It’s a warning to privileged kids like me, who believe they know better than everyone else, when they don’t know how to turn in their homework on time. It’s a warning to everyone who thinks the universe owes them anything, just because of the circumstances of their birth. It’s a warning to a society that will stop at nothing to put itself first, even if that means perverting everything it’s supposed to stand for. Most of all, it’s a warning to authors, to readers, to writers, to the SFF community.

Yes, it’s possible to build a future where everyone can thrive together. Where our stories and our lives are enriched by the diversity of our voices, experiences, myths, cultures, and canons. Where the stories we tell light the way for all of humanity.

But the moral arc of the universe doesn’t bend toward justice by default. It requires constant, collective work with hammer and tongs. It requires pain, exhaustion, sacrifice by those who are able on behalf of those who aren’t. It requires humble reflection on everything we’ve ever done and choosing to do the right thing now, again and again, no matter how badly (or how often) we’ve screwed up. It is the journey of a lifetime, or many lifetimes.

(7) THE LIGHTHEARTEDNESS OF OTHER DAYS. James Wallace Harris surveys the field in “Poking Fun at Science Fiction”, but confesses, “My problem is sarcasm, satire, and subtle jabs go right over my head (my lady friends take advantage of this).”

…Study that Emsh (Ed Emshwiller) painting above. At first I thought it a clever way to suggest action – a woman had been abducted from a space colony. But then I thought of something, and it became funny, But how could it possibly comic? Obviously a woman has been kidnapped by an alien on a colony world – that’s tragic. But if you know the history of science fiction magazines, and the cliches about covers with BEMs carrying off a scantily clad women, then you might think Emsh is playing around. In case you don’t know the lingo, BEM stands for bug eyed monster. Sex sells, even for science fiction magazines. Why did Emsh leave off the sexy woman and lower the sales of that issue? Because we expected a naked woman he thought might be funny to disappoint us. Sure, the painting is of a serious action scene, a man is running to rescue a woman. Maybe even the editor told him, “No babes.” But I like to think Emsh is also poking fun at science fiction (See the section below, Sex, Nudity, and Prudity in Science Fiction.)

(8) FLEMING OBIT. Actress Rhonda Fleming died October 14. The New York Times paid tribute: “Rhonda Fleming, 97, Movie Star Made for Technicolor, Is Dead”. Here’s a brief excerpt concerning her genre connections.

Rhonda Fleming, the red-haired actress who became a popular sex symbol in Hollywood westerns, film noir and adventure movies of the 1940s and ’50s, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 97.

Ms. Fleming’s roles included those of a beautiful Arthurian princess in the Bing Crosby musical version of Mark Twain’s novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” (1949).

… Ms. Fleming’s … last film was “The Nude Bomb,” a 1980 spy comedy based on the 1960s sitcom “Get Smart,” in which she played Edith Von Secondberg, an international fashion designer.

In a 1993 interview with The Toronto Star, relaxing at her California home with Mr. Mann, she said, “My husband recently asked me if I’d seen any movie I wanted to appear in.” She went straight for a specific role. “I said yes, the dinosaur in ‘Jurassic Park.’”

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago at Noreascon Two, Alien would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was directed by Ridley Scott from the screenplay by Dan O’Bannon off the story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. This would the second Hugo nomination form O’Bannon who was nominated earlier at MidAmeriCon for Dark Star. He’d would win his second Hugo several years later for Aliens at Conspiracy ’87, and be later nominated at Chicon V for Total Recall and Alien 3 at ConFrancisco. A half million audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a horrifyingly great ninety-four percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 17, 1856 – Jane Barlow.  Knew French & German; classical scholar; pianist.  D.Litt. from Univ. Dublin.  A score of books; Irish Idylls went into nine editions.  For us The End of Elfintown book-length poem; translation of The Battle of Frogs and Mice, title page here; under another name, A Strange Land.  (Died 1917) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1917 Marsha Hunt, 103. Performer who appeared in both the original versions of the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, also appeared in Star Trek: The Next GenerationShadow Chasers and Fear No Evil. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1934 Alan Garner, 86. His best book? That’d be Boneland which technically is the sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath but really isn’t. Oh, and The Owl Service is amazingly superb! There’s a BBC video series of the latter but I’ve not seen it.  (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1942 – John Sapienza, Jr., 78.  Gamer (six years in Alarums & Excursions), WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) stalwart, helpful con-runner (he was at SMOFcon 7; SMOF for “secret masters of fandom” being as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; SMOFcon draws people who often do the work at SF conventions and want to do it better; SMOFcon 37 was in 2019), and lawyer, who found himself marrying Peggy Rae Pavlat, which had an effect like Atomic Mouse’s U-235 pills.  He was and is quite worthy; I said the only way Peggy Rae could have got more sapience was by marrying him.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1948 – Robert Jordan.  Best known for the Wheel of Time series, finished by Brandon Sanderson at RJ’s death.  Also Conan the Barbarian books.  Under other names, historical fiction, a Western, dance criticism.  In the Army earned a Distinguished Flying Cross with oak-leaf cluster, Bronze Star with “V” and oak-leaf cluster, two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with palm.  His widow continues as an editor.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1950 – Michael J. Walsh, F.N., 70.  Another WSFA stalwart, he chaired ConStellation the 41st Worldcon, three Disclaves including one he couldn’t attend, two Capclaves, Balticon 15, three World Fantasy Conventions.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 29, Lunacon 40, Armadillocon 36, World Fantasy Con 2018.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Publisher, Old Earth Books.  Occasional Filer.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1951 – Geraldine Harris, 69.  Five novels, two shorter stories; see her Website here.  Also children’s books on ancient Egypt.  Married name Geraldine Pinch identifies her academic work in Egyptology, from which she says she has retired.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1958 Jo Fletcher, 62. British editor who, after working for Gollancz for 16 years, founded Jo Fletcher Books in 2011. Interestingly ISFDB says she’s done two World Fantasy Convention souvenir books, Gaslight & Ghosts and Secret City: Strange Tales of London, both with Stephen Jones. She also wrote with him the British Report aka The London Report for Science Fiction Chronicle. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1968 Mark Gatiss, 52. English actor, screenwriter, director, producer and novelist. Writer for Doctor Who; with Steven Moffat, whom Gatiss worked with on Doctor Who and Jekyll, he also co-created and co-produced Sherlock. As an actor, I’ll noted he does Vogon voices in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1971 Patrick Ness, 49. Best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls. He’s also the creator and writer of the Doctor Who spin-off Class series. And he’s written a Doctor Who story, “Tip of the Tongue”, a Fifth Doctor story. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1983 Felicity Jones,  37. She played Ethel Hallow for one series of The Worst Witch and its sequel Weirdsister College. She’d later be in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Felicia Hardy and in Rogue One as Jyn Erso. I’d say her role as balloon pilot Amelia Wren in The Aeronauts is genre adjacent. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1984 – Randall Munroe, 36.  Stick-figure cartoons can degenerate into word gags, and the endlessly sour can tire like the sweet, but speaking of endlessness, “Time” in RM’s xkcd won the Best-Graphic-Story Hugo having been updated every thirty minutes 25-30 Mar 2013, then every hour until 26 Jul, in total 3,099 images; he evidently learned Time must have a stopHuxley did.  A teacher of mine said “There’s a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • October 17, 1937 — Huey, Dewey, and Louie (Donald Duck’s nephews) first appeared in a comic strip.
  • Bliss suggests the next Harry Potter title.
  • A mega-dose of secret history at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

(12) GRAB AND GO. October 20 will be the day NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex snatches a sample from the asteroid Bennu. Planetary Society has a briefing: “Your Guide to the OSIRIS-REx sample collection”. Click on planetary.org/live for NASA TV coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. PT / 5:00 p.m. ET / 21:00 UTC.

…Collecting a sample from Bennu is no small challenge. The asteroid, which measures 500 meters (a third of a mile) wide, ended up being much rockier than mission designers expected. The sample site is just 16 meters in diameter and surrounded by boulders bigger than OSIRIS-REx itself. The spacecraft must collect its sample without guidance from Earth, since it currently takes nearly 20 minutes for signals to travel between our planet and Bennu at the speed of light.

The entire process takes almost 5 hours. OSIRIS-REx will match Bennu’s 4-hour rotation rate and slowly descend to the surface. To give the spacecraft more room to maneuver, it adjusts itself into a Y-shape, extending its sample arm 3 meters and tilting back its two solar panels. Eventually OSIRIS-REx must turn its high-gain antenna away from Earth, restricting the volume of information ground controllers can receive. The spacecraft figures out where it is by comparing surface views from prior flyovers with real-time camera images. It will back away immediately if it thinks it’s going to crash.

Bennu barely has any gravity, so OSIRIS-REx can’t land. Instead, the spacecraft will high-five Bennu with a cylindrical dinner plate-sized device at the end of its arm called TAGSAM, the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism. TAGSAM blasts nitrogen gas into the surface, kicking dust and small rocks into a collection chamber that runs around the inside of the device.

OSIRIS-REx won’t overstay its welcome, immediately backing a safe distance away from Bennu. The mission team will take pictures of TAGSAM to verify they got a sample, and later spin the spacecraft to weigh it. If for some reason things go awry, the spacecraft carries enough nitrogen for two more collection attempts. But if everything goes according to plan, OSIRIS-REx will store the sample in a capsule and depart for Earth next year. In September 2023, the capsule will parachute to a landing in Utah.

(13) POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH WITH BRAIN INSPIRED COMPUTING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A core trope of science fiction has been ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) from Arthur Clarke’s HAL 9000 to Philip K. Dick’s replicants.  In real life, computer scientists have over-used the term, applying it to things like facial recognition, and so for what SF folk would call AI they call it General Artificial Intelligence (GAI).  In addition to the rod to GAI, there is also the problem of Moore’s Law by which computing power of a chip doubles every couple of years: this cannot go on indefinitely and we may reach the limit in a decade or so’s time.  Chinese computer scientists from the Centre for Brain-Inspired Computing Research, Tsinghua University, Beijing, have just had a breakthrough that is likely to help address both issues.  Their work is rather technical but in essence they have developed a new approach using neural networks. Instead of getting the network to work like a normal computer, they have developed a new computer system hierarchy.  In essence, while normal computers have an algorithm described in software which is accurately compiled into an exact equivalent intermediate representation of hardware — a set of instructions that is then run on the hardware, what the computer scientists have done is develop an inexact, approximate way to do this.  This overcomes the difficulty of producing exact representations in neural networks. One advantage of this is that their programs can be run on a number of different types of neural network.  Another is that while exactness is lost, processing speeds and power greatly increases.

All this sounds very fine, but will it work? Well, they have tried it out with three experiments done both their new way and on a traditional computer as well as a platform, based on devices called memristors, that accelerate neural network function. One, was to simulate the flight of a flock of birds. The second was to simulate riding a bike, and the third performing a linear algebra analysis called QR decomposition.  All worked.  However the degree of accuracy presented by the new architecture depended on the degree of approximation used. For example, with 10% error no bird, in the flock of birds simulation, matched the standard computer simulation. But with 0.1% error nearly all the birds were plotted either overlapping or immediately adjacent to those plotted with the standard traditional computer simulation.  It may well be that in a couple of decade’s time, when you are locked out of your home by your house AI and arguing with it to be let in, you may reflect that the key stepping stone to creating such GAIs was this research.  (See the review article as well as the primary research abstract and the full paper (available only to subscribers and at subscribing academic libraries’ computer terminals.)

Meanwhile you can see a summary of last season’s science over at ;SF² Concatenation.

(14) REPEATEDLY FRAMED. Not Pulp Covers gives Ray Harryhausen a taste of his own stop-motion:

Special effects master, Ray Harryhausen, demonstrates animating a skeleton warrior from 1963’s ‘Jason and the Argonauts’.

(15) VOLUMES OF MONEY. Learn “Why first edition books can attract obsessive collectors and sell for eye-watering sums” at Inews.

Sales of first editions have made headlines around the world this week after fetching eye-watering price tags.

A copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of his plays, from 1623 – was sold by Christie’s at auction in New York for a record $9.98m (£7.6m), hot on the heels of the sale of a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for £75,000 on Tuesday.

But beyond the big hitters, there are collectors all around the world quietly seeking out first editions. They can amass important collections that would be nigh-on impossible to achieve if it was art, and not books, they were buying.

… Beyond that, collectors love first editions because they can show how the author wanted the book to look and can be a joint collaboration between author and publisher.

F Scott Fitzgerald, for example, was shown the original artwork for the dust jacket of The Great Gatsby and it influenced his thoughts on the novel. He wrote to his publisher in August 1924, begging them to keep the jacket for him as he had “written it into the book”.

Arthur Ransome so disliked the drawings produced for his book Swallows and Amazons that only the dust wrapper, endpaper and frontispiece designs were retained. He would eventually go on to illustrate it himself.

The Hobbit’s famous first edition cover – featuring a mountainous landscape – was designed by JRR Tolkien himself and is loved by collectors and fans alike.

And Lewis Carroll withdrew the initial print run of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland over the quality of the images. There are thought to be only 22 of them in existence; with such scarcity comes a willingness from collectors to pay huge sums.

(16) A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] OK, so it’s actually a plasma torch, but it does look (and somewhat act) like the “real” thing. “Lightsaber technology has improved in the real world with the help of this retractable plasma sword” at SYFY Wire.

Lightsaber technology has come a long way since Star Wars‘ George Lucas painted some wooden dowel rods for Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. Now people in the real world have actually created the ancient and respected blade of the Jedi — and it’s getting closer and closer to the legit canon construction. The latest evolution involves a retractable flaming beam that offers up 4000° of Darth Maul-halving power.

The latest step in The Hacksmith‘s grand quest for a real-life lightsaber (the YouTuber has been advancing his constructions over many different iterations) involves a retractable “blade” that replaces the super-hot metal rod from previous editions like the protosaber. Now it really looks like the lightsaber blade is extending and retracting, along with all the fiery damage it brings.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH. Every now and then.]

Pixel Scroll 10/15/20 The People All Said Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Fabulous Riverboat

(1) BELTERS AND SUSPENDERS. Amazon Prime dropped The Expanse – Season 5 Official Trailer

The future of The Belt has begun as Marco Inaros wages Armageddon against the Inners for a lifetime of oppression and injustice.

(2) NEW MOON TREATIES. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says that the U.S. and seven other countries have signed the Artemis Accords which regulate conduct on the Moon including the role private businesses can play in mining and other enterprises: “Seven nations join the U.S. in signing the Artemis Accords, creating a legal framework for behavior in space”.

NASA announced Tuesday that seven nations have joined the United States in signing the Artemis Accords, a series of bilateral agreements that would establish rules for the peaceful use of outer space and govern behavior on the surface of the moon.

The rules would allow private companies to extract lunar resources, create safety zones to prevent conflict and ensure that countries act transparently about their plans in space and share their scientific discoveries.

… By law, the United States is effectively barred from cooperating with China in space. But NASA officials said that even if Russia and China are not signatories, the accords would be successful because they would create a baseline for the world to follow.

“Precedent is important,” said Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for the office of international and interagency relations. “By embracing our values, along with our partners, we’re creating a track record, a norm of behavior that will influence the entire world to proceed with the transparent, peaceful and safe exploration of space.”

Signatories would agree, for example, to help provide emergency assistance in the case of an injured astronaut. They would also agree to protect historic sites, such as the Apollo 11 landing area. They would also agree to be transparent about their plans for space and share scientific data.

The accords would allow countries or companies to create “safety zones” so they could work to extract resources. NASA and China are both interested in going to the South Pole of the moon, where there is water in the form of ice in the shadows of craters.

Being able to operate there safely, without interference, will be critical if multiple nations are vying for the same resource in the same place, he said.

“The most valuable resource that I think any nation is going to be interested in is the water ice at the South Pole,” he said. “So if we get to a position where there is a competition for that resource that’s an area that we’re going to have to deal with.”

(3) TIME TO CAPITALIZE. DisCon III, the 79th Worldcon, officially began taking applications for the Capitalize! fan fund today — application forms are available here. The fund’s purpose is to “financially support fans, staff, and program participants from marginalized communities in an effort to lift voices across science fiction, fantasy, and fandom who have not been recognized in the past.” (More details in this post: “2021 Worldcon Launches Capitalize! The DisCon III Fan Fund”.)

Donations are requested so they can increase their outreach. Jared Dashoff says, “The Worldcon community can only gain by opening its doors and growing. Diversity benefits us all.”

(4) HEAR CORA’S STORY. Cora Buhlert’s short story, “Patient X-5” is now online in the latest episode of the podcast Simultaneous Times: “Space Cowboy Books Presents: Simultaneous Times Ep.32 – Cora Buhlert & Andy Dibble”. She says, “They did a great job with the production. There’s even incidental music and sound effects.”

(5) WHERE BRITISH TOWNSPEOPLE WANT TO SAVE A DALEK. Atlas Obscura looked on in fascination: “When Town Council and a Sci-fi Museum Went to War Over a Dalek”.

IT WAS A COLD JANUARY morning in 2019 when an unfamiliar car rolled into Allendale, a small village nestled within the North Pennines in Northumberland County, England. This wasn’t unusual; in the prior three months the village had seen a fresh influx of visitors, ever since the grand opening of “Neil Cole’s Adventures in Science Fiction: Museum of Sci-fi.” The family-run business, with a menagerie of pop-culture intergalactic friends and foes in an impressive array of classic movie and television props, costumes, and original artwork, wasn’t so much a museum as it was a loving ode to the genre. As odd a choice as the quiet, historically rich Allendale seemed for such a contemporary collection, locals had whole-heartedly embraced the attraction and welcomed the tourism it brought.

The passengers in the vehicle, however, had not come as tourists. “Three huge guys were banging on our door every 15 minutes,” recalls Neil Cole, the eponymous owner, whose personal collection of memorabilia populates the museum. “There was a car watching from across the street. This was the [Northumberland County] Council; it was the first we’d heard from them.” The men, officers from Highways Enforcement, had been sent by the Council to follow up on a complaint that had been lodged against the museum by a single Allendale resident.

Cole and his wife, Lisa, had been accused of defiling their historically listed property by installing a modern timber shed outside it, along the street, without planning permission. They were given 14 days to remove it. This was no ordinary shed: It was home to a life-size Dalek.

Bureaucratic wrangling countered by popular support have put matters on pause while the next round of drama is prepared.

… “The Council was meant to work with me to come up with a solution and build something else,” Cole says. “But when we contacted them, they just wouldn’t.” In early August 2020, the Coles finally dismantled the shed. The loss comes with a silver lining, as the shed will be donated to the village preschool, where it will live on as a play area for children. A weather-resistant steel Dalek is currently being built to take the place of its predecessor as the new museum sentinel, Council be damned.

(6) HANDLE WITH CARE. When picking up some old volumes, collectors might be taking their lives in their hands: “Poison Book Project”.

The Winterthur Poison Book Project is an ongoing investigation initiated in April 2019 to identify potentially toxic pigments coloring Victorian-era bookcloth.

Analysis of decorated, cloth-case, publisher’s bindings at Winterthur Library revealed starch-coated bookcloth colored with “emerald green,” or copper acetoarsenite, an inorganic pigment known to be extremely toxic. This pigment’s popularity in England and the United States during the Victorian era is well documented. While the colorant was known to be widely used in textiles for home decoration and apparel, wallpaper, and toys, its use specifically in bookcloth has not been formally explored. Successful bookcloths were a closely guarded trade secret during the nineteenth century, limiting our current understanding of their materiality and manufacture. Conservation staff and interns at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library conducted a survey of bookcloth pigments in order to correlate the presence of emerald green and other potentially toxic pigments with specific publishers and date ranges. The project initially focused on the library’s circulating collection, which poses a greater potential risk to patrons, and then expanded to include the rare book collection.

In December 2019, the Winterthur Library data set was further expanded in cooperation with The Library Company of Philadelphia, which has significant holdings of cloth-case publisher’s bindings.

What differentiates this research project from others centered around arsenic-based pigments in library collections is threefold: first, the toxic pigment permeates the outer covering of Victorian-era, cloth-case publisher’s bindings; second, the large quantity of arsenic-based pigment present in bookcloth; and third, such mass-produced bindings may be commonly found in both special and circulating library collections across the United States and the United Kingdom….

(7) YOUTH MOVEMENT. In “Kids And Thrillers And Their Freaky Powers” on CrimeReads, C.J. Tudor recommends novels by Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Justin Cronin if you want to read books about kids with paranormal powers.

A Cosmology of Monsters by Sean Hamill

Noah Turner sees monsters.

So did his dad. In fact, he built a shrine to them, The Wandering Dark, a horror experience that the whole family operates every Halloween.

His mother denies her own glimpses of terror to keep the family from falling apart. But terrible things keep happening, including the death of Noah’s dad, the sudden disappearance of his oldest sister, Sydney, and his sister Eunice’s mental illness, not to mention the missing children from the town.

Then a huge supernatural creature that turns up on Noah’s doorstep one night . . . and Noah lets his monster in. 

(8) GIVE FEEDBACK TO THE WFC BOARD. Cheryl Morgan writes it off as “Another Year, Another World Fantasy Debacle”, however, she hasn’t ruled out participating on the program.  

…As it happens, although I thought I had confirmed my willingness to be on panel, no one from WFC has been in touch to explain about the change of panel description. So now I am not entirely sure whether I am still on panel. In any case, I am considering my position.

But Morgan does advise –

…This is your chance, fandom. You keep complaining that “They” should fix Worldcon, even though you know that there is no “They” with the power to do it, at least not in the short term. “They” should fix World Fantasy too, and in this case They exist. Here they are. They even have a convenient email address for you to write to….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1966 — Frank Herbert’s Dune shared the Best Novel Hugo with  …And Call Me Conrad by Roger Zelazny. It would also win the Nebula that year as well, and a decade later Locus would pick it as the Best All-Time SF Novel. (Runner-ups for the Hugo were John Brunner‘s The Squares of the City, Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Skylark DuQuesne.) The first appearance of “Dune” in print, began in Analog with “Dune World”, December 1963 – February 1964 and then “The Prophet of Dune”, January – May 1965. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least 140 novels and 230 short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born October 15, 1924 Mark Lenard. Sarek, father of Spock, in the Trek franchise for showing up in that role in “Journey to Babel”.  Surprisingly he also played a Klingon in Star Trek The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an earlier episode of Star Trek. He also had one-offs on Mission ImpossibleWild Wild West,  Otherworld and Planet of The Apes. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born October 15, 1926 Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels but he published approximately twenty-four genre stories and six SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born October 15, 1954 Jere Burns, 66. I’m giving him a birthday write-up for being on the so excellent Max Headroom as Breughel the organlegger who seizes the unconscious  Edison Carter after his accident. He also had one-offs on Fantasy IslandThe Outer LimitsSabrina the Teenage WitchFrom Dusk to DawnThe X-Files and Lucifer. (CE) 
  • Born October 15, 1955 Tanya Roberts, 65. Stacey Sutton in the fourteenth Bond film, A View to Kill. Quite the opposite of her role as Kiri in The Beastmaster. And let’s not forget her in the title role of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. (CE)
  • Born October 15, 1969 Dominic West, 51. Jigsaw in the dreadful Punisher film, Punisher: War Zone. His first SFF role was as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is the same year he shows up as Jerus Jannick in The Phantom Menace, and he was Sab Than on the rather excellent John Carter.  One of his recent latest SFF roles was as Lord Richard Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot. (CE) 
  • Born October 15, 1911 – James H. Schmitz.  Eight novels, fifty shorter stories; most and deservedly famous for The Witches of Karres; also Telzey Amberdon and the Hub.  He’s in Anne McCaffrey’s cookbook.  The Best of JHS was the first NESFA’s Choice (New England SF Ass’n) book, hello Mark Olson.  Independent and colorful, he never cared whether he was revolutionary or challenging, so naturally –  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1912 – Chester Cuthbert.  Six decades ago organized the Winnipeg SF Society.  Fiction in Gernsback’s February 1934 and July 1934 Wonder Stories.  Gave his collection to Univ. Alberta just before his death, two thousand boxes weighing 45 tons.  Even wrote letters of comment to me.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1938 – Don Simpson, 82.  Building, carving, drawing, singing, marvelously and modestly strange.  Official Artist at Boskone 9.  Proud possessor of a purchase order from the Smithsonian Institution for “One (1) alien artifact”, which he designed for the Air & Space Museum.  Here is “Against the Battlemoon”.  Here is a star probe.  Here are a name badge and a calling  card (which, as you may know, is just the half of it).  Here is a sculpted garden.  Here is his design for three-sided dice.  [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1942 – Beatrice Gormley, 78.  Six novels for us, biography of C.S. Lewis; a score of other fiction and nonfiction books, including biographies of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Laura Bush, Marie Curie and Maria Mitchell.  After BG visited a Massachusetts school, a parent commenting on what impressed children observed “Wow!  A real writer who is paid real money has to rewrite!”  [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1955 – Emma Chichester Clark, 65.  A score of covers, a dozen interiors for us, maybe more depending how you count; what about a blue kangaroo?  ECC’s illustrations for Laura Cecil’s Listen to This won a Mother Goose Award.  Here is her cover for “The Wizard of Oz” as Told by the Dog (who naturally considers the real title is Toto).  Here is an illustration from her Alice in Wonderland.  Here is the cover for her Through the Looking-Glass.  Here she is with her companion Plumdog.  [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1971 – Guy Hasson, 49.  Short stories in English, plays and cinema in Hebrew, mostly.  Two Geffen Awards.  A dozen stories in English available here.  Journal (in English) of his three-actor two-location film The Indestructibles here.  Tickling Butterflies made from 128 fairy tales here.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SOUL. Disney dropped a new trailer for Soul.

What is it that makes you…YOU? This Christmas only on Disney+, Pixar Animation Studios’ all-new feature film “Soul” introduces Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx) – a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (voice of Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.

(13) CREDENTIAL IN SPACE. “The Newest Star Of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Is A Cat Named Grudge” reports TrekMovie.com.

…Grudge is a pet of Cleveland “Book” Booker, a new character for Discovery season 3 played by David Ajala. During the Star Trek Day Disco panel Ajala gave a description of Book’s cat:

“I can say the Grudge is a queen. She is feisty. She is cynical, cautious, and wary of people. But when she embraces you and it takes you in, she takes you in. It’s tough love! I’ve had to work my way up the ladder.”

Leeu’s handlers say the 2-year-old Maine Coon has taken to his new role, calling him a “one-take wonder.” His new castmates also praised their new feline costar during the Discovery Star Trek Day preview.

The official Star Trek Twitter account made the announcement today along with this very cute behind the scenes video:

(14) SPACE OPERA, BLIP BY BLIP. The serial Only You Will Recognize the Signal begins October 29.

Experience Only You Will Recognize the Signal, a serial space opera from the creators of the world’s first Zoom opera All Decisions Will Be Made By Consensus and the digital surveillance opera Looking at You. The series will release weekly 10-minute episodes as part of #stillHERE:ONLINE, culminating in a final 70-minute viewing experience.

…The travelers aboard the Grand Crew, a very massive luxury emigrant craft, expected to remain in therapeutic hypothermia until arrival at their new home planet. Unfortunately, the technology has been compromised. Isolated in their pods, the unfrozen migrants find themselves entangled in a shared phantasmagoria that smells like sour gummi worms. They are stuck in mid-transition between planet A and planet B, between the end of the old life and the beginning of the new life, between memory and amnesia. They can’t finish the job of erasing the past, and they can’t move into the tenebrous future. Don’t worry: the ship’s computer, Bob, has a plan.

…The team redefines the serial form with weekly 10 minute live revelations over 8 weeks culminating in a 80 minute world premiere increments each Friday October 29 – December 17, culminating in a full live stream showing on December 17 at 7pm as part of our HERE@Home Series. Formally, the eight-episode serial builds on the compositional flexibility, performer autonomy, and unexpected comedy for which the creators have been recognized.

(15) NON-GENRE MOMENT. But you might want to know. “Coffee Mate Is Making An M&M’s Creamer And It’s About To Make Your Coffee Better Than Dessert” claims Delish.

Coffee creamers are having a momentttt right now. We’ve gotten creamers that taste like everything from Funfetti to Cinnamon Toast Crunch to cookies & cocoa to…coffee itself! You can truly try a new one every week and never, ever get bored. But Coffee mate is here to let you know that they’re not done innovating. In fact, they clued us into one of their most exciting drops ever: M&M’s coffee creamer….

(16) HALLOWEEN DONUT. Whereas you might not want to know when “Dunkin’ Spices Up Halloween with New Ghost Pepper Donut” – but it has the word “ghost” in it, so it’s my contractual duty to report it.

…Launching today at participating locations nationwide, Dunkin’s new Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut is billed as “a classic yeast donut ring, topped with a strawberry flavored icing that features a bold blend of cayenne and ghost pepper, and finished with red sanding sugar for a sizzling look.” In case you need the clarification, the ghost pepper is a former record holder for world’s spiciest pepper, and is still insanely hot despite Guinness’s current title going to the Carolina Reaper. And good news for spice lovers: Though the “ghost” tie-in is clearly aimed at Halloween, this limited time only spicy donut is here to heat us up for the rest of the year, sticking around until December.

…But if you’re more about tricks than treats, Dunkin’ is fine with that, too. In fact, the brand is encouraging people to surprise their friends with a Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut and post the reactions on social media using the hashtag #DunkinSpicySide. 

(17) KILLER TOMATO SOUP. AndGood Housekeeping chimes in with a Halloween food report of its own: “Heinz launches Cream of Beanz soup for Halloween and it glows in the dark”.

In a throughly horrifying announcement, Heinz has revealed it has created a hybrid of the brand’s iconic baked beans and its classic tomato soup.

Cream of Beanz Tomato soup is described as: “The rich tomatoey taste of the classic Cream of Tomato Soup, and brimming with delicious Beanz.”

…Calling the hybrid a “Monster Mash-up”, the brand has embraced the scary sound of the combination; not only by releasing in time for Halloween, but also by making the cans glow in the dark.

(18) PAIR OF CHAIRS. In the latest episode of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg have fun talking about BIG objects in science fiction, from flying cities to spheres totally enclosing stars. “Episode 38: Big, bigger, biggest, bigly!”

(19) IF YOU WANT TO KNOW. Larry Correia told his readers today he’s “Back In Facebook Jail” [Archive link].

…Officially, the reason Facebook banned me was for a post on Oct 2 where I said “I try not to comment on violence or crime until all the facts are in… But in this case, whoever sucker punched Rick Moranis should be slowly fed feet first into a wood chipper.” EXCEPT Facebook already banned me for that last week for “inciting violence”, I hit the protest button and Facebook REVERSED the ban a couple hours later. (because it is obviously a stupid joke)

But then yesterday, right after I posted a couple of links to the forbidden New York Post articles about Hunter Biden’s goofy misdeeds (and me being me, the posts were super active, with lots of comments and shares), Facebook banned me for the Rick Moranis post AGAIN. Only this time, I’m not allowed to protest….

(20) THIS AUCTION IS LIT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Let your childhood Christmas dreams take flight—along with the contents of your bank account. For a quarter mil or so you can give the Rudolph and Santa figures from the stop motion TV classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer a new home. And it’ll be just in time to save Santa from drowning as the last of the Arctic ice melts: “Rudolph and his nose-so-bright into auction will take flight”

Rudolph and his still-shiny nose are getting a new home, and it’s bound to be a lot nicer than the Island of Misfit Toys.

The soaring reindeer and Santa Claus figures who starred in in the perennially beloved stop-motion animation Christmas special “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” are going up for auction.

Auction house Profiles in History announced Thursday that a 6-inch-tall Rudolph and 11-inch-tall Santa used to animate the 1964 TV special are being sold together in the auction that starts Nov. 13 and are expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000.

Collector Peter Lutrario of Staten Island, New York, thought they might be the only items he would never sell, but when he recently turned 65 he thought about having something to leave for his children and grandchildren.

“I always said I would die with the dolls,” he told The Associated Press. “I’m just putting the family first.”

The figures were made by Japanese puppet maker Ichiro Komuro and used for the filming of the show at Tadaito Mochinaga’s MOM Productions in Tokyo.

They’re made of wood, wire, cloth and leather. Rudolph’s nose, after some minimal maintenance through the years, still lights up. The realistic bristles of Santa’s beard are made from yak hair.

(21) ANIMANIACS. John King Tarpinian says this is why people will want to subscribe to Hulu – all new episodes of Animaniacs starting November 20. They’re also bringing back Pinky and the Brain.

(22) HOLIDAY SPECIAL MULLIGAN. Yahoo! News promises a full pantheon of iconic Star Wars voices will be heard in this holiday special: “Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels to Reprise ‘Star Wars’ Roles for Disney Plus Lego Holiday Special”.

Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels are venturing back to a galaxy far, far away for “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special.” The animated adventure will debut on Disney Plus on Nov. 17.

Tran (Rose Tico), Williams (Lando Calrissian) and Daniels (C-3PO) have joined the voice cast of “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” and will reprise their roles from the venerable film franchise. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” actors Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker), Tom Kane (Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn), James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), and Dee Bradley Baker (clone troopers) are also lending their voices for the special.

“The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” sees Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids as they celebrate Life Day, a joyous celebration on Chewie’s home planet of Kashyyyk that was first introduced in the 1978 “Star Wars Holiday Special.” Set after the events of 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the new 45-minute special follows Rey as she journeys with BB-8 to gain a deeper understanding of the Force. Along the way, she encounters characters from all nine Skywalker saga films, including Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda and Obi-Wan. It’s unclear if Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe) or Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) are returning.

The upcoming Lego-fied version is loosely inspired by the universally panned special that aired on CBS over 40 years ago.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Hades” on YouTube, Fandom Games calls the game “a retelling of Greek mythology that’s as awesome as it is totally unlike Greek mythology.”  Among the additions: machine guns!

[Thanks to Chris Rose, Kevin Standlee, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, N., Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]