Pixel Scroll 8/4/19 Please Scroll The Nature Of Your Pixel-cal Emergency

(1) DISCONTINUED NEXT ROCK. Matt Keely tries to diagnose the reasons for “Such Abnormal Activity: On ‘The Best of R. A. Lafferty’” in the LA Review of Books.

…Hidden powers that hold and wield esoteric knowledge recur throughout the hundreds of stories and 20 or so novels published during his lifetime, and for the last 30-odd years, the Lafferty readership has resembled nothing so much as one of the secret societies he described. His story “Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne” features eight humans and one machine who together possess the “finest minds and judgments in the world.” Lafferty’s admirers were nearly as few as that select band. His first books appeared with Ace, Berkley, DAW, and Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York publishers that still exist today. They met critical acclaim and popular indifference. Lafferty’s later books, if they appeared at all, arrived as Xeroxed chapbooks or were published with micropresses like Corroboree and United Mythologies Press. My Heart Leaps Up, the first installment of a four-part autobiographical series called In a Green Tree, only appeared in five booklets from fan Chris Drumm. The five parts of My Heart Leaps Up were never published together, and the remaining three books of In a Green Tree never left manuscript.

Last year, UK science fiction publisher Gollancz, which has recently brought out most of Lafferty in digital editions, released a print omnibus of three novels, the utopian parody Past Master, the transcendentally paranoid Fourth Mansions, and the Homeric tall tale Space Chantey. But Lafferty’s novels are notoriously difficult — Fourth Mansions in particular drives the uninitiated to despair — and his stories have drawn more readers and inspired greater praise. This April, Gollancz issued The Best of R. A. Lafferty, a collection of 22 stories that span nearly the whole of the author’s career. Neil Gaiman contributes an appreciative introduction to Lafferty; each story receives at least one introduction, all but one original to this volume, and several include afterwords to boot. Lafferty’s readership may have a reputation for being small, but it’s also illustrious. Introducers include Samuel R. Delany, Michael Dirda, Patton Oswalt, Robert Silverberg, Jeff VanderMeer, Michael Swanwick, Nancy Kress, Connie Willis, and the late Harlan Ellison….

(2) MASSIVE PIRACY. Owl Goingback warned Facebook readers about Kiss Library:

Google Alerts tipped me off about a website called Kiss Library, where my books had been uploaded and were being sold without my permission. They weren’t just offering free downloads, like many pirate sites, they were actually selling the books–and for more than what they sell for on Amazon. And since each book had a preview, I could confirm that the actual books were available. Under each book listed was a link to report the book if it had been posted in violation of copyright. Kiss Library did remove all five of my books, but only after I used the link and also sent them an email.
Oddly enough the website is a product of an actual physical store in Canada, located at 2510 Centre St. S Calgary, ABT2G SA6, Phone: 1-213-394-9806, email: contact@kisslibrary.net.

I spent a few hours looking up other authors who may not be aware that their books are being sold on this site. In addition to books they are also selling magazines, such as Cemetery Dance and Fantasy and Science Fiction. If I’ve tagged your name, then you have books being sold on the Kiss library. I will post the website address at the end of this post. Facebook will only allow me to tag a handful of people at the time, so please let other authors know.

Christopher Golden, Mort Castle, James A. Moore, Adam-Troy Castro, Neil Gaiman, Ellen Datlow, Alice Henderson, Tim Waggoner, Joe Haldeman, Stephen Jones-Editor, Rick Wilber, Andy Duncan, Steve Vernon, Nancy Kress, Josh Malerman, Mick Garris, Linda D Addison, Jonathan Maberry, Robert J. Sawyer, Alessandro Manzetti The website address is: http://kisslibrary.net

(3) SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. Angely Chi has tweeted allegations about a speaker at the Iligan National Writers Workshop (INWW) in the Phillipines, and two other persons.

One of those named, Timothy James Dimcali, posted a response on Facebook. (His name is familiar to some because he was at the Clarion Writers Workshop in July,)

To my family, friends, colleagues, and the institutions that trust in me, I am making myself available to discuss this matter in confidence. Please give me the opportunity to erase any cloud that this episode might have created over our good relations.

I vehemently deny all of the recent statements made against me, accusing me of sexually assaulting someone during an event where I was a speaker.

I acknowledge the seriousness of the allegation and I understand that any sexual misconduct should be condemned. But this incident has created so much turbulence that my personal life and my reputation have already severely suffered.

I stand ready to defend myself with legally admissible proof before the proper forum. I am confident that, when the legal process has taken its course, I will be able to vindicate my name with the truth. I am refusing to release any further information at this time not only for my own protection, but for the protection of the accuser as well.

While I wait for the opportunity to defend myself, I cannot sit idly while my reputation is being unduly tarnished. I have availed of legal advice and I will act very soon for the redress of my rights.

I would like to give my personal assurance to my family, friends, colleagues, and the institutions that have, and will repose their trust in me, that I have never, and will never take advantage of anyone.

Tiny Diapana reconstructs her experience at the Iligan workshop in “Breaking the Quiet” which begins —  

I’m tired and I’m sad and I’m stressed. I’ve recently found myself in the middle of some controversy in the Philippine writing community. Not once have I ever expected that I would ever find myself in this kind of predicament.

To get to the heart of the matter: I was sexually taken advantage of by a panelist during a national writers workshop that I had attended this year.

I called and wrote to the workshop director about the incident. I also had my lawyer send a letter along with the affidavits of my witnesses to the workshop to ask for justice. I wanted the workshop to acknowledge what had happened and to condemn what this panelist had done to me. I wanted the organization to blacklist this panelist so that he could no longer do the same thing to others in future iterations of the workshop.

However, the workshop director sent my lawyer a letter dismissing my request. According to the director, this was simply an issue between me and my assaulter because “it was done behind closed doors and nobody heard anyone screaming, being dragged down the stairs, or trashing about.”…

(4) POLITICAL PARADOX. In “The Conservative Manifesto Buried in ‘Avengers: Endgame’” on Qulilette, Aaron Sibarium argues that Avengers: Endgame like most MCU films represents “a post 9/11 conservatism” where “it’s always 1938.”

For the last decade or so, American cinema has exhibited a paradox: Though Hollywood has become more and more liberal, especially on issues of race and gender, Hollywood blockbusters have become more conservative—not just by recycling old plot points, as Star Wars has done, but also, in the case of superhero movies, by indulging a politics of reaction.

What might be called “Nolan’s enigma” began in earnest with The Dark Knight, which involved a tough-on-crime WASP using torture, intimidation, and surveillance to bring down a media-savvy terrorist. The Dark Knight Rises took things one step further with Bane, a menacing mix of Robespierre and Ruthenberg, whose pseudo-Marxist coup unleashes all manner of mayhem upon Gotham: banishments and public hangings, street brawls and show trials, and—in a scene lifted straight out of the French revolution—the storming of Blackgate (Bastille) prison.

Not to be outdone, Marvel soon embraced its own brand of post-9/11 conservatism. In every Avengers film, Joshua Tait notes, “it really is 1938….The threats are real and the Avengers’ unilateral actions are necessary” to protect life, liberty, and democracy. Each hero thus functions as a kind of Cold Warrior, standing athwart would-be despots and authoritarians, while their enemies function as bland, unidimensional cannon-fodder, a convenient narrative pretext for blowing things up. (To be fair, the bad guys usually do possess weapons of mass destruction; this is fantasy, after all.)

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 4, 1937 David Bedford. Composer who worked with Ursula K. Le Guin to produce and score her Rigel 9 album which the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says is ‘a work that is musically pleasant although narratively underpowered.’ I’ve not heard it, so cannot say how accurate this opinion is. (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 4, 1942 Rick Norwood, 77. Editor of the Comics Revue, the longest ever running running comics reprint magazine. He’s also written a handful of SF stories. 
  • Born August 4, 1942 Don S. Davis. He’s best-known for playing General Hammond on Stargate SG-1 and Major Garland Briggs on Twin Peaks. He had a small part in Beyond the Stars as Phil Clawson, and was in Hook as Dr. Fields. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 4, 1961 Lauren Tom, 58. Voice actress for our purposes. She shows up on Superman: The Animated Series voicing Angela Chen. From there on, she was Dana Tan in Batman Beyond and several minor roles on Pinky and the Brain. Futurama is her biggest series to date where she voices Amy and Inez Wong. 
  • Born August 4, 1969 Fenella Woolgar, 50. Agatha Christie in “The Unicorn and The Wasp” episode of Doctor Who where she more than capably played off against David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. Her only other genre was as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.
  • Born August 4, 1981 Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, 38. Yes, she’s done a genre performance or so. To be precise, she showed up on Fringe in the the first two episodes of the second seasons (“A New Day in the Old Town” and “Night of Desirable Objects”) as Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup. She was also in the “First Knight” episode of Knight Rider as Annie Ortiz, and Natasha in “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose” on Century City, a series you likely never heard of. 

(6) FANSPOTTING. JJ says we can adapt this to be the Worldcon attendee identification guide, too.

(7) STEPHENSON INTERVIEWED. Tyler Cowen interviewed Neal Stephenson on the podcast Conversations With Tyler: “Neal Stephenson on Depictions of Reality”.  It’s a wide-ranging interview, where Stephenson gives his opinions on a variety of tech topics as well as his opinions on Dickens and Heinlein.  He also denies the rumor spread by Reason’s Peter Suderman that he is mysterious bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto, saying that he’d need “a lot more math” to invent bitcoin and that if he was the bitcoin inventor, he’d be a lot richer than he is.

So what’s the implicit theology of a simulated world? Might we be living in one, and does it even matter? Stephenson joins Tyler to discuss the book and more, including the future of physical surveillance, how clothing will evolve, the kind of freedom you could expect on a Mars colony, whether today’s media fragmentation is trending us towards dystopia, why the Apollo moon landings were communism’s greatest triumph, whether we’re in a permanent secular innovation starvation, Leibniz as a philosopher, Dickens and Heinlein as writers, and what storytelling has to do with giving good driving directions.

(8) GOOD LOOKIN’. “This Remote Corner Of Nevada Is One Of The Darkest Places In The World” – which is a good thing.

Jen Rovanpera drives through remote and rough parts of northwestern Nevada, about 6 miles outside the Oregon border. She is an archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management. Today, she isn’t looking for artifacts.

She is showing off the vast area of Massacre Rim, the country’s largest and newest Dark Sky Sanctuary.

“It’s an immense area of darkness. The sanctuary is just a small fraction of that area,” she says, pointing out across a lookout point just north of the site.

Rovanpera recently worked with the International Dark Sky Association to get this area designated. The title doesn’t come with any legal protections, but land managers do have to adopt a lighting policy that preserves the night sky.

“I think it promotes recognition of what an amazing resource it is, and also awareness that parts of the country were losing this opportunity to really enjoy the natural night sky,” Rovanpera says.

Only 10 dark sky sanctuaries exist in the world, with four of them in the U.S. At more than 100,000 acres, Massacre Rim is the largest one in the country. It is surrounded by thousands of acres of sagebrush and grass, making it perfect for cattle and for camping.

(9) PAGING TIPPER GORE. NPR investigates how “Lawmaker Aims To Curb Social Media Addiction With New Bill”.

In the latest action against major tech companies, freshman Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced a bill on Tuesday — the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology, or SMART, Act — that would ban “addictive” social media features.

Most social media platforms are known for their infinite scrolling effect, which allows users to see all of the content on their newsfeeds in one visit to the site if they continue to scroll to the bottom of the page. If the bill was passed, users would have to actively refresh their Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds after a scrolling limit is exceeded.

Similarly, instead of having YouTube videos load automatically one after the other with autoplay, users would have to find and click on the next video themselves. The “Snapstreak” on Snapchat, which requires users to send photos to each other at least once every 24 hours in order to maintain the “streak,” is another “addictive” feature that Hawley’s bill would prohibit.

The senator’s goal is to discourage users from continuously engaging with social media products. His bill also proposes new features that would be part of a “user-friendly interface,” including time limits for each app of 30 minutes per day and frequent reminders of how long a user has been browsing a certain platform. Individuals could change the time limit, but it would reset to 30 minutes every month.

“Big Tech has embraced a business model of addiction,” Hawley said when announcing the bill. “Too much of the ‘innovation’ in this space is designed not to create better products, but to capture more attention by using psychological tricks that make it difficult to look away.”

…Hawley and fellow Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas wrote to the Federal Trade Commission last month, asking the agency to open an investigation into the issue of tech censorship. In a May op-ed, in which he called Facebook, Twitter and Instagram parasitic, Hawley said that social media has done more collective harm than good, and he even went so far as to say that it would be better if these sites didn’t exist at all.

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Wise Words by Sauta Micki” on Vimeo is an Israeli animated film by Yuvaroo about wise advice from a grandmother to her grandchildren.  (It has another title on Vimeo with Grandma in it but that’s the title–in English–that Yuvaroo gave it.)

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

Pixel Scroll 7/7/19 Just A Small Town Scroll, Living In A Pixel World

(1) PENRIC RETURNS. Lois McMaster Bujold has finished another Penric and Desdemona novella – see “The Orphans of Raspay cover sneak peek” at Goodreads.

When the ship in which they are traveling is captured by Carpagamon island raiders, Temple sorcerer Penric and his resident demon Desdemona find their life complicated by two young orphans, Lencia and Seuka Corva, far from home and searching for their missing father. Pen and Des will need all their combined talents of mind and magic to unravel the mysteries of the sisters and escape from the pirate stronghold.

This novella follows about a year after the events of “The Prisoner of Limnos”.

E-publication before the end of the month, I’m pretty sure; this week or next, maybe. I still have some last polishing and fretting to do on the text file, and then there is the vexing question of a map.

(2) GAINING INSIGHT. Jonathan LaForce advises writers looking to base their stories on lived experience “How to Talk with Veterans” at Mad Genius Club.

Last month, we talked about telling the stories of combat veterans as they really happened. Without whitewashing or varnish. Without embellishment. Without lies.
In the third-to-last paragraph, I make mention of sitting down and talking with veterans. Over the last month I’ve been looking around and realizing nobody has ever explained how to talk with veterans, as a writer looking for technical (and personal) knowledge about the profession of arms. Today, we’re gonna start down that road.

(3) THE OLD EQUATIONS.

Sylvia Spruck Wrigley’s article “Throw Grandma Out the Airlock: Representation of Old Women in Science Fiction” appears in SFRA Review #217, published by the Science Fiction Research Association.

This project started because I was wrong. My initial premise was that speculative fiction relegated women “of a certain age” to very specific roles: the crone, the wise woman, the meddling mother, the friendly innkeep. This seemed such an obvious truth that it was barely even worth stating. We’ve seen these women all our lives, in fairy tales and epic fantasy, and of course in Terry Pratchett’s wonderful parodies of old women in all of their cliched roles.

However, when pressed, I discovered that there was one place where we do not see these women: in science fiction novels. Old women are a rarity in science fiction and when they do exist, they inhabit a very different space. We don’t have innkeeps, we have immortals. We don’t have crazy cat ladies, we have body snatchers. There’s a distinct lack of old ladies who love solving cozy mysteries, but we do have a greater than-normal number of politicians. 

(4) UNREAL ESTATE. What are “The Most Terrifying Buildings in Literature”? Riley Sager has a little list at Crimereads.

Building: The World’s Fair Hotel

Book: The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson

“I was born with the devil in me.” So said H.H. Holmes, one of America’s most notorious serial killers. Holmes began construction of his so-called hotel as Chicago was gearing up for the 1893 World’s Fair. Far from your normal bed and breakfast, the building included soundproofed rooms, maze-like hallways and, in the basement, a crematorium and acid vats. Although the number of people he killed there is unknown, it was more than enough to give the building a different name—“The Murder Castle.” 

(5) WRITERS AT SEA. FastCompany’s Apollo 11 commemoration series revisits “The celebrity cruise to celebrate the end of the Moon landings was a delightful train wreck” – “The voyage set sail powered by the hot air of macho writer Norman Mailer, and it was precisely the 1970s freak show you’d expect.”

…But perhaps the oddest Moon-related cultural experience was one that happened on the occasion of the launch of Apollo 17, in December 1972, the last Apollo mission to the Moon. It was a Caribbean cruise on Holland America’s ship, the S.S. Statendam, and anyone with the money for a ticket could mingle with NBC newsman Hugh Downs, science fiction legends Isaac Asimov and Ben Bova, novelist Katherine Anne Porter, and yes, Norman Mailer himself. This curious collection of luminaries also organized events and panels as part of the ship’s entertainment. The cruise lasted almost as long as the Apollo 17 mission itself: nine days, starting with a seaborne view of Apollo 17’s launch from seven miles off Cape Kennedy….

(6) DECALCOMANIA. The family that cosplays together….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 7, 1907 Robert Heinlein. So what do you like by him? I’m very fond of The Moon is A Harsh Mistress. And I like Starship Troopers despite the baggage around it. The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is on my occasional re-read list as I find a fun read in a way that Friday isn’t. Time Enough for Love is, errr, self-indulgent in the extreme. Fun though. (Died 1988.)
  • Born July 7, 1919 Jon Pertwee. The Third Doctor and one that I’ll admit I like a lot. He returned to the role of the Doctor in The Five Doctors and the charity special Dimensions in Time for Children in Need. He also portrayed the Doctor in the stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure.  After a four year run here, he was the lead on Worzel Gummidge where he was, errr, a scarecrow. And I must note that one of his fist roles was as The Judge in the film of Toad of Toad Hall by A. A. Milne. (Died 1996.)
  • Born July 7, 1931 David Eddings. Prolific and great, with his wife Leigh, they authored several best-selling epic fantasy novel series, including The Belgariad, The Malloreon and The Dreamers to name but three of their series. They’ve written but one non-sriracha novel, The Redemption of Althalus. (Died 2009.)
  • Born July 7, 1948 Kathy Reichs, 71. Author of the Temperance Brennan series which might be genre adjacent, she’s also the author of Virals, a YA series about a group of a young adults with minor super powers. 
  • Born July 7, 1959 Billy Campbell, 60. There are some films so good in my memory that even the Suck Fairy can’t spoil them and The Rocketeer in which he played stunt pilot Cliff Secord is one of them. BTW,  IDW did a hardcover edition called Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures and Amazon has it for a mere twenty-five bucks! 
  • Born July 7, 1968 Jeff VanderMeer, 51. Ok I’ll admit that I’m ambivalent about the Southern Reach Trilogy and am not sure if it’s brilliant or not. I will say the pirate anthology he and his wife Anne did, Fast Ships, Black Sails, is quite tasty reading. 
  • Born July 7, 1969 Cree Summer, 50. Voice performer in myriad series such as as Spider-Man: The New Animated SeriesJustice League UnlimitedStar Wars: The Clone Wars, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. She’s playing a number of the cast in the current Young Justice series including Madame Xanadu and Aquagirl.
  • Born July 7, 1987 V. E. Schwab, 32. I’m very pleased with her A Darker Shade of Magic which explores magicians in a parallel universe London. It’s part of her Shades of Magic series. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range is there when an important discovery is made about the dark side of the moon.

(9) FINDING RETRO NOMINEES. Ian Moore advises about “Finding the 1944 Retro Hugo finalists online” at Secret Panda. Lots of archival links.

Soon in Dublin the winners of this year’s Hugo Awards will be revealed, including the winners of the Retro Hugo Awards for science fiction published in 1943. This year unfortunately there is no voters packet for the Retro Hugos. However most of the publications in which the finalists appeared are available on the Internet Archive, where they can be read online or downloaded by Hugo Award voters. See below for links to where the various works can be found. Voting closes at midnight on 31July, so get reading.

(10) NOW IN BLACK AND WHITE. Missed out on this when it first came around in 2015 – a takeoff on “Batman v Superman” courtesy of a “Vulture Remix” of two 1940s serials.

These days, superhero movies are all about bombast — take, for example, the upcoming “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” But there was a simpler time, when superheroes looked terrible and were more charming than scary. We imagine what a Batman/Superman matchup would’ve looked like in the era of the first serial films about the characters from way back in the middle of the century.

(11) POWER OF THE PRESS. Another Superman stalwart is getting an update this month – the New York Times has the story: “Lois Lane Fights for Justice in a New Comic Series”. “Lois Lane stars in a new 12-issue series focusing on her career as a reporter.”

Revoked White House credentials, the mysterious death of a journalist and a conspiracy to profit from the separation of migrant families at the border. This looks like a job for … Lois Lane, the Daily Planet reporter.

The character, who, like Superman and Clark Kent, first appeared in 1939, is starring in a 12-issue comic book series that begins on Wednesday. The story, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Mike Perkins, focuses on Lois Lane as she tries to find out more about the death of Mariska Voronova, a journalist who had been critical of the Kremlin.

(12) NOTES FROM SPIKECON. David Doering sent a couple of short news items from the NASFiC/Westercon:

Joy Day’s fabulous ASFA award, a vibrant spherical interpretation of a Black Hole, got lost enroute to Layton in the Black Hole of the USPS…

While I hoped for one or more of our locals who were nominated to win, but those that did were very worthy.

Sadly, not one winner was in attendance. We need to elevate the appreciation of art. Cover art and illustrations are often the cause of us picking up a book or magazine in the first place.

I still associate Lord of the Rings with the gum drop tree cover art from 1965…

Then, this morning, Dave was able to check another box on his fannish bucket list:

I earned the dubious honor tonight  of having our room party shutdown  for being too noisy. Who knew that LTUE  and World Fantasy crowd could be so boistrous? 

(13) ALSO SEEN AT SPIKECON. Tanglwyst de Holloway was encouraged by John Hertz to share this photo, as it was the first time John had seen it done:

(14) VASTER THAN EMPIRES. In the July 7 issue of the New York Times Book Review, author Charles Yu reviews Neil Stevenson’s new book:

His latest, “Fall; or, Dodge in Hell,” is another piece of evidence in the anti-Matrix case: a staggering feat of imagination, intelligence and stamina. For long stretches, at least. Between those long stretches, there are sections that, while never uninteresting, are somewhat less successful. To expect any different, especially in a work of this length, would be to hold it to an impossible standard. Somewhere in this 900-page book is a 600-page book. One that has the same story, but weighs less. Without those 300 pages, though, it wouldn’t be Neal Stephenson. It’s not possible to separate the essential from the decorative. Nor would we want that, even if it were. Not only do his fans not mind the extra — it’s what we came for.

Also, New York Times Book Review’s Tina Jordan conducts a brief interview with Neal Stephenson about Fall, which debuted at No. 14 on the paper’s New Fiction list.

“Unlike some of my hard science fiction books, such as ‘Seveneves’—where I sweated the details of orbits, rocket engines, etc.—‘Fall’ is meant to be read as more of a fable,” Stephenson explains. “I’m not making any pretense in the book that the neuroscience and computer science are plausible. My approach was to take a particular way of thinking around brains and the uploading of human consciousness into digital form, and just say, ‘Suppose this is all true; let’s run with it and see where it takes us on a pure storytelling level.’”

(15) BANK EARNS NEW INTEREST. A key player in many older SF novels, “Jodrell Bank gains Unesco World Heritage status”.

Jodrell Bank Observatory has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site.

It has been at the forefront of astronomical research since its inception in 1945 and tracked US and Russian craft during the space race.

The site in Cheshire is part of the University of Manchester. It is dominated by the landmark Lovell Telescope.

It joins the ancient Iraqi city of Babylon and other locations that have been added to the prestigious list.

…Scientific research began at Jodrell Bank Observatory in 1945 when the physicist Sir Bernard Lovell came to the University of Manchester.

The site pioneered the then new science of radio astronomy, which used radio waves instead of visible light to understand the universe.

(16) BESIDE THE SEA. SYFY Wire tells how people looking for rarities found one: “Canadian gemstone miners discover prehistoric sea monster skeleton”.

Enchanted Designs Limited miners digging at Alberta’s Bearpaw Formation for rainbow-shaded ammolite gemstones, which are created by the fossilized shells of extinct marine mollusks called ammonites, discovered the nearly complete remains of the “T-rex of the Seas” in soft black-shale mudstone. The impressive specimen measured in at between 20 and 23 feet long.

(16) PITCH MEETINGS. Beware spoilers in ScreenRant’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home Pitch Meeting.”

Marvel Studios wrapped up Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Avengers: Endgame — except wait no, they squeezed another Spider-Man movie in there before closing the curtains. Spider-Man: Far From Home is Tom Holland’s second “solo” outing as Peter Parker, and the character is still heavily influenced by the recently departed Tony Stark AKA Iron Man. Far From Home raises a lot of questions. Like what exactly is Mysterio’s long-term plan? What’s going on with all the other living Avengers? How does Spider-Man get his Peter Tingle back? Why are the mid-credits and post-credits scenes the most memorable parts of this film? To answer all these questions and more, step inside the pitch meeting that led to Spider-Man: Far From Home! It’s super easy, barely an inconvenience!

 [Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Nicholas Whyte, Tanglwyst de Holloway, Alan Baumler, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 6/25/19 Cthulhu’s On First?

Editor’s Note: My ISP took the site down for several hours to do database maintenance. I was notified earlier today it would happen and put the info in a comment, however, I doubt many people saw it. We’re back now!

(1) HOW TO SUCCEED AS A PANELIST Delilah S. Dawson’s thread “So You’re On Your First Panel As A Writer” tells participants how to sharpen their skills. Thread starts here.

(2) RINGING THE REGISTER. “How Many Copies Did Famous Books Sell in the First Year?” LitHub says from two to two million. Here’s the number for the first genre work on their list –

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932): 13,000 copies (UK); 15,000 copies (US)

(3) STOP THAT TRAIN. The New York Times says the Justice Department lawsuit is supported by The Authors Guild and PEN America: “2 Big Book and Magazine Printers Face Suit to Block Their Merger”.

In a lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Chicago, the Justice Department asked for a halt to Quad/Graphics’s planned $1.4 billion purchase of LSC Communications. Lawyers in the department’s antitrust division argued that the merger would decrease competition and drive up prices.

Quad publishes every Condé Nast title, including The New Yorker and Vogue, most publications from Hearst Magazines, including O: The Oprah Magazine, and Scholastic books. LSC Communications publishes two magazines from AARP that claim to have the largest circulations in the world, Penguin Random House books and more.

…In its attempt to block the deal, the Justice Department had two allies from the community of writers: The Authors Guild and PEN America. “The lack of competition among book printers has already caused a bottleneck and increased publishing costs, and a merger between these two companies could exacerbate this situation by creating a monopoly,” the Authors Guild said in a statement in March.

That same month, the Authors Guild and PEN America joined the Open Markets Institute, an antitrust think tank based in Washington, in sending a letter to the Justice Department recommending that the merger be blocked.

It was imperative that the government act, the letter said, because magazines and books “are fundamental to the ability of citizens to freely express and share their thoughts, ideas, opinions and works of art.”

(4) ROCKET’S RED GLARE. ScienceFiction.com learned “Marvel Monsters REALLY Want Lady Gaga To Voice Rocket Raccoon’s Love Interest In ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 3’” and kicks off its coverage with a referential pun:

Are Marvel fans a “Shallow” lot?  They are lobbying hard for James Gunn to cast Lady Gaga as the voice of Lylla, a sentient otter from the comic books who winds up being the love interest of Rocket Raccoon, who is voiced by Bradley Cooper in the movies.  This is after Film Updates posted a tease on Twitter that Gaga was under consideration, and that Lylla was “set to make an appearance” in Gunn’s upcoming ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3’.

(5) DESTROYING THE INTERNET. On reason.com, Mike Godwin of the R Street Institute, in “What If Widespread Disinformation Is the Solution to Fake News?” interviews Neal Stephenson about his idea, expressed in Fall, that the solution to fake news on the Internet is to hire people to perform “libel service,” flooding the Net with so many slanderous articles about a subject that no one could believe anything on the Net about a particular person.

I confess I haven’t yet finished Stephenson’s latest 800-plus-page tome, which so far might be characterized, although not necessarily captured, by the term “near-future dystopia.”  But when I came across Stephenson’s depiction of how automated disinformation could actually remedy the damage that internet-based “doxxing” and fake news inflict on an innocent private individual, I paused my reading and jumped down the rabbit hole of tracing this idea to its 1990s roots. 

…This whole chapter rang many bells for me, not least because it paralleled a discussion I had with a law professor at a conference last year when I pitched the idea of a “libel service.” Basically, you’d hire a “libel service” to randomly defame you on the internet, so that whenever anyone says something bad about you on Twitter or Facebook, or in the comments area of some newspaper, you could just say “that’s probably my libel service.” No one would know whether the defamatory statements were true or not, and people would be predisposed to doubt anything too terrible that’s said about you.

(6) MARVEL ONE-ACT PLAYS. Samuel French and Marvel Entertainment have launched Marvel Spotlight, a collection of one-act plays “telling the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

Developed specifically for teenagers, these one-act plays star the iconic Super Heroes Ms. Marvel, Thor, and Squirrel Girl. The scripts are now available for purchase as well as licensing within the educational theatre market at MarvelSpotlightPlays.com.

Here’s the abstract for Mirror of Most Value: A Ms. Marvel Play:

Kamala attempts to boost Ms. Marvel’s fledgling super hero profile by writing her own fan fiction. But when building a fandom becomes an obsession, Kamala’s schoolwork and relationships begin to suffer. To become the Jersey City hero of her dreams, Kamala must learn to accept herself just as she is – imperfections and all.

(7) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Camestros Felapton points out the connections between Bradbury’s fiction and the Elton John biopic: “The Rocket Man versus Rocketman”.

Both the song and story feature a man who pilots an interplanetary rocket as a routine job that takes him away from his family for large stretches of time. However, the song places the perspective with the pilot (the titular rocket man) but the story focuses on the feelings and experiences of the pilot’s son.

Bradbury is such a powerful writer. Even though the sci-fi trappings of the story are of the gee-whiz 1950s style shiny technology, the story itself is focused on emotional connections and that signature Bradbury sense of the past and memory.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 25, 1953 Robot Monster debuted — the one where the guy in the gorilla suit wore a divers helmet with antennae.
  • June 25, 1965 Dr. Who And The Daleks was released in London. The film featured Peter Cushing as Dr. Who. Cushing would do one more film, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. a year later.  Cushing was the First Doctor, so Roberta Tovey was cast as his granddaughter. 
  • June 25, 1975 Rollerball premiered
  • June 25, 1982 Blade Runner arrived in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 George Orwell. Surprised to learn he only lived to be forty-seven years old. Author obviously of Animal Farm and 1984, both of which I read a long time ago. Best use of the 1984 image goes to Apple in their ad where a female runner smashes the image of Big Brother. (Died 1950.)
  • Born June 25, 1925 June Lockhart, 93. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space which amazingly only ran for three seasons. She has a number of genre one-offs including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Greatest American Hero and Babylon 5. She appeared in the Lost in Space film as Principal Cartwright. 
  • Born June 25, 1935 Charles Sheffield. He was the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society. He won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novelette “Georgia on My Mind,” and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel for Brother to Dragons which is an amazing read. Much of his fiction is in his Heritage Universe series; the linked short stories of space traveller Arthur Morton McAndrew are a sheer comic delight. (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 25, 1956 Anthony Bourdain. That’s a death that hit me hard. Partly because he’s round my age, partly because, damn, he seemed so interested in everything that I couldn’t conceive him committing suicide. And yes, he was one of us with three works to his credit: Get Jiro!,  (with Joe Rose and Langdon Foss), Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi (with Joe Rose and Ale Garza) and Hungry Ghosts (with Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Irene Koh, Paul Pope). The first two are on DC, the latter‘s on Berger Books. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 25, 1960 Ian McDonald, 59. Now here’s an author that I’ve read a lot of starting with his first novel, Desolation Road, and following through to his most recent, The Luna series. I do have favorites — Desolation Road and the other Mars novel, Ares Express, plus the Everness series are the ones I like the best. Chaga I think is the one I need to read again as I was annoyed by it the first time. 
  • Born June 25, 1981 Sheridan Smith, 38. She makes the Birthday list for being Lucie Miller, a companion to the Eight Doctor in his Big Finish audio adventures starting in 2006 and running through at least this year. Her only video genre work was being in The Huntsman: Winter’s War as Mrs Bromwyn.

(10) WHAT A KINDNESS. Actor Michael Sheen answered a request in character as Aziraphale:

(11) STAN LEE NOVEL COMING. Per Entertainment Weekly, “Stan Lee’s posthumous project A Trick of Light to be published as a book”.

Stan Lee’s posthumous creative project A Trick of Light, initially announced as the beginning of a new series for Audible, will be published as a hardcover finished book this fall, EW has learned exclusively. The book will be classified as Lee’s first-ever novel for adult readers, and marks the first foray into his new Alliances universe, which was created in partnership between Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment, Ryan Silbert’s Origin Story, and Luke Lieberman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is set to publish A Trick of Light, with Kat Rosenfield serving as co-author.

A Trick of Light is a superhero origin story about the unlikely friendship between Cameron, a gifted young man struggling with newfound fame after a freak accident gives him the ability to manipulate technology with his mind, and Nia, a hacker and coding genius with a mysterious past. The two must combine their powers to fight the dangerous physical and online forces threatening to wipe out the human race. Audible’s original launches June 27; it’s narrated by Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi.

… The novel version publishes on Sept. 17, 2019, and is available for pre-order.

(12) THE FLEET. Ethan Mills is finally won over to Chambers’ series, as he explains in “Space Chillwave, Not Space Opera: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers” at Examined Worlds.

The setting was really interesting and philosophically fruitful: a fleet of generation ships dating back to a time before contact with aliens who possess advanced technology that made generation ships useless.  Instead of traversing the inky depths of interstellar space, the Fleet orbits a planet.  Still, the people continue to live there.  Why? It’s complicated.  But it prompts the existential question: What are we, the readers, doing on a rock hurtling through space heading nowhere in particular, destined to die?  It starts off subtle but it all gets pretty deep (we’re talking meaning-of-life type stuff, some of it – damn it – coming from the angsty teen).  This really surprised me considering a lot of the novel feels pretty… light and fluffy.  You could totally read this as a light and fluffy space romp and enjoy it just fine, but there are depths if you’re willing to look into the subtleties.

(13) WILLITS TRIBUTE. Alan White’s Skyliner #7 is a wonderful collection, even if it is “a sad one, being dedicated to the late, great Malcolm Willits, Author, Fannish Mogul, Citizen Kane of Mickey Mouse, and one of the early fen who actually did something worthy of the fannish pantheon.” It includes long autobiographical pieces, such as “Gottfredson and Me” about Willits’ appreciation for the artist who produced Disney’s Mickey Mouse comics.

I have long loved Floyd Gottfredson, even though I did not know his name. But I knew him through his work, through his wonderful Mickey Mouse stories, and especially through his wonderful artwork. I knew it first through the Big Little Books, those miniature jewels that came out during the Depression and reprinted Mickey’s great adventures. I remember them from the ten cent store; whole counters full, all spine out and a dime apiece

A few years later all my Big Little Books disappeared, along with the comic books I had carefully protected from the wartime paper drives, thereby prolonging World War II a microsecond. My father was a YMCA Secretary, and he had given all of them to the children of Japanese-American families being relocated to internment camps. In vain was my protest that the 10¢ war stamp I purchased each week in the 2nd grade was sacrifice enough. Nor was my offer to substitute my school books even considered. I soon found myself in a staging area looking at sad-eyed Japanese-American children being held in wire cages. Dad informed me they were as American as I. It was then I began to suspect his grasp of world affairs. Didn’t he know who Captain America was fighting; had he slept through that Don Winslow serial we had seen a week or two before and neglected to notice who the villains were? But I acted properly contrite and was rewarded with some new comic books on the way home, so the world turned bright again. When my father turned 90, he was honored for his work with the Japanese-Americans during World War II. My contribution remains unheralded.

…Do artists such as Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson really need their friends? John W. Campbell, legendary editor of astounding science-fiction once said that if all the fans stop buying his magazine he would never know. He meant the fans that filled the letter columns, attended the conventions, published the fanzines, and badgered the authors. They probably compromise 1% of the readership, and 90% of the headaches. By being so vocal they could manage from orbit the general policies of the magazine that were keeping the rest of the readership contented. Yet where would Barks and Gottfredson be today if it were not for the godsend that two fans, Bruce Hamilton, and Russ Cochran, we’re born to collect and publish the works of these two artists? How difficult it would be to place a historical perspective on them without the pioneering works Tom Andrae, Donald Ault, Bill Blackbeard, Geoffrey Blum, Barbara Botner, Mark Evanier, Alan Dean Foster, Bob Foster, Frank & Dana Gabbard, Gottfreid Helnwein, Gary Kurtz, George Lucas, Leonard Maltin, John Nichols, Tor Odemark, Mark Saarinen, Horst Schroeder, David Smith, Kim Weston, myself, Mark Worden, and many others both here and abroad.

(14) THE HORROR OF IT ALL. Nick Mamatas’ affection for the Lovecraftian storytelling style is manifest in his review of Toy Story 4, a post made public to encourage readers to sign up for his Patreon.

…The uncanny and the unworthy populate the film. Woody, ignored by his new owner, feels valueless and thus assigns himself the task of attempting to keep Forky alive. The antagonists are antique store dolls–there a Chatty Cathylike figure whose voice box was damaged at her creation, so her pull-cord “I love you!” sounds like a twisted dream calling forth from the bottom of a tar pit. She commands a quartet of ventriloquist dummies who cannot speak and who do her bidding while flopping around on their twisted limbs. She desires Woody’s innards for her own….

(15) ASTRONAUT HEIRLOOM. All kinds of things are going under the hammer during The Armstrong Family Collection III Space Exploration Auction (July 16-18) – even “Neil Armstrong’s Childhood Toy Teddy Bear Directly From The Armstrong Family Collection”.

(16) TRANSPORTATION SENTENCES. Felicity McLean explores “Australian Gothic Literature” at CrimeReads.

Of course the Germans have a wonderful word for ‘Gothic novel’. Schauerroman. Literally: “shudder-novel”. A story that makes you shiver with fear. Because Gothic is the literature of the menacing and the macabre.

It’s the stuff of nightmares.

But how does such a dark art translate in sunny Australia? How do you cause your readers to shiver when the temperature sits stubbornly above 80 degrees?

Gothic influence has been loitering creepily in Australian literature ever since European settlement. In 1788, when the British began shipping their convicts to Australia, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Ontranto had recently been published in England and so the British transported the Gothic mode along with their very worst criminals.

(17) DEADLY TROPE. Also at CrimeReads, Caroline Louise Walker analyzes “Why Doctors Make for the Most Terrifying Villains in Fiction”.

SIR WILLIAM GULL in From Hell, by Alan Moore (art by Eddie Campbell)

In Moore’s brilliant graphic novel, we’re asked to bend all we know about a serial killer we all know: Jack the Ripper. The details and research embedded in the conspiracy theory that unfolds are haunting, staggering, and so well done. If the infamously gruesome homicidal maniac was one and the same as a highly respected royal physician, then we must consider who we are trusting with our lives, and why.

(18) ON THE CLOCK. Details on the Falcon Heavy’s key payload: “Nasa puts up deep-space atomic clock”.

Nasa has put a miniaturised atomic clock in orbit that it believes can revolutionise deep-space navigation.

About the size of a toaster, the device is said to have 50 times the stability of existing space clocks, such as those flown in GPS satellites.

If the technology proves itself over the next year, Nasa will install the clock in future planetary probes.

The timepiece was one of 24 separate deployments from a Falcon Heavy rocket that launched from Florida on Tuesday.

The other passengers on the flight were largely also demonstrators. They included a small spacecraft to test a new type of “green” rocket fuel, and another platform that aims to propel itself via the pressure of sunlight caught in a large membrane; what’s often called a “lightsail”.

But it is the mercury-ion atomic clock, developed at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which has had most attention.

(19) REMOTE LAB. “‘Jet in a box’ powers remote Halley Antarctic base” – article resonates with discussions about whether we should ever send crews rather than robot labs to other planets.

The UK has managed to get one of its major Antarctic bases operating in an automatic mode for the first time.

Halley base, on the Brunt Ice Shelf, is remotely running experiments that include the monitoring of the ozone layer and of “space weather”.

The station would normally be crewed year-round, even through the permanent darkness of winter.

But staff have had to be withdrawn because of uncertainty over the stability of nearby ice.

A giant berg the size of Greater London is about to break away from the Brunt, and officials from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) consider it prudent to keep people away from the area, at least until the light and warmth of summer returns.

That’s prompted the UK’s polar research agency to develop an innovative set-up that can continue the station’s priority science activities in what is now the third winter shutdown on the trot.

(20) TOOL FOR SF WRITERS? BBC unpacks “The simple rule that can help you predict the future”. Note Le Guin quote near end, and signup for Forecast Challenge at the top.

What will remain in 100 years’ time of the city or town where you were born: which landmarks or buildings? What about in 500 years? The controversial author Nassim Nicholas Taleb offers a counter-intuitive rule-of-thumb for answering questions like this. If you want to know how long something non-perishable will endure – that is, something not subject to the limits of a natural lifespan – then the first question you should ask is how long it has already existed. The older it is, the more likely it is to go on surviving.

…The logic of Taleb’s argument is simple. Because the only judge that matters when it comes to the future is time, our only genuinely reliable technique for looking ahead is to ask what has already proved enduring: what has shown fitness and resilience in the face of time itself, surviving its shocks and assaults across decades, centuries or millennia. The Tower of London may seem modest in comparison to the Shard skyscraper – which sits across the Thames at 11 times the height – but it has also proved its staying power across 94 times as many years. The Shard may be iconic and imposing, but its place in history is far from assured. When it comes to time, the older building looms larger.

(21) MUPPET HISTORY. DefunctTV: Jim Henson is a six-part series chronicling the life and works of the man behind the Muppet mayhem. Here’s the first of four installments.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/16/19 You Always File The Pixels You Love, The Ones You Shouldn’t File At All

(1) FOR MY FATHER…AND FOR ALL OUR FATHERS. It’s a good day to reread Steve Vertlieb’s Father’s Day tribute to his dad — “My Father/Myself” (from 2017).

Here is a very special Father’s Day tribute that I wrote for my beloved dad, Charles Vertlieb. I hope that you’ll find it moving. Happy Father’s Day in Heaven, Dad. I love you, and I miss you more and more with every passing day.

And I also returned to the late James H. Burns’ “My Father and the Brontosaurus”

… The first dinosaurs we would have shared must have been at the New York World’s Fair in 1965, in Flushing Meadows, Queens (where the baseball Mets still play).  In the second, and final year of that unparalleled spectacular’s existence, we saw Dinoland,  Sinclair Oil’s famous “dinosaur garden.” (A small plastic stegosaurus soon became one of my prized possessions).

(2) NEW NEW NEW! Coca-Cola is the sponsor of today’s practically daily Stranger Things tie-in commercial. New Coke may go better with popcorn than on it.

(3) ADVICE FROM THE MASTER. Screencraft published a collection of “31 Must-Read Screenwriting Lessons From The Twilight Zone Creator Rod Serling” in 2016.

… Here we go to the great one for his wise advice on writing. We’ll elaborate on some of his most famous quotes on the subject to showcase how screenwriters can apply the wisdom to their screenwriting art and craft….

4. “You see. No shock. No engulfment. No tearing asunder. What you feared would come like an explosion is like a whisper. What you thought was the end is the beginning.”

Screenwriters wait and wait for that big inspirational moment to come, often leading to endless months and months of waiting. Sometimes years. The best ideas come like a whisper in the night. It could be a single visual, a single line of dialogue, a single moment, a single character trait or arc, etc. Don’t wait for some big explosion of inspiration. Listen.

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 16, 1894 Mahlon Blaine. Illustrator whose largely of interest here for his work on the covers of the Canaveral Press editions in 1962 of some Edgar Rice Burroughs editions. He told Gershon Legman who would put together The Art of Mahlon Blaine “that he designed the 1925 film, The Thief of Bagdad, but Arrington says that his name doesn’t appear in any of the published credits.” He also claimed to have worked on Howard Hawks’ Scarface, but IMDB has no credits for him. (Died 1964.)
  • Born June 16, 1896 Murray Leinster. It is said that he wrote  and published more than fifteen hundred short stories and articles, fourteen movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays. Among those was his 1945 Hugo winning novella “First Contact” which is one of the first (if not the first) instances of a universal translator in science fiction. So naturally his heirs sued Paramount Pictures over Star Trek: First Contact, claiming that it infringed their trademark in the term. However, the suit was dismissed. I’m guessing they filed just a bit late. (Died 1975.)
  • Born June 16, 1920 T.E. Dikty. In 1947, Dikty joined Shasta Publishers as managing editor. With E. F. Bleiler he started the first Best of the Year SF anthologies, called The Best Science Fiction, that ran from 1949 until 1957. He was posthumously named to the First Fandom Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the 71st World Science Fiction Convention. (Died 1991.)
  • Born June 16, 1939 David McDaniel. He wrote but one non-media tie-in novel, The Arsenal Out of Time, but most of his work was writingThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. novels, six in total, with one, The Final Affair, which was supposed to wrap up the series but went unpublished due to declining sales but which circulated among fandom. He also wrote a Prisoner novel, Who is Number 2? (Died 1977.)
  • Born June 16, 1940 Carole Ann Ford, 79. Best known for her roles as Susan Foreman in Doctor Who, and as Bettina in The Day of the Triffids. Ford appeared in the one-off 50th-anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born June 16, 1958 Isobelle Carmody, 61. Australian writer best known for her Obernewtyn Chronicles which she began at age fourteen. She’s rather prolific with I count at least twenty four novel and three short story collections to date. 
  • Born June 16, 1972 Andy Weir, 47. His debut novel, The Martian, was later adapted into a film of the same name directed by Ridley Scott. He received the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Artemis, his second novel, has been optioned as a film.

(5) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro devises emoticons for aliens.

(6) BY POPULAR DEMAND. Is there someone who hasn’t sent me a link to this photo?

(7) GETTING WITH THE PROGRAM. The Verge’s Adi Robertson says “Neal Stephenson’s Fall is Paradise Lost with brain uploading and weaponized fake news”.

Like many Stephenson novels, Fall features a huge, multigenerational — and in this case, periodically reincarnated — cast of characters. But at its center is Richard “Dodge” Forthrast, an aging game company CEO and protagonist of Stephenson’s earlier novel Reamde.

The broad strokes of the story: Dodge dies during a routine medical procedure, and his consciousness is uploaded to a quantum computer. This digital Dodge (known as Egdod) slowly gains self-awareness and constructs a mystical space called Bitworld, presiding over a growing number of newly uploaded “souls.” But the wealthy transhumanist Elmo “El” Shepherd is furious that Dodge has seemingly recreated an old, regrettably human social system. He throws Dodge out of his own paradise, setting up a power struggle that will shake Bitworld’s very foundations.

(8) CHUCKY’S BACK. NME tells why everyone should “Watch Snoop Dogg’s hilarious review of the ‘Child’s Play’ reboot”

The Child’s Play reboot is out in cinemas next week, and it’s already gotten the seal of approval from the one and only Snoop Dogg.

The rapper’s not one to mince his words, whether he’s reacting to the Game of Thrones finale or American president Donald Trump. So naturally, his quick-fire review of the new Chucky film, in a short clip for his Hot Box Office show on VH1, was filled with puns and quips.

(9) SCOUTING PARTY. Links to a cornucopia of recent reviews at Todd Mason’s Sweet Freedom: “Friday’s ‘Forgotten Books’ and more: the links to reviews 14 June 2019. (Reviewer’s name comes first, followed by title and author of work.)

  • Patricia Abbott: Landscape with Fragmented Figures by Jeff Vande Zande
  • Hepzibah Anderson and John O’Neill: Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
  • Pritpaul Bains: The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
  • Brian Bigelow: Journey through a Lighted Room by Margaret Parton
  • Les Blatt: A Knife for Harry Dodd by George Bellairs
  • Joachim Boaz: Seconds by David Ely; Daybreak on a Different Mountain by Colin Greenland 
  • John Boston: Amazing: Fact and Science Fiction Stories, July 1964, edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli
  • Ben Boulden: A Talent for Killing (including Deadman’s Game) by Ralph Dennis
  • Brian Busby: The Black Donnellys by Thomas P. Kelley
  • Martin Edwards: Goodbye, Friend by Sébastien Japrisot (translated by Patricia Allen Dreyfus)
  • Peter Enfantino: Atlas (pre-Marvel) horror comics: June 1952
  • Peter Enfantino and Jack Seabrook: DC war comics, February 1975
  • Will Errickson: In a Lonely Place and Why Not You and I? by Karl Edward Wagner
  • José Ignacio Escribano: Maigret in Vichy by Georges Simenon (translated by Ros Schwartz)
  • Curtis Evans: Who wrote which of the “Patrick Quentin”/”Q. Patrick”/”Jonathan Stagge” novels
  • Olman Feelyus: Horizon by Helen MacInnes
  • Paul Fraser: Famous Fantastic Mysteries, August 1946, edited by Mary Gnaedinger (The Twenty-Fifth Hour by Herbert Best and a short story by Bram Stoker); The Great SF Stories 11 (1949) edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
  • John Grant: Summer of the Big Bachi by Naomi Hirahara; Silk by Alessandro Barrico (translated by Guido Waldman)
  • Aubrey Hamilton: The Cat Screams by Todd Downing
  • Rich Horton: Kate Wilhelm short fiction; The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman
  • Jerry House: Three by Kuttner by Henry Kuttner (edited and introduced by Virgil Utter)
  • Kate Jackson: The Strange Case of Harriet Hall by “Moray Dalton” (Katherine Dalton Renoir)
  • Tracy K: The Dusty Bookcase by Brian Busby
  • Colman Keane: Snout by Tim Stevens
  • George Kelley: The Golden Age of Science Fiction by John Wade; Best Seller: A Century of America’s Favorite Books by Robert McParland
  • Joe Kenney: Hickey & Boggs by Philip Rock (from the script by Walter Hill); Revenge at Indy by “Larry Kenyon” (Lew Louderback)
  • Rob Kitchin: London Rules by Mick Herron
  • Kate Laity: “Rabbit in a Trap” by Sandra Seamans
  • B. V. Lawson: The Saint in Europe by Leslie Charteris; Exeunt Murderers: The Best Mystery Stories of Anthony Boucher by “Anthony Boucher” (William White)
  • Fritz Leiber: “Try and Change the Past” (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1958, edited by John W. Campbell, Jr.)
  • Evan Lewis: A Badge for a Badman by “Brian Wynne” (Brian Garfield)
  • Steve Lewis: The Dark Kiss by Donald Enefer; Joy Houseby “Day Keene” (Gunard Hjertstedt) 
  • John F. Norris: The Sealed Room Murder by Michael Crombie
  • Matt Paust: The Everrumble by Michelle Elvy
  • James Reasoner: Tall, Dark and Dead by Kermit Jaediker
  • Richard Robinson: Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein
  • Janet Rudolph: Crime Fiction for Father’s Day
  • Gerard Saylor: Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke 
  • Steven H Silver: Heavy Metal magazine, edited by Sean Kelly, Valerie Merchant, Ted White et al.
  • Kerrie Smith: A High Mortality of Doves by Kate Ellis
  • Duane Spurlock: Santa Fe Passage by “Clay Fisher” (Henry Wilson Allen)
  • Kevin Tipple: Oregon Hill by Howard Owen
  • “TomCat”: Damning Trifles by Maurice C. Johnson 
  • Matthew Wurtz: Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1954, edited by H. L. Gold

(10) THAT’S CAT. ScreenRant invites you to step inside the pitch meeting that led to 2004’s Catwoman!

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

Pixel Scroll 6/6/19 Scroll Me Some Pixels And File Hacks, I Don’t Care If I Never Get Back

(1) F&SF COVER. Gordon Van Gelder, publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, shares a preview of their July/Aug. 2019 cover. The cover art is by Mondolithic Studios.

(2) RANKING SPACE OPERA. The readers of Discover Sci-Fi voted these as “The Top 10 Space Opera books or series of all time”. Coming in first place —

1. Honor Harrington series by David Weber

And the number one, all time best space opera as selected by DiscoverSciFi readers is the Honor Harrington series! Otherwise known as The Honorverse, most of the more than 20 novels and anthology collections cover events between 4000 and 4022 AD. Much of the series’ political drama follows that of Europe’s political scene from the 1500’s to 2000’s.

(3) PRIDE MONTH. Tor.com invites readers to celebrate with free novellas: “Happy Pride Month! Download These 4 Free LGBTQ+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novellas Before June 8!”

Download In Our Own Worlds now, featuring:

  • The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion by Margaret Killjoy
  • Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
  • The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

(4) SUPER JOB. LAist interview Mark Waid about “How To Become A Comic Book Writer In LA: From A Legendary Superman Writer”.

STEP 2: BUILD A NETWORK

Waid attributes getting the chance to write comics to dumb luck. But there was also a lot of hard work. He started his career at Fantagraphics in Thousand Oaks, doing editing, layout, and other production on comic book fan magazine Amazing Heroes.

He also had the chance to write for the magazine, doing interviews that he described as puff pieces — but discovered that he was inadvertently networking, since he was now in touch with every editor and creator in comics.

When an editorial position opened up at DC Comics in 1987, he was known there for his work in those fan magazines.

“Was I interested in coming in for an interview? Well, yes. Jesus, yes,” Waid said.

(5) DRAINING THE SWAMP. At this DC they really did it — “‘Swamp Thing’ Canceled Less Than a Week After DC Universe Debut” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Just six days after its debut on DC Universe, Swamp Thing has been canceled.

Only one episode of the series has aired on DC Universe. The remainder of the show’s 10-episode run will play out on the streaming platform, but it won’t return after that. 

(6) IF YOU WILL. In “The Race to Venus”, Nature reviews the initiatives to explore Venus.

After decades of neglect, the world’s space agencies can no longer resist the pull of Earth’s evil twin.

…Venus is Earth’s double. Recent research has even suggested that it might have looked like Earth for three billion years, with vast oceans that could have been friendly to life. “That’s what sets my imagination

on fire,” says Darby Dyar, a planetary scientist at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. “If that’s the case, there was plenty of time for evolution to kick into action.” That could mean that Venus was (somewhat surprisingly) the first habitable planet in the Solar System — a place where life was just as likely to arise as it was on Earth. That alone is a reason to return to the former ocean world.

(7) LEAVING MEATSPACE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Nature this week reviews an SF novel in a substantive way – we perhaps get a full page SF novel a review once a year or twice if we are lucky.  Up this time is Neil Stephenson’s new novel Fall. “A digital god: Neal Stephenson rides again”

Neal Stephenson likes to blow things up. In Seveneves (2015), for instance, the prolific science-fiction writer detonated the Moon, then played out how humanity tried to save itself from extinction. In his new tome, Fall, the metaphorical explosion kills just one man.  But this is an individual sitting on a few billion dollars, and longing to escape the shackles of mortality. The aftermath of the blast is thus just as powerful, and changes the fate of humanity just as profoundly.

(8) NASA COLLECTIBLES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This Orion appears to be a spacecraft, rather than the boom-boom drive discussed in a recent scroll; submitted here for the souvenir-turtles (1) aspect: “Orion Collectibles”.

(1) If you don’t recognize the Heinlein reference, you won’t be gathering moss. Or syng pngf, aka Zamboni’d credentials.

(9) BEGIN AGAIN. The American Scholar’s George Musser weighs in on the future of the space program: “Our Fate Is in the Stars”.

…In space, no one can hear your echo chamber. Those who worked on Apollo were not immune to human foibles, such as being a little too fond of their own reasoning, but the mission came first. Fishman recalls disputes over the mission plan. Engineers in Huntsville wanted to fly directly from Earth orbit to the lunar surface. Engineers in Houston wanted to use lunar orbit as a way station. The meetings got heated. NASA commissioned two studies, with the twist that each team had to flesh out the other’s plan. Making the engineers step into each other’s shoes unstuck the debate, and Huntsville came around to Houston’s approach. That one decision ended up saving billions of dollars.

But as much as the Apollo program inspires, it also taunts. The unity of purpose, the technological virtuosity, and the exploratory achievements seem beyond us today—not just in space, but in every domain. I almost wish we didn’t remember Apollo, because the remembrances fill a void. The space program still does amazing things, but nothing like Apollo. The world has made itself a safer and healthier place, but some problems demand direction from the top, and we don’t get much of that.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 6, 1853 Charles Howard Hinton. British mathematician and writer of SF works titled Scientific Romances. He’s largely known now for coining the word “tesseract” which would get used by writers as diverse as Charles  Leadbeater, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Heinlein and  Madeleine L’Engle. He and his, errr, unique family would in turn figure into the fiction of Alan Moore, Carlos Atanes, Aleister Crowley, John Dewy and Jorge Luis Borges. (Died 1907.)
  • Born June 6, 1915 Tom Godwin. He published three novels and twenty-seven short stories in total. SFWA selected his story, “The Cold Equations”, as one of the best SF short stories published before 1965, and it is therefore included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964. (Died 1980.)
  • Born June 6, 1947 Robert Englund, 72. I think his best performance was as Blackie on the very short-lived Nightmare Cafe. Of course, most will remember him playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. He actually appeared in a couple of now forgotten horror films, Dead & Buried  and Galaxy of Terror, before landing that role. And he’s continued to do myriad horror films down to the years ranging from CHUD to Strippers vs Werewolves. Versatile man, our Robert.  
  • Born June 6, 1951 Geraldine McCaughrean, 68. Fifteen years ago, she wrote Peter Pan in Scarlet, the official sequel to Peter Pan commissioned by Great Ormond Street Hospital, the holder of Peter Pan’s copyright which J.M. Barrie granted them. So has anyone here read it? 
  • Born June 6, 1959 Amanda Pays, 60. I first encountered her as Thero Jones on Max Headroom, a series I think could be considered the best SF series ever made. She also had a guest role as Phoebe Green in the episode “Fire” of The X-Files, and and as Christina “Tina” McGee in The Flash. She appeared as Dawn in the Spacejacked film. 
  • Born June 6, 1961 Lisabeth Shatner, 58. Uncredited as child along with her sister Melanie in “Miri” episode. Also appeared uncredited on TekWar entitled “Betrayal” which she wrote. The latter also guest-starred her sister, and was directed by their father.  Co-wrote with father, Captain’s Log: William Shatner’s Personal Account of the Making of Star Trek V the Final Frontier.
  • Born June 6, 1963 Jason Isaacs, 56. Captain Gabriel Lorca, the commanding officer of the USS Discovery in the first season of Discovery and also provided the voice of The Inquisitor, Sentinel, in Star Wars Rebels, and Admiral Zhao in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Oh, and the role of playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film franchise.
  • Born June 6, 1964 Jay Lake. Another one who died far too young. If you read nothing else by him, read his brilliant Mainspring Universe series. Though his Green Universe is also entertaining and I see Wiki claims an entire Sunspin Universe series is forthcoming from him. Anyone know about these novels? (Died 2014.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Love of books features in Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics:

(12) WW84. On Twitter, Patty Jenkins posted a photo of Gal Gadot’s snappy new costume for Wonder Woman 1984.

(13) GO WITH THE FLOW. Tor.com shows Sparth’s cover for the third book in the series — ”Revealing John Scalzi’s The Last Emperox. (Coming in April 2020.)

The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems—and billions of people—are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. This collapse was foretold through scientific prediction… and yet, even as the evidence is obvious and insurmountable, many still try to rationalize, delay and profit from, these final days of one of the greatest empires humanity has ever known.

(14) CAT TUBE. Science Direct has an article on “The use of animal-borne cameras to video-track the behaviour of domestic cats”.

…Free roaming domestic animals can have a profound effect on wildlife. To better understand and mitigate any impact, it is important to understand the behaviour patterns of the domestic animals, and how other variables might influence their behaviour. Direct observation is not always feasible and bears the potential risk of observer effects. The use of animal-borne small video-cameras provides the opportunity to study behaviour from the animal’s point of view….

A nontechnical article about the study in the Washington Post makes it sound like their effect isn’t as profound as advertised: “Catcam videos reveal cats don’t sleep all day. (Just some of it.)”

Indoors, Huck said, most cats’ No. 1 activity would almost certainly be sleeping. But these cats’ lives were recorded when they were outdoors, and they had a higher priority: Their top activity was “resting” — not sleeping, but not exactly up and at ’em. Another preferred pastime was “exploring,” which Huck said amounts to “sniffing at plants or things.”

Although “cats are famous for being lazy,” Huck said, even their alfresco resting was active, if subtly so. The cat’s-eye-view videos revealed many instances of felines sitting for some time in one spot, but “constantly scanning the area,” as evidenced by faint shifts in the camera angle — left to right, up and down.

“They are really very patiently watching the environment, not wasting energy,” Huck said.

(15) THE SOON TO BE LATE AUTHOR. You’ll need to hurry. In LA, it’s opening weekend for “The Assassination of Edgar Allan Poe” at the Downtown Repertory Theater. Tickets for Poe on June 7th, 7:30pm are $25 (discount)

(16) RETRO REVIEWS. Steve J. Wright has completed his Retro Hugo Novelette finalist reviews.

Novelette

(17) DRACULA’S BALLS. You didn’t know he lost them? Well, strictly speaking, “Dracula the Impaler’s 15th century cannonballs unearthed in Bulgaria”SYFY Wire’s has the story.

According to a report in Archaeology in Bulgaria, the balls were “most likely” used by Count Vlad in the winter of 1461-1462 during his “siege and conquest” of the Zishtova Fortress being held by the Ottoman Turks. The balls were used for culverins, an early, primitive form of the cannon.  

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

Pixel Scroll 6/5/19 En Pixel Cerrado, No Entran Scrolls.

(1) THE LAST DAY. Macmillan Publishers is moving from the Flatiron to the Equitable Building and taking Tor.com with it. Seanan McGuire commemorates the departure in her story “Any Way the Wind Blows”.

“Captain?”

I turn. Our navigator is looking over his shoulder at me. Well. One of his heads is. The other is still watching the curved window that makes up the front of our airship, crystal clear and apparently fragile. Most people who attack us aim for that window first, not asking themselves how many protections we’d put on a sheet of glass that size. The fact that it’s not a solid mass of bugs doesn’t seem to be the clue it should.

“What is it?”

He smiles uncertainly. “I think I see the Flatiron.”

Tor Books also posted a group shot taken outside the building here.

(2) PITT THE YOUNGER SEEKS PITT THE ELDER. Ad Astra comes to theaters in September 2019.

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system when he finds his missing father, played by Tommy Lee Jones, has been doing threatening experiments in space. He must unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.

(3) FROM DEEP IN THE FILES. Baen Ebooks is distributing the English translation of a nonfiction work Judgment in Moscow by Vladimir Bukovsky on its retail ebook site, as well as offering a selection of other ebooks from Judgment in Moscow publisher, Ninth of November Press.

Bukovsky spent years in the Soviet gulag, finally being released to the West in 1976. In 1991, Boris Yeltsin’s government asked Bukovsky to serve as an expert witness at a possible trial of the Communist Party. Bukovsky combed through the archives, scanning and copying much of the material there, and, after the trial became a dud, smuggled the material out of Russia. Judgment in Moscow is a behind the scenes look at these original documents which detail how the Soviet leadership and the Communist Party kept the Russian nation enslaved, accompanied by Bukovsky’s commentary elucidating the extent of the evil recorded therein.

Judgment in Moscow is based on the trove of Communist Party archives that Bukovsky spirited away before access was shut down. These contain elaborate details of Soviet meddling in Western politics, and it also details Western complicity in Soviet Russia’s program of totalitarian oppression. Originally written in Russian, Judgment in Moscow was seen as a major indictment of political treachery both inside and outside the USSR.

Baen’s press release says:

Western publishers, including Random House in America, backed down from publishing an English translation out of what appears in hindsight cowardice and fear of offending the emerging new Russian oligarchy. Now after years with no translation available, a new English version has finally been created with Bukovsky’s wholehearted participation.

(4) THE HITS OF SIXTY-FOUR. At Galactic Journey, Cora Buhlert details the unexpected popularity in West Germany of movies adapted from the crime novels of Edgar Wallace – someone better remembered in America as the creator of King Kong. [June 4, 1964] Weird Menace and Villainy in the London Fog: The West German Edgar Wallace Movies.

…Wallace villains are never just ordinary criminals, but run improbably large and secretive organisations with dozens of henchmen. At least one of the henchmen is deformed or flat out insane, played either by former wrestler Ady Berber or a charismatic young actor named Klaus Kinski, who gave the performance of his life as a mute and insane animal handler in last year’s The Squeaker.

The crimes are extremely convoluted, usually involve robberies, blackmail or inheritance schemes and are always motivated by greed. Murder methods are never ordinary and victims are dispatched via harpoons, poison blow guns, guillotines or wild animals. The villains inevitably have strange monikers such as the Frog, the Shark, the Squeaker, the Avenger, the Green Archer or the Black Abbot and often wear a costume to match. Their identity is always a mystery and pretty much every character comes under suspicion until the big reveal at the end. And once the mask comes off, the villain is inevitably revealed to be a staunch pillar of society and often a member of Sir John’s club.

(5) GLORIOUS COVER. Alex Shvartsman posted a cover reveal for his debut novel, Eridani’s Crown. It’s a beauty.

The full wraparound cover was drawn and designed by Tomasz Maronski.

(6) HE’S IN THE HALL. SYFY Wire reveals “Batman first inductee to Comic-Con HOF”.

Holy Hall of Fame, Batman! The Caped Crusader is robbin’ all the other comic book superheroes to seize the illustrious distinction of becoming the very first inductee into the new Comic-Con Museum’s inaugural class of honored comics characters.

The Dark Knight will hold the door for all the rest of the museum’s first, still-unannounced heroic batch, DC revealed in a press release announcing “The Gathering,” a July fundraising event for the new museum. Located near the site of San Diego Comic-Con in the city’s Balboa Park, the Comic-Con Museum (or CCM) will be a 68,000-square-foot shrine to all things heroic and villainous, drawing on decades of rich history from the pages of comics, graphic novels, and more.

“On the occasion of Batman’s 80th anniversary, a ceremony honoring DC’s most popular super hero will be the centerpiece” of the July 17 event, which is timed to help kick off this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

(7) DARK PHOENIX. On Jimmy Kimmel Live, Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, Nicholas Hoult and Tye Sheridan talk about making Dark Phoenix together and reveal some of their on-set antics.

(8) FINANCIAL OMENS. Our Designated Financial Times Reader Martin Morse Wooster peered behind the paywall at Dan Einav’s interview with Michael Sheen and David Tennant about Good Omens.

Stars are usually personally held accountable when a series fails to meet the expectations of the fans–and lovers of fantasy and sci-fi are often notoriously implacable,  To say that a screen adaptation of “Good Omens” has been hotly anticipated is to understate the extent of the fervour Gaiman’s devotees have for his work.

Do the actors feel anxious about a potential backlash?  ‘I read the book when it first came outm so I’m one of those fans and I’ve felt the weight of expectation,’ says Sheen.  “But Neil has said all the way through that he’s not making it for the fans, he’s making it for Terry.”

Tennant, who is no stranger to opinionated fans from his days as Doctor Who, is a little more blunt,  ‘You can’t make TV which pleases what people’s preconceived notions might be.  You just have to make something you feel proud of and works for people who haven’t read the book.

(9) WHERE IS EVERYBODY? Likewise behind a paywall, at Commentary, astrophysicist Ethan Siegel argues in “Are We Alone In The Universe?” that the likelihood there is life elsewhere in the universe is vanishingly small.

When we ask the big question–where is everybody?–it’s worth keeping a great many possibilities in mind.  Aliens might be plentiful, but perhaps we’re not listening properly.  Aliens might be plentiful, but they might self-destruct too quickly to maintain a technologically advanced state.  Aliens might be plentiful, but they may choose to remain isolated.  Aliens might be plentiful, but they might purposely choose to exclude Earth and their inhabitants from their communications.  Aliens might be plentiful, but the problems of interstellar travel might be too difficult to overcome.

But there’s another valid possibility that we must keep in mind, as well:  Aliens may not be there at all.  The probability of the three vital leaps, as described above, is enormously uncertain.  If even one of these three steps is too cosmically impossible, it may well be that in all the universe, there’s only us.

(10) BRADBURY REMEMBERED. [Item by Robert Kerr.] “Ray died 7 years ago today. I know he’d like to be remembered, but he’d like to be remembered with joy. Among Ray’s many accomplishments was writing the script for the Epcot attraction Spaceship Earth. This picture was taken in 1982 at the opening of Epcot. Ray took a bus or train to get to Florida, but he had to get back to L.A. faster than a bus or train could get there. Ray was a self-proclaimed coward who didn’t conquer fears very well. He never drove a car his entire life, and at 62 he was going to get on a plane for the first time. He said they put a bunch of martinis in him and loaded him onto the plane. To commemorate the occasion of Ray’s first time on a plane, some Disney animators drew a piece showing Ray on a plane, martini in hand, with Mickey Mouse sitting next to him. Ray kept that piece on display in his study for the rest of his life.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 5, 1908 John Russell Fearn. British author and one of the first British writers to appear in American pulp magazines. A prolific author, he also published novels as Vargo Statten and with various pseudonyms such as Thornton Ayre, Polton Cross, Geoffrey Armstrong  and others. As himself, I see his first story as being The Intelligence Gigantic published in Amazing Stories in 1933. His Golden Amazon series of novels ran to over to two dozen titles, and the Clayton Drew Mars Adventure series that only ran to four novels. (Died 1960.)
  • Born June 5, 1928 Robert Lansing. He was secret agent Gary Seven in the “Assignment: Earth” on Star Trek. The episode was a backdoor pilot for a series that would have starred Lansing and Teri Garr, but the series never happened.  He of course appeared on other genre series such as The Twilight ZoneJourney to the Unknown, Thriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1994.)
  • Born June 5, 1946 John Bach, 73. Einstein on Farscape, the Gondorian Ranger Madril in the second and third movies of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Also a British body guard on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. And he was the body double for shooting for Saruman in place of Christopher Lee, who was unable to fly to New Zealand for principal photography on The Hobbit film series
  • Born June 5, 1960 Margo Lanagan, 59. Tender Morsels won a World Fantasy Award for best novel, and Sea-Hearts won the same for Best Novella. She’s an alumna of the Clarion West Writers Workshop In 1999 and returned as a teacher in 2011 and 2013.
  • Born June 5, 1976 Lauren Beukes, 43. South African writer who’s the author of a number of SF novels. Zoo City won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award, The Shining City, about a time travel serial killer and the woman who catches him, is being adapted as a series in South Africa, and Moxyland is a cyberpunk novel set in a future Cape Town.  Very impressive! 

(12) WHO WRITER OUSTED FROM ANTHOLOGY. Gareth Roberts has been “dropped from an upcoming Doctor Who anthology over ‘offensive’ transphobic tweets” BBC Books has confirmed.

Parent company Ebury confirmed that Roberts’ contribution to Doctor Who: The Target Storybook, will not feature….

Ebury’s decision to drop Roberts over his tweets, which it says conflicts with its “values as a publisher”, has sparked debate on social media.

Gareth Roberts defends and explains himself and the terminology he used in a “Statement on BBC Books and Transgenderism” on Medium.

(13) CURRENCY EVENTS. In “If We Told You Neal Stephenson Invented Bitcoin, Would You Be Surprised?” on Reason.com, Peter Suderman says, in a survey of Stephenson’s novels, says that in The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon, Stephenson “described the core concepts of cryptocurrency years before Bitcoin became a technical reality.”

For nearly three decades, Stephenson’s novels have displayed an obsessive, technically astute fascination with cryptography, digital currency, the social and technological infrastructure of a post-government world, and Asian culture. His novel Anathem is, among other things, an elaborate investigation into the philosophy of knowledge. His new book, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, pursues these themes literally beyond the grave, into the complications of estate planning and cryogenics.

(14) CALLING LONG DISTANCE. Drop by the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum between now and January 12, 2020 to see the phone he used to call the Moon in the interactive exhibit Apollo 11: One Giant Leap for Mankind.

Artifacts and objects featured in the exhibit include:

  • Buzz Aldrin’s penlight used in the Lunar Module and Apollo 11 patch worn on the surface of the moon
  • NASA X-15 silver-gleaming pressure suit used to train Neil Armstrong and America’s first astronauts in the 1950s
  • Moon rocks from the lunar surface, acquired during the Apollo 15 and Apollo 17 missions
  • Oval Office telephone that President Nixon used to call Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they explored on the lunar surface
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom Award presented to astronaut Michael Collins by President Nixon
  • Original of President Nixon’s draft speech prepared in the event of a “moon disaster”
  • A 3-D printed, life-sized statue of Neil Armstrong in his space suit, as he climbed down the ladder of the Lunar Module on the moon
  • A giant, exact recreation of an Apollo mission command module

(15) HUGO CONTENDERS. Garik16 progresses with “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: Best Short Story “.

6th Place On My Ballot:.  “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)

This Story can be found HERE.

Thoughts:  This story won the Nebula Award, and I don’t think it’s a bad pick for the award, which is a testament to the strength of this ballot.  It’s a fantasy story about nine slaves’ lives and hopes, with the teeth taken from them as the gateway to their stories (and the effects of those teeth on George Washington) – with those slaves’ lives having various degrees of fantasy elements, all fitting the themes of those realistic slave-lives.  Still, I think it probably works the least of these six as a cohesive whole, even if the individual parts of this story are excellently done (with the final part reclaiming the supposedly noble action of Washington to free his slaves on his deathbed, in a really nice touch).

(16) NOT EXACTLY THE BURNING BUSH. NPR discusses the means of “Getting Fire From A Tree Without Burning The Wood”.

A scientist walks up to a cottonwood tree, sticks a hollow tube in the middle and then takes a lighter and flicks it. A jet of flame shoots out from the tube.

It seems like a magician’s trick. Turns out, there’s methane trapped in certain cottonwood trees. Methane is the gas in natural gas. It’s also a powerful greenhouse gas.

So how does it get inside towering trees like the ones on the campus of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee?

“The wood in this particular species naturally has this condition called wetwood, where it’s saturated within the trunk of the tree,” says the lighter-flicking scientist, Oak Ridge environmental microbiologist Christopher Schadt.

This wetwood makes for a welcoming home for all sorts of microorganisms.

…Some of those organisms turned out to be species of archaea that are known methane producers. So it’s not the trees themselves that are making the methane, it’s the microbes living in the trees.

…Because methane is such a potent greenhouse gas, Cregger says, it’s important to see how much of it the trees are actually producing.

This raises the surprising notion that trees could actually be contributing to global warming. Yes, these trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but could the methane be making things worse?

(17) CLARKE’S FOURTH LAW? BBC wonders “Does pornography still drive the internet?”.

Consider the opening lines of The Internet is for Porn, a song from the Broadway musical Avenue Q.

Kate Monster: “The internet is really, really great.”

Trekkie Monster: “For porn!”

…Credible-seeming statistics suggest that about one in seven web searches is for porn. This is not trivial – but of course it means that six in seven web searches are not.

The most-visited porn website – Pornhub – is roughly as popular as the likes of Netflix and LinkedIn. That’s pretty popular but still only enough to rank 28th in the world when I checked.

But Avenue Q was first performed in 2003, an age ago in internet terms, and Trekkie Monster might have been more correct back then.

New technologies often tend to be expensive and unreliable. They need to find a niche market of early adopters, whose custom helps the technology to develop.

Once it is cheaper and more reliable, it finds a bigger market, and a much broader range of uses.

There is a theory that pornography played this role in the development of the internet, and a whole range of other technologies. Does it stack up?

(18) GIMME THAT REAL OLD-TIME RELIGION. Beer helps: “How Iceland recreated a Viking-age religion”.

The Ásatrú faith, one of Iceland’s fastest growing religions, combines Norse mythology with ecological awareness – and it’s open to all.

…The ‘blót’, as the changing-of-the-season ceremony is known, began with the lighting of a small fire, which flickered in the breeze as the congregation listened to Old Norse poetry and raised the beer-filled horn to honour the Norse gods. Elsewhere on the island, similar ceremonies, I was told, were taking place.

The blót had been organised by the Ásatrú Association of Iceland, a pagan faith group that is currently one of the country’s fastest growing religions, having almost quadrupled its membership in a decade, albeit from a low base of 1,275 people in 2009 to 4,473 in 2018.

The congregation, which comprised a few dozen souls, including a Buddhist and a Hindu guest, had gathered near a sandy beach on the outskirts of Reykjavik, next to the city’s domestic airport, to celebrate the first day of the Icelandic summer. It was 25 April, slightly chilly and mostly overcast. Rain looked likely….

(19) WITH WINTER COMES ICE. The whole Game of Thrones cast raps in A Song of Vanilla Ice and Fire – Game of Thrones x Ice Ice Baby.

[Thanks to Lenore Jean Jones, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 11/12/18 Could He Show Up In A Noodle-Poodle, Bottle-Beetle, Paddle-Battle, Pixle-Scroodle?

(1) FIRE MISSES DEL TORO’S “BLEAK HOUSE”. Unlike houses belonging to some other celebrities in the area, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s Bleak House has survived the Woolsey fire Remezcla reports:

Bleak House is not actually where del Toro lives (he lives nearby), but it is home to his collection of more than 700 pieces of art, props, and memorabilia. He has everything from concept sketches from Disney’s Fantasia to figures from his Blade 2 to a life-sized statue of Edgar Allan Poe. These serve as his inspiration from both his own films and the movies he hopes to make in the future. In 2016, del Toro let fans inside his Bleak House with a curated exhibit that traveled to museums around North America showing off some of his items. Looking at pictures from the collection you can almost imagine the inside of the fantastical and dark director’s mind.

Luckily, del Toro’s collection has been spared by the Woosley fire. He tweeted about returning to his home to find it still standing with only some minor smoke damage.

(2) FUTURE HISTORY. Professor James Davis Nicoll today lectures the class on “World States and Mega Empires in SF” at Tor.com.

How stable would a World State be, in practice? Sure, one could argue (and people have) that without external enemies there’s no particular reason for a world-spanning government to fall apart. That was the argument in A World Out of Time: the state controlled all the apparatus necessary to sustain Earth’s vast population, making rebellion suicidal.

The problem is that one can point to historic polities that managed to dissolve into independent regions without much help from the outside…

(3) BARBIE WHO? The Guardian disapproves: “Doctor Who Barbie: time-travelling back to the sexist 1970s”.

Name: Doctor Who Barbie.

Age: About a week old.

Appearance: Like Barbie, if she went to a Halloween party as the Doctor.

This is a doll we’re talking about, is it? Yes. The “Doctor Who Barbie doll is sculpted to the likeness of the 13th Doctor and comes dressed in her iconic look.”

What do you mean, iconic? These are not my words, but the words of the US manufacturer, Mattel. “Additional true-to-character details include Doctor Who Barbie doll’s signature suspenders and lace-up boots.”

I don’t remember any suspenders. Are they from a later, more risque episode? They mean braces – Americans!

(4) UNLEASH IMAGINATION AWARDS. The Arthur C. Clarke “Unleash Imagination” Awards were  presented November 8 in Washington, D.C. [Via Locus Online.]

  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Irwin Jacobs, Chairman of the Salk Institute, co-founder and former Chairman of Qualcomm, co-developer of CDMA, Philanthropist
  • Innovator Award – Jill Tarter, astronomer, Emeritus Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute, and seeker of the answer to “Are we alone?”
  • Imagination in Service to Society – Liu Cixin acclaimed author of The Three Body Problem and other science fiction works, winner of the Hugo and five Chinese Galaxy Awards

(5) ASTOUNDING AUTHOR IN PERSON. Alec Nevala-Lee will be appearing at two library events this week to discuss his new book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction:

  • Chicago

The Golden Age of Science Fiction with Alec Nevala-Lee and Gary K. Wolfe

Sulzer Regional Library (4455 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago)

Thursday, November 15

7-8pm

Join Alec Nevala-Lee, author of Astounding, and Gary K. Wolfe, critic and co-host of the science fiction podcast Coode Street, for an engaging discussion on the history and evolution of science fiction. (Note: The event is sponsored by One Book, One Chicago, which has chosen the science fiction classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick as this year’s selection.)

  • Oak Park

Astounding: Oak Park Author Alec Nevala-Lee

Oak Park Public Library (834 Lake St., Oak Park)

Sunday, November 18

2-4pm

Meet Oak Park author Alec Nevala-Lee and hear about his newly released book, Astounding. The Book Table will have books for sale and signing.

(6) DISNEY PIXAR. Disney has put up the first teaser trailer for Toy Story 4, where we learn about Forky the Spork! The movie comes to U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019.

Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.

 

(7) IT’S BEASTLY. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber says Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an “ultimately numbing sprawl that seems to drag on forever.” The BBC critic gives it 2/5 stars:

Considering that JK Rowling’s books have made several zillion pounds and her films have made several zillion more, it would take a lot of gall to read one of her screenplays and say, actually, could you cut 50 pages? But her latest ‘Wizarding World’ instalment, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, would have been improved if someone had said just that.

(8) WHEN BEZOS MET STEPHENSON. The cover story of the November WIRED is about Jeff Bezos’s efforts to fund private space exploration through his company Blue Origin: “Jeff Bezos Wants Us All to Leave Earth—for Good”. Writer Steven Levy says that Neal Stephenson was recruited for Bezos’s space exploration efforts very early —

Bezos went to Princeton, where he attended seminars led by O’Neill and became president of the campus chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. At one meeting, Bezos was regaling attendees with visions of hollowing out asteroids and transforming them into space arks when a woman leapt to her feet. “How dare you rape the universe!” she said, and stormed out. “There was a pause, and Jeff didn’t make a public comment,” says Kevin Polk, another member of the club. “But after things broke up, Jeff said, ‘Did she really defend the inalienable rights of barren rocks?’?”

After Princeton, Bezos put his energies toward finance, working at a hedge fund. He left it to move to Seattle and start Amazon. Not long after, he was seated at a dinner party with science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. Their conversation quickly left the bounds of Earth. “There’s sort of a matching game that goes on where you climb a ladder, figuring out the level of someone’s fanaticism about space by how many details they know,” Stephenson says. “He was incredibly high on that ladder.” The two began spending weekend afternoons shooting off model rockets.

In 1999, Stephenson and Bezos went to see the movie October Sky, about a boy obsessed with rocketry, and stopped for coffee afterward. Bezos said he’d been thinking for a long time about starting a space company. “Why not start it today?” Stephenson asked. The next year, Bezos incorporated a company called Blue Operations LLC. Stephenson secured space in a former envelope factory in a funky industrial area in south Seattle.

(9) LEE OBIT. Legendary comics creator Stan Lee died November 12 at the age of 95.

Great photo of Stan Lee writing in
his backyard in Hewlett Harbor, on the jury-rigged arrangement he worked out,
tables placed on top of one another. This is precisely how Lee wrote some of the most widely read words of fantasy in
the 1960s.

When Stan Lee was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2017 the citation read:

Stan Lee

One of the most influential comic book writers of all time, Stan Lee is responsible for the creation of numerous Marvel Comics characters including Spider-Man, Black Panther, and the X-Men. Born Stanley Martin Lieber, Lee began working as an assistant at Timely Comics when he was just seventeen and became the editor soon after, writing every style of comic from romance and westerns to horror. In 1961, while considering switching careers, Lee decided to take his wife’s advice and write a comics story to please himself. The story, about four people given superpowers after being exposed to cosmic rays, was called The Fantastic Four, and it began an era of unparalleled success for the newly renamed Marvel Comics. Lee’s creations captured fans’ imaginations through a combination of relatable characters and the idea of a shared universe inhabited by all of Marvel’s characters.

Lee’s characters and storylines have appeared across all types of media including animated series, video games, television shows, and the long-standing Marvel Cinematic Universe. A self-proclaimed frustrated actor, Lee has made a cameo in every Marvel film to date.

Hollywood celebrities including the leadership at Marvel and Disney paid tribute to his accomplishments in the Los Angeles Times obituary.

Marvel Comics and the Walt Disney Company honored Lee in a statement posted online Monday.

“Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created,” said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company. “A super hero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain, and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart.”

“No one has had more of an impact on my career and everything we do at Marvel Studios than Stan Lee,” tweeted Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios. “Stan leaves an extraordinary legacy that will outlive us all.”

File 770 readers saw Lee’s name in the news all the time for anything from his signature cologne to sharing the 2013 J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Awards with Ursula K. Le Guin and Ray Harryhausen (Lee’s acceptance was on video).

And everyone knows how he followed Alfred Hitchcock’s example by making a cameo appearance in every Marvel film. I have it on the authority of Christian B. McGuire that “For those of you who imagine there will be no more cameos for Stan, listen up! In Stan Lee’s contract it specifies that he will appear in ALL Marvel films in perpetuity. And that this contract MUST be accepted by anyone buying the Marvel universe. There’s enough video; image and sound, for the purveyors of Marvel Magic to synthesize him and put him in everything they make.” If someone feels like fact-checking that claim, help yourself.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 12, 1917  Dahlov Ipcar, Writer, Artist, and Illustrator. Though primarily an artist — and you really should go visit her website — she wrote three amazing young adult novels between 1969 and 1978, which are The Warlock of Night, The Que’en of Spells, and A Dark Horn Blowing. She lived but thirty miles north of here and I was privileged to meet her a few times. Lovely lady! A gallery of her fantastical works can be seen here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 12, 1929 Michael Ende, Writer from Germany who is best known for the novel The Neverending Story; it was turned into three adaptations, of which The Neverending Story was the first film — and certainly the best known version. The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter was the next version, and it is a sort of sequel to the first; I never saw the third, The NeverEnding Story III, but it apparently only uses the characters and has nothing to do with the tale itself. Momo, or The Strange Story of the Time-Thieves and the Child Who Brought the Stolen Time Back to the People as it translates in English, is a charming if strange novel worth your time. The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from  German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years, but unlike The Neverending Story and Momo, I’ve not read any of these. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 12, 1943Wallace Shawn. First genre appearance was in All That Jazz. Best known genre role is Vizzini in The Princess Bride but what would you put in second place? No doubt Grand Nagus Zek in Deep Space Nine but he has other performances to note including as Warren Hughes in Eureka, Van Helsing in Vamps and the voice of Gilbert Hugh in The Incredibles.
  • Born November 12, 1945 Michael Bishop, 73, Writer, Editor, Poet, and Critic whose Urban Nucleus series and Georgia Stories are especially popular. He has won two Nebulas along with Mythopoeic, Shirley Jackson, and Rhysling Awards, and his works have garnered a multitude of Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and British Science Fiction Award nominations. He was honored with Southern Fandom’s Phoenix Award, and has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention.
  • Born November 12, 1950 Michael Capobianco, 68, Writer and Linguist, author of several SFF novels and some shorter works who has made major contributions for the benefit of genre writers as a Past President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of SFWA. Currently, he is a member of several SFWA writers’ advocacy committees, and writes informational pieces for Writer Beware, a writing scam investigation and warning site created by his wife A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss. He and Crispin were joint recipients of the Service to SFWA Award in 2003.
  • Born November 12, 1973 Radha Mitchell, 45, Actor, Director, and Producer, who broke into genre film with a role as a kickass spaceship pilot in Pitch Black, then played the obsessed J.M. Barrie’s long-suffering wife in Finding Neverland. Other genre appearances include Silent Hill, Rogue, Surrogates, The Crazies, and The Darkness.
  • Born November 12, 1980 Ryan Gosling, 38, Oscar-nominated Actor, Director, and Producer who debuted at the age of 15 in Frankenstein and Me; other genre appearances include Stay, the Hugo-nominated and Oscar- and Saturn-winning Blade Runner 2049 (for which he also received a Saturn nomination), and his role as Neil Armstrong in First Man (we’ll ignore the ill-conceived Lost River, which he wrote, produced, and directed). He has also had guest roles on episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, Goosebumps, Flash Forward, Young Hercules, and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. For more on Baby Gooseman, see here.
  • Born November 12, 1982 Anne Hathaway, 36, Oscar-winning Actor of Stage and Screen and Producer who received Saturn nominations for her roles in The Dark Knight Rises and the Hugo finalist Interstellar, and appeared in Ella Enchanted, Get Smart, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, Passengers, Colossal, and the Ruritanian film series The Princess Diaries. Voice roles include parts in Hoodwinked!, The Cat Returns, the Rio films, and three episodes of The Simpsons.

(11) SPIDER-GWEN. The Comics Beat’s Joe Grunenwald asks the questions in this — “INTERVIEW: Seanan McGuire on writing SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST-SPIDER under the watchful eye of Marvel’s ‘snipers’”.

Grunenwald: Gwen is sort of having a Moment right now, too, between, obviously, the new series and then in other media there’s Marvel Rising and she’s going to be in the Into the Spider-Verse movie, so she’s got a higher profile now arguably that she’s ever had before. Has there been any pressure as a result of that, coming onto the character and having to keep that momentum going?

McGuire: My editors are amazing. I love them. And they hired me because they were reasonably sure I could keep that momentum going. Most of the pressure is internal. When you’re a novelist and represented by a literary agent, one of the first things they’ll do is sit you down and say, ‘Where do you see your career going?’ And this is because if you say ‘I want to be the next J.K. Rowling,’ they want to be ready to kind of talk you down. That’s the ‘No, no, honey, let’s be reasonable’ conversation.

When my agent sat me down for that conversation ten years ago, I said, “I want to write the X-Men.” And she went, ‘Excuse me?’ And I said, “I need you to make me famous enough that they will let me write the X-Men.’ So writing for Marvel is my life’s dream. This is what I’ve been working toward all this time, so there’s a huge amount of pressure but it’s all internal. I’m very aware that I’m making canon.

(12) TRANSFORMERS FANDOM. BBC covers “Transformers: Misfit robots and the women who love them”.

Over three decades Transformers has grown from a line of children’s toys to a media franchise encompassing film, TV and gaming. Perhaps its most radical spin-off though is a comic that has used wit and humanity to reach a new, diverse fan base.

Transformers started out as a boy’s toy. The robot characters, which could be quickly reconfigured into guns and cars – tapped into the young male zeitgeist of 1984.

Those children have grown into today’s adult collectors. But thanks to a cult comic, the franchise’s male-dominated audience has crossed the gender divide.

At Europe’s largest Transformers convention this year, TFNation, women accounted for almost half of attendees aged 21 to 31. It caps a three-year trend in which female attendance grew by a third. Taking the credit is the comic Lost Light.

(13) CENTENNIAL. This was one of the many commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I tweeted yesterday –

(14) BREATHING LIFE INTO OLD FOOTAGE. New technology enables full color restoration. This week the Smithsonian Channel will broadcast a new season of America in Color with even better images than ever before:

Witness defining moments of early 20th century America like never before: in dramatic color. Roam the untamed Wild West, visit burgeoning cities, and enter the dream factory of Hollywood. Follow larger-than-life figures who drove America’s industrial transformation, turned crime into an organized business, and built political dynasties. Using cutting-edge digital technology, we bring our young country’s most seminal landmarks, people, and moments to vibrant life.

Mark Kermode also discusses Peter Jackson and team’s painstaking restoration and colorization of First World War footage: “They Shall Not Grow Old review – an utterly breathtaking journey into the trenches” in The Guardian.

The challenges involved in achieving this miracle are manifold. Most obviously, the digital restoration and colourisation of the original films has been painstakingly carried out with meticulous attention to detail, rendering everything from skin tones to scenery in impressively natural hues. (For theatrical presentation, a moderate 3D enhancement has also been applied.)

More complex is the correction of the film’s pace. The century-old footage with which Jackson was working was shot at anything from 10 to 18 frames per second, with the rate often changing within a single reel. We’ve all seen old movies projected at the modern speed of 24fps, creating that skittering, agitated effect that fixes such footage in the dim and distant past. Here, Jackson and his team have used computers to build interstitial frames that recapture the rhythms of real life, tuning into the music of the soldiers’ movements, breathing intimate life into their smallest gestures. The process may sound nerdily technical but the effect is powerfully emotional. It’s as if the technology had somehow pierced the surface of the film, causing (virtual?) memories to come pouring out.

 

(15) REVERE THE SJWC. “Archaeologists Discover Dozens Of Cat Mummies, 100 Cat Statues In Ancient Tomb” — The real surprise: mummified scarabs. No reports whether the scarabs were for the cats to play with…

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced Saturday that a team of Egyptian archaeologists excavating a 4,500-year-old tomb near Cairo has found dozens of mummified cats. Also in the tomb were 100 gilded wooden cat statues, as well as a bronze statue of Bastet, the goddess of cats.

The discoveries were made at a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, the site of a necropolis used by the ancient city of Memphis. The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and archaeologists have found another one nearby with its door still sealed — raising the possibility that its contents are untouched.

(16) THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING KILOGRAM. Twitter thread discusses why the kilogram is the one measure that still relies on a material instance rather than a definition-by-physics, and how this is being fixed.

(17) HARRYHAUSEN THE ARTIST. David Rosler praises the animator to the skies in “RAY HARRYHAUSEN: The Twentieth Century Leonardo da Vinci” at Films in Review.

Da Vinci’s time of Renaissance humanism recognized virtually no mutually exclusive differences between sciences and the arts, and artists often thought in terms of science and scientists delved into the arts, heedless of any abstract concept now assumed to separate them. Both Ray and da Vinci were Renaissance men of the highest caliber of their respective times, both became positively revered by their contemporaries and, most importantly, both changed much of how the world saw their forms of art by leading the way with uniquely original creations, significantly changing the larger world around them.

Ray Harryhausen self-portrait

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

Pixel Scroll 9/8/18 Space Zamboni!

(1) WHO TO LISTEN TO. Nicholas Whyte enthusiastically reviews four audio Doctor Who stories in “Jenny – the Doctor’s Daughter”.

Big Finish have scored a major coup by persuading Georgia Tennant to return to her brief role as Jenny, the Tenth Doctor’s cloned daughter, for more sfnal adventures across space and time, flanked by Sean Biggerstaff as the innocent but mysterious Noah, and both pursued by Siân Philips (who was Livia in I, Claudius forty years ago) as a vengeful cyborg, the Colt-5000. (Georgia Moffatt, as she then was, had a part in a Big Finish audio back in 2000, when she was only 16.)

 

(2) EVERMORE. Utah’s VR theme park Evermore opens today: “Evermore Park immersive experience from former Disney Imagineer invites you to enter fantasy world”.

Walt Disney Imagineers work diligently to create the most incredible experiences in the world. Sometimes, however, they take their immeasurable talents and create these experiences elsewhere. That’s the case for former Imagineer Josh Shipley.

According to his LinkedIn page, Shipley started with the Walt Disney Company in 1992 and became an Imagineer in 1996. He left Disney Imagineering in 2017 and began working on an immersive new experience park (located in Pleasant Grove, Utah) known as Evermore.

 

(3) ALL YOUR BASE. The Hugo Awards official site now has some very nice photos of the 2018 Hugo Award base created by Sara Felix and Vincent Villafranca, including closeups of the figures, inscriptions, and other details.

(4) STILL TIME TO HELP. A GoFundMe created to help Samanda Jeude is still open for donations. It’s received only a little over $1,000 so far. One of the incentives was a 1986 Hugo Award trophy.

“Helping The Helper -Electrical Eggs”

Science Fiction Fandom lost a long time friend and organizer in January, in the form of Donald (Dea) Cook. He left behind another well-known fan, his wife of over 30 years, Samanda Jeude.  Samanda is best known for establishing the organization Electrical Eggs, the first Disability Access organization in the Science Fiction community. Don was Sam’s sole career. She had polio as an infant, and that was complicated later in life by a couple of strokes. She now resides in a nursing home in Canton, Georgia. We helped to clear out the house to get it sold, and are now selling all of the contents to pay for Samanda’s ongoing care needs. How does any of this involve a Hugo, you might ask, and rightfully so!

Marcia Kelly Illingworth organized the appeal, and says the Hugo will stay in the fannish family, so to speak:

Update #2

The votes are in! The people have spoken! You have voted overwhelmingly to donate the Hugo to Fandom. I think I always knew that you would. Samanda thanks you, and I thank you!

We are leaving the fund open for a while longer for those who still wanted the opportunity to donate. Thank you again for all of your support.

Since donors have voted to donate the Hugo to fandom rather than have it be auctioned off to the highest bidder, that means less money raised for Samanda’s ongoing care. Given her service to fandom, it would be great to see further donations from fans.

(5) HIS PREFERRED WINNER. Nicholas Whyte has one thing in common with all Hugo voters – he thinks sometimes the wrong book loses — in this case, “Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson”.

Second paragraph of third chapter:

But there are worse places to live. There are much worse places right here in this U-Stor-It. Only the big units like this one have their own doors. Most of them are accessed via a communal loading dock that leads to a maze of wide corrugated-steel hallways and freight elevators. These are slum housing, 5-by-10s and 10-by-10s where Yanoama tribespersons cook beans and parboil fistfuls of coca leaves over heaps of burning lottery tickets.

This popped to the top of one of my lists just at the moment that I have been reading some of the other award winners from 1994. Snow Crash was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (won by Jeff Noon’s Vurt) and the BSFA Award (won by Christopher Evans’ The Aztec Century); also on both of those shortlists was Ammonite by Nicola Griffith, which won the Tiptree. The Hugo for Best Novel was shared between A Fire On The Deep and Doomsday Book, the latter winning the Nebula as well; Snow Crash was on the Hugo long-list, but nowhere for the Nebula. (It did win two awards in French translation, and one in Spanish.)

This is surely one of those cases where the awards in general (and particularly across the Atlantic) failed to spot the classic in the making: Snow Crash now has more owners on LibraryThing than any two of the other books named above combined (which is why I read it; see below). I think it’s much the best of them.

(6) YOUR DIGITAL GOOD PLACE. Courtesy of io9, (“Google Chrome Has a Forking Clever Good Place Extension”) I learned about Google Chrome’s The Good Place extension:

Replace new tab page with a personalized dashboard that brings your very own version of The Good Place right to your desktop.

Calling all Good Place fans! Make The Good Place your Chrome home with an all-new tab page that features your favorite characters, quotes and photos from the show. Complete with weather updates, calendar reminders, and daily “inspiration” from Eleanor and the crew, you can become more productive and feel like you’re getting into The Good Place every single time you go online.

FEATURES:

-Replace curse words from your Chrome with the Obscenities Censor

-Search the web using your very own Janet

-Pry yourself away from the internet with the “Joy of Missing Out” built-in break reminders

-Replace “Thumbs up” and “Thumbs down” buttons on YouTube with “Good Place” and “Bad Place”

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 8, 1966  — A little TV show, Star Trek, aired its first episode, “The Man Trap,” written by George Clayton Johnson.

And earlier this week The Hollywood Reporter reprinted the show creator’s article about his new series: “When Gene Roddenberry Explained ‘Star Trek’ in 1966”.

Just over two months after Star Trek first beamed up to audiences on NBC during the 8:30 p.m. hour on Sept. 8, 1966, creator Gene Roddenberry wrote a column explaining the scope of his ambitious space series — and why it aimed for much more “science” than “fiction.” His original column in The Hollywood Reporter, “Science Fiction Thing of Past,” is below: 

Imagine a space vessel, larger than any naval vessel known, crossing our galaxy at a velocity surpassing the speed of light. Fourteen decks, a crew of over 430 persons. A whole city afloat in space.

Science fiction? Absolutely not. Rather, real adventure in tomorrow’s space. Based upon the best scientific knowledge and estimates of what our astronauts of the future may face when they move out of our own solar system and into the vastness of our galaxy. Other worlds like ours? Other peoples? What?

Our starship, designed with the help of space experts, is the United Space Ship Enterprise. The place — NBC-TV, Thursday nights. In full color, this new action-adventure format boasts flesh and blood stars like talented William Shatner playing Ship’s Captain Kirk; love Grace Lee Whitney playing Yeoman Janice Rand; and Leonard Nimoy in an unusual new role as the half-alien Mister Spock. Plus talents such as DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Jimmy Doohan and Nichelle Nichols.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 8 – John Boardman, 85. Editor, fanzine Knowable; his Diplomacy zine, Graustark turned fifty a few years ago. Active in civil rights as a student as Florida State University which got him expelled from his doctoral studies program there.
  • Born September 8 – Michael Hague, 70. Illustrator of his own work including The Book of Dragons, Michael Hague’s Magical World of Unicorns,  The Book of Fairies, The Book of Wizards and Michael Hague’s Read-to-Me Book of Fairy Tales; also interior and cover art for such genre works as The Hobbit, The Wizard of Oz and The Wind in The Willows. 
  • Born September 8 – Gordon Van Gelder, 54. Editor, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The New York Review of Science Fiction and a smattering of anthologies including Go Forth and Multiply and Welcome to the Greenhouse. Reviewer as well.
  • Born September 8 – Matt Ruff, 53. Author of quite a number of genre novels including Fool on The Hill, Lovecraft Country which was nominated for a World Fantasy Award, and Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls which may or may not be genre fiction but never-the-less won a James Tiptree Jr. Award.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cutting-edge humor: Bizarro
  • Copernicus’ theory of SJW credentials: Free Range.
  • They’re not phoning home: Bliss

(10) GAP IN EXHIBIT. Holly Ordway, in “The Maker of the Maker of Middle-earth” at Christianity Today, reviews the Bodleian Tolkien exhibit and examines why it says little about Tolkien’s strong religious faith.

…There are many ways that Tolkien’s Christian faith could have been represented, even in the relatively limited space available. One item already on display was a 1914 letter to Edith. The display label transcribes, from Tolkien’s small and difficult-to-read handwriting, a paragraph about officer-training maneuvers on Port Meadow.

Immediately following this portion of the original letter is Tolkien’s comment that the next day “I got up at 7.40 and just reached church on time, and went to Communion.” Just one more sentence on an already existing display label would have given a glimpse of Tolkien’s faith in practice. As it is, nearly all visitors will miss this reference entirely; I very nearly did.

Other extracts from letters could have been shown, such as the 1956 letter in which Tolkien relates Frodo’s failure to give up the Ring to the petition in the Lord’s Prayer “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Or perhaps the 1944 letter in which Tolkien discusses modern healing miracles and describes the Resurrection as the “happy ending” of human history.

Several examples of his Elvish calligraphy were displayed; one could have been selected from the prayers that Tolkien translated into Elvish, such as the Lord’s Prayer. Both the 1956 letter and this translation show the way that Tolkien’s faith, and indeed specifically his prayer life, had an influence on his writing—exactly the kind of influence we would hope to see emphasized in an exhibit on an author.

…These references, if they had been included, need not have been emphasized, but for one who knows of Tolkien’s faith, the absence of any such small detail is striking.

Playing It Safe

Why might the Tolkien Estate and the Bodleian have chosen to downplay Tolkien’s faith? And why does it matter? …

(11) FUTURE FICTION AUTHOR. Listen to “Nexhuman, an interview with Francesco Verso” conducted by Filer Mlex at Yunchtime.

In this free-form interview, Francesco Verso, explores the topics of transhumanism, consumer culture, and the philosophical aspects of Nexhuman. He also discusses his work in the context of English language publications and the emergence of global voices in Science Fiction, including his own anthology, called Future Fiction, which was co-edited by Bill Campbell and published by Rosarium Press.

(12) NZ NATCON REPORT. SF Concatenation has posted a report on the New Zealand national sf convention by Lee Murray (with an assist from Simon Litten) — “Conclave III”. The convention was held the weekend of March 30-April 2, 2018 in Auckland.

Then we were on to Norman Cates’ WETA presentation to get the skinny on all the new techniques making our movie viewing epic. As is customary with Norman’s presentation, I could tell you about all the wonderful clips he showed us, but then I’d have to kill you, or Norman would, or WETA’s lawyers would have to engage a hitman. In any case, it was cool.

Next up, was the Other Voices panel, moderated by Stephen Litten, where we were joined by Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body author Simon Petrie and Indiana fantasy writer, Laura VanArendonk Baugh. It’s a lively discussion, with some great insights from my fellow panellists around the definition ‘other’ and the value of including marginalised and foreign-to-us voices on our reading lists. We discussed the vagaries of translation and the layering of culture that occurs when works are translated by a second voice. We touched on appropriation and the discourse surrounding Aboriginal and Maori mythologies. Panellists and audience members raised some seminal works from other cultures, including French, Italian, Japanese titles, which we all felt should be included on our must-read lists.

(13) UNKEPT ROBOTIC PROMISES. On Gizmodo, Matt Novak lists (and links) “99 Things That Robots Were Supposed to Be Doing by Now” (though many of the linked “predictions” aren’t really “by now”).

Below is a list of just some of the things people of the past said robots would do in the near future. Many of them are fun or weird, while others are downright scary. But they’re all still “futuristic.” For now.

  1. Robots were supposed to replace school teachers.
  2. Robots were supposed to be professional boxers.
  3. Robots were supposed to pay taxes.

[…]

  1. Robots were supposed to pull off their heads and become the sickest drum set you’ve ever seen.
  2. And by 2076, robots were supposed to run for president.

(14) WINTER IS COMING FOR AI, MAYBE. Popular Science looks at the idea that Artificial Intelligence may — once again — be overhyped, which could lead to a collapse in research/support (“Another AI winter could usher in a dark period for artificial intelligence”).

Artificial intelligence can take many forms. But it’s roughly defined as a computer system capable of tackling human tasks like sensory perception and decision-making. Since its earliest days, AI has fallen prey to cycles of extreme hype—and subsequent collapse. While recent technological advances may finally put an end to this boom-and-bust pattern, cheekily termed an “AI winter,” some scientists remain convinced winter is coming again.

The article goes on to discuss the first “winter” that occurred during the early Cold War when natural language translation proved to be a much more difficult task that anticipated and another beginning in the 70s/80s when the Lisp machine didn’t live up to its hype as an AI solution. Author Eleanor Cummins expresses concern that, among other things, self-driving cars are over-promised and may be under-delivered, then concludes that:

Much like actual seasonal shifts, AI winters are hard to predict. What’s more, the intensity [of] each event can vary widely. Excitement is necessary for emerging technologies to make inroads, but it’s clear the only way to prevent a blizzard is calculated silence—and a lot of hard work. As Facebook’s former AI director Yann LeCun told IEEE Spectrum, “AI has gone through a number of AI winters because people claimed things they couldn’t deliver.”

(15) AI PRIORITY. DARPA doesn’t seem worried by that weather forecast: “DARPA announces $2B investment in AI”.

At a symposium in Washington DC on Friday, DARPA announced plans to invest $2 billion in artificial intelligence research over the next five years.

In a program called “AI Next,” the agency now has over 20 programs currently in the works and will focus on “enhancing the security and resiliency of machine learning and AI technologies, reducing power, data, performance inefficiencies and [exploring] ‘explainability’” of these systems.

“Machines lack contextual reasoning capabilities, and their training must cover every eventuality, which is not only costly, but ultimately impossible,” said director Dr. Steven Walker. “We want to explore how machines can acquire human-like communication and reasoning capabilities, with the ability to recognize new situations and environments and adapt to them.”

(16) FOUNDATION ORDERED. Ars Technica says that, “Apple confirms TV series order of Asimov’s Foundation” for their nascent streaming service.

In April, we reported that Apple was working on developing a TV series based on Isaac Asimov’s highly influential Foundation series of science fiction novels. Today, Ars has confirmed not only that Foundation was in development, but it has now been given a full series order—meaning we’re definitely going to see it.

As previously reported, David Goyer (screenwriter for The Dark Knight and Batman Begins) and Josh Friedman (creator of the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and screenwriter for Steven Spielberg’s 2005 War of the Worlds film) will be the showrunners and executive producers. The series is being produced by Skydance Television, and Skydance CEO David Ellison will be an executive producer for the series (he is the son of famed Oracle executive Larry Ellison). Isaac Asimov’s daughter, Robyn Asimov, will also executive produce, along with Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross.

(17) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE…UHH. NPR says this wouldn’t be news if anyone besides photographers had been paying attention: “Scientists Are Puzzled By Mysterious Lights In The Sky. They Call Them STEVE”.

There’s a light in the night sky over Canada that’s puzzling scientists. It looks like a white-purple ribbon. It’s very hot, and doesn’t last long. And it’s named STEVE.

STEVE: as in, Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.

Naturally.

Scientists don’t actually know what’s causing the atmospheric phenomenon, which has been known to amateur photographers of the night sky for decades but only recently came to the attention of researchers.

But in research published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, they pin down what it definitely isn’t. It’s not an aurora….

(18) HYBRID HUMAN. Nature reports: “Mum’s a Neanderthal, Dad’s a Denisovan: First discovery of an ancient-human hybrid”

Genetic analysis uncovers a direct descendant of two different groups of early humans.

A female who died around 90,000 years ago was half Neanderthal and half Denisovan, according to genome analysis of a bone discovered in a Siberian cave. This is the first time scientists have identified an ancient individual whose parents belonged to distinct human groups….

(19) BEFORE MARVEL WAS A SURE THING. Looper has a roster of Marvel TV Shows You Completely Forgot About. Or in my case, never heard of to begin with….

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

Pixel Scroll 8/12/18 Let My Pixels Go

(1) NINE WORLDS. London’s Nine Worlds wrapped today, and the leadership has announced plans to move on:

Nine Worlds is beginning a process of reconstitution. This means that the current ownership will be dissolved, and the assets, liabilities and necessary data transferred to a new entity. The purpose of this is to a) ensure that its continued existence is sustainable and rewarding for those involved in it, and b) allow me (Dan) and the other shareholders to step away from the company and our responsibilities to it….

Why is this happening, and why now?

The current organising model is not sustainable for those on the organising side of it. A lot of people gain a lot from the event, but certain roles reliably cause harm to the people performing them or exploit them, and there’s a treadmill effect that leads to organisers carrying on until they burn out and / or do something that can’t be reconciled with continued involvement. I include myself in that: I’ve been working without choice and without pay for over two years now.

Additionally, the mix of cultures and people involved has embedded tensions that may benefit from a more concretely agreed purpose and identity. This has been causing issues from the event’s beginning, and while the intent to create a big platform that still kept high expectations of behaviour and support was positive, I’m not sure that the event will be able to meet a standard that’s acceptable to all those who attend and take part in organising, without being clearer who it’s for, what it stands for, and what people should expect, and letting people choose whether to engage in that knowledge.

And finally, I’ve invested a huge amount of time, money and my heart in Nine Worlds, but I’ve done so as a job, often working all the time for months at a time. My ’employer’ hasn’t paid me in years and imposes working conditions that would be illegal in any volunteering or employment context, and I’ve been wanting to move on for some time.

The reason I’m doing it right now is that I couldn’t do it two years ago, as an attempt to change the organisation in a different way three years ago failed hard, and necessitated an intervening two years of steady steering.

2016 put Nine Worlds Ltd far enough in debt that I couldn’t guarantee the end result of any process to reconstitute. We were reliant on future sales to cover the running cost of the current convention, and failure to transition (or attempting to close down) would result in the business failing and being unable to repay the future event sales to ticket holders.

I now have enough money to cover the shortfall without opening future ticket sales, and the event’s financial position has also improved, so I can start this process without trying to sell tickets for an undetermined event with unknown leadership to cover the gap.

(2) SPIDER TRACKS. Worldcon 76 is running a travel blog about one of the guests of honor — “The Worldcon 76 – Bound Peregrinations of Spider Robinson.” But the first entry sounds pretty disturbing.

Day 1: Victoria to Port Angeles

The trip began with a 4 AM call.

“Steph. I don’t think I’m gonna make it”

The Worldcon 76 Guest of Honour was white as a sheet and barely able to stand. It was my job to get him from Canada to San Jose in one piece and it was looking like the trip was going to be over before it began.

After six hours in the emergency room, we got the all clear and Spider finally got some needed sleep. Luckily so did I.

The spirit of Fandom and SF must have been watching over us, because when he woke up he was his old self and willing to try to make the trip after all. (I on the other hand was about ready to pass out from stress and worry).

(3) MCMOVIE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story, “‘Mac and Me’ at 30: ‘Ronald McDonald’ remembers his infamous 1988 movie” notes that this is the 30th anniversary of Mac and Me, a cheesy ripoff of E.T. in which Ronald MacDonald teams up with alien “MAC” (or “Mysterious Alien Creature”.)  Squire Fridell, who played Ronald MacDonald at the time, tells stories about the production and wishes that the Razzies had mailed him his award for Worst New Actor.  Paul Rudd has a long-running gag on Conan where he promises an “exclusive new clip” from whatever movie he is promoting and then shows something from Mac and Me.

The trailer turned out to be a bit of a bait-and-switch, and not just because it made the movie look halfway entertaining. While Ronald presents himself as an equal co-star with the titular bug-eyed alien, his actual role in the Stewart Raffill-directed movie is little more than a glorified cameo.

 

(4) ASK THE PRIMATES. BBC profiles “Primate speech: How some species are ‘wired’ for talk” — since we don’t have soft tissues from our own ancestors, looking at evolution of speech by studying vocalization in existing species.

A new study has compared different primate species’ brains.

It revealed that primates with wider “vocal repertoires” had more of their brain dedicated to controlling their vocal apparatus.

That suggests that our own speaking skills may have evolved as our brains gradually rewired to control that apparatus, rather than purely because we’re smarter than non-human apes.

Humans and other primates have very similar vocal anatomy – in terms of their tongues and larynx. That’s the physical machinery in the throat which allows us to turn air into sound.

So, as lead researcher Dr Jacob Dunn from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge explained, it remains a mystery that only human primates can actually talk.

(5) SOMEHOW STILL HERE. In “Coral reefs ‘weathered dinosaur extinction'”, new studies say that corals go back 160Myrs, not just 60.

Corals may have teamed up with the microscopic algae which live inside them as much as 160 million years ago, according to new research.

The two organisms have a symbiotic relationship, meaning they need each other to survive.

But this partnership was previously thought to have developed about 60 million years ago.

The new findings suggest that reef algae may have weathered significant environmental changes over time.

This includes the mass extinction that wiped out most of the dinosaurs.

Algae’s resilience to temperature changes has been of concern to scientists recently, as warming events on the Great Barrier Reef have seen the coral “bleached” of its algae.

(6) TALK TO THE ANIMALS. How hot was it, Johnny? “Cows allowed to visit Swedish nudist beaches in heatwave”.

The government in southern Sweden have granted permission for cows to visit nudist beaches during the prolonged summer heatwave, despite complaints from locals, it’s reported.

According to The Local news website, nudists have been complaining to officials in provincial Smaland about livestock visiting their beaches, saying that their presence is “unhygienic and could pose a health risk”.

It says the roasting summer heat affecting much of continental Europe has led to drought throughout the country, and has meant that farmers have been struggling to feed their animals.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 12, 1939The Wizard of Oz receives its world premiere in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, on this day.
  • August 12, 1941 – Premiering this day, Dr.  Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Spencer Tracy.
  • August 12, 1943 – Universal’s Phantom of the Opera debuts. At one point in pre-production it was planned for Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to star.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 12, 1881. Cecil B. DeMille. Yes he did some genre work as Producer: When Worlds Collide, The Ghost Breaker (a silent horror film now lost) and the 1953 War Of The Worlds which he’s not credited for as Executive Producer.
  • Born August 12 — William Goldman, 87. Writer and / or screenwriter of The Princess Bride, The Stepford WivesMemoirs of an Invisible Man, Dreamcatcher (horror film) and a short video based on The Princess Bride with apparently none of the original cast.
  • Born August 12 — Sam J. Jones, 64. Flash Gordon in the 1980 film of that name, Krebb in the later Flash Gordon series.
  • Born August 12 — Bruce Greenwood, 62. Lead in the Nowhere Man series, the Sleepwalkers series, I, Robot, voice work in animated Class of the Titans series, Christopher Pike in Star Trek and voices Batman in Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and Young Justice. Not the same Batman mind you
  • Born August 12 — Claudia Christian, 53. Babylon 5 of course, and genre roles also in the possibly forthcoming Space Diner Tales in which the year is 2075 and an alien race is set on conquering Earth, the Upworld detective series complete with a talking gnome, Space Rangers, Relic Hunter and Starhyke, a truly awful sounding series.

(9) THE ICING ON THE CAKE.

(10) NOTCONJOSE II. George R.R. Martin will be there: “Worldcon Time!”

I have cut way down on the number of cons I attend, due to the press of work, but there’s no way I’d miss a worldcon, by any name.   I’ve only missed one in the last thirty years.   Dragoncon and San Diego Comicon and GenCon and many other cons are now much bigger, but worldcon remains the original, and the best, the heart of the fannish community.   Worldcon is like a family reunion.   And yes, like any large family, we have our share of drunken uncles, loony cousins, and snot-nosed kids… but still, family is family.   I’ll be there for the whole con.  I hope to see many of you in SanJose.  Worldcon is great time for getting together with old friends and making new ones.

(11) JUST ONE THING MISSING. Andrea discusses “Nexhuman by Francesco Verso” at Little Red Reviewer.

#sorrynotsorry, I’m going to give you a spoiler right out of the gate:

Nexhuman will offer you enough ideas and discussion topics and thought experiments to keep you busy for the next ten years. In fact, an entire Convention programming track could be built just around the questions and ideas in this book.

What Nexhuman does not offer is concrete answers to any of the questions that are brought up.

(12) FRESH OFF THE 1963 NEWSSTANDS. Galactic Journey’s John Boston finds a little gold-dust among the grit in the new issue of Amazing: “[August 12, 1963] WET BLANKET (the September 1963 Amazing)”.

But the issue opens with Poul Anderson’s Homo Aquaticus, illustrated on the cover by a swimmer with a menacing look and a more menacing trident, next to a nicely-rendered fish, in one of artist Lloyd Birmingham’s better moments.  This is one of Anderson’s atmospheric stories, its mood dominated by Anglo-Saxon monosyllables.  No, not those—I mean fate, guilt, doom, that sort of thing.  The story’s tone is set in the first paragraph, in which the protagonist “thought he heard the distant blowing of a horn.  It would begin low, with a pulse that quickened as the notes waxed, until the snarl broke in a brazen scream and sank sobbing away.”

This is rationalized as the wind in the cliffs, but we know better.  The good (space)ship Golden Flyer and its crew have been sentenced to roam the galactic hinterlands after some of their number betrayed other ships of the Kith, a starfaring culture separated from planetary cultures by relativistic time dilation.  Right now they’re looking at what used to be a colony planet, but all they see is ruins, until their encounter with the colony’s descendants, as given away by the title.  In the end, doom and fate are tempered with rationality and mercy.  Three stars, but towards the top of Anderson’s middling range.

(13) LECKIE LIKES THESE. Ann Leckie recommends three books in “Some things I’ve read recently” beginning with —

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Look, you should just read this. Rivers is nominated for the Campbell (Not a Hugo) this year on the strength of this book. It would have been an entirely worthy Best Novel finalist, quite frankly. I was late to it partly because I have lots of things to read and very little time to do it in, and also because I was aware that it would be a difficult read–as in, full of violence and death and heartbreak. That’s all true. This is a fabulous book.

(14) A CONVERT. Ethan Mills of Examined Worlds says he now understands what the Stephenson hype was about: “Philoso-monks Save Some Worlds: Anathem by Neal Stephenson”.

A few times while reading this book, I tried to explain the basic premise to friends. The best I could do is something like this: weird monks on an alien planet or maybe another dimension talk about philosophy, science, and math. This does not in any way do it justice, of course, but it’s really hard to explain this novel.

Of course, for hard core Stephenson fans, the name on the cover is enough. And for philosophers such as myself, those weird alien philosophical monks are irresistible (which is why this novel made a lot of the lists of philosophers’ picks for best philosophical SF compiled by Eric Schwitzgebel). I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some other lovers of this book who sometimes dream about a life as a monastic entirely dedicated to intellectual pursuits, or who maybe just liked Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Others who might love this: people who love immersive world building and massive tomes that come with with a glossary (no maps here, but there are a few calcas – explanatory appendices for those who need even more nerdish detail).  As I am at least an occasional member of all of the above groups, my love for this book is present in all nearby possible worlds.

(15) SAVED. Much truth in this.

(16) BATWOMAN LEAVES TWITTER. Yahoo! Lifestyle reports “Ruby Rose Apparently Left Twitter Following Harassment over Her “Batwoman” Role”.

Ruby Rose has apparently removed her Twitter account after continued social media harassment that centered on her upcoming role as Batwoman.

As noted by SyFy, the Orange is the New Black star’s absence from Twitter was spotted by fans on August 11. Ruby also appeared to allude to a potential leave of the platform on Friday, August 10, tweeting: “Where on earth did ‘Ruby is not a lesbian therefore she can’t be Batwoman’ come from — has to be the funniest most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. I came out at 12? And have for the past 5 years had to deal with ‘she’s too gay’ how do y’all flip it like that? I didn’t change.” Her account appears to have been removed soon after the tweet was made.

Ruby’s Instagram remains active, but SyFy reports that she seems to have limited what comments appear. Her last Instagram post was shared on August 10.

(17) DIOP TURNS OFF COMMENTING. Another actress facing toxic social media: “‘Titans’ Star Anna Diop Disables Instagram Comments”ComicBook.com has the story.

The first trailer for Titans brought its cast into the spotlight this week, and it looks like that has had some major effects.

Anna Diop, who is set to play Koriand’r/Starfire on the DC Universe series, recently disabled comments on the vast majority of her Instagram posts. Her Instagram, which you can check out here, features only six photos that have been posted since May 11th. The latest post, where Diop announces that she has a role in Jordan Peele’s Us, is the only one that currently allows comments.

While it’s unknown exactly why Diop essentially cleaned house on her Instagram, some have speculated that it is due to the negative backlash from the first Titans trailer. The trailer, which debuted on Thursday, features several brief glimpses of Starfire using her powers, which have appeared to only continue the racist and sexist remarks surrounding Diop’s casting.

Earlier this year, a series of leaked set photos provided the first look at Diop and her co-stars in costume, which earned backlash for not being “comic accurate”. At the time, Diop actually used Instagram to fire back at the negativity, posting a passionate response to her followers.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In The New York Public Library’s Collections of Weird Objects on Vimeo, The New Yorker shows viewers some weird things that have ended up in the library’s collections, including a paw from one of Charles Dickens’s cats!

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Karl-Johan Norén, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]