Pixel Scroll 10/22/19 All I Said To My Wife Was That That Pixel Scroll Was Good Enough For Jehovah

(1) EARLY RETURNS ON STAR WARS FINAL TRAILER. Jeff VanderMeer is a tough audience:

I’m crying over the new Star Wars trailer. I’m bawling and overcome. I’m shaking like a performative baby over this trailer.

Finally. Finally it will be over and I will never have to encounter this mediocre piece of crap franchise again…until the next time.

While Chuck Tingle tries to exert a calming influence:

(2) FLEET OF REFERENCES. Io9 is hyping “The First Big Cameo of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Has Been Revealed”. Here’s what they spotted —

…Now, that’s almost certainly the Ghost. Not a Force Ghost, THE Ghost. What’s the Ghost?

It’s the customized VCX-100 light freighter flown by Captain Hera Syndulla, which was kind of the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars Rebels. Later, it appeared in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and, thanks to the epilogue of Rebels, we knew it survived until the timeline of the sequel trilogy. Now, it seems the Ghost, and probably even Hera herself, are standing with the Falcon in what we can only assume is the Resistance’s final stand against the First Order.

And they saw even more ships in that brief scene that you’ll probably need to look up in the Wookieepedia.

(3) BETTER CAPERS. Galactic Journey’s Jason Sacks says a well-known comic has turned the corner – in 1964 – thanks to the editorial direction of Julius Schwartz: “[October 22, 1964] Introducing a “New Look” for Batman”.  

I have some good news for those of you who haven’t been paying close attention to comic books: Batman comics are finally readable!

That’s a major change from the puerile adventures which editor Jack Schiff has been presenting in the pages of Batman and Detective Comics. For all too many years, Schiff and his team of seemingly subpar creators have delivered a never-ending stream of absurdly juvenile tales of the Caped Crusader and his steadfast sidekick. He gave us ridiculous and dumb tales in which Batman gallivanted in outer space, Robin was romantically pursued by the pre-teen Bat-Girl, and the absurdly awful Bat-Mite showed up at random times to add chaos to Batman’s life. Even adventures which featured classic Batman villains (such as last fall’s Batman #159, “the Great Clayface-Joker Feud,”) fell far short of even the most basic standards of quality. Great they were not.

(4) FILER Q&A. Today Speculative Fiction Showcase’s Jessica Rydill interviewed “Heather Rose Jones, author of Floodtide, a novel of Alpennia”.

Have there been any particular books or writers who influenced you, whether in or outside the genre? [I’m a Jane Austen fan and live in Bath, which has featured in many dramatizations of her work]

As I mentioned previously, one of the inspirations for Daughter of Mystery was wanting to write a Georgette Heyer novel with lesbians. But the other major inspiration–if maddening frustration can be a form of inspiration–was Ellen Kushner’s novel The Privilege of the Sword. That book came so close to being the perfect novel of my heart…and then turned out to be a different novel. A perfectly wonderful novel, but not the book I desperately wanted. So that was another influence, not so much in writing style, but in the “feel” of the story–a story about brave and clever girls who love and rescue each other.

Jane Austen is something of an underlayer, if only in providing examples of the world of women in early 19th century Europe. One of the historical realities that modern readers aren’t always aware of is how strictly gender-segregated 19th century life was. Women–especially unmarried women–spent most of their lives socializing with other women and living with them in intimate proximity. It makes setting up same-sex relationships much easier! It’s been very important to me to center the series on women and their connections and community with each other. Too many historical stories allow women only as isolated characters, always interacting with men. In reality, if a woman had a problem or a puzzle or a project, the first people she’d turn to would be other women. I wanted the series to reflect that.

(5) MORE ON DALLAS TORNADO. Fanartist Brad Foster and his wife Cindy also escaped injury, however, they were almost right in the tornado’s path and their home suffered roof damage, while in the yard trees and fences took a hit.

(6) HEARING FROM OKORAFOR. AudioFile’s article “Author Nnedi Okorafor on Personal Experiences & Fantastic Worlds” hears from the author of Akata Witch and many other fantasy titles about narrating the audiobook of her autobiography Broken Places & Outer Spaces.  

Narrating her memoir was more difficult than revisiting her words in the editing process. “There’s something to the art of reading it out loud, and it being an oral telling as opposed to written, that brings [those experiences] even more to the forefront. Reading it out loud in the booth, it was just even more intense. I was reliving it that much more.” The memoir details how she became a writer, showing “the idea that those things we think will break us can actually be the things that make us. All of these experiences that we have are useful, even the terrible ones. It’s just a matter of how you choose to use them. Because they are going to be there regardless. Do you want to just let them fester there, or do you want to make something out of them?”

(7) ROYALTY STATEMENT. James Davis Nicoll provides Tor.com readers with introductions to “Science Fictional Rulers, from Undying Emperors to Starlike Sovereigns”

Science Fiction is famous for the bewildering variety of worlds it imagines. This is particularly true for its political systems. A newcomer to SF might well be astounded by the diverse range of governmental arrangements on display. Let me provide some examples…

(8) HARI PLOTTER. Io9 promises“Apple’s Long-Anticipated Adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Casts Some Familiar Faces”.

It’s been a long road from page to screen for Isaac Asimov’s iconic Foundation series, with the first real foothold coming last year when Apple announced it had snagged the rights for the streaming service now known as Apple TV+. Today, more news: Jared Harris (Chernobyl) and Lee Pace (Captain Marvel) have joined the cast.

And even better, we know who they’ll be playing, per Deadline: “Pace plays Brother Day, the current Emperor of the Galaxy. Harris plays Hari Seldon, a mathematical genius who predicts the demise of the Empire.”

(9) MORE MARVEL PRO AND CON. Rosy Cordero, in “Here’s What Marvel Directors And Stars Are Saying About Martin Scorsese’s MCU Criticism,” in Entertainment Weekly, rounds up comments, including ones from Robert Downey Jr., Joss Whedon, and Jon Favreau.

Avengers and Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon singled out [James] Gunn’s work when responding to Scorsese earlier this month. He tweeted, “I first think of @JamesGunn, how his heart & guts are packed into GOTG. I revere Marty, & I do see his point, but… Well there’s a reason why ‘I’m always angry’” (the latter quote being a Hulk reference).

Meanwhile, a British director joins the dogpile — “Ken Loach Says Marvel Films Are ‘Made as Commodities Like Hamburgers’” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Speaking to Sky News, the two-time Palme d’Or-winning Brit described Marvel’s output as “boring” and cynically produced.

“They’re made as commodities like hamburgers, and it’s not about communicating, and it’s not about sharing our imagination,” he said. “It’s about making a commodity which will make a profit for a big corporation – they’re a cynical exercise. They’re a market exercise, and it has nothing to do with the art of cinema. William Blake said, ‘When money is discussed, art is impossible.'”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 22, 1936 — According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, today is the day, “Fandom gathering at Milton A. Rothman’s home in Philadelphia, 1936, declares itself to be the first sf Convention. Some fans accept this; others consider the following year’s Leeds UK event a more significant landmark since it was organized in advance as a convention and used public meeting facilities.”
  • October 22, 2006Torchwood, a companion to Doctor Who, premiered on BBC Three.  Starring John Barrowman and Eve Myles, it ran for forty one episodes over five years. And Big Finish Productions has produced some thirty audio-stories so far.  
  • October 22, 2016  — On this day in the U.K. and Canada, Class, a spin-off series of Doctor Who, premiered. Starring Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed and Sophie Hopkins, the series would last just a single season of eight episodes due to really poor ratings though Big Finish Audio continued the series as an audiowork. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 22, 1919 Doris Lessing. The five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives certainly established her genre creds. I personally would add her Cat Tales, three volumes of stories and nonfiction (Particularly Cats, Rufus the Survivor and The Old Age of El Magnifico) to your reading list. (Died 2013.)
  • Born October 22, 1922 Lee Jacobs. LA fan in the last years of his life. I’m mentioning him here because he’s credited with the word filk which was his entirely unintentional creation. He typoed folk in a contribution to the Spectator Amateur Press Society in the 1950s: “The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern American Filk Music.” Yes I know that its first documented intentional use was by Karen Anderson in Die Zeitschrift für vollständigen Unsinn (The Journal for Utter Nonsense) #774 (June 1953), for a song written by her husband Poul. (Died 1968.)
  • Born October 22, 1938 Christopher Lloyd, 81. He has starred as Commander Kruge in The Search for Spock, Emmett “Doc” Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. (Huh. I didn’t spot him in those.) Let’s not forget that he was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Bigbooté, and he played Dr. Cletus Poffenberger in a recurring role on Tremors.
  • Born October 22, 1938 Derek Jacobi, 81. He played a rather nicely nasty Master in “Utopia”, a Tenth Doctor story. He’s currently Metatron on Good Omens. And he was Magisterial Emissary in The Golden Compass.
  • Born October 22, 1939 Suzy McKee Charnas, 80. I’d say The Holdfast Chronicles are her best work to date. Certainly they’re the most honored, winning Gaylactic Spectrum, James Tiptree Jr. and Lambda Literary Awards. Any of you read her Sorcery Hall series?
  • Born October 22, 1943 Jim Baen. Editor of Galaxy and If. Considered to be the first profitable Ebooks publisher. Founder of Baen Books. (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 22, 1952 Jeff Goldblum, 67. The Wiki page gushes over him for being in Jurassic Park and Independence Day (as well as their sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and Independence Day: Resurgence, but neglects my favorite film with him in it, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, not to mention the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake he was in. 
  • Born October 22, 1954 Graham Joyce. Selecting his best novel is a futile exercise as everything is fantastically good but I’ll single out Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Tooth Fairy as the ones I found the most interesting reads. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 22, 1956 Gretchen Roper, 63. Long-time member of fandom, filker and con-runner. She co-founded Dodeka Records with her husband, Bill Roper. She received with her husband the Pegasus Award for Best Original Humorous Song, “My Husband The Filker”, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2008. She runs The Secret Empire, a business selling filk and other things at cons.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • XKCD has a Narnia joke. (And remember, these cartoons have a second joke in a rollover– rest your cursor on the pictures and you see more text.)
  • Tom Gauld tries to help out New Scientist’s AI readers.

(13) THE CON GAME. S.M. Carrière offers sound advice in “How I Survive Conventions” at Black Gate.

6. Engage. It can be a scary thing to approach folks at conventions. There isn’t really any way around it, but practice does make it easier. Start, if you like, by asking questions at panels that permit it. You can then use that to speak to any of the panelists afterwards, asking for clarification or even pointers. Also, try the dealer’s room if the convention has one. It’s a great place to practice conversational skills, and most of the vendors are quite happy to chat. I know I am.

(14) ENCOUNTERING PANGBORN. Cora Buhlert’s review of Davy is part of this review column at Galactic Journey (scroll down): “[October 18, 1964] Out in Space and Down to Earth (October’s Galactoscope #1)”.

Edgar Pangborn has been writing science fiction under his own name for thirteen years at this point and was apparently writing under other names before that. However, none of his stories have been translated into German and the availability of English language science fiction magazines is spotty at best. Therefore, I had never encountered Pangborn’s work before, when I came across his latest novel Davy in my local import bookstore.

(15) WATCH THIS. Entertainment Weekly shares a video clip: Black Lightning gives Jefferson a suit upgrade in sneak peek: ‘Well, damn'”

…We’ve known for a while now that Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is getting a new suit this season, but now we finally know how he receives it. In this exclusive clip from tonight’s episode, Agent Odell (Bill Duke) gives the imprisoned superhero a gift: a watch. Jefferson is initially skeptical because it looks like a normal timepiece and he’s probably suspicious of anything the shady ASA spook gives him. But Odell continues to gently push Jefferson until he actually tests it out and discovers the watch’s real purpose: It’s basically a morpher that contains Black Lightning’s sleek new super-suit.

“This is the reason we have you have here, why we’re testing you, why we’re putting you through so much pain and struggle,” says Odell as the suit begins to cover a Jefferson’s body. “It’s so we can create tech that will help all metas to live better. The Markovians are planning on killing or capturing all of the metas in Freeland. I cannot stop them without your help.”

“Well, damn,” Jefferson simply says as he checks out his new threads. (This is essentially the equivalent of Kara’s “Pants!” exclamation from the Supergirl season 5 premiere when she tried out her new panted super-suit for the first time.)

(16) CRISPER THAN CRISPR? BBC sees promise: “Prime editing: DNA tool could correct 89% of genetic defects”.

A new way of editing the code of life could correct 89% of the errors in DNA that cause disease, say US scientists.

The technology, called prime editing, has been described as a “genetic word processor” able to accurately re-write the genetic code.

It has been used to correct damaging mutations in the lab, including those that cause sickle cell anaemia

The team at the Broad Institute say it is “very versatile and precise”, but stress the research is only starting.

…Much of the excitement has centred on a technology called Crispr-Cas9, which was developed just seven years ago.

It scans DNA for the right spot and then, like a microscopic pair of scissors, cuts it in two.

This creates the opportunity to edit the DNA.

However, the edits are not always perfect and the cuts can end up in the wrong place. Both issues are a problem for using the technology in medicine.

The promise of prime editing is precision.

(17) NO DUMMY. They knew the importance of sticking to it — “Neanderthal ‘glue’ points to complex thinking”.

Traces of ancient “glue” on a stone tool from 50,000 years ago points to complex thinking by Neanderthals, experts say.

The glue was made from birch tar in a process that required forward planning and involved several different steps.

It adds to mounting evidence that we have underestimated the capabilities of our evolutionary cousins.

Only a handful of Neanderthal tools bear signs of adhesive, but experts say the process could have been widespread.

The tool, found in the Netherlands, has spent the last 50,000 years under the North Sea. This may have helped preserve the tar adhesive.

Co-author Marcel Niekus, from the Stichting STONE/Foundation for Stone Age Research in Groningen, said the simple stone flake was probably used either for cutting plant fibres or for scraping animal skins.

While birch tar may have been used by Neanderthals to attach stone tools to wooden handles in some cases, this particular tool probably had a grip made only of tar. Dr Niekus said there was no imprint from a wood or bone shaft in the tar.

It would have enabled the user to apply more pressure to the stone flake without cutting their hands – turning the edge into a precision cutting tool.

(18) GALILEO PROBE GETS A MOVIE. The “‘Saving Galileo’ Documentary Screens This Weekend” at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium in Pasadena, CA on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. PDT. Free admission; first come, first served.

…Produced by JPL Fellow and national Emmy Award-winner Blaine Baggett, the hour-long film tells the story of how the mission stayed alive despite a multitude of technical challenges, including a years-long launch delay and the devastating failure of its main antenna to open properly in space. It is also the story of a team of scientists and engineers transformed through adversity into what many came to regard as a tight-knit family.

“Saving Galileo” picks up from Baggett’s previous documentary “To the Rescue,” which focuses on the mission’s tortuous path to the launch pad. Together the films capture how, despite its many challenges and limitations, Galileo proved a resounding success, leading to profound scientific insights that continue to draw NASA and JPL back to Jupiter for new adventures.

(19) PLACEBO. NPR contends: “The Placebo Effect Works And You Can Catch It From Your Doctor”.

If there’s one thing you do want to catch from a trip to your doctor, it’s her optimism.

A new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behavior, finds that patients can pick up on subtle facial cues from doctors that reveal the doctor’s belief in how effective a treatment will be. And that can have a real impact on the patient’s treatment outcome.

Scientists have known since at least the 1930s that a doctor’s expectations and personal characteristics can significantly influence a patient’s symptom relief. Within research contexts, avoiding these placebo effects is one reason for double blind studies — to keep experimenters from accidentally biasing their results by telegraphing to test subjects what they expect the results of a study to be.

The new study both demonstrates that the placebo effect is transmitted from doctor to patient, and shows how it might work.

(20) OWN LE GUIN DOCUMENTARY. The latest Kickstarter backer update for the documentary Worlds of Ursula Le Guin contains information on how to view a digital copy and buy a DVD:

We know many of you haven’t yet had a chance to watch the film – we’re trying to bring it to you as quickly as we can. Online streaming, DVD, and broadcast opportunities vary by country, and continue to evolve, but here’s our latest update:

  • In the United States and English-speaking Canada, the film is now available to rent and buy via iTunes. For residents whose reward package didn’t include a DVD, you can also pre-order the DVD through our US distributor Grasshopper Films.
  • In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the film will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer after our broadcast date, expected to be announced soon. DVDs will be available in September 2021. 
  • If you live in Israel, streaming and DVDs will be available in March 2020.
  • For everyone else, you can pre-order the DVD internationally through Grasshopper Films. We’re also planning a worldwide Video-on-Demand (VOD) release in December for participating countries (excluding those listed above, and some others). 

Note that our DVD release date has shifted – we now expect to have DVDs ready to send out by mid-November. All DVDs will include closed captions in English for the hearing impaired, subtitles in several languages, and special extras we rescued from the cutting room floor. DVDs won’t be region-specific, so viewers around the world should be able to watch them.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. in “Bicycle” on Vimeo, Cool 3D World shows what happens when five green men decide to ride a bicycle.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/10/19 Our Pixels Manned The Air They Ran The Scrolls And Took Over The Airports

(1) VINTAGE. New art from Star Trek: Picard. What should we call this episode? “The Grapes of Wrath of Khan”? The big reveal on the story and characters of the new show will be at San Diego Comic-Con next week.

(2) MORE BEST TRANSLATED HUGO FEEDBACK. Taiyo Fujii commented about the proposal on Facebook.

Thanks for M. Barkley and Rachel S. Cordasco for proposing Best Translated Novel for Hugo, but I should say as a Japanese writer, It’s not necessary.

Hugo already honored 3 translated works without translated category, and we saw the translator of that works Ken Liu was celebrated on the presentation stage. This is why I respect Hugo and voters, who don’t cares the work is from overseas or not.

I worry if translated category is held, translated short forms will be ignored by s-s, novelette and novella which are fascinated category for new young non anglophone writers. We are trying to open the door to be just a writer with contributing short forms, and readers already saw our works, and voted for nomination. But if translated category was held, only novels are honored.

In fact, translated fiction category is set on literary award held in non anglophone country, then we Japanese couldn’t give prize for Three Body Problem as the best novel of Seiun Awards even if we hope to honor.

(3) LISTEN AND LEARN. Brenton Dickieson points out “7 New Audiobooks on C.S. Lewis: Michael Ward, James Como, Stephanie Derrick, Patti Callahan, Joe Rigney, Diana Glyer, Gary Selby” at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

Michael Ward, Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis (13 hrs)

I have argued that Dr. Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia is the most important resource for reading Narnia that has emerged in the new century. While one might argue with parts of Ward’s thesis–as I have donePlanet Narnia is a great book for providing close readings of Lewis’ greatest works in a literary way that invites us into a deeper understanding of the books behind the Narnian chronicles. I hope the publishers record The Narnia Code, the popular version of the Planet Narnia resource, but I am thrilled that they began with the magnum opus, Planet Narnia. Meanwhile, Audible also has Ward’s “Now You Know” audio course, “Christology, Cosmology, and C.S. Lewis,” a shorter but helpful resource for newcomers to the conversation. The audiobook reader, Nigel Patterson, is professional and even in tone.

(4) INTRODUCING NEWTON EWELL. Yesterday a commenter noticed that artist Newton Ewell was one of the NASFiC/Westercon guests who had no entry in Fancyclopedia 3. Overnight someone (“Confan”) decided rather than complain, they’d write one for him. It’s very good, and apparently there’s a lot to know about – Newton Ewell.

(5) TIL THEY ATE THEM. An unexpected discovery in the Crimea: “Early Europeans Lived Among Giant 300kg Birds”. I suspect this state of affairs lasted until dinnertime. [Via Amazing Stories.]

Early Europeans lived alongside giant 3-meter tall birds new research published on Wednesday explains. The bird species was one of the largest to ever roam the earth weighing in at a staggering 450 kg.

Bones of the massive, probably flightless bird were discovered in a cave in Crimea. “We don’t have enough data yet to say whether it was most closely related to ostriches or to other birds, but we estimate it weighed about 450kg,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Nikita Zelenkov. This formidable weight is nearly double the largest moa, three times the largest living bird, the common ostrich, and nearly as much as an adult polar bear.”

(6) MARTIAN CARAVANSARY. Slate has posted an interview with Robert Zubrin, Founder and president of the Mars Society and author of The Case for Space: “What Will Life On Mars be Like?”

Slate: How do you envision settling Mars will begin, and what will the early settlements look like?

Robert Zubrin: I think it will begin with an exploration, and then the establishment of a permanent Mars base to support exploration. Whoever is sponsoring this base, whether it’s the U.S. government, an international consortium of governments, or private groups, it’s going to be tremendously to their benefit to have people stay extra rotations on Mars because the biggest expense is transporting people back and forth. If it costs $100 million to send someone to Mars and back—and that’s a low estimate—it would be a no-brainer to offer someone $5 million to stay there an extra two years. So, I think you’ll start to see people staying extra rotations on Mars, just like there are some people who spend an extra rotation on trips to Antarctica. And then, relationships will form. And people will have children. And you will see the beginning of an actual settlement, a base.

(7) AUREALIS AWARDS. The 2019 Aurealis Awards are now taking entries:

The Aurealis Awards, Australia’s premier awards for speculative fiction, are for works created by an Australian citizen or permanent resident, and published for the first time between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2019.

Full guidelines and FAQ can be found on the Aurealis Awards website:

(8) WESTEROS DISTINGUISHED. Everyone knows the Ninth Circuit marches to the beat of its own drummer – or is that to the pace of its own White Walkers? “Game of Thrones Night King storyline gets torched by federal judge”.

A federal appeals court’s opinion on Lindie Banks v. Northern Trust Corp. is — as one would expect from a case charging breaches of fiduciary duties — full of references to assets, investments and irrevocable trusts. Naturally, the Night King from Game of Thrones also makes a showing. 

In the opinion filed July 5, Judge John B. Owens writes that the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit won’t discard a prior legal precedent “the way that Game of Thrones rendered the entire Night King storyline meaningless in its final season.” 

(9) TORN OBIT. The actor with the best working name in Hollywood, Rip Torn, died July 9. CNN has the story: “Rip Torn, actor best known for ‘Men in Black’ and ‘The Larry Sanders Show,’ dies at 88”.

Rip Torn, an Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in “Men in Black” and HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show,” has died, according to his publicist Rick Miramontez. He was 88.

Torn died Tuesday at his home in Lakeville, Connecticut with his family by his side, Miramontez said.

The actor had a seven-decade career in film, television and theater, with nearly 200 credits to his name.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 10, 1903 John Wyndham. His best-known works include The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, both written in the Fifties. The latter novel was filmed twice as Village of the Damned. Both iBooks and Kindle have an impressive selection of his novels though little of his short fiction is available alas. (Died 1969.)
  • Born July 10, 1923 Earl Hamner Jr. Though much better known for writing and producing The Waltons, he wrote eight scripts for the Twilight Zone including “Black Leather Jackets” in which an alien falls in love with a human girl and “The Hunt” where raccoon hunters enter the Twilight Zone. He also wrote the script of the Hanna-Barbera production of Charlotte’s Web. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1929 George Clayton Johnson. He’s best known for co-writing with William F. Nolan the Logan’s Run novel, the source for the Logan’s Run film. He was also known for his scripts for the Twilight Zone including  “A Game of Pool”, “Kick the Can”, “Nothing in the Dark”, and “A Penny for Your Thoughts”, and the first telecast episode of the original Star Trek, “The Man Trap”. (Died 2015.)
  • Born July 10, 1931 Julian May. She‘s best known for her Saga of Pliocene Exile (known as the Saga of the Exiles in the UK) and Galactic Milieu series: Jack the BodilessDiamond Mask and Magnificat. She also chaired the 1952 Worldcon in Chicago. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 David Hartwell. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes him as “perhaps the single most influential book editor of the past forty years in the American science fiction publishing world.”  I certainly fondly remember the The Space Opera Renaissance he co-edited with Kathryn Cramer. Not to mention that his Year’s Best Fantasy and Year’s Best SF anthologies are still quite excellent reading. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1945 Ron Glass. Probably best known genre wise as Shepherd Book in the Firefly series and its sequel Serenity. His first genre role was as Jerry Merris in Deep Space, a SF horror film and he’d later show up voicing Philo D. Grenman in Strange Frame: Love & Sax (“slated as the world’s first animated lesbian-themed sci-fi film”; look it up as it as an impressive voice cast) and he showed up twice as J. Streiten, MD in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh and he was on Voyager playing a character named Loken in the  “Nightingale” episode. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1970 John Simm, 49. The second of modern Masters on Doctor Who.  He appeared in the final three episodes of series three during the Time of the Tenth Doctor: “Utopia”, “The Sound of Drums”, and “Last of the Time Lords”. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Wizard of Id comes up with a problem faced by witches in the land of Oz, one that never occurred to me before.

(12) TO AIR IS HUMAN. Galactic Journey’s Natalie Devitt attends a 1964 movie with a pre-Batman Adam West: “[July 10, 1964] Greetings from the Red Planet (The Movie, Robinson Crusoe on Mars)”.

The movie opens up aboard a spaceship carrying Commander Christopher Draper (played by Paul Mantee, appearing in his first film major film role), Colonel Dan McReady (Adam West, an actor commonly found on television westerns) and an adorable monkey named Mona.  Things take an unexpected turn when they detect a meteoroid and are “forced out of orbital velocity to avoid collision with planetoid into tighter orbit of Mars.”  As the situation worsens, the crew is left with no other option than to immediately attempt to land on the fourth planet.  While fleeing the vehicle in their individual escape pods, Draper is separated from McReady and Mona.

Draper adapts to the conditions on the red planet, while searching for McReady and Mona.  Even though he is part of the first crew on Mars, Draper learns quickly what it takes to survive.  He finds shelter in a cave.  For heat, Draper discovers yellow rocks that “burn like coal.” Heating the rocks not only keeps him warm, but also produces oxygen, which he then uses to refill his oxygen tank.  Throughout the film, Draper keeps a careful audio record about all that he experiences, which provides a useful narrative device when things happen off-screen. 

(13) BESPOKE. Vicky Who Reads mostly likes this one: “Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim: A Lush and Beautiful Fantasy with a Romance I Wasn’t Into”. (A little problem with the age difference between the couple, for one thing.)  

I knew this was going to be good, but I definitely did not know just how good it would be.

Elizabeth Lim’s Spin the Dawn was a classic-style story with a lush and beautiful world and gorgeous prose. Featuring the classic “girl dressing as a boy” trope, a Project-Runway-esque competition, and a quest, Spin the Dawn weaves tradition and fantasy into a phenomenal story.

(14) LEND ME YOUR EARS. Joe Sherry is “Listening to the Hugos: Fancast” and opens with thoughts about the category itself.

…Fancast suffers from some of the same issues that many of the down ballot categories do, though perhaps “suffer” is the wrong word. There is a lot of institutional memory built in here for fancasts which are consistent year after year. With a core of listeners who are frequent participants in the Hugo Award process, it is not surprising to see a number of finalists come back year after year. I’ve said this about a number of other categories, but it does make me wonder a little bit about the health of the category, but on the other hand it does also give a snapshot of what the genre and fan conversation and communities may have looked like over a several year period. A positive takeaway, though, is that the only repeat winner was SF Squeecast in the first two years of the category. Both Be the Serpent and Our Opinions Are Correct are new to the ballot and are new to being a podcast.

(15) DEAD CON WALKING. Although Trae Dorn has eased back on his posting frequency, Nerd & Tie still comes through with fannish news scoops: “Better Business Bureau Calls Walker Stalker Events a ‘Scam’”.

Walker Stalkers LLC, which runs conventions under the Walker Stalker Con, Heroes & Villains, and FanFest names, has been having a bit of a rough patch when it comes to finances lately. We reported on this back in April, and while the company has made some effort to refund people for cancelled events and appearances, many might claim that it hasn’t been quite enough. Those issues seem to have come to a head though, as their problems are now becoming known outside of the geek community.

Nashville’s WSMV is reporting that the Better Business Bureau is now openly warning people to avoid Walker Stalkers LLC run events.

(16) IS IT REAL? BBC asked — “Midsommar: What do film critics in Sweden think?” Beware the occasional spoilers.

Swedish film reviewers are giving a cautious welcome to Midsommar, a horror film about a bizarre pagan festival in a remote part of Sweden.

Directed by Hereditary’s Ari Aster, the film stars Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor as an American couple who travel to Harga village in Halsingland to observe the midsummer ritual that takes place there only once every 90 years.

The film – which was actually shot in Hungary – has been getting strong reviews since it opened in the US earlier this month. It currently has an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

One critic, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich, tweeted that Midsommar would “do for Swedish pagan rituals what Psycho did for showers”.

The film opened in Sweden on Wednesday and the first reviews have been appearing in the Swedish press. So what do the critics there think?

(17) REALITY CHECK. Be fair – everyone’s seen mermaids and knows, uh, never mind… NPR relates that “Disney Cable Channel Defends Casting Black Actress As New ‘Little Mermaid'”.

When Disney announced that Halle Bailey, a teen actress and one-half of the singing group Chloe x Halle, had landed the role of Ariel in the forthcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, some people on social media went bonkers.

But not over the fact that it’s 2019 and the Danish fairy tale tells the story of a young female creature who loves singing and wearing a seashell bikini top and eagerly gives up her voice in exchange for a romance with a good-looking guy. Nor are critics outraged by the kind of message that narrative conveys to young children.

Instead, certain circles of the Internet are aghast that the ingenue cast by Disney is black.

The complaints run along the lines of: “The actress should look like the real Little Mermaid!” By which they presumably mean the white-skinned, blue-eyed cartoon character in the 1989 blockbuster film. The hashtag #NotMyAriel quickly began trending on Twitter, and since the announcement last week, scores of fans have pledged to boycott the film.

For days the company remained silent regarding the controversy, but Freeform, a cable network owned by Disney and on which Bailey appears as a cast member on Grown-ish, issued a statement on Instagram clarifying that, “Ariel…is a mermaid.”

(18) SHAKE IT ‘TIL YOU BREAK IT. “Satellite photos show California earthquake leaves scar on the desert” – BBC has lots of photos, satellite and other.

The strongest earthquake to hit California in two decades left a scar across the desert which can be seen from space, new pictures show.

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck on Friday at a depth of just 0.9km (0.6 miles), creating a fissure near its epicentre about 240km north-east of Los Angeles.

It was felt as far away as Phoenix, Arizona – more than 560km south-east.

…The crack in the desert – captured in before and after pictures released by Planet Labs – opened close to the epicentre of the quake near the town of Ridgecrest.

(19) TWO FAMILY TREES. BBC encounters the “Earliest modern human found outside Africa”.

A skull unearthed in Greece has been dated to 210,000 years ago, at a time when Europe was occupied by the Neanderthals.

The sensational discovery adds to evidence of an earlier migration of people from Africa that left no trace in the DNA of people alive today.

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

Researchers uncovered two significant fossils in Apidima Cave in Greece in the 1970s.

One was very distorted and the other incomplete, however, and it took computed tomography scanning and uranium-series dating to unravel their secrets.

The more complete skull appears to be a Neanderthal. But the other shows clear characteristics, such as a rounded back to the skull, diagnostic of modern humans.

What’s more, the Neanderthal skull was younger.

(20) SPACE COLLECTIBLES. On July 16-189, Heritage Auctions continues with the third round of Neil Armstrong memorabilia: “The Armstrong Family Collection III Space Exploration Signature Auction”.

To the many numismatists who may be reading this newsletter, here is a unique piece for your consideration: a Gemini 8 Flown United States 1864 Large Motto 2¢ Piece, graded MS 61 BN by NGC and encapsulated by CAG (Collectibles Authentication Guaranty) . This coin was supplied by an Ohio coin dealer to Neil Armstrong who took it with him on the mission, “carried in a specially sewn pocket in my pressure suit.” As you may know, Gemini 8 performed the world’s first orbital docking in space but it nearly ended in disaster when one of the Orbit and Maneuvering System thrusters stuck in the on position causing an uncontrollable tumbling. Armstrong was somehow able to control it and bring the craft in for a successful emergency landing. This coin, for many years on loan from the Armstrong family to the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, is extensively provenanced by the dealer and also Neil Armstrong’s father.

Another amazing item is Neil Armstrong’s Personally Owned and Worn Early Apollo-Era Flight Suit by Flite Wear with Type 3 NASA Vector Patch. I can’t imagine a better (or rarer) item for display purposes, a real museum piece. And, to go with it: Neil Armstrong’s Personal NASA Leather Name Tag.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, 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 ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 5/8/19 Only The True Pixel Denies His Scrollability!

(1) KAY Q&A. “A Collision of History and Memory: Guy Gavriel Kay Discusses His New Novel A Brightness Long Ago at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

In a letter you wrote that was attached by the publisher to advance copies of A Brightness Long Ago, you note that we are psychologically and neurologically programmed to internalize the memories from our teens until our mid-twenties more intensely than any other time of life, a fact that is an underpinning to this book. Do you care to expand on that thought?
There’s a wry aspect to this, as my psychoanalyst brother (to whom this book is dedicated) mentioned this to me 15 or so years ago! When I started writing this novel, using as one of the point of view characters—a man looking back on events form his twenties that loom large for him—that conversation came back from my memory! I asked my brother and he sent some scholarship on the subject.

(2) WATCHMEN TEASER. Time is running out – but for what?

Tick tock. Watchmen debuts this fall on HBO. From Damon Lindelof, Watchmen is a modern-day reimagining of Alan Moore’s groundbreaking graphic novel about masked vigilantes.

(3) NEW RUSS PROFILE. Gwyneth Jones, winner of two World Fantasy Awards, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the SFRA Pilgrim award for lifetime achievement in SF criticism, will have a new book out in July — Joanna Russ (University of Illinois Press).

Experimental, strange, and unabashedly feminist, Joanna Russ’s groundbreaking science fiction grew out of a belief that the genre was ideal for expressing radical thought. Her essays and criticism, meanwhile, helped shape the field and still exercise a powerful influence in both SF and feminist literary studies.

Award-winning author and critic Gwyneth Jones offers a new appraisal of Russ’s work and ideas. After years working in male-dominated SF, Russ emerged in the late 1960s with Alyx, the uber-capable can-do heroine at the heart of Picnic on Paradise and other popular stories and books. Soon, Russ’s fearless embrace of gender politics and life as an out lesbian made her a target for male outrage while feminist classics like The Female Man and The Two of Them took SF in innovative new directions. Jones also delves into Russ’s longtime work as a critic of figures as diverse as Lovecraft and Cather, her foundational place in feminist fandom, important essays like “Amor Vincit Foeminam,” and her career in academia.

(4) ORIGINAL QUESTIONS. The Powell’s City of Books site scored an interview with Ted Chiang about his new collection — “Powell’s Q&A: Ted Chiang, Author of ‘Exhalation'”

What do you care about more than most people around you?
In the context of speculative fiction, I think I’m atypically interested in the question of how do the characters in a story understand their universe. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t care about the plausibility of an invented world as long as the characters are believable. To me these aren’t easily separated. When reading a story I often find myself thinking, Why has no one in this world ever wondered such-and-such? Why has no one ever asked this question, or attempted this experiment? 

(5) ALL ALPHABETS ARE OFF. R.S. Benedict, who’s made several quality appearances in F&SF, has a new podcast, Rite Gud, talking about writing issues. The first episode is: “This Garbage Brought to You By the Letters S-E-O: How Google Is Ruining Writing”.

If you’ve been on the internet for a while, you may have heard about SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization.” But do you know what SEO really is — and the effect it has on writing? While some SEO tips are good — like citing your sources with added external links! — others make writing stilted and awkward. (For example, have you noticed how many times “SEO” has appeared in this paragraph?)

We all want to be seen. One of the most important ways is via Google, is it worth it if it makes your writing stiff? And do you have any other options? Or are we all stuck on the same hamster wheel, using the same techniques to try to rise above the din?

(5b) TOP OF THE POLL. Congratulations to Michael A. Burstein, who has been re-elected to the Brookline (MA) Board of Library Trustees for a sixth term. He notes, “Although the race was uncontested, the unofficial results indicate that I came in first among the four of us running this year, for which I thank everyone who voted for me.”

(6) RUSCH KICKSTARTER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Kickstarter appeal for The Diving Universe funded the first day, now they’re raising money to meet the stretch goal. JJ got me reading these, so I had to chip in —

…Two years ago, I realized that before I could write the next book about Boss, though, I needed to figure out what happened in the past, long before any of my current characters were born. 

So…I started what I thought was a short story. It became a 260,000 word adventure novel called The Renegat, because I can’t do world-building without telling a story.

…Everyone who backs this Kickstarter at the $5 and above will receive an ebook of The Renegat

The Kickstarter also gave me an excuse to assemble two books of extras—unfinished side trails, some from The Renegat, and many from earlier books, along with some essays about the entire project.

Of course, backers at the higher levels will get the hardcovers of the series as we complete them. And there are some other fun things here as well. You can get some of the lectures I’ve done for WMG Publishing about writing, or you can join the monthly Ask Kris Anything sessions. Those are live webinars, and you can ask questions about Diving to your heart’s content.

If we make our $5,000 stretch goal, every backer will get a copy of the novella, “Escaping Amnthra,” which is a side story that couldn’t fit into the novel. (“Escape” stands alone as well.)

(7) ROMANCE AWARDS. An array of Romance Writers of America awards have been announced. The award recipients will be recognized at the 2019 RWA Conference in New York.

2019 RWA Award Recipients

  • RWA Lifetime Achievement Award: Cherry Adair
  • RWA Emma Merritt Service Award: Dee Davis
  • RWA Service Awards: Courtney Milan, Gina Fluharty, Barbara Wallace
  • RWA Vivian Stephens Industry Award: Mark Coker, Founder & CEO, Smashwords
  • RWA Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year: Stephen Ammidown, Manuscript & Outreach Archivist, Browne Popular Culture Library, Bowling Green State University
  • RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year: Michelle Mioff-Haring, Owner, Cupboard Maker Books
  • RWA Veritas Award:Meet The Women Who Are Building A Better Romance Industry” by Bim Adewunmi

Hey – I actually used the pop culture library at BGSU when I went there eons ago!

(8) ANCIENT CLONE. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination hosts “Neanderthal Among Us? Science Meets Fiction: A Discussion of the Motion Picture William” on May 13 at UCSD from 5:30-8:30 p.m. RSVP Required – full details here.

Join the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program, the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny, OnePlace, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination for a free screening of the film William, which tells the story of what happens when two scientists clone a Neanderthal from ancient DNA and raise him in today’s world. Following the film, a panel will explore the scientific and ethical questions the film raises.

About the Film William

Star academics Doctors Julian Reed and Barbara Sullivan, fall in love with each other and with the idea of cloning a Neanderthal from ancient DNA. Against the express directive of University administrators they follow through on this audacious idea. The result is William: the first Neanderthal to walk the earth for some 35,000 years. William tries his best to fit into the world around him. But his distinctive physical features and his unique way of thinking–his “otherness”–set him apart and provoke fear. William’s story is powerful and unique, but his struggle to find love and assert his own identity in a hostile world is universal–and timeless.

(9) TWO SCOOPS OF ALASDAIR STUART. Alasdair Stuart’s latest column for Fox Spirit, “Not The Fox News: Don’t Be Nelson”, talks about how emotional engagement, especially when so many major story cycles are starting to end, is both a good thing and to be encouraged.

About once a decade, everything lines up. A half dozen major cultural juggernauts all come into land at about the same time and some poor soul is paid to write the ‘GEEK CULTURE IS OVER. WE SHALL NEVER SEE ITS LIKE AGAIN’ piece. Hey if the check clears and the piece doesn’t hurt anyone, go with God. We’re in one of those times now. Game of Thrones has under half its super short final season to go. Avengers Endgame is all over theaters everywhere and the ninth core Star Wars movie has been confirmed as the end of the Skywalker saga. If this was a concert, we’d officially be into the ‘Freebird’, ‘Hotel California’, ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Single Ladies’ phase of the night.

These are emotional times….

Stuart has also joined the Ditch Diggers team with a new monthly column. The first one takes a look at the massive ructions in podcasting at the moment and the lessons writers can take from that. “Welcome to the Montage, Now Stare at a Test Tube”

…So let’s break this down. First off, Luminary is a new podcast streaming platform that launched a few months ago with a ton of exclusive titles and a ton of money, very little of which they seem to have spent on a public relations department. The idea is that they are ‘the Netflix of podcasts’, which presumably doesn’t mean:

‘We’re sustained by the physical library system that no one expected to live this long and it takes two years for us to get the new season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’.

Instead, the idea is that Luminary will feature forty or so podcasts which are only available through it’s app, most of which are fronted by celebrities.

How you feel about this really depends on how you feel about ‘famous person has some thoughts’ style shows.

(10) COHEN OBIT. The SFWA Blog announced that scientist Jack Cohen (1933-2019) died May 6.

Cohen primarily worked in the field of reproductive biology….  

As a science fiction fan, Cohen found himself advising many authors, including Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, David Gerrold, Jerry Pournelle, and Harry Harrison.  He teamed with Ian Stewart and Terry Pratchett wrote four volumes in the Science of Discworld series, the first of which earned the three authors a Hugo Nomination for Best Related Book.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1937 Thomas Pynchon, 82. Ok I’m confused. I’ve not read him so I’m not at all sure which of his novels can be considered genre. Would y’all first enlighten to which are such, and second what I should now read. ISFDB certainly doesn’t help by listing pretty much everything of his as genre including Mason & Dixon which though post-modernist isn’t genre.
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including Alien, The Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics, but I’ll let you detail those endeavours. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film, as was White Shark, which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death.  Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know most likely Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon Storm, Path of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017)
  • Born May 8, 1963 Michel Gondry, 56. French director, screenwriter, and producer of such genre as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  (love that film), The Green Hornet (on the other hand, I deleted this from my .mov files after watching fifteen minutes of it) and The Science of Sleep (which I had not heard but sounds interesting.) 
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 38. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few seasons of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Star Trek, Young Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough, thank you.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity crams several horrendous puns into this one-frame, LOTR-inspired cartoon.

(13) SPOILERS ASSEMBLE! The putative Endgame spoiler ban has been lifted by the Russo brothers, and Yahoo! Entertainment has a roundup of special tweets from the cast: “‘Avengers: Endgame’ cast reveals treasure trove of behind the scenes footage as spoiler ban lifts”.

The cast of Avengers: Endgame have had to sit on a ton of spoilers for years, with much of the filming on the Marvel mega-blockbuster dating all the way back to 2017.

Directing duo Joe and Anthony Russo have now lifted the ban on discussing spoilers from the film, so many of the cast members have been unveiling some of their illicit behind-the-scenes pictures and videos.

There are, of course, Avengers: Endgame spoilers ahead…

(14) ATWOOD. Tyler Cowen had Margaret Atwood on his Conversations With Tyler podcast: “Margaret Atwood on Canada, Writing, and Invention”. Atwood discusses Hag-Seed, her take on The Tempest, at the 10 minute mark.  She explains why she started writing The Handmaid’s Tale in West Berlin in 1984, and her love of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Audience questions coming in at the 55-minute mark about her Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments, coming in September, why she likes the YouTube video “At Last, They’ve Made A Handmaid’s Tale for men,” and how readers figured out Offred’s last name.

(15) THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON POKÉMON. Ars Technica reports players have unexpected anatomical development: “Pokémon characters have their own pea-sized region in brain, study finds”.

…It’s well known that human beings are remarkably adept at visually recognizing faces, words, numbers, places, colors, and so forth thanks to a constellation of regions—small clusters of neurons about the size of a pea—in the temporal lobe, located just behind the ears. Those regions show up in the same place in most people, despite differences in age, sex, or race. There’s even a so-called “Jennifer Aniston neuron,” (aka the “grandmother cell“) discovered by a UCLA neuroscientist in 2005, whose primary purpose seems to be to recognize images of the famous actress. Similar neurons have also been found for other celebrities like Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, and Kobe Bryant.

“This is quite remarkable, and it’s still an open mystery in neuroscience why these regions appear exactly where they do in the brain,” said co-author Jesse Gomez, a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, who conducted the experiments while a grad student at Stanford University. One way to answer this question, and determine which of several competing theories is correct, is to study people who, as children, had a unique experience with a new type of visual stimulus. If those people were shown to have developed a new brain region dedicated to recognizing that new object class, that would offer useful insight into how the brain organizes itself.

The catch: it would take many hours of laboratory practice with any new visual stimulus for there to be any measurable effect. But “I realized that the 1990s had already done it for me,” said Gomez. “I grew up playing Pokémon. The game rewards kids for individuating between hundreds of similar-looking Pokémon.” The game is also played primarily during childhood, a “critical window” period where the brain is especially plastic and responsive to experience. He reasoned it might be possible that passionate Pokémon players like his childhood self would have developed a new brain region in response to that experience. So he applied for a seed grant to test that hypothesis.

(16) BDP PLAYOFFS. Time is out of joint in Camestros Felapton’s review post, “Hugo 2019 Best Dramatic Long etc Round-up”.

…Bless its mega-crossover heart but Avengers: Infinity War is not a serious contender for the best science-fiction film of 2018. It is a notable bit of film making but it’s rather like what ends up on your plate when you* visit a really nice buffet — lots of tasty things but not a carefully constructed dining experience. I get why it’s here instead of Thor: Ragnarok but Thor 3 was a better contender as a sci-fi movie.

That leaves a face-off between Black Panther and Spider-Man. Both are visual treats. Spider-verse pulls off the remarkable feat of creating yet another reboot of Spider-Man as a film character in a way that makes me genuinely excited (doubly remarkable as the MCU version of Spidey was pretty good too)….

(17) HUGO REVIEWS, Here are links to three more sets of 2019 Hugo nominee reviews.

Steve J. Wright’s Best Novella Hugo Finalist reviews are online:

Bonnie McDaniel has completed her Best Novel Hugo Reviews at Red Headed Femme.

Peter Enyeart has posted a set of “2019 Hugo picks: Short stories” at Stormsewer.

(18) RISK. “Think Women Aren’t Big Risk Takers? These Chinese Girls Buck The Stereotype”NPR has the story.

Many studies have found that women aren’t as willing as men to take risks. And so they may shy away from riskier investments or career choices, missing out on the rewards that can come from taking big chances.

The perennial question: Why? Is it nature or nurture?

…Elaine Liu, an economist at the University of Houston, …and co-author Sharon Xuejing Zuo at Fudan University in Shanghai found that young girls from the Mosuo community in China, one of the few societies in the world run by women, were bigger risk-takers than boys from the same community. But after the Mosuo girls spent years in schools with boys and girls who came from patriarchal communities, the trend reversed: Older Mosuo girls took fewer chances.

(19) THE HOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT. BBC reports a “Missing part of Stonehenge returned 60 years on”.

A missing piece of Stonehenge has been returned to the site 60 years after it was taken.

A metre-long core from inside the prehistoric stone was removed during archaeological excavations in 1958.

No-one knew where it was until Robert Phillips, 89, who was involved in those works, decided to return part of it.

English Heritage, which looks after Stonehenge, hopes the sample might now help establish where the stones originally came from.

In 1958 archaeologists raised an entire fallen trilithon – a set of three large stones consisting of two that would have stood upright, with the third placed horizontally across the top.

During the works, cracks were found in one of the vertical stones and in order to reinforce it, cores were drilled through the stone and metal rods inserted.

The repairs were masked by small plugs cut from sarsen fragments found during excavations.

(20) BEST FOOT FORWARD. I’m telling you, this reminds me of a John Sladek story: “Botswana gives leaders stools made from elephant feet”.

Stools made from elephant feet have been presented to three African leaders by their host in Botswana during a meeting on the future of the mammals.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi handed over the gifts, covered in a blue patterned cloth, to his counterparts from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The countries, along with South Africa, are calling for the ban on the sale of ivory to be lifted.

They argue that money from the trade can be used for conservation projects.

Elephant poaching is a big issue across Africa and some estimates say 30,000 are killed every year. There are thought to be 450,000 left.

(21) ROCK OF AGES. In Air & Space Magazine’s article “Claimed Signs of Life in a Martian Meteorite” the tagline seems an understatement — “Like other previous claims, this one may not hold up.” Another scientist has claimed that a meteorite that originated on Mars contains signs of life. You may recall such a claim previously made based on analysis of ALH84001 (ALH stands for Allan Hills in Antarctica, where the rock was found) with the announcement made in 1996. The evidence was eventually judged inconclusive by most scientists.

Now a new paper by Ildikó Gyollai from the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences in Budapest, Hungary, and colleagues, claims that there might be clues to Martian life in another Allan Hills meteorite, this time ALH77005. They base their conclusions on morphological and geochemical indicators—including the presence of organic material—which lead them to speculate on the past presence of iron bacteria in this Martian rock. […]

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Jim Meadows, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 1/25/19 Eight Files High

(1) SINGING ABOUT PEASPROUT CHEN. Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with Henry Lien brought out a fascinating musical connection —

You’re the first author I’ve interviewed who’s had a Broadway singer perform at the book launch for their debut novel. I watched the promotional video of the one and only Idina Menzel performing the theme song from the first book of your Peasprout Chen series, Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword, with you. That’s so cool! What’s the backstory? How did that happen?

We’re represented by the same agency, ICM. She got a hold of the advance reader copy of the first Peasprout Chen book and flipped over it. She asked ICM if they could arrange for her to meet me. After I finished screaming into my pillow, I said, “Oh, well, let me see if I can find a slot in my calendar to squeeze in lunch with Idina Freeggin’ Menzel.” Then I screamed into my pillow some more. We met and really hit it off. She has become a dear friend. So I asked her to sing the theme song for the book at the launch. She said yes. Then I died of shock, and thus am conducting this interview with you from the Beyond.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to gobble goat cheese fritters with Scott H. Andrews while listening to Episode 87 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Scott H. Andrews, founder and editor and publisher of the online magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, celebrated the 10th anniversary of that magazine by hosting a party at the recent World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore, Maryland — which made it seem like the right time for us to discuss that first decade. So we raised a pint at Red’s Table in Reston, Virginia.

Well, he raised a pint — of bourbon-barrel aged Gold Cup Russian Imperial Stout from Old Bust Head Brewery in Fauquier County, Virginia — while I downed my usual bottle of Pellagrino. And as we sipped, we chatted about that work on Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which has so far earned him six World Fantasy Award nominations and six Hugo Award nominations — and won him a British Fantasy Award. He’s a writer as well, with his own fiction appearing in Weird Tales, Space and Time, On Spec, and other magazines.

We discussed the treatment he received as a writer which taught him what he wanted to do (and didn’t want to do) as an editor, how his time as member of a band helped him come up with the name for his magazine, why science fiction’s public perception as a literary genre is decades ahead of fantasy, what it takes for a submission to rise to the level of receiving a rewrite request, the time he made an editor cry (and why he was able to do it), how he felt being a student at the Odyssey Writing Workshop and then returning as a teacher, the phrase he tends to overuse in his personalized rejection letters (and the reason why it appears so often), the way magazine editing makes him like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian, why writers shouldn’t worry about the ratio of submitted stories to purchased ones, the reason he’ll probably never edit novels, what anyone considering starting a magazine of their own needs to know, and much more.

(3) GET ILLUMINATED. “Sacred Texts: Codices Far, Far Away” – Two University of Pennsylvania scholars are doing a series of videos about the ancient Jedi texts until Star Wars Episode 9 is released on December 20.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Luke Skywalker gathered a small library of ancient Jedi texts and placed them in an uneti tree on Ahch-To.

On October 8, 2018, Dr. Brandon Hawk and curator Dot Porter met to talk about these ancient books, and to compare them with manuscripts from the collection of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania.

Here are the first two videos:

(4) NEW HORIZONS PHOTOS ARRIVING SLOWLY. “Nasa’s New Horizons: Best image yet of ‘space snowman’ Ultima Thule” – BBC had the story.

The New Horizons probe has sent back its best picture yet of the small, icy object Ultima Thule, which it flew past on New Year’s Day.

The image was acquired when the Nasa spacecraft was just 6,700km from its target, which scientists think is two bodies lightly fused together – giving the look of a snowman.

Surface details are now much clearer.

New Horizons’ data is coming back very slowly, over the next 20 months.

This is partly to do with the great distance involved (the separation is 6.5 billion km) but is also limited by the small power output of the probe’s transmitter and the size (and availability) of the receive antennas here on Earth. It all makes for glacial bit rates.

The new image was obtained with New Horizons’ wide-angle Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) and gives a resolution of 135m per pixel. There is another version of this scene taken at even higher resolution by the probe’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), but this has not yet been downlinked from the probe.

(5) RSR PRO ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Greg Hullender says, “Based on the discussion on File770, we did the experiment of expanding our Pro Artist list using the ISFDB info. This actually expands it hugely. We ended up not trying to merge the lists for this year, but we posted the ISFDB data separately just so people could have it as a resource. It’s awfully nice data, if a bit overwhelming, and it’d be great to find a good way to use it. We’re hoping people will look at it and offer some ideas for how to make it a bit more manageable.” — “Pro Artists from ISFDB Novels 2018”.

Based on some conversations on File 770 about better ways to find candidates for the Best Professional Artist Hugo Award, we decided to try using the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB) as a source.  The result is spectacular, but maybe a bit overwhelming, so we decided not to try to integrate it with our regular Pro Artists page this year. Instead, we’re treating this as an experiment and inviting feedback on how we might best use this wealth of data in the future to help people who’re trying to find professional artists to nominate.

(6) FRANKENSTEIN AND ROBOTS. In the Winter 2019 Beloit College Magazine, Susan Kasten (“Why Frankenstein Will Never Die”)  discusses how an English professor, an anthropologist, a physicist, and a professor of cognitive science team-taught Frankenstein in a class called “Frankenstein 200:  Monster, Myth, and Meme.”

Robin Zebrowski, a professor of cognitive science, pointed out that the themes of Frankenstein — of creation, difference, empathy, monstrosity, and control–are the memes of artificial intelligence.  Zebrowski pointed out that early robot stories are about Frankenstein.  ‘They’re about building something no one can control once it’s unleashed,’ she said.  She noted that the first work of literature ever written about robots–a 1923 Czech play called R.U.R.–is a story about a robot uprising.

(Incidentally, Professor Zebrowski believes she is not related to sff author George Zebrowski.)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

January 25, 1915 — First transcontinental telephone call was made, between New York and San Francisco; Alexander Graham Bell and Dr. Thomas A. Watson exchanged greetings.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. His first first SF film have him as Dr. Dan Forbes in the 1953 The Magnetic Monster and as Dr. Ingersoll In The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The very next year, he plays James O’Herli in Riders to the Stars. And now we get to the film that you know him from — Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which he playsJack Belicec. After that, I show him only in Nothing Lasts Forever which has never been released here in the States. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1943 Tobe Hooper. Director of such such genre films as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the original of course), Poltergeist (damn scary film) Invaders from Mars and Djinn, his final film. He directed a smattering of television episodes including the “Miss Stardust” of Amazing Stories, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” of Freddy’s Nightmares, “Dead Wait” of Tales from the Crypt and the entire Salem’s Lot miniseries. He also wrote a horror novel with Alan Goldsher,  Midnight Movie: A Novel, that has himself in it at a speaking engagement. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 25, 1958Peter Watts, 61.Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower linked short stories sound intriguing. 
  • Born January 25, 1963 Catherine Butler, 56. Butler published a number of works of which the most important is Four British fantasists : place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Another important work is Reading History in Children’s Books, with Hallie O’Donovan. Her website is here.
  • Born January 25, 1970 Stephen Chbosky, 49. Screenwriter and director best-known I’d say for the Emma Watson-fronted Beauty and the Beast. But he also was responsible for the Jericho series which was a rather decent bit of SF even if, like Serenity, it got killed far too quickly. (Yes, I’m editorializing.) 
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 46. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him in on Batman: Gotham Knights, Justice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was over ambitious but really fun. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Michael Trevino, 34. Performer, Tyler Lockwood on The Vampire Diaries and now Kyle Valenti on the new Roswell, New Mexico series whose premises I’ll leave you to guess. His first genre appearance was in the Charm episode of “Malice in Wonderland” as Alastair. He also shows up on The OriginalsThe Vampire Diaries spin-off. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Claudia Kim, 34. Only four film films but all genre: she played Dr. Helen Cho Avengers: Age of Ultron followed by voicing The Collective In Equals which Wiki manages to call a ‘dystopian utopia’ film to which I say ‘Eh?!?’, and then Arra Champignon in the 2017 version of The Dark Tower and finally as  Nagini, Voldemort’s snake which I presume is a voice role (though I’ve not seen the film so I could be wrong) in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Hulk’s last words? Bizarro has them.

(10) ASIMOV REFERENCE. Yesterday on Late Night With Stephen Colbert (at about the 1:50 mark) the host said during a sketch —

“My self-driving car has stopped taking me to Taco Bell…citing the first law of Robotics.”

(11) RE-DEEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] press release from Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias in Spain addresses the latest “deep image” from the Hubble Space Telescope. The original Hubble Deep Field was assembled in 1995, only to be exceeded by the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field in 2004 and the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field in 2012. Each imaged galaxies further away and thus further back in time. Now there’s a new version of the Ultra-Deep Field that recovers “additional light” not included in earlier versions and showing thus additional information about the included galaxies.

To produce the deepest image of the Universe from space a group of researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) led by Alejandro S. Borlaff used original images from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST taken over a region in the sky called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF). After improving the process of combining several images the group was able to recover a large quantity of light from the outer zones of the largest galaxies in the HUDF. Recovering this light, emitted by the stars in these outer zones, was equivalent to recovering the light from a complete galaxy (“smeared out” over the whole field) and for some galaxies this missing light shows that they have diameters almost twice as big as previously measured.

A scientific paper on the image and analysis is on ArXiv at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1810.00002.pdf (technically a preprint, but it has been accepted for publication by Astronomy & Astrophysics). The data itself is at http://www.iac.es/proyecto/abyss.

(11) NOW BOARDING. James Davis Nicoll knows how we love the number 5 here — “5 SFF Stories About Surviving the Dangers of Boarding School” at Tor.com.

As a setting, boarding schools allow for the construction of thrilling narratives: concerned parents are replaced by teachers who may well prioritize student achievement over student welfare, e.g. maximizing points for Gryffindor over the survival of the students earning those points…

Are there any SFF novels featuring boarding schools? Why yes! I am glad you asked—there are more than I can list in a single article. Here are just a few….

(12) BETTER TECH, MARK 0. Scientists have now deduced that “Neanderthals ‘could kill at a distance'”.

Neanderthals may once have been considered to be our inferior, brutish cousins, but a new study is the latest to suggest they were smarter than we thought – especially when it came to hunting.

The research found that the now extinct species were creating weaponry advanced enough to kill at a distance.

Scientists believe they crafted spears that could strike from up to 20m away.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Lead researcher Dr Annemieke Milks, from UCL Institute of Archaeology, said: “The original idea was that Neanderthals would have been very limited using hand-delivered spears, where they could only come up at close contact and thrust them into prey.

“But if they could throw them from 15m to 20m, this really opens up a wider range of hunting strategies that Neanderthals would have been able to use.”

Extension of the above — “Why we still underestimate the Neanderthals”.

Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, explains why some old assumptions about the intellectual capabilities of our evolutionary relatives, the Neanderthals persist today. But a body of evidence is increasingly forcing us to re-visit these old ideas.

A paper out this week in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution reports the early arrival of modern humans to south-western Iberia around 44,000 years ago.

Why should this be significant? It all has to do with the spread of our ancestors and the extinction of the Neanderthals. South-western Iberia has been claimed to have been a refuge of the Neanderthals, a place where they survived longer than elsewhere, but the evidence is disputed by some researchers.

The latest paper, which is not about Neanderthals, has been taken by some as evidence of an arrival into this area which is much earlier than previously known.

By implication, if modern humans were in south-western Iberia so early then they must have caused the early disappearance of the Neanderthals. It is a restatement of the idea that modern human superiority was the cause of the Neanderthal demise. Are these ideas tenable in the light of mounting genetic evidence that our ancestors interbred with the Neanderthals?

(13) LOST ART? This certainly seems symbolic of the government shutdown: “Shutdown Leaves Uninflated Space Sculpture Circling in Orbit” in the New York Times.

…“Orbital Reflector,” a sculpture by Trevor Paglen that was recently launched into orbit.

The sculpture is not lost in space as much as stuck in a holding pattern before activation, pending clearance by the Federal Communications Commission. According to the artist, it might not survive the wait while F.C.C. workers are on furlough.

A 100-foot-long mylar balloon coated with titanium oxide, “Orbital Reflector” was designed to be visible to the naked eye at twilight or dawn while in orbit for a couple of months. It would then incinerate upon entering the Earth’s thicker atmosphere.

But although it was sent to space, the balloon was never inflated as planned.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/22/17 How Can You Tell If An Elephant Has Been On Your Scroll? By The Footprints On The Pixels

(1) EBOOKS FOR HURRICANE RELIEF. Fireside Fiction has teamed up with other small presses, authors, and editors to offer e-books to raise money for hurricane relief through the Hurricane Relief Bookstore.

Fireside Fiction Company has put together the Hurricane Relief Bookstore to raise funds for disaster relief and rebuilding for Houston, the Caribbean, and Florida.

100% of profits from sales on this store will go toward the following three relief organizations:

• For Houston: Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

• For the Caribbean: Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Fund

• For Florida: ShelterBox

The ebooks on this store are intentionally priced high—the more money we raise, the better. If you want to increase your donations, simply increase the quantities in your shopping cart before checking out.

Each ebook consists of a Zip file that includes a Mobi file for your Kindle and an Epub file for iBooks, Nook, Kobo, or any other reader (some publishers also include a PDF file). All files are DRM-free (because come on, it’s 2017).

(2) THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS SATURN. E.R. Ellsworth presents the bittersweet “Lost Letters From Cassini” on Medium.

January 1st, 2001

My Dearest Geneviève:

I hope this missive finds you well. As far as my travels have taken me, you remain ever in my thoughts.

Huygens and I celebrated the new year with the majestic visage of Jupiter full in our sights. I’m enclosing several photographs of that celestial marvel for you and the kids to enjoy. I am no Ansel Adams, however, and I fear my skills with the lens cannot capture the true beauty of this place.

Yours always,

Cassini

(3) ABOVE AND BEYOND. It is the nature of we humans to be more interested in someone’s opinion of Amazon Author Rankings if he or she happens to be speaking from the top of the pile. Take John Scalzi, for example.

Yesterday nine of my novels were on sale for $2.99 in ebook format, across a bunch of different retailers, but most prominently on Amazon, because, well, Amazon. Amazon has a number of different ways to make authors feel competitive and neurotic, one of which is its “Amazon Author Rank,” which tells you where you fit in the grand hierarchy of authors on Amazon, based (to some extent) on sales and/or downloads via Amazon’s subscription reading service. And yesterday, I got to the top of it — #1 in the category of science fiction and fantasy, and was #4 overall, behind JK Rowling and two dudes who co-write business books. Yes, I was (and am still! At this writing!) among the elite of the elite in the Amazon Author Ranks, surveying my realm as unto a god.

And now, thoughts! …

  1. This opacity works for Amazon because it keeps authors engaged, watching their Amazon Author Rankings go up and down, and getting little spikes or little stabs as their rankings bounce around. I mean, hell, I think it’s neat to have a high ranking, and I know it’s basically nonsense! But I do think it’s important for authors to remember not to get too invested in the rankings because a) if you don’t know how it works, you don’t know why you rank as you do, at any particular time, b) it’s foolish to be invested in a ranking whose mechanism is unknown to you, c) outside of Amazon, the ranking has no relevance.

(4) NEEDS MEANER VILLAIN. Zhaoyun presents “Microreview [book]: Babylon’s Ashes (book six of The Expanse), by James S.A. Corey” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this is where, in my opinion, Babylon’s Ashes missteps.

It turns out Inaros just isn’t that compelling a villain, and perhaps as a consequence of this, the good guys’ inevitable victory over him isn’t particularly cathartic. In one sense that shouldn’t matter, since of course it’s entirely up to Daniel Abraham and Ty Francks what sort of villain to create, and nothing mandates a “tougher than you can believe” archetype. The problem, as I see it, is that they fell into this narrative trope without having the right sort of villain for it. Inaros is simply a megalomaniac with a flair (sort of) for PR, but his ridiculous behavior and blunders end up alienating many of his erstwhile supporters. This leeches the catharsis right out of the mano y mano confrontation at the end, since in a manner of speaking Inaros has already been beaten, in small ways, numerous times before this….

(5) HOBBIT FORMING. The 80th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit prompted Vann R. Newkirk II to recall when right made might, in “There and Back Again” for The Atlantic.

Modern fantasy and its subgenres, as represented in [George R.R.] Martin’s work, might be positioned as anti-art in relation to Tolkien. In that way, Tolkien still dominates. While the watchword of the day is subversion—twisting tropes, destroying moral absolutes with relativism, and making mockeries of gallantry and heroism—subversion still requires a substrate. So although fantasy creators in all media have devoted most of their energies in the past eight decades to digesting Tolkien, so in turn Tolkien has become part of the fabric of their works. There’s a little Bilbo in Tyrion, a bit of Smaug in Eragon’s dragons, a dash of Aragorn in Shannara’s Shea Ohmsford, and a touch of Gandalf in the wizards of Discworld.

That’s why, on this week’s anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit and of the entrance of Tolkien into the fantasy genre, it’s important to reread and reconsider his works, and his first especially. Although the short and whimsical book is considered lightweight compared to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s still in many ways the best that literature has to offer. Tolkien is first a linguist, and it’s not only his creation of elvish, dwarvish, and orcish languages out of whole cloth that impresses, but also the way he toys with English and illustrates the power of language itself to create. Ever a good author surrogate, Bilbo’s true arms and armor aren’t his trusty half-sword Sting or his mithril shirt, but—as Gollum would find out—his words and riddles.

(6) NOT THE DIRECTOR’S CUT. Matthew Vaughn, director of Kingsman 2, wouldn’t have put the film’s biggest surprise in the damn trailers, he told IGN:

Trailers revealed that Colin Firth’s Harry Hart – who seemed to have died in the course of the first film – would return in the sequel.

Speaking to IGN, Vaughn was forthright about his feelings on that particular promotional choice: “Well, I’m not in charge of marketing. The thinking about that was stupidity, to be blunt.

“I begged the studio not to reveal it. Because it’s the whole driving force of the first act and if you didn’t know that scene it would’ve made the whole audience gasp. So you have to ask the lovely marketing guys because I think their job is to open the movie and don’t really care about the experience of the movie.”

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Hobbit Day

The birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 22, 1968 — Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants aired “The Crash,” its first episode.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • September 22, 1971 – Elizabeth Bear

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Was Mark-kitteh surprised to find an sf reference in xkcd? No more than you will be.
  • Nor should anyone be surprised by the sports reference Mike Kennedy found in a comic called In the Bleachers. But its Star Wars component, maybe?

(11) END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Surely something called “Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition)” needs a mention here?

Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition) raises funds to help end violence against women in collaboration with award-winning bestselling authors.

The Pixel Project‘s “Read For Pixels” 2017 (Fall Edition) campaign features live readings+Q&A Google Hangout sessions with 12 award-winning bestselling authors in support of the cause to end violence against women. Participating authors include Adrian Tchaikovsky, Alafair Burke, Genevieve Valentine, Ilona Andrews, Isaac Marion, Kass Morgan, Ken Liu, Kristen Britain, Paul Tremblay, Sara Raasch, Soman Chainani, and Vicki Pettersson.

These awesome authors have donated exclusive goodies to this special “Read For Pixels” Fall 2017 fundraiser to encourage fans and book lovers to give generously to help tackle VAW. Additional goodies come courtesy of Penguin Random House’s Berkley and Ace/Roc/DAW imprints, acclaimed Fantasy authors Aliette de Bodard, Charles de Lint, Christopher Golden, Dan Wells, Jacqueline Carey, Kendare Blake, Steven Erikson, bestselling mystery/thriller author Karen Rose, and more.

(12) AN ANIMATED GROUP. Crave would like to tell you their picks for “The Top 15 Best Chuck Jones Cartoons Ever” and you may want to know – but I warn you in advance it’s one of those click-through-the-list posts. If you’re not that patient I’ll tell you this much – ranked number one is “Duck Amuck” (1953).

Few filmmakers could ever claim to have brought as much joy into our lives as Charles M. Jones, better known to many as Chuck Jones, who worked for Warner Bros. on their classic Looney Tunes shorts for 30 years. Afterwards, he directed shorts for MGM, co-directed the family classic The Phantom Tollbooth, and also directed one of the best Christmas specials ever produced, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

His career was varied – he won four Oscars, including a lifetime achievement award in 1966 – but Chuck Jones was and still is best known as one of the comic and cinematic geniuses who made Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepé Le Pew, Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner the pop culture staples they are today. Along with his team of skilled animators, writers and fellow directors, Chuck Jones brought biting wit and visual wonders to the cartoon medium, and most – if not all – of the cartoons we love today owe him a direct debt of gratitude, in one form or another.

(13) AN APPEAL. A GoFundMe to “Save Rosy’s Inheritance” has been started for his wife by Guy H. Lillian III to fund these legal expenses –

Nita Green, Rose-Marie Lillian’s mother, passed away in April. 2015. Her intent, as stated in her will, was to have her only daughter inherit a logical percentage of her worldly goods. In person she was promised Nita’s collection of original paintings by Frank Kelly Freas, a renowned artist and long-time personal friend of them both. Rose-Marie lived with and cared for her mother and her stepfather for the last two years of her mother’s life. Since Nita’s death, however, she has been denied her inheritance, despite the stated wishes of her mother and an agreement arrived at a legal deposition taken in December, 2016. She has no recourse but to sue.  Though her husband is an attorney, he is licensed only in another state and Rosy’s cause of action is in Florida. All attorneys rightly require retainers before beginning representation and have every right to be paid. Rose-Marie turns to you for help. The retainer required will fall between $5000 and $7500…. Can you help?

(14) ENDOWED CHAIR. PZ Myers contends, “Only a conservative twit would believe he’s entitled to a speaker’s slot at a con”.

By the way, I have a similar example: I was a speaker at Skepticon multiple times. One year they decided they needed new blood, so they invited some other people, instead of me. If I were like Jon Del Arroz, I would have made a big stink over the violation of tradition — they invited me once (actually, a couple of times), so now they must invite me every time. Every year. Over and over. Until attendees are sick of me, and even then they aren’t allowed to stop.

That isn’t the way this works. I approve of diversity in the line-up. I think it’s great that they have enough people with interesting things to say that they can have a different roster of speakers every year. I’m perfectly willing to step aside, especially since it means I can just attend and enjoy the event without having to give a talk.

(15) DOTARD Alan Baumler sees a link between today’s headlines and The Lord of the Rings which he elaborates in “North Korea in the News-Trump is a dotard”.

So what does this tell us? Is the North Korean propaganda apparatus filled with Tolkien fans? Or is their understanding of modern idioms based on an idiosyncratic selection of foreign texts? I would guess that it is the latter, but the former would be cooler and more optimistic.

(16) ANOTHER SERVING OF SERIAL. Our favorite breakthrough author, Camestros Felapton, proves once again why books need maps – to keep the author from losing his place: “McEdifice Returns: I can’t remember which Chapter Number this is”.

…The hyper-specialism of the galactic civilisation has inexorably led to planets that were just-one-thing: the desert planet of Sandy, the lumpy planet of Lumpus, the planet that just looks like Amsterdam all over of Damsterham, and the Sydney Opera House planet of Utzon-Jørn to name but a few. To resist the planetary monoculture creating a fundamental fragility to galactic civilisation, the ruling Galactical Confederation of Galactic Imperial Republics had instigated a controversial “Come on, Every Planet Has to Have at Least Two Things Guys” law, that mandated that every planet had to have at least a pair of signature things….

(17) WATCHMEN. HBO has given a formal pilot green light to and ordered backup scripts for Watchmen, based on the iconic limited comic series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that had previously been adapted as the 2009 film, Deadline reported. The new project will be Damon Lindelof’s followup to his HBO series The Leftovers. Warner Horizon TV, which also was behind The Leftovers, is the studio as part of Linderlof’s overall deal at Warner Bros. TV.

(18) ALAN MOORE TAKES QUESTIONS. At ComicsBeat, Pádraig Ó Méalóid has posted two sessions of Alan Moore Q&As from 2015 and 2016.

In what may or may not become a long-standing tradition, Alan Moore has answered questions at Christmas set by the members of a Facebook group called The Really Very Serious Alan Moore Scholars’ Group, who are, as the name might suggest, a bunch of people who are interested in his work. At least, Moore answered 25 questions for the group in December 2015, which were later published here on The Beat over four posts towards the end of 2016. Those four posts can be found here:

And I can only apologise for the faux-clickbait titles. At the time I thought they were hilarious. What a difference a year makes…

Anyway, Moore once again answered a number of questions for the group at the end of 2016 and, having allowed the group to savour these on their own, the time has once again come to share them with the wider public. They cover subjects from Food to Fiction, but we’re starting with various aspects of Magic and Art.

Mark Needham: Do you like Tim-Tams, Hob-Nobs, Chocolate Digestives or any other kind of biscuit with your tea?

Alan Moore: These days, I find that my love of biscuits is increasingly abstract and theoretical, like my love for the comic medium, and that much of the actual product I find deeply disappointing on an aesthetic level. While the chocolate malted milk biscuit with the cow on the back is of course a timeless classic and a continuing source of consolation, why oh why has no one yet devised the glaringly obvious dark chocolate malted milk? We have a spacecraft taking close up pictures of Pluto, for God’s sake, and yet a different sort of chocolate on our cow-adorned teatime favourites is apparently too much to ask.

(19) LEGO MOVIE REVIEW. Glen Weldon of NPR sees Lego Ninjago as running in third place in its own genre: “Plastic Less-Than-Fantastic: ‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie'”.

  1. Constantly undercutting the film’s deliberately overblown genre trappings with surprisingly naturalistic dialogue that explicitly questions those trappings? Check.

The film’s stellar supporting cast gets not nearly enough to do — so little that viewers are left to impute the nature of many of the relationships among them. (Nanjiani’s Jay is meant to have a crush on Jacobsen’s Nya, I think? Based on one line?) That’s the bad news, and given the talent on hand, that news … is pretty bad.

But what’s shunting all those very funny actors into the background is the relationship between Franco’s aching-for-connection Lloyd and Theroux’s blithely evil Garmadon. And Theroux — deliberately channeling, he has stated in interviews, Will Arnett — is so fantastic here you almost forgive Garmadon’s hogging of the spotlight. Almost.

Watching him — or, more accurately, listening to him — is when you truly begin to appreciate how much of the load these vocal performances are carrying, how totally the success of a given Lord/Miller LEGO movie lives or dies in the specific execution of that breezy, naturalistic humor.

Because here, just three movies in, the Lord/Miller LEGO genre is showing signs of exhaustion.

(20) NEANDERTHALS GET ANOTHER BOOST. “Did Robert J. Sawyer have a point?” Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link to the BBC’s article “Neanderthal brains ‘grew more slowly'”. The gist of the article is that slow-growing brains were associated with the ‘most advanced species’ (i.e., homo sapiens sapiens); discovery further knocks the idea that Neanderthals were brutes.

A new study shows that Neanderthal brains developed more slowly than ours.

An analysis of a Neanderthal child’s skeleton suggests that its brain was still developing at a time when the brains of modern human children are fully formed.

This is further evidence that this now extinct human was not more brutish and primitive than our species.

The research has been published in the journal Science.

Until now it had been thought that we were the only species whose brains developed relatively slowly. Unlike other apes and more primitive humans, Homo sapiens has an extended period of childhood lasting several years.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Alan Baumler, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Love, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 3/8/17 And Then The Murders Began

(1) THE SMOOCH ASSUMPTION. The Washington Post knows sexy cavedellers sell, hence the headline “Neanderthal microbes reveal surprises about what they ate – and whom they kissed”.

If it’s true that “you are what you eat,” then there is perhaps no better way to understand someone than by looking at his or her teeth. Especially if that person has been dead for more than 40,000 years.

This is the philosophy of Keith Dobney, a professor of human paleoecology at the University of Liverpool and a co-author of a new study that draws some remarkable conclusions about the lives of Neanderthals by peering beneath their dental enamel.

Teeth are the hardest parts of the human body, and are more likely than any other tissue to survive centuries of corrosion and decay. And dental calculus — that mineralized plaque you get admonished about at the dentist — is particularly good at preserving the bits of food, bacteria and other organic matter that swirl around inside our mouths.

… Weyrich pointed to one eyebrow-raising discovery from the new study: a near-complete genome sequence for a strain of Methanobrevibacter oralis, a simple, single-celled organism that is known to thrive in “pockets” between modern humans’ gums and our teeth (often with not-so-pleasant results).

Weyrich says this is the oldest microbial genome ever sequenced, and it suggests that humans and Neanderthals were swapping spit as early as 120,000 years ago. The find supports the growing consensus that prehistoric hanky-panky was not uncommon between Neanderthals and ancient humans. But it also suggests that these interactions were intimate, consensual affairs.

I may not be a paleoecologist or even a good kisser but I have produced a lot of spit in my time and I can think of some other ways one person’s spit might wind up in another person’s mouth. Like, what if a Neanderthal ate some meat off a bone then handed it to the next person to finish?

(2) YOUR TYRANNOSAURICAL DUNGEON MASTER. Speaking of bones that have been eaten clean (I love a great segue) — “Fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex starts D&D campaign on Twitter”.

That’s right, SUE the Tyrannosaurus, the oldest female apex predator ever unearthed and sold at auction, has begun leading her own Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Using her surprisingly popular Twitter account, SUE is taking willing adventurers on an epic quest to free the land from brigands, evil mages and the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

With a bright yellow 20-sided die, 58 “dagger-like teeth” and her 5th edition Dungeon Masters Guide to… guide… her, SUE is weaving a tale of intrigue and treachery.

Here’s an example of a move:

(3) WHEN WORLDS DON’T COLLIDE. Just coming on my radar, though given for the first time last year, are the Planetary Awards. And if Declan Finn hadn’t mentioned them today I still wouldn’t have heard about them.

The inaugural awards for 2015 work were posted in May 2016 –

  • Best Novel: Torchship by Karl Gallagher
  • Best Short Story: “Something in the Water” by C.S. Boyack

Although any book blogger, podcaster, or “booktuber” is eligible to nominate, I detected a strong puppy flavor to this year’s Planetary Awards shortlist (for 2016 works), which proved to be the case. The names of nominators include Jeffro Johnson, Jon  del Arroz, Brian Niemeier and The Injustice Gamer.

Short Stories / Novellas

  • “Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Thune’s Vision
  • “Awakening” by Susan Kaye Quinn
  • “Edge” by Russell Newquist, found in Between the Wall and the Fire
  • “The Gift of the Ob-Men” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #1
  • “The Glass Flower” by George RR Martin, found in Volume 2 of Dreamsongs  [DISQUALIFIED]
  • “Images of the Goddess”by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #2
  • Paper Cut by Aeryn Rudel, found in Issue 1 of Red Sun Magazine
  • “Purytans” by Brad Torgersen, found in the July-August issue of Analog Magazine

Novels

  • Arkwright by Allen Steele
  • Babylon’s Ashes by James SA Corey
  • The Girl with Ghost Eyes by MH Boroson [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Hel’s Bet by Doug Sharp
  • The Invisible City by Brian K Lowe [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani
  • Murphy’s Law of Vampires by Declan Finn
  • The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier
  • Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright

The awards are administered by the “Planetary Defense Commander” whose real name is – surprise! – shrouded in secrecy.

Although the nominees were chosen by the book bloggers, any blogger, podcaster, or youtuber may vote for the winners.

(4) SHADOW CLARKE JURY ACTIVITY. Three new entries —

This is a color-coded table of all the jurors plotted against each other, with the color scheme giving how many books each juror had in common with the others. The blue diagonal set of boxes running from top left to lower right shows that every juror has 100% overlap with their own shortlist. Also, the table is symmetric about that line, i.e., you can look at either the rows or the columns to see how each juror overlapped with the others, as they contain the same information. So, for example, Nina had 3 books in common with Megan, none with Victoria, 1 with Nick, 2 with Maureen, etc.

And there’s two book reviews –

Matthew De Abaitua’s third novel The Destructives is the final part in a loose trilogy begun in 2008 with The Red Men and continued in 2015 with If Then. Although each of the three novels can happily be read in isolation from the others, the parallels and resonances between them – not to mention a few continuing characters – make for fascinating contemplation. Above all, it is the world shared by the three – De Abaitua’s vision of catastrophic digital meltdown in the year 2020, leaving the world’s ecosystems lethally compromised and the human species stripped of its agency – that makes these novels significant in terms of their science fiction.

Written in a tight first-person perspective with neither sub-plots nor inserts to break psychological continuity Whiteley’s novel begins by introducing us to a precocious young woman on the verge of adulthood. Born to an ambitious land-owner and educated to a standard then uncommon in farmers’ daughters, Shirley Fearne is a young woman with firm opinions and a confidence that allows her to express them quite openly. In the novel’s opening section, she often holds forth on subjects such as the importance of education, the backward opinions of fellow villagers, and the important role that women will play in helping to rebuild the country after the horrors of war.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 8, 1972  — Tales from the Crypt makes its screen debut.

(6) AUDIO BRADBURY. Phil Nichols’ site dedicated to Ray Bradbury includes a page listing radio shows based on Bradbury stories produced anytime from the 1940s til just ten years ago. Many are free downloads from Archive.org.

(7) ODE TO THE UNSUNG. Annalee Newitz of Ars Technica says “Fireside Fiction Company is science fictions best-kept secret”. Her praise even extends to an unsung hero who keeps their website working smoothly.

You may not have heard of Fireside Fiction Company, but it’s time you did. Packed with excellent free science fiction stories, the Patreon-supported publication has been going strong for five years. There are many reasons you need to start reading Fireside, not the least of which is its recent upgrade to GitHub Pages.

You could spend days immersed in Fireside’s back content. Editors Brian White and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry curate quality work from well-known writers and rising stars, including Chuck Wendig, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Daniel Abraham (one half of the Expanse writing team known as James S.E. Corey), Cassandra Khaw (whom you may know from Ars), Ken Liu, Daniel José Older, and more. But it’s not just White and Sjunneson-Henry’s good taste that has earned Fireside a sterling reputation among writers. Unlike many small publications, Fireside pays good rates for fiction. It spends almost all the money it gets from Patreon on its authors and artists.

Fireside Fiction Company also publishes a limited number of books and hosts special projects. One these projects was #BlackSpecFic, a special report on black voices in science fiction. #BlackSpecFic fits into Fireside’s overall commitment to inclusivity, publishing stories by people from a diversity of backgrounds and places.

Another way that Fireside is different from your average publication is its commitment to good code. Design and Technology Director Pablo Defendini, who helped launch Tor.com, has kept Fireside’s back-end as spiffy as what you see in front….

(8) WHIZZING THRU SPACE. Plans for a trip to Mars include scienceing the piss out of problems, too. “Why a German lab is growing tomatoes in urine”.

A fish tank brimming with urine is the first thing you see when you enter Jens Hauslage’s cramped office at the German space agency, DLR, near Cologne. It sits on a shelf by his desk, surrounded by the usual academic clutter of books, charts and scientific papers.

Rising from the centre of the tank are two transparent plastic cylindrical columns – around a metre in height. Spreading from the top of each tube is a bushy, healthy-looking tomato plant with green leaves, flowers and even a few bright red tomatoes.

(9) FROM HARRY POTTER TO HARRY THE KING? The BBC discusses a former Harry Potter star’s latest turn on the live stage in “After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, is Daniel Radcliffe ready for Hamlet?” Or if not Hamlet, why not Henry V?

Daniel Radcliffe says he is really keen to be in a Shakespeare play – although he admits he’s no expert on the Bard.

The Harry Potter star has been praised for his latest role in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at London’s Old Vic.

Tom Stoppard’s comedy, first performed in 1966, centres around two minor characters from Hamlet.

The article quotes several critics’ opinions of Radcliffe’s performance, and one’s opinion of the audience — “The Daily Mail‘s Quentin Letts … noted, some Harry Potter fans who have bought tickets may struggle with the play as a whole.” About that Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link, asked, “I wonder if he’s heard about growing up.”

(10) COMIC SECTION. And making for a smoother segue than the one that started this Scroll is an installment of Frank and Ernest, submitted by John King Tarpinian, which asks what if Shakespeare had been a baseball umpire?

(11) LISTEN. It’s a Vintage News story, which means it’s been floating around the internet for awhile, but never before have I encountered this bit of history — “Before Radar, they used these giant concrete ‘Sound Mirrors’ to detect incoming enemy aircraft”.

Dr. William Sansome Tucker developed early warning systems known as ‘acoustic mirrors’ around 1915, and up until 1935, Britain built a series of concrete acoustic mirrors around its coasts. The acoustic mirror was the forerunner of radar, and it was invented to help detect zeppelins and other enemy aircraft by the sound of their engines.

The British used these devices and with their help, they managed to detect many enemy raids. The acoustic mirrors could detect an incoming aircraft up to 15 miles away, which gave English artillery just enough time to prepare for the attack of the German bombers.

A number of these structures still exist.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, JJ, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day – Soon Lee.]