SFWA Unveils an Innovative “Virtual” Nebula Conference

Registration is now open for the transformed professional development conference.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), today unveiled the virtual home for SFWA’s 2020 Nebula Conference Online and showcased features of the upcoming professional development conference for science fiction and fantasy writers.

“We have been offering a streaming extension of the Nebulas for the past two years, with a long-term plan for more. With this new platform, not only will we be able to include people who would not otherwise be able to attend the Nebula Conference, but we’ll also be able to offer year-round opportunities for education and outreach.” the president of SFWA, Mary Robinette Kowal says.

The Conference, Transformed: This year’s transformed Nebula Conference will be held entirely online and will include two live tracks of live-streamed panels such as “Being a Creative in 2020: Building Community, Visibility, and Audience in a Virtual World”; “Blades and Badasses: Disability and Swordwork,” and “Writing Middle Grade with This Year’s Norton Award Nominee”  along with a third self-guided track of pre-recorded presentations which attendees can view at their leisure. 

SFWA’s successful conference mentorship program will also continue this year with one-on-one video conversations between early-career writers and established authors. Supporting content including writing workshops, forums, chats, and virtual room parties (including a dance party hosted by bestselling author and former SFWA president John Scalzi) will round out the weekend.

The 2020 Nebula Conference Online will be held from May 29-31. Registration, which includes three days of online panels with real-time interaction, an annual subscription to archived content, and a one-year subscription to SFWA’s quarterly magazine the Bulletin, will be $150.

Kowal says that “SFWA’s vision for this year’s conference is for attendees to feel elevated through the content, enjoy a sense of community with their peers, and have an opportunity for celebration. We hope this year’s conference will replicate the informative, exciting, and social experience that the Nebula Conference has always offered, while being more accessible than ever before, and welcoming attendees from around the world who may never have had the chance to attend previously.”

The annual culmination of the conference is the Nebula Awards ceremony, a gala event in which SFWA members award the 2019 Nebula Awards® to the best works of science fiction and fantasy of the year. This year’s event will also take place virtually, and will be live-streamed to conference attendees and the public alike, on May 30th at 8:00 PM ET.

Taking a New Direction: With today’s announcement, SFWA officially launched the 2020 Nebula Conference Online registration page, an online entry point for conference attendees that shares the aesthetic of the conference while the full conference experience is finalized.

This year’s transformed Nebula Conference comes in response to public health measures addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, which have limited in-person gatherings and instituted physical distancing policies across the United States.  

For the first time, part of the proceeds from this year’s conference will go to SFWA’s “Where The Need Is Greatest” fund to provide grants to members to address the financial difficulties experienced by many of SFWA’s members as a result of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding COVID-19. In addition, SFWA’s Emergency Medical Fund is available for members who have unexpected medical bills that interfere with their ability to write.

“We are all aware of the hardships that our members have experienced — and will continue to experience — as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kowal said. “It’s our hope that the 2020 Nebula Conference Online will continue to be a valuable resource for everyone who can attend, member and non-member alike, while also raising much-needed funds to help those in our community that have been hardest hit by the disease and its repercussions.”

New Look, New Feel: Visitors to the 2020 Nebula Conference Online landing page will notice the refreshed and redesigned SFWA logo, the work of SFWA’s new art director, Lauren Raye Snow. The new look and feel for SFWA’s logo is part of a planned refresh for the organization’s publications, web sites, and visual assets. The new look will extend across all parts of the 2020 Nebula Conference Online materials, and is inspired by the fantastic visual aesthetic of early 20th century graphic arts. 

Snow says, “I’m excited by the opportunity to reclaim and explore a classic domain with culturally expansive motifs, characters, and messages.” 

Intended to be timeless, invoking both the WPA’s National Parks posters and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Space Tourism project: the update captures the best of that pioneering spirit as 2020 launches SFWA into the future.

Visit the 2020 Nebula Conference Online Registration Page.

[From a press release.]

2020 Nebula Conference
Going Virtual

SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal sent a message to members about the fate of the 2020 Nebula Conference after the Los Angeles Warner Center Marriott Woodland Hills started issuing cancellation notices today. The organization had intended to make a statement on March 31, but now has gone ahead and shared an overview of their plans.

ONLINE CONFERENCE. From May 29-31, there will be a live and interactive online event. “The team has been working on this for several weeks because we anticipated that holding an in-person event this year would be irresponsible.”

Our goal is to create the essence of the Nebula Conference, even though the form has changed. Our vision is for attendees to feel elevated through the content, enjoy a sense of community with their peers, and have an opportunity for celebration.

…The Nebula Conference will include panels, solo presentations, conference mentorships, workshops, forums, chats, and virtual room parties (including a dance party hosted by John Scalzi).

… The online conference registration will be $150, which includes three days of online panels with real-time interaction, an annual subscription to archived content, and a one-year subscription to the Bulletin. People who have already registered will have the option to defer to the L.A. conference in 2021, donate to help with COVID-19 assistance, or receive a full refund.

NEBULA AWARDS. The Nebula Awards ceremony will stream live at 8 p.m. Eastern on May 30th.

PLATFORM DEMO. Kowal told members:

On March 31st, we’ll have a demonstration of the online Nebula Conference. We are very excited by this platform because it will allow us to do online classes and host virtual book tours for our members going forward.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE. Starting in April, the SFWA Board will be offering grants of up to $1,000 for SFWA members financially affected by COVID-19. Donations are requested.

If you would like to donate now to help with SFWA sponsored COVID-19 relief, visit https://www.sfwa.org/donate and select “Where The Need Is Greatest,” which the board can redirect to our relief efforts.

MORE INFORMATION ON THE WAY. The message ends —

The team has been working very hard for a March 31st release of this information and is not yet ready to process refunds or transfers. Please wait until we formally roll out our plans on March 31st before contacting the office with questions. 

Over the next week, we will be reaching out to our team of volunteers, program participants, and Nebula finalists with more information about what these changes mean to them and how they will be able to participate in the transformed conference.

Pixel Scroll 3/20/20 Four Feet Good — Six Feet Better!

(1) STAR DATING. Thanks to The Hollywood Reporter we have not missed these entries: “William Shatner Gives Captain’s Log Updates as Kirk Amid Coronavirus Standstill”.

It would appear William Shatner is not quite through with Capt. James T. Kirk after all. The actor has been giving Star Trek fans a treat via social media with Captain’s Log updates — a plot device, usually done for story exposition, on the famed sci-fi TV show and subsequent films. Shatner, like many around the world, is self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic.

(2) NEBULA CONFERENCE. A plan will be shared at the end of the month said SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal today in “An Update on the SFWA Nebula Conference”.

Last night, California announced that it was extending its shelter-in-place measures across the entire state. With the Nebula Conference scheduled to take place in Los Angeles at the end of May, we have been anticipating that move and working towards a positive solution which we had planned to announce on March 31st. I would like to keep to that timeline as it will enable us to complete some final details for what we believe will be a great conference. I would appreciate your patience until then.

Though the circumstances are distressing, the alterations that we are making to prioritize the health and safety of our attendees have offered us some exciting opportunities to make the Nebula Conference more accessible and inclusive. I know you may have questions about refunds and your hotel reservations. Please do not make any changes until we share with you our plan on March 31st, which will allow us to expand the range of options that you will have.

I look forward to speaking with you on March 31st.

(3) INDUSTRY POSTPONEMENTS. On the other hand, BookExpo has definitely moved reports Shelf Awareness:

BookExpo, Unbound and BookCon are being moved to July 22-26 from May 27-31, at the Javits Center in New York City.

Reedpop, the organizer of the events, explained: “We have been closely monitoring the outbreak of COVID-19 in New York and around the country. Following the guidance of health officials, we are now complying with the State’s request that large gatherings be postponed to ensure the well-being of everyone involved with our event.”

Event director Jenny Martin commented: “If the situation changes again between now and July, we will change along with it. We run events, we pivot proudly. Right now, we remain focused on the goal of serving our community this summer with those who want to do the same.”

(4) A LITTLE LIST. Discover magazine calls these the “10 Best Science Fiction Planets” – a 2008 post, but it’s news to me!

4. Mote Prime (1974): In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye, this is the homeworld of the Moties, a species that, due to cosmic happenstance, has been bottled up in its solar system ever since it evolved. Mote Prime is planet which has become a palimpsest, mutely testifying to the endless cycles of technological development and collapse experienced by the trapped Moties.

I’m quoting this one because a friend recently shared with me his quite definite ideas about the usage of palimpsest.

(5) PRODUCTION HALTED. TV Guide’s article includes news of many genre/related media going on hiatus: “Coronavirus Update: Every TV Show, Movie, Sport, and Major Event Canceled Due to COVID-19”. Here are a couple of excerpts – more at the link.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Deadline reports that production on Season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale has been temporarily suspended due to concerns over the recent spread of COVID-19, aka coronavirus. The show, which films in Toronto, has yet to announce whether this suspension will delay its planned fall premiere date….

Disney+ Marvel Shows, including MCU spin-offs

On March 10, Disney+ shut down production on its Marvel series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which stars Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stanbecause the Czech Republic placed restrictions on travel and events, and closed its schools due to COVID-19 concerns. There is no word yet on if the show will revisit Prague to finish shooting.

On March 14, Variety reported Marvel Studios paused production on the rest of its Disney+ series, which includes Loki and WandaVision. For shows currently in production, the work will continue remotely.

(6) INFLUENTIAL CINEMA. The Criterion Channel is running a block of historic movies of the ”German Expressionism” school.

Physical reality warps and bends to fit the twisted psychological states on display in the cinema of the German expressionist movement of the 1920s. With their emphasis on exaggerated shadows, off-kilter camera angles, dreamlike sets, and macabre story lines, these movies paved the way for the aesthetics of both horror cinema and film noir, genres in which mood and atmosphere take precedence over realism. This selection of some of the movement’s key works includes the quintessential example of the style, the delirious nightmare THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI; F. W. Murnau’s shivery vampire classic NOSFERATU; and several masterpieces by Fritz Lang, who, following the success of works like METROPOLIS and M, would go on to become instrumental in importing expressionist aesthetics to the Hollywood of the 1930s and ’40s.

(7) ACCIO JAVA. Delish reports some clever branding: “This Harry Potter Inspired Coffee Comes In Flavors Fit For Your Favorite Wizards”.

…Etsy shop 9andthreequartersco has created coffee blends inspired by the magical world of Harry Potter. These coffees names are not only inspired by the books and movies, but so are the flavors.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 20, On this date, X Minus One’s “Protection” first aired. A man accidentally acquires an alien protector, who knows every disaster in the world before it happens. The script is by Ernest Kinoy.  The cast includes Bill Redfield, William Keane and Elliott Reed.  It written by Robert Sheckley.  It was a half-hour science fiction radio drama series that broadcast from April 24, 1955 to January 9, 1958 in various timeslots on NBC. You can hear it this episode here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 20, 1902 David Lasser. From 1929 to 1933, he was the Managing Editor of Gernsback’s Stellar Publishing Corporation. He edited Science Wonder Stories and Wonder Stories Quarterly, as well working with writers on both zines. Lasser also edited Gernsback’s Wonder Stories from June 1930 to October 1933. As near as I can tell, The Time Projector novel is his only genre work. (Died 1996.)
  • Born March 20, 1932 Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 20, 1948 Pamela Sargent, 72. She has three exemplary series of which I think the Seed trilogy, a unique take on intergenerational colony ships, is the one I like the best. The other two series, the Venus trilogy about a women determined to terraform that world at all costs is quite good also, and there is the Watchstar trilogy which I know nothing about. Nor have I read any of her one-off novels, so please do tell me about them. 
  • Born March 20, 1950 William Hurt, 70. He made his first film appearance as a troubled scientist in Ken Russell’s Altered States, a history-making film indeed. He’s next up as Doug Tate in Alice, a Woody Allen film. Breaking his run of weird roles, he shows in it’s that not bad really to be Lost in Space as Professor John Robinson. Dark City and the phenomenal role of Inspector Frank Bumstead follows for him. He was in A.I. Artificial Intelligence as Professor Allen Hobby and performed the character of William Marshal in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, Up next was horror film Hellgate and his role as Warren Mills which spiked a lot watchable than The Host and Jebediah character  from Winter’s Tale as adapted from the Mark Helprin novel was interesting as wax the entire film. His final, to date that is, is in Avengers: Infinity War as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. Two series roles of notes, the first being in the SyFy Frank Herbert’s Dune as Duke Leto I Atreides. Confession: the digitised blue eyes bugged me so much that I couldn’t watch it. The other role worth noting is him as  Hrothgar in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands
  • Born March 20, 1955 Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 65. Her first novel, The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set In either California or the Pacific Northwest. 
  • Born March 20, 1979 Freema Agyeman, 41. Best-known for playing Martha Jones in Doctor Who, companion to the Tenth Doctor. She reprised that role briefly in Torchwood. She voiced her character on The Infinite Quest, an animated Doctor Who serial. She was on Sense8 as Amanita Caplan. And some seventeen years ago, she was involved in a live production of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld’s Lords and Ladies held in Rollright Stone Circle Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. It was presented out of doors in the centre of two stone circles. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo wonders what if traditional witches gained access to Lovecraftian monsters?
  • Bizarro finds the … bright? … side of a visit to the pediatrician.
  • Reprinted in The Paris Review – “Krazy Kat Gets the Spanish Flu.”

(11) FREE READS. Apex Book Company is offering “Free eBooks for Your Covid-19 Social Distancing”.

Available until March 31st

Covid-19 is serious business. In an effort to control the spread of the virus, people across the world are being asked to practice social distancing and to stay home.

As part of that call, Apex Books and other publishers are providing free eBooks to help readers cope with the extended periods of inactivity and being housebound.

We hope this selection of Apex titles will help make this stressful time pass a little easier, a little quicker.

Books in the Covid-19 bundle:

  • Machine by Jennifer Pelland (dark SF)
  • Stay Crazy by Erica L. Satifka (dark SF)
  • Maze by J.M. McDermott (dark fantasy)
  • Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes M. Yardley (horror)
  • Like Death by Tim Waggoner (horror)

(12) FREE MISS FISHER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Even if you’ve already seen all the Miss Fisher Mysteries episodes, here’s your chance to see the new (releasing 3/23/2020) movie! Also starring David Tennant and (from The Good Wife/The Good Fight) Cush Jumbo (she played Luca Quinn)

Per a Miss F movie thread on Facebook from a few weeks back that I’m not sure where it is.

Starting today, we’re offering an extended 30-day free trial for new subscribers with code FREE30. Settle in for the streaming debut of Miss Fisher and The Crypt of Tears (3/23) and Deadwater Fell starring David Tennant and Cush Jumbo (4/6). Share the best TV from Britain and beyond.

Sign up at http://acorn.tv — use special code: FREE30

Daniel Dern notes: “I’m not sure whether they’d already been offering a 30-day free trial anyway. Their ‘Start Free Trial’ page asks for, but doesn’t seem to require, a promo code. Since we’ve already been subscribing to Acorn for a buncha months — watched/watching Murdoch Mysteries, The Good Karma Hospital, the Brokenwood Mysteries, Foyle’s War, etc.

“Mmm, they have Slings & Arrows, which we saw years ago, but if you haven’t, recommended! (‘…this darkly comic Canadian series follows the fortunes of a dysfunctional Shakespearean theatre troupe, exposing the high drama, scorching battles, and electrifying thrills that happen behind the scenes. Paul Gross (Tales of the City, Due South [AND The Republic Of Doyle – DPD]) leads an outstanding ensemble cast in ‘one of TV’s greatest shows’ (The A.V. Club).’”

(13) UNCLE TIMMY TRIBUTE. The Give Me Libertycon anthology E-ARC is available from Baen. The trade paperback will be released in June.

Since its inception, LibertyCon has been a science fiction convention like no other. Held annually in Chattanooga, Tennessee, LibertyCon attracts the best of the best science fiction and fantasy writers, working scientists, fans, and organizers. Now, join Baen Books as we celebrate this unique institution with an anthology of all-new fiction and nonfiction—and some filk songs, too! A new Honorverse story by David Weber, and stories by Timothy Zahn, David Drake, Larry Correia, Jody Lynn Nye, Mike Massa, Charles E. Gannon and Sarah A. Hoyt, David B. Coe, Kacey Ezell and Christopher L. Smith, Bill Fawcett, and more. Plus, nonfiction by Les Johnson, filk (science fiction folk) songs by Gray Rinehart.

A portion of the sales will fund a scholarship set up in the name of superfan, TVA engineer, and LibertyCon founder Richard T. “Uncle Timmy” Bolgeo.

(14) SUPER-ROOMBA. “Coronavirus: Robots use light beams to zap hospital viruses”.

“Please leave the room, close the door and start a disinfection,” says a voice from the robot.

“It says it in Chinese as well now,” Simon Ellison, vice president of UVD Robots, tells me as he demonstrates the machine.

Through a glass window we watch as the self-driving machine navigates a mock-hospital room, where it kills microbes with a zap of ultraviolet light.

“We had been growing the business at quite a high pace – but the coronavirus has kind of rocketed the demand,” says chief executive, Per Juul Nielsen.

He says “truckloads” of robots have been shipped to China, in particular Wuhan. Sales elsewhere in Asia, and Europe are also up.

…Glowing like light sabres, eight bulbs emit concentrated UV-C ultraviolet light. This destroys bacteria, viruses and other harmful microbes by damaging their DNA and RNA, so they can’t multiply.

It’s also hazardous to humans, so we wait outside. The job is done in 10-20 minutes. Afterwards there’s a smell, much like burned hair

“There are a lot of problematic organisms that give rise to infections,” explains Prof Hans Jørn Kolmos, a professor of clinical microbiology, at the University of Southern Denmark, which helped develop the robot.

“If you apply a proper dose of ultraviolet light in a proper period of time, then you can be pretty sure that you get rid of your organism.”

(15) COURTSHIP RITE. “Vampire bats ‘French kiss with blood’ to form lasting bonds”.

Vampire bats establish friendships by sharing regurgitated blood with their neighbours in a “kind of horrifying French kiss”, a new study says.

Researchers observing the mammals said their sharing behaviours appeared to be an important aspect of their bonding.

(16) LOST MOON. “Coronavirus: Nasa’s Moon plans take a hit”.

The fall-out from the coronavirus crisis is even being felt in space.

Rising infection rates near key technical centres in Louisiana and Mississippi mean the US space agency is suspending production and testing of its Moon rocket and capsule systems.

…Nasa said it had no choice but to suspend work on the construction of the rocket, called the Space Launch System, and the capsule, known as Orion.

The Stennis Space Center in Mississippi has had one confirmed infection among its staff, and although the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana hasn’t yet had a COVID-19 case – growing infection rates in the communities around both complexes means a shut-down is the only sensible option.

(17) CORONAVIRUS ADVICE. This is how you get to be a 2000-year-old man. “Don’t Be A Spreader,” a message from Mel Brooks’ son.

(18) CHANGES IN STORE. John Scalzi is among the writers contributing the the Washington Post’s speculative“After the Pandemic”. As he framed it at Whatever –

The folks over at the Washington Post have put together a piece on how the world will change after this pandemic — not in the huge ways, but in the smaller, day-to-day ways — and they asked me to write something for it. I did a piece on personal greetings, because, as it happens, it was a matter of some discussion on the cruise I just came back from.

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

Coronavirus Threat Causes
Some Conventions to Cancel or Reschedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DECISION TIME. To hold the con or not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right now, all the choices are hard.

Picacio, Gaughran To Receive SFWA’s Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA, Inc.) has announced that the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award will be presented to John Picacio and David Gaughran at the 55th Annual SFWA Nebula Awards.

The Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award is given by SFWA for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community. Picacio and Gaughran join the ranks of previous Solstice Award winners, including Octavia E. Butler, James Tiptree, Jr., and Carl Sagan. The award will be presented at the SFWA Nebula Conference in Woodland Hills, CA, May 28-31.

John Picacio

John Picacio

John Picacio is an award-winning artist whose work can be seen on many science fiction and fantasy novels. He has produced art for the Loteria Grande cards series, a re-imagineering of the classic Mexican game of chance, which is published by his imprint Lone Boy. In 2018, upon realizing he was the first Mexicanx creator to be honored as a Worldcon Guest of Honor, Picacio founded the Mexicanx initiative to help open up Worldcon, and eventually other science fiction and fantasy events, to other Mexicanx professionals and fans. Picacio has been named a recipient of the Solstice Award for his efforts to make science fiction more accessible to underrepresented creators and fans.

SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal has noted about Picacio, “The work that John Picacio has done with the Mexicanx Initiative started as an effort for one conference and has had ripple effects through the field of science-fiction and fantasy. His on-going outreach is encouraging new voices to enter the community making SFF more vibrant than ever.

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

David Gaughran is the author of several historical fantasies which he successfully self-published. He took his experience with marketing his work and began to share it with other authors, publishing a number of marketing books which are targeted at the self-published and independent authors. He has also used his skills to create giant marketing campaigns for several authors and has run workshops, written blogs, and otherwise helped other self-published authors to achieve success.

SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal has noted about Gaughran, “David Gaughran has been doing yeoman’s work for years, alerting indie writers about predatory schemes and warning them about changes in independent publishing. His work makes the science-fiction and fantasy landscape safer for writers.”

The Nebula Awards will be presented during the annual SFWA Nebula Conference, which will feature a series of seminars and panel discussions on the craft and business of writing, SFWA’s annual business meeting, and receptions. On May 31, a mass autograph session will take place at Warner Center Marriott Woodland Hills and is open to the public. 

[Based on a press release.]

2019 Nebula Award Finalists

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA, Inc.) have announced the finalists for the 55th Annual Nebula Awards, including the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book. The awards will be presented in Woodland Hills, CA at the Warner Center Marriott during a ceremony on the evening of May 30.

Novel

  • Marque of Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK)
  • A Memory Called Empire, Arkady Martine (Tor)
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey; Jo Fletcher)
  • Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)
  • A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker (Berkley)

Novella

  • “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom”, Ted Chiang (Exhalation)
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (Saga)
  • Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water, Vylar Kaftan (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Deep, Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes (Saga)
  • Catfish Lullaby, A.C. Wise (Broken Eye)

Novelette

  • “A Strange Uncertain Light”, G.V. Anderson (F&SF 7-8/19)
  • “For He Can Creep”, Siobhan Carroll (Tor.com 7/10/19)
  • “His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light”, Mimi Mondal (Tor.com 1/23/19)
  • “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye”, Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny 7-8/19)
  • Carpe Glitter, Cat Rambo (Meerkat)
  • “The Archronology of Love”, Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed 4/19)

Short Story

  • “Give the Family My Love”, A.T. Greenblatt (Clarkesworld 2/19)
  • “The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power”, Karen Osborne (Uncanny 3-4/19)
  • “And Now His Lordship Is Laughing”, Shiv Ramdas (Strange Horizons 9/9/19)
  • “Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island”, Nibedita Sen (Nightmare 5/19)
  • “A Catalog of Storms”, Fran Wilde (Uncanny 1-2/19)
  • “How the Trick Is Done”, A.C. Wise (Uncanny 7-8/19)

The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book

  • Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, Carlos Hernandez (Disney Hyperion)
  • Catfishing on CatNet, Naomi Kritzer (Tor Teen)
  • Dragon Pearl, Yoon Ha Lee (Disney Hyperion)
  • Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions, Henry Lien (Holt)
  • Cog, Greg van Eekhout (Harper)
  • Riverland, Fran Wilde (Amulet)

Game Writing

  • Outer Wilds, Kelsey Beachum (Mobius Digital)
  • The Outer Worlds, Leonard Boyarsky, Megan Starks, Kate Dollarhyde, Chris L’Etoile (Obsidian Entertainment)
  • The Magician’s Workshop, Kate Heartfield (Choice of Games)
  • Disco Elysium, Robert Kurvitz (ZA/UM)
  • Fate Accessibility Toolkit, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry (Evil Hat Productions)

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • Avengers: Endgame, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Marvel Studios)
  • Captain Marvel, Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Marvel Studios)
  • Good Omens: “Hard Times”, Neil Gaiman (Amazon Studios/BBC Studios)
  • The Mandalorian: “The Child”, Jon Favreau (Disney+)
  • Russian Doll: “The Way Out”, Allison Silverman and Leslye Headland (Netflix)
  • Watchmen: “A God Walks into Abar”, Jeff Jensen & Damon Lindelof (HBO)

The Nebula Awards will be presented during the annual SFWA Nebula Conference, which will run from May 28-31 at the Warner Center Marriott Woodland Hills. The Awards Ceremony will be held on the evening of May 30.

Mass Autographing: On May 31, a mass autograph session will take place, which is free and open to the public.

The Nebula Finalist Assistance Fund exists to help defray the costs of travel to the Nebula Conference for Nebula Award finalists (including Norton, Bradbury, and Game Writing finalists) who would otherwise be unable to attend. Donations may be made at: www.sfwa.org/donate  — choose Nebula Finalist Assistance in the drop down menu.

Pixel Scroll 1/1/20 Old Pixel’s File Of Practical Scrolls

(1) AFTER QUARTER CENTURY, GOMOLL STEPS DOWN. The Otherwise Award announced yesterday: “Jeanne Gomoll Retires from Motherboard”.

Jeanne Gomoll, whose art, design, and organizing energy has propelled and sustained the Award for the last 25 years, is retiring from the Otherwise Motherboard at the end of 2019. The remaining members of the Motherboard are incredibly grateful for Jeanne’s tireless, brilliant work and look forward to celebrating her contributions at WisCon in 2020.

Jeanne writes:

Up until 1991 it felt to me as though the efforts of the Madison SF Group, Janus and Aurora fanzines, and WisCon, to encourage and celebrate feminist science fiction were largely restricted to a single place and to those who came to this place and attended WisCon. Indeed, by the late 1980s, it felt to me as if our efforts to foster feminist SF were increasingly being met with opposition and might possibly have been in danger of flickering out, as the backlash to feminism in general and feminist SF in specific gained strength. Pat Murphy’s 1991 announcement of the Tiptree Award thrilled me and gave me renewed strength. It was as if a small group of us, following a narrow, twisty path had merged with a much wider, well-traveled path. After the Tiptree Award began handing out annual awards and raising funds, and had sparked a massive juggernaut of community activism, I stopped worrying about the viability of the movement.

I will be forever grateful to the Tiptree Award and proud of my work on it. I chaired two Tiptree juries—one in 1993, which chose Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite as the winner; and the other in 2016, which presented the award to When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore. I served on the Motherboard for 25 years, 1994-2019, and worked behind-the-scenes on most of the auctions during those years, and as an artist creating logos, publications, and Tiptree merchandise. I will be forever grateful to the Motherboard for the work we did together and the friendships we created along the way. I am awed by and very proud of the community of writers and readers who supported and were nurtured by the award, even as they guided the award further along the path toward greater diversity and scope.

The Tiptree Award, and now the Otherwise Award will always have my heartfelt support. But it is time for me to step back and make space for a new generation of activists. I want to thank my fellow motherboard founding mothers and members, past and present—Karen Joy Fowler, Pat Murphy, Jeff Smith, Alexis Lothian, Sumana Harihareswara, Gretchen Treu, Debbie Notkin, Ellen Klages, Delia Sherman—for all they have done and for their friendship, which I will value forever.

(2) THIS IS HORROR. Public nominations are being accepted through January 8 for the This Is Horror Awards.

The public nominations are now open for the ninth annual This Is Horror Awards. This year we’ve retained all the categories from last year and added one more, ‘Cover Art of the year’. Here are the categories: Novel of the Year, Novella of the Year, Short Story Collection of the Year, Anthology of the Year, Fiction Magazine of the Year, Publisher of the Year, Fiction Podcast of the Year, Nonfiction Podcast of the Year, and Cover Art of the Year.

Readers can e-mail in their nominations for each category. Taking into consideration the nominations for each category This Is Horror will then draw up a shortlist.

We invite you to include one sentence as to why each nomination is award-worthy.

(3) DEEP STATE. Jason Sanford has been posting interviews he conducted with sff magazine editors in conjunction with his fantastic report #SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines.

Jason: How much of an increase in your budget would be required to pay all editorial and publishing staff a living wage?

Scott: Estimating using a salary of $15/hour for the work our staff does, we would need a $45,000 increase in our annual budget to pay all staff a living wage.  That’s double what our annual budget is to pay for the stories we publish.  To cover that, our monthly donations through Patreon would have to increase by 7000%….

Jason: Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has said some of the problems experienced by genre magazines come about because “we’ve devalued short fiction” through reader expectations that they shouldn’t have to pay for short stories. Do you agree with this? Any thoughts on how to change this situation?

LDL: …I think the issue is one of exhaustion on the part of volunteer staff and a strained supporter base. In my observation, the people who contribute to zine crowdfunds also contribute to crowdfunds for individuals in emergency situations. There are a lot of emergencies or people in general need, just within the SFF community and funds are finite. If you’re supporting your four favorite zines every year, donating to three medical funds, two Kickstarters, a moving fund, and also taking on costs associated with at least one fandom-related convention every year, it’s not sustainable for a lot of readers, especially the marginalized ones….

Jason: In addition to paying your writers, Asimov’s also pays all of your staff, something which is not common among many of today’s newer genre magazines. Is it possible to publish a magazine like Asimov’s without the support of a larger company, in this case Penny Publications?

Sheila: An anecdotal review of the American market doesn’t really bear that out. F&SF is published by a small company. Analog and Asimov’s are published by a larger (though not huge) publishing company. Being published by a larger company does have its advantages, though. While only one and a half people are dedicated to each of the genre magazines, we do benefit from a support staff of art, production, tech, contracts, web, advertising, circulation, and subsidiary rights departments. I’m probably leaving some people out of this list. While the support of this infrastructure cannot be underestimated, Asimov’s revenue covers our editorial salaries, and our production and editorial costs. We contribute to the company’s general overhead as well.

Jason: Strange Horizons also helped pioneer the idea that a genre magazine could be run as a nonprofit with assistance from a staff of volunteers. What are the pros and cons of this publishing model?

Vanessa: With volunteer staff, the con is simple: no pay. Generally, working for no pay privileges people who can afford to volunteer time, and devalues the work we do as editors. I’d like to think that at SH, we have partially balanced the former by making our staff so large and so international that no one need put in many hours, and folks can cover for you regardless of time zone. Despite having 50+ folks, we’re a close group. Our Slack is a social space, and we bring our worst and best days there for each other. Several members (including me) have volunteered right through periods of un- and underemployment because of the love of the zine and our community….

(4) NEBULA CONFERENCE EARLYBIRD RATE. The rate has been extended another week —

(5) MORE ON MILAN. The Guardian’s coverage of the RWA/Courtney Milan controversy, “A romance novelist spoke out about racism. An uproar ensued”, starts with the now-familiar origin story, then adds dimension with background history like this:

HelenKay Dimon, a past RWA president, previously told The Guardian that she regularly received letters from white RWA members expressing concern that “now nobody wants books by white Christian women”.

There is “a group of people who are white and who are privileged, who have always had 90% of everything available, and now all of a sudden, they have 80%. Instead of saying: ‘Ooh, look, I have 80%,’ they say: ‘Oh, I lost 10! Who do I blame for losing 10?’” Dimon said.

The tweets that sparked the ethics complaints against Milan, which were posted this August, were part of a broader conversation on romance Twitter about how individual racist beliefs held by gatekeepers within the publishing world have shaped the opportunities available to authors of color.

(6) ARRAKIS AGAIN. Just before the calendar clicked over to 1965, Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus forced himself to read the first installment of the Dune World sequel: “[December 31, 1964] Lost in the Desert (January 1965 Analog)”.  

The…next installment of Frank Herbert’s Dune World saga has been staring me in the face for weeks, ever since I bought the January 1965 issue of Analog. I found I really didn’t want to read more of it, having found the first installment dreary, though who am I to argue with all the Hugo voters?

And yet, as the days rolled on, I came up with every excuse not to read the magazine. I cleaned the house, stem to stern. I lost myself in this year’s Galactic Stars article. I did some deep research on 1964’s space probes.

But the bleak desert sands of Arrakis were unavoidable. So this week, I plunged headfirst into Campbell’s slick, hoping to make the trek to the end in fewer than two score years. Or at least before 1965. Join me; let’s see if we can make it.

(7) RINGS TWICE. Tor.com reprints “A Weapon With a Will of Its Own: How Tolkien Wrote the One Ring as a Character”, Megan N. Fontenot’s engrossing manuscript study about how Bilbo’s trinket became the key to the LOTR trilogy.

In September 1963, Tolkien drafted yet another of a number of letters responding to questions about Frodo’s “failure” at the Cracks of Doom. It’s easy to imagine that he was rather exasperated. Few, it seemed, had really understood the impossibility of Frodo’s situation in those last, crucial moments: “the pressure of the Ring would reach its maximum,” Tolkien explained; it was “impossible, I should have said, for any one to resist, certainly after long possession, months of increasing torment, and when starved and exhausted” (Letters 326). Even had someone of unmatched power, like Gandalf, claimed the Ring, there would have been no real victory, for “the Ring and all its works would have endured. It would have been the master in the end” (332).

It would have been the master.

From humble beginnings as a mere trinket bartered in a game of riddles (see the original Hobbit), the Ring grew in power and influence until it did indeed include all of Middle-earth in its simple band of gold. “One Ring to rule them all” wasn’t just meant to sound intimidating—it was hard truth. Even Sauron couldn’t escape the confines of its powers. It was his greatest weakness.

But how did the Ring become the thing around which the entirety of the Third Age revolved (Letters 157)?…

(8) JANUARY 2. Get ready – tomorrow is “National Science Fiction Day”. It must be legit – “National Science Fiction Day is recognized by the Hallmark Channel and the Scholastic Corporation.”

National Science Fiction Day promotes the celebration of science fiction as a genre, its creators, history, and various media, too. Recognized on January 2nd annually, millions of science fiction fans across the United States read and watch their favorites in science fiction. 

The date of the celebration commemorates the birth of famed science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.  An American author and Boston University professor of biochemistry, Isaac Asimov was born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov on January 2, 1920. He was best known for his works of science fiction and his popular science books.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 1, 2007 — The Sarah Jane Adventures premiered starring Elizabeth Sladen who had been in the pilot for K-9 and Company which the Beeb didn’t take to series. The program, which as you well know was a spin-off of Doctor Who, lasted five series and fifty-four episodes. It did not make the final Hugo ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in either 2007 or 2008. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 1, 1854 James George Frazer. Author of The Golden Bough, the pioneering if deeply flawed look at similarities among magical and religious beliefs globally.  He’s genre adjacent at a minimum, and his ideas have certainly been used by SFF writers a lot both affirming and (mostly) critiquing his ideas. (Died 1952.)
  • Born January 1, 1889 Seabury Quinn. Pulp writer now mostly remembered for his tales of Jules de Grandin, the occult detective, which were published in Weird Tales from the Thirties through the Fifties. (Died 1969.)
  • Born January 1, 1926 Zena Marshall. She’s Miss Taro in Dr. No, the very first Bond film. The Terrornauts in which she’s Sandy Lund would be her last film. (The Terrornauts is based off Murray Leinster‘s The Wailing Asteroid screenplay apparently by John Brunner.) She had one-offs in Danger Man, The Invisible Man and Ghost Squad. She played Giselle in Helter Skelter, a 1949 film where the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, played Charles the Second. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 1, 1933 Joe Orton. In his very brief writing career, there is but one SFF work, Head to Toe which the current publisher says “is a dream-vision allegory of a journey on the body of a great giant or ‘afreet’ (a figure from Arabic mythology) from head to toe and back, both on the body and in the body.” Like his other novels, it’s not available digitally.  (Died 1967.)
  • Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 66. I was most impressed with The Flight of Michael McBride, the Old West meets Irish myth novel of hers and hannah’s garden, a creepy tale of the fey and folk music. She won the Mythopoeic Award for The Innamorati which I’ve not read.  With Yolen, Snyder co-authored the novel Except the Queen which I do recommend. (Yolen is one of my dark chocolate recipients.) She’s seems to have been inactive for a decade now. Anyone know why?
  • Born January 1, 1957 Christopher Moore, 63. One early novel by him, Coyote Blue, is my favorite, but anything by him is always a weirdly entertaining read. I’m hearing good things about Noir, his newest work which I’m planning on listening to soon. Has anyone read it? 
  • Born January 1, 1971 Navin Chowdhry, 49. He’s Indra Ganesh in a Ninth Doctor story, “Aliens of London.“ I also found him playing Mr. Watson in Skellig, a film that sounds really interesting. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that he was Nodin Chavdri in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
  • Born January 1, 1976 Sean Wallace, 44. Anthologist, editor, and publisher known for his work on Prime Books and for co-editing three magazines, Clarkesworld Magazine which I love, The Dark which I’ve never encountered, and Fantasy Magazine which is another fav read  of mine. He has won a very, very impressive three Hugo Awards and two World Fantasy Awards. His People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy co-edited with Rachel Swirsky is highly recommended by me. He’s not well represented digitally speaking which surprised me. 
  • Born January 1, 1984 Amara Karan, 36. Though she’s Tita in an Eleventh Doctor story, “The God Complex”, she’s really here for being involved in a Stan Lee project. She was DS Suri Chohan in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, a British crime drama series which is definitely SFF. Oh, and she shows up as Princess Shaista in “Cat Among Pigeons” episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot but even I would be hard put to call that even close to genre adjacent. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) DODGED THE BULLET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In an alternate universe, it seems that original director Harold Ramis would’ve made a very different Galaxy Quest. From ComicBookResources.com: Galaxy Quest: Tim Allen Equates Harold Ramis’ Version to Spaceballs”.

Before Dean Parisot signed on to direct Galaxy Quest, Harold Ramis was supposed to helm the movie, which was initially titled Captain Starshine. However, according to Tim Allen, if Ramis directed the film, it wouldn’t have just been titled differently — it would have looked quite different as well.

[…] “Katzenberg pitched me the idea of the commander character and then they started talking and it became clear that Ramis didn’t see me for the part,” Allen said. “It was pretty uncomfortable.”

[…] Interestingly, Sigourney Weaver also wouldn’t have gotten her role as Gwen DeMarco in Galaxy Quest if Ramis had directed the film, despite their relationship from Ghostbusters. “I had heard that Harold was directing a sci-fi movie but he didn’t want anyone who had done sci-fi in the film,” she said. “Frankly, it’s those of us who have done science fiction movies that know what is funny about the genre.”

(13) JUST CHUCK IT. Is this April 1 or January 1? Today Tor.com posted Leah Schnelbach’s “Excellent Writing Advice from Erotica Author Chuck Tingle”.

…I’ll start with this reddit AMA from a few years back, and an interview with Tingle on Nothing in the Rulebook. His answers reveal a consistent approach to the writing life that mirrored the habits of authors who are, possibly, even more well-known than our favorite erotica author.

Asked about a typical writing day, Tingle replies:

yes average day is getting up and having two BIG PLATES of spaghetti then washing them down with some chocolate milk then i get out of bed and meditate to be a healthy man. so when i am meditating i think ‘what kind of tingler would prove love today?’. if nothing comes then i will maybe trot around the house or go to the park or maybe walk to the coffee shop with my son jon before he goes to work. if i have a good idea i will just write and write until it is all done and then I will have son jon edit it and then post it online.

OK, so to translate this a bit out of Tingle-speak, we have a recommendation that you fuel your writing with carbs (and also an unlikely alliance with Haruki Murakami’s spaghetti-loving ways) with a bit of a boost of sugar….

(14) GREASED LIGHTNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From one of the CES 2020 press releases I got today…

Subject: [CES NEWS] Experience a Roomba-Like Device that Navigates the Home Charging ALL Devices

…I want to put an innovative device on your radar: RAGU, a Roomba-like robot that navigates the home charging ALL of your devices.

GuRu is the first company to crack the code on totally untethered, over-the-air charging.

Even discounting remote mal-hackers, this sounds like a recipe for either a droll TV episode, or Things Going Horribly Wrong. (Fires, fried gear, tased/defibrilated pets and sleeping people, etc.)

(15) MIXED BAG. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] I expect everybody will find something interesting or strange in the BBC’s “Alternative end-of-the-year awards”

Animal rescue of the year

Winner

Spare a thought for the poor fat rat of Bensheim, which became stuck in a German manhole in February. She was eventually freed, but not before passers-by took embarrassing photos of her plight. “She had a lot of winter flab,” one rescuer said, compounding the humiliation.

…Runner-up (2)

In this case, the animals were the rescuers rather than the rescued (sort of).

Anticipating the threat of wildfires later in the year, staff at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California hired a hungry herd of 500 goats to eat flammable scrub around the building in May.

And so, when fires did strike in October, the library was saved because of the fire break the goats had created by eating the flammable scrub. Nice one, goats.

(16) MAKING TRACKS. “SpaceX satellites spotted over Derbyshire” – BBC has photo and short video.

Stargazers across Derbyshire were startled when they saw what appeared to be a new “constellation” in the night sky.

The near-perfect line was in fact formed by the Starlink, satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company earlier this year.

They were spotted across Derbyshire and the Peak District.

Tom Sparrow, an amateur photographer, said the satellites were “quite a spectacle”.

The Bradford University archaeology researcher caught the orbital pass by chance on a time-lapse video in the Peak District.

(17) BEYOND BINARY. The Hollywood Reporter’s Robyn Bahr, in “Critic’s Notebook: Baby Yoda, ‘The Dark Crystal’ and the Need for Puppetry in the Age of CGI “, cheers on non-digital effects.

As always, the existential wisdom of Werner Herzog prevails. “You are cowards,” the director castigated on set of The Mandalorian, upon realizing the producers intended to shoot some scenes without the Baby Yoda puppet in case they decided to go full CGI with the character. “Leave it.”

Herzog, who guest-starred on a few episodes of the Disney+ Star Wars spinoff series, was one of Baby Yoda’s earliest champions. And indeed, Baby Yoda — a colloquial epithet referring to the mysterious alien toddler merely known as “The Child” in the script — was designed for maximum neoteny. The gigantic saucer-like dilated eyes; the tiny button nose; a head that takes up nearly half his body mass; the hilariously oversized brown coat; the peach fuzzy hairs tufted around his head; and the pièce de résistance of his custardy little green face: that minuscule line of a mouth that could curve or stiffen in an instant and erupt a thousand ancient nurturing instincts in any viewer. (He’s the only thing my normally stoic husband has ever sincerely described as “cute.”) Heck, there may very well be a micro generation of Baby Yoda babies about eight months from now, thanks to this frog-nomming, lever-pulling, bone-broth-sipping little scamp.

And all because Jon Favreau and company finally recognized that rubber-and-fabric practical effects will almost always have a greater emotional impact than plasticky digital ones.

The recent success of The Mandalorian, thanks to the adorable face that launched a thousand memes, and Netflix’s fantasy-adventure epic The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, recently nominated for a WGA Award and a Critic’s Choice Award, prove that we still need puppetry and mechanical effects in the age of CGI….

(18) PERRY MASON. My fellow geezers may enjoy this quick quiz.

[Thanks to Jo Van Ekeren, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 12/23/19 Sincerity And Affection, In Cat

(1) FAME OVERDUE. The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Robbins says: “Every book lover should know John Crowley. Get to it already. He’s waited long enough.”

This has been a banner year for John Crowley fans — not one but two new collections published, and the ink still wet on 2017’s enchanted “Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr.” Alas, the banner is likely to read “Who is John Crowley?” Championed by heavyweights — Ursula Le Guin, Harold Bloom, Michael Chabon, Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman — Crowley inspires devotion among a fortunate but modest readership.

Crowley’s “Little, Big,” published in 1981, is my favorite novel. It is, I think, a lot of people’s favorite novel. I’ve owned several copies in various editions and conditions over the decades, most of which have found their way into the hands of friends whom I hoped to convert. I’ll never surrender my original copy, a dilapidated mass market paperback from 1987 now barely held together by packing tape. Its back cover reads:

This is the saga of the remarkable Drinkwater family, the sparkling inhabitants of Edgewood, and the ever-changing house that sits on the border between what we know is real and what we’ve always hoped is real. To this alluring place a young man comes to be wed.

No mention of fairies. The title page reads “Little, Big,” and it is not until the table of contents is reached that we learn of the novel’s alternative title: “Or, The Fairies’ Parliament.” Upon learning that fairies were involved, one reader of my acquaintance read no further. “If we put fairies on the cover,” the original publisher told Crowley, as the author recounts in his new collection of essays and reviews, “Reading Backwards,” “this book’s going right down the toilet.”…

(2) SFWA NEBULA CONFERENCE. Twelve days left to get the earlybird rate.

(3) ROCK-A-BYE-BABY-YODA. Get busy and it could be done in time to hang on your Christmas tree – Geekologie’s “Simple DIY Papercraft Baby Yoda In Floating Pod Christmas Tree Ornament”.

…This is the very simple print-and-fold-and-cut-and-tape The Child tree ornament created by one of the artists working on The Mandalorian and shared on Twitter by series creator Jon Favreau. Simple enough. I guess maybe Disney feels kinda guilty (LOLOL) about not getting the Baby Yoda merchandise machine up and running in time for Christmas. *shrug* Maybe Mickey chewed through an ignition wire or something.

Keep going for several example of Baby Yoda hanging out in trees like an Ewok.

(4) INTERIOR DECORATION. “Take a look behind the ‘small doors to imaginary spaces’ within bookshelves” – pictures at the link.

How did a “book nook” capture the imagination of people worldwide from Louisiana to Omsk?

You might have seen the words book nook popping up on social media in recent days, along with images of crafted alleyways, and structures acting as dividers on bookcases.

The concept became popular on Reddit, with the r/booknooks subreddit going from zero to 7,900 members in just two days.

The website defines book nooks as “mini worlds created within your bookshelf”, usually as a diorama of an alley.

The idea seems to have originated in 2018 from a Japanese artist called Monde.

They created a “back alley bookshelf” made to fit alongside paperback books. The tweet has been liked 179k times since.

(5) FROZEN MINIFIGS. CNET: “Scientists chilled Lego bricks to near absolute zero to see what happens”. “That’s 2,000 times colder than deep space.”

A team at Lancaster University subjected some Lego to ultra-cold temperatures…mostly just to see what happened. It turned out the ABS plastic bricks were good thermal insulator in the microKelvin range—something which may be useful in designing future generations of ultra low temp refrigerators.

(6) ONLY SO-SO. “The Rise of Skywalker: Another hit for Star Wars despite falling sales” – BBC has the numbers.

The latest Star Wars blockbuster raked in $374m (£288m) in global ticket sales in its opening weekend, falling short of prior films in the trilogy.

The Rise of Skywalker’s US sales were down nearly 30% on the first movie in the saga, The Force Awakens.

Still, the latest instalment ranked as one of the best December openings in North America.

(7) CATS AUTOPSY. In “How ‘Cats’ Became A Calamity At The Box Office With $6.5M Opening” on Deadline, Anthony D’Allesandro explains why Cats was a failure, including bad special effects and no plot.

…Universal wanted to get a trailer out for the film timed to the release of The Lion King, which was opening over Comic-Con weekend, to appeal to mass family audiences. Note overall it was a challenge for Uni to market this movie because Cats footage was never ready. In fact, Hooper was still working on the film up until the night of the pic’s world premiere in NYC on Dec. 16 and exhibition received a note over the weekend that future prints with better VFX are on the way. So, the proper lead-up time to campaign was never on Uni’s side, heck the new Lloyd Webber song performed by Swift “Beautiful Ghosts” didn’t even make the Oscar shortlist, though it received a Golden Globe nom. I understand that while VFX were improved following the social media backlash to the 100M-plus viewed trailer back in July, the whole notion of dancing actor-felines continued to divide, if not freak out audiences. I hear that even Cats EP Steven Spielberg didn’t get a chance to see a final cut of Cats given the pic’s down-to-the minute post production. Still, I don’t care what anyone says about how awful the cats look in the movie, it’s a damn improvement upon the stage show’s tacky disco fluff collar costumes.

(8) CRITICAL DIFFERENCE. The BBC’s Stephen Kelly writes The Witcher review: this isn’t Game of Thrones.

Netflix’s The Witcher is a TV show born from the most bitter of marriages. Starring Henry Cavill as grizzled monster hunter Geralt of Rivia, it is adapted from the fantasy books of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski – yet the Witcher franchise is undoubtably known to most people through the non-canon video game sequels. This is a quirk that famously infuriates Sapkowski, who never foresaw what a success the games would become. Hence why, when he sold the licence in the early 00s, he demanded a one-off lump sum rather than a percentage of the profits. 2015’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, considered by many to be one of the greatest role-playing games ever made, has to date sold 20 million units alone. There has since been legal action.

This tension between the legitimacy of the source material and the popularity of the video games is something that showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, known for her work on Netflix’s Marvel shows Daredevil and The Defenders, has played down in interviews. If you’re a fan of the games, she argues, then there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be a fan of the TV show adapting the books that inspired the games. And this is true. The Witcher’s problem is not to do with the richness of Sapkowski’s books, nor the baggage it carries from being associated with an RPG. It is that while the books ground you in Geralt’s head, and the video games ground you in Geralt’s world, the TV show does neither. That’s due to both a jarringly paced, convoluted script, and a colourless lead performance from Cavill, which often leaves the impression that he’s the handsomest cosplayer at Comic Con.

(9) SUESS OBIT. The New York Times reports “Randy Suess, a computer hobbyist who helped build the first online bulletin board, anticipating the rise of the internet, messaging apps and social media, died on Dec. 10 at a hospital in Chicago. He was 74.”

In the late 1970s and on into the ’80s, as word of their system spread through trade magazines and word of mouth, hobbyists across the country built their own online bulletin boards, offering everything from real-time chat rooms to video games. These grass-roots services were the forerunners of globe-spanning social media services like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

“Everything we do in terms of communicating with other people online can be traced back to Randy and his bulletin board,” said Jason Scott, a computer history archivist who made an online documentary about the creation of C.B.B.S. “The only difference is that now it is all a little slicker.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 23, 1947 Beauty And The Beast Which was released in Paris in 1946 premiered in NYC. It was directed by Jean Cocteau, and stars Josette Day as Belle and Jean Marais as The Beast, it was generally well-received by the critics and audiences alike. Beauty and the Beast is now recognized as a classic of French cinema. The film has an amazing 90% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes! 
  • December 23, 1958 The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad premiered.  The feature starred Kerwin Mathews and Kathryn Grant, and was directed by Nathan H. Juran. It was produced  by Charles H. Schneer and  Ray Harryhausen, one of three such Sinbad films. This film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. 
  • December 23, 1960 Twilight Zone’s “The Night of the Meek” first aired. This was a Christmas themed story with Art Carney as a Santa Claus fired on Christmas Eve who finds a mysterious bag that gives an apparently unlimited stream of gifts. The script would be used over in the Eighties version of this series and on the radio program as well. Serling ended the original broadcast with the words, “”And a Merry Christmas, to each and all”,  but that phrase was deleted in the Eighties and would not be back until Netflix started streaming the series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 23, 1896 Máiréad Ní Ghráda. She’s the author of Manannán, a 1940 novel which is regarded as the first such science fiction work in Irish. Several years previously, she translated Peter Pan in Irish, Tír na Deo, the first time it had been done. (Died 1971.)
  • Born December 23, 1919 Peggy Fortnum. She’s an English illustrator beloved for illustrating Michael Bond‘s Paddington Bear series. She first illustrated him in A Bear Called Paddington. One of Fortnum’s Paddington illustrations is part of a series of stamps that was issued by the Royal Mail in 2006 celebrating animals from children’s literature. Somehow it seems appropriate to Christmas to me to share that stamp here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 23, 1919 Robert McCall. He was an illustrator for Life magazine in the 1960s, created the promotional artwork for 2001: A Space Odyssey. He was also production illustrator on Star Trek: The Motion Picture. And he was one of the art directors on The Black Hole (along with John B. Mansbridge and Al Roelofs). (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 23, 1927 Chuck Harris. A major British fan, active in fandom from the Fifities until his passing. He ran the infamous money laundering organization Tentacles Across the Sea with Dean Grennell, and was a well-loved British member of Irish Fandom. He was involved in myriad Apas and fanzines; he indeed got nominated multiple times for the Best Fanzine Hugo in the Fifties but never won. (Died 1999.)
  • Born December 23, 1945 Raymond E. Feist, 74. Best known for the Riftwar  series. The only novel I’ve read by him is was Faerie Tale, a dark fantasy set in the state of New York, which is one damn scary work. 
  • Born December 23, 1949 Judy Ann Strangis, 70. She’s one of the leads, Judy / Dyna Girl, on a Seventies show I never heard of, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, which was a Sid and Marty Krofft (H.R. Pufnstuf) live action SF children’s television series from 1976. She had one-offs on Twilight Zone and Bewitched, and appeared twice on Batman courtesy of her brother who was a production manager there.  She’s also done voice work in The Real Ghostbusters and Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born December 23, 1958 Joan Severance, 61. She’s on the Birthday list because she was Darcy Walker, the Black Scorpion in Roger Corman’s Black Scorpion. She then starred in and co-produced Black Scorpion II: Aftershock and The Last Seduction II.
  • Born December 23, 1984 Alison Sudol, 35. She’s known for being Queenie Goldstein on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I do so like those titles. She’s also has a recurring role as Kaya in Transparent, a series which is at least genre adjacent for its genre content and certainly SJW in content. 
  • Born December 23, 1986 Noël Wells, 33. Solely here as I’m excited that she’s one of the voice on Star Trek: Below Decks, the forthcoming animated series on CBS All Access being that of Ensign Tendi. It should rather fun time. She was also Theresa in Infinity Baby, an SF comedy.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Holiday reading from Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider.

(13) HANDWAVIUM. “Inventing sign language for space” – a BBC video.

British sign language is receiving an astronomical update thanks to a unique collaboration between a space scientist and a group of deaf astronomers.

The University of Leeds based astrophysicist found that there were no signs for terms describing the latest discoveries in the world of astronomy. So she has decided to help create them.

(14) DEEPER MEANINGS. “I was a teenage code-breaker at Bletchley Park” – another BBC video.

Helen Andrews was one of the youngest at Bletchley Park when she arrived from South America.

A brilliant mathematician at 17, her family had been told that she had a place at Cambridge.

She travelled back to the UK on a lightly guarded Atlantic convoy of ships which took almost four weeks.

Three ships in the convoy were sunk by U-boats – as the convoy was not allowed to stop, she witnessed many women and children drowning.

When she docked at Tilbury, she was invited to the captain’s quarters, where she was told: “A man is waiting for you. Get in his car and don’t ask any questions”.

She was driven to Bletchley, not Cambridge. At 92 she has only just started talking about her experiences.

(15) OUR ROBOT SANTALORDS? BBC will tell you about“The robots trying to spread Christmas cheer”.

Robots are demonstrating their abilities in the festive windows at Bloomingdale’s flagship store in New York this year.

Eleven machines in three of the stores windows are performing tasks such as playing instruments and serving coffee, as well as offering karaoke carols.

The collaboration between store, ABB robots and robot animator Andy Flessas aims to demonstrate how robots could be used in retail in the future.

(16) EVERYBODY’S DOING IT. Birds do it, bees do it, even the UAE dood it: “Google and Apple remove alleged UAE spy app ToTok”.

Google and Apple have removed an Emirati messaging app called ToTok amid claims that it is used for state spying.

Not to be confused with China’s TikTok, ToTok markets itself as an easy and secure way to chat by video or text.

However, The New York Times (NYT) has reported allegations that the WhatsApp-lookalike is a spy tool for the United Arab Emirates government.

ToTok has told users that it will be back in the app stores soon.

In a blog, it wrote that it is “temporarily unavailable” on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store because of a “technical issue”.

Citing American officials as sources, the NYT reported that ToTok gives UAE spies access to citizen’s conversations, movements, and other personal information like photos.

Google removed the app last Thursday and Apple pulled it the following day. However, ToTok users, who already have the app on their phone, can carry on using it.

…The NYT reports that the app’s publisher, Breej Holding Ltd, is affiliated with DarkMatter, which is an Abu Dhabi-based intelligence and hacking firm that is allegedly under investigation by the FBI for possible cyber-crimes.

DarkMatter employs Emirati intelligence officials, former National Security Agency employees and former Israeli military intelligence operatives, according to the NYT.

ToTok, DarkMatter, and the Embassy of United Arab Emirates in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(17) GRINCH. NPR finds a silver lining: “Boeing’s Starliner Lands Safely Back To Earth After Aborted Space Station Mission”.

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft returned to Earth on Sunday, landing safely in the New Mexico desert.

The journey is being hailed as a major achievement despite failing to complete a core objective: docking at the international space station.

Engineers and scientists are now analyzing data from the trip ahead of a plan to send U.S. astronauts to space in 2020. It would mark the first American-launched space travel since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011.

The Sunday landing of the test flight – which did not include any crew members – concluded with three red, white and blue parachutes opening up and gliding into the Army’s White Sands Missile Range.

It, however, did not go without a hitch.

The capsule was carrying holiday presents, clothes and food, cargo that was supposed to be dropped off at the International Space Station.

Because of an internal clock snafu that made the spacecraft operate as if it were at a different point in its journey, it went on the wrong orbit and never docked at the space station as planned.

Nonetheless, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the test flight was an overall success — including a rare ground landing. All other U.S. capsules have ended in the ocean

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Rule Britannia on Vimeo is a steampunk take on Brexit by Jeroen Kofferman and Ernest Jan van Melle.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/16/19 It Must Be Pixels, ‘Cause Ink Don’t Scroll Like That

(1) NEBULA ACTIVITY. SFWA is now selling tickets to the 2020 Nebula Conference taking place May 28-31, 2020 in Woodland Hills, CA (part of Los Angeles)

SFWA members and other individuals who are interested in the field of science fiction and fantasy are welcome to attend SFWA’s Nebula Conference. Attendees may participate in workshops, programming and special events throughout the weekend.

You do not need to be a member of SFWA to attend. We encourage anyone with a connection to the field to join us.

And SFWA members can now cast nominating ballots for the Nebulas.

(2) HORN TOOTING. A.C. Wise is collecting links to eligibility posts, and already has a great many here – “What Have You Done, What Have You Loved? 2019”.

It’s that time of year again! Editors, publishers, and authors’ minds turn toward Year’s Best list, and awards. Which also means it’s time for said authors, editors, and publishers to get out there and self-promote. It can feel icky or uncomfortable, but it’s a valuable service to those who nominate for awards, and those who just want to catch up reading what they might have missed during the year. So step forward, take a deep breath, and shout about what you wrote this year. While you’re at it, shout about the things you loved too! No one can read everything that comes out in a given year, but together we can help each other find excellent things to read, and perhaps even nominate.

(3) WORDS & MUSIC. The lyric video of Taylor Swift singing “Beautiful Ghosts” from the motion picture Cats is online.

(4) UPON REFLECTION. Some who commented about a new YA Twitter donnybrook linked in yesterday’s Scroll (item #16) have adopted a new perspective, including N.K. Jemisin whose thread starts here.

(5) RAPID CONTRACTION. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog reportedly has severed ties with all its freelancers:

(6) FORD RIGHTS. Will Shetterly’s comment on Slate’s article “The Disappearance of John M. Ford” (linked here yesterday with news that Ford’s books are coming back into print) shed additional light:

I was one of Mike Ford’s friends and editors, and I want to go on record with this: Martha Fry was extremely helpful when we wanted to keep his Liavek stories in print. The breakdown in communication between his original family, his fannish family, and his agent has many reasons, but there are no villains in that story. There are only gossips who love drama, as there are in any community. If anyone claims his first family tried to make his work unavailable, I will point to the Liavek anthologies as evidence that’s not true.

(7) KSR STUDY. The University of Illinois Press has released Kim Stanley Robinson by Robert Markley, the Trowbridge Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Award-winning epics like the Mars trilogy and groundbreaking alternative histories like The Days of Rice and Salt have brought Kim Stanley Robinson to the forefront of contemporary science fiction. Mixing subject matter from a dizzying number of fields with his own complex ecological and philosophical concerns, Robinson explores how humanity might pursue utopian social action as a strategy for its own survival.

Robert Markley examines the works of an author engaged with the fundamental question of how we—as individuals, as a civilization, and as a species—might go forward. By building stories on huge time scales, Robinson lays out the scientific and human processes that fuel humanity’s struggle toward a more just and environmentally stable world or system of worlds. His works invite readers to contemplate how to achieve, and live in, these numerous possible futures. They also challenge us to see that SF’s literary, cultural, and philosophical significance have made it the preeminent literary genre for examining where we stand today in human and planetary history.

(8) DISNEY+. “Disney+ Warns Users About ‘Outdated Cultural Depictions’ in Titles”The Hollywood Reporter works to discern how the policy is applied.

At the bottom of the description for Disney’s 1940 classic animation Fantasia on the studio’s newly minted Disney+ service, there is a line that is garnering attention from viewers: “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

The disclaimer can be found in the streaming platform’s synopsis of many of Disney’s classic animated titles, including 1941’s Dumbo, 1967’s The Jungle Book, 1953’s Peter Pan and 1955’s Lady and the Tramp, as well as other offerings like 1960’s Swiss Family Robinson and 1955’s Davy Crockett. 

Disney+ features the studio’s massive library that dates back over eight decades, and the verbiage serves as a caution against some racist and culturally insensitive depictions and references in Disney’s older offerings.

While Lady and the Tramp features Siamese cats depicted as East Asian stereotypes and Peter Pan includes a song titled “What Makes the Red Man Red?,” it is unclear what the criterion is for Disney titles to receive the “outdated cultural depictions” disclaimer. Aladdin, which has been critiqued for its racist depictions of Middle Eastern and Arab culture, does not feature the disclaimer in its synopsis.

Disney has not returned The Hollywood Reporter‘s request for comment.

One feature entirely absent from the streaming platform is the 1946 live-action animation hybrid Song of the South. The movie, which inspired the Disneyland ride Splash Mountain, has been widely criticized for its portrayal of African-Americans and apparent glorification of plantation life. It has been the studio’s policy to keep the film from theatrical and home entertainment rerelease. 

The new streaming service is also making news for another decision: “‘Simpsons’ Episode Featuring Michael Jackson Kept Off Disney+”.

Disney did not respond to multiple requests for comment as to why the episode is missing and who made the call. 

It is assumed “Stark Raving Dad” is off Disney+ because Michael Jackson (not officially credited) was the guest star. Jackson voiced Leon Kompowsky, a man Homer meets while in a mental institution who sounds like Jackson. The episode was a favorite among fans for several years. 

In March of this year, “Stark Raving Dad” was pulled from broadcast circulation following the release of the HBO documentary film Leaving Neverland, in which the late pop star was accused by multiple men of molestation when they were boys. 

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 16, 1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon and François Truffaut, the film is both a financial and critical success. It currently has a hundred percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 16, 1907 Burgess Meredith. Brief though his visit to genre be, he had two significant roles. The first was in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Narrator although initially he was uncredited. One of his other genre role was a delightful take as The Penguin in original Batman series. He also shows up in Tales of Tomorrow, an anthology sf series that was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953, and on The Invaders, The Twilight Zone, Faerie Tale Theatre: Thumbelina (with Carrie Fisher!) and The Wild Wild West. Did I mention he voiced Puff the Magic Dragon in a series of the same name? Well he did. Ok, so his visit to genre wasn’t so brief after all…  (Died 1997.)
  • Born November 16, 1952 Shigeru Miyamoto, 67. Video game designer and producer at Nintendo. He is the creator of some of the best-selling game franchises of the company, such as Mario, Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda.
  • Born November 16, 1952 Robin McKinley, 67. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast was her first book. It was considered a superb work and was named an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Rose Daughter is another version of that folktale, whereas Spindle’s End is the story of Sleeping Beauty, and Deerskin and two of the stories that you can find in The Door in the Hedge are based on other folktales. She does a superb telling of the Robin Hood legend in The Outlaws of Sherwood. Among her novels that are not based on folktales are Sunshine, Chalice and Dragonhaven. Her 1984 The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery Medal as that year’s best new American children’s book. She was married to Peter Dickinson from 1991 to his death in 2015, they lived together in Hampshire,UK. They co-wrote two splendid collections, Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits and Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits. I’d be very remiss not to note her Awards, to wit a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword, then a Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown, a World Fantasy Award for Anthology/Collection for Imaginary Lands, as editor, a Phoenix Award Honor Book for Beauty and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine. Impressive indeed! 
  • Born November 16, 1958 Marg Helgenberger, 61. She was Hera in Wonder Woman, and also appeared in Conan: Red Nail, Species and Species II, not to mention Tales from the Crypt. Oh, and two Stephen King series as well, The Tommyknockers and Under the Dome.
  • Born November 16, 1967 Lisa Bonet, 52. First genre work was isEpiphany Proudfoot in Angel Heart, a decidedly strange horror film. More germane was that she was Heather Lelache in the 2002 A&E adaptation of Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven. She later played Maya Daniels in the Life on Mars series as well. 
  • Born November 16, 1967 Eva Pope, 52. Genre is a slippery thing to define. She was a one-off in Adventure Inc. (might be genre) as well the Splinter film (horror with SF pretensions), Life on Mars (SF maybe) and Spooks: Code 9 (alternate UK history). Is she genre? 
  • Born November 16, 1972 Missi Pyle, 47. Laliari in Galaxy Quest which is one of my fave SF films of all time. Also has been in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, A Haunted House 2, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Star Trek: The Next Generation,  Roswell, The Tick, Pushing Daisies and Z Nation.
  • Born November 16, 1977 Gigi Edgley, 42. Though her genre experiences are varied, I think she’ll be best remembered for her role as a Nebari who was a member of the crew on Moya on the Farscape series. Other genre appearances include Beastmaster, The Lost World, Quantum Apocalypse and she has a role in the web series Star Trek Continues in the “Come Not Between the Dragons” episode.
  • Born November 16, 1977 Maggie Gyllenhaal, 42. She’s had some impressive genre appearances in such works as Donnie DarkoThe Dark Knight, voice work in the superb Monster House and the equally superb Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.

(11) ELLISON REMEMBERED. Fanac.org has uploaded an audio recording of the Worldcon 76 (2018) “In Memoriam: Harlan Ellison” panel.

Worldcon 76 was held in San Jose, CA in 2018. This Memoriam panel (audio, with pictures) features memories and anecdotes from Tom Whitmore, Robert Silverberg (who was a friend of Harlan’s for 65 years), Chris Barkley, David Gerrold, Christine Valada and Nat Segaloff (Harlan’s biographer). Each of the panelists had a close relationship with Harlan, and these loving but clear-eyed reminiscences are a comfort to those that miss him, and hopefully to those readers who never had a chance to meet him. Harlan was an enormous presence in science fiction. His stories, his scripts, his kindnesses and his sometimes unbelievable missteps will be long remembered. Recording provided by Karen G. Anderson and Richard Lynch.

(12) ABOUT LEWIS. Publishers Weekly is right to hedge its bet in the title — “10 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About C.S. Lewis “ because I knew three of these, and a few of you probably know them all!

9. Lewis’s first book was a collection of poetry he wrote as a teenager. Before he planned to be a philosopher, the teenage Lewis hoped to become a great poet. He wrote poetry with the hope of publishing his work and gaining fame. He returned to England after being injured in France during World War I and published his collection as Spirits in Bondage under the pen name of Clive Hamilton.

(13) A MEMORY REVERED. “Wales’ Tecwyn Roberts hailed as ‘hero of the space age'” – BBC has the story.

Tributes are being paid to “one of the great unsung heroes of the space age”.

Tecwyn Roberts, from Anglesey, helped set up mission control rooms and enabled astronaut Neil Armstrong to communicate with Earth from the Moon.

Experts have hailed Roberts’ expertise as events are held to mark the 50 years since Nasa’s second lunar landing.

A flag will be placed on his grave during the anniversary of Apollo 12 which flew from 14-24 November 1969.

“Without Tec[wyn], Nasa and mission control as it exists today would probably not have happened,” said Nick Howes, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“Tecwyn Roberts could rightly be labelled as one of the great unsung heroes of the space age.”

Mr Howes was speaking in an interview published by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, which has also hailed Roberts as a “pioneer”.

He was chief of the network engineering division by the time of the first landing on the Moon and helped to ensure there was communication with astronauts.

…Gary Morse, a former Nasa space shuttle network director, said Roberts “essentially invented” the flight director position.

“He didn’t say much but when he did it was very important,” he said.

(14) MORE TOR BUCKS. Here’s a number most writers would be happy to sign for – “James Rollins lands huge 7-figure deal for epic fantasy series”. Entertainment Weekly is there when the cash register rings.

The No. 1 New York Times best-selling author best known for his blockbuster thrillers has signed a major seven-figure deal with Tor Books for Moon Fall, a fantasy series that’s been eight years in the making.

Moon Fall opens a riven world trapped between fire and ice, merging his fascination with the natural world, his love of adventure, and his knowledge of the wonders found at the evolutionary fringes of scientific exploration. It centers on a young girl who foretells a new apocalypse approaching, one that will end all life for all time. Her reward is a charge of grave heresy, punishable by death. As she flees, she gathers an unlikely alliance of outcasts to join her cause to save their world. The journey will take them into lands both burning bright and eternally frozen, to face creatures unimaginable and enemies beyond reason. All the while, hostile forces will hunt them. Armies will wage war around them.

(15) R-RATED B.O. Joker is still bringing people through the turnstiles: “The Joker Hits $1 Billion at Box Office — Making It the First R-Rated Movie to Reach the Milestone”.

The movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, has surpassed $1 billion in gross sales at box offices world wide, Entertainment Weekly reports. The milestone makes the blockbuster the first R-rated movie to hit the $1 billion mark, according to the outlet.

It also means that the movie, which tells the tale of the rise of Batman’s arch-nemesis, has now officially beat out Deadpool as the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. The Ryan Reynolds-stared film made $783 million.

(16) WELL-KNOWN BRAND. Martin Morse Wooster assures us, “I normally wouldn’t write about Tanya Edwards’s Yahoo! Lifetstyle story ’10 Gifts That Will Impress The Ultimate Star Wars fan’ because it is an Ebay infomercial.  BUT the Darth Vader Helmet 2-Slice Toaster is definitely worth a photo!”

(17) PREPARE FOR TAKEOFF. Starlux Airlines is an actual company that begins operations in Taiwan in 2020, with all new Airbus planes. They just launched their safety video:

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

Pixel Scroll 4/11/19 Oh The Snark Has Pixel’d Teeth, Dear

(1) NEBULA CONFERENCE. SFWA President Cat Rambo says, “I know the Nebula programming isn’t complete yet but looking it over moved me to think about how far it’s come and who’s responsible for that” — “What I’m Looking Forward to about This Year’s Nebula Conference Programming: An Appreciation of Kate Baker”.

… It’s five years later, and in my opinion, Kate’s done what she set out to do. She didn’t do it alone, of course. She had the help of a whole lot of amazing SFWA staff and volunteers, including the amazing Terra LeMay and Steven H Silver. Mary Robinette Kowal got turned loose on programming the last couple of years and has been doing a stellar job. And others have made their mark with additions, such as the Nebula Award Alternate Universe Acceptance speeches or the mentoring program led by Sarah Pinsker or (I’d like to think) two I’ve contributed: the volunteer appreciation breakfast as well as the spouses and partners reception that have been regular features (and I hope will continue to do so!) Or the Book Depot, because I don’t know of ANY other con that takes as much care to make sure that its authors — including the indies — can sign and sell their books there. And there’s a fancy Nebula website, which remains a work in progress as more and more gets added to it, preserving the history of the Awards.

We’ve only got a small fraction of the schedule so far, with plenty of new stuff getting added every day, but here’s some highlights…

(2) BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD. Beresheet didn’t make it: “A private spacecraft from Israel crashed into the Moon Thursday”. Ars Technica not only has the story, they begin it with a Heinlein reference.

The Moon remains a harsh mistress.

On Thursday, SpaceIL’s lunar lander attempted to make a soft landing on the surface of the Moon, but it apparently crashed instead into the gray world. Although a postmortem analysis has not yet been completed, telemetry from the spacecraft indicated a failure of the spacecraft’s main engine about 10km above the Moon. Thereafter, it appears to have struck the Moon at a velocity of around 130 meters per second.

“We have had a failure in the spacecraft,” Opher Doron, general manager of the space division at Israel Aerospace Industries, which built the lander, said during the landing webcast. “We have unfortunately not managed to land successfully.” Israeli engineers vowed to try again.

The failure to land is perhaps understandable—it is extremely hard to land on the Moon, Mars, or any other object in the Solar System. In this case, the private effort to build the lunar lander worked on a shoestring budget of around $100 million to build their spacecraft, which had performed admirably right up until the last few minutes before its planned touchdown.

(3) TWINS IN SCIENCE. “NASA’s Twins Study Results Published in Science” in a paper titled “What to expect after a year in space.” The NASA press release begins —

NASA’s trailblazing Twins Study moved into the final stages of integrated research with the release of a combined summary paper published in Science.

The landmark Twins Study brought ten research teams from around the country together to observe what physiological, molecular and cognitive changes could happen to a human from exposure to spaceflight hazards. This was accomplished by comparing retired astronaut Scott Kelly while he was in space, to his identical twin brother, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth.

The PR’s summaries of the 10 research topics includes –

Gene Expression:  Samples taken before, during and after Scott’s mission in space revealed some changes in gene expression. Mark also experienced normal-range changes in gene expression on Earth, but not the same changes as Scott. Changes Scott experienced may have been associated with his lengthy stay in space. Most of these changes (about 91.3%) reverted to baseline after he returned to Earth; however, a small subset persisted after six months. Some observed DNA damage is believed to be a result of radiation exposure. Gene expression data corroborated and supported other findings in the Twins Study, including the body’s response to DNA damage, telomere regulation, bone formation and immune system stress. These findings help demonstrate how a human body was able to adapt to the extreme environment of space and help researchers better understand how environmental stressors influence the activity of different genes, leading to a better understanding of physiological processes in space.

(4) BRACKETT BOOKS FALL THROUGH. The two Leigh Brackett titles announced by the Haffner Press in late 2015, The Book of Stark and Leigh Brackett Centennial have been cancelled. Stephen Haffner e-mailed an explanation to fans who preordered the books:

The fault for the cancellation of these two titles lies completely with Haffner Press and with me personally.

Rights to these titles were not evergreen and I failed to complete and publish these books within the contracted period. Believe me, I made every attempt to recover/resurrect these titles. At this point, the agent for the estate of Leigh Brackett is making other arrangements for the Stark books and Leigh Brackett. If this status changes, you’ll be one of the first to know.

Haffner is offering a complete refund, or application of the credit to another purchase.

(5) GUGGENHEIM FELLOWSHIPS. Authors Edward Carey, Michael Helm, Carmen Maria Machado, and Luis Alberto Urrea are among the winners of the 2019 Guggenheim Fellowships reports Locus Online.

(6) NEWITZ TALK. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has posted video of Annalee Newitz speaking at UCSD on April 4 as part of the San Diego 2049 series .

Realistic worldbuilding requires that we get out of the dystopia/utopia binary and imagine futures that are a diverse mix of worlds. To imagine a plausible future world, we need to look critically at our own history, where progress is uneven and resistance is not futile. Annalee Newitz, journalist, co-founder of the website io9, and author of the acclaimed science fiction novel Autonomous, joined the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego to share her insights into worldbuilding as part of the San Diego 2049 series of programs.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 11, 1883 Leonard Mudie. His very last screen role was as one of the survivors of the SS Columbia in Trek’s original pilot episode, “The Cage.”  He also appeared as Professor Pearson opposite Boris Karloff in The Mummy released in 1932. He appeared in the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood as the town crier and the mysterious man who gives Robin directions. (Died 1965.)
  • Born April 11, 1892 William M. Timlin. Author of The Ship that Sailed to Mars, a remarkable work that has 48 pages of text and 48 color plates. It has become a classic of fantasy literature. You can view the book here. (Died 1943.)
  • Born April 11, 1920 Peter O’Donnell. A British writer of mysteries and of comic strips, best known as the creator of Modesty Blaise. He also did an adaptation for the Daily Express of the Dr. No novel. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 11, 1953 Byron Preiss. Writer, editor and publisher. He founded and served as president of Byron Preiss Visual Publications, and later of ibooks Inc. If I remember correctly, ibooks was the last publisher for Zelazny for most of his books. Any idea what happened to those rights after ibooks went into receivership?  The only book I can find him writing is the children’s novel Dragonworld which is co-authored with Michael Reaves who was involved in including Gargoyles and Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 11, 1957 Marina Fitch, 62. She has published two novels, The Seventh Heart and The Border. Her short fiction has appeared in Pulphouse, MZB, F&SF, and Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and the anthologies, Desire Burn and Peter S. Beagle’s Immortal Unicorn. She is currently at work on a novel and several new stories.
  • Born April 11, 1963 Gregory Keyes, 56. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. He also wrote The Psi Corps Trilogy and has done a lot of other media time-in fiction including Pacific Rim, Star Wars, Planet of The ApesIndependence Day and Pacific Rim
  • Born April 11, 1974 Tricia Helfer, 45. She is best known for playing the humanoid Cylon model Number Six in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. In addition, she plays Charlotte Richards / Mom on Lucifer. And she voiced Boodikka in Green Lantern: First Flight.
  • Born April 11, 1981 Matt Ryan, 38. John Constantine in NBC’s Constantine and The CW’s Arrowverse, as well as voicing the character in the Justice League Dark and the animated Constantine: City of Demons films as well. And he played Horatio in Hamlet in the Donmar production at the Wyndham’s Theatre. 

(8) PHOTO OP. BBC calls “Katie Bouman: The woman behind the first black hole image”.

A 29-year-old computer scientist has earned plaudits worldwide for helping develop the algorithm that created the first-ever image of a black hole.

Katie Bouman led development of a computer program that made the breakthrough image possible.

The remarkable photo, showing a halo of dust and gas 500 million trillion km from Earth, was released on Wednesday.

For Dr Bouman, its creation was the realisation of an endeavour previously thought impossible.

(9) LOL! Oh, Reference Director!

(10) RETRO HUGO FAN MATERIAL ONLINE. Joe Siclari of Fanac.org has assembled a resource for this year’s Retro Hugo voters —

Dublin 2019 has announced the Finalists for this year’s Retro Hugo Awards to be given for works published in 1943. We’ve pulled together what we have on Fanac.org, along with a few zines from eFanzines and the University of Iowa, to give you a single place where you can find all the Finalist publications available online. Read before you vote! http://fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos.html  

(11) GARY GIANNI’S SONG OF ICE & FIRE ART. Flesk Publications will start taking preorders next week: “Art of Gary Gianni for George R. R. Martin’s Seven Kingdoms. Signed by Martin and Gianni! Pre-Order on April 18th.” Arnie Fenner writes, “I don’t think Flesk is going to make the first edition available to the trade and is only going to sell it and the signed edition direct. Whether he’ll make a second edition available to bookstores…?”

A comprehensive visual overview of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series—plus A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and Fire and Blood—through over 300 drawings and paintings by the award-winning illustrator Gary Gianni.

This new premium art book will be available for pre-order at www.fleskpublications.com on Thursday, April 18.

(12) THREE BOOKS TO CONQUER. Cat Rambo’s book deal with Tor leads in “Recent News and Changes from Chez Rambo”.

I’m very pleased to announce that Tor has acquired my recent space fantasy (maybe?), as part of a three book deal, and I’ll be working with Christopher Morgan there. While I’ve had a lot of short stories published traditionally, this is the first novel to go through that, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the process is like. What is the book about? Well, I’m actually not sure of the genre but have been describing it as a banter-driven space military fantasy in which a group of ex-military turned restauranteurs get an unexpected package, just as things start exploding. I’m 40k words into the sequel.

(13) AMAZON’S #1 AUTHOR. It took five days for Scalzi’s cats to turn him into a telethon host.

(14) PAGING VALENTINE MICHAEL SMITH. “‘Three-person’ baby boy born in Greece”

Fertility doctors in Greece and Spain say they have produced a baby from three people in order to overcome a woman’s infertility.

The baby boy was born weighing 2.9kg (6lbs) on Tuesday. The mother and child are said to be in good health.

…The experimental form of IVF uses an egg from the mother, sperm from the father, and another egg from a donor woman.

(15) YOU COULDN’T MAKE THIS UP. “Official Report: Nuclear Waste Accident Caused By Wrong Cat Litter” – just what were they feeding those cats anyway?

A yearlong investigation by government scientists has concluded that a major accident at a nuclear waste dump was caused by the wrong brand of cat litter.

The U.S. Department of Energy has released a 277-page report into an explosion that occurred on Feb. 14, 2014, at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. According to a summary of the report, the incident occurred when a single drum of nuclear waste, 68660, burst open.

(16) VIVA LA ROOMBALUCION II. Nope, it’s not Florida Man. NPR says — “Oregon Man Called Police About A Burglar. Armed Officers Found A Rogue Roomba”.

The Washington County sheriff in Oregon says there was nothing unusual about the call. Sure, it was broad daylight — 1:48 p.m. local time exactly — but “crime can happen anytime.”

So the frantic call from a house guest about a burglar making loud rustling noises inside the house, specifically from within the locked bathroom, deserved an urgent response, Sgt. Danny DiPietro, a sheriff’s spokesman, tells NPR.

“The man had just gone for a walk with his nephew’s dog and when he came back, he could see shadows moving back and forth under the bathroom door,” DiPietro says.

Resources were immediately deployed: three seasoned deputies — one with at least 20 years on the force — a detective who happened to be in the area, and two canine officers from Beaverton Police Department, about 7 miles outside Portland.

(17) NEW BRANCH. BBC reports on “Homo luzonensis: New human species found in Philippines”.

There’s a new addition to the family tree: an extinct species of human that’s been found in the Philippines.

It’s known as Homo luzonensis, after the site of its discovery on the country’s largest island Luzon.

Its physical features are a mixture of those found in very ancient human ancestors and in more recent people.

That could mean primitive human relatives left Africa and made it all the way to South-East Asia, something not previously thought possible.

The find shows that human evolution in the region may have been a highly complicated affair, with three or more human species in the region at around the time our ancestors arrive.

(18) THE AI SHORTFALL. IEEE Spectrum’s article “How IBM Watson Overpromised and Underdelivered on AI Health Care”illustrates the gap between reality and the popular imagination regarding AI. Greg Hullender sent the link with a comment, “I think the key point is in the last two paragraphs: Watson makes a great AI librarian, but it really isn’t a doctor at all, and likely never will be. Also worth noting is that the areas where they had the most success were the ones that needed the least AI, e.g. Watson for Genomics, which benefited from not needing natural language processing (NLP).”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs uses Watson for Genomics reports in more than 70 hospitals nationwide, says Michael Kelley, the VA’s national program director for oncology. The VA first tried the system on lung cancer and now uses it for all solid tumors. “I do think it improves patient care,” Kelley says. When VA oncologists are deciding on a treatment plan, “it is a source of information they can bring to the discussion,” he says. But Kelley says he doesn’t think of Watson as a robot doctor. “I tend to think of it as a robot who is a master medical librarian.”

Most doctors would probably be delighted to have an AI librarian at their beck and call—and if that’s what IBM had originally promised them, they might not be so disappointed today. The Watson Health story is a cautionary tale of hubris and hype. Everyone likes ambition, everyone likes moon shots, but nobody wants to climb into a rocket that doesn’t work.

(19) SEVENTIES FLASHBACK. Michael Gonzalez remembers when “I Was a Teenage (Wannabe) Horror Writer” at CrimeReads.

While sitting in the balcony of a movie theater waiting for Jordan Peele’s much-anticipated horror film Us, I began thinking about my personal relationship with the horror genre. “When I was pregnant with you I used to watch scary movies all the time,” my mom confessed years before as we left the Roosevelt Theatre in Harlem one afternoon after a screening of Night of the Living Dead. Although I was only seven and much too young to have seen that first zombie apocalypse, which gave me nightmares for a week, but afterwards I became a horror junkie. As much as I might’ve nervously jumped while watching The Blob, The Fly or Dracula, it was those stories that appealed to me.

…During the 1970s, with the exception of a few artists (Billy Graham, Keith Pollard, Ron Wilson and Trevor Von Eeden), there weren’t many African-American creators working in commercial comics, something I noticed when I attended my first comic convention that same year. However, while I didn’t see any scripters that “looked like me,” that wasn’t going to keep me from trying. Truthfully, I wasn’t trying to be the Rosa Parks of horror comic book writers, I just wanted to be down.

(20) HORROR DEFENDED. And Kim Newman argues in The Guardian that “Exposing children to horror films isn’t the nightmare you think it is”.

What terrifies children isn’t just the stuff designed to scare. In The Wizard of Oz, for example, you get the witch but also the comedy lion – and even though cackling evil is dispelled at the end, the incidentals offer nightmare fodder: the tree with a human face, the winged monkeys, even the horse of a different colour. As Tim Burton or Guillermo del Toro – both jumpy kids who have grown up to love monsters – have shown, the world of an imaginative child is full of wonders and terrors, and if you strip out the latter by insisting on a diet of just Peppa Pig you risk raising a generation unable to cope with the slightest trauma.

(21) ENDGAME PROMO. “You know your teams. You know your missions.” Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame is in theaters April 26.

[Thanks to Joe Siclari, Susan de Guardiola, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, Stephenfrom Ottawa, Arnie Fenner, Greg Hullender, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]