Pixel Scroll 10/28/19 I Robot
— R U Robot?

(1) JUST LET ME GO NATURALLY. Naomi Booth gives an overview of eco-horror in her essay “For Some Horror Writers, Nothing Is Scarier Than a Changing Planet” in the New York Times.

“Why does climate change cast a much smaller shadow on literature than it does on the world?” asked the novelist Amitav Ghosh, writing in The Guardian in 2016. “Is it perhaps too wild a stream to be navigated in the accustomed barques of narration?”

…Yet the idea of a world in crisis is fundamental to horror, a genre historically devalued by the gatekeepers of high culture as, well, outlandish and unserious. Horror has always sought to amplify fear. It works against false comfort, complacency and euphemism, against attempts to repress or sanitize that which disturbs us. Inevitably, the climate crisis has given rise to a burgeoning horror subgenre: eco-horror. Eco-horror reworks horror in order to portray the damage done to the world by people, and the ways the world might damage or even destroy us in turn. In eco-horror, the “natural” world is both under threat and threatening.

The best-known work of eco-horror might be Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” trilogy (2014), about a beautiful and deadly exclusion zone known as Area X. The first book, “Annihilation,” which was made into a Hollywood film last year, is narrated by a biologist on a mission to explore the area. She records her initial impressions of the abandoned landscape, including a “low, powerful moaning” audible at dusk. Her team discovers a structure in the earth, an inverted tower. The biologist is lowered into it. There is a smell like rotting honey. The walls are covered with words, the writing system of some kind of fruiting body. She hears a heartbeat. The structure turns out to be a living organism, a “horror show of … beauty and biodiversity.” The biologist leans in close and is sprayed with golden spores — infected….

(2) A LOT OF GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS. The Hugo Book Club, an unofficial blog about its namesake, has tweeted a long, thoughtful thread about the Best Fan Writer Hugo category, probing how meaningful it is — or isn’t — that any given fan has previously heard of all the finalists. Thread starts here.

(3) IT’S MONEY THEY HAVE. Got $30,000? Then you could make the required minimum bid on this “Apollo 11 Flown and Crew-Signed Beta Cloth Mission Insignia Originally from the Personal Collection of Mission Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, Signed and Certified”, a lot coming up in Heritage Auctions’ Armstrong Family Collection IV sale November 14-16.

(4) PUBLISHING NEWS. This year’s Hugo-winning Best Editor – Long Form, Navah Wolfe, is surprisingly available after a shakeup at Saga Press.

(5) GOVERNMENT FIGURE KNOWS GENRE. France’s new EU Commissioner is a science fiction fan and author according to Politico’s summary “4 things to know about Thierry Breton”.

He’s into sci-fi

Back in 1984, Breton co-wrote a science fiction novel called “Softwar” based around the National Software Agency (which in no way resembles the U.S. National Security Agency). Billed as a “technology thriller,” the novel’s plot is centered on an American cyberattack on Soviet computers. “At the time no one was speaking about viruses, the word didn’t exist,” Breton said, according to Liberation.

However, his co-author Denis Beneich later claimed Breton “never wrote a word of this novel” although “he had the idea for it.”

Breton, whose Commission portfolio would include the space industry, wrote two other novels in the mid to late 1980s — “Vatican III” and “Netwar” (all three of his books are worth checking out, if only for the cover art).

His love of sci-fi doesn’t stop with books, however. Breton also helped come up with the idea for a high-tech theme park called “Futuroscope” in Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, just north of Poitiers in western France. Its tag-line is “Expect the unexpected,” which sounds like good advice ahead of a hearing before the European Parliament.

(6) MILFORD. The New York Times reintroduces people to Milford, PA’s publishing and film history in “A Cabin With a Literary Pedigree”.

Charlie Chaplin slept here. So did Sarah Bernhardt, Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Franz Liszt, Warren Harding, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Wolfe, Cloris Leachman and Arlene Dahl. Likewise, D.W. Griffith, who, in 1912, shot two movies — “A Feud in the Kentucky Hills” and “The Informer” — in this dot of a town in the foothills of the Poconos.

Josh Sapan has slept here too — as often as his schedule permits. But 33 years ago, when Mr. Sapan learned of Milford’s many charms from a friend, he knew nothing about the town’s past. Still, he was sufficiently captivated to buy a waterfront cabin.

It was enough that he could look out his windows after dark and see no illumination but the moon, enough that the Delaware rolled along mere steps from his door. “I just love houses on rivers and I really love this house,” said Mr. Sapan, 67, the president and chief executive of AMC Networks, a Manhattan-based company that owns and operates cable channels including AMC, BBC America and SundanceTV. “I don’t know what it is. I find it quite magical, if that’s the right word.”

Mr. Sapan had yet to learn that the novelist Stephen Crane had camped out for a summer in Milford with friends, and published a satirical newspaper during his stay, that Milford was the birthplace of the conservation movement, and that in the 1950s and 1960s, it was the red hot center of the science fiction writers’ universe, even figuring in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” because several big names in the genre, notably the literary agent Virginia Kidd, had settled in town….

Andrew Porter left a comment there filling in more of the “big names” only alluded to in the article:

Milford is associated with many science fiction writers. Authors Damon Knight, James Blish and Judy Merrill also lived there. It was the setting for the annual Milford Science Fiction Writers Conference for many years, starting in the 1950s, which spun off other “Milford” conferences, most notably in the UK and Seattle, as well as the “New Wave” in SF in the mid-1960s. Also in Milford, the foundations were laid for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, an active organization which presents the annual Nebula Awards. For more information about how Milford looms so large in the science fictional universe, see the Wikipedia page here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milford_Writer’s_Workshop

(7) EVANS OBIT. “Robert Evans, colorful Paramount boss behind Rosemary’s Baby, dies at 89” reports SYFY Wire.

…Given the reins of Paramount Pictures with little experience in 1966 thanks to a friendship with corporate owner Gulf & Western’s Charles Bluhdorn, Evans turned the company around thanks to a string of critical darlings that would eventually become classics. During his tenure as production VP, he oversaw genre fare like Rosemary’s Baby, Don’t Look Now, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Moving on from leading the studio, Evans personally produced movies like the adaptation of William Goldman’s Marathon Man (starring Dustin Hoffman), Popeye (with Robin Williams), and early comic book film The Phantom. Some hit higher highs than others, but Evans was a constant presence in the industry.

(8) BRETT OBIT. “Robin Brett, NASA scientist who studied ‘moon rocks,’ dies at 84” – the Washington Post has the story.

Robin Brett, a NASA scientist who 50 years ago was among the first to study and direct research on lunar samples — popularly known as ‘‘moon rocks’’ — from the Apollo space missions, died Sept. 27 at his home in Washington. He was 84.

The cause was Alzheimer’s disease, said his wife, Jill Brett.

From 1969 to 1974, Dr. Brett was chief of the geochemistry branch at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. In July 1969, he was among a select four scientists present for the opening of a sealed box containing the first moon rocks from the initial Apollo lunar mission.

…When the lunar samples were first brought to Earth, they were kept for a period in a quarantined and sterile environment, lest they contain or exude a noxious substance that might be harmful in earth’s atmosphere.

Dr. Brett doubted the necessity of this precaution, which he demonstrated, he said, by becoming the first man on Earth to lick a moon rock.

What did it taste like?

‘‘A dirty potato,’’ he answered.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

[Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Zombieland: Double Tap, which delivers if you want a pretty gory zombie movie with many good jokes.  Early in the film the four main characters are hiding out in the ruins of the White House.  They exchange Christmas presents even though it’s November 17 because they don’t have anything else to do.  Emma Stone gives Jesse Eisenberg a copy of the first edition of The Fellowship of the Ring.  (We don’t know why the White House has first editions of Tolkien.

“Why thank you,” Eisenberg says, “and look, you’ve ruined the book by scribbling on the first page.”

Of course, it isn’t really a Tolkien book but they did fake the original cover…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 28, 1951 — The Out There series premiered. It was one of the first SF anthology series. It lasted a mere twelve episodes. Some of the SF writers it adapted were Heinlein, Sturgeon, Bradbury,  Bissell and Long. Heinlein in particular was a favorite source for them. 
  • October 28, 1994 Stargate premiered. Starring Kurt Russell and James Spader, critics intensely hated it, and it rated 50% at Rotten Tomatoes. It of course spawned Stargate SG-1 series franchise.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 28, 1902 Elsa Lanchester. The Bride in 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. In 1928 she appeared in three silent shorts written for her by H. G. Wells: Blue Bottles, Daydreams and The Tonic. Ray Bradbury originally wrote “Merry Christmas 2116” to be performed by Lanchester and her husband Charles Laughton. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 William H. Patterson, Jr. Author of Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, a two-volume look at Heinlein which arguably is the best biography ever done on him. He also did The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. This Tribute to Bill Patterson by Mike with comments by Filers is touching indeed. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 Joe Lansdale, 68. Writer and screenwriter whose DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep is a American comedy horror film starting Bruce Campbell is his best known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and  Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns. 
  • Born October 28, 1952 Annie Potts, 67. Janine Melnitz in the still-best Ghostbusters and in Ghostbusters II as well. She has a cameo as Vanessa the hotel clerk in the Ghostbusters reboot. She is listed as reprising her original role in the forthcoming Ghostbusters 2020 which I’ll freely admit I know nothing about. 
  • Born October 28, 1958 Amy Thomson, 61. Writer of four novels in a decade twenty years ago including Virtual Girl which won her the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She published one piece of short fiction, “The Ransom of Princess Starshine”, in 2017 in Stupefying Stories which is edited by Bruce Bethke.
  • Born October 28, 1958 Kristin Landon. Though she was working on a fourth novel in the series at the time of her death, the published novels will comprise the Hidden Worlds trilogy: The Hidden Worlds, The Cold Minds, and The Dark Reaches. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 28, 1962 Daphne Zuniga, 57. Her very first was as Debbie in The Dorm That Dripped Blood, labelled a Video Nasty in the UK.  You know her much better as Princess Vespa in Spaceballs, and she also in The Fly II being Beth Logan. Series work include Nightmare Classics, Batman BeyondHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and, no surprise here, Spaceballs: The Animated Series where she voicedPrincess Vespa
  • Born October 28, 1967 Julia Roberts, 52. How can I resist giving Birthday Honors to Tinker Bell in Hook? Not to mention she was in the seriously weird Flatliners that I saw at a virtually empty theater. Of course, there’s the ever weirder Mary Reilly with her in the title role. For something more charming, she voiced Charlotte the Spider in Charlotte‘s Web. I’m going to skip her as a Smurf I think…
  • Born October 28, 1974 Joaquin Phoenix, 45. Currently The Joker. He hasn’t done much genre acting setting aside being Max in SpaceCamp when he was twelve, and being Billy Hercules in the “Little Hercules” episode of Superboy. Well he did a Shyamalan film but I refuse to consider them genre. 
  • Born October 28, 1982 Matt Smith, 37. The Eleventh Doctor, also Alex in Terminator Genisys, a film I’ve not seen. Nor likely will. He’s also Jim in The Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Ruby in the Smoke based off the Philip Pullman novels.

(12) EL-MOHTAR REVIEWS. Amal El-Mohtar, in a book review column for the NYT, “Dark Books for Dark Times”, opines about His Hideous Heart, a collection edited by Dahlia Adler, Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, Paul Krueger’s Steel Crow Saga, and Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline.

… Conceptually “The Future of Another Timeline” is breathtakingly brilliant, and part of a constellation of time-travel stories this year that wed present-day activism to a willingness to change the past. But as I read, I found myself far more affected by the smaller, fiercer story of Tess and Beth’s early years — the story of feral friendships formed in extreme circumstances, of surviving abuse and finding the power to seek revenge or walk away from it. Everything about that story clutched at my heart, while the broader time-travel stakes and narrative diminished in effect; I became less concerned with the overarching conceit than with the story of these young women arguing over what love and honesty demand. But time travel creates the space for that story to happen — and Newitz’s book is, more than anything else, about the importance of fighting for such spaces. In that, it’s entirely successful.

(13) POWER OFF. Californian Abraham Lustgarten addressed the New York Times about the state’s power shutdowns: “Letter of Recommendation: Mandatory Blackouts” .

…The blackouts solved nothing, of course. De-energizing the electrical grid is a bludgeon: imprecise, with enormous potential for collateral damage as people deal with a darkened world. It doesn’t even eliminate fire risk. What it largely does is shift responsibility away from Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility company, whose faulty transmission lines had been found to have caused some of the most destructive wildfires on record.

In fact, cutting power can exacerbate some fire risks. In a blackout, more people rely on home generators, many of which have been installed without permits and might be no less faulty than the utility’s own equipment. Detours and gridlock force more cars into vulnerable places. (Sparks off roadways are another top cause of wildfire.) The blackout makes it harder for the public to respond to fire emergencies even as it does little to prevent all the other factors that cause them — from careless barbecues to tossed-out cigarette butts to plain old arson. One of the state’s most serious fires so far this year was ignited by burning garbage.

But a mandatory blackout does have one radically positive effect. By suddenly withdrawing electrical power — the invisible lifeblood of our unsustainable economic order — PG&E has made the apocalyptic future of the climate crisis immediate and visceral for some of the nation’s most comfortable people. It is easy to ignore climate change in the bosom of the developed world. But you can’t fail to notice when the lights go out.

…In the American West, our climate will only get hotter and drier, our wildfires worse. Every year more places are going to burn, and we will, repeatedly, be horrified by the losses. But we should not be shocked by them. The blackouts have laid bare the uncomfortable fact that the infrastructure we’ve built and maintained over the course of many decades isn’t matched to the threats we face in our rapidly unfolding climate emergency….

(14) THAT HAWAIIAN BURGER JOINT. Eater: Los Angeles says this non-genre yet irresistible film reference will come to life on October 30 and 31 (only): “Big Kahuna Burger From ‘Pulp Fiction’ Pops Up in Hollywood Next Week”

Fat Sal’s, the overstuffed sandwich makers in Hollywood, have gotten into the mix before, and now for Halloween the group is transforming its corner address off Highland into a Big Kahuna Burger from the movie Pulp Fiction.

Much like in years past, Fat Sal’s plans to its dining area to fit the new temporary theme. Expect a grassy Hawaiian-tinged awning and overt nods to the 1994 film everywhere, including slogans (“Now that is a tasty burger” or “That’s that Hawaiian burger joint”) and an image of Jules Winnfield, the character played by Samuel L. Jackson in the Tarantino flick. A separate area will be turned into the pawn shop from the film as well, and diners will be able to check out merchandise in that space…

Fat Sal’s Hollywood. 1300 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles.

(15) ANOTHER TRIUMPH. BBC finds thumbs up all over: “Seven Worlds, One Planet: ‘Gorgeous’ nature series gets five-star reviews”.

Sir David Attenborough’s latest nature series has received five-star reviews from critics, one of whom says it may be the BBC’s “best wildlife show ever”.

Seven Worlds, One Planet, the Mail’s Christopher Stevens says, is “visually magnificent” and has photography that is “almost abstract in its beauty”.

The show, says the Telegraph’s Michael Hogan, is “another landmark series” from “the indefatigable Sir David”.

(16) IPO. “Virgin Galactic: Branson’s space firm set for stock market launch”.

Virgin Galactic, the space venture backed by Sir Richard Branson, is ready to launch – not into space but on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Shares in Virgin Galactic are set to start trading on Monday, a first for a space tourism company.

The move follows Virgin’s merger with publicly-listed Silicon Valley holding firm Social Capital Hedosophia.

That deal brought $800m (£624m) to Virgin as it rushes to meet its goal of sending customers to space in 2020.

Taking the firm public will “open space to more investors and in doing so, open space to thousands of new astronauts,” Sir Richard said at the time.

…The company, founded in 2004, has spent more than $1bn developing its programme, which is years behind schedule and took a hit after a fatal accident in 2014.

However, Virgin has told investors it hopes to make 16 trips to space with customers as soon as next year.

In a presentation, it predicts that revenue will skyrocket as the number of flights increases.

In 2023, the expects to make 270 trips to space, bringing in nearly $600m and generating profit of more than $430m.

About 600 people, including pop star Justin Bieber, have already put down deposits for the 90-minute experience at a price of about $250,000 per ticket, according to the company.

(17) AROUND THE WORLD IN A LOT OF DAYS. NPR takes note when “Secret Air Force Space Plane Lands After More Than 2 Years In Orbit”.

After a record-breaking 780 days circling the Earth, the U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B unmanned space plane dropped out of orbit and landed safely on the same runway that the space shuttle once used.

It was the fifth acknowledged mission for the vehicle, built by Boeing at the aerospace company’s Phantom Works.

“Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing,” Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess, 45th Space Wing commander, said in a statement. “Our team has been preparing for this event, and I am extremely proud to see their hard work and dedication culminate in today’s safe and successful landing of the X-37B.”

As in previous missions, many of the details about the vehicle’s activities in the past two years are being kept under wraps. One experiment was to “test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long-duration space environment,” according to the Air Force statement.

Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, said the latest X-37B mission “successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites.”

“The statement that this @usairforce X-37 flight deployed small satellites is alarming, since the US has not reported those deployments in its UN Registration Convention submissions,” McDowell tweeted. “This would be the first time that either the USA or Russia has blatantly flouted the Convention.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/28/19 Scrolling To Montana Soon – Gonna Be A Pixel-Floss Tycoon!

(1) EXPANSE GETS FIFTH SEASON. The Expanse has been renewed for Season 5 at Amazon reports Variety.

The announcement was made during the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Saturday. Season 4 of the series is set to debut on Dec. 13.

The Expanse” aired its first three seasons on Syfy, with the cable networking having cancelled the series back in 2019. Shortly after it was cancelled, it was reported that Amazon was in talks to continue the series, which is produced and fully financed by Alcon Television Group.

(2) SF AUTHOR’S PREDICTION FULFILLED. A writer for Britain’s Private Eye rediscovered Norman Spinrad’s Agent of Chaos (1967) with its prescient comments about another political leader named Boris Johnson.

(3) SIX WILL GET YOU ONE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At The Atlantic, contributing writer Dr. Yascha Mounk (Johns Hopkins University associate professor and German Marshall Fund senior fellow) has his own ideas on “How Not to Run a Panel” (tagline: “Panel discussions can be very boring, but they don’t have to be if you follow these six rules.”).

I could write a whole book about the panels that have gone wrong in particularly strange or hilarious fashion: the one where the moderator fell asleep. The one where the opening statements lasted longer than the time allotted for the whole event. The one, high up on the 10th floor, when the acrobatic window washer stole the show.

These exotic horrors notwithstanding, I disagree with Leo Tolstoy: Every unhappy panel is unhappy in some of the same ways.

Mind you, he’s talking about academic panels (his field is political science), but one wonders how much his advice crosses over to convention panels. He elaborates on each of his six points:

1. Don’t have more than four people onstage.
2. Keep introductions to a minimum.
3. Ax the opening statements.
4. Guide the conversation.
5. Cut off the cranks.*
6. Pick panelists who have something to say to one another.

* NB: He’s talking about cranks in the audience. He doesn’t seem to consider cranks on the panel.

(4) THE VERDICT. Camestros Felapton reports from the scene: “Michael Z Williamson’s Wikipedia page has not been deleted”.

For those keeping score, the Michael Z Williamson article on Wikipedia has not been deleted after a long and fractious discussion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Log/2019_July_21#Michael_Z._Williamson

The outcome of the deletion discussion was ‘no consensus’ i.e. notability wasn’t decided one way or another. This was mainly because of the brigade of trolls who descended on the discussion at Williamson’s request.

While the Wikipedia is keeping the article, the record of the debate preserves these additional facts:

I note that the subject of this article, Michael Z. Williamson, has edited Wikipedia as Mzmadmike. He has been banned from Wikipedia as a result of a community discussion that concluded that Williamson has disrupted Wikipedia through his edits as a Wikipedia user and through comments on social media, which (according to the community discussion) have included canvassing, legal threats (admin-only diff) and harassment of Wikipedians. This has no bearing on the outcome of this deletion discussion, because having an article is not an indication of merit (as a person, author or otherwise), but only of what Wikipedia calls “notability“, i.e., being covered in some detail by reliable sources. But it bears mentioning here as a context of what may be necessary future administrative actions to protect the article and Wikipedia from further disruption.

(5) THE MEN WHO SOLD THE MOON. The New York Times profiles the conflicting family views behind an auction that has already yielded $16.7 million in sales: “‘Would Dad Approve?’ Neil Armstrong’s Heirs Divide Over a Lucrative Legacy”.

Those sales by the brothers, who also pursued a newly disclosed $6 million wrongful death settlement over their father’s medical care, have exposed deep differences among those who knew Neil Armstrong about his legacy — and what he would have wanted.

Some relatives, friends and archivists find the sales unseemly, citing the astronaut’s aversion to cashing in on his celebrity and flying career and the loss of historical objects to the public.

“I seriously doubt Neil would approve of selling off his artifacts and memorabilia,” said James R. Hansen, his biographer. “He never did any of that in his lifetime.”

(6) ERB-DOM ANNUAL GATHERING. Burroughs fans will hold DUM-DUM 2019 in Willcox, AZ from August 1-4.

(7) IN THE LID. Alasdair Stuart’s latest, newly BFS Award-nominated The Full Lid for 26th July 2019″ includes a look at the first three episodes of The Space Race. An epic dramatized account of the birth and evolution of crewed spaceflight it starts in the future, takes in Gagarin, Armstrong and the rest of the past and throws light on some surprising elements of the story.

As does the deeply eccentric Apollo 11 anniversary coverage. Says Stuart, “I was especially impressed with the choices made by a BBC movie about the flight and the little moments of humanity we glimpse outside the history books in Channel 4’s programming.”

He also salutes “the monarch of the kitchen warriors, the king of the B movie and the crown prince of charming villainy, the one, the only Rutger Hauer. Rest well, sir.”

The Full Lid is free and comes out every Friday.

(8) DRAGON ANATOMY. From the New York Times Magazine: “Judge John Hodgman on Whether a Tail Is Part of the Butt” (January 17).

“Paul writes:  My wife, Samantha, and her grandmother Gigi have a disagreement about whether a creature’s tail is part of his butt.  Gigi says that because poop can get stuck in a butt, it is part of the butt.  Sam argues that a tail  only starts at the butt.  Are tails butts?  (Specifically a dragon’s tail, which is what sparked this argument.)

JOHN HODGMAN SAYS:  “What a surprise twist at the end!  Before we walked through this wardrobe into fantasy land, I was confident in my ruling:  tails are NOT butts, as they have specific balance and display functions.  And also let’s face it:  Poop can get on anything.  But as I am no expert on dragon anatomy, I turned to the actual George R.R. Martin, whose number I actually have, who reports:  ‘Poop can also get stuck to a dragon’s leg, but that does not make it part of the butt.  Dragon poop is hot, by the way.  Fire hazard.'”

Martin Morse Wooster sent the link with a postscript: “How many points do I get for finding George R.R. Martin’s opinions on ‘dragon poop?’”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second to none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1926 T. G. L. Cockcroft. Mike has his obituary here. Not surprisingly none of his works are currently in-print. 
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 91. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got by translated by Ursula Le Guin into English.
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here. I will note that he was a published author having “On Conquered Earth” in If, December 1967 as edited by Frederik Pohl. I don’t think it’s been republished since. (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Though primarily a writer of horror fiction, he did write three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous Lizard, The Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Meta-verse. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 53. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental Adventures, Epic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio. Dixon and Lackey are the 2020 Worldcon’s Author Guests of Honour.
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 51. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Born July 28, 1969 Tim Lebbon, 50. For my money his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) LE GUIN ON TV. This Friday night on PBS the program American Masters is highlighting Ursula Le Guin. That’s when they’ll air the Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin documentary.

(12) JOHNSON’S WALK. In the Washington Post, Hau Chu interviews Richard Kelly, whose obscure 2006 sci-fi film Southland Tales might have been pivotal in advancing the film career of Dwayne Johnson: “The delightfully bonkers film that turned the Rock into Dwayne Johnson”.

…Survey a theater of moviegoers and they all might tell you a different interpretation of what “Southland Tales” is actually about. The short version is that a nuclear explosion has gone off in Texas, thrusting the United States into World War III. Taking place in 2008 Los Angeles at the end of the world, the film consequently delves into the post-Iraq War militarization of the country, the rise of the surveillance state and, naturally, rifts on the space-time continuum.

The movie, which would go on to become a critical and commercial failure, contains a who’s who of character actors, as well as once- and soon-to-be notable stars. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a porn star who simultaneously has a hit single (“Teen Horniness is Not a Crime”) and accurately foretells the imminent apocalypse in a screenplay she’s written. Amy Poehler delivers a slam poetry performance in her last seconds on Earth before she is gunned down by a racist cop played by Jon Lovitz. Justin Timberlake, in a confounding, drugged-out dream sequence, lip-syncs the Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done.”

To steer his often messy but engaging opus — and eventual cult classic — director Richard Kelly needed a truly magnetic force. Enter Johnson.

(13) BRYAN FULLER. [Item by Carl Slaughter.]According to Midnight’s Edge and Nerdrotic, Bryan Fuller pitched the Picard series concept to CBS as one of 5 possible series. Fuller also approached Jeri Ryan and Brent Spiner about starring in it.  Fuller has yet to get any credit it for the Picard show.

(14) ONE VOTER’S DECISION. Rich Horton rolls out his “Hugo Ballot Thoughts, Short Fiction, 2019” on Strange at Ecbatan. Which actually begins with his argument against having AO3 up in the Best Related Works category. But he soon veers back to the topic, such as these comments about Best Novella:

Of these only Artificial Condition was on my nomination ballot, but I didn’t get to The Black God’s Drums until later, and it would have been on my ballot. Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach struck me as impressively ambitious – probably the most ambitious of the nominees – but I think the ending is a mess. Still a story worth reading. The Tea Master and the Detective is nice work, not quite brilliant. And, I say with guilt, I haven’t read Beneath the Sugar Sky, which I suspect will be very fine work.

(15) BUTTERFAT CHANCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Author, crafter, and freelance journalist Bonnie Burton has a knack for spotting odd news—her CNET article “NASA’s Apollo 11 astronauts honored in… a butter sculpture” in this case. (Tagline: “Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins look just as legendary carved in butter at the Ohio State Fair.”)

If you want to celebrate NASA‘s 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, you might as well do it with butter.

At this year’s Ohio State Fair, visitors can see highly detailed, life-sized butter sculptures of the Apollo 11 moon crew — Neil ArmstrongBuzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

There’s also a separate butter sculpture of Armstrong in his spacesuit saluting the American flag while standing near the lunar module Eagle.

Armstrong — who was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio — is considered a state icon for his trip to the moon. In addition, Armstrong bought a dairy farm in Ohio after leaving NASA in 1971. 

You can see the entire butter sculpture unveiling ceremony posted by The Columbus Dispatch on YouTube.

(16) EN FUEGO. Space is getting hotter…but not that much (AP: “New Mexico chile plant selected to be grown in space”). The first fruiting plant to be grown on the International Space Station will be the Española Improved hot pepper. However, it’s said to max out at a relatively modest 2,000 Scoville units, well less than the typical Jalapeño much less really hot hot peppers.

A hybrid version of a New Mexico chile plant has been selected to be grown in space as part of a NASA experiment.

The chile, from Española, New Mexico, is tentatively scheduled to be launched to the International Space Station for testing in March 2020, the Albuquerque Journal reports .

A NASA group testing how to produce food beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and the chile plant was created with input from Jacob Torres — an Española native and NASA researcher.

Torres said the point of sending the chiles into space is to demonstrate how NASA’s Advanced Plant Habitat – which recreates environmental needs for plant growth like CO2, humidity and lighting – works not only for leafy greens, but for fruiting crops, as well.

(17) TRAILER BREAKDOWN. New Rockstars answers questions you didn’t even know you had about the newest Star Trek: Picard trailer.

Star Trek Picard Trailer from Comic Con teases the return of Data, Seven of Nine, the Borgs, and more nods to The Next Generation and Voyager! Where will this new Picard series on CBS All Access take Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) after the events of Star Trek Nemesis and First Contact? Erik Voss gets an assist from friend and Trekkie Marina Mastros, who breaks down this Star Trek trailer shot by shot for all the Easter Eggs you may have overlooked! What is the secret identity of the new mystery woman, Dahj? Why are the Romulans experimenting with Borg technology? Has Data really returned, or is it his alternate version, B-4?

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

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #42

Neil Armstrong and First Man – A Personal Review

By Chris M. Barkley: Meeting Neil Armstrong was one of the most memorable moments in my life.

Professor Neil Armstrong

From the fall of 1974 through the spring of 1975, I was employed as a server at the University of Cincinnati Faculty Club. It was my freshman year there and I enrolled thinking I was going to major in broadcasting. I needed a part time job to supplement my comic book habit so I looked for something immediately after classes started. Since my previous job had been as a dishwasher in a local restaurant, when the club advertised for a server, I figured (wrongly, as it turned out) that this was probably be a promotion. 

Since my schedule had a huge gap between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., I drew duty tending to the buffet for the professors in the basement of the club.

One fine spring afternoon, while tending a huge pot of turtle soup, I saw a lone figure descending the stairs and walking towards me. He was slight in build and surprising shorter than me. As he approached he was instantly recognizable to me, the most famous and celebrated man on planet Earth at that time. 

I had heard that he was teaching a course on aeronautical engineering on campus (and did so between 1971-1979) but I had not seen him before now. Thinking quickly, I had read that he was loath to have people geeking out on him so I decided to play it totally cool and treat him like any other faculty member.

Professor Armstong walked up and politely requested a bowl of soup. He looked around at the sparsely populated dining area as I ladled soup into his bowl.

“Not much going on around here today, eh?” he said with a slight grin.

“No, not much,” I replied. “Is there anything else I can get for you today?”

“No, thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Have a nice day.”

“You, too.”

And with that he proceeded to help himself to the salad bar and sat alone in a corner table for the rest of the hour.

Neil Armstrong. Polite. Reserved. Courteous. Living as quietly as possible in shadows, ever so wary of the glaring limelight of fame.

I never saw him again.

But we are still connected, albeit in a sad way. 

Neil Armstrong died on my birthday in 2012.

Nearly everyone who was alive on July 20, 1969, should know this date, what happened that day and where it happened.

When Michael Collins was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air in 1988, he described the Apollo 11 mission as a delicate daisy chain of events; if one or more things went terribly wrong, things could have quickly taken a lethally tragic turn.

On that Sunday, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, I was in my parent’s living room, glued to the television for a good portion of the day, watching Walter Cronkite and the CBS news team’s coverage of the Apollo 11.

An hour and sixteen minutes earlier, the lunar excursion module carrying Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin separated from the command module piloted by Michael Collins. At 4:04 pm, the LEM was 50,000 feet from the surface. A minute later, the main engine fired up for a powered descent. 

Although I was an incredible space geek at the age of twelve, I had no idea what the astronauts and Houston were talking about most of the time. I relied on the studio commentators for that information. So when things went south and everyone went silent in light of the historic occasion, all of the trouble that occurred went right over my head.   

As the LEM descended towards the surface, the radar system completely failed. It was quickly rebooted by opening and closing the circuit breaker on the LEM. A glitch in the guidance computer handling radar data was triggered four times along with another alarm, but ground controllers easily provided quick fixes.

But the biggest problems were two fold;  the LEM’s automated guidance system had overshot the original landing area by approximately five miles and was heading towards a stadium sized crater and a field of car sized boulders. And they were running out of fuel. Reacting quickly, Armstrong took over manually and steered the LEM over the crater to a clearing beyond it.

I was obvious to all of this; very few in the audience watching had any idea what was happening beyond hearing “alarm” several times over the live audio. The landing itself was rendered by an elaborate NASA animation that played over all of the voice communications.

Armstrong finally found a relatively level surface with less than 30 seconds of fuel left. Aldrin called out the altitude until he spoke the first words heard broadcast from the surface of the Moon: 

102:45:40 Adrin: Contact Light.

l102:45:43 Armstrong (onboard): Shutdown

102:45:44 Aldrin: Okay. Engine Stop. 

102:45:45 Aldrin: ACA out of Detent.

102:45:46 Armstrong: Out of Detent. Auto.

102:45:47 Aldrin: Mode Control, both Auto. Descent Engine Command Override, Off. Engine Arm, Off. 413 is in. 

102:45:57 Duke: (Reporting that Houston has received telemetry confirming engine shutdown and that they have heard Buzz’s transmission regarding address 413) We copy you down, Eagle.

102:45:58 Armstrong (onboard): Engine arm is off. (Pause) (Now on voice-activated comm) Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

102:46:06 Duke: (Responding to Neil’s transmission but momentarily tongue-tied) Roger, Twan…(correcting himself) Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.

102:46:16 Aldrin: Thank you.

The image I remember most vividly that afternoon was that of Walter Cronkite right after the confirmation of the Eagle’s landing Profusely sweating, slightly flustered, his kindly face looked relieved and happy at the same time. He knew exactly what had just happened and that a disaster had been barely averted. And his assertion of giddiness mirrored what everyone else watching was feeling; we were on THE MOON!  

At 10:55 p.m., my mother, Alice Elder Barkley and I were watching Neil Armstrong climb down the LEM ladder, live on my grandmother’s vintage 1950’s hand-me-down Philco black and white television set. Everyone else in the house was asleep.

As Armstrong stepped off the vehicle and spoke those words that we know so well, we said nothing. Our two generations had just witnessed one of the most historic events in our brief existence on this planet. What could we say? It was quite profound.

After a while my mother went to bed. I stayed up and heard President Nixon’s call and the rest of the lunar excursion. Afterwards, I stepped out into our backyard and marveled at the spectacle of seeing the moon overhead that night. 

The human race was up there. And since then twelve others have walked and explored there. And some day in the near future, we will return.

Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and President Barack Obama

Originally, I was going to write this column in conjunction with the October 2018 release of First Man, a film based on the 2005 autobiography of Neil Armstrong by James Hansen. While I was very enthusiastic about it, I found myself strangely blocked. Only as the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing approached did I slowly realize that I was just waiting for the right time to express my feelings about it and my connection to Neil Armstrong.

My partner Juli and I went to the opening night screening and I was disappointed to see that it was sparsely attended. Of the twenty or so people there, most were in the 50’s and 60’s like us. After it was all over, most of us lingered for the credits and magnificent closing score by Justin Hurwitz.

First Man was released with great fanfare among film critics and is generally regarded as a great cinematic triumph but a box off failure, only grossing an estimated $107million on a budget of $50 million. I think if the Universal, Dreamworks  and Amblin, the producers of the film, should have rolled the dice and released First Man much closer to the actual date, it might have done much better at the box office. Then again, considering that it might have been competing against Spider-Man, Far from Home, The Lion King and a host of other summer movies might have been a contributing faction.

Director Damien Chazelle and screenwriter Josh Singer had actually started working on an adaption of First Man before Chazelle had begun work on his multiple Academy Award winning breakout film, La La Land. 

First Man covers the life of Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his then wife Joan (Claire Foy) and two sons Rick and Mark, his struggles as a civilian test pilot, his application and selection as a NASA astronaut to his Gemini and Apollo missions.

Nothing was handed to him on a silver platter; he suffered through the cancerous brain tumor that claimed his young daughter Karen’s life, problems connecting emotionally with his wife and children and the sudden and incredibly tragic deaths of his fellow test pilots and astronauts. 

Although certain liberties were taken with the chronology, Chazelle and Singer managed to accurately convey the essence of Neil Armstong’s life realistically, with all of his flaws and emotional struggles. Gosling portrays him brilliantly; a somewhat doting dad one moment and a repressed, withdrawn and almost too self-centered engineer in many others.

Claire Foy matches him scene for scene as his wife Janet, a woman whose love and compassion for her family runs deep and is unafraid to confront Neil or any other authority when something threatens it.

The screenplay makes it clear that while Armstrong is driven and ambitious, he’s very wary of seeking out fame and undue influence that comes with it. This is illustrated in a very telling scene when Deke Slayton (Kyle Chandler), the chief of the Astronaut’s Office informs him that he has been selected to be the commander of Apollo 11, he stoically accepts the assignment but as he looks in the restroom mirror afterwards, you can almost feel the range of emotions raging inside him as he contemplates what he just agreed to do. 

First Man also joins an elite group of films (Destination: Moon, Marooned, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Apollo 13) that shows exemplemary care in the depiction of space flight. The visual effects, designed and executed by Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles, J.D. Scwalm, deservedly won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Not only did they recreate a realistic and harrowing descent of the Eagle to the Moon, they also made space flight personal by mostly using Armstrong’s point of view during the flight sequences and engages the audience in an intimate way.

Twenty-seven prominent film critics listed First Man in their Top Ten lists of 2018. I am very hopeful that its reputation will become even more burnished as time passes and will lead the more curious to James Hansen’s book and other adventures in science.  

So tonight, if you can, look up and gaze at the moon. Remember those who had the training, skill, luck and privilege of orbiting and exploring it over a half a century ago. And never forget the supporting cast of 400,000 people who made it all possible. 

Also of interest:

Pixel Scroll 7/11/19 Pixel Twice, Scroll Once

(1) NOW WITH ADDED KA-BOOM! Filer Charon Dunn is off to the San Diego Comic-Con to plug her new book, A Dark and Stormy Day, the culmination of the Adventures of Sonny Knight trilogy, “which has even more explosions than the last two.”

I’m going to be providing copious updates on my Facebook page, but if you’re not a Facebooker, I’ll do a summary after I get back. If you are a Facebooker, throw me a like. It’s my first SDCC, so I’m mostly going to be wandering around gawking at everything like an utter yokel.

I will be wearing my fabulous SDCC battle armor: a denim vest with the solar system embroidered on the back, to discourage me from buying more superfluous hoodies while giving me a place to display my collectable pins.

Dunn will also be carrying swag to distribute to her readers – don’t miss out!

(2) ONLY HUNDREDS OF SHOPPING DAYS TIL CHRISTMAS. During Hallmark’s Keepsake Ornament Premiere Event from July 13-21, there will be “event exclusive offers” on the Hogwarts Tree Topper and Harry Potter Collection. The castle lights up and plays music. Ooh, ahh!

(3) STATION ELEVEN COMING TO MORE STATIONS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Emily St. John-Mandel’s award-winning post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven is getting a small-screen adaptation. The novel, which won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke award, follows a theatre troupe as they travel around the Great Lakes some decades after a pandemic wiped out most of civilization. It’s an excellent novel, though I have to admit that I find the author’s dismissal of science fiction as a genre to be annoying (much like Ian MacEwan). 

CBC Books has the story: “Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven being adapted into 10-episode TV series”

(4) BOWIE FIGURE. The New York Times shares details of “A David Bowie Barbie: Mattel Unveils Ziggy Stardust Doll”.

On Thursday, the world learned that Barbie is a Bowie fan.

With its release of a doll dressed as David Bowie’s glittering alter ego Ziggy Stardust, Mattel said it was celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Space Oddity,” released in 1969.

The new Barbie doll wears a body-hugging metallic “spacesuit,” calf-high red platform boots and silver earrings with dangling stars. Her dark red hair is slicked back like Ziggy Stardust’s, and daubed on her forehead is the golden circle he wore. Her nails are painted black.

It’s a notably androgynous look for a doll that epitomized the stereotypes of feminine appearance in its earlier iterations….

(5) BARBIE’S SPACESUIT. And that’s not all the Barbie news – BBC reports “Barbie and ESA launch plan to get more girls in space”.

Barbie has teamed up with the European Space Agency (ESA) to encourage girls to become the next generation of astronauts.

Currently, only 15 percent of active astronauts in the world are female and, 50 years on from the first person landing on the moon, no woman has ever landed on the moon.

The ESA only has one active astronaut. She’s called Samantha Cristoforetti.

In order to highlight the lack of female astronauts, the company behind Barbie – Mattel – has made a special one-of-a-kind doll of Cristoforetti.

The astronaut hopes her collaboration with Barbie “will help young girls and boys to dream about their future without limits.”

(6) THE MOTES ON NEIL’S SUIT. A lot bigger and older than Barbie’s, and in need of refurbishing: “Of Little Details And Lunar Dust: Preserving Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 Spacesuit”.

When astronaut Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon 50 years ago, it was a giant leap for functional fashion.

The spacesuit he wore was an unprecedented blend of technology and tailoring.

“The suit itself is an engineering marvel,” says Malcolm Collum, the chief conservator for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. “Every single thing on here is a specific function. It is engineered to the last little detail.”

Take the metal fittings that connect the helmet, air tubes and gloves. They’re brightly colored — for example, vivid red metal for the right glove, neon blue for the left. Patriotic, yes, but also exceptionally functional. That’s because NASA wanted to make sure that in all of the excitement of landing on the moon, Armstrong was able to easily connect his gear.

And that attention to detail is evident from helmet to toe. The stitching throughout is meticulous — much of it done by hand in 1969. The suit had to be tough, flexible and airtight. Armstrong’s life depended on a finely guided needle and thread.

But decades of being on display throughout the country took a toll. In 2006, Smithsonian technicians noticed Armstrong’s spacesuit was showing signs of age. So they removed it from the Air and Space Museum in Washington, moved it to a storage facility and laid it out in a drawer.

Collum and his team of technicians have had the job of getting Armstrong’s spacesuit standing tall and back on public view again.

(7) SOURCE OF THE TROUBLE. The author of Ash Kickers explains the set-up in “The Big Idea: Sean Grigsby” at Whatever.

Whatever catastrophe nature throws at us, people always seem to make it worse.

Not all of us. Some seek to help and not to hurt, to heal instead of destroy. Firefighters are just one example of a few good people trying to make a difference. I’m proud to call myself one. But, like I said, sometimes there are a few hateful assholes standing in our way.

The Smoke Eaters series is about firefighters versus newly-returned dragons, sure, but there are other big ideas at play. In the first book I talk about corrupt government using disasters for their own gain, and replacing first responders with robots. In Ash Kickers, it’s something much worse…

(8) E UNUM PLURIBUS? Popular Mechanics tells how “Pangea Gave Us Modern Oceans”:

It’s hard to imagine all of the world’s land masses together as one supercontinent. Over 200 million years ago, however, that’s what Earth looked like. The breakup of Pangea was essentially the first step in the creation of the modern world….

Around 175 million years ago, as Pangea was violently being ripped apart, new rifts started opening on the ocean floor. Water-heavy slabs started falling in one after another, faster and farther down than they had before until the water began to evaporate entirely. With no water left, the end result was millions of years of water loss like the planet had never seen.

With ocean levels now rising due to man-made climate change, the idea of chucking all the water into the Earth’s mantle sounds tempting. No such luck, Karlsen says.

“While the deep water cycle can effectively change sea level over hundreds of millions to billions of years, climate change can change the sea level in zero to 100 years,” she says. “For comparison, the present-day sea level rise associated with climate change is about 0.1 inches (3.2 millimeters) a year. The sea level drop associated with the deep water cycle is about 1/10,000 of that.”

(9) CORTESE OBIT. Her credits included Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits (1965) and Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). The New York Times remembers her in “Valentina Cortese, a Leading Italian Film Actress, Dies at 96”.

Valentina Cortese, an Italian film actress best known for her role as a fading, tippling movie diva in François Truffaut’s “Day for Night,” which earned her a 1975 Academy Award nomination and, remarkably, an apology from the winner, Ingrid Bergman, died on Wednesday in Milan. She was 96.

(10) NICKERSON OBIT. BBC reports the death of  Willy Wonka cast member: “Denise Nickerson: Violet Beauregarde actress dies aged 62”

Denise Nickerson, the former child actress who played Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died aged 62.

Nickerson’s family announced the news in a Facebook post that read: “She’s gone.”

In earlier updates on social media, her family said she had pneumonia and had experienced several seizures.

Nickerson – who was cast opposite Gene Wilder at the age of 13 – had previously survived a stroke in 2018.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 11, 1899 E. B. White. Author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, both of which are surely genre. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1913 Cordwainer Smith. Pen name of Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Most of his fiction was set in The Instrumentality of Mankind series which I know I’ve read once upon a time at in fragments. Both iBooks and Kindle are well stocked with his novels and short stories including Scanners Live in Vain, a most excellent novella. (Died 1966.)
  • Born July 11, 1920 Yul Brynner. The Gunslinger in Westworld and its sequel Futureword.  He would also play Carson, a human warrior in the post-apocalyptic The Ultimate Warrior. I don’t think we can consider The King and I genre… (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1925 David Graham, 84. Early voice of the Daleks on Doctor Who, Dutch as The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth. He also provided a number of the voices on the Thunderbirds. And In the 1984 television Super Bowl advert filmed to introduce the Apple Macintosh computer, he played the role of Big Brother.
  • Born July 11, 1956 Amitav Ghosh, 63. Author of the absolutely brilliant The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery. Really go read it and with we’ll discuss it over a cup of chai masala. 
  • Born July 11, 1958 Alan Gutierrez, 61. An artist and illustrator, specializing in SF and fantasy cover art. His first professional sale was to the now defunct semi-professional Fantasy Book in 1983. He then began producing work for Baen Books, Tor Books,Pequod Press  and other publishers. He has also painted covers for Analog magazine, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and other SF magazines.
  • Born July 11, 1959 Richard James Bleiler, 60. Genres breed academics. One of them is this bibliographer of speculative, crime, and adventure fiction. Among his papers are “The Fantastic Pulp Fiction of Frank Belknap Long” which appeared in Gary Hoppenstand’s Pulp Fiction of the ’20S and ’30S and “Forgotten Giant: A Brief History of Adventure Magazine” which was published in Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy.
  • Born July 11, 1972 Leona Wisoker, 47. Green Man Reviewer and author of the excellent Children of the Desert series. 
  • Born July 11, 1984 Marie Lu, 35. Best known for her Legend trilogy, a dystopian and militarized future.  Lionsgate has optioned it for a film. She’s also a novel in the DC Icons series, Batman: Nightwalker. And a YA series called the Young Elites.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • How do you like this selection of “Rejected Wizard of Oz Characters,” courtesy of The Argyle Sweater?

(13) HE CAN SIT ANYWHERE HE WANTS. Camestros Felapton did something rather amusing with the new poster art for Star Trek: Picard — “New TNG Spin Off Looks Interesting”.

(14) TRUE GRIT. Gizmodo finds a very good way to make a dry topic interesting: “Research Sheds Light on Strange Seaway That Once Covered the Sahara”.

The Sahara might seem like one of Earth’s most lifeless regions today, but its fossils show it was once a vast seaway filled giant fish and some of the largest sea snakes the planet has ever seen.

From 100 million to 50 million years ago, a large seaway up to 160 feet deep covered much of West Africa, leaving behind lots of marine fossils, including vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, and microbes. Many of them were surprisingly large. It’s difficult to study this region due to harsh geopolitical and physical climates, so a group of scientists decided to compile and synthesize lots of existing research on the area

(15) ON THE SCALES. Paul Weimer analyzes the pedigree of Evan Winter’s new book for readers of the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog: Gladiator Meets The Count of Monte Cristo in the African-Inspired Fantasy Epic The Rage of Dragons.

The Rage of Dragons, the debut epic from self-publishing success story Evan Winter, distinguishes itself by its setting, a fantasy world inspired by Africa, but truly impresses with its storytelling. It weaves a tale of determination, love, revenge, and war that is, at its core, the story of one young man who, even as he seeks to improve his life by learning the art of war, must grapple with deadly politics, powerful magic, and a threat that could destroy an entire civilization.

(16) RELATIVITY. The Hugo Award Book Club blog reviews a set of finalists in “Best Related Work: Category or Collection of Categories?”. One work on the list is —  

The Story Of The Hugos 
It seems odd to us that this is only the second time that Jo Walton has appeared on a Hugo Award ballot. It can be argued that several of her novels and non-fiction works warrant the recognition.

Her Informal History Of The Hugo Awards, based around the Tor.com blog posts of the same name that she wrote a couple of years ago, traces the history of the awards through their creation in 1953, through to the year 2000. True to its name, this is a subjective look at both the winners and the shortlists, livened with insight and personal anecdotes.

The book version adds significant material, additional essays and footnotes, as well as a curated set of comments from the blog. Walton has a deep and rich knowledge of science fiction and of fandom, and it shines through in essay after essay tackling controversies of years past, or years where she might disagree with the verdict of Hugo voters.

This is a work that we believe will have enduring value. In most years it would be a lock for the top of our Best Related Work ballots.

(17) HUGO REVIEWS. Bonnie McDaniel is back with “Hugo Reading 2019: Best Novelette”.

4) “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” Naomi Kritzer

This is a lovely story about just what it says–ghost stories, not ghosts. Although ghosts definitely make an appearance, in the form of the narrator’s mother, who recently succumbed to Alzheimer’s. (The details of this ring scarily true, by the way.) This is another quiet story, but in this case, the still waters run deep, and the mother-daughter relationship depicted here is sad and beautiful.

(18) GRAPHIC STORY. J.C. Reid does a good rundown of one of the more rarely-reviewed categories: “Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 -Graphic Story”. First up —

Abbott by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell

A journalist fights racism and magic in 70s Detroit.

You can’t go past a good high concept, and Blaxploitation Call of Cthulhu is a pretty great high concept.  What rapidly becomes apparent is that Ahmed has aspirations beyond kick ass action comics, and is engaging with more than the superficial trappings of blaxploitation.  It starts with the setting – 70s Detroit in washed out colours, newspaper headlines, and near ubiquitous smoking.  Everywhere we visit in the story we see divisions along race, gender and class, and the genius at work here is to carry these divisions over to the supernatural.

(19) IN THIS CORNER. James Davis Nicoll orchestrates a cage match between two classic names in “Heinlein’s Juveniles vs. Andre Norton’s Young Adult Novels” at Tor.com.

Something about Heinlein’s characters that eluded me when I was an idiot teen: some of his protagonists (in particular Rod from Tunnel in the Sky) were not necessarily the sharpest pencils in the box. They’re always good-hearted fellows, but also naive enough to justify folksy lecturing from mentors. This also allows readers to feel just a little superior to the fellow who, for example, can’t seem to work out that another character is a girl even after he wrestles with her, then partners up with her (leading a third party to inquire, “Rod…were you born that stupid? Or did you have to study?”).

(20) OBJECTS MAY BE SMALLER THAN THEY APPEAR. NPR says “At The T-Rex Races: On Your Mark, Get Set, Rawwrr!”

At first glance, the starting gate at Emerald Downs racetrack looks relatively normal. But then the gates open and the race begins, and instead of thoroughbreds a mass of people bursts forth, running as fast as they can — while wearing oversized T-Rex costumes.

“The T-Rexes stand at the ready — and T-Rexes away!” track announcer Tom Harris yells, as prehistoric — and hilarious — chaos breaks out on the track.

At the wire, a dino named Regular Unleaded took the victory, holding off Rex Girlfriend by a tail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

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

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

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

What’s more, the Neanderthal skull was younger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s the stuff of nightmares.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/23/19 A Filé Of Scroll, With Delicious Sauce Pixelaise And A Fifth Of Dill

(1) STRIVING FOR BALANCE. Mystery writer Laura Lippman has an op-ed in the Washington Post about how her next novel, Lady in the Lake, will be narrated by an African American ghost and whether it is all right for a white woman to write about black characters: “Is it ok for a white author to write black characters? I’m trying.” She notes that none of the 20 characters in her novel resemble her, and “In creating this wide-ranging cast, I took a lesson from one of my heroes, Donald Westlake, who once said, ‘I became a novelist so I could make things up.’  So I did that–but I also asked that my novel be assigned to a sensitivity reader.”

…When I teach creative writing, I tell my students that the biggest mistake they can make is to try to write around problems, hoping no one else will see them. I advocate running right at the problem, making it the story. I have never shied away from writing characters of color, but that choice is clearly different and more fraught now, even in the 14 months since my last novel appeared. So with my most recent book, to be published next month, I took my own advice, inventing a middle-aged white woman who tries to give her life meaning and purpose by investigating the death of a young black woman. It was a particularly meta choice. This is what I do, after all. I write about death, and the stories are often inspired by real-life crimes, which is another kind of appropriation….

(2) PRETTY PICTURES. Comics publisher IDW claims “You Haven’t Read The Mueller Report …Because This Graphic Novel Isn’t Out Yet!” – but their upcoming Graphic Novel adaptation will do for the Mueller Report what Classics Illustrated used to do for everyone stuck writing high school book reports.

Shannon Wheeler, Eisner Award-winning New Yorker cartoonist (Too Much Coffee Man, Sh*t My President Says, God is Disappointed in You), and veteran journalist Steve Duin (The Oregonian, Comics: Between the Panels, Oil and Water) turn their critical eye on the Mueller Report – a comprehensive, understandable, and readable graphic novel version of the book every patriot needs.

Fight the spin spewing forth from both parties and political pulpits and check out this graphic novel that brings a 400-page legal document down to size. Wheeler and Duin, in graphic form, bring to life scenes detailed in the report: from the infamous Trump Tower Meeting of 2016 to Trump exclaiming “I’m f*cked” upon finding out he was the subject of investigation. It’s in the report and it’s in the graphic novel!

The Mueller Report: Graphic Novel borrows style from classic private detective yarns, complete with a villain’s rogues’ gallery, nail-biting cliffhangers, and a lone lawman standing proud against the wave of crime.

(3) NO THANKS. In “’Perhaps We’re Being Dense.’ Rejection Letters Sent to Famous Writers” at Literary Hub, Emily Temple publishes famous rejection letters, including Donald Wollheim’s rejection of Carrie and an unnamed rejection of The Left Hand of Darkness.

From Donald A. Wollheim at Ace Books to Stephen King, upon receipt of Carrie:

We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.

(4) MEDIEVAL TOWN VS. GOWN. Sensitive to criticisms of the SCA (enumerated in the piece), Ken Mondschein lifts his quill “In Defense of the Society for Creative Anachronism”.

…To go to an academic conference, let alone earn an advanced degree in history, literature, or art history, requires an enormous amount of money and free time. To participate in the SCA requires… an interest in the Middle Ages and a reasonable attempt at pre-17th century clothing, which can be made with $12 of material from Jo-Ann’s Fabric and half an hour at a sewing machine. (I should know; that was me in college.) Who, then, are the privileged ones? If anything, the SCA game threatens to destabilize systematic racism by replacing real-world hierarchies of race and class with its own imaginary social structure.

The SCA is diverse in other ways, as well: While academic historians focus narrowly on, say, women’s faith in the 14th century or the role of the Capetian dynasty in building the French state, the SCA is interested in everything that happened under the premodern sun from the death of Elizabeth I back to… the birth of Hammurabi, apparently. These include sword-fighting, cooking, visual arts, fabric arts, dancing, equestrian arts, and the list goes on. As my friend Mike Cramer points out, it’s like a state fair of medieval stuff.

(5) HOLLAND OBIT. [Item by Rob Hansen.] News of someone who was a LASFS club mascot as a child in the 1940s, namely Francis T. Laney’s daughter. She was named in Harry Warner Jr’s All Our Yesterdays (Advent, 1969):

To this second wife, Jackie, the two Laney Children were born. They were Sandra Rae, born Aptil 8th, 1940, and Sonya Lynn, born November 11th, 1942, mentioned in a thousand fanzine pages as Sandy and Quiggy.

Rob Hansen says, “Out of curiosity I did a web search and discovered this obit for Sandy originally published by Oregon Live from which I discover her sister still goes by Quig, and that Jackie’s actual name was Alberta, something I hadn’t known.”

Sandra Rae Laney Holland
April 8, 1940 – Sept. 11, 2018
Sandra Rae Laney Holland, 78, of Vancouver, passed away Sept. 11, 2018, in Vancouver.
Sandi was born in Lewiston, Idaho to Francis and Alberta Laney, April 8, 1940….

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

Found among Washington Irving’s papers are fragments of what might have been notes for a memoir, scribbled down in spare moments during either 1843 or 1845 (the date is hard to decipher), when he was the American minister to Spain under President John Tyler. In one entry he describes the genesis of his most famous story:

When I first wrote the Legend of Rip van Winkle my thought had been for some time turned towards giving a colour of romance and tradition to interesting points of our national scenery which is so deficient generally in our country. My friends endeavored to dissuade me from it and I half doubted my own foresight when it was first published from the account of the small demand made for that number, but subsequent letters brought news of its success and of the lucky hit I had made. The idea was taken from an old tradition I picked up among the Harz Mountains.*

  • June 23, 1976 — The George Clayton Johnson/William F. Nolan-scripted movie based on their book, Logan’s Run, premiered.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1945 Eileen Gunn, 74. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future.
  • Born June 23, 1947 Mark Olson, 72. One could reasonably call him an Uberfan. And among his many accomplishments is that he oversees  Fancyclopedia 3 which I constantly use. If you don’t know him, I’m going to send you to his Fancyclopedia 3 bio which is far too long to quote here. It’s just a little boastful as it should be. 
  • Born June 23, 1957 Frances McDormand, 62. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which is on Amazon y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 Liu Cixin, 56. He’s a winner of a Hugo Award for The Three-Body Problem and a Locus Award for Death’s End. Anyone got a clue what’s going on with the alleged Amazon production of The Three-Body Problem as a film?
  • Born June 23, 1964 Joss Whedon, 55. I think I first encounter him with the Buffy tv series. And I’ll hold that I think Angel was better told. Firefly was an interesting mess. And don’t get me started on the Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Born June 23, 1972 Selma Blair, 47. Liz Sherman in Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She also voiced the character in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the  “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 1980 Melissa Rauch, 39. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory which is at least genre adjacent if not genre. She gets to be really genre in voicing Harley Quinn in Batman and Harley Quinn which Bruce Timm considers “a spiritual successor to Batman: The Animated Series”. H’h. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 Caitlin Blackwood, 19. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, and “The God Complex”, and had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond. No idea how she was cast in the role. 

(8) SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW, BUT DON’T ASK ME WHERE. Fast Company swears “Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were lost on the Moon. Really”.

…There had been some worry inside NASA about whether, from Earth, they would be able to pinpoint the lunar module’s landing location. The Moon was mapped, but not in anything like fine, up-close detail; there were no constellations of tracking satellites around the Moon in 1969. “With a wry smile, (Armstrong) radioed Houston, ‘The guys who said we wouldn’t know where we were are the winners today.’ ”

(9) RETRO REVIEWS. Steve J. Wright has completed his “Retro Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)” finalist reviews.

It’s an interesting selection of these that 1943 brings us.  First off, there are three instances of a peculiar little subgenre, the afterlife story – people who are newly dead or on the verge of death, who are given a last chance to face up to the realities of heaven and hell, and try to make the right choice….

Three films with the same underlying idea, but the treatment of it is very different.  

(10) THE APPLE II OF MY EYE. Future War Stories resumes a popular series: “FWS Top 10: Forgotten Military SF Games (Vol. 5)”. Ten games are covered in this installment, including —  

2. BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk’s Inception (Infocom 1988)

Way back in the pivotal year of 1984, Chicago-based FASA developed a mecha combat game using designs from Japanese sources without permission. Coming at the perfect time, FASA had a true hit on their hands, and the BattleTech empire was founded. While originally, BattleTech was a tabletop wargame, today, BattleTech is also a successful series of video games that all started in 1988. Infocom, that gave us Zork!. The first BattleTech game, The Crescent Hawk’s Inception, was released for a variety of PC machines like the Commodore 64 and the ATARI ST. Featuring an amazing cover, it was sadly not as dynamic as the cover art would lead you to believe. This turn-based RPG game looks more like The Legend of Zelda than MechWarrior, and had you play as a Mechwarrior cadet named Jason Youngblood in the service of the Lyran Commonwealth during the 31st century. During the game, Jason will be thrust into a war, finding LosTech, and the fate of this lost father. From videos and articles, the game is complex and lengthy, that proved successful enough to warrant a sequel in 1990 called BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk’s Revenge. The reason for these early BattleTech games becoming LosTech was that the kinetic nature of mech combat was not expressed in the gameplay like later titles, and the fact they were released back in 1988 media.

(11) TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE. James Thurber, author of “The Last Clock”, would love to “Meet The Residents Of A Norwegian Island Who Want To Kill Time — Literally”.

It’s midnight in Sommaroy, but the sun is still shining on this Norwegian island. The clock strikes 12, but the island’s residents are playing, working, fishing and socializing. Nighttime commands sleep, but Sommaroy doesn’t want to listen.

If the 350 residents of Sommaroy get their way, the clocks will stop ticking and the alarms will cease their noise. A campaign to do away with timekeeping on the island has gained momentum as Norway’s parliament considers the island’s petition.

“Why do we need time and clocks when there is no night?” reads the campaign’s Facebook page. During a 70-day period leading up to and following the summer solstice, from May 18 to July 26, darkness never falls across the sky.

“There’s always less wind at night here, perfect to paint the garage. Fishermen are out half the night, after all. If we get tired, we’re fit to go after a nap on the sofa. Why don’t we just sign out of time, throw away all the clocks and forget about them? Life would be so much easier,” the Facebook post continues.

(12) FEARFULLY MADE. Publishers Weekly’s Brian Evenson calls these “The 10 Scariest Novels”. First on the list —  

1. Dawn by Octavia E. Butler

This 1987 science fiction novel concerns a woman named Lilith who wakes up with no idea where she is or how she got there. As she begins to figure things out, she comes to understand that she’s been taken by the Oankali, aliens who want to blend with humanity as a way of diversifying their species and allowing the remnant of humanity to continue in a less violent (and less human) fashion. What makes this book so effective is you are never sure to what degree Lilith should be considered a collaborator with the enemy. Even Lilith isn’t sure. The moral implications of the novel are immense, and Butler shifts the tension every time you (or Lilith) begin to become comfortable. It builds slowly but inexorably, leaving readers in ethical ambiguity until the end, trapped in the dilemma of not knowing what to think. It’s one of the most unsettling books I’ve ever read, partly because of how benign and reasonable the aliens seem as they gently manipulate Lilith.

(13) SO MUCH SPACE, SO LITTLE TIME. Or so it might seem.

The size and age of the universe seem to not agree with one another. Astronomers have determined that the universe is nearly 14 billion years old and yet its diameter is 92 billion light years across. How can both of those numbers possibly be true? In this video, Fermilab’s Dr. Don Lincoln tells you how.

(14) HOT PITCH. ScreenRant encourages everyone to step inside the pitch meeting that led to 2005’s Fantastic Four.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/31/19 Those Who Do Not Learn Their Pixel Scrolls Are Doomed To Repeat Them

(1) HARD SF FOR HARD MONEY. In a field where a lot of magazines release their content free, you wonder how they survive. Here’s one answer to that question.Compelling Science Fiction editor Joe Stech says “Compelling Science Fiction is going to a paid subscription model”.

I’m proud that over the last three years we’ve released 63 phenomenal stories and paid professional rates to 57 wonderful authors. However, over the last three years I’ve also spent a significant amount of money keeping the magazine afloat. Year one I spent a lot, and years two and three leveled out to almost break-even (but revenue stopped growing). Based on these numbers, I’ve decided that I need to go to a subscription-only model to keep the magazine strong and growing.

(2) ANNE BUJOLD ART. Lois McMaster Bujold wrote on Facebook –

Recently, the work of my daughter Anne Bujold, presently an artist-in-residence at the Appalachian Center for Craft, was showcased by the local TV folks. They did an excellent job, I thought. The segment is now up on YouTube:

(3) EXPLOSIVE TOPIC. Steve Davidson is peeved at anyone who would call A. Bertram Chandler’s books “popcorn” reading:

I don’t care what anyone says: A. Bertram Chandler’s works are not “popcorn”.
Popcorn does not win awards, except at popcorn festivals…

Two of his stories are the UR tales for “humans locked in an alien zoo (The Cage) and “mutated rats take over” (Giant Killer); both were frequently included in anthologies of SF through the 80s.

Harlan Ellison was so impressed with his short story Frontier of the Dark that he talked ‘Jack’ into expanding it into a novel; then, when Chandler admitted he didn’t have his own copy of the original manuscript, Ellison pulled his copy of Astounding and sent it off (and the novel was written)

He wrote about major social issues in the 60s, well before they became mainstream…

(4) A SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY. Eric Flint preceded a very brief political opinion with a long introduction about why he rarely talks politics on Facebook. (See the opinion at the link.)

I don’t usually post political comments on my Facebook page for the same reason I don’t use my novels to expound my own political philosophy.

In a nutshell, It’s false advertising. My novels (and other pieces of fiction) purport to be entertainment, not political screeds. If I want to write political screeds, nothing prevents me from doing so. In point of fact, I _have_ written political screeds. Plenty of them. If you were to compile my various political writings done in the quarter of a century or so when I was a socialist activist, they would add up to several volumes worth.

But I wasn’t trying to make a living from those political writings, and so I didn’t try to pass them off to the unsuspecting public as “entertainment.” I didn’t do it then, and I’m not about to do it now.

Albeit watered down, I feel somewhat the same way with regard to my Facebook page….

(5) GENRE INFERIORITY COMPLEX.The Guardian’s Sam Jordison convinces himself this is no longer an issue: “‘Screw the snobbish literati’: was Kurt Vonnegut a science-fiction writer?”

I’m willing to concede that people may see things differently. The New York Times obituary may have been fulsome in its praise for Vonnegut, but it also noted that publishing Slaughterhouse-Five helped him to “shed the label of science fiction writer”. Vonnegut was painfully aware of this stigma; in an essay called Science Fiction, he wrote: “I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labelled ‘science fiction’ … and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.”

(6) KURT AND RAY. Open Culture remembers when they had TV shows on the same year — “Discover Ray Bradbury & Kurt Vonnegut’s 1990s TV Shows: The Ray Bradbury Theater and Welcome to the Monkey House.

…I never know exactly when to take Vonnegut seriously. He also calls TV everybody’s “rotten teacher” and says “I’m sorry television exists,” but he had long been a TV writer in its “so-called golden days,” as John Goudas put it in a Los Angeles Times interview with Vonnegut in 1993, when his seven-episode run of Kurt Vonnegut’s Monkey House, hosted by himself, would soon come to a close. Vonnegut found himself very pleased by the results, remarking of his stories that “TV can do them very well,” and especially praising “More Stately Mansions,” above, starring an irrepressible Madeline Kahn, whom he called “a superb actress.”

Another very direct, witty speculative writer in the same year’s issue of The Cable Guide, Ray Bradbury, appeared with Vonnegut as part of two “dueling, short features,” notes Nick Greene at Mental Floss, “under the auspices of promoting the authors’ upcoming cable specials,” Monkey House and The Ray Bradbury Theater. Bradbury was also an old media hand, having written for radio in the 50s, and seeing adaptations of his stories made since that decade, including one on Alfred Hitchcock’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Like Hitchcock, when it came time for his own show, The Ray Bradbury Theater in 1985, Bradbury introduced the episodes and became a public face for thousands of viewers….

(7) WHEN I’M (IN) ’64. Galactic Journey’s Victoria Lucas reacts to the adaptation of Jack Finney’s novel: “[March 31, 1964] 7 Faces and 7 Places (The movie, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao)”.

If you saw my review of Finney’s Circus of Dr. Lao back on June 16, 1962 you would know why I went to such (literally) lengths to see this movie.  It did not disappoint, but I did object to the interpolations of a soppy romance and a hackneyed Western takeover-the-town plot.  The “Circus” was filmed, according to sources, on the MGM back lots, although some of those Culver City hills must be pretty rough if that’s so.  My theory is that filming on location was out due to the many roles of Tony Randall, who plays Dr. Lao, the Abominable Snowman, Merlin, Apollonius of Tyana, Pan, The Giant Serpent, and Medusa.  All those makeup and costume changes (to say nothing of any other cast) must have needed the workshop of famed makeup artist William Tuttle and a large selection of MGM costumes, as well as (not credited) costumer Robert Fuca.

(8) SFF EVENT IN LISBON. Free admission to Contacto 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal on April 4-5.

Imaginauta (a literary publisher of speculative fiction), in partnership with the Library of Marvila and BLX, the Libraries of the Network of Municipal Library of Lisbon are pleased to present the 2nd Edition of Contact – Literary Festival of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

FREE ENTRY FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY

Come live two days filled with activities for whom a world just is not enough.

– Book Fair

– Book Launching

– Sessions with Portuguese authors

– Thematic areas (Harry Potter, Star Wars, Steampunk)

– Board games and narratives

– Speeches

– Movie theater

– Stories Counters

– Exhibitions

– Live performances

– Stand-up comedy

– Medieval Bar

– Activities for schools

Come join the new generation of science fiction and fantasy!

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 31, 1969 — Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse Five, published.
  • March 31, 1987Max Headroom made his television premiere.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 31, 1844 Andrew Lang. To say that he is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales is a bit of understatement. He collected enough tales that twenty five volumes of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books  for children were published between 1889 and 1913. That’s 798 stories. If you’re interested in seeing these stories, you can find them here. (Died 1912.)
  • Born March 31, 1932 John Jakes, 87. Author of a number of genre series including Brak the Barbarian. The novels seem to fix-ups from works published in such venues as Fantastic. Dark Gate and Dragonard are his other two series. As  Robert Hart Davis, he wrote a number of The Man From UNCLE novellas that were published in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. The magazine apparently only existed from 1966 to 1968.
  • Born March 31, 1934 Richard Chamberlain, 85. His first dive into our end of reality was in The Three Musketeers as Aramis, a role he reprised in The Return of Three Musketeers. (I consider all Musketeer films to be genre.) some of you being cantankerous may argue it was actually when he played the title character in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold which he did some years later. He listed as voicing the Jack Kirby created character Highfather on the superb Justice League: Gods and Monsters but that was but a few lines of dialogue I believe. He was in the Blackbeard series as Governor Charles Eden, and series wise has done the usual one-offs on such shows as Alfred Hitchcock PresentsBoris Karloff’s Thriller, Chuck and Twin Peaks
  • Born March 31, 1936 Marge Piercy, 83. Author of He, She and It which garnered won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction novel. Of course she also wrote Woman on the Edge of Time doomed to be called “classic of utopian speculative sf”. 
  • Born March 31, 1943 Christopher Walken, 76. Yet another performer whose first role was in The Three Musketeers, this time as a minor character, John Felton. He has a minor role in The Sentinel, a horror film, and a decidedly juicy one in Trumbull’s Brainstorm as Dr. Michael Anthony Brace followed up by being in Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone as Johnny Smith. Damn, I’d forgotten he was Max Zorin, the villain in A View to a Kill! H’h, didn’t know he was in Gibson’s New Rose Hotel but then I haven’t then I haven’t actually seen it yet. And let’s wrap this up by noting his appearance in The Stepford Wives as Mike Wellington.
  • Born March 31, 1960 Ian McDonald, 59. I see looking him up for this Birthday note that one of my favorite novels by him, Desolation Road, was first one. Ares Express was just as splendid. Now the Chaga saga was, errr, weird. Everness was fun but ultimately shallow, Strongly recommend both Dervish House and River of Gods. Luna series at first blush didn’t impress me, so other opinions sought. 
  • Born March 31, 1962 Michael Benson. 57. Author of Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece. His earlier book Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes featured an intro by Clarke. Benson is an artist and journalist who also mounts shows of astronomical art and who advocates for such things as keeping the Hubble telescope operating. His site is here.
  • Born March 31, 1971 Ewan McGregor, 48. Nightwatch, a horror film, with him as lead Martin Bell is his first true genre film.  That was followed by The Phantom Menace and him as Obi-Wan Kenobi, a role repeated in Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens. His latest role of interest, well to me if to nobody else, is as Christopher Robin in the film of the same name.

(11) US AT A GLANCE. Camestros Felapton is back from the multiplex — “Review: Us (spoiler free)”.

So I like horror best in small doses. I like a taste of it, circumscribed by the way horror overlaps with other genres (thrillers, fantasy and science-fiction). So I probably shouldn’t have gone to see Us.

Jordan Peele’s first film Get Out, was just about the right ratio for me. Undoubtedly scary and tense but also full of interesting ideas. The final premise was knowingly absurd and tapped into that rich seam of conspiratorial mythology of secret societies and grand sinister designs of powerful people.

Us has all of that and quite a lot more. There are no shortage of horror movie tropes in the film, indeed at a given moment the film plays along with standard styles of horror movie but only for awhile and then it moves on….

(12) PERMAFROST. At Rapid Transmissions, Joseph Hurtgen reviews Alastair Reynolds’ Permafrost and finds the parallels with La Jetee — and 12 Monkeys by way of La Jetee — are hard to miss, and make the book enjoyable.

The book wrangles a great deal over the time paradox. The time paradox wrangling is enough to make your head spin and the characters in the novel throw up more than once as a result of time travel paradox complications.

Paradoxically, Reynolds never has the characters reflect on the absurdity of humans developing futuristic technologies–nuclear power, time travel, artificial intelligence–while persisting in myopia about their impact on the environment. Reynolds isn’t treading new material here, Asimov discussed the problem of science’s interest in doing science over and above environmental concerns in The God’s Themselves (1972). But Reynolds’ story is quick, fun, and is sure to give you the feels. 

(13) A WORD FROM SOMEBODY’S SPONSOR. Daniel Dern writes:

I don’t know if this qualifies as a “Meredith Moment,” but, via KinjaDeals via io9, you can get 2 months of Kindle Unlimited for $1/month, before it automatically goes to the normal $10/month — not as cheap as the free 1-month trial, but good for 2x as long. I’ll be giving it a try, soon. (The deal is available for another month or so, but I’ll probably sign up today or tomorrow)

More info at the post: “Turn Off the Internet and Read Some Damn Books – Kindle Unlimited Is $1 For Two Months”.

(14) MORE DC. As announced this weekend at WonderCon: “DC Universe Unveils Expanded Digital Comics Library, STARGIRL Suit, & More at WonderCon!”

At no extra charge or increase in the price of a subscription, DC Universe subscribers will be able to enjoy access to DC’s enormous digital comics library, starting in April of 2019. (Each of these comics will appear at least 12 months after it was first published). That’s over 20 thousand comic books!

Daniel Dern notes: “This brings DC/U closer to Marvel’s streaming offering, which is ‘many comics each week once they’re at least 6 months old’ and 25,000+ comics. I’ll know (somewhat) more once I log onto my DC/U account and browse.”

(15) PUT ON YOUR AVENGERS FACE. Yahoo! enthuses: “Ulta and Marvel Are Launching an Avengers Makeup Collection, and the Prices Are Heroic”.

The star of the collection is arguably the Eyeshadow Palette (above), which includes 15 colors — mostly shimmers with a few mattes thrown in — for just $20. Under a lid that reads “Courageous. Tenacious. Fearless. Legendary,” you’ll find the aptly named shades Hero Vibes (copper shimmer), Games Changer (burnished gold), Save The World (champagne shimmer), Amazed (cream matte), Gauntlet (burgundy shimmer), Super Charged (mauve taupe matte), Out Of This, World (khaki brown shimmer), Last Shot (vanilla shimmer), Cosmic (eggplant shimmer), Smash (olive green shimmer), Legend (dirty aqua shimmer), Reassemble (smoky navy matte, I’ve Got This (ivory shimmer), Built For Battle (peach nude shimmer), and Fearless (moss graphite shimmer).

(16) WE THE FUTURE PEOPLE. In “Sci-Fi Writers Are Imagining a Path Back to Normality”, WIRED touches base with contributors to the anthology A People’s Future of the United States, edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams

Tobias S. Buckell on metaphors:

Nora K. Jemisin was just saying on Twitter the other day that in science fiction we have this venerable tradition of using metaphor to dig at some of these problems—like race and power and structure and history—and that it’s been a mistake, because in the past we would always use the metaphor assuming that our fellow readers and fans of the genre were following along, getting the metaphor, and it turns out that they weren’t. In other words, you needed to be way more in-your-face and say, ‘This is what I’m trying to say.’ Because they were looking at a metaphor of an alien that is powerless and out on the fringes of society—and that that society was being racist toward, and things like that—and then when they were done with that story they’d say, ‘That poor alien,’ and they’d never make the implicit connection.”

(17) ARMSTRONG’S PURSE. Space.com shares a flock of photos as “Smithsonian Debuts Apollo 11 ’50 Years from Tranquility Base’ Exhibit”.

The Apollo 11 “50 Years from Tranquility Base” display case was installed on Monday (March 25) at the Washington, D.C. museum, opposite its Space Race gallery on the first floor. The exhibit offers a look at almost two dozen artifacts that flew on board the July 1969 Apollo 11 mission that landed Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in the Sea of Tranquility on the surface of the moon.

“’50 Years from Tranquility Base: Humanity’s First Visit to Another World’ highlights some of the smaller artifacts the crew needed to live and work on their way to and on the moon. Of particular interest are Neil Armstrong’s Omega chronograph, which hasn’t been on public display for over 20 years at least, and some of the items found in Armstrong’s purse,” said Jennifer Levasseur, a curator in the space history division of the National Air and Space Museum.

(18) TIME LORD. Beautiful video: “The guardian of the sands of time”.

Adrian Rodriguez Cozzani has a passion for time, the way it flows and the way we keep track of it. For nearly 30 years he has been crafting beautiful hourglasses and sundials by hand in his small workshop in Trastevere, a colourful neighbourhood in Rome, Italy.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/28/19 Submitted For Your Pixelation

(1) HOW TO AVOID MUSHROOM-SHAPED CLOUDS. Charlie Jane Anders argues in the Washington Post that, with the likelihood of “devastating nuclear conflict” starting to rise, popular culture creators should deal with the possibility of atomic attack in the tradition of Wargames, The Terminator, and Dr. Strangelove: “Pop culture is no longer full of apocalyptic nuclear visions. That’s too bad.”

Let’s hope pop culture starts to warn us once again. Pfeiffer says the challenge of talking about the risk of nuclear holocaust is to raise enough awareness to galvanize people to take small, constructive steps — but not so much that people become paralyzed with anxiety over the enormity of the threat.

The good news is, fictional portrayals of nuclear conflagration don’t have to rehash the same old story lines; it’s no longer just a matter of the United States and the Soviet Union staring each other down. And it’s not merely rogue states that pose a risk, either. There are many ways a possible misunderstanding, including one induced by a rogue hacker, could lead to a nuclear strike.

(2) FLASH CROWD DEPARTS. Books Beyond Binaries chronicles the sudden meltdown of a Book Riot paid subscription group in “Book Riot Breakup/down”.

… The forum was a Slack (see how Slack works), hosted on the free version of the platform, and capped at 275 Epic subscribers, plus the Book Riot staff, and some contributors. Separate Slacks exist that are exclusively for Book Riot contributors, and for staff only. The Slack was active, and many Epic subscribers joined specifically for access to that exclusive community…

On February 12, 2019, a new platform-wide Book Riot policy was announced by a moderator in the General channel of the BRI Slack. At the time that the announcement was made, there were 397 members in the channel, which had the description, “mayhem and anarchy”. One section of the new policy was specifically highlighted by the mod: going forward, no generalizations made about any group of people would be tolerated in the “public” channels on the Slack – that is those spaces open to all paid Epic subscribers. The examples of “groups of people” that were given were specifically “men”, and “Republicans”. As soon as the announcement was made, the moderators began to delete custom emoji that users had created in the forum, including one that read, “WHY ARE MEN”.

…On February 20th, at 2:30 PM, an Email went out to Insiders, the subject line of which read, “An Epic Announcement.” The same message was posted to the General channel of the BRI Slack. The full message can be read here. The announcement was that the Epic Insiders Slack – the only interactive element of the “exclusive digital hangout for the Book Riot community” – was being shut down on Friday, February 22nd, 2019, at 5 PM. Ten days after the announcement of a violent and oppressive policy, the company doubled down again. Rather than learning from the feedback of their financial supporters and engaged community members, they chose to delete the space they had created for them, and any record of what they had chosen to do….

(3) SCHAUDENFREUDE? Reason says that Kosoko Jackson participated in the Twitter takedown of Amélie Zhao, but now YA Twitter has found his own book fatally lacking: “He Was Part of a Twitter Mob That Attacked Young Adult Novelists. Then It Turned on Him. Now His Book Is Cancelled.”

Until recently, Kosoko Jackson’s website described him as “a vocal champion of diversity in YA [young adult] literature, the author of YA novels featuring African American queer protagonists, and a sensitivity reader for Big Five Publishers.” Jackson is black and gay—this matters here, a lot—and was preparing for the release of his debut young adult novel, A Place for Wolves, an adventure-romance between two young men set against the backdrop of the Kosovo War. “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets Code Name Verity in this heartbreaking and poignant story of survival,” read the publicity materials. The book [was] slated for release on March 26.

… “Young-adult books are being targeted in intense social media callouts, draggings, and pile-ons—sometimes before anybody’s even read them,” Vulture‘s Kat Rosenfield wrote in the definitive must-read piece on this strange and angry internet community. The call-outs, draggings, and pile-ons almost always involve claims that books are insensitive with regard to their treatment of some marginalized group, and the specific charges, as Rosenfield showed convincingly, often don’t seem to warrant the blowups they spark—when they make any sense at all.

But surely Jackson, an enforcer of social justice norms and a gay black man writing about gay black protagonist should have been safe, right?

Instead, it all came crashing down quite quickly. As with any internet outrage, it’s hard to know exactly what sparked it, but a major turning point came in the form of a quote-retweet. “HEY HOW ABOUT WE DONT PROMOTE OR SUPPORT BOOKS ABOUT A ROMANCE BETWEEN AND THE VICTIMIZATION OF 2 AMERICANS, SET DURING A REAL LIFE HISTORICAL GENOCIDE WHERE THE VILLAIN IS PART OF THE DEMOGRAPHIC THAT WAS ETHNICALLY CLEANSED,” read the tweet, which was published on February 25 and which, as of when I screencapped it, had 164 retweets—a sizable number for YA Twitter, which generally consists of relatively low-follower accounts.

… Part of what makes this story so interesting is that Kosoko himself has been on the other side of these online attacks on authors.

He was outspoken during a particularly intense recent example, when a campaign based on misunderstanding and exaggeration led the author Amélie Zhao to take the unusual step of agreeing to cancel the publication of Blood Heir, her hotly anticipated debut novel, which was set to be the first in a trilogy….

(4) THE BREW THAT IS TRUE. Delish advises “This Game of Thrones Beer Is The Only Thing You Should Be Drinking At Your Premiere Party”.

Season after season, Brewery Ommegang has dropped their Game of Thrones-themed beer, because how else would we have survived the emotional turmoil of Khal Drogo’s death? (Personally coping with the Cersei-inspired Sour Blonde, how ’bout you?) Now the brewing co. that brought us Hand of the Queen Ale and Mother of Dragons Porter is releasing For The Throne—and it’s coming just in time for your premiere party.

(5) SO YOU WANT A NEBULA? Jim C. Hines guides writers through the rocks and shoals of sff’s top two awards in “How to Get Nominated For a Nebula or Hugo”. Here’s an extract –

Logrolling/Vote-Swapping

“Psst. Hey, buddy — I’ll nominate your book for the Nebula if you nominate mine!”

It happens. I don’t think it happens as much as it used to, though I don’t have hard data one way or the other.

It’s also, in my opinion, pretty dickish. This approach may get you some extra nominations. It will also quickly get you a reputation as That Author, the one who doesn’t give a damn about whether or not a book is any good, and just wants to cheat their way onto the ballot.

Technically, it may not be cheating — but while this approach might not violate the letter of the rules, it’s pretty blatantly cheating the spirit of the thing. And it’s unlikely to win you an award.

(6) ANOTHER PROTIP. J.A. Sutherland tells how making book recommendations fits into his overall publicity strategy. Thread starts here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 28, 1913 John Coleman Burroughs.  An illustrator known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, The Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of  his fathers books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations. He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 28, 1934 H. Bruce Franklin, 75. Academic, editor of the Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century anthology, Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction and the sixth chapter of  Nancy R. Reagin’s Star Trek and History anthology.
  • Born February 28, 1928 Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yes, that novel. It obviously served as the basis for the 1976 film by Nicolas Roeg, The Man Who Fell to Earth, with Bowie as star, as well as a later television adaptation which I’d never heard of. He also wrote Mockingbird which was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel. James Sallis reviewed both novels in F&SF. (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 28, 1948 Bernadette Peters, 71. Performer, stage, film and television, so this is selected look at her. She was A Witch in Into the Woods on Broadway and reprised the role in a tv film. It is a Stephen Sondheim musical based on the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault. She’s in The Martian Chronicles as Genevieve Seltzer. She does a lot of voice acting, to wit in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted ChristmasWakko’s WishLegends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, Rita, a recurring role on the Animaniacs and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The most recent genre role I see her doing is Circe on The Odyssey series several back. 
  • Born February 28, 1966 Philip Reeve,53. He is primarily known for the Mortal Engines and its sequels. Look the film is proof that an author can’t be held responsible for a shitty film. I read Mortal EnginesPredator’s Gold and Infernal Devices before deciding that was enough of that series, it’s a fine series, it just wasn’t developing enough to warrant me reading any more of it.
  • Born February 28, 1957 John Barnes, 62. I read and like the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like?
  • Born February 28, 1969 Murray Gold, 50. English composer who is best known as the musical director and composer for Doctor Who from 2005 until he stepped down after the tenth series aired. He also composed the music for The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood as well.
  • Born February 28, 1970 Lemony Snicket, 49. He’s the author of several children’s books, also serving as the narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Though I’ve read the books, they’re very popular I’m told at my local bookstore. It has been turned into a film, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and into a Netflix series as well which is named, oh you guess. 
  • Born February 28, 1977 Chris Wooding, 42. If you read nothing else by him, do read the four novel series that is the steampunkish Tales of the Ketty Jay. Simply wonderful. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray plays off the Cthulhu Mythos that certain folk don’t think exist and does a damn fine job of doing so.

(8) TL;DR. You’ll get a kick out of the “TL;DR Wikipedia” on Instagram (or on Twitter.)

(9) SON OF STARMAN. You may recall that, when SpaceX launched Elon Musk’s personal Tesla automobile into stellar orbit, they had a spacesuit-wearing dummy—dubbed Starman—aboard. In a sort of repeat of that, SpaceX plans to put another spacesuit wearing dummy into the test capsule for Crew Dragon they are launching to the ISS this weekend. (Assuming the schedule holds this time.) Space.com has the story—”SpaceX Is Launching a Spacesuit-Clad Dummy on 1st Crew Dragon.”

Starman is about to get some off-Earth company. 

When SpaceX launches its first Crew Dragon capsule on an uncrewed test mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this Saturday (March 2), the vehicle will be carrying a passenger of sorts: a humanoid dummy wearing the company’s sleek black-and-white spacesuit. 

Such a suit also graces the inert body of Starman, the mannequin driver of the red Tesla Roadster that SpaceX launched into orbit around the sun last year on the maiden flight of the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket.

(10) OPEN IN QUESO EMERGENCY. An Israeli company’s mission to the Moon is taking a backup of Earth’s knowledge. SpaceX added a cheesy addendum to that package. (Fast Company: “Why SpaceX is helping Austin, Texas, send a queso recipe to the moon”.)

When SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off last week, it carried an Israeli-made moonshot, The Lunar Library, and a letter offering aliens unlimited queso.

The offer was made by Austin’s mayor, Steve Adler, who wrote a letter to potential queso-loving extraterrestrials inviting them to visit (or move to) Austin, writing: “Y’all are most definitely welcome here in Austin, Texas.”

However, if a visit to the Lone Star State wasn’t in the cards, Adler also sent along a recipe from Austin’s Kerbey Lane café to make their own cheese-and-chile queso, presumably from the blue cheese that the moon is made out of. “Have you heard of queso?” Adler asks in the letter. “Have you tried it? Do it. Do it now.” If the aliens happen to prefer a plant-based diet, Kerbey Lane does offer a vegan queso option.

(11) PRACTICALLY MAGIC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The BBC Click channel on YouTube has a story of how many of the special effects in First Man were produced (“First Man (2018) | Behind the Scenes of Neil Armstrong Biopic Movie”). They used a clever mixture of in-camera “practical” effects and now-traditional post-production digital effects. The in-camera effects were produced using a frickin’ enormous curved video wall to provide backdrops for flying scenes. Benefits of that included not having to digitally add reflections post-production and giving actors something other than a blue screen to react to doing filming. Digital effects included expanding square-formatted archival footage on each side to provide modern wide aspect-ratio film while preserving the real thing in the middle.

(12) BRITBOX. The BBC, home to Doctor Who, Blakes 7Sherlock, The Survivors, etc, are in the “concluding phase of talks” to create a rival to Netflix: “BBC and ITV set to launch Netflix rival”.

BBC director general Tony Hall said the aim was to launch “BritBox” in the UK the second half of 2019.

The price was not announced but Lord Hall said it would be “competitive”.

ITV’s chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall said it would be home for the “best of British creativity”.

There are reports it could cost £5 a month.  BBC I-Player is already the second most popular streaming service in the British Isles after Netflix.

(13) MEJIA’S FIRST NOVEL. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson says “‘We Set The Dark On Fire’ Burns Bright”.

Tehlor Kay Mejia’s debut novel We Set the Dark on Fire aims to burn it all down.

Daniela is graduating at the top of her class at the Medio School for Girls, an elite institution that trains girls to be wives. Divided into two groups — Primeras and Segundas, Dani and her classmates know that they will be offered in pairs to the rich young men whose families can afford to pay their dowries. Primeras like Dani are preparing to be skilled life-partners and social managers, while Segundas, like her nemesis Carmen, are destined to be objects of beauty and desire and bear children.

When Dani is chosen as Primera for the son of Medio’s chief military strategist — who is rumored to be next in line for the presidency — she is fulfilling the destiny that she and her family have sacrificed so much to obtain. But instead of being elated, Dani is filled with dread. Two days before graduation, her deepest secret almost comes out: She was born on the wrong side of the wall that protects Medio from society’s poor and disenfranchised, and was smuggled across illegally as a child. A resistance group saves her from discovery, but in exchange, they want her to spy on her new husband….

(14) THE PULPS. Episode 28 of Colin Reid’s Words To That Effect is “Pulp Fiction (Amazing Stories of the Sisters of Tomorrow)”. There’s a transcript on the site, too. Reid knows how to get people’s attention. Don’t start throwing things before you get to the end…

If you want to understand how we ended up with anything from Star Wars to Star Trek, Superman to Batman, intergalactic travel to microscopic worlds, profound meditations on the nature of being human to thrilling tales about Martian princesses, you have to look at pulp fiction magazines.

Argosy, Blue Book, Adventure, Black Mask, Horror Stories, Flying Aces…there was a lot of it. The 1920s and 30s was the age of pulp fiction magazines, the time when genres truly became genres. Science fiction, detective stories, war stories, horror, westerns, fantasy. Everything. All those categories that we use to divide up fiction and film and TV came together in the pulps at this time.

But what I want to do in this episode in particular is to look at some of the commonly held ideas about pulp fiction magazines, and about science fiction more particularly. So here are a few things that we all know:

1: Science fiction was, and continues to be, mostly consumed by men
2: Science fiction is, for the most part, aimed at 12-year-old boys
3: There were very few women writers of science fiction between Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the new feminist sf of the 60s and 70s
4: Those few women who did write SF were forced to write under male or androgynous pseudonyms in order to make it in an utterly male-dominated industry

So you can probably guess where I’m going with. Yes, all of these are myths. They’re ideas that are completely, demonstrably false. This week Professor Lisa Yaszek joins me to discuss the history of the pulp fiction magazines and the many myths around early women’s science fiction….

(15) I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC. A new concept in hi-fi, and SYFY Wire has the news: “Mummy parts found inside speaker at Egyptian airport, heads still missing”.

Mummy smugglers of the most audacious variety were caught cloth-handed via security X-rays while trying to smuggle mummified human limbs out of Egypt and into Belgium. Wrapped up in the hollowed-out speaker were “six preserved body parts belonging to two different mummies: two sets of feet and lower legs; two sets of hands and forearms; an upper arm; and part of an upper torso,” according to The New York Times, which spoke to Egyptian archaeological official Iman Abdel-Raouf about the incident. No word on where the heads are, though.

(16) MADE TO ORDER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]  Herewith 2 Disney park/Star Wars stories. They are from different publications, but are effectively a pair since they discuss different aspects of the same upcoming park attraction(s).

Plenty of fans are counting down the days until they can pilot the [Millennium Falcon], but it’s another attraction at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that may become the main draw.

For Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which will open with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Resort in summer 2019 and Walt Disney World Resort in fall 2019, Disney has reconsidered the entire concept of a ride. The old conceit of waiting in line, boarding a vehicle, and having a few minutes of high-octane fun are long gone, as this new experience, which will be one of Disney’s longest ever, puts riders in Rey, Luke, and Leia’s shoes as they face the greatest challenge of all: the First Order.

Glendale, California isn’t exactly in a galaxy far, far away, but it’s here inside a beige building where Star Wars characters are brought to life. 

Within its nondescript walls, safe from the unseasonably chilly February day swirling outside, all eyes are on Hondo Ohnaka, a scheming pirate from Star Wars: Rebels. His head bobs up and down, shaking his long green alien braids. His foot appears to step forward, rattling his bronze belt. His mouth curls into a wide smile before devolving into a deep belly laugh. 

For a split second, it seems that this colorful, horns-for-a-beard alien is flesh and blood. But Hondo is actually a Disney audio-animatronic, one of the most advanced ever built, and he’s getting ready for his debut at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. He’s performing what’s known as “cycling,” going through its predetermined movements for 120 hours before installation at one of Disney’s theme parks.

(17) X MARKS THE SPOT. Dark Phoenix comes to theaters June 7.

In DARK PHOENIX, the X-MEN face their most formidable and powerful foe: one of their own, Jean Grey. During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. With Jean spiraling out of control, and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite — not only to save Jean’s soul, but to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponize this force and rule the galaxy.

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

SFF Collectibles on the Market

The gift-giving season is upon us and John King Tarpinian has spotted all kinds of things you can buy for your sff-loving friends — provided your bank balance has enough zeroes in it. (Well, and also starts with a number that isn’t a zero….)

Very rare Superman ”muscle tunic” worn by Christopher Reeve during filming of ”Superman: The Movie”, the very first film of the beloved Christopher Reeve franchise, released in 1978. Tunic used in the flight scenes features two stitched holes on the sides, used to attach the flying harness. Four snaps at top are for attaching the cape. Signature blue tunic is made complete with Superman’s large emblematic gold and red ”S” sewn onto the front. The original ”Bermans & Nathans / 40 Camden St. / London N.W. 1” tag is still intact on the tunic’s inner back collar, next to the zipper, with the label reading in type: ”CHRISTOPHER REEVE / 12312 WITH MUSCLES / SUPERMAN”. Made of special nylon fabric, used for its stretch and ability to retain its original shape. Without being stretched, tunic measures 18” across the chest and 29” long. A few small holes, otherwise in near fine condition. With Prop Store COA.

Price $100,000

Presentation Stainless Steel Pocket Watch Given by Actress Zoe Saldana to Select Members of the Cast And Crew On the Film Production Team of the James Cameron Film Avatar. 1 1/4” x 1 1/2”, Presentation stainless steel quartz pocket watch given as a thank you gift by actress Zoe Saldana to select members of the cast and crew on the production team of the James Cameron film Avatar. With “NA’VI NATION” engraved on the interior of the hinged case covering, signifying the tribal unity of the Na’vi, the native people living on Pandora, the distant world where Avatar is set….

Price: $315

Original autograph poem signed by Lewis Carroll, dedicated to the sister of an ”Alice” who died in infancy. Carroll composes the tender poem inside a presentation copy of ”Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (London: MacMillan and Co., 1874), inscribed on the half-title page in Carroll’s signature purple ink, ”Presented to Jessie Howard Clark, in remembrance of her sister Alice, by the Author / July 15, 1875”. Young Jessie lived in Australia which served as the basis for the poem, alongside the themes of death and the connected experience of childhood across the world. The poem is additionally constructed so that the letters of the first words of each line form the recipient’s name, ”Jessie Howard Clark”. Written on the page opposite the table of contents, poem reads in full…

Price: $50,000

Neil Armstrong signed photo, showing fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin descending onto the lunar surface. This less common NASA photo is signed “Neil Armstrong” without an inscription, in blue ink on the white moon. Matte photo measures 10″ x 8″. Near fine condition. With Steve Zarelli Space Authentication COA.

Price: $15,000