Pixel Scroll 12/26/18 And The Fur Suit Of Happiness

(1) NEW BUJOLD NOVELLA ON THE WAY. Bujold announced it on Goodreads — a “new Lakerwalker novella impending”.

…I am pleased to report that I have finished the first draft of a new novella in the world of The Sharing Knife. Functionally a novella, anyway; its length, at the moment, is a tad over 49,000 words, so it’s technically a short novel. This falls in an odd limbo in categorization — the official cap for a novella is 40k or 45k words, but the minimum contractual length for a commercially published novel is usually 100k. (It was 80k back when I started, but word-count inflation has occurred since then.) Since it’s headed for original e-publication, I don’t have to care, so the main concern is to label it so readers won’t charge in expecting something twice as long.

The working title was “Barr & Lily”, which is also its subject matter, being a sort of slice-of-Lakewalker-life character study. However, that won’t do for the final, since it sounds a bit too much like the name of a tea company. The current front-runner is “Knife Children”, but I’m not sure yet if that is going to stick.

It takes place about a dozen years after the events of the tetralogy, but should be perfectly readable as a stand-alone. (Old readers will gratify me if they can refrain from fending off potential new readers by telling them they have to read four other books first.)…

(2) 9W HIATUS. On December 22, London’s Nine Worlds convention governance committee made a response to some recent critical tweets, and acknowledged there will be no 9W in 2019. Thread starts here.

(3) WHATEVER’S NUMBERS. While John Scalzi’s annual statistical roundup shows it’s getting very hard to measure anyone’s social media reach, I still read these breakdowns in rapt fascination: “Top Whatever Posts and Social Media Stats, 2018”.

 Every year I post stats on traffic for Whatever, and every year it gets harder to see how it accurately reflects my actual readership, because of the way people read things I post here. Bluntly, relatively few people visit the site directly at this point in time — As of this moment, for 2018, Whatever has had 2.82 million direct visits in 2018, down from last year’s 4.1 million, and substantially down from the 2012 high of 8.16 million. At the same time, Whatever has 30k+ followers through WordPress and email, another 10k+ on Feedly and other RSS aggregators, a few thousand though social media feeds, and there an unknown number of people reading the site’s content on mobile, through AMP versions of the site. None of those impressions/reads get tracked through the WordPress stats suite.

(4) SANS SERIF FACTOR THREE, MR. SULU. Hyperallergenic contends that “Many Stories Are Told Through the Typography in Science Fiction Films”.

In film, there is a shorthand for the future, the typeface Eurostile Bold Extended. It appears on the interface screens of the time-traveling Delorean in Back to the Future (1985), and in the logo of Lunar Industries at the lonely lunar station in Moon (2009). It adorns the exterior of the USS Enterprise starship in the Star Trek franchise, and the Federal Colonies intergalactic megacorporation branding in Total Recall (1990). It gives both the Battlestar Galactica series title and the credits of District 9 (2009) an ultramodern tone.

As blogger and designer Dave Addey explains in his new book Typeset in the Future, out now from Abrams, he first noticed the ubiquity of the typeface in 2013. 

(5) THE YEAR IN SCIENCE. BBC picked its “Ten big science stories of 2018”. Second on the list —  

The earliest animals

The one-million-plus animal species alive today are staggeringly diverse, from the giant oceanic blue whale to the wriggly earthworms beneath our feet. But their early evolution from single-celled ancestors remains shrouded in mystery.

In the hunt for the earliest animal life, much attention has been focused on a group of enigmatic life forms – known as the “Ediacaran biota” – from more than 500 million years ago. These were some of the first complex organisms to appear on Earth.

But their position on the tree of life is difficult decipher. These curious creatures have been variously categorised as lichens, fungi, and even as a halfway house between plants and animals.

In September, scientists were able to extract molecules of cholesterol from a fossilised Ediacaran life form called Dickinsonia, which resembled a flat jellyfish. Cholesterol is one of the molecular hallmarks of animal life, clearly demonstrating that the Ediacaran biota were animals.

(6) THE SIGN OF THE ZERO. A.V. Club is impressed, in a negative sort of way: Holmes & Watson crack the case of the 0 percent Rotten Tomatoes score”.

Entering into a robust fraternity of cinematic triumphs that includes such highlights as Gotti and Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly’s new comedy Holmes & Watson has joined the storied pantheon of movies rocking a 0 percent “rotten” score on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. For those unfamiliar with the site’s system, that means that not a single one of the 15 critics currently being polled for the film’s merits have said it’s even marginally worth the 89 minutes of your life it would take to watch, making this a real anti-Paddington 2 situation.

(7) DOA ON BAKER STREET. Here’s The Hollywood Reporter’s contribution to the funeral cortege: “‘Holmes & Watson’: Film Review”.

You can feel the flop sweat emanating from the third onscreen pairing of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Making their previous vehicles Step Brothers and Talladega Nights seem the height of comic sophistication by comparison, Holmes & Watson features the duo parodying Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous characters to devastatingly unfunny effect. Numerous talented British thespians are wasted in supporting roles in this Christmas turkey that, not surprisingly, wasn’t screened in advance for critics. Although making them troop out to theaters Christmas morning is something of which even Ebenezer Scrooge wouldn’t have approved.

(8) EISENBERG OBIT. Scientist and sff author Larry Eisenberg achieved his greatest fame writing limericks in comments to the online New York Times over the past decade: “Larry Eisenberg, 99, Dead; His Limericks Were Very Well Read”. Eisenberg died December 25 from complications of acute myeloid leukemia.

Dr. Eisenberg joined Rockefeller University in 1958 and later became a director of its electronics laboratory. Early in his tenure at Rockefeller, he helped develop a transistorized, battery-operated cardiac pacemaker, which was considered a vast improvement over the wire-laden earlier models. He taught at the university until 2000.

As a science-fiction writer, Dr. Eisenberg was best known for his short story “What Happened to Auguste Clarot?” The comic tale of a disappearing Parisian scientist, it was published in “Dangerous Visions” (1967), the noted anthology edited by Harlan Ellison.

He was also known for his stories featuring Prof. Emmett Duckworth, an amiably hapless Nobel Prize-winning scientist. (Duckworth’s inventions include an intensely addictive aphrodisiac containing 150,000 calories per ounce.)

…In a 2011 feature, Dr. Eisenberg was asked by The 6th Floor, a Times Magazine blog, to supply a brief biographical summary for readers. He replied — a mere 20 minutes later — in the form he knew best:

A nonagenarian, I,
A sometime writer of sci-fi,
Biomed engineer,
Gen’rally of good cheer,
With lim’ricks in ready supply.

(9) ISAACS OBIT. Boston area conrunning fan Fred Isaacs died December 26 after a long battle with COPD. Just a few items from his extensive resume — he chaired Boskone 9 (1972), and was co-inventor of the concourse format of organizing exhibits and fan tables for the 1989 Worldcon, which was frequently emulated by later Worldcons.  

(10) GRAU OBIT. Jorge Grau (1930-2018): Spanish screenwriter and director, reportedly died today, aged 88. Best known for the horror film The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974, aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie). Also directed The Legend of Blood Castle (1973, aka The Female Butcher) and Violent Blood Bath (1974).

(11) MOSIMAN OBIT. Billie Sue Mosiman (1947-2018) has died. She had her first fiction published in the 1980s, and went on to become an Edgar nominee for her novel Night Cruise and a Stoker nominee for Widow. She authored eight suspense novels and more than 150 short stories, and coedited six anthologies.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 26, 1911Milton Luros. Illustrator during the Golden Age of pulp magazines from 1942 to 1954 (yes I’ve expansive on what I consider to be to the Golden Age). His work graced Science Fiction Quarterly, Astounding Stories,  Future Combined with Science Fiction StoriesFuture Science Fiction StoriesDynamic Science Fiction and  Science Fiction Quarterly. He had an amazing ability to illustrate women in outfits in hostile environments that simply were impractical such as one for Science Fiction Quarterly (UK), October 1952 cover had a cut out in her spacesuit so her décolletage was bare. (Died 1999.)
  • Born December 26, 1930Donald Moffat. Yes he just passed on several days ago but his Birthday is today so he gets written up. Yes The Thing indeed was first SF undertaking followed by License to KillThe Terminal Man, Exo-Man, Monster in the Closet and Earthquake films, plus The Twilight Zone and Six Million Dollar Man series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 26, 1961 Tahnee Welch, 57. Daughter of Raquel Welch, she has  shows up in Cocoon and Cocoon: The Return; also in Sleeping Beauty, Johnny 2.0 and Black Light. She also appears in a SF video game called Ripper that took place in 2040 NYC and uses Jack as the basis for the plot there.
  • Born December 26, 1974Danielle Cormack, 44. Performer of New Zealander status so you can guess what that means — Ephiny on  Xena: Warrior Princess, a one shot as Lady Marie DeValle on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Ephiny on the same series, Katherine on Jack of All Trades (which I’ve mentioned before was one of Kage Baker’s fav shows), Raina on Cleopatra 2525 and Shota on the Legend of the Seeker. Genre television has been very, very good for the New Zealand economy! 
  • Born December 26, 1986Kit Harington, 32. Jon Snow on Game of Thornes of course but also voiced the Eret character in the How to Train Your Dragon films, a considerably lighter affair I’d say. Also played Bill Bradley in Seventh Son and is voicing Sir Gadabout In Zog, yet another dragon-centred film, I gather. 
  • Born December 26, 1960Temuera Morrison, 58. New Zealand performer known for being Jango Fett in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (and Commander Cody in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. He also voiced the clone troopers in both films. He is also voiced Chief Tui, the father of the title character in Disney’s Moana, and for playing Arthur Curry’s father in Aquaman.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • XKCD on feathered dinosaurs.

(14) SOMEDAY MY PRINTS WILL COME. Io9 has a cool décor suggestion: “Hang Iconic Doctor Who Moments on Your Wall With These Fantastic Framed Prints”.

Over the past few months, Classic Stills has been capturing high-res moments from genre faves like Jurassic Park and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as artsy prints you can frame on your wall. Now, it’s turning its hand to TV, in the form of another genre icon: 55 years of Doctor Who’s adventures in time and space….

(15) DO YOU PREFER LEINSTER OR JENKINS? Now’s your chance to find out. Murray Leinster’s daughter recently put together a short collection of mainstream short stories published under his real name of Will F. Jenkins which was, as Bruce D. Arthurs notes, was “Apparently the actual majority, and bread-and-butter, of his writing career.” Intro by Michael Swanwick. Available on Amazon. Link to Swanwick’s blog post: “The Mainstream Murray Leinster”.

…In a career that began in 1913 and ended with his death in 1975, Jenkins published some 1,800 stories in more than 150 periodicals, as well as 74 novels and collections. Only a small part of his output was science fiction — and that was written over the horrified objections of his agent. (SF didn’t pay as well as the slicks, which were his usual markets.) But Jenkins loved science and wrote science fiction for the fun of it, utilizing the Leinster pen name to protect his other fiction….

(16) SUCCESSFUL DEMONSTRATION. NPR asks “What’s Next For Tiny Satellites?” but doesn’t really have much of an answer yet.

On Nov. 26, as the probe known as InSight plummeted through the Martian atmosphere on its way to the planet’s surface, two miniature spacecraft — known collectively as MarCO — relayed telemetry from InSight to Earth, assuring all those watching that the landing of the probe was proceeding successfully and was soft.

In the past, spacecraft were only able to transmit back to Earth simple tones during a landing. Those tones would change for major milestones, such as parachute deployment, the firing of landing rockets or touchdown.

This time, as InSight team member Christine Szalai called out altitudes from the control room in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, she was reading off actual data from InSight’s onboard radar. It was live play-by-play, bearing in mind that the radio signal from Mars took approximately eight minutes to reach Earth.

… After its relay mission was over, the MarCOs sailed past Mars; they’ll go into orbit around the sun. Marinan says the research team on Earth will check in on the cubesats from time to time, just to see how long they last.

(17) I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE. A crossover comic brings together two characters played by actor Bruce Campbell: “Interview: Scott Duvall on How Ash Meets Bubba Ho-Tep in Dynamite’s New Army of Darkness Crossover”.

Worlds collide this February when Ash meets Elvis and a foul-mouthed mummy in Dynamite’s latest crossover Army of Darkness vs. Bubba Ho-Tep. The four-issue mini-series not only brings together two beloved cult classics, it also pits Bruce Campbell’s infamous character against another of his best personas (the actor played Ash in the Evil Dead series as well as Elvis Presley in Bubba Ho-Tep in 2002).

Written by Scott Duvall (They Called Us Enemy, Heavy Metal) and with art by Vincenzo Federici (Grimm Fairy Tales), the story follows Ash on a road trip through Texas in search of Elvis, who is rumored to be alive and taking down evil mummies. With a time-traveling Elvis jumpsuit and a new evil Book of the Dead, Ash must then come face to face with Bubba Ho-Tep, the soul-sucking mummy.

(18) THIS SCEPTRED ISLE. For those of us beyond the range of Her Majesty’s broadcast, Camestros Felapton helpfully supplies a transcript: “And now a message from the Queen to her commonwealth”.

When the creatures of the void break through the veil of cosmogyny and come to rend your essence from your bones and then marke sport with your skeleton while your howling soul looks on, to whom would you turn? Your milquetoast post-modernist professors? Your “Jeremiah Corbills”? Your “republicans” and constitutional reformers?

Or instead will you turn to a family that are the heirs to Boudicca, King Arthur, William the Conqueror, or my namesake Glorianna herself Elizabeth the First?

(19) TRANSFORMATIVE MURDERBOTS. Meredith advised:

For those who may not be aware: Transformative works fandom has a yearly secret santa gift exchange called Yuletide where people write small-fandom fanfiction for each other, and book fandoms usually make quite a good showing. This year’s collection can be found here.

(It’s also one of several fannish endeavours founded by Astolat, who also writes some really excellent and Hugo-nominated books when she’s not writing fanfic.)

Then JJ discovered –

There are 8 Murderbot fics!

And one of them features Timothy!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/20/18 Five Chaptered Twice Chaptered Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

(1) YEAR’S BEST FANTASY BOOKS. The popular culture website Paste calls these “The 15 Best Fantasy Novels of 2018”.

The following 15 books capture the range that makes fantasy fiction so great, from epic high fantasy to alternate reality to urban fantasy to literary fiction that just happens to star a Greek goddess. These books visit other magical worlds, sure, but also draw from West African, Chinese and Greek mythology, as well as the American Civil War, ’80s punk scenes, far-off planets and Edwardian England. Most of these are stand-alone novels, but there are also a few continuations of some of our favorite fantasy series.

4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Named Paste’s best Young Adult novel of 2018, Dread Nation blends elements of fantasy, horror and alternate history to create something wholly unique and utterly memorable. Set in an alternate world in which the undead rose up at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, the novel picks up years later as the United States is spiraling into horror. Readers meet Jane, a teen studying to be an Attendant who is trained to fight zombies for the wealthy white class. But it isn’t the life she wants. A novel that discusses race, class and so much more, Dread Nation is one of 2018’s best reads. —Eric Smith

(2) QUEST, OR GUILT TRIP? However, Forbidden Futures’ Cody Goodfellow takes a skeptical view of epic fantasy: “Exiled from Middle-Earth: Why Fantasy Failed Us”.

…If Tolkien stirred our noblest aspirations, he also created a benign propaganda that mythologized cultural differences until nationalities became species, and denied basic humanity to its antagonists, rendering the defense of the divine right of kings into a Manichean conflict between absolute light and absolute darkness––arguably, in spite of his denials, an allegory for Europe’s agonizing crusade against Hitler. As noted contrarian David Brin observed in an essay coinciding with Jackson’s grandiose adaptation of Lord Of The Rings, the humans and their allies worship at the altar of absolute hereditary rule, and libel the one agent of merit, inclusion and technological progress in Middle Earth. Certainly, the notion that the land might incarnate itself in the form of a devoted ruler is a beautiful conceit, but it’s only the most richly embroidered defense of a myth that’s brought little but tribulation and tragedy, in the real world. If one were to ask the Saudi Crown Prince in a candid moment about the butchery of Jamal Khashoggi only this month, he would no doubt clothe his rationalization by noting that the Washington Post journalist dismembered with bone saws in the Saudi consulate in Turkey was just another orc threatening his divinely ordained kingdom….

(3) ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER. A highlight from the CW event — “Black Suit Superman Speaks With Kara In Meta Jail — Elseworlds Crossover Supergirl.”

(4) DEEP FAN. NPR’s Glen Weldon discusses “Aquaman, From Super Friend To Surfer Dude: The Bro-Ification Of A Hero”.

Let’s get the bona fides out of the way up top.

This post is about some of the sweeping changes that the DC Comics superhero Aquaman (Swift and Powerful Monarch of the Ocean! King of the Seven Seas!) has undergone on his way to this weekend’s blockbuster movie Aquaman. Inevitably, it will elide many details important to ardent fans of the character, and open its author up to charges of not knowing whereof he speaks, of a willful ignorance of the character, of simply echoing stale observations hastily ransacked from the Aquaman Wikipedia page.

The defense humbly (okay, smugly) presents the following evidence.

Exhibit A: That photo atop this post? That’s the author’s collection of aqua-memorabilia. Kindly do not refer to it as a shrine, as it is simply the by-product of what happens when the author’s lifelong obsession with a fictional character intersects with his husband’s insistence that said obsession not take up more space in their tiny apartment than the top of one friggin’ dresser.

(5) COUNTERPOINT. Despite several quibbles, NPR’s Linda Holmes says “‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Is A Fine And Fresh Take On A Classic”.

The first rule of Mary Poppins is that you must never explain Mary Poppins.

Perhaps the smartest decision in the sequel Mary Poppins Returns is that it’s no more clear than it ever was how, exactly, this nanny floats in. We don’t know where Mary came from, how exactly she has relatives given that she seems to have simply materialized from the sky, or whether she was ever a child herself. Mary Poppins simply is.

It’s hard to bring to life a character with no past and no future except to visit more children, take them on more adventures, and then leave them again. Created in the P.L. Travers children’s books and indelibly committed to film by Julie Andrews in 1964, Mary is special in part because since she’s magic, she is nurture without need. She doesn’t need to be thanked; she doesn’t even need to be remembered. The helping is all.

(6) OUT, DARNED DOTS. Jeff VanderMeer says the problem is very simple:

If the semi-colon is ruining your writing, periods, colons, and commas probably are ruining it, too.

(7) HANG UP. Continuing today’s Abbreviated Wisdom for Authors section: “Michael Chabon’s Advice to Young Writers: Put Away Your Phone”.

…And it’s advice I give to myself, as much as to anyone, but especially to younger writers. Writers coming up now. Which is put your?—?put this [points to phone]?—?away. When you’re out in the world, when you’re walking down the street, when you’re on the subway, when you’re riding in the back of a car, when you’re doing all those everyday things that are so tedious, where this [phone] is such a godsend in so many ways. As in that David Foster Wallace graduation speech, when he talks about standing in line at the grocery store. When you’re in those moments where this [phone] is so seductive, and it works! It’s so brilliant at giving you something to do. I mean walking down the street looking at your phone?—?that’s pretty excessive. But in other circumstances where it feels natural, that’s when you need to put this [phone] away. Because using your eyes, to take in your immediate surroundings… Your visual and auditory experience of the world, eavesdropping on conversations, watching people interact, noticing weird shit out the window of a moving car, all those things are so deeply necessary to getting your work done every day. When I’m working on a regular work schedule, which is most of the time, and I’m really engaged in whatever it is I’m working on, there’s a part of my brain that is always alert to mining what can be mined from that immediate everyday experience. I don’t even know I’m doing it, but I’ll see something, like,“That name on that sign is the perfect last name for this character!” Or the thing I just overheard that woman saying, is exactly the line of dialog I need for whatever I’m doing. And if you’re like this [phone in your face], you miss it all.

(8) BILL CRIDER PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION. Bouchercon 2019 will inaugurate the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction in the mystery genre.

Debuting at the 50th Anniversary of Bouchercon, Carol Puckett and the 2019 Bouchercon Dallas committee launched the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction to celebrate this treasured literary form, both the short story and the widely-admired mystery author and reviewer, Bill Crider. Designed to encourage writers from all over the world, these distinguished prizes award stories with fascinating characters and twisty plots, all in the mystery genre.

First Prize: $1000

Second Prize: $750

Third Prize: $500

Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Linda Landrigan, editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, will choose the winners from the shortlisted writers.

Once the final four writers have been chosen, all shortlisted authors will be notified on or near October 1.

Bouchercon Dallas Guest of Honor, Hank Phillippi Ryan, will recognize the shortlisted authors and award the top prizes during Bouchercon 2019 in Dallas, Texas. The convention takes place October 31-November 3, 2019.

The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2019. Full guidelines at the link.

(9) MORE ON NINE WORLDS. Robot Archie steered me to another exposition about the fate of Nine Worlds. Avery Delany’s Twitter thread begins here.  

(10) STRONG LANGUAGE, HARLAN? Fanac.org returns you to the thrilling days of yesteryear with an audio recording of Harlan Ellison at Pacificon II, the 1964) Worldcon, speaking about “Adaptation of Science Fiction to a Visual Media.” Visually annotated, illustrated with convention photos, and preceded with this little warning —

Pacificon II, the 22nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Oakland, CA in 1964. WARNING – 1) Harlan uses some strong language in this recording. 2)The first few minutes are missing. Harlan gives an engrossing talk (audio, enhanced with images) about writing for television and about how Hollywood works. The talk took place during the filming of the Outer Limits episode, “Demon With a Glass Hand”, and Harlan speaks very frankly (including complaints) about his experience as the writer on the episode. Includes Harlan’s reading of a scene as written, and as changed by management as well as discussion on the casting, the directing and the location. Embedded are photos of Harlan throughout his science fiction career. This audio material was provided by The Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI), and Jerome Scott, Director of Projects for SCIFI in LA.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 20, 1933Son Of Kong premiered in theaters.
  • December 20, 1961 – The film version of Jules Verne’s drama Mysterious Island was released.
  • December 20, 1974 — Walt Disney’s The Island At The Top Of The World debuted.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 20, 1838 Edwin Abbott Abbott. Author of the Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella that has come to be adopted as SF even though it’s really mathematical fiction. Go ahead, argue with me. (Died 1926.)
  • Born December 20, 1942  — Angel Tompkins, 76. Anyone remember Amazon Women on the Moon? Yeah she was in it. She later shows up in the Knight Rider series and, oh, that Starlost series which Cordwainer Bird swore off before the first episode. There’s an episode of Wild Wild West and Night Gallery as well but she stopped acting twenty years ago.
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. Longest and definitely best known role would be as the evil Supreme Commander Servalan/ and Commissioner Sleer on Blake’s 7. She’d show several times in Doctor Who, one on screen in The Two Doctors (Yes, I saw it) and once as a voice only role in Death Comes to Time, a Seventh Doctor story.  She played a Mrs. Annabelle Levin in the “Paris, October 1916” episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as well, a series I really liked. She did a bit of time travel in Moondail as Miss Vole / Miss Raven and finally showed up in The Avengers as a character named Miaranne. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 66. Fist SF role was Jessica 6 in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (great film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not  a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fav films which is Darkman and finally Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 58. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like all her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out  Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out out out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction. She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual?
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 48. I first saw her in a Canadian produced series called Beyond Reality where she played multiple roles. Very odd show. You’ll more likely know her as Ezri Dax on i or Sarah Bracknell Bannerman on The Dead Zone as those are her major genre series to date. She’s also shown up in Forever Knight, TekWar, Poltergeist, The Outer Limits, Stargate Atlantis, Haven, Five Days to Midnight, The Fearing Mind, Mission Genesis and Psi Factor. I believe all of these latter shows were filmed in Canada, some of them of Toronto if memory serves me right.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) DRUM ROLL, PLEASE. WhatCulture has designated these the 10 Best Comic Books of 2018.

(15) COMICS’ JEWISH INFLUENCERS. Career artist and fan Hugo winner Steve Stiles responded to the Baltimore Jewish Times’ farewell to Stan Lee in this recently-published letter of comment. Steve begins —  

As one who enjoyed a five-year stint as a freelance illustrator for Marvel’s British publications, I enjoyed reading Arie Kaplan’s article on Stan Lee (“Stan Lee Gave Comic Books Permission to Be More Jewish, JT online”). I was, however, surprised that one of Marvel’s leading Jewish characters, Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, the strong man of the Fantastic Four, was overlooked….

(16) KEEP COUNTING. Seems there’s still a lot to discover on this planet! Per the BBC: “The secret life of plants: Ten new species found this year”.

Plant collectors have searched for the hidden wonders of the plant world for centuries.

Yet plants that are new to science are still being described, at a rate of about 2,000 a year.

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, discovered and named more than 100 new plants in 2018.

Their list of the top new plants includes carnivorous pitcher plants, exotic orchids and climbers with untapped medicinal powers.

(17) LITTLE BROTHER IS LISTENING. Get ready to shake and bake: “Nasa’s InSight deploys ‘Marsquake’ instrument”.

The American space agency’s InSight mission to Mars has begun to deploy its instruments.

The lander’s robotic arm has just placed the bell-shaped seismometer package on the ground in front of it.

This suite of sensors, developed in France and the UK, will listen for “Marsquakes” in an effort to determine the internal structure of the Red Planet.

InSight touched down near the world’s equator in November.

(18) PIE A LA GIANT MODE. Speaking of baking, this has nothing to do with genre, but dang! In Australia, “Domino’s Is Selling Its Biggest Pizza Ever, And It Barely Can Fit Into Cars”.

It’s available in extremely limited quantities.

Only two are available per store, per day, so you have to order one online ahead of time if you want in. Domino’s requires a 24 hour heads-up, so plan your hang-outs accordingly.

It’s too big for delivery.

Do you really expect someone to carry this on their bike to you?! No, you gotta go in and pick it up. And since it’s a full 40 inches across (Domino’s had to make new boxes to stand up to the weight!) you might want to go in an SUV.

(19) MONSTERS FROM THE US. From Entertainment Weekly: Us first look: See photos from Jordan’s Peele’s Get Out follow-up”

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, not only delivered a bone-chilling psychological thriller, it dissected the underlying racial oppression running through the veins of America, spearheaded conversations of societal fractures, and earned four Oscar nominations. (It would go on to win Peele the Best Original Screenplay award.) So after Peele’s killer success, what does the filmmaker do next?

“For my second feature, I wanted to create a monster mythology,” Peele tells EW. “I wanted to do something that was more firmly in the horror genre but still held on to my love of movies that are twisted but fun.”

Details are very, very vague about Peele’s upcoming film Us. The story is set in the present day and follows Adelaide and Gabe Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) as they take their kids to Adelaide’s old childhood beachside home in Northern California for the summer.

(20) GET STARTED BOOING NOW. No need to wait — you know this will end badly The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Harvey’ Remake in the Works at Netflix”. The idea does not sound either oh, so nice, or oh, so smart….

‘Shrek 2’ writers J. David Stem and David N. Weiss have been tapped to write.

One of film’s best-known rabbits is hopping his way back to Hollywood.

A Harvey remake is in the works at Netflix, with J. David Stem and David N. Weiss set to write the screenplay. Fabrica de Cine, which is working with the streamer on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, will produce.

(21) I DREAM OF GENIE. Footage from the forthcoming Aladdin live-action movie with Will Smith as the Genie.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/19/18 The Black Hole Singularity’s A Feinman Private Place, But None, I fear, Do From There Escape

(1) DUBLIN 2019 ADDS FACILITIES. Next year’s Worldcon is branching out to accommodate a growing membership: “Dublin 2019 Expands: Announcing Dublin 2019’s New Creative Hub”. Chair James Bacon told fandom:

It is with excitement that I write to share that Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon is expanding.

We have watched as membership increases beyond our expectations, and have been working for some time now on how to ensure we can welcome and accommodate everyone.

We also want to ensure that any expansion works to improve the experience for members who come along, while taking into account that there is not a building directly next to the Convention Centre Dublin that we can expand into.

Eight hundred and fifty meters from the CCD, or just over half a mile, are a number of facilities that we have decided to hire and use at a wonderful location called The Point. Conveniently, there is a Luas stop outside the CCD and one outside our new facilities, with direct tram travel between them. The facilities include hotel function rooms for over 300 people, auditorium space in the Odeon Cinema for 1,000 people, 2,600 sq metres of extra exhibits space, and a number of bars, social spaces, and restaurants, all in one ‘Block’.

The additional space is not only desirable to accommodate our members, but also to accommodate everything we want to celebrate and bring to our members. It allows elements such as our art show to increase their footprint, it allows programme to programme more items for the 800 potential participants who have signed up already, it allows us to include an amazing installation from a featured artists, it will allow us to have more large displays, and it will allow us to increase dealers’ space and our ‘creative alley’.

The new spaces are the Odeon Cinema, The ‘Warehouse’, and the Gibson hotel.

More details at the link.

(2) MAPPING IRELAND’S MT. TSUNDOKU. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Guardian’s Jack Fennell (@JFennellAuthor), who literally wrote the book on Irish science fiction, shared his list of the “Top 10 Irish science fiction authors”. If you’re looking for some reading to get you in the mood for Dublin 2019, this might be a good place to look. It is surprising to note that he omitted mention of James White’s media tie-in novel for the TV series Earth Final Conflict

9. Sarah Maria Griffin (1988-)

Spare and Found Parts is a homage to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a feminist dissection of creativity and interpersonal relationships, and a dystopian critique of Irish society. Set in a disease-ravaged future Dublin, the story follows Nell Crane, a talented roboticist who decides to construct a companion for herself out of items she salvages from a nearby beach. Griffin refers to herself as a “spec”(speculative) writer, rather than declaring allegiance to any one genre, but her appreciation for sci-fi, horror and fantasy bleeds through all her work.

(3) NO NINE WORLDS IN 2019? Former committee member Steve Lacey casts doubt on the chances of there being a Nine Worlds next year. Thread starts here. (The London convention Nine Worlds announced in August that they are “beginning a process of reconstitution”.)

(4) HELLBOY TRAILER. In theaters April 12, 2019.

(5) UNALLOYED PLEASURE. Steve Carper revisits a comic that fascinated me as a kid in “Elementary, My Dear Metal Men” at Black Gate.

It’s 1962. You are Irwin Donenfeld, executive vice president for DC Comics, the 800-pound gorilla of superhero comics. You are riding high on the Silver Age of comics, having revived superhero comics from their near-death experience at the hands of Fredric Wertham, the New York District Attorney, and Congress itself. A dozen new versions of 1940s legends have poured from your offices since 1956 along with brand-new successes. The secret? Showcase, a comic invented purely to give tryouts to comic concepts and get the fans, the readers, the buyers to write in insisting that one or another of them be given their own titles. The Barry Allen Flash emerged from Showcase #4, The Challengers of the Unknown in #6, Lois Lane in #8, Green Lantern in #22, Aquaman in #30, the Atom in #34.

(6) WHAT HORROR WRITERS EAT. The “Winners of the 2018 Cookbook Contest” have been announced by the Horror Writers Association. They’ll publish the winning recipes and photos in their January newsletter.

1st Place

  • Owl Goingback – Indian Pumpkin Fry Bread

2nd Place – Tie

  • Dan Rabarts – Slow-Cooked Minotaur Shanks
  • Kelly Robinson – Blue Hubbard Squash Tarts & Cemetery Quiche

3rd Place – Tie

  • Frank Coffman – Hungry for man Goulish
  • Bruce Boston – WASP Pizza (with story)

(7) IN TRANSLATION. At Speculative Fiction in Translation, Rachel S. Cordasco is assembling a list of sff in translation due out in 2019.  See the spreadsheet for complete information [Google Docs].

(8) IT CAN GET WORSE. That’s Phoebe Wagner’s takeaway: “Microreview [Book] Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias”at Nerds of a Feather.

…Ten years ago when Ink first hit shelves, it would have been a difficult read. Now, the images of tattoos, GPS trackers, internment camps, border dumps are all too mainstream. Just like Twitter in the novel, these stories fill my timeline. This past weekend, a brief discussion popped up on my timeline regarding good speculative fiction: it’s not meant to predict the future but warn against a type of future…

(9) WHERE DID UNIONS GO IN SFF? Olav Rokne begins a short series about “Imagining the future of organized labour (part one of two)” at the Hugo Award Book Club.

At their peak in 1954, unions represented almost a third of workers in the United States, and it was easy to take their existence — and their action as a counterbalance to the power of capital — for granted. Even employees in non-union workplaces enjoyed gains because employers had to keep up with union shops to retain and recruit labour.

But despite their prevalence in society, labour unions were largely absent from science fictional narratives during the Golden Age, and their few portrayals in the genre are usually either comedic or antagonistic.

As labour activist and science fiction author Eric Flint pointed out atWorldCon76, the major contributors to the development of science fiction — from the dawn of the Golden Age of Science Fiction through this era of union organizing and stability — were largely drawn from academic circles or the upper middle class. Despite working for a living, these authors and editors did not see themselves as part of the proletariat, and thus based their narratives on assumptions that their privileged working relationships allowed them to hold.

(10) BOWDLERIZING HARLAN. Amazing Stories’ SF Trivia Context #3 poses this question:

True or False:

Harlan Ellison once stated that the “hideous neologism”…”SciFi”…“sounds like grasshoppers f***ing”.

I know the answer – though I’m curious about the attempt to clean up the quote.

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The late Penny Marshall was the first-ever guest star on The Simpsons.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 19, 1918 — Marylou Tousignant in the Washington Post notes that Robert Ripley started the comic strip that, re-named, became “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” in December 1918.
  • December 19, 1958 — The first known radio broadcast from outer space was transmitted when President Eisenhower’s recorded voice issued a holiday greeting for the whole world from the Atlas satellite which was launched the previous day.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 19, 1902 Sir Ralph Richardson. God in Time Bandits but also Earl of Greystoke in Greystoke:The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Chief Rabbit In Watership Down. Also the Head Librarian in Rollerball. And a caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And Satan in the Tales from the Crypt film. Oh my he had an interesting genre film career! (Died 1983.)
  • Born December 19, 1960 Dave Hutchinson, 58. Best known for his Fractured Europe series which consists of Europe in Autumn, Europe at Midnight, Europe in Winter and Europe at Dawn. Great reading! He’s got a lot of other genre fiction as well but I’ve not delved into that yet.
  • Born December 19, 1969 Kristy Swanson, 49. Her first starring genre film role was in Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend, but no doubt her best known genre role was as the original Buffy. She also shows up in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe PhantomNot Quite Human and The Black Hole. For the record, I like her version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! 
  • Born December 19, 1972 Alyssa Milano, 46. Phoebe Halliwell in the long running Charmed series. Other genre appearances include on Outer Limits, Fantasy Island, Embrace of the VampireDouble Dragon, the Young Justice animated series as the voice of Poison Ivy and more voice work in DC’s The Spectre, an excellent animated short.
  • Born December 19, 1975 Brandon Sanderson, 43.Best known for the Mistborn series . He is also known for finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time .OK I’m going to freely admit I’ve not read either of these series. Opinions please. 
  • Born December 19, 1979Robin Sloan, 39. Author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which definitely has fantasy elements in it  is a damn fine read. His second novel which he sent me to me consider reviewing,  Sourdough or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market, is also probably genre but is also weirdly about food as well. And he’s a really nice person as well. 
  • Born December 19, 1980 Jake Gyllenhaal, 38. First genre role was the lead in Donnie Darko. Later roles have included The Day After TomorrowPrince of Persia: The Sands of TimeSource Code and the forthcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home

(14) THE SOUND OF M.R. JAMES. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie recommends these Christmas short audio ghost stories from the BBC and M.R. James (grandmaster of horror). “They are only 14 minutes long and perfect to bring a delightful shiver to the festive season.  Yesterday’s was this one –“

“Casting the Runes” by the master of the ghost story, M.R. James. The tale of a curse passed on by a curiously inscribed slip of paper.

This story inspired the film Night of the Demon (1957). You can hear it online for the next 28 days.

(15) READING BY GASLIGHT.Did somebody hack JDA’s blog? There’s a new post, “On Bullying And ComicsGate” [Internet Archive ink], which begins —

One of my main principles is I’m anti-bullying…. 

(16) SAD PUPPY DNA. Gizmodo says “Don’t Take the DNA Test You’ll Probably Get for Christmas”.

… there’s no guarantee that the results you get back from a DNA-testing company are particularly meaningful or even accurate. Earlier this year, a company called Orig3n, which claims to offer fitness and lifestyle advice based on your genes, failed to note that a sample of submitted DNA actually came from a Labrador retriever.

(17) EXPLAINING THAT FLOPPEROO. Looper would be delighted to have you watch their video explaining why Mortal Engines tanked, although by the time you’ve read the “hook” you may already know all they have to say:

Mortal Engines was a massive flop at the box office. What was the reason that this potential series builder bombed so hard at the box office, really? There’s a lot to unpack with this movie – which potentially just killed a franchise. Despite a $100 million budget, and a marketing budget of more than $120 million, Mortal Engines pulled in a measly $7.5 million domestic in its opening weekend – only good enough for fifth place. What went wrong exactly? Well, we can start by looking at the marketing. Despite a lot of cash and ads, unless you were familiar with the 2001 Philip Reeve book (and books after), the idea of cities on wheels that roll around and gobble up smaller cities sounds… well… silly. The ads didn’t do a very good job explaining what exactly was going on. Another issue was the presentation: Is this a drama? An action movie? Is it a teen drama? If you went with teen drama for Mortal Engines you’d be correct, and we are at a time when teen/young adult dramas are flopping left and right; the timing was rather poor. Then Mortal Engines had the misfortune of opening against Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, and The Mule – which eliminated two major age groups from seeing it. Add in a surprise exclusive showing of Aquaman via Amazon Prime and holdovers like Ralph Breaks The Internet, it’s not a surprise at all that the city on wheels movie never got rolling.

(18) GENIE-US. ScienceFiction.com liberated Entertainment Weekly’s photo gallery so that you can “Get Your First Look At Will Smith And The Cast Of ‘Aladdin’”.

In May of next year, Will Smith is hoping to enchant audiences with his depiction of the Genie in the latest live action remake of a classic Disney animated film, ‘Aladdin’.  This project is directed by Guy Ritchie (‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’) and also stars Mena Massoud (‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan’) as Aladdin, Naomi Scott (‘Power Rangers’) as Princess Jasmine, and Marwan Kenzari (‘Murder on the Orient Express’) as the villainous Jafar, as well as Numan Acar, Billy Magnussen, Navid Negahban, and Nasim Pedrad.

To prepare you for your trip to Agrabah, Disney has released a series of first-look photos from the film…

(19) CLEAR ETHER. BBC assures everyone “Nasa’s New Horizons probe on course for historic flyby”.

The American space agency’s New Horizons probe remains on course for its daring flyby of Ultima Thule…

When the mission sweeps past the 30km wide object on New Year’s Day, it will be making the most distant ever visit to a Solar System body – at some 6.5 billion km from Earth.

Mission planners decided at the weekend to forego a possible trajectory change.

It means the probe will get to fly 3,500km from icy Ultima’s surface to take aseries of photos and other data.

There had been some concern that the object might be surrounded by large debris particles which could destroy the probe if it were to run into them. But nothing of the sort has been detected and so a wider, safer pass will not be needed.

(20) WHICH CAME FIRST? Maybe neither the chicken nor the egg – it may have been the feathers: “Pterosaurs: Fur flies over feathery fossils”.

Two exceptionally well preserved fossils give a new picture of the pterosaurs, the flying reptiles that lived at the time of the dinosaurs.

Scientists believe the creatures may have had feathers, and looked something like brown bats with fuzzy wings.

The surprise discovery suggests feathers evolved not in birds, nor dinosaurs, but in more distant times.

Pterosaurs were the closest relatives of dinosaurs, sharing a common ancestor about 250 million years ago.

“We would suggest – tentatively – that it would be worth considering that feathers originated much earlier than we thought,” Prof Mike Benton, from the University of Bristol, told BBC News.

(21) THE CONQUEROR BEFORE WILLIAM. “Hastings dinosaur footprints exposed by cliff erosion”. “Yes, technically the conqueror before William was Claudius,” admits Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link, “but he didn’t land at Hastings.”

Dozens of well-preserved dinosaur footprints from at least 100 million years ago have been uncovered in East Sussex.

At least seven different species were identified by University of Cambridge researchers during the past four winters following coastal erosion along the cliffs near Hastings.

They range in size from less than 2cm to more than 60cm across, and are so well-preserved that even the skin, scales and claws are easily visible.

There are more than 85 markings, all of which date from the early Cretaceous period.

(22) WHAT’S UP, DOCS? The American Chemical Society sent out a story about how “Rabbit gene helps house plant detoxify indoor air.”

A genetically modified houseplant can efficiently remove toxins from the air.

Our homes are supposed to be safe havens from the outside world. However, studies have shown that household air is more polluted than either office or school air, exposing children and home workers to higher levels of carcinogens than the general population. Now, researchers have made a genetically modified houseplant that can efficiently remove at least two toxins from the air. They report their results in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Indoor air often contains volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde, benzene and chloroform. These toxins come from many sources, including cooking, showering, furniture and smoking. House plants can remove some toxins from the air, but they aren’t very efficient: A homeowner would need more than 20 plants to remove formaldehyde from a typical room, researchers estimate. Stuart Strand and colleagues wondered if introducing a mammalian gene called CYP2E1 to a common houseplant, pothos ivy (Epipremnum aureum), would boost the plant’s detoxifying potential. his gene encodes cytochrome P450 2E1, an enzyme that breaks down a wide range of volatile organic compounds found in the home.

The team introduced rabbit CYP2E1 to the ivy’s genome and injected benzene or chloroform gas into closed vials that contained growing plants. After 3 days, the concentrations of these compounds in the vials had dropped dramatically, and by 8 days, chloroform was barely detectable. In contrast, the compounds’ concentrations in vials containing unmodified ivy or no plants did not change. The researchers estimate that a hypothetical biofilter made of the genetically modified plants would deliver clean air at rates comparable to commercial home particulate filters.

(23) MORE SEASONAL VERSE. Submitted by Anna Nimmhaus, inspired by item 14 in the December 17 Pixel Scroll. (Apologies for the formatting — I have not yet conquered the WordPress 5.0 update of a week ago.)

Pixel scroll, pixel scroll,

Pixels all the way.

Oh, what fun it is to rhyme

With Camestros today.

Scrolling pixels through

With Camestros today,

Internets we view,

Laughing all the way.

Trolls will fail to sting,

Making spirits bright.

Camestros and we shall sing

A scrolling song tonight.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/21/18 E.S. Means ‘Exemplia Scrolli’ And P.E. Means ‘Pixelus Est,’ Simple?

(1) BARGE INTO LUNCH. Scott Edelman invites listeners to binge on sushi with award-winning author Pat Cadigan in episode 77 of Eating the Fantastic.

The first of five meals recorded for my Eating the Fantastic podcast was a lunch with Pat Cadigan at Mizu Sushi Bar & Grill, which was a no-brainer when deciding where to host a writer who won the 2013 Hugo Award, as well as the Seiun Award, for her novelette “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi.”

She also won the Arthur C. Clarke Award twice—for her novels Synners (in 1992) and Fools (in 1995). She’s a major fan of professional wrestling, and I’m pleased that when I was editing Rampage magazine during the ’90s, she wrote many articles for me on that subject … when her duties as the reigning Queen of Cyperpunk didn’t interfere. She’s also written tie-in novels for Friday the 13th and Lost in Space, and forthcoming, the official movie novelization of Alita: Battle Angel. She also won a World Fantasy Award in 1981 for editing the magazine Shayol.

We discussed what it was like being Robert A. Heinlein’s liaison at the 1976 Kansas City Worldcon, why John Brunner hated her when they first met and what she did to eventually win him over, her secret childhood life as a member of The Beatles, what she and Isaac Asimov had in common when it came to convincing parents to accept science fiction, her original plan to grow up and script Legion of Super-Heroes comics, what she learned about writing from her 10 years at Hallmark Cards, how editor Shawna McCarthy helped birth her first novel, what effect being dubbed the Queen of Cyberpunk had on her career, who’s Thelma and who’s Louise in her Thelma and Louise relationship with editor Ellen Datlow, our joint friendships with Gardner Dozois, how she came up with her stories in the Wild Cards universe, and much more.

(2) TICKETS TO A FROGGY EVENING. Kermit the Frog has been cast in a local production of Lythgoe Family Panto’s The Wonderful Winter of Oz along with Marissa Jaret Winokur as Glinda. Winokur is known for her Tony-winning performance as Tracy Turnblad in the Broadway musical Hairspray.

(3) NINE WORLDS. Escape Artists’ Amy Brennan begins her “Convention Write Up: Nine Worlds 2018” by discussing accessibility issues, then does extensive coverage of the program:

…After this I was off the hook as it were and could fully relax – which was great because next on the p was Knightmare Live – a role playing game with improv actors and audience participation based on a kids show I grew up with.  It was hilarious and I could never do it justice (though I’m still going to try).

This was followed by Dr Magnet Hands run by the superb (and as described by Ian a Mad Genius when it comes to role playing games) Grant Howitt – plus panel including Helen Gould of the Rusty Quill Gaming podcast (It’s one of the best podcasted roleplaying games out there.  I highly, highly recommended it, not least because the party’s acronym is LOLOMG ) Dr Magnet Hands has a plan that the panel of heroes has to defeat.  The twist – they and their powers (and the villains they face on the way) are decided by little slips of paper the audience have filled in with random things.  Which is how one of the heroes was Grant Howitt and another was Grant Howitt’s arms, and one was the empire snake building.  It was fun, and silly, and just slightly alcohol fuelled.

(4) QUICK SIPS. Charles Payseur starts with a warning in “Quick Sips – Nightmare #72”

The September horror from Nightmare Magazine certainly lives up to the name, bringing two pieces that definitely lean toward the bloody and gruesome side of things, though in very different ways. The first takes splatter horror and runs with it, featuring hungry houses and the people who feed them. The second outweighs the first in terms of atrocities committed, though, if not perhaps on the grisly details. For it, though, the horror is more about how this kind of thing is normalized and even used as entertainment. And together they make for a rather unsettling, rather shocking, but very interesting issue of speculative horror. To the reviews!

(5) THE UNASSISTED WORD. Phil Plait tells the genesis of his “Science Speed Dating” program at SDCC in an article at SYFY Wire.

So I had the burgeoning field of exoplanetary science on my mind when I got a second invitation to SDCC: This time by my lgood friends at the Science and Entertainment Exchange, a group (a program of the National Academy of Sciences!) to work with the entertainment industry to get a better portrayal of science and scientists in venues like TV shows, movies, and games.

They were setting up an event called “Science Speed Dating”, which (despite its name) is a panel where a few scientists talk about something exciting going on in their field… but the kicker is they only have 5 minutes to do it, and they can’t use any visuals. So no graphics, nothing but their own voice and enthusiasm.

That sounded like a lot of fun, and I love the Exchange, so I agreed immediately. It turned out to be a good choice. I had a blast.

The event was live-streamed by Skybound Entertainment, and the folks involved were me, my pal and fellow astronomer Clifford V. Johnson, biochemist Jaime Marach, Google software engineer Anthony D. Mays, and economist Alison Sanchez, agricultural researcher Bobby Williams, with the whole thing moderated by Eric Heisserer, who wrote the screenplay for the wonderful movie Arrival….

 

(6) WOULD YOU LIKE TO OWN A FAMOUS BOOKSTORE? Terry Gilman and Maryelizabeth Yturralde of Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore told fans on their mailing list they are looking for new ownership for the San Diego store.

The key ingredients that will contribute to the success of a new owner are all in place: a loyal customer base, a dedicated, hard-working staff, the technological tools to remain current and relevant, and a beautiful environment that appeals to customers of all ages. We are also here to provide the new owner with the necessary resources to ensure a smooth transition.

We are looking for someone who is passionate about Mysterious Galaxy, who genuinely loves our community, and who understands what it takes to operate a retail business. The conversation begins with you. We know how much you care about Mysterious Galaxy, and perhaps you or someone you know – even a family member ready for a change of pace – would enjoy being the owner of our genre fiction stalwart.

…If you would like to learn more about the opportunity to become Mysterious Galaxy San Diego’s new owner, please contact Terry Gilman at terry@mystgalaxy.com.

(7) A HALF CENTURY OF DOONESBURY. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviewed Garry Trudeau for a piece on the 50th anniversary of Doonesbury“‘Big Satire is the least of Trump’s problems’: Garry Trudeau weighs in on how humor has taken on the president”.  Trudeau, who still does new strips on Sundays, explains his cartooning philosophy and discusses why he thinks Trump is much worse than Nixon.

One satiric tactic that Trudeau is finding particularly fruitful is the mimicry of President Trump’s tweets. Right-leaning “Doonesbury” correspondent Roland B. Hedley Jr. has his own Twitter account, and his Fox News-like takes on this administration become comic-strip fodder for the left-leaning Trudeau.

“Writing for Roland must be what it was like creating material for Colbert on his old show,” Trudeau says. “Every day is Opposite Day.”

“I like the challenge of trying to think like the White House,” he adds, “of finding a positive spin for words and actions that are basically indefensible — and doing it with only 280 characters is a kind of comedy haiku.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 21, 1937 — J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was published.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 21, 1866 – H.G. Wells. Writer with The Time Machine, a novella in 1895, being his first genre work. Way, way too many genre works to list here so I’ll single out The War of The WorldsThe Island of Doctor Moreau and The Invisible Man as works by him that influenced the genre in a very noticeable manner. He also wrote an impressive amount of short fiction and non-fiction as well.
  • Born September 21 – Stephen King, 71. On the grounds, y’all know more about him than I can recount here, I’ll tell some encounters regarding him. The first was in the early 80s outside his favorite breakfast spot which was opposite the Bangor Public Library. He was dressed in very worn jeans and an old t-shirt leaning up against the wall near the doorway, possibly waiting for Tabitha, with his face deep in a paperback book. No, I didn’t get close enough to see what the book was.My other memorable encounter was not with him but with the props for Pet Sematary which were shot at in part a location near Bangor, Maine. I knew the on-site EMTs and they got permission for me to tour the props area. What a chill that was as what is now digital was in the early 80s very much physical. And a dead cat mocked up is appallingly horrid!
  • Born September 21. Cassandra Rose Clarke, 35. Her contributions to The Witch Who Came in from the Cold, a serial fiction piece coauthored with Max Gladstone, Lindsay Smith, Ian Tregillis, and Michael Swanwick, are  superb. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, and her YA novel, The Assassin’s Curse, was nominated for Young Adult Library Services Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults.

(10) DESIGNING DISNEYLAND. Jessica Leigh Hester’s Atlas Obscura article “Creating Disneyland Was Like Building a Brand New City” is filled with diagrams – especially of the version of the park Disney originally proposed to build near his studio in Burbank. (News to me!)

The Disney theme parks are chock full of amusements, rides, and restaurants, but they’re also small cities that must contend with deliveries, trash, and a steady stream of both employees and visitors. No kingdom, however magic, is exempt from all sorts of pesky needs and demands. People need to be able to move from one place to another, they have to refuel, and, every so often, they’ll need to relieve themselves. Ideally, they’ll accomplish all of this efficiently, and without getting frustrated or dizzyingly lost.

To cater to these less-than-wondrous requirements, the parks are, in reality, self-contained marvels of metropolis-building. Disneyland Park in California has a reliable transit system—the first monorail in the Western Hemisphere, which debuted just as many cities were expressing their love of cars and traffic by laying down ribbons of highway. Walt Disney World Resort, in Florida, innovated with trash: Cans are spaced precisely 30 feet apart, and all of them empty via underground tubes so that family vacations aren’t interrupted by vehicles hauling sun-baked garbage juice.

None of this happened by accident. Long before the parks were magic, they were conceived as two-dimensional representations, or as miniatures. Like many city planners, Disney’s chief urban brainstormers and engineers first imagined the parks’ shapes, structures, and logistics, on a small scale….

(11) FANTASIA RELIC. A Walt Disney Signed Copy of ”Ave Maria” From ”Fantasia” is up for bidding at Nate Sanders Auctions until September 27.

Walt Disney signed copy of ”Ave Maria”, the ”interpretation from Walt Disney’s ‘Fantasia”’. Disney signs in blue crayon on the front free endpaper, ”To Mrs Geo Williams with my best wishes – Walt Disney”. Printed by Random House, with a 1940 copyright by Walt Disney Productions, book is a beautiful presentation of ”Ave Maria”, with gilt accents throughout, paired with iridescent color pictures from ”Fantasia”. Sheet music appears in back, along with pictorial endpapers.

(12) JDA’S WORLDCON SUIT. Jon Del Arroz’ lawsuit against Worldcon 76 has at last been successfully transferred to the Santa Clara Superior Court. The new venue shows a case record for “Jonathan Del Arroz vs. San Francisco Conventions, Inc. et al.”, Case Number: 18CV334547 dated September 14.

Del Arroz originally filed the suit in San Joaquin County in April, and the parties agreed to transfer it to Santa Clara in June, but that ran into problems which have only recently been worked out.

Santa Clara’s case record shows 18 co-defendants – however, other court records give reason to believe only one defendant – the corporation – was timely served.

Here is Rick Moen’s breakdown of the latest online entries in the case:

The Events and Hearing section (of chronological case events) begins on Sept. 11, 2018 with the court formally accepting transfer from San Joaquin County, then it notes bulk scan of case documents from the period April 16 – July 3rd, doubtless from San Joaquin County. Then it says a/o Sept. 14th ‘Notice of Transfer’ (the date the new case record got opened). Last, the only real news: The new case management conference is shown as scheduled for Tuesday, December 18th, at 3:45 pm.

‘Judicial Officer’ is listed as ‘Strickland, Elizabeth’. Ms. Strickland shows in public records as the court civil division’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Officer, which is of course a primary focus of a case management conference, e.g., seeing if the parties are amenable to mediation, arbitration, or a settlement conference.

(13) GALACTIC JOURNEY. Rosemary Benton’s enthusiasm for The Haunting makes it sound well-worth a visit to 1963: “[September 21, 1963] Old Horror and Modern Women (Robert Wise’s The Haunting)”.

…When I read that there was to be a film adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House I was over the moon. In this time of character driven thrillers blasting onto the silver screen thanks to Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles, I was excited yet apprehensive to have one of my favorite author’s books translated into a film script. Upon learning that the talent of Robert Wise, director of The Day the Earth Stood Still and West Side Story, was going to be attached to the project I felt I could rest easy. Now that I have seen the end result I confidently predict that this movie will be remembered for the horror genre treasure that it is! Simply put, Robert Wise’s The Haunting pays homage to its predecessors of gothic horror, yet breaks new ground in what has been an increasingly campy genre….

(14) SHORT WAVERS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] OK, so if you’re not a football fan you may not be familiar with holding up pictographic play cards on the sideline as a way to communicate play calls to your team without giving them away to the opposing team. Just trust me, it’s a thing.

In the Temple University (Owls) football game against the University of Tulsa (Golden Hurricane) on Thursday 20 September, Temple introduced a new wrinkle to this. Stormtroopers. (Yahoo Sports: “Temple used Stormtroopers to hold up play cards on sideline”)

Or, at least it looked like that’s what they were doing. Whatever they were doing, it must have worked. The Owls survived the Golden Hurricane to take a 31-17 win versus a pre-game betting spread of about 7 points.

(15) ROVER ISSUES. NASA’s solar powered Opportunity rover is still out of contact with Earth after the recent global Mars dust storm. Now the nuclear powered Curiosity rover is having a less serious issue. Stored data is not being sent, though live data is coming through (NASA blog: “NASA Mars Rover Curiosity: Mission Updates – Sols 2175-2176: Tell Us More, We Want to Help!”).

Over the past few days, engineers here at JPL have been working to address an issue on Curiosity that is preventing it from sending much of the science and engineering data stored in its memory. The rover remains in its normal mode and is otherwise healthy and responsive.

The issue first appeared Saturday night while Curiosity was running through the weekend plan. Besides transmitting data recorded in its memory, the rover can transmit “real-time” data when it links to a relay orbiter or Deep Space Network antenna. These real-time data are transmitting normally, and include various details about the rover’s status. Engineers are expanding the details the rover transmits in these real-time data to better diagnose the issue. Because the amount of data coming down is limited, it might take some time for the engineering team to diagnose the problem.

On Monday and Tuesday, engineers discussed which real-time details would be the most useful to have. They also commanded the rover to turn off science instruments that were still on, since their data are not being stored. They’re also preparing to use the rover’s backup computer in case they need to use it to diagnose the primary computer. That backup computer was the rover’s primary one until Sol 200, when it experienced both a hardware failure and software issue that have since been addressed.

While the engineers work to understand the problem, Curiosity’s science team is using the time to pore over data gathered on Vera Rubin Ridge and come up with the best location for another drilling attempt. We’re looking at any clues that tell us the rocks are weaker and better for drilling. As the JPL-based project scientist, I really enjoy watching our scientists from all over the world take on these challenges. And, I also get to witness the brainpower that JPL brings to bear when the rover has a technical issue. We’re rooting for the engineering team 100%!

This blog may be less frequent until science operations resume

(16) SAD SCIENCE. NPR reports on the reason behind the recent closure of the Sunspot Solar Observatory (“Shutdown Of New Mexico Observatory Was Part Of Investigation Into Child Pornography”).

Officials have explained the mysterious closure of a New Mexico observatory earlier this month, saying they were investigating one of the facility’s janitors for possession and distribution of child pornography.

The Sunspot Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak was shut for 11 days for “a security issue,” and its closure drew cheeky speculation that authorities were investigating the presence of UFOs.

According to unsealed federal court documents, the FBI was examining the observatory – but not for the presence of aliens. In an affidavit, an FBI agent wrote that she was looking at the “activities of an individual who was utilizing the wireless internet service of the National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico, to download and distribute child pornography.”

(17) TOO WOUND UP. Scott Tobias concludes “‘The House With A Clock In Its Walls’ Is An Eyesore” in an NPR review.

…The new film adaptation, written by Supernatural creator Eric Kripke and directed by Eli Roth, the horror-provocateur responsible for Cabin Fever and Hostel, doesn’t have the patience for such grace notes. They’ve retrofitted Bellairs’ book for the age of Harry Potter and Goosebumps, turning the house on High Street into a Hogwarts satellite where magic infuses every object and floorboard, and the CGI pops like the spring-loaded spooks at a carnival funhouse. Roth’s instinct for horror maximalism is precisely the wrong approach to the material, which doesn’t accommodate that much visual noise….

(The Boston Globe was more generous, giving 2.5/4 stars.)

(18) TIMELORD ANTICIPATION. Watch Mojo has screened the trailers and picked these as the Top 10 Things To Look Forward To In Doctor Who Series 11

(19) TRAILER PARK. At First Light will be in theaters and available on demand on September 28.

Sean (Théodore Pellerin) and Alex (Stefanie Scott, Insidious: The Last Key) go on the run after Alex has a close encounter with mysterious orbs of light that leave her with extraordinary powers. As they flee from their families, the police and a covert government agency, Alex and Sean find themselves at the center of an unprecedented event in human history. First contact. As her powers grow stronger and more dangerous, Sean must decide whether staying with Alex and discovering the truth behind her transformation is worth dying for. Directed by Jason Stone (The Calling), the film also stars, Kate Burton (“Scandal”), Saïd Taghmaoui (Wonder Woman), and Percy Hynes White.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/12/18 Let My Pixels Go

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

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

Why is this happening, and why now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 1: Victoria to Port Angeles

The trip began with a 4 AM call.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

A new study has compared different primate species’ brains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

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

(9) THE ICING ON THE CAKE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

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

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

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

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

(15) SAVED. Much truth in this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/24/17 Look Upon My Scrolls, Ye Mighty, And Despair

(1) BANNED IN SAN DIEGO. United Airlines told people leaving San Diego after Comic-Con that TSA had banned comic books from checked luggage, but was permitting them in carry-ons.

Le Chic Geek’s Jeanne Marie Hoffman spread the story: “TSA Bans Comic Books in Checked Luggage for Comic-Con”.

The TSA banned comic books from checked luggage for flights leaving San Diego after Comic-Con.

This is problematic in a few ways.  First, attendees tend to purchase rare comic books that they are trying to keep in pristine shape.  Yes, you can do with when you have a few comic books in your carry on–but remember, this is a convention.

People aren’t flying out to San Diego to purchase *one* comic book.

Second, while large vendors enter into freight shipping contracts, small vendors rely on their checked bags to get their wares to and from the convention.

TSA tweeted a denial saying no, they’re not banning comic books (so why did United?)

TSA also addressed it in a blog post, “Let’s Close the Book on Book Screening Rumors”, which confusing gives an “answer” talks about carry-ons, not checked bags. So the whole thing remains as clear as mud.

Do you have to remove books from your carry-on bags prior to sending your bag through the X-ray?

Short answer: No

Longer answer (but still pretty short): You know us… We’re always testing procedures to help stay ahead of our adversaries. We were testing the removal of books at two airport locations and the testing ran its course. We’re no longer testing and have no intentions of instituting those procedures.

So, with that out of the way, you might be wondering why we were interested in books. Well, our adversaries seem to know every trick in the book when it comes to concealing dangerous items, and books have been used in the past to conceal prohibited items. We weren’t judging your books by their covers, just making sure nothing dangerous was inside.

Occasionally, our officers may recommend passengers remove items such as heavy, glossy programs during a special event with a lot of travelers such as Super Bowl programs.

(2) ROOM FOR MORE. GoFundMe for Dwain Kaiser’s widow, Joanne, is now up to $17,979, far above $10,000 goal. You can still contribute.

(3) BEGINNING WHO. Nicholas Whyte suggests there are as many doors into the series as there are Doctors: “Doctor Who: advice for someone who hasn’t seen it yet”.

Dear Chris, You asked me:

Friend in US wants to start watching Dr Who now there is a female doctor. Which are the seminal episodes she should watch in advance? Is there one episode per season she should watch?

Unless your friend is already a big fan of sf shows from the last century, she should probably start with New Who, meaning the 2005 reboot with Christopher Eccleston. One sometimes needs to be forgiving of the production values of Old Who, and it may not be right to demand that tolerance of a newbie. For what it’s worth, I answered a similar question about the first eight Doctors here many years ago; and a couple of years later I polled my blog readers on their favourite stories from the first ten Doctors here (and also on their least favourite stories here). But for now, we’re looking at New Who.

(4) DESTROYING SF AGAIN. Thirty-one days remain in the Kickstarter “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction / Uncanny Magazine” — seeking funding for an Uncanny Magazine special double issue: Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction and Uncanny Magazine Year Four. At this writing it’s achieved $8,402 of its $20,000 goal.

(5) BY COINCIDENCE. New York’s Museum of Modern Art is running an exhibit “Future Imperfect: The Uncanny in Science Fiction” from July 17–August 31.

Imagine a science-fiction film series with no space travel, no alien invasions or monsters, and no visions of the distant future. Imagine instead a dazzling array of science-fiction films that focus on alternate visions of Earth in the present or very near future. Science fiction, at least in the movies, essentially boils down to two questions: Are “they” coming to kill us or to save us? And, what does it mean to be human? Presented in association with the Berlinale and the Deutsche Kinemathek-Museum für Film und Fernsehen, this exhibition of more than 40 science-fiction films from all over the world — the United States, the Soviet Union, China, India, Cameroon, Mexico and beyond — explores the second question: our humanity in all its miraculous, uncanny, and perhaps ultimately unknowable aspects. Since the dawn of cinema, filmmakers as diverse as Kathryn Bigelow, Kinji Fukasaku, Rikwit Ghatak, Jean-Luc Godard, Georges Méliès, Michael Snow, Alexander Sokurov, and Steven Spielberg have explored ideas of memory and consciousness; thought, sensation, and desire; self and other; nature and nurture; time and space; and love and death. Their films, lying at the nexus of art, philosophy, and science, occupy a twilight zone bounded only by the imagination, where “humanness” remains an enchanting enigma. Guest presenters include John Sayles, Michael Almereyda, Larry Fessenden, Lynn Hershman Leeson, and more.

Organized by Joshua Siegel, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

(6) TWEET BRAWL. Looks like Wilson Cruz is getting some pushback on his Star Trek: Discovery character, but he’s giving as good as he gets. Use this tweet to beam up to where the discussion is happening:

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Could you have named them? The founding members of Marvel Comics’ super-hero team the Avengers were: Iron Man, the Hulk, Ant-Man, The Wasp and Thor.

(8) STEINBERG OBIT. Marvel legend Florence Steinberg (1939-2017) died July 23. Heidi MacDonald paid tribute at ComicsBeat.

Florence “Fabulous Flo” Steinberg, an iconic member of the original Marvel Bullpen, has passed away, age unknown but truly ageless.

Flo was the sole Marvel staffer besides Stan Lee himself in the early Marvel Comics of the 60s. She can be heard on this immortal Merry Marvel Marching Society record starring Stan, Jack Kirby and Flo in her inimitable Boston/Queens accent.

 

At Marvel, Flo was the true Gal Friday, helping with every aspect of getting books out the door. She left in 1968 but didn’t leave publishing: in 1975 she published Big Apple Comix, an early indie comic that included “mainstream” comics creators doing more personal stories.  As great as Stan and Jack were, they never launched out entirely on their own as publishers, as Flo did.

(9) BENNETT OBIT. Tolkien fan Joanne Bennett died July 14. She started the Crickhollow branch of the Mythopoeic Society some 40 years ago, covering the Reno-Sparks- Carson City area. Here is an excerpt from the family obituary.

Many of the students who most enjoyed her classes and teaching also were members of Wooster’s Tolkien Society, which she founded in the late 1960s upon discovering and becoming captivated by the Middle Earth fantasy world that J.R.R. Tolkien created in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Many of those students became her lifelong dear friends as she and they continued their relationships and discussions even up until the last days of her life in a group called Crickhollow and through ongoing individual relationships with other former students.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 24, 1948 — Debut of Marvin the Martian in Bugs Bunny’s Haredevil Hare

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SUPERHERO

  • July 24, 1951 — Lynda Carter

(12) COMIC SECTION. Not recommended for the theologically sensitive, the webcomic Meanwhile In Heaven purports to show the Big Guy in all of his infinite wisdom.  There’s a recent arc where God has decided to redecorate using a Star Trek theme. We find out there are some things that Leonard Nimoy won’t do. And the story continues in “Captain’s Log”.

(13) PREDICTING MAGIC. Lois McMaster Bujold tells folks on Goodreads another Penric novella is on the way.

I am pleased to report that I have finished the first draft of a new Penric & Desdemona novella. (For that peculiar value of “finished” that means, “still dinking till it’s pulled from the writer’s twitchy hands.”) Title will be “Penric’s Fox” Length, at this moment, is around 37,400 words. It is more-or-less a sequel to “Penric and the Shaman”, taking place about eight or nine months after that story. Final editing and formatting, arranging for cover art to send it out into the world nicely dressed, etc., will take some unknown amount of time and eyeball-endurance, but e-pub will likely happen in August.

(14) RECOMMENDED BADNESS. Marshall Ryan Maresca tells about his love for “KRULL: A Bad Movie I’ve Watched Many, Many, MANY Times”

As I’ve said before, there’s something to admire about a movie that points to the fences and swings with everything that it has.  Because Krull is just that movie.  It really wants to be the epic fantasy movie– it wanted to be the movie that did for epic fantasy what Star Wars was for space opera.   And by god, it throws everything it can think of up on the screen to become that, and more.  I mean, it’s not just an epic fantasy movie.  It’s an epic fantasy movie that’s hiding inside a full-on sci-fi space-opera, like a Russian nesting doll.  On top of that, it’s got prologue and epilogue voice-over to let you know that this is just the tip of the iceberg of the total amount of story here.  Yes, it was laying the groundwork for sequels and prequels and all sorts of things that were never meant to be.

(15) NINE WORLDS. London’s Nine Worlds con (August 4-6) has posted its program schedule. There are a lot of good, thoughtful items, and at least three I can say I haven’t seen at any con I’ve attended:

(16) ART LESSON. Nikola at Thoughts on Fantasy teaches us “How to Make a Clichéd High Fantasy Cover”.

I’ve encountered a few covers that take it a bit far, but I thought it’d be amusing to go even further, and have a bit of fun with the tropes of my favourite genre… so here is my recipe for a no-holds-barred, all-boxes-ticked, epic high fantasy book cover (accompanied by examples from the most clichéd design I can muster). I’m no graphic designer, but I imagine that will add a nice level of unprofessional shine to my examples.

  1. Fantasy Landscape

It’s a good idea to start your cover with a moody fantasy setting. This can be any of the following:

  • medieval cityscape
  • castle or tower
  • craggy mountains
  • dark forest + looming trees
  • rough sea + sailing ship

If you want to go full-fantasy cliché, try to include as many of the above as possible, just to be sure you cover all your bases.

Her recipe has 12 ingredients altogether.

(17) SFF TREND ON JEOPARDY! Tom Galloway keeps a close eye on these things:

OK, some current Jeopardy! writer is definitely an sf fan and is having fun with categories. A few weeks ago we had the adjacent “Shaka” and “When the Walls Fell” categories in Double J!.

Last Tuesday, July 18th, the last two Double J! categories were “The Name of the Wind” and “The Wise Man’s Fear”, the titles of Patrick Rothfuss’ first two books in his trilogy. As with the Trek named categories, no clues related to Rothfuss, although the $2000 in Fear was about Dune.

(18) NO RELATION. We know some fans’ names are not so uncommon that there couldn’t be others running around with the same name. That doesn’t seem to make it any less surprising.

Steven H Silver writes:

On my recent trip to Europe, Elaine and I stopped in Bath.  While there, I spotted this ice cream shop, which, despite its name, is not owned by a Hugo Award winning fan artist.

And Paul DiFilippo recently posted a picture of a product called Malcolm Edwards Beer Shampoo.

(19) WHEN THE ‘W’ IN WTF STANDS FOR WHO. Here is a bit of a whoot about last week’s announcement of the new Doctor Who, which came at the end of the Wimbledon men’s singles finals.

Legions of Doctor Who fans caught several minutes of televised sport, many for the first time, this evening.

In their haste to learn who the new Doctor will be, tens of thousands of fans were confused by the spectacle of a man running when he wasn’t being chased by an Ice Warrior.

The BBC was inundated with complaints from viewers who saw David Tennant in the Wimbledon crowd and believed it to be some sort of spoiler, or who thought that shots of someone chasing a ball were footage of some kind of ground level Quidditch match and started cheering before they realised their error.

“The people dressed in white chasing about weren’t even the robots from Krikket, which was an unused Douglas Adams script,” avid Whovian Simon Williams told us.

(20) EYE OF THE STORM. Marcus Errico of Yahoo! Movies, in “First CAPTAIN MARVEL Concept Art Shows Brie Larson in Her Supersuit”, says at Comic-Con Brie Larson was busily promoting the Captain Marvel movie coming from Marvel Studios next year.  It’s set in the 1990s, has the Skrulls in it, and has Nick Fury with two eyes with a possible explanation as to how he ended up losing one eye.

(21) FROM THE ARCHIVES. Paul DiFilippo thinks he has found a never-reprinted Arthur C. Clarke short story, and Bonestell illustration in a 1962 issue of The Elks Magazine. He has scanned the pages and posted them at The Inferior 4 blog.

(22) COMMEMORATIVE DRINKS. Andrew Porter learned that the building where Gollancz published is now a trendy hotel.

Gollancz was located in London’s Covent Garden, at 14 Henrietta Street, from 1928 until the early 1990s. The new hotel, with only 18 bedrooms, is at 14 and 15. The drinks menu references Gollancz’s past, as publisher of Arthur C. Clarke, Kingsley Amis, George Orwell and others, with drinks named “Down and Out,” “Lucky Jim,” “Fall of Moondust,” “Sirens of Titan,” and “Cat’s Cradle.”

For a history of the company, see the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s ”Gollancz” entry.

(23) DRINK UP. The Verge tells you where to find it — “The Moon has more water than we thought”.

The Moon has more water than previously thought, and it’s deep below the lunar surface. A new study suggests that water is widespread beyond the poles, where it was already known to exist, although scientists don’t know exactly how much water is there. The discovery has consequences for future missions to the Moon.

Scientists analyzed lunar rock samples that contain tiny, water-trapping beads of glass; these beads formed when magma erupted from the Moon’s interior billions of years ago, trapping water inside them. The scientists then looked at satellite data collected by an Indian lunar orbiter to check where these water-trapping glass beads are. The results, published today in Nature Geoscience, show that there are widespread “hot spots” of water-rich volcanic material beyond the Moon’s poles.

(24) WESTEROS IS COMING. George R.R. Martin updated fans through his Livejournal on the status of the unfinished Winds of Winter:

I am still working on it, I am still months away (how many? good question), I still have good days and bad days, and that’s all I care to say.

Another project, the first of a two-volume collection of fake histories of the Targaryen kings called Fire and Blood, is “likely” for publication in late 2018 or 2019.

Whether WINDS or the first volume of Fire and Blood will be the first to hit the bookstores is hard to say at this juncture, but I do think you will have a Westeros book from me in 2018… and who knows, maybe two.

Meantime Gardner Dozois’ new anthology, The Book of Swords, has been scheduled for release on October 10, and is now available for pre-order from Amazon. As Martin notes —

And of course it also includes “Sons of the Dragon,” a chronicle of the reigns of Aegon the Conquerer’s two sons, Aenys I Targaryen and Maegor the Cruel, for those who cannot get enough of my entirely fake histories of Westeros. That one has never been published before in any form, though I did read it at a couple of cons.

(25) FIFTH FIFTH. Not to be missed — these comments in File 770 today:

[Thanks to JJ, ULTRAGOTHA, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Dann Todd, Harold Osler, Alan Baumler, Tom Galloway, Moshe Feder, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]