Pixel Scroll 12/6/19 Sometimes Ups Outnumber The Downs, But Not In Pixlingsham

(1) THREE AI’S AND A BABY. Carolyn Giardina’s story in The Hollywood Reporter, “Why Jon Favreau Chose Baby Yoda: ‘”We Don’t Know a Lot of Details About His Species’”, is a lengthy interview with Favreau, where he talks about all his projects, including his cooking show, his direction of The Lion King, and of course, why he created Baby Yoda.

Let’s start with your virtual production process for The Mandalorian. How did it grow out of work that you did for The Lion King?

In The Lion King, we built a tool set, basically a “multiplayer VR filmmaking game,” using the Unity game engine. We built a bunch of tools working with [lead VFX house] MPC and [tech developer] Magnopus and Unity, and we developed a way by which you could actually create environments and set up cameras and shots within VR. In The Mandalorian, we used a lot of the same tools to plan the entire production, working with the Unreal engine [from Epic Games]. But Lion King was a much different production because there was no actual photography. For Mandalorian, we take that cut, and instead of going right to animation and render like we did on Lion King, we build sets and a digital environment that we project onto a video wall. We partnered with Unreal and [VFX house] ILM and put together this system for The Mandalorian. All the people that we worked with then took that technology, and they’re doing their versions of it. They’re all slightly different, but basically we did research and development for The Mandalorian, and now everybody is building on the innovation that we collectively did and making that available to other people who might be curious about this process as well.

(2) CONTINUED NOBEL BLOWBACK. [Item by Karl-Johan Norén.] Member of the Swedish Academy and former permanent secretary Peter Englund will not participate in any of the Nobel festivities or activities this week, due to the 2019 Nobel Prize in literature being awarded to Peter Handke. He writes on Instagram (my translation):

As previously reported I will not participate in this year’s Nobel Week. To celebrate Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize would be deeply hypocritical from my part. Can add that this will not be a surprise for my friends and colleagues in the Academy. Also I will be present in the usual way at the Academy’s celebratory meeting on December 20. The white tie will rest until then.

The image used is of the Stockholm City Hall, where the Nobel Prize banquet is traditionally held.

Peter Englund is a historian, and during the Yugoslavian Civil War he made several trips to the country as a journalist. He is without a doubt the member of the Swedish Academy with the strongest relation to and knowledge of the Yugoslavian Civil War and its consequences.

(3) MORE FUNDS NEEDED FOR ROBYN SURGERY. Amazing Stories has reblogged Shahid Mahmud’s announcement of a new fundraising goal: “Arc Manor Sets Up Go Fund Me for Lezli Robyn”.

Many of you know that Arc Manor is, essentially, a two-person company: Myself and Lezli Robyn. Some of you are also aware that we had a GoFundMe for a couple of years ago for treating her eyes–for Keratoconus, a rare disease that effectively leads to blindness by causing blurriness and multiple images.

…Unfortunately, Lezli’s other illnesses intervened and she had to postpone her eye surgery twice (the second time needing to be in another country for urgent abdominal surgery). She was misdiagnosed for about two years (until very recently) for her hyperthyroid condition, which led her to have a Thyroid Storm. At the point of her diagnosis, she was in the hospital in a touch-and-go situation with her life.

Since her diagnosis, she has been put on the right meds (she may need an additional surgery, but the meds may be sufficient) and has recovered significantly. However, one side effect of her untreated condition has been a significant worsening of her eye-sight. She was legally blind even before this, but now it is gotten to the point where she has needed to get a blind cane. She now sees 40 duplications, instead of the original 7.

In an update by Lezli on the “Help Lezli See (Eye Surgery)” GoFundMe page, she supplies a lot more diagnostic detail following this introduction —

Shahid, his wife, and other close friends have been arguing that I need to raise the level on my fundraiser so it can also cover the procedure to CORRECT my eye condition as well as HALT my Keratoconus (giving me normal eyesight again!). People are very confronted by how bad my eyesight is now—especially after seeing me get around in person. I can no longer hide it and they say it’s not a matter of wanting to get it done, but NEEDING to get it done, because they argue my quality of life is severely compromised. I have also had to be honest and let my boss (also Shahid) know what I cannot do for work now, because I literally cannot see well enough to do certain publishing tasks.

Her delayed eye surgery is now scheduled for March 2020, and for reasons explained in these two posts, more funds are needed,

(4) ANOTHER KIND OF TUBE MAP. Abigail Nussbaum delivers an extended critique of some new shows in “Notes From the Streamapocalypse “ at Asking the Wrong Questions.

Until last month, 2019 felt like a year in which popular culture was winding itself down.  What seems like an abnormal number of shows, including juggernauts like Game of Thrones, wrapped up their stories, while others were cancelled.  Collaborations like the Netflix MCU were brought to an abrupt end.  Everywhere there was a feeling of holding one’s breath, clearing the decks in preparation for the coming onslaught.  And then, a few weeks ago, that deluge arrived with the launch of Apple TV+ and Disney+, two new streaming platforms seeking to directly challenge Netflix and Amazon for primacy in a field that already feels hopelessly crowded and balkanized.  Scripted TV is only one front in that fight (Disney+, for example, can afford to launch with only one original scripted series because it has such an enormous back-catalog to boast of, whereas Apple+ is scrambling to measure up with four new scripted series, and more to come).  But it’s the one I find most interesting.  Overall, my verdict is that all of these shows are ambitious, and a few are interesting, but none of them are truly great (and all suffer from the besetting flaw of streaming TV, of working better at a binge, which obscures annoying tics and makes the plot seem to flow better, than in weekly installments).  If this is the future of television, my reaction to it is decidedly qualified, with a few sprinklings of hope.

(5) NOT QUITE IN THE BEGINNING. James Davis Nicoll advises against “Creating Gods Through Science and Magic” – and illustrates his warning with characters from well-known sff works.

To (mis)quote Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, “I looked and looked but I didn’t see God.” Humans are cunning little monkeys, though, so even if at present we assume there are no gods as such, it’s within the realm of possibility that we might someday build something (or somethings) functionally equivalent to gods.

We could even turn ourselves into gods (via tech assist or magic). Would this be an unmixed blessing? Um, not really. We already know that humans can be monumental dicks; deified humans could be just as nasty….

(6) HELP WANTED. There is an opening for a new Jay Kay Klein and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction at UC Riverside. Full requirements at the link: Assistant Librarian – Associate Librarian – Librarian – Potential Career

THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, RIVERSIDE


Position Title:


Rank and Salary Scale
Assistant Librarian/Associate Librarian/Librarian – Potential Career $61,201 – $82, 045

The Jay Kay Klein and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction is responsible for the development, stewardship, and promotion of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy and associated collections of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other forms of speculative fiction housed in the University of California, Riverside Library’s Special Collections & University Archives Department….

(7) SKYWALKER TRIGGER WARNING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This may not be the type of trigger warning you were expecting… The Hollywood Reporter: “’Star Wars’: Disney Warns of Flashing Lights, Seizure Concerns for ‘Rise of Skywalker’”.

Disney has issued an uncommon warning to cinema owners around the globe asking them to notify customers that certain visuals and sustained flashing lights sequences in J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker could affect those with photosensitive epilepsy.

The studio has also notified the Epilepsy Foundation, which posted a similar advisory Friday morning, saying it was working in concert with Disney to provide information to its constituents.

[Disney’s letter to exhibitors stated,] “Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that you provide at your venue box office and online, and at other appropriate places where your customers will see it, a notice containing the following information: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker contains several sequences with imagery and sustained flashing lights that may affect those who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy or have other photosensitivities.” […]

(8) WALKER OBIT. Robert Walker Jr., who played Charlie X on Star Trek, died today in Malibu: “Robert Walker Jr., ‘Star Trek’ Actor and Son of Hollywood Superstars, Dies at 79”.

…On the second aired episode of Star Trek, “Charlie X,” the slender, blue-eyed Walker portrayed Charles “Charlie” Evans, the sole survivor of a transport-ship crash who possesses strange powers. Walker was actually 26 when he played the 17-year-old Charlie during filming in 1966.

He starred in Jack Lemmon’s role as the title character in Ensign Pulver (1964), a sequel to the 1955 classic comedy Mister Roberts, and portrayed a kid sharpshooter opposite Robert Mitchum in Young Billy Young (1969).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 6, 1991 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country premiered. It will be the last film with the entire cast of the original series. Screenplay by Nicholas Meyer, who also directed as he did previously with the Wrath of Khan film. It was a very spectacular financial success and bless them the critics treated it very well. Currently it scores in the low eighties among critics and viewers alike at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 6, 1893 Sylvia Townsend Warner. Do yourself a favor and look up a bio of her as she’s a fascinating person. This site  is a good place to do so. Her first novel, Lolly Willowes or, The Loving Huntsman, is definitely genre. ISFDB lists four genre collections by her. Kingdoms of Elfin is available on Kindle, Lolly Willowes is available everywhere. (Died 1973.)
  • Born December 6, 1900 Agnes Moorehead. I’m assuming that the statute of limitations for spoilers has long passed on this particular show. I’m referring to the Twilight Zone episode “The Invaders” in which she never spoke a word as she fought off the tiny Invaders, human astronauts, and she a giant alien. Written especially for her by Richard Matheson. (Died 1974.)
  • Born December 6, 1918 William P. McGivern. Once in a while, I run across an author I’ve never heard of. So it is with McGivern. He was a prolific writer of SFF stories for twenty years starting from the early Forties. ISFDB only lists one genre novel by him, The Seeing, that he wrote with his wife Maureen McGivern. The digital has been good for him with both Apple Books and Kindle having pretty much everything by him that he did except the long out of print The Seeing. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 6, 1941 Wende Wagner. She is no doubt best remembered as Lenore Case on the Green Hornet series. Other genre roles include being Rosemary’s Girl Friend in Rosemary’s Baby, and Sandra Welles in Destination Inner Space, a horror film drawing the not coveted 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 6, 1941 Leon Russom, 78. He portrayed Admiral Toddman In Deep Space Nine‘s “The Die is Cast” episode and the Starfleet Chief in Command in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He’s had one offs in the classic Mission Impossible, Strange World, X-Files, Jericho and Paranormal Burbank.
  • Born December 6, 1957 Arabella Weir, 62. A performer with two Who appearences, the first being as Billis in “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, a superb Eleventh Doctor story, before being The Doctor Herself in “Exile”, a Big Audio production. She’s had one-offs on genre and genre adjacent series such as Shades of Darkness, Genie in the House, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Midsomer Murders.
  • Born December 6, 1962 Colin Salmon, 57. Definitely best known for his role as Charles Robinson in the Bond films Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. He played Dr. Moon in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, Tenth Doctor stories. He has, alas, been in some clunkers, Mortal Engines certainly come to mind.
  • Born December 6, 1969 Torri Higginson, 50. I had forgotten that she had a role in the TekWar movies and series as Beth Kittridge. I like that series a lot. Of course, she portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Weir in Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. Her most recent genre role was as Dr. Michelle Kessler in Inhuman Condition, where she plays a therapist who focuses on supernatural patients.

(11) MAZE RUINERS. “Researchers Release Teeny Little Minotaur Into Maze To Test Mice’s Capacity To Use Enchanted String”The Onion covers this scientific breakthrough…

In an effort to study the rodents’ ability to manipulate simple magical objects, researchers at the University of Chicago reportedly released a teeny little minotaur into a maze Thursday to test mice’s capacity to use enchanted string….

(12) HARLEY QUINN. You had to be there… “Colorful New ‘Birds of Prey’ Footage Unveiled for Fans in Brazil”.

Fans of Harley Quinn got a new look at the movie Thursday at Comic Con Experience, the Brazilian convention in São Paulo, where Margot Robbie and the cast of next year’s Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) debuted all-new footage, including the opening sequence of the movie itself.

Two convention-only clips were screened for the audience, including a new trailer that focused more on Black Canary and Huntress than the first — as Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) put it, Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has “anger issues,” despite her shouted assertions to the contrary, while Canary herself has a broken heart and feels empathy for a Harley who’s learning to be alone after the Joker dumped her. Don’t worry; there was also plenty of explosions, and Harley’s two beloved hyenas, Wayne and Bruce. (Just wait a second, it’ll come to you.)

(13) STAR CORK. Bleeding Cool’s Gavin Sheehan liked the bottle even more than the wine: “Review: Star Trek United Federation Of Planets Old Vine Zinfandel”.

…So first and foremost, this bottle is a work of art unto itself. Rarely do I ever have wine in a square container such as this, but it’s a standard 750 ml. The design caught me off-guard but also made me smile because this is very much a Trek thing. Whenever you look at bottles of liquor in Ten Forward or Quark’s, the prop masters always went out of their way to create futuristic glasses and containers that you normally wouldn’t keep booze in during this point in time. But maybe wine is stored differently in the future, so you get this rectangle-shaped design that slims down the lower it goes.

(14) COLONEL’S LOG. The recipe? First, steal one fireplace….“KFC Brings Back Fried Chicken-Scented Fire Log for the Holidays”.

“Last year, we captured the hearts, noses and fireplaces of our fans, but thousands more were clamoring to get their hands on our limited firelogs. So, we brought our 11 Herbs & Spices Firelogs back with an exclusive partnership with Walmart to spread the finger-lickin’ good cheer,” Andrea Zahumensky, KFC U.S. CMO said in a statement to the company’s website. “We hope you’ll cuddle up with your family or friends with a bucket of our world-famous fried chicken and a warm fried chicken-scented fire this holiday season.”

Also available right now, the anime-themed “I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator”

Do you have what it takes to date the most famous chicken salesman of all time? Find out now in the most delicious dating simulator ever created. Play now on Steam for free! http://bit.ly/2m9MaQu

(15) HINT FROM THE MASTER? “How to conquer work paralysis like Ernest Hemingway” – BBC remembers his advice.

The author wasn’t all about literary masterpieces, dry martinis and rakish charm – he also invented a technique that can beat procrastination and boost productivity.

He was famous for his constant womanising, his achingly cool moustache and his affection for six-toed cats. Legend has it that he could drink 17 daiquiris in an afternoon, he was recruited by the KGB as a spy codenamed “Argo” and he once slept with a bear. Oh, and he wrote some of the most highly acclaimed works of all time.

I’m talking about Ernest Hemingway, of course. But it turns out that the author had more than novels and macho anecdotes up his rugged, intellectual sleeves. He was also the inventor of a clever psychological trick: the “useful interruption”.

According to a 1935 article Hemingway penned for Esquire magazine, when asked “How much should you write in a day?” by a young writer, he replied: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel, you will never be stuck.” He urged the nascent writer to remember this – and even went so far as to say that it was the most valuable advice he could give.

(16) PSYCH OUT. Isn’t this what Majel Barrett’s computer voice was doing on the original Star Trek? “Why progress bars can make you feel better”

We are all familiar with the spinning wheels and download indicators that signify when our electronic devices are “working”, but are they making us fall for the “labour illusion”?

…But there is a good chance that you have been misled online at least once already today, probably without you even realising it. If you downloaded some software, tried to stream a video or even conducted an internet search, you’ve more than likely been taken in by one of the most widespread fibs of our modern age.

The spinning wheels, rotating egg timers and moving progress bars we regularly see on our screens when using our electronic devices are often misleading. Rather than offering an accurate representation of work being done, they are more often than not simply there to give the impression that something is happening behind the scenes. They provide us with a sense that we are not waiting in vain for something to happen.

And there is a fundamental reason for this: we like to see real work being done. In fact, we value it more, even when the end result is the same.

Ryan Buell, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, studies how we value the work we see being done. Perhaps this is most clearly illustrated in restaurants where customers can see chefs working in the kitchen. Diners rated the quality of food from those restaurants as 22% higher than the same food when they could not see it being prepared.

(17) BUY-BUY! NPR’s Elizabeth Metzger reviews “‘In Fabric’: Darkly Comic Horror About A (Literally) Killer Dress”.

As Black Friday/Cyber Monday impulse-buys start piling up on our doorsteps, Peter Strickland’s new film In Fabric hits a nerve: Everyone loves a great sale, after all, just as everyone rankles at overly strict return policies.

Especially if the item in question is a dress that’s out to kill you.

Sheila, played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste, falls prey to a great winter sales rack. It’s a pity that the flowy A-line red dress she purchases is haunted by a coven of macabre sales clerks led by Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed) — but what can one expect of a dress purchased at 60% off retail? That said, it does come in ‘Artery Red.’

…What, you may ask, prompts the purchase of a killer dress, beyond a love for a great deal? The recently divorced Sheila is putting herself back out there, going on a first date with Adonis (Anthony Adjekum) — who is not all what his name implies. Bad luck follows Sheila: a mysterious rash, an imploding washing machine, and constant undermining from both her superiors at the bank and her son’s girlfriend, played by Gwendoline Christie in a harsh black wig. Jean-Baptiste grounds the movie in a world filled with the farcical, the gory and the hypersexualized.

(18) APOSTROPHE CATASTROPHE. “Apostrophe society shuts down because ‘ignorance and laziness have won'” – the Evening Standard has the story.

A society dedicated to preserving the correct use of the apostrophe has shut down because “ignorance has won”. 

Retired journalist John Richards, 96, started the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001 to make sure the “much-abused” punctuation mark was being used correctly.

But Mr Richards has now announced: “With regret I have to announce that, after some 18 years, I have decided to close the Apostrophe Protection Society.

“There are two reasons for this. One is that at 96 I am cutting back on my commitments and the second is that fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English Language.”

…His website lists three simple rules for the correct use of the apostrophe.

The rules Mr Richards gave for apostrophes are: They are used to denote a missing letter or letters, they are used to denote possession and apostrophes are never ever used to denote plurals.

(19) TAKING A BITE OUT OF THE SCENERY. The Ringer puts together a commentary on “The Best TV Episodes of 2019”. Some of them are genre.

8. “The Trial,” What We Do in the Shadows

Much like Taika Waititi’s eponymous film, FX’s What We Do in the Shadows gleefully leans into mundanity. This simple idea—that being an immortal, centuries-old vampire could lead to a meandering existence—is elevated by the show’s largely anonymous cast and the fact our vamps are based in Staten Island. (No disrespect to the Staten Islanders out there, but it’s usually not the borough tourists head for when they visit New York.) But in “The Trial,” What We Do in the Shadows pulls out all the stops, providing what could be the greatest on-screen vampire reunion … ever?

When our protagonists Nandor, Laszlo, and Nadja go before an international tribunal of vampires to answer for the death of the “Baron,” they’re greeted not just by the stars of the original movie, but some of the most famous actors who’ve played vampires in other projects: Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive), Evan Rachel Wood (True Blood), Paul Reubens (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie), Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn), and even Wesley Snipes (the Blade trilogy) via glitchy Skype. Absentees Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Robert Pattinson, and Kiefer Sutherland are all name-dropped, as well, turning “The Trial” into the Avengers for pop-culture vampires and, more importantly, a clever inversion of the show’s banal storytelling. The flex of having all these stars show up is commendable in and of itself, but “The Trial” is a series highlight for its excellent banter and the subtle implication that Swinton and Co. are also still themselves—and that they play vampires on screen in order to hide in plain sight. Like the humans they feast on, the vampiric world of What We Do in the Shadows remains an absolute treat. —Surrey

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

Pixel Scroll 12/2/19 There’s A Long, Long Scroll A-Winding Into The Land Of My Pixels

(1) LISTEN UP. Here are works of genre interest picked for AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2019 beyond the Best Science Fiction Fantasy & Horror category announced at File 770.

YOUNG ADULT

  • Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust volume 2) by Philip Pullman

FICTION, POETRY & DRAMA

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

BIOGRAPHY & HISTORY

  • American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley
  • Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

(2) TUNE IN DOCTOR WHO. ScienceFiction.com knows the airtime, and also how to see the two-parter on the big screen via Fathom Events: “New ‘Doctor Who’ Trailer Delivers The Release Date/Time For Season 12”.

The January 1 episode is part one of a two-part story called “Spyfall,” with part two arriving on Sunday, January 5, presumably also at 8 pm.  That will be ‘Doctor Who’s regular time slot going forward.

If you’re a ‘Doctor Who’ superfan, BBC and BBC America are teaming up with Fathom Events for a one-time-only screening of both parts of “Spyfall” on the big screen, followed by a LIVE Q&A with Whittaker, Cole, and Gill from the Paley Center for Media in New York.  These showings will be held at 600 theaters in the US on January 5.  (Tickets go on sale on Friday at FathomEvents.com.)

(3) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. Kevin Standlee promoted the Tonopah 2021 Westercon at this weekend’s Loscon.

Team Tonopah welcomed 19 new attending members while we were at Loscon 46 at the LAX Airport Marriott, and talked to many more people to tell them all about our plans for Westercon in Tonopah, Nevada.

(4) KGB READINGS. TheFantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Paul Tremblay and Nathan Ballingrud on Wednesday, December 18 at the KGB Bar. Event starts at 7 p.m. (KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY.)

Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards and is the author of The Cabin at the End of the WorldA Head Full of Ghosts, and most recently the short story collection Growing Things and Other Stories. His essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly online, and numerous year’s-best anthologies. 

Nathan Ballingrud

Nathan Ballingrud is the author of North American Lake Monsters and Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell. He’s twice won the Shirley Jackson Award, and has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards. His stories have appeared in numerous Best of the Year anthologies. Wounds, a film based on his novella “The Visible Filth,” has recently been released. North American Lake Monsters is in development as an anthology series at Hulu.

(5) RIGOROUS ARTWORK. James Davis Nicoll compliments “Five ’70s SF Cover Artists Who Stay True to the Story” in a post for Tor.com.

The Doppelgänger Gambit by Leigh Killough, 1979, cover by Michael Herring

Herring’s cover captures two key elements of this gripping 21st-century police procedural. The first: the two police officers don’t get along. The second: clothing fashions in this future are somehow even more hideous than real-world 1970s fashions. The cover is true to the work. Detective Janna Brill thinks Maxwell takes unconscionable risks, and these are the clothes described in the novel. (Though I suspect the cops in the novel used holsters.)

(6) MARTIAN FURNITURE. FastCompany reports “Now that Ikea has colonized Earth, it’s going after Mars”.

Two years ago, Ikea sent designers to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), which created a habitat in the Utah desert that mimics the conditions on the Red Planet. Ikea interior designer Christina Levenborn stayed in the habitat, ultimately creating an Ikea line for small spaces inspired by her stay. But more recently, she used her experience living in the habitat to help researchers outfit the space. She just returned from redecorating the habitat, which now looks brightly lit and neatly organized. In fact, it looks a lot like what you’d see in an Ikea catalog—which is impressive, because the space is exceptionally small and stark.

Sff writer David Levine did a cycle with the MDRS in 2010 and File 770 ran several posts based on his updates, including “Levine Reaches Mars”.

(7) MORE BLOWBACK. “Two Nobel literature prize committee members quit” – BBC tells how the membership continues to churn.

Two external members of the Nobel literature prize committee have quit after criticising the Swedish Academy.

Gun-Britt Sundstrom said the choice of Peter Handke as this year’s winner had been interpreted as if literature stood above politics and she did not agree.

The choice of Handke was criticised because of his vocal support for the Serbs during the 1990s Yugoslav war.

Kristoffer Leandoer said he’d left due to Academy reforms taking too long following a sexual assault scandal.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 2, 1979 Star Trek comics premiered in syndicated form in the U.S. From 1979 to 1983, the Los Angeles Times Mirror Syndicate produced a daily and Sunday comic strip based upon this series. Larry Niven was among the many writers who did scripts for it. IDW has reprinted them in two volumes, The Newspaper Comics, Volume 1 and The Newspaper Comics, Volume 2.
  • December 2, 2005 Aeon Flux premiered.  Produced by Gale Hurd, it stars Charlize Theron in the title role. It’s based on the animated Aeon Flux series of the same name created by Peter Chung. It bombed at the box office, was poorly received by critics, and currently has a 9% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 2, 2017 – First pizza party in space took place on the International Space Station.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 Jerry Sohl. Scriptwriter and genre writer who did work for The Twilight Zone (ghostwriting for Charles Beaumont who was seriously ill at the time), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits and Star Trek. One of his three Trek scripts was the superb “Corbomite Maneuver” episode. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best known of course for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Six Million Dollar Man, Galaxy of Terror, Amazing Stories,  Popeye, Friday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.   He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.)
  • Born December 2, 1937 Brian Lumley, 81. Horror writer who came to distinction in the Seventies writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and  by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the Eighties, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on Speaker to the Dead Harry Keogh. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, and a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon, which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and in collaboration authors such as Mecedes Lackey (A Cast of Corbies), and Laura Anne Gilman (two Buffyverse novels).  I knew her personally as a folklorist first and she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 73. British-born American illustrator and writer. Genre adjacent I’d say. Creator of such cool works as Cathedral, The New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and his latest, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World.
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 67. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good.
  • Born December 2, 1968 Lucy Liu, 51. She was Joan Watson on Elementary in its impressive seven-year run. Her other genre role, and it’s been long running, has been voicing Tinkermist in the Disney Fairies animated franchise. I kid you not. She’s had a few genre one-offs on The X-Files, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and the Rise: Blood Hunter film, but not much overall.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio tells Santa what he wants.
  • At Existential Comics, leading philosophers brawl over the implications of “I am no man!”

The original intentions or ideas of the author aren’t necessarily more valid than those of any other interpreter.

Gasp!

(11) WRITER’S WRATH. “HG Wells builds time machine so he can punch whoever was responsible for that adaptation of War of the Worlds”NewsThump has the story,

Popular Edwardian novelist and inventor of the concept of Time Travel Herbert George Wells has appeared in central London this morning, intending to punch whoever made the BBC adaptation of War of the Worlds squarely on the nose.

Wells, who believed the chances of anyone making a boring adaptation of his masterpiece were a million to one, said ‘but still, it’s done’.

“There was a great disturbance in the… oh, I’m sure you’ll come up with a word for it”, said Wells. “As if millions of my fans voices cried out ‘what the heck’.”

(12) AS OTHERS SEE US. Liberty Island’s Tamara Willhite uncovers a rich vein of fantasy in “An Interview with Author Louis Antonelli”.

Tamara Wilhite: What are you currently working on?

Louis Antonelli: Well, kind of following up the previous question, since the Sad Puppies in 2015 there’s been a pretty ironclad blacklist in the major science fiction magazine and publishers against anyone who isn’t an intolerant doctrinaire left-wing asshole. Nobody denies it anymore, because such assertions only gets the horse laugh.

The only major book publisher that judges authors impartially is Baen; Analog is the one major magazine that seems to pick stories based on merit and not the author’s politics and lifestyle….

(13) POACHING SCIENCE. “Dinosaurs: Restoring Mongolia’s fossil heritage”.

Eighty million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, Mongolia’s Gobi Desert was a dinosaur’s paradise of vast valleys, freshwater lakes and a humid climate.

Mammal-eating velociraptors, lizard-hipped sauropods and spike-armoured ankylosaurs could have been spotted roaming in what are now the Martian red sandstone spires of Bayanzag’s Flaming Cliffs.

These prehistorically favourable conditions make the Gobi Desert the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir in the world.

Over almost 100 years of palaeontological research in the Gobi, more than 80 genera have been found. But for many people living there, this scientific heritage remains unknown.

“Putting a fence up is not protection; protection is people’s knowledge,” Mongolian palaeontologist Bolortsetseg Minjin explains as we wind through the Flaming Cliffs in search of signs of fossil poaching.

(14) CAN’T DANCE TO IT. “Amazon’s AI musical keyboard ‘sounds terrible'”.

Amazon has unveiled a musical keyboard with a built-in artificial intelligence (AI) composer.

The AWS DeepComposer is a two-octave, 32-key keyboard that can connect to computers via a USB cable.

Users can play a short tune, or use a pre-recorded one, ask the keyboard to embellish it in one of four styles – jazz, classical, rock or pop – and then publish it on Soundcloud.

But one expert said the audio demo provided by Amazon was “terrible”.

(15) INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. BBC follows“India tiger on ‘longest walk ever’ for mate and prey”.

A tiger has undertaken the longest walk ever recorded in India, travelling some 1,300km (807 miles) in five months.

Experts believe the two-and-a-half-year-old male is possibly in search of prey, territory or a mate.

The tiger, which is fitted with a radio collar, left its home in a wildlife sanctuary in the western state of Maharashtra in June.

It was then tracked travelling back and forth over farms, water and highways, and into a neighbouring state.

So far, the tiger has come into conflict with humans only once, when it “accidentally injured” one person who was part of a group that entered a thicket under which it was resting.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s Jeopardy! with wrapped attention….

Category: Literary Works of the 1920s.

Answer: “Jane Webb Loudon wrote the 1st novel about one of these creatures, including the line, ‘Weak, feeble worm! Exclaimed Cheops.'”

Wrong question: “What is a Sphinx?”

Correct question: “What is a Mummy?”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mushroom Hunters” on YouTube is a poem by Neil Gaiman read by Amanda Palmer, with music by Jherek Bischoff.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton (Felapton Towers, Bortsworth, Bortsworthshire), John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 10/19/19 Scrollgar, Do We Have Pixel Sign?

(1) GALAXY QUEST. See the trailer for Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary, which will be distributed through Fathom Events.

By all accounts, it was a movie that beat all odds: Surviving a set fire, the loss of a powerful director, and a studio that didn’t understand what it had, “Galaxy Quest” turned into a pop-culture phenomenon that would “never give up, never surrender.” As the cult classic nears its 20th anniversary – premiering on December 25, 1999 – “Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary” explores how the science-fiction comedy became an enduring fan favorite, a movie that helped launch the sci-fi- and fantasy-driven movie and TV industry that dominates global entertainment today.

(2) WILL THIS THREAT ACTUALLY WORK? It would be interesting to know the terms of the original gift, and whether a Weisinger descendant can revoke it: “University may lose Superman papers over Liz Cheney comments”.

The University of Wyoming could lose the papers of a longtime “Superman” comic book editor after his son took offense to comments by Congresswoman Liz Cheney.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports Hank Weisinger contacted the university’s American Heritage Center Tuesday demanding the return of the collected papers of Mort Weisinger.

The elder Weisinger spent three decades as the story editor of the “Superman” series published by DC Comics Inc.

Hank Weisinger says his action was prompted by comments the Wyoming Republican representative made Monday placing blame for Turkey’s Oct. 9 invasion of Syria on presidential impeachment proceedings by Democrats.

Weisinger says he does not want his father’s papers at a university represented by a member of Congress he perceives as opposing Superman’s values of “truth, justice and the American way.”

The University of Wyoming’s Comic Book Industry holdings include the Mort Weisinger Papers which cover his work on Superman and other publications:

Collection contains materials relating to Weisinger’s work as a writer and editor from 1928-1978. Collection includes correspondence (1932-1978) mostly regarding his work as a writer and editor for “This Week” and other magazines and with companies who were included in “1001 Valuable Things”; the galleys and manuscripts for “The Contest,” “The Complete Alibi Handbook” and “1001 Valuable Things”; the manuscript for an unpublished novel about a U.S. President (ca. 1975); legal agreements between Weisinger and “This Week” and Bantam Books (1954-1978); and photographs of Weisinger, the Weisinger family and various celebrities.

(3) WATCHMEN IN TIME. NPR’s Eric Deggans asks and answers: “Who Watches This ‘Watchmen?’ I Will, And You Should”.

The classic graphic novel Watchmen – an explicit, realistic take on what the world might be like if people actually put on costumes and masks to fight crime — tackled many social and political issues: American imperialism. Nuclear tensions with the Soviet Union. The corruption of a President Nixon who stayed in office for five terms.

But there’s one subject the book — hailed by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the last century – didn’t really approach.

Race.

So it makes a certain kind of sense that, when superstar TV producer Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers) decided to build an HBO series around a modern continuation of the 1980s-era novel – okay, comic book — racial tension would be the first thing he tackled.

The result is a visually stunning, energetically complex series that digs into the hottest social issue of our time. But it’s done in a way that may leave viewers unsure exactly what Lindelof is saying about it all.

(4) COMICS IN SCHOOL. “‘Comic Book Libraries’ for Ypsilanti students blows past fundraising goal”MLive’s story covers the successful initiative.

A program led by two Eastern Michigan University alums aims to encourage area students to read by giving them access to “Comic Book Libraries” at community schools.

And a recent GoFundMe campaign to help expand the program has blown past its fundraising goal twice in a week.

The GoFundMe appeal “Providing Comic Book Libraries for local students!” has raised over $3,000.

Comic Book Libraries is a Hero Nation initiative that seeks to improve youth literacy by providing high-interest reading material to classrooms throughout our community.

We currently have educators at five different schools throughout our community hosting Comic Book Libraries and checking books out to eager students.

Graphic novels and comic books are excellent resources that help engage students with literature and art. From phenomenal fantasy adventures, to riveting retellings of historical events, there’s a graphic novel for everyone! 

(5) MUSH! NPR’s Scott Simon interviews the author and asks the obligatory question in “George R.R. Martin Really Does Know You Want Him To Write Faster”.

On whether it’s difficult to have millions of people waiting for The Winds of Winter, the next volume of A Song of Ice and Fire

Yes, especially because a certain portion of them are really impatient and snarky about it. You know, you can get one person who posts 150 messages in three days, all of which is “Where is Winds of Winter?” If any of you go home and post on your Twitter account, “Hey I was just at the Chicago Public Library Sandburg Award dinner and George R.R. Martin was there,” you know by the third message someone will say, well, “What the hell is he doing there? Where is Winds of Winter?” So at this point, it is what it is. And, you know, I should probably leave right now and go back [to] writing Winds of Winter.

It’s very important me to finish A Song of Ice and Fire. I want to finish it. I still have two more books to do, and I want to finish it strong. So people look at it and say, you know, this entire thing is an important work, not a half-finished or broken work. I know some of the more cynical people out there don’t believe that, but it is true.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 19, 1979 Meteor premiered. Starring Natalie Wood, Sean Connery, and Karl Malden, it was inspired by the 1967 Project Icarus from MIT. The film was a box office failure and received a 12% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • October 19, 2010 — The BBC’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon was first aired. Written by Mark Gatiss, it also stars Gatiss as Cavor and Rory Kinnear as Bedford. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 19, 1903 Tor Johnson. He acted in a lot of really bad films starting with Bride of the Monster and  The Unearthly with the next being Plan 9 from Outer Space followed by The Beast of Yucca Flats and finishing with The Night of The Ghouls. Three of these are directed by Ed Wood. He appears on in genre tv just once as Naboro in the “Inferno in Space” episode of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. (Died 1971.)
  • Born October 19, 1909 Robert Beatty. He’s best known for being in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. He played General Cutler in “The Tenth Planet”, a First Doctor story, and was General Halstead in The Martian Chronicles. He was in Superman III and Superman IV, respectively playing a tanker captain and the U.S. President. (Died 1992.)
  • Born October 19, 1921 George Nader. In 1953, he was Roy, the leading man in Robot Monster (a.k.a. Monster from Mars and Monsters from the Moon) acknowledged by him and others to be the one of the worst SF films ever made. He showed up in some decidedly low budget other SF films such as The Human Duplicators, Beyond Atlantis  and The Great Space Adventure. (Died 2002.)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 79. He’s best known for playing Dumbledore in the final six Potter films after the death of Richard Harris who had previously played the role. He also shows up in the 2010 Christmas Special of Doctor Who, “A Christmas Carol”, an Eleventh Doctor story, playing Kazran/Elliot Sardick.
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 74. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the Hendersons, ShrekRise of the Planet of the Apes, Interstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. Oh and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! 
  • Born October 19, 1946 ?Philip Pullman, 73. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North.
  • Born October 19, 1969 Vanessa Marshall, 50. Voice actress who’s Hera Syndulla on Star Wars: Rebels, a series I’ve been enjoying immensely. She’s gave voice to myriad characters from Poison Ivy to Black Widow. 
  • Born October 19, 1990 ?Ciara Renée, 29. She was Kendra Saunders / Hawkgirl in Legends of Tomorrow in the Arrowverse which means she showed up on Arrow and The Flash as well.

(8) SOMETIMES IN SPITE OF POPULAR DEMAND. Trae Dorn of Nerd & Tie discusses why reporting issue-focused fan news is a hazardous occupation. Thread starts here.

(9) RIIIGHT. It’s all a misunderstanding, you see: “Nobel Literature Prize judges defend controversial award for Peter Handke”.

Nobel Prize for Literature panel members have defended their decision to give this year’s award to controversial Austrian author Peter Handke.

The choice has been criticised because of Handke’s vocal support for the Serbs during the 1990s Yugoslav war.

Nobel committee member Henrik Petersen said Handke was “radically unpolitical” in his writing and that his support for the Serbs had been misunderstood.

(10) THEY’RE GOING AT NIGHT. (Yeah, I know, but I’ve always loved that joke.) BBC says probe will watch the Sun: “European SolO probe ready to take on audacious mission”. (Embedded video is just audio, but adds info about connection to US solar satellite.)

The European spacecraft that aims to take the closest ever pictures of the Sun is built and ready for launch.

The Solar Orbiter, or SolO, probe will put itself inside the orbit of Planet Mercury to train its telescopes on the surface of our star.

Other instruments will sense the constant outflow of particles and their embedded magnetic fields.

Scientists hope the detailed observations can help them understand better what drives the Sun’s activity.

This goes up and down on an 11-year cycle. It’s sure to be a fascinating endeavour but it’s one that has direct relevance to everyone on Earth.

The energetic outbursts from our star have the ability to damage satellites, harm astronauts, degrade radio communications, and even knock power grids offline.

“We’re doing this not just for the sake of increasing our knowledge but also for being able to take precautions, for example by putting satellites in safe mode when we know big solar storms are coming or letting astronauts not leave the space station on these days,” said Daniel Müller, the European Space Agency (Esa) project scientist on SolO.

(11) DAWN OF FANDOM. John L. Coker III, President of First Fandom, introduced members to David Ritter’s First Fandom Experience project late last year:

…David is seeking material for an ambitious project: the First Fandom Experience (FFE).  The purpose of the FFE is to “honor, preserve and bring to life the experience of the first fans – the pioneering fans who were instrumental in defining, driving, growing and supporting science fiction and fantasy in the 1930s and beyond.”

David’s primary initial focus for FFE will be to “publish fan-created content from the SF and fantasy fields dating from the 1930s, in facsimile form, from the rarest to the most prominent fanzines of the period.  FFE will also seek to find and republish other related ephemera of the period, especially content relating to the fan club activities and conventions held through the 1930s.  In addition, FFE will publish new content authored by current fans and historians reflecting on their experience and knowledge of the genres in the 1930s.” 

Two recent posts from Ritter’s First Fandom Experience site are:

“They’re Grand, But… “ is the story of a late-night adventure in 1938, and its consequences, scanned from Sam Moskowitz’ fanzine.

In some ways, early science fiction fandom was like a family. Think Leave It To Beaver meets Jersey Shore. The love and hate in the complex web of relationships often played out both in person and in fanzines. A shining example: a 1938 late-night road trip worthy of Scorsese’s After Hours.

In February 1938, Samuel A. Moskowitz penned a saccharin homage to his brothers and occasional sister in the fan community. “They’re Grand” appeared in The Science Fiction Fan (v2n6).

“Dessert of the Day: The Science Fiction Special” documents an eofannish obsession with ice cream, with a recipe by Frederik Pohl in the The International Observer (v2n7, January 1937), later refined by Donald A. Wollheim and John B. Michel in The Science Fiction Bugle, May 1937. (Scans of both items at the link.)

(12) NO TIPS, PLEASE. “LEONARDO Bipedal Robot With Thrusters” on YouTube is a robot developed at Caltech with a really good sense of balance.

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

Two Nobel Prizes for Literature Awarded

Olga Tokarczuk, a Polish author, and Peter Handke, an Austrian writer, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on October 10. At a ceremony in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy announced the 2019 prize went to Handke, Tokarczuk won the 2018 prize, which was not presented last year because of a scandal at the academy.

The academy cites Tokarczuk “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”

Olga Tokarczuk

Tokarczuk is particularly noted for the mythical tone of her writing. The summaries of her work in the Wikipedia show her closest approaches to the fantastic are in these three novels:

E. E. (1995) took its title from the initials of its protagonist, a young woman named Erna Eltzner, who grows up in a bourgeois German-Polish family in Breslau (the at that time German city that was to become the Polish Wroc?aw after World War II) in the 1920s, who develops psychic abilities…

Prawiek i inne czasy (“Primeval and Other Times”) was published in 1996 and became highly successful. It is set in the fictitious village of Prawiek (Primeval) at the very heart of Poland, which is populated by some eccentric, archetypical characters. The village is guarded by four archangels, from whose perspective the novel chronicles the lives of Prawiek’s inhabitants over a period of eight decades, beginning in 1914….

In 2009 the novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead was published. It is written in the convention of a detective story with the main character telling the story from her point of view. Janina Duszejko, an old woman, eccentric in her perception of other humans through astrology, relates a series of deaths in a rural area near K?odzko, Poland. She explains the deaths as caused by wild animals in vengeance on hunters.

Tokarczuk continues to write significant work, and in 2018 won the Man Booker International Prize for translated fiction for “Flights,” an experimental novel based on stories of travel.

Handke was cited by the Swedish Academy “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”

Peter Handke

He is a prolific writer, however, the Wikipedia lacks helpful synopses of Handke’s works, having a great deal more to say about the controversies created by his political associations. For example:

His writings about the Yugoslav Wars and subsequent NATO bombing of Yugoslavia with criticism of the Western position and his speech at the funeral of Slobodan Miloševi? have caused controversy, and he has been widely described as an apologist for far-right Serbian nationalism

Two winners were named today because the prize was not awarded in 2018.

The Swedish Academy, which oversees the prestigious award, suspended it to make changes to its processes after it was engulfed in a sexual assault scandal.

Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of Academy member Katarina Frostenson, was sentenced to two years in prison in October after being convicted of rape. Furthermore, Frostenson was accused of providing Arnault with the names of seven Nobel laureates in advance; Arnault was later revealed to have leaked the names, resulting in sizable bets placed on the eventual winners.

In the absence of the 2018 prize, The New Academy, a private initiative organized among Swedish culture workers, presented its 2018 New Prize in Literature to Maryse Condé.  

Anticipating today’s awards, Alexandra Pascalidou, a Swedish journalist who set up the New Academy Prize, told the New York Times:

The Swedish Academy needs to change more. It needs more inclusion, more diversity, more openness.

She says the academy should not have awarded the 2018 prize because it will forever be tainted by the scandal. “It’s very sad for whoever wins.”


Prior to 2019, the most recent winner was Kazuo Ishiguro in 2017. The fantastic elements in his latest novel, The Buried Giant (2015) argue for his inclusion among the small number of sff authors to win the prize, such as Kipling and Doris Lessing.

Pixel Scroll 10/9/19 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll Me Your Answer, Do

(1) WAPO’S NEW SFF COLUMN. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar have launched a new column on SFF in the Washington Post: “The weird, the wacky, the underappreciated: A new look at science fiction and fantasy”.

Even 10 years ago, the fields of science fiction and fantasy were still overwhelmingly American and white. And, if you grew up speaking Spanish in Mexico City, (as I, Silvia, did), or Hebrew on a small kibbutz in Israel (as I, Lavie, did), it meant that the world of science fiction, filtered through translation, was as remote and alien as the other side of the moon. The very idea we could be writing novels like these seemed, well, fantastical.

Yet, somehow, here we are. The past decade has seen the science-fiction world change as more international voices enthusiastically jumped into the fray. Now, wonderful writers including Malaysian Zen Cho can write smart, funny fantasies such as “Sorcerer to the Crown”; after years of struggle, Nigerian Tade Thompson’s ambitious Africa-set novel, “Rosewater,” was published to wide acclaim and recently won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award; and Chinese author Liu Cixin’s “The Three-Body Problem,” translated by Ken Liu, has become a bestseller and even has a recommendation from former president Barack Obama.

(2) LISTEN TO HURLEY. The title of Kameron’s Hurley’s latest podcast says it all: “GET TO WORK HURLEY: Episode 13. In this episode we discuss how to take notes, long-term career planning, and why it is books seem to get more difficult to write the more of them you write. I’ll also be tackling some listener questions, from where to find more gooey biopunk to what I think of writers’ unions”.

(3) FIRESIDE CANCELLATIONS. The October 8 issue of Jason Sanford’s Genre Grapevine reported —

Fireside Press contacted a number of its authors and cancelled their pending book titles. The messages received by those authors said that due to unexpected changes at Fireside, the publisher had to re-evaluate their plans for the upcoming year. As a result Fireside was cancelling the contracts for multiple titles which had been accepted and contracted but not yet scheduled for publication. Fireside reverted the rights for these books to their authors, although no kill fee was paid because that wasn’t in the contract.

Pablo Defendini, the Publisher of Fireside, responded to the report with a statement: “About our Acquisitions”.

On Monday morning, I sent out messages reverting the rights on five unpublished and unannounced manuscripts that we acquired last year during our novel and novella acquisitions period. In the last day or so there’s been lots of rumor and speculation, so I wanted to explain what’s going on directly.

We’ve had some unexpected changes on the editorial front at Fireside this year. Any time there’s a change like that, it affects workflow, capacity, and resourcing throughout, especially at very small operations like ours. Over the past few months, as I’ve reworked our editorial operations to account for working with more people than ever before, it’s become clear to me that the amount of work that I’d previously thought Fireside could take on was unsustainable. Trying to take on too much work would have made living up to our obligations to our authors extremely challenging. It would have been bad both for Fireside and for these authors and their work. So rather than publishIng these books badly, I made the decision to cut down on our upcoming list.

This sucks no matter how you slice it, but it would have sucked more down the line. As I told each author, this is not a reflection on their work. There’s a reason we were attracted to these manuscripts in the first place — they’re great stories, and I have no doubt that they will find good homes. But I’d much rather revert the rights to these books back to their authors, than do a bad job publishing their work, or worse: sit on the rights until the contracts expired….

Meg Elison today said she is one of the authors whose contract was cancelled, and commented at length about how that was handled. Thread starts here.

(4) LEWIS QUEST. Matt Mikalatos, while “Introducing the Great C.S. Lewis Reread” at Tor.com, raises the suspicion that the series will be of great interest to all except to those who actually like Lewis’s writing.

…Time passed, and over the years I’ve grown and changed, of course; recently my 16-year-old picked up my favorite Lewis book, Till We Have Faces. It’s a beautiful novel about loss and faith and confronting the gods. My daughter told me it was good, but added, “He didn’t like women much, did he?”

Okay, yes, that’s a fair response. And there are certainly moments of deeply troubling racism in Lewis’s books, too. And for those who aren’t from a Christian background (and maybe some who are), the central Christian conceits can be off-putting (even Tolkien, who was a key player in Lewis’s conversion, often disliked Lewis’s sermonizing).

So why are we embarking on a massive re-read of Lewis’s books?

Well, love them or hate them, the Narnia books played a key role in bringing children’s literature back into the worlds of the fantastic. There was a strong emphasis on realism in Lewis’s days, and too much imagination was seen as unhealthy for kids (though Baum, Barrie, and Nesbit might still be on the nursery shelf). The popularity of Narnia opened the door to more fantasy literature for children, and The Chronicles of Narnia still get placed on “Best Of” lists for children today….

(5) EMULATING WHO. Watch the full recreation of the missing Doctor Who 1965 episode Mission to the Unknown by the University of Central Lancashire. Find out more and watch the making-of here.

(6) A HOGWARTS TENURE APPLICATION. McSweeney’s Alyse Knorr reveals “Professor Minerva McGonagall’s Letter to the Tenure Committee”.

…When I first applied for this position, did I know that my expected job duties would include dueling genocidal dark lords or battling Death Eaters in the Astronomy Tower? No. Did I do them anyway, even after being denied a cost of living adjustment to my salary for ten years in a row while also dealing with insidiously small-but-steady cuts to my annual conference travel budget? Yes. Do these accomplishments count as service to the student body, to the institution, or to humanity itself? Hard to say.

Not even saving the institution from an apocalyptic calamity orchestrated by a noseless neo-Nazi, however, can compare to the daily, ongoing, and, frankly, deeply disheartening struggle to protect our students from themselves….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 9, 2010 Monsterwolf debuted on Syfy. It stars Leonor Varela, Robert Picardo, and Marc Macaulay. It’s a werewolf movie and Robert Picardo appeared in The Howling as a werewolf.
  • October 9, 2012 Werewolf: The Beast Among Us was released on DVD. Starring Ed Quinn and Guy Wilson, it rated 37% at Rotten Tomatoes. Yes, a lot of werewolf films get released round Halloween. 
  • October 9, 2015 Pan was released by Warner Bros. Starring Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard and Levi Miller as Pan, it bombed at the box office. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 27% approval rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 9, 1900 Harry Bates. His 1940 short story “Farewell to the Master” was the basis of The Day the Earth Stood Still just over a decade later. And he edited Astounding Science Fiction from its inception in January 1930 until March 1933 when Clayton went bankrupt and the magazine was sold to Street and Smith. Other than The Day the Earth Stood Still, neither iBooks or Kindle has much by him. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 9, 1936 Brian Blessed, 83. Lots of genre appearances including Space 1999, Blake’s 7, Doctor Who, Hamlet (as the a Ghost of Hamlet’s father), MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis, Johnny and the Dead and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
  • Born October 9, 1953 Tony Shalhoub, 66. Two great genre roles, the first being Jack Jeebs in Men In Black, the second being more I think more nuanced one, Fred Kwan in Galaxy Quest. Actually, he’s done three great genre roles as he voiced Master Splinter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
  • Born October 9, 1954 Scott Bakula, 65. Lead in two great SF series, Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap and Captain Jonathan Archer on Enterprise. He also starred as Nolan Wood who discovers the alien conspiracy in the remake of The Invaders.
  • Born October 9, 1956 Robert Reed, 63. Extremely prolific short story writer with at least two hundred tales so far. And a number of novels as well, such as the superb Marrow series. 
  • Born October 9, 1958 Michael Paré, 61. I’ll start off with his being in Streets of Fire but he’s also been in The Philadelphia Expirement, Lunarcop, both BloodRayne films and Moon 44.
  • Born October 9, 1961 Matt Wagner, 58. The Grendel Tales and Batman / Grendel Are very good as is Grendel vs. The Shadow stories he did a few years back. His run on Madame Xanadu was amazing too.
  • Born October 9, 1964 Jacqueline Carey, 55. Author of the long-running mildly BDSM centered Kushiel’s Legacy Universe which also includes the Moirin Trilogy. (Multiple Green Man reviewers used this phraseology in their approving reviews.) LOCUS in their December 2002 issue did an interview with her called “Jacqueline Carey: Existential BDSM”.  She did several stand-alone novels including the intriguingly entitled Miranda and Caliban.
  • Born October 9, 1964 Guillermo del Toro, 55. Best films? Hellboy, Hellboy II and Pan’s Labyrinth. Worst films? The Hobbit films. Hellboy II would make it solely for the Goblin’s Market sequence. 
  • Born October 9, 1979 Brandon Routh, 40. The lead in Superman Returns, a film that got a very positive 75% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Surprisingly it didn’t make the final ballot for the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form when It was eligible. He’s currently Ray Palmer, The Atom, in the Arrowverse.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

They’re always the last to know.

(10) EIGHTY CANDLES. Let the BBC tell you about this survivor: “Marvel Comics at 80: From bankruptcy threat to billions at the box office”.

…But that universe could have been lost forever when Marvel hit financial problems in the 1990s.

“The comics industry had been massively overvalued for years,” says [Professor Chris Murray].

“Comic collectors had been buying multiple copies of issues, believing that they were going to be valuable in 10-20 years time so they were investing.”

(11) TAKING THE TUBE. Steve Carper has a fascinating profile of “Gyro Gearloose’s Little Helper” at Black Gate.

…The tiny figure, like those singers in the terrific documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, was a major talent in its own right. Like so much else in Disney comic history, the name was applied retroactively, because fans and followers needed a tag to put on the character. They had little to go on. At first, Barks seldom had Gyro even directly notice his shadow, much less address it. But even Barks occasionally nodded. There is an instance of Gyro calling it “Helper.” And Helper morphed into Little Helper, which is the best term to search on. (It’s Little Bulb in the Duck Tales cartoons.) Helper is canonical, because helper is how Barks thought of his creation, as quoted in Tom Andrae, Carl Barks and the Disney Comic Book: Unmasking the Myth of Modernity.

(12) THE CREEPIEST. Food Network calls these the “15 Limited-Edition Halloween Candies to Hunt for This Year”. For example:

Zombie Skittles are the definition of trick or treat. This new bag of candy looks like regular ol’ Skittles — but beware! Some of the candy pieces are sweet and fruity, while others taste like rotten eggs. So, brace yourself before you grab a handful. There’s a good chance you’ll get a mouthful of YUCK.

(13) HOLD THE PHONE. A prize for device power: “Nobel chemistry prize: Lithium-ion battery scientists honoured”.

Three scientists have been awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of lithium-ion batteries.

John B Goodenough, M Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino share the prize for their work on these rechargeable devices, which are used for portable electronics.

At the age of 97, Prof Goodenough is the oldest ever Nobel laureate.

Professor of chemistry Olof Ramström said lithium-ion batteries had “enabled the mobile world”.

The trio will share the prize money of nine million kronor (£738,000).

The lithium-ion battery is a lightweight, rechargeable and powerful battery that is used in everything from mobile phones to laptops to electric cars.

(14) DON’T FORGET TO CENSOR YOURSELF. Looper is there when “South Park creators ‘apologize’ to the Chinese government after being erased from the internet”. Once you learn how to fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.

…A recent episode of the adult-oriented animated series entitled “Band in China” was, well, banned in China after the country’s government deemed it inappropriate (via The Hollywood Reporter). Every last clip of the episode, which critiques the ways in which Hollywood tends to adjust its content to avoid censorship from the Chinese government and features character Randy Marsh (Trey Parker) getting thrown in jail after he’s caught selling drugs in China, has been scrubbed from China’s intensely monitored internet — including from streaming services, fan pages dedicated to South Park, and social media platforms. All instances of discussion about the “Band in China” episode, official or otherwise, have also been removed from the Chinese internet.

(15) AT THE CORE. Atlas Obscura reveals that “Russia’s Retro Lenin Museum Still Runs on Decades-Old Apple II Computers”.

The versatility of the Apple II made it one of the most widespread personal computers of the 1970s and 80s. In schools, labs, and even command centers, these classic American computers kept a foothold even after the advent of more advanced machines. But of all the places you’d expect to find the computer that popularized The Oregon Trail, the mournful museum of a Communist leader is one of the most unlikely.

Lenin Museum in Gorki Leninskiye, located 20 miles south of Moscow, doesn’t look hi-tech even by 1980s standards. But among black marble interiors, gilded display cases, and Soviet historical documents, there is an elaborate audiovisual show about the last years of Vladimir Lenin’s life. Opened in 1987, it’s still powered by vintage Apple technology….

(16) BRADBURY PROFILE. Thanks to YouTube, it’s not too late to tune into Ray Bradbury – Story of a Writer, a 25-minute documentary from 1963 by David L. Wolper.

(17) FRIGHT NIGHT. Remember the week horror stars Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. and Vampira were on the Red Skelton Show? Me neither, but YouTube does. (And it somehow seems appropriate that Geritol was the sponsor.) Dial B for Brush starts at about the 7:30 mark.

(18) DRAWN THAT WAY. In “The Real Fake Cameras of Toy Story 4” on YouTube, the Nerdwriter looks at how Toy Story 4 cinematographer Patrick Lim used analog cinematography techniques, including split diopter shots and anamorphic lenses, to improve the film.

[Thanks to Andy Leighton, Mlex, Lise Andreasen, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/8/19 Clop, Clop, Clop Went The Pixel. Zing, Zing, Zing Went The Scroll

(1) ROBOTECH. Titan Comics launches its new Robotech comics on October 16.

A new Robotech saga starts now with Robotech: Remix, a gripping series that will take beloved characters and iconic mecha to places fans have never seen before! Featuring new writer Brenden Fletcher (Motorcrush, Isola) and anime ace Elmer Damaso (Robotech/Voltron).

(2) HOUR OF THE WOLF. Has Jim Freund’s legendary radio program clocked out for the last time? Andrew Liptak explains the crisis in “Science Fiction Talk Show ‘Hour of the Wolf’ Goes Offline Amidst Studio Dispute” at Tor.com.

Jim Freund’s radio talk show Hour of the Wolf has been a fixture within the New York science fiction community on WBAI 99.5 FM for nearly half a century. On Monday, the station’s parent company, Pacifica Across America, abruptly shut down the station and replaced its local programming with shows from its other holdings, citing “financial losses,” according to Gothamist and The New York Times. The move leaves the future of the long-running program in question.

…The turmoil is a blow to the show, which began in 1971, and has been continually hosted by Freund since 1974. “Hour of the Wolf” was an early-morning talk show that aired between 5AM and 7AM, Freund explained, telling Tor.com that the live, call-in show was a way for the general public to learn about the science fiction and fantasy community….

Here’s the New York Times article: “Layoffs and Canceled Shows at WBAI-FM, a New York Radio Original”. A left-leaning station can’t stay afloat in New York? Amazing.

…In an interview, Mr. Vernile said WBAI — which, like the network’s other stations, is listener supported — had fallen short of its fund-raising goals in recent years. He added that the station was unable to make payroll and other expenses, forcing the larger Pacifica Foundation network to bail it out.

“Listeners in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Washington, D.C., have been supporting the efforts in New York,” Mr. Vernile said. “It has gotten to a point where we can no longer do that.”

Liptak’s post also includes the information reflected by this update from The Indypendent:

N.Y. State Supreme Court Justice Frank Nervo has granted an injunction against the Pacifica Foundation’s attempt to close WBAI. Regular programming should resume today. Both parties are currently due to appear before Justice Nervo on Friday, Oct. 18. Just after 10:30 p.m. on Monday, the following statement was issued by Berthold Reimers, WBAI General Manager, to all producers and staff at the station:

WBAI managed to get an injunction to stay the takeover of the station. This means the station is legally back in the hands of WBAI’s personnel. All programs are back on and there is much to be done and we have no time to waste. The producers of WBAI have organized a meeting tomorrow night [Tuesday, Oct. 8] at 6:30 PM at 325 Hudson Street near Van Dam.

(3) NOBEL PRIZE. The LA Times has the story: “Nobel Prize in physics goes to three scientists for their work in understanding the cosmos “.

A Canadian American cosmologist and two Swiss scientists won this year’s Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for their work in understanding how the universe has evolved from the Big Bang and the blockbuster discovery of the first known planet outside our solar system.

Canadian-born James Peebles, 84, of Princeton University, was credited for “theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology” and Switzerland’s Michel Mayor, 77, and Didier Queloz, 53, both from the University of Geneva, were honored for discovering “an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star,” said Prof. Goran Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Peebles, hailed as one of the most influential cosmologists of his time, will collect half of the $918,000 cash award, and the Swiss men will share the other half.

The Nobel committee said Peebles’ theoretical framework about the cosmos — and its billions of galaxies and galaxy clusters — amounted to “the foundation of our modern understanding of the universe’s history, from the Big Bang to the present day.”

The BBC adds this quote from one of the winners:

Reacting to the news, Prof Queloz told BBC News: “It’s unbelievable,” adding: “Since the discovery [of the first extrasolar planet] 25 years ago, everyone kept telling me: ‘It’s a Nobel Prize discovery’. And I say: ‘Oh yeah, yeah, maybe, whatever.'”

But in the intervening years, he more-or-less “forgot” about the discovery: “I don’t even think about it,” he said. “So frankly, yes, it came as a surprise to me. I understand the impact of the discovery, but there’s such great physics being done in the world, I thought, it’s not for us, we will never have it.

(4) DEFYING DOOMSDAY. The winners of the 2018 D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award were announced October 6. This award is for media that deserves recognition for work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

  • R.B. Lemberg for “Sergeant Bothari and Disability Representation in the Early Vorkosiverse,” in Strange Horizons
  • Ace Ratcliff for “Staircases In Space: Why Are Places In Science Fiction Not Wheelchair-Accessible?” in io9.

The judges felt that R.B. Lemberg’s article was important because it noted how easy it is to veer away from criticising the representations that we do see throughout the Vorkosigan series because honestly, we’re just glad there’s something focusing on disability at all. But ignoring these issues means we risk having these continue, now and in the future. R.B acknowledges the importance and value of these books, but also encourages us to question them. In fact, the article encourages everyone to question books and the representations in them; this shouldn’t be something readers wish to avoid, simply because we have been desperate for visibility for so long.

(5) TOP HORROR. Rocket Stack Rank has posted itsannual “Outstanding SF/F Horror of 2018”, with 30 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 8, 1993 Demolition Man starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes premiered.  Two years ago, Stallone’s filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. over the disbursement of profits from the film. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 66% score. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 8, 1920 Frank Herbert. I’ll confess that I enjoyed Dune and Dune Messiah that’s as far as I got in the series. The other Herbert novel I really liked was Under Pressure. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 8, 1927 Dallas Mitchell. He played Lieutenant Tom Nellis on Star Trek in the “Charlie X” episode. He one-offs on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Six Million Dollar Man, The Invaders, Voyage to The Bottom of the Sea and Mission: Impossible. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 8, 1943 R.L.Stine, 75. He’s been called the “Stephen King of children’s literature” and is the author of hundreds of horror novels including works in the Goosebumps, Fear Street Mostly  Ghostly, and The Nightmare Room series. Library of Congress lists four hundred and twenty-three separate entries for him.
  • Born October 8, 1949 Sigourney Weaver, 70. I’m picking her greatest genre role as being the dual roles of Gwen DeMarco and  lieutenant Tawny Madison in Galaxy Quest. Chicon 2000 did give the film the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo after all and it is a loving homage to all that is good in the genre. 
  • Born October 8, 1949 Richard Hescox, 70. An illustrator who between the Seventies and early Nineties painted over one hundred and thirty covers for genre books,and is now working exclusively in the games industry and private commissions. His website is here. Here’s one of his covers. 
  • Born October 8, 1963 David Yates, 56. Director of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows (both films), The Legend Of Tarzan, and Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, and its sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. So who’s seen the latter films? 
  • Born October 8, 1979 Kristanna Loken, 40. She’s best known for her roles in the films Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleBloodRayne and the Painkiller Jane series.
  • Born October 8, 1993 Molly Quinn, 25. I first heard her voicing the dual role of Kara and Supergirl most excellently on Superman Unbound (John Noble voices Brainiac) and I see ventured in the MCU as well as Howard’s Date in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. She was also Jenny on the Avalon High film, and she’s contributing to the Welcome to Nightvale story podcast.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows how you can improve any tabletop game by adding Godzilla.
  • Frank and Ernest find that the Earth has a sense of wonder.
  • Bizarro shows how a candy bar got its name.

(9) WHAT GREAT EARS YOU HAVE. Kate Pacculia’s “A Gothic Education:  Or, How I Learned To Love The Dark” on CrimeReads is worth reading if only because of its description of “Bunnicula” which sounds like a classic kids’ book.  Most of the books she picks are supernatural.

The gateway text. The classic tale of a vegetable-draining vampire bunny adopted by the unwitting Monroe family and actively dealt with by their housepets, genial dog Harold and megalomaniacal cat Chester—the best feline in literature (fight me)—isn’t very scary, and isn’t trying to be. Harold’s first person narration is an outrageously clever and charming feat of point-of-view that generates real sympathy for the titular monster bun. This was something I absorbed rather than realized at the time: that the beats of a genre are made to be remixed.

(10) TAKING A READING. Paul Weimer hosts the Q&A feature “6 Books With K V Johansen” at Nerds of a Feather.

3. Is there a book you’re currently itching to re-read?

Re-reading is interesting. Sometimes it’s just a quiet impulse, or you pick up something because you’d like to enjoy that again or remind yourself of it in some way, but sometimes it’s an intense craving. When it’s the latter, it can be a need to escape into something familiar from some stress or worry or heavy weight on you, but often I find that the thing I felt such an urgent desire to re-read turns out to have something in it that resolves some quandary that I’ve been wrestling with in my current work — it’ll be something to do with the narrative approach, or how difficulties in a character are set up, or a way of touching the story, that reminds me of what I need to be doing or sparks off something that solves my problem, shines a bit of moonlight on the path I’ve been stumbling in the dark to find. It’s like some underlayer of my brain knows what’s missing or where I’ve gone wrong in the WiP but doesn’t have any words of its own, so it points me at something that will show it to me. I’ve had that experience with LeCarré and Bujold, though most often it will be Diana Wynne Jones or Cherryh. The thing I most recently had an intense desire to reread was McKillip’s Kingfisher, which I’ve read a couple of times, but this time I bought the audiobook because I felt like I needed to have it read to me. Aside from the sheer enjoyment of the work, which is one of her best, what I’m taking from it on this re-read is a reminder of her lightness of touch, something I’m trying to achieve in my current project.

(11) AO3. Archana Apte sets out reasons “Why This Fanfiction Site’s Prestigious Literary Honor Is a Win for LGBTQ Representation” at Newnownext. Tagline: “Archive of Our Own, a volunteer-run, queer-inclusive fanfiction repository, scored a Hugo Award earlier this year.”

When I was barely in fifth grade, I felt too nerdy, too disabled, too brown, and secretly too queer to be accepted by my white, homophobic town. I escaped this alienation by turning to books. But as much as I loved Harry Potter, The Lightning Thief, and the other novels I flicked through at my town library, I never saw myself in the protagonists, who were mostly white, heterosexual men.

I didn’t realize how deeply this affected me until I got an iPod Touch and stumbled upon fanfiction. Across the internet, fans of particular works were rewriting popular stories however they liked: coffeeshop romances between Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, time travel re-do’s of Disney movies, what-if’s about the protagonist from Wicked having twins. I couldn’t be openly queer, but I could read about Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasley falling in love.

I soon created accounts on fanfiction sites and talked to authors—many of whom were themselves queer—about the same-sex relationships they wrote about. I slowly accepted the parts of myself that made me feel alienated from my peers, and I carried that newfound self-acceptance throughout my high school years….

(12) RECORD ECLIPSED. “Saturn overtakes Jupiter as planet with most moons” – BBC has the count.

Saturn has overtaken Jupiter as the planet with the most moons, according to US researchers.

A team discovered a haul of 20 new moons orbiting the ringed planet, bringing its total to 82; Jupiter, by contrast, has 79 natural satellites.

The moons were discovered using the Subaru telescope on Maunakea, Hawaii.

(13) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE BRINE. Yahoo! News tells how “NASA’s Curiosity rover found a weirdly salty ‘ancient oasis’ on Mars”.

“We went to Gale Crater because it preserves this unique record of a changing Mars,” William Rapin, of Caltech, the lead author of a study of their findings, published Monday in Nature Geoscience paper said in a statement.

(14) BEYOND POKEMON. “University of Northampton ‘virtual sculptures’ a UK first” – with photos — unfortunately no before/after comparisons.

A “virtual sculpture trail” at a university’s £330m campus is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Visitors to the University of Northampton can use a mobile phone to view 3D sculptures created by students.

The six augmented reality pieces of art around the Waterside campus are visible through an app made by a media agency.

Iain Douglas, from the university, said: “This was a valuable opportunity to bring a real-life collaborative project to the students.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “James Bond Theme For Boomwhackers (Fall 2014)” was done at Harvard five years ago but it’s still fannish!

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

Pixel Scroll 10/7/19 Yet There’s Much More To Be Said

(1) FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION. Here is the cover of the Nov/Dec 2019 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  The cover art is by Bob Eggleton.

(2) FIYAH SURVEY. FIYAH Literary Magazine’s “The Black Speculative Fiction Writer Survey” is open for responses again through November 30th.

This survey is designed to provide context to reports like Fireside Fiction’s #BlackSpecFic Reports. We invite Black SFF writers to submit information about their practices and insights on submission to SFF short fiction markets with a focus on a 13 month period. The responses we receive will allow us to:

  • Quantify the existence of Black speculative fiction writers seeking publication.
  • Provide submission context to existing publication data.
  • Expose the impact of doleful publication statistics on Black writers.
  • Enable markets to pinpoint their failings in attracting or publishing Black writers.

… For the purposes of this survey, participating writers:

  • must have submitted at least one piece of short speculative fiction to a paying market in the last 12 months. You do not have to be published in order to participate in the survey. Speculative fiction includes fantasy, science fiction, horror, paranormal and all of their included subgenres. “Short” fiction includes flash, shorts, novelettes, and novellas (under 40,000 words).
  • must identify as Black or of the African Diaspora (to include mixed/biracial)

(3) INSPIRED CREATURES. The “Natural History of Horror” exhibit will open October 10 at Los Angeles County’s Museum of Natural History, and run through April 19.

We have a strange curiosity for mysterious, eerie, and grotesque monsters. We love the thrill of intense, heart-pounding bursts of adrenaline that only horror movies can provide. In our new exhibition Natural History of Horror, explore the scientific inspiration for classic monsters from DraculaFrankensteinThe Mummy, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Get a glimpse of rare movie props, film footage, hands-on activities, and museum specimens.  

…Your senses will tingle as you hear about the scientific experiments and discoveries that inspired filmmakers to create four of the world‘s most iconic movie monsters: the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and Dracula. Whether these classics spotlighted sinister figures lurking in the shadows or creatures waiting unseen beneath the water, one thing is true: Each larger-than-life character had a surprisingly rich real-world backstory.

(4) UNTWIST THOSE KNICKERS. Shelf Awareness has retracted an earlier report. Now they say “U.S. Tariffs on E.U. Won’t Include Books”.

The report last week that books were included in the new tariffs on E.U. products imported to the U.S. was inaccurate. In fact, books will not be included in the $7.5 billion of tariffs, which are being imposed after the World Trade Organization ruled last Wednesday that the U.S. could tax $7.5 billion of E.U. goods to recoup damages after the WTO had determined in May that the E.U. illegally subsidized Airbus.

(5) ATWOOD’S LATEST. Kyra reviews The Testaments in a comment on File 770’s 2019 Recommended SFF List.

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from this book. What I absolutely did not expect was … a pretty good young adult dystopian adventure story. It was a bit jarring when I realized that was what I was reading, as if I’d discovered that The Hunger Games had somehow been intended as a direct sequel to 1984….

(6) YOUR MONEY’S NO GOOD HERE. FastCompany reports: “In latest streaming wars move, Disney bans Netflix ads from its entertainment networks”.

In a move that reminds us that the streaming wars are already well underway, Disney has banned all Netflix advertising from its entertainment properties, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Netflix spent $99.2 million on U.S. TV ads during 2018, with about 13% going to Disney-owned networks, according to estimates made by the ad-measurement firm iSpot.TV. But with Disney’s new streaming service Disney+ launching next month, the Mouse has ramped up its competitive edge to gain any traction it can against its newest, biggest rival. Notably, the ban only applies to Disney’s entertainment networks, not Disney-owned ESPN.

Back in August, Disney announced that it had banned ads from any of its streaming rivals but then walked that back, citing complex, mutually beneficial business relationships with partners who are also competitors such as Apple and Amazon.

(7) DRIVE THEM CRAZY. Engadget has discovered “Tesla will let you customize your car’s horn and movement sounds”. One hilarious option is coded but not yet operative:  

Electrek also found references in the Tesla Android app’s code to a currently unavailable “Patsy Mode” (named after Arthur’s sidekick in Holy Grail) that could play the coconuts when you summon your car from Auto Park. Things are about to get very silly in your EV, then, whether or not you’re actually moving.

(8) TAYLOR OBIT. Comedian Rip Taylor, a staple of daytime TV back in the day, died October 6 at the age of 84. SYFY Wire reminded readers about his genre resume.

…Aside from his career as a shtick-happy comic, he had a number of noteworthy genre roles, particularly in animation, where his unique vocal delivery got to breathe real life into his cartoon counterparts. His first major role animated role was in 1979’s Scooby Goes to Hollywood in 1979. Years later, he’d appear in two more Scooby-Doo projects, What’s New, Scooby-Doo in 2002 and Scooby-Doo and the Monster of Mexico in 2003. He also voiced the genie in 1990’s DuckTales the Movie.

Additionally, he had roles in Popeye and Son, The Snorks, and The Jetsons. Later, he had a recurring role as Uncle Fester in the early 1990s animated series The Addams Family. More recently, he was the voice of the Royal Recordkeeper in the Disney short film series The Emperor’s New School, and he played another genie in the superhero family series The Aquabats! Super Show! His last role was in the 2012 horror flick Silent But Deadly.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 7, 1959 — First photos taken of the far side of the Moon, by Luna 3.
  • October 7, 1988 — The War of the Worlds series premiered. Starring Jared Martin and Lynda Mason Green, it would last for two seasons. Andria Paul of Highlander fame would join the cast in season two. 
  • October 7, 1988 Alien Nation debuted as a film. Written by Rockne S. O’Bannon, it starred James Caan and Mandy Patinkin. It received a nomination for Best Dramatic Presentation in the Hugo Awards losing out at Noreascon 3 to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Both the movie and the series rate a 43% at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 7, 1926 Ken Krueger. Krueger co-founded and organized the first San Diego Comic-Con International convention, then called “San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con,” in 1970. He attended the first Worldcon in 1939. I’ll leave it up to y’all to discuss his activities as a fan and as a pro as they won’t fit here! (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 7, 1942 Lee Gold, 77. She’s a member of LAFA and a writer and editor in the role-playing game and filk music communities. She published Xenofilkia, a bi-monthly compilation of filk songs which has been published since 1988, four issues of the Filker Up anthology; and has published for forty-four years, Alarums and Excursions, a monthly gaming zine. She’s edited more fanzines than I care to list here, and is a member of the Filk Hall of Fame along with Barry Gold, her husband. 
  • Born October 7, 1946 Chris Foss, 73. UK Illustrator known for the Seventies UK paperback covers for Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman and Skylark series among many that he did. He also did design work for the Jodorowsky version of Dune. Alien has his Spaceship design, and he did redesign of Gordon’s rocket cycle for the 1980 Flash Gordon film. 
  • Born October 7, 1950 Howard Chaykin, 69. Comic book artist and writer. His first major work was for DC Comics, drawing The Price of Pain” which was an adaptation of author Fritz Leiber’s characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in Sword of Sorcery #1. He would illustrate damn near everything else from Batman and The Legion of Super-Heroes for DC to Hulk and Iron-Man for Marvel (to name but two series) but I think his best genre work was his own American Flagg! series.
  • Born October 7, 1958 Rosalyn Landor, 61. She played Guinevere in Arthur the King, and Helen Stoner in “The Speckled Band” of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes. She was the red headed colleen Brenna Odell in the “Up the Long Ladder” episode of Next Generation.
  • Born October 7, 1959 Steven Erikson, 60. He’s definitely  most known for his Malazan Book of the Fallen series, which began with the publication of Gardens of the Moon and was completed with the publication of The Crippled God, ten novels later. Though I’ve not read it, and didn’t know it existed, he’s written the Willful Child trilogy, a spoof on Star Trek and other tropes common in the genre. 
  • Born October 7, 1963 Tammy Klein, 56. She’s getting Birthday Honors because of the most-likely-unauthorised Trek audioseries she’s involved in called Star Trek: Henglaar, M.D. in which she’s Subcommander Nonia but she also been in some definitely really pulpy works such as Lizard ManJurassic City, Awaken the Dead and Zoombies.
  • Born October 7, 1970 Nicole Ari Parker, 49. She’s getting a Birthday Honor because she was Vanessa Anders in Time After Time, a short lived series (twelve episodes aired in 2017) based off the H.G. Wells novel of that name. Freddie Stroma played Wells. Anyone see it? Oh, and she had a recurring role in the Revolution series as Justine Allenford. 
  • Born October 7, 1979 Aaron Ashmore, 40. He‘s known for being Jimmy Olsen on Smallville and Steve Jinks on Warehouse 13. He also is Johnny Jaqobis on Killjoys. He also had a recurring role as Dylan Masters in XIII: The Series which I think is SFF. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio intercepts a message from outer space. It sounds pretty familiar…
  • Moderately Confused amuses by combining Halloween with a sff trope joke. I laughed.
  • On the other hand, today’s Off the Mark is truly bizarre.

(12) THE INTERNET SAYS “OOPS!” At Examined Worlds, Ethan Mills asks “Was Social Media a Huge Mistake?” Of course it was, that’s why I hurried to read his post…

My concern isn’t so much that social media makes new bad things. Humans have always been intellectually and morally fallible. My concern is that it exacerbates our weaknesses in a deeply unhealthy way.

Cognitive Biases and Logical Fallacies

Social media exacerbates our cognitive biases and tendencies toward fallacious reasoning. “Fake news” and conspiracy theories are shared more quickly and are believed more widely. Social media successfully exploits cognitive biases like availability heuristic and confirmation bias. Social media echo chambers make us think our views are more popular or more correct than they actually are. 

Logical fallacies like Ad Hominem, Tu Quoque, Strawman, Red Herring, Appeal to Popularity, Appeal to Authority, and No True Scotsman frequently pass for good arguments. And social media algorithms and click bait headlines deliberately exploit all of this to keep us clicking, liking, and sharing too quickly, long before we have time to digest or examine anything philosophically. (Indeed, I suspect philosophical thinking is too slow for social media, although a lucky few on philosophy Twitter may be exceptions.)…

(13) SHORT SFF AT ANGRY ROBOT. Tomorrow Angry Robot releases its “first foray into short-form fiction” Duchamp Versus Einstein, by Christopher Hinz and Etan Ilfeld, something we reported this last week. But we’ve subsequently learned the interesting fact that co-author Etan Ilfeld is also the owner of Watkins Media, of which Angry Robot has been part since 2014. Does that change how likely it is there will be more short sff forthcoming?

(14) O2. The Nobel Prizes are being announced this week. First up – the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine: “How cells sense oxygen wins Nobel prize”.

Three scientists who discovered how cells sense and adapt to oxygen levels have won the 2019 Nobel Prize.

Sir Peter Ratcliffe, of the University of Oxford and Francis Crick Institute, William Kaelin, of Harvard, and Gregg Semenza, of Johns Hopkins University share the physiology or medicine prize.

Their work is leading to new treatments for anaemia and even cancer.

The role of oxygen-sensing is also being investigated in diseases from heart failure to chronic lung disease.

…Why does this matter?

The oxygen-sensing ability of the body has a role in the immune system and the earliest stages of development inside the womb.

It can trigger the production of red blood cells or the construction of blood vessels.

So, drugs that mimic it may be an effective treatment for anaemia.

Tumours, meanwhile, can hijack this process to selfishly create new blood vessels and grow.

So, drugs that reverse it may help halt cancer.

(15) NOT THE BIGGEST BANG, BUT STILL PLENTY BIG. “Milky Way’s centre exploded 3.5 million years ago”.

A cataclysmic energy flare ripped through our galaxy, the Milky Way, about 3.5 million years ago, a team of astronomers say.

They say the so-called Sifter flare started near the super massive black hole in the centre of the galaxy.

The impact was felt 200,000 light-years away.

The discovery that the Milky Way’s centre was more dynamic than previously thought can lead to a complete reinterpretation of its evolution.

(16) PRIVACY V. SAFETY. “Facebook encryption: Should governments be given keys to access our messages?” BBC has the story.

Governments in the UK, US and Australia have asked Facebook, in an open letter, to roll back plans to bring end-to-end encryption to all of its platforms.

Facebook, rocked by privacy scandals, responds that everyone has the right to a private conversation.

It is the latest in an age-old battle between privacy and safety, which has played out between governments and tech firms ever since digital communication became mass market.

What is end-to-end encryption?

As the name suggests, this is a secure way of sending information so that only the intended receiver can read it.

The information is encrypted while it is still on the sender’s device and is only decrypted when it reaches the person intended. Nobody, not even the platform owner, has the keys to unlock it.

Is there evidence encryption has hampered police enquiries?

When the BBC asked the Home Office to provide examples, it could not do so.

The real issue is the fact that Facebook will no longer be able to police its own content, it said.

It pointed to the fact that last year Facebook sent 12 million reports of child exploitation or abuse to the US’s National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and it would no longer be able to do this if it had encryption on all its platforms.

It is something that Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg addressed directly in a Q&A with staff about the issue.

“When we decided to go to end-to-end encryption across the different apps, this is one of the things that just weighed the most heavily on me,” he said.

(17) RUBY ROSE. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Ruby Rose, star of “Batwoman,” who explains that even though she identifies as gay and Batwoman is gay, “you don’t fight crime in a gay way or a lesbian way.” “Ruby Rose knows Batwoman is a step forward for LGBTQ superheroes — but she’s more interested in how she saves the day”.

…Rose did a bit of soul searching when CW called. Shooting a network TV season often means filming almost year round, leaving a limited window for Rose to make movies. She would have to move from Los Angeles to Vancouver, where most of the CW’s DC shows film.

But ultimately, Rose answered the bat-signal call — the role was too emotionally appealing to pass up. She tried to think of any upcoming role she’d been offered that could make her feel the same way. There weren’t any.

“[This role is] something that we all wish did exist when we were growing up [watching] television. It would have helped [us] as well as other people feel less alone and less misunderstood or all confused or isolated and different and not unlike many other things that come with being young and gay,” Rose said. She hopes the show will impact people who feel alone — “and empower them to feel like they’re a superhero too and that they can change the world too.”…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. 2001 A Space Odyssey, Epilogue. Featuring Frank Poole on Vimeo.

Some 203 years after astronaut Frank Poole is murdered by the Discovery’s A.I. HAL 9000, his body encounters a Monolith.

Using practical models and digital versions of the tricks used in the original, with respect to Stanley and Wally.

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

Academy Opens Up Process for Nobel Prize for Literature

By Karl-Johan Norén: The questions about the Nobel Prize in literature and its awarding body—the Swedish Academy—are still very much ongoing, but yesterday it was announced that the Academy would change its process for the preparatory work. Instead of a select committee formed entirely from within the ranks of the Academy, the work of reading the various nominated authors and creating the shortlist would go to a committee made up of five members of the Academy and five external members.

According to Sweden’s The Local (“Swedish Academy to let outsiders help pick Nobel Prize for the first time in its history”) —

The venerable institution, which has awarded the Nobel Literature Prize since 1901, has been in crisis mode since November 2017, after a deep rift emerged among Academy members about how to manage its longstanding ties to a Frenchman accused – and now convicted – of rape.

For the first time in 70 years, the Academy postponed this year’s literature prize by a year while it attempts to sort out its problems.

On Monday, the Academy said in a brief statement that its Nobel Prize committee – usually made up of five members who recommend a laureate to the rest of the Academy – would in 2019 and 2020 also include “five external experts”, including critics, publishers and authors ranging in age from 27 to 73.

The Academy’s permanent secretary, Anders Olsson, told news agency TT the two-year appointment was “temporary”.

And the Associated Press story “Outsiders, Academy Members to Pick Nobel Literature Winners” adds:

The decision to build “a new Nobel committee” was taken “in consultation with the Nobel Foundation,” Anders Olsson, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said in a statement.

“What I understand is we run through (the names of) the prize nominees and discuss it. But I do not know exactly how it will go. We’ll see,” Rebecka Karde, a literary critic and one of those selected, told Swedish broadcaster SVT before the announcement.

One of these external members is of genre interest: Kristoffer Leandoer has worked as a literature critic, poet, and translator, but he has also written poetry and several YA novels which are openly supernatural horror or weird fiction. He was also a very appreciated Guest of Honour of the sf con Fantastika 2003 in Stockholm.

The question of there will be a Nobel Prize in literature next year (then probably awarding the prize for both 2018 and 2019) is still open. The idea of a committee at a remove from the Swedish Academy awarding the Nobel Prize in literature came from the Nobel committee, but they still want to see progress in the public confidence in the Swedish Academy.

Pixel Scroll 10/2/18 I’ve Got Two Pixels To Paradox

(1) SETTING THE SCENE. For the premiere of First Man they turned the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood into the moon.

(2) TERRESTRIAL RAYS. The versions available today are much too big to work as phasers, however, Cosmos assures readers that “The ray-gun is no longer science fiction”.

In the last decade we’ve seen spectacular advances in laser technology that may make the ray-gun practical again.

The Laser Weapons System (LaWS) is one of the first of a new breed of more compact systems based on the fibre laser. Fibre lasers can generate laser beams at efficiencies of 40%, far higher than conventional lasers, and achieve kilowatt powers. High power fibre lasers are already used in industrial cutting and welding machines, some with laser power of 100 kW and capable of welding blocks of metal parts 30 cm thick.

A 100 kW infra-red laser is exactly the ‘heat-ray’ that Wells imagined—equivalent to using a giant, kilometre-wide magnifying glass to focus the sun’s heat energy onto a single point the size of your fingernail.

The objective for LaWS is to affordably shoot down cheaply made insurgent rockets and drones, without wasting absurdly expensive missiles. While an anti-air cruise missile might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, a single shot from LaWS works out at about $1 in energy cost. In 2014, a LaWS prototype installed on the USS Ponce demonstrated it could shoot down drones and disable boats. The US Air Force plans to put a similar device, developed by Lockheed Martin, on a fighter jet by 2021.

One difference from movie sci-fi, these real ray-guns don’t emit exciting ‘Pew! Pew!’ sound effects when they fire. They’re silent. Wells’ ominous words are more apt: “this invisible, inevitable sword of heat.”

(3) CASTING CALL. For a Dublin 2019 production —

(4) CAMPAIGNING AGAINST THE JEDI. The Hollywood Reporter boosts the signal — “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Negative Buzz Amplified by Russian Trolls, Study Finds”. Or as Rainbow Rowell puts it —

An academic paper finds that half of criticism aimed at director Rian Johnson was politically motivated.

Did Star Wars: The Last Jedi destroy the franchise and permanently rupture the fandom as its critics (melodramatically) have accused it of doing? According to a new academic paper by researcher Morten Bay, the answer is clearly no.

The paper, titled Weaponizing The Haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation, examines the online response to 2017’s Last Jedi, a movie that has come to be considered controversial amongst the larger fanbase of the franchise.

Bay suggests that reputation may not be earned, and instead “finds evidence of deliberate, organized political influence measures disguised as fan arguments,” as he writes in the paper’s abstract. He continues, “The likely objective of these measures is increasing media coverage of the fandom conflict, thereby adding to and further propagating a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society. Persuading voters of this narrative remains a strategic goal for the U.S. alt-right movement, as well as the Russian Federation.”

(5) BLEAK GEEK. Variety discovered “The Connection Between the Brett Kavanaugh Hearings and Gamergate”.

…Following the revelations regarding his potential involvement in the allegations against Kavanaugh, Judge deleted his Twitter account. However, what remains via screenshots and tweets from others shows regular interaction with other prominent figures in the alt-right, including Chuck Johnson and actor Adam Baldwin, who helped coin the term Gamergate.

In his first Gamergate story for the publication in 2015, Judge exclusively takes aim at Feminist Frequency founder Anita Sarkeesian, a frequent target of Gamergate harassment, labeling her arguments as “overly broad.” While he suggests that the harassment campaign against Sarkeesian was “disgusting, sad, and intolerable,” he quickly pivots to talk about how “gamers have absolutely demolished” her points….

(6) S&S. DMR begins a Wollheim retrospective with “The Sword and Sorcery Legacy of Donald A. Wollheim: Part One”.

From the day he published the first part of Robert E. Howard’s “The Hyborian Age” in the Spring 1936 issue of The Phantagraph, Donald A. Wollheim–at the ripe old age of twenty-one–began making his mark as an editor in the field of sword and sorcery literature. REH died soon after and Wollheim never published the entire essay, but his S&S cred had been established. To be able to claim the honor of publishing something Conan-related straight from the typewriter of Howard while he was still alive would be a horn on the helm of any heroic fantasy editor, but Don had much more to contribute in the decades to come.

(7) PIONEERING CHARACTERIZATION. Ira Galdkova’s self-revelatory literary exploration, “Miles Vorkosigan and ‘Excellent Life Choices’: (Neuro)Divergence and Decision-Making in Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga”, is featured at Uncanny.

But that very preoccupation with appearance is what I want to talk about. Miles spends so much more time and energy working to normalize the way he looks than normalizing the way he thinks that he can come off as downright anosognosic when it comes to his own neurodivergence. It is only halfway through the series, when Miles makes a disastrous decision while neither manic nor depressed, that he truly grapples with how he makes decisions and weighs choices. Miles is clearly meant to be seen as nonnormative, and psychological treatments are explicitly available in his world. His mother Cordelia advocates therapy in cases such as trauma but doesn’t seek to pathologize Miles’s brain or suggest any form of professional psychological treatment. Other characters also comment on Miles’s mental state(s) but eschew the idea of therapy: “You mean psychiatric? Absolutely not. Real bad idea. If the psych boys ever got hold of him, they’d never let him go. No. This is a family matter.”  In other words, Miles may not be aware of his own neurodivergence, but the text explicitly is, and the way Bujold plays with Miles’s decision making is worth examining.

The narrative thrust of the Vorkosigan Saga is predicated largely on Miles’s many questionable decisions, and decision making is a classic casualty of both bipolar disorder and ADHD. In sharing those conditions, I find Miles fascinating as a protagonist—as subject rather than object. Although recent works like Mishell Baker’s Borderline and Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts feature neurodivergent protagonists, Miles predates them by decades. Society, and by reflection literature, has long framed neurodivergence as a problem to be solved, as a topic rather than a subjective experience. It’s unclear how intentional Bujold was in her portrayal of Miles’s psyche vis-a-vis our pathologized categorizations of conditions such as bipolar and ADHD, but she has consistently captured how those conditions affect the ability to make decisions, and the ability to live with them.

(8) DWYER OBIT. Award-winning set decorator John M. Dwyer has died at the age of 83. The Hollywood Reporter obituary recollected his work on Star Trek, crediting him with the creation of the tribble. (We’ll set aside the role of David Gerrold and Robert Heinlein til another day…)

The 6-foot-6 Dwyer joined the original Star Trek for its second season in 1967, and the first episode on which he was employed was the legendary “The Trouble With Tribbles,” where he got creative using puffy blobs of fur.

He went on to dress up sets for 38 installments of the NBC series, earning an Emmy nomination (shared with Walter M. Jefferies) in 1969 for their art direction and scenic design on the episode “All Our Yesterdays.”

“In the original series we had to be really inventive, because we were dealing with stuff that nobody knew anything about,” he said in “Designing the Final Frontier,” a featurette for a Star Trek DVD. “There was no space shows, and we didn’t have any money, so you had to scrounge; in effect, scrounge everything that you got.”

Dwyer once noted that his budget was usually $500 per show, so he would squirrel away money from one episode to another when he could and picked through trash to use items like packing materials and plastic coffee lids for the Enterprise and alien environments.

“I’m not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination, but I keep in touch with materials that are going around,” he said in 2002. “On the original series, we were the first ones to use refractive Mylar, because it had just come out … and I went crazy with the stuff. In those days, nobody cared what you put on the set, so long as there was something that looked right. I’d take a piece of Masonite and cover it with some adhesive Mylar, put a two-by-four on the backside of it and hang it on a wall.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 2, 1955Alfred Hitchcock Presents made its television debut.
  • October 2, 1959 — The world was changed with the first aired episode of The Twilight Zone

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 2, 1906 – Willy Ley, Writer, Cryptozoologist, and Spaceflight Advocate who helped to popularize rocketry, spaceflight, and natural history in both Germany and the United States. He wrote a handful of SF stories as Robert Willey, but was best known for his non-fiction science articles for Astounding and Amazing Stories, and later for Galaxy Science Fiction, where he was the science editor for the 16 years before his death. He won two Hugo Awards and a Retro Hugo, and two International Fantasy Awards, for his space-related non-fiction writing. The crater Ley on the far side of the Moon is named in his honor.
  • Born October 2, 1909 – Alex Raymond, Artist, a cartoonist generally only known for creating Flash Gordon for King Features in 1934. The strip has been adapted into many media, from a series of movie serials in the 30s and 40s, to a 70s TV series and the 80s feature film — not to be confused with the American-Canadian TV series of the same vintage. Radio serials, myriad films, comic books, novels — any medium that exists has seen Flash Gordon fiction. There are at least fifteen authorized strips and a number of bootleg strips as well. Needless to say, there are bootleg films and serials too.
  • Born October 2, 1911 – Jack Finney, Writer of many short stories who had great success with the time-travel novel Time and Again, but is best remembered for The Body Snatchers, which has inspired numerous alien possession movies including Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a finalist for the 1979 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. About Time is a collection of his time stories from The Third Level and I Love Galesburg in the Springtime. He was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1987.
  • Born October 2, 1944 – Vernor Vinge, 74, Writer and Mathematician whose numerous short stories and two novel series, both of which I consider excellent, Realtime and Zones of Thought, have garnered many Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, Clarke, Prometheus and Kurd Laßwitz Awards and nominations. He’s done a handful of stand-alone novels; I’ve very fond of Tatja Grimm’s World and Rainbow’s End which won a Hugo. His novellas Fast Times at Fairmont High and The Cookie Monster also won Hugo Awards. He was Writer Guest of Honor at ConJosé, the 60th World Science Fiction Convention, in 2002.
  • Born October 2, 1948 – Persis Khambatta, Actor, a former Miss India who became famous for playing the bald Deltan Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a role which garnered her a Saturn nomination. In 1980 she became the first citizen of India to present an Academy Award. Sadly, she died from cardiac arrest two months short of her 50th birthday.
  • Born October 2, 1948 – Avery Brooks, 70, Actor and Director best known to genre fans for playing Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and lending his majestic voice to videogames in that franchise.
  • Born October 2, 1951 – Gordon Sumner, better known as Sting, 67, Actor, Composer and Musician from England who played Feyd-Rautha in David Lynch’s version of Dune and Baron Frankenstein in The Bride, appeared in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and has lent his voice to several animated movies and TV episodes including The Simpsons, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, and Peter and the Wolf.
  • Born October 2, 1967 – Lew Temple, 51, Actor who has played numerous roles in supernatural and horror movies, including The Visitation, Deja Vu, Silent Night, Zombie Night, the reboots of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, and more recently, a part in the TV series The Walking Dead.
  • Born October 2, 1986 – Camilla Belle, 32, Actor who started young, playing genre roles in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Annie: A Royal Adventure, Practical Magic, and A Little Princess and Back to the Secret Garden, the movie versions of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s well-known childrens’ fantasies.

(11) VINGE. Rich Horton celebrates with a post at Strange at Ecbatan“Birthday Review: A Deepness in the Sky, by Vernor Vinge”.

…As I said, I found the plot inspiring as well. This is a very long book, about 600 pages, but I was never bored. Moreover, as Patrick Nielsen Hayden has taken pains to point out, the prose in this book is quite effective. I believe Patrick used some such term as “full throated scientifictional roar”. Without necessarily understanding exactly what he meant by that, the prose definitely works for me, and in ways which seem possibly particularly “scientifictional” in nature….

(12) WELLEN. Steven H Silver’s winner in today’s birthday sweepstakes was – “Birthday Reviews: Edward Wellen’s ‘Barbarossa’”.

Most of Wellen’s publications were short stories and he was more active in the mystery field than in science fiction, although he began publishing in the genre in 1952 with the non-fact article “Origins of Galactic Slang” in Galaxy.  In 1971, he published his only science fiction novel.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) KEEP BIG BANGING ON. In “The Fourth Copernican Revolution” on Nautilus, Sir Martin Rees, in an excerpt from On the Future: Prospects for Humanity, speculates on if we are living in a multiverse, and if we are, why that would be “the fourth and grandest Copernican revolution.”

At first sight, the concept of parallel universes might seem too arcane to have any practical impact. But it may (in one of its variants) actually offer the prospect of an entirely new kind of computer: the quantum computer, which can transcend the limits of even the fastest digital processor by, in effect, sharing the computational burden among a near infinity of parallel universes.

Fifty years ago, we weren’t sure whether there had been a big bang. My Cambridge mentor Fred Hoyle, for instance, contested the concept, favoring a “steady state” cosmos that was eternal and unchanging. (He was never fully converted—in his later years he espoused a compromise idea that might be called a “steady bang.”) Now we have enough evidence, especially from measurements of the primordial background radiation and the relative abundances of hydrogen, helium, and deuterium created in the first three minutes, to delineate cosmic history back to the ultradense first nanosecond—and to do this with as much confidence as a geologist inferring the early history of Earth. So in 50 more years, it is not overoptimistic to hope that we may have a “unified” physical theory, corroborated by experiment and observation in the everyday world, that is broad enough to describe what happened in the first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second—where the densities and energies were far higher than the range in which current theories apply. If that future theory were to predict multiple big bangs we should take that prediction seriously, even though it can’t be directly verified (just as we give credence to what Einstein’s theory tells us about the unobservable insides of black holes, because the theory has survived many tests in domains we can observe).

(15) ABOUT THE FANTASTIC BEASTS 2 PUSHBACK. The Washington Post’s Mili Mitra says in an opinion piece that the controversy over Nagini in Fantastic Beasts 2 shows that “fans are also right to ask for thoughtful representation that does more than haphazardly introduce underrepresented caricatures.” — “Is ‘Fantastic Beasts 2’ racist? Not quite.”

Twenty years after the first Harry Potter book was released in the United States, the franchise still has the power to amaze — and offend. To this day, J.K. Rowling’s series is still banned in some schools and libraries for promoting “witchcraft.” But with the release last week of a new trailer for the next film in the fictional universe, “Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” Rowling is facing a different sort of backlash. This one shouldn’t be dismissed so easily.

(16) ANOTHER CENTURY OF AVENGERS. It’s issue #700, and the story’s set in another timezone “as the mystery of the 1M BC Avengers continues!”

There’s no rest for the heroes who protect Earth…not even when it comes to the Avengers! Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will find themselves facing some of their harshest battles yet – including Namor’s fearsome new Defenders of the Deep and the reimagined Russian Super-Soldiers of the Winter Guard!

To celebrate this jam-packed, landmark 700th anniversary issue, Marvel is excited to reveal an all-new cover by legendary artist David Finch!

(17) FIRST OF THE UNCANNY AVENGERS. They’re back….

This November, UNCANNY X-MEN returns with a new ongoing series, bringing together nearly every mutant left on earth in a story that threatens to destroy them. It’s an epic tale of mystery and tragic disappearance, with an adventure so earth-shattering, it could very well be the X-Men’s FINAL mission!

In celebration of the much-anticipated launch of UNCANNY X-MEN #1, Marvel is excited to reveal a new Hidden Gem variant cover from very own Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, with colors by Richard Isanove!

(18) WONDER WOMAN VARIATION. LAist studies “Wonder Woman’s Latest Enemies: Nazis, The Patriarchy, And Pick-Up Artists” because Earth One, Volume 2 is being released this week.

WONDER WOMAN VS. PICK-UP ARTISTS

One of the book’s villains, codenamed Doctor Psycho, was presented in his 1940s origins as an obvious bad guy. This time, Morrison’s taken that early interpretation and infused it with the modern idea of the pick-up artist community.

Morrison spoke with a female expert on pick-up artist techniques to use them in the new interpretation of the character.

“The Doctor Psycho sequence where he sits and talks to Diana [Wonder Woman] is actually based on the script used by pick-up artists,” Morrison said. “Even the movements he makes — he mirrors all her gestures, he makes these casting off gestures every time he talks about something that he wants her to perceive as negative.”

Today’s LAist post is based on a DC Comics blog interview published in April, “Morrison and Paquette Discuss Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2”

For those of you unfamiliar, the Earth One graphic novels are special out-of-continuity stories that reimagine some of the DC Universe’s most familiar heroes in a totally unfamiliar light, whether it’s stripping Green Lantern of his willpower or imagining Bruce Wayne getting kidnapped for ransom rather than orphaned in an alleyway.

For Diana Prince, Earth One means a brand-new look at both the origin story of Wonder Woman, the culture of Themyscira altogether and her role as an Amazon ambassador to the world of man, something that gets further explored under the highest of stakes in the upcoming, eagerly anticipated WONDER WOMAN: EARTH ONE VOL. 2….

(19) THE HORROR. Are you and Goodreads still on speaking terms? If so, ‘tis the season to find out if you’ve read the “50 Most Popular Horror Novels on Goodreads”. I’ve only read 5 of these, so you’re bound to score much higher.

From literal monsters to purely psychological terrors, these are tales of madness and pandemonium, retribution and absolution. Long heralded as the “Master of Horror,” Stephen King reigns supreme, with five books on our list, but his son Joe Hill is not far behind, nabbing four spots. And along with classics from Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Kirkman‘s end-of-the-world comic, The Walking Dead, made the cut as well as an award-winning children’s ghost story, The Graveyard Book, from Neil Gaiman.

And now we present the top horror books on Goodreads in alphabetical order. Proceed at your own risk—and then tell us how many you’ve read in the comments.

(20) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. It’s being eaten alive! — “Is this the last chance to see the Titanic?” Rust-forming bacteria are rapidly consuming the Titanic. Experts predict it will last only a little more than 20 years. This is especially a problem if you were planning to visit in person.

At least 1,500 people died. Engulfed by deep-sea darkness, the wreck sat for more than 70 years while bacteria ate away at its metal hull, leaving behind millions of delicate, icicle-shaped formations.

“Now, there’s more life on Titanic than there was floating on the surface,” says Lori Johnston, microbial ecologist and a six-time visitor of the wreck.

These ‘rusticles’ are the by-products of bacteria that oxidise the iron they consume. The acidic, oxidised fluid oozes downward with gravity, forming fragile branches of rust. “The rusticles are unique because they’re kind of the dominant species down there,” Johnston says.

(21) WOMAN WINS NOBEL PRIZE. BBC brings word of “First woman Physics Nobel winner in 55 years”“Donna Strickland: The ‘laser jock’ Nobel prize winner”.

Donna Strickland, from Canada, is only the third woman winner of the award, along with Marie Curie, who won in 1903, and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, who was awarded the prize in 1963.

Dr Strickland shares this year’s prize with Arthur Ashkin, from the US, and Gerard Mourou, from France.

It recognises their discoveries in the field of laser physics.

Dr Ashkin developed a laser technique described as optical tweezers, which is used to study biological systems.

(22) THEY BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE. On the frontiers of research….

ULTRAGOTHA sent the background to the link: a New Scientist article about Gelada monkeys and wolves — “Monkeys’ cosy alliance with wolves looks like domestication” — basically boils down to: (1) the wolves catch more rodents when the monkeys are present and (2) the monkeys will swarm a wolf that attacks a monkey and drive it away, so it behooves the wolf to not eat the monkeys. “Whether this is a precursor to domestication, I leave up to more research,” says ULTRAGOTHA.

(23) ROSARIUM COMICS. Coming from Rosarium on October 16 – Super Sikh #3 – “If this is your vacation, then your job must be really crazy…”

The Sikh superhero comic book from Eileen Kaur Alden, Supreet Singh Manchanda, and Amit Tayal is now being published by Rosarium Publishing!

Meet Deep Singh. He loves Elvis and hates bad guys. By day he works at a tech company and lives with his parents. But that’s just a front. For Deep Singh is really a top secret agent for the United Nations, fighting terrorism all around the world.

(24) STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Season 2 poster –

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

2018 New Prize in Literature Finalists

By Ahrvid Engholm: The Den Nya Akademin (DNA – “The New Academy”), a private initiative organized among Swedish culture workers because there’ll be no Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018, has announced the finalists for the 2018 New Prize in Literature.

After nominations were taken from librarians, the finalists were selected by popular vote. A jury will select the winner. The prize is to be revealed October 12 and handed out December 9. The finalists are:

  • Haruki Murakami
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Kim Thuy
  • Maryse Condé

The New Academy is presently running a Kickstarter appeal to raise $27,318 to pay for the award ceremony.

It’s said to be a one-year thing because there’ll be no Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018. However, there are hints that if the scandal-ridden Swedish Academy can’t get their act together, there might not be a prize for 2019 either (and will The New Academy Prize step in for 2019 in that case?)

The New Academy was founded to warrant that an international literary prize will be awarded in 2018, but also as a reminder that literature should be associated with democracy, openness, empathy and respect.

In a time when human values are increasingly being called into question, literature becomes the counterforce of oppression and a code of silence. It is now more important than ever that the world’s greatest literary prize should be awarded.

The New Academy is a non-profit organization, politically and financially independent. It consists of a wide range of knowledgeable individuals. The New Academy works within the time frame of the Swedish Academy and in five different committees….

The New Academy will be dissolved in December.

Following weeks of internal bickering, sex-abuse allegations and a financial investigation by police, the Swedish Academy, the body that hands out the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature, announced in May there would be two Nobel Prizes for Literature given next year, the 2018 prize and the 2019 prize. The decision was made on the grounds that the group was in too deep a crisis to choose a Nobel winner properly.

Since then, there has been more news about the “Old” Academy and the fate of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

On July 18, the daily Dagens Nyheter revealed a heated mail exchange between the Academy and the Nobel Foundation. The Nobel Foundation controls the Nobel Prize money and is worried about the Academy’s competence, reputation and legitimacy — especially the last two. They thus demand that the Nobel Prize should for the time being be decided by a separate Nobel committee in which no Academy member who has been compromised in the recent scandals may take part (say, Horace Engdahl…). Such a committee would have non-Academy members, maybe being a majority.

But the Academy says no.

Instead they want to elect four new members this autumn (if they can, with only 10 active members) and continue as before.

This is a serious conflict, because the Nobel Foundation has the money and the power to remove the Prize from the Academy. It has been suggested it may be taken over by the The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, as the lengthy English name goes (Vitterhetsakademin in Swedish), a body of circa 60 scholars including many in the field of literature and language. This would be possible since Alfred Nobel only stipulated the body to be “the Academy in Stockholm,” where Vitterhetsakademien also is situated.

At the same time, we had the “Summer” talk by the former permanent secretary Sara Danius on Swedish Radio. The radio show “Sommar” (Summer) is a very popular – millions of listeners – show where a celebrity talks for 1.5 hour and plays his/her favourite music. She of course talked about the Academy crisis, for instance quoting the support (including from Horace Engdahl!) she got when she suggested to let a law firm investigate the affair last November.

And then Horace turned against her. And there was a lot of internal conspiracies that finally forced her to resign as permanent secretary and also as a working member of the Academy. She sounded very bitter in her radio talk: “History won’t be merciful towards Horace Engdahl,” she said. Her program is here, if you know Swedish: https://sverigesradio.se/sida/avsnitt/1077323

On top of this, the Jean Claude Arnault trial begins next month, the case against the man married to Academy member Katarina Frostenson who is charged with two cases of rape (other cases have been dismissed as being past the statute of limitation). This will put the Academy scandals in even more focus. The 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature has been cancelled because of this mess, but it’s not certain that there will be a 2019 prize either.

Then, in August, the three members of the Swedish Academy who earlier announced they’d “quit working for the Swedish Academy” (Sara Danius, former permanent secretary, Kjell Espmark, and Peter Englund, also a former permanent secretary) said they’ll return to help the Academy elect four new members this autumn. This is necessary to reach the quorum of 12 (they were 10 active members, now they’ll be 13) which the statutes require. (See Reuters’ August 30 story — “Three members returning to scandal-ridden Swedish Academy”.)

At the same time they’ll drop – for the time at least – their earlier demand that Horace Engdahl must resign. It is unclear if they’ll come back temporarily just to elect new members or if they’ll return in full to work for the Academy:

They have stated that they will return to save this old institution, which has been ridden with scandals the past year (sex crime allegations against the husband of an Academy member, economic irregularities, leaks of Nobel Prize winners, members quitting, harsh statements and ultimatums going back and forth).

My speculation is that this move has probably come out of negotiations between the three and the “rump Academy” and that is was no big concession to withdraw the demands on Horace Engdahl. He has been so vilified in media already and that would seem like sufficient “punishment.”

As I’ve noted before, there are several people with old connections to the sf community who could be potential Academy members! These are Erik Andersson, Steve Sem-Sandberg, Inger Edelfeldt and Anna Gustafsson Chen. Especially Erik (praised translator of James Joyce and himself an author) who in the 1980s was a leading fanzine editor and fandom columnist. Gustafsson Chen is a sinologist who could replace Göran Malmqvist, who at age 94 could be expected to pack his suitcase any day. The other two are authors with long, acclaimed careers. But we’ll see who they pick. (A delicate question is if people they ask want to join.)

The sexual assault trial against Mr JC Arnault — who ignited the whole thing as his past caught up with him — will be held in Stockholm September 19th, 20th and 24th. Expect extensive coverage in international media.