Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #51

An Independent Opinion of Science Fiction: A Declaration

By Chris M. Barkley:

I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they might be.

-Alexander Hamilton,  from a letter written on August 13, 1782

As a frequent user of Facebook, one of my daily (and habitual) delights has been posting fantasy and sf items of interest to many, MANY pages. (And YES, some of those items have been cribbed from this very website). 

One of my favorite pages is simply titled Science Fiction, a private group with nearly 68,300 members. The page was established in February 2008 and describes itself as:
“Science Fiction in all forms: Movies, books, t.v. shows, comics, video games and other media. Discussions of science and technology of the future in fiction.”  

It is clearly stated in the Group Rules of the Forum that:

1) Be polite, courteous, friendly. Be Polite. No disrespecting each other (even via pm’s)
2) Stay on target. Posts must be Science Fiction (or close to it) in nature. Discussions & comments must be about Scifi.
3) No irl politics & religion. Polite discussion of politics & religion must be in the context of specific usage in a specific scifi I.P. No discussions of real world politics or religions are allowed here.

During my time as a member, I’ve had some general disagreements with others that all fan groups have experienced since the Big Bang.  familiar with some members but it was all amiable and non-confrontational. That is, until recently…

Over the past two weeks I posted four items on the Science Fiction page which have drawn a LOT of attention:

On June 20th: “10 awesome science fiction and fantasy books by Black authors” by Daniel Devita

Almost immediately, several commentators, all of them white, accused me of racism. The primary reason seemed to be that I, an African American, was openly calling attention to black authors. Why wasn’t I promoting white writers? That MUST be racist. This was a peculiar bit of illogical thinking to me since NO ONE seemed to be objecting to memes and images about white actors, writers and authors that anyone (including myself) were posting on a regular basis everyday.

On June 22nd, these two posts: “Octavia Paved The Way” and “If You Really Want to Unlearn Racism, Read Black Sci-Fi Authors” by Cree Myles.

In the former, I was chastised for posting about the birthday of a celebrated Black woman sf writer because, well, she’s Black and dead. What? In the latter, AGAIN, I was called to task for “just promoting” Black writers. Who the hell was I to do THAT?

Lastly, there was this Instagram post of several reimagined illustrations of a Black Wonder Woman (titled Nubia By Render Goddess), which in turn was posted on The Secret Society of Black Superheroes Facebook Page:

Again, there was a constant barrage from white commenters, who either made disparaging remarks about the images, the darkness of her skin that were overtly racist or adamant claims that Wonder Woman could be either Lynda Carter or Gal Gadot but NEVER A PERSON OF COLOR.  

When I joined the Science Fiction page, it was my expressed goal to offer opinions and observations about science fiction that go beyond “what are you watching”, “what game are you excited about” and “who has the faster/cooler spaceship.” My intent was to offer an opportunity to think outside the perimeters of the culture the people were familiar with and expand people’s awareness of the larger universe of possibilities that sf literature, art and film has to offer. Because, it is generally thought, sf is supposed to be ‘fun”. Well, the moment people say something derogatory about someone’s race or gender, BOOM, you just made it VERY political

There has been a lot of support for my postings, from like-minded fans and people of color. But, as it has become readily apparent to me that there are a number of members who seriously object to discussing or considering diversity and instead have decided to reply with some rather defensive and disparaging comments on these posts.

To those members of Science Fiction forum, I have a very simple message for you: You’re WRONG.  HOW WRONG? Let me quote one of our greatest fictional Presidents (and THANK YOU VERY MUCH, Aaron Sorkin), Josiah Bartlet: “No. No ‘however’. Just be wrong. Just stand there in your wrongness and be wrong and get used to it.”

Furthermore, I was very heartened by the force of those who rose in defense of my posts. The message was very clear to the detractors: your time is up. It’s over. Collectively, we will no longer “bend the knee” and passively accept your boorish stances and hate speech.

Yes, you have a right to your opinions, as incredibly uninformed and crude as they are. But as an enlightened and educated person, I and other like-minded fans don’t have to stand it.When I post a link celebrating a great author of color, it is not an invitation to say, “Why are you posting THAT? I don’t see race and it’s an insulting to me to inject the subject onto a discussion on science fiction.”

Well, when someone claims something isn’t about race or ethnicity, it’s definitely about race and ethnicity. When I see those comments, I honestly have to question their credentials to be fans of science fiction (or fantasy, for that matter).

I once attended a 2007 guest lecture given by actor and social activist Edward James Olmos (who is either Lt. Castillo or Commander Adama, depending on how old or actor savvy you are).  The title of his talk was “We’re All In The Same Gang”, a meditation on how America has treated ethnic minorities over the centuries and how we can come together as a nation in these divided times. The capstone quote I remember the most was “There is only ONE race; The HUMAN race.” And he is correct, every single human that has ever lived can be traced back to a single area of land that eventually broke off and is currently the continent of Africa.

So since it is a scientific fact that we are ALL of African descent, is being colorblind to one’s race an acceptable attitude? Not in my opinion. And that was not the point of Mr. Olmos’ quote. Yes, we’re all in the same gang but as of today, not all of the gang are being treated or respected as equal. When white people, well-meaning or otherwise say that damning phrase, it is not true by any stretch of the imagination.

White people In America are, on the whole, are apt to be by default, given more of the benefit of doubt in social situations and more financial, educational and social opportunities than people of color. There’s that term, “white privilege”, that you keep hearing about. That’s what it is; an (almost) imperceptible program of racist bias running in the background of our everyday lives. 

When most white people walk out their front doors, they can be relatively assured that barring some unfortunate circumstance, they’ll be home after work and catch that new episode of House Hunters on HGTV. However, I step outside my door, I am marked by the color of my skin. I can’t even walk into Target, Kroger or WalMart without having at least one set of eyes lasered in one me, assessing my six-foot frame as to whether or not I’ll be shoplifting or robbing the place. (And the fact that I’m wearing a mask against being infected by COVID-19 only adds to their anxiety.)

And while we all strive to live, work and survive together in these difficult times, there are a number of white people who conveniently forget or have chosen to ignore America’s unreconciled racist past. And to this very day, America, as a nation, has NEVER come to terms with its racist past or its untenable, unsustainable present.

That the Native Americans had their lands stolen wholesale to be plundered and that Africans were trafficked as human chattel starting four hundred and one years ago by and for white settlers from Europe. You cannot wash away or forget that much racism, terrorism, theft and genocide without acknowledging these heinous wrongs. 

The lack of representation by people of color in every facet of life has been in the forefront of our swiftly evolving culture over the past generation. And the white people who have repressed their feelings about this for decades are clearly nervous by the tenor of the terrible comments my posts have garnered. 

The racists CLAIM to like science fiction but only if it is populated with the safe, comforting presence of white actors portraying Luke, Leia and Han or Kirk Spock and McCoy. And if, perchance, aliens land or AI’s gain full sentience, what would happen? I firmly believe that they would be among the first to grab the nearest weapon, start firing first and asking questions late.  Because if you can’t handle the thought of people of color writing popular novels, or Latinx leads on television or Asian folks in sf movies, you sure as hell aren’t the sort of material the human race needs to be picked for anyone’s “first contact” team. And when they act out their racial insecurities in this fashion, they do a big disservice to other sf fans who celebrate and welcome diversity. These racists try and hold themselves up as paragons of virtue, and talk about “saving” science fiction from those despicable liberals and progressive snobs.

Congratulations; you may like Star Trek, but your posts have proven that you are incapable of understanding the meaning and underlying philosophy behind what Gene Roddenberry, and those who followed in his wake, were actually espousing. That sf is more than cool spaceships jumping into hyperspace, blowing up planets or battling alien invaders intent on wiping out humanity. That’s only a very small part of what sf is actually about.

What is a good definition of science fiction? The best quote I ever read came from my friend, the late SFWA Grandmaster Frederik Pohl: “Science Fiction is the very literature of change.”
SF also concerns itself with the wonder, terrors and fears of the human, or alien, condition. It is an adventure into the soul of existence, that we may, if we’re lucky, get to know the unknowable with a judicious application of wisdom, compassion, empathy and experience.

Change is unavoidable. Change is inevitable. Change is happening, whether you like it not.

In the distant past, societal change, such as democracy, the Civil Rights Movement, artistic and scientific advances were incredibly glacial. Sometimes centuries would pass before anything meaningful would happen to change the human condition. But not in this day and in this age. Changes today can occur faster and with more meaningful impact than ever before. On May 25th, a Black man was murdered in the streets of Minneapolis and died right before our eyes. A month later, millions of people from all over the world, of all races, genders and political persuasions were shouting his name in those same streets, calling out for justice and to hold the responsible parties of systemic racism to be held to account for their tyranny.

We all know the name of George Floyd because he died horribly and became a martyr on the altar of racial injustice and intolerance. But you have seen what has happened in the wake of his death. Change is coming.

In fact, some change has already been felt on the Science Fiction page: more than a dozen people have been removed from the group for gross violations of the page’s policies by the administrators of the page. I have no doubt that the administrators of the Science Fiction page were shocked by these wretched and volatile comments. These removals weren’t done because of “political correctness”, they were done because “free speech” is not a license to be irresponsible or cruel. They were vile. They were indecent by any measure of the word. Because the freedom to post comes with responsibilities and consequences as well.

To my fellow page members, I say this: Continue to post what you like and what you love about sf. Whether it be online, in bookstores, in the streets, at parties or at conventions, we all should welcome diverse political, scientific and philosophical viewpoints and debates. But irrational hate speech, insensitivity towards the racial identity, gender or sexual preferences of others is not welcome, now, or ever.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pixel Scroll 7/3/20 The Filing Sorcerers

(1) ONE THING AFTER ANOTHER. Minneapolis’ DreamHaven Books, boarded up after being vandalized, was  told by the city to get rid of the grafitti on the building. Wendy Comeau told followers:

Well, I just received a letter from the City of Minneapolis Graffiti Enforcement department. They’re DEMANDING I remove the graffiti from my building by July 6 or face fines and fees for removal. Want to see the graffiti?

I am so angry I had to go down the basement to spit and rage for a bit. This is what the City of Minneapolis has to worry about right now – boarded up businesses with supportive sayings painted on their storefronts. (btw – the boards have already been removed but that doesn’t make me less angry).

On the store’s website, Wendy Comeau posted their open hours and other updates.

We have re-opened since the break-in and are keeping the hours Monday – Saturday, Noon – 6pm. Except, of course, this coming Saturday will be the Fourth of July, and we will not be open. Here’s hoping we all have an excellent holiday weekend.

(2) FREEDOM RINGS ON JULY 4. Tomorrow, July 4, Somtow Sucharitkul will be giving away three of his sff novels, written as S.P.Somtow. You can download these free Kindle Edition Science Fiction books for 48 hours on July 4th and 5th (Pacific Standard Time):

(3) BOMBS AWAY. Is this also the right season for the wrong kind of fireworks? Yahoo! reminds reads about “The Biggest Box Office Bombs of the Past Decade”. Plenty of genre here, unfortunately. Right at the top of the list, in fact –

  • Biggest total loss: “Mars Needs Moms” (2011) is the biggest box office failure on this list, with a net loss of $111,007,242.

(4) MURDERBOT IN THE PIPELINE. Martha Wells’ next Murderbot novella is coming in April 2021. I don’t think I need to worry about spoiling somebody else’s cover reveal anymore, so here it is.

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!

(5) SANS SUPERHEROES. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] New York Times critic A. O. Scott discusses “A Summer Without Superheroes”. (Probably paywalled, but this early in the month people may still have article access.) IIRC, Abigail Nussbaum’s discussion of this was Pixeled some years ago; this version is not necessarily surprising but very focused.

It’s hardly news that we live in an age of polarization. For at least the past dozen years, the public has been pressed to choose between obedience to a smug, privilege-hoarding neoliberal elite or allegiance to a belligerent ideology rooted in negation, self-pity, resentment and revenge. You can worship the avatars of an imperial status quo that regards you as a data point or bow down to idols of grievance.

Do you embrace winners or root for underdogs? Do you fantasize about world government or vigilante justice? Or do you find yourself drifting from one pole to another, hoping to find something to satisfy longings — for safety, for danger, for solidarity, for fun — that are themselves often unstable and contradictory? Satisfaction is intermittent and fleeting. Disappointment is the norm. Couldn’t there be a real alternative, an escape from the grip of Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros.?

What did you think I was talking about? I know the analogy is imperfect, but maybe it isn’t really an analogy at all. Popular culture and politics exist on the same wavelength and work together to shape our shared consciousness. The fantasies we buy into with our attention and money condition our sense of what it is possible or permissible to imagine. And the imagination of Hollywood in the franchise era — the age of I.P.-driven creativity and expanded-universe cinema — has been authoritarian, anti-democratic, cynical and pseudo-populist. That much of the politics of the past decade can be described with the same words is hardly an accident.

Don’t @ me. I’m not trying to insult fans of “Suicide Squad” or “Ant-Man.” I’ve done enough of that already, and anyway, the quickness of so many partisans to take offense counts as evidence in support of my argument. Fandom can be a form of benign, nurturing tribalism, a mode of participation beyond mere consumption. But it has devolved recently into sullen passivity, which occasionally erupts into toxic rage.

(6) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Open Culture invites readers to “Behold Octavia Butler’s Motivational Notes to Self”

…Identifying as a writer helped her move beyond her crippling shyness and dyslexia. As she wrote in an autobiographical essay, “Positive Obsession”:

“I believed I was ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless. I also thought that everyone would notice these faults if I drew attention to myself. I wanted to disappear. Instead, I grew to be six feet tall. Boys in particular seemed to assume that I had done this growing deliberately and that I should be ridiculed for it as often as possible.

“I hid out in a big pink notebook—one that would hold a whole ream of paper. I made myself a universe in it. There I could be a magic horse, a Martian, a telepath….There I could be anywhere but here, any time but now, with any people but these.

She developed a lifelong habit of cheering herself on with motivational notes, writing them in her journals, on lined notebook paper, in day planners and on repurposed pages of an old wall calendar.

(7) CHUCK TINGLE JR.? Nate Hoffelder challenged readers of Camestros Felpaton to “Guess who has two thumbs, and noticed that Cirsova never registered a DotCom domain?” Cirsova publisher P. Alexander recently tried to brand SFWA as a terrorist group for its support of Black Lives Matter. So while you’re guessing, try and guess where the newly-registered http://www.Cirsova.com domain takes you?

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future premiered. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis from a screenplay by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Bob Gale and Neil Canton were the producers. It of course starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at ConFederation besting LadyhawkeCocoonBrazil and Enemy Mine. Critics loved it with Ebert comparing it to Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. It was a box office success being the top grossing film of the year. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 94% rating. 

(9) OTHER TOP TIME-TRAVEL MOVIES.

These are Rolling Stone’s nominees for “The 20 Best Time-Travel Movies”. In the middle of the list is:

8. ‘Run Lola Run’ (1998)

The crimson-haired Lola (Franka Potente) gets a phone call from her boyfriend: He’s lost a bag with 100,000 deutschemarks, and if he doesn’t find it or replace it in the next 20 minutes, his criminal boss will kill him. So Lola runs through Berlin, dodging bicyclists, causing car accidents, provoking flash-forward sequences of the destiny of various pedestrians, trying to find a way out. Each time she fails, the 20-minute time loop starts again — it seems to be powered by love and the absence of cash.

(10) BERNSTEIN OBIT. “Byron ‘Reckful’ Bernstein, Popular Twitch Streamer, Dies at 31” reports Variety. Bernstein died by suicide.

Bernstein went by the name Reckful on Twitch, where he was best known for his “World of Warcraft” streams and had over 936,000 followers. Most recently, Bernstein had been working as a developer on his own video game, “Everland,” which was set to release later this year.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 3, 1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day premiered. It was produced and directed by James Cameron, who co-wrote the script with William Wisher. It came out seven years after Terminator was released. It starred  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, and Edward Furlong.  It was a critical success upon its release, with lavish praise going towards the cast, the story, and its visual effects. It made the studio a really incredible amount of money, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a stellar 93% rating. 
  • July 3, 1996 Independence Day premiered. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. It was produced by Dean Devlin who also wrote it with Emmerich.  The film had a very large cast that included Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Vivica A. Fox and Harry Connick Jr.  Critics Inside the USA generally loved it whereas critics outside condemned its hyper-patriotism. The box office here and overseas was such that only Jurassic Park has earned more money. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a solid 75% rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 3, 1860 – Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  I’m a fan of her book Herland myself; about it and With Her in Ourland and CPG’s newsletter The Forerunner see my note here (commenters helped); at Loscon 44 we discussed Herland (I said “it’s a sermon; but it’s neat, imaginative, warm-hearted”) and at Westercon 71 too.  William Dean Howells said CPG had the best brains of any woman in America.  (Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1883 – Franz Kafka.  At his death Amerika and The Trial and The Castle were all unfinished and he said they should be destroyed.  Hmm.  Alas for my memory, it was Wilson, not Nabokov, who wrote “With a rumble-de-bum and a pifka-pafka / Came the fife-and-drum corps parading for Kafka”.  However, don’t miss N’s discussion of K’s “Metamorphosis”; this book is worth your while; the Kafka Project has put N’s lecture here.  A hundred shorter stories.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish.  (Died 1924) [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1898 E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, also angered many Southern readers. (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1926 William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well that is his bio. Rotsler was a four-time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He responsible for giving Uhura her first name, and created “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Ken Russell. Film director whose Altered States, based off of Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay, is certainly his best-remembered film. Though let’s not overlook The Lair of the White Worm he did off Bram Stoker’s novel, or The Devils, based at least in part on The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1937 Tom Stoppard, 83. Playwright of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil (with Terry Gilliam) and Shakespeare in Love (with Marc Norman). He’s uncredited but openly acknowledged by Spielberg for his work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1938 – Jerry Podwil, 82.  Six dozen covers.  Here is Babel-17.  Here is The Sky Is Filled With Ships.  Here is The “Fantastic Universe” Omnibus.  Here  is The Demolished Man.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1939 – Bart Forbes, 81.  Here is The Weapon Shops of Isher.  Here is The Worlds of A.E. Van Vogt.  Here is The Wind Whales of Ishmael.  Outside our field, postage stamps (here is Sarah Vaughan), The Ladies’ Home Journal, sports (baseball, golf, Kentucky Derby; official artist for the 1988 Summer Olympics; The Sports Art of Bart Forbes), landscapes (here is First Light).  Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1947 – Mel Gilden, 73.  A score of novels, including one each for Star Trek Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine; a dozen shorter stories; Fifth Grade Monsters; translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese; reviews in Locus; five years co-host of Hour 25.  Thirty more books outside our field.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1962 Tom Cruise, 58. I’m reasonably sure his first genre role was as Jack in Legend. Next up was Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire followed by being Ethan Hunt in the first of many excellent Mission Impossible films. Then he was John Anderton in the abysmal Minority Report followed by Ray Ferrier in the even far more abysmal War of The Worlds. I’ve not seen him as Maj. William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow so I’ve no idea how good he or the film is. Alas he was Nick Morton in, oh god, The Mummy. (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1964 Joanne Harris, 56. Though her novel Chocolat which was adapted the following year into the film Chocolat is what she’s best known for, she has a most excellent YA series in which the Norse gods are still with us in Runemarks and Runelight. She’s also written a Third Doctor novella, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller“.  (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1970 – Kate Messner, 50.  A dozen chapter books in her series Ranger in Time; four novels; more outside our field (e.g. 59 Reasons to Write for teachers: “Only by engaging in the real work of writing can teachers become part of the writing community they dream of creating for their students”).  She says she is “passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder”.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Is this Herman cartoon about astrology, astronomy, or perhaps both?

(14) JEAN-LUC PICCOLO. Variety profiles the sff theme music up for awards: “Yodas, Witchers and Trekkies, Oh My! Sci-Fi and Fantasy Contenders Eye Emmys Music Gold”.

Baby Yoda. Jean-Luc Picard. A medieval witcher. A world where fairies have sex with humans. Steve Carrell aiming for the moon. A science-fiction anthology. The fantasy and sci-fi realms prospered on TV during the past season, particularly with the help of several gifted composers….

… Emmy winner Jeff Russo (“Fargo”) has assumed the mantle of “Star Trek” composer, first with his music for “Discovery” and now the “Picard” series, which returns Patrick Stewart to the role of Enterprise captain Jean-Luc Picard. His theme may be the most gentle and intimate of all the “Trek” themes to date, with prominent solos for piccolo and cello.

(15) CAT DOWN UNDER. Atlas Obscura has photos of a statue that honors an adventurous seafaring cat.

OUTSIDE SYDNEY’S MITCHELL LIBRARY stands a statue of Matthew Flinders, the celebrated English navigator and cartographer who helped map Australia, declared it a continent, and was influential in giving it its current name. On a window ledge behind the statue stands a bronze figurine of Flinders’s faithful cat, Trim, who accompanied the seafarer on many of his adventures.    

The story of Trim begins in 1799, when he was born aboard the ship HMS Reliance as it sailed from the Cape of Good Hope to Botany Bay. There were a handful of cats on board to keep pests at bay, but Trim soon became a favorite of the crew and the ship’s 25-year-old lieutenant, Flinders….

(16) GOLLUM READS THE HOBBIT. GameSpot teed up this piece of Tolkien-related news: “Andy Serkis Records New Audiobook For The Hobbit, And It Sounds Fantastic”.

Book company Harper Collins is making a new audiobook for The Hobbit that is read by none other than Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the movies.

The announcement of this new version comes after Serkis did a marathon reading of The Hobbit for charity back in May. For this new audiobook, Serkis is donating his payment to the Disasters Emergency Committee, and Harper Collins UK is matching it.

You can listen to a snippet from the recording below. It’s a delight, which really should be no surprise given that Serkis has such a phenomenal voice.

(17) TOLKIEN IN HIS OWN VOICE. “:J.R.R. Tolkien Discussing The Lord Of The Rings (1960s Interview)” is an 11-minute excerpt from an interview Tolkien gave sometime in the 1960s.

(18) GENRETHON 2020. Otherworld Theatre, Chicago’s premier Science Fiction and Fantasy theatre, presents GenreThon 2020 an Online Celebration of Nerdom In Comedy from Friday, July 10 through Sunday, July 12 on their YouTube digital platform! Access is FREE and can be subscribed to here

This geek and genre-centric comedy celebration features headliners: Improvised Jane Austen, voted the Best Improv Troupe in the Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago 2019”. Also headlining are Improvised Star Trek,  BATSU!– An Improvised Japanese Game Show, and The Dandies Present: Holodeck Follies. Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts take note, the festival also features Otherworld mainstay Out On A Whim’s Improvised D&D and headliner The Queens of Adventure.  Additionally,  Otherworld fan favorite Dork Court returns as an all digital experience, “Animal Crossing vs. Sims”.  Also featured are a staged reading of a new Stupid Shakespeare play by Phillip Zimmerman, “Two Gentlemen of Bikini Bottom” and from the Push Theatre in Virginia, “Venetian Blinds”.  Fan favorites from GENRETHON 2019 also making their return are Improvised Riverdale, Geekspeare, Geektastic and Mass Street Production’s classic murder mystery “Care For A Corpse”, and so much more. 

(19) GUYS AND DOLLS. James Davis Nicoll says Tor.com turned down his “Husbands of Science Fiction” – even though it has the requisite five subjects. Is that not enough? Consider the first husband on the list:

…The oldest example of what I am thinking of is Mary Shelly. She is revered for having arguably created the science fiction field with her classic Frankenstein. Her husband, failed swimmer Percy, was also an author, apparently. By all accounts as easy on the eyes as he was unable to master certain animal urges, Percy reportedly dabbled in poetry of one sort of another. Perhaps best known is Percy’s Ozymandias, about an old damaged statue that someone has failed properly maintain. Men like simple household tasks like spackling and carpentry; one can see why poetry about statue maintenance would appeal.

(20) LEAKY CAULDRON AND MUGGLENET. “Harry Potter fan sites reject author’s trans comments”:BBC has the story.

Two leading Harry Potter fan sites have publicly distanced themselves from author JK Rowling over her recent comments about transgender people.

The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet sites said they would no longer use photos of Rowling or link to her own website.

Speaking jointly, they said her views on “marginalised people [were] out of step with the message of acceptance and empowerment we find in her books”.

The stars of the Potter films have also spoken out against Rowling’s remarks.

…In their statement, the Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet sites said it was “difficult to speak out against someone whose work we have so long admired”.

Yet they said it be “wrong” not to distance themselves from Rowling’s “harmful and disproven beliefs about what it means to be a transgender person”.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A swift completes its appointed rounds…. Gizmodo notes how “Artificial Feathers Let This Robotic Bird Fly With Incredible Agility”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Nate, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/12/20 If Pixels Be The Scroll Of Life, File On

(1) DRAWING A LINE IN THE SILICON.  Tor author S.L. Huang, in “Genre Labels: What Makes A Book More Thriller Than Sci-Fi?” on CrimeReads, says “I’ve been a science fiction and fantasy nerd for as long as I can remember,” and that a book is more of a thriller than sf if “the science-fiction elements feel more realistic,” the book is in a contemporary Earth setting, and the book is written at a thriller pace with many short chapters rather than a sf pace.

4. Making the science fiction a single switch flip.

Lots of science fiction books have a broad array of speculative elements—worldbuilding, culture, technology, language, and advancements in science are just a few elements science fiction writers consider when building intricate other universes. But it’s not the only way to do science fiction. And a lot of the speculative stories that feel more mainstream have that “switch flip” element—that single, isolated “what if” that sets off everything.

What if we could extract viable dinosaur DNA from amber? What if a disease like this got out? What if this person switched bodies?

Then, after that one, singular leap of faith, the rest of the book logic plays out identically to how our real-world logic would work, with only that fundamental beginning change….

(2) STREAMING PLAYGROUND. Of necessity, Escape Room L.A.’s business has gone virtual. They’ve created two Escape Room scenarios for groups to play on Zoom, at $15 per person.

These live-hosted games feature both audio and visual clues. Your host will verbally describe your surroundings while showing you a series of images and puzzles, letting you know how you can interact with everything you see. It will be up to you to work together to solve the fun clues and tricky challenges! Can you escape in one hour or less?

There’s “The Lost Pyramid” and “Escape from Planet X.” The description of the latter is –

A vacation in outer space takes a wrong turn when your spaceship crash-lands on an uncharted alien planet. You discover that all of the crew have disappeared and the aliens are getting restless! In this fun, wacky adventure, it’s up to you to find a way to get the spaceship up and running and escape from Planet X before the aliens attack.

(3) THE BOOKS THEY DECIDED TO DISCUSS. In “Positron 2020 Report: Analyses of Chicagoland Speculative Fiction Book Clubs”, Jake Casella Brookins runs the numbers on Chicago-area sff book club selections, looking at race/gender balance in selected titles, genre changes over time, most-read authors, and how the various clubs’ lists of choices compare. “Pretty niche stuff,” says Brookins, “but SF/F scholars, readers, booksellers & librarians might be interested.”

His introduction to the report begins —

In-person book clubs are necessarily tied to very real and geographic communities. As I write this, Chicago is entering its second month of lockdown due to Covid-19. While many groups and organizations are successfully shifting to online meetings, the future of our clubs, bookstores, and libraries are uncertain. Ironically, this lockdown has given me the first chance to take a deep look at Chicago’s SF book clubs since Positron’s inception.

This report focuses entirely on book club meetings. While data from book sales and library loans would paint a much larger picture of reader behavior and preferences, there are a few advantages to using book club discussions as the unit of analysis, even beyond privacy and logistic concerns. At the most basic level, selection for a book club indicates that the book was definitely read, by at least some members. Furthermore, book club members are a distinct class of readers, committing not only to read books in community, but to share their opinions, a behavior that likely spills beyond the group itself. Through their recommendations, it is likely that book club members have an outsize influence on readers generally.

For me, joining a few SF book clubs was a huge part of adjusting to life in Chicago. They led me to massively important books I might not have otherwise discovered, and introduced me to my spouse and many friends. The clubs certainly have a direct influence on many bookstores and libraries. And, at the level of SF as a culture, the importance of book clubs is easily overlooked, and could provide a window into the specifics of how books, authors, and ideas move through the reading community….

(4) FALLEN SNOW. Entertainment Weekly issues an invitation: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Listen to the first 11 minutes of the Hunger Games prequel’.

Centered on the original trilogy‘s antagonist, the story follows an 18-year-old Snow as he prepares for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the 10th Hunger Games. He’s up against it, though: His family has fallen on hard times, and he’s forced to guide the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Suddenly, their fates are intertwined.

The audio clip is here at Soundcloud.

(5) BEWARE OF FALLING HOUSES. Connie Willis just read a book about the making of The Wizard of Oz movie and is eager to share what she learned about “The Ruby Slippers And The Wizard’s Coat”.

…One of the most fascinating sections was about the ruby slippers, which, in case you’ve forgotten, belonged to the Wicked Witch of the East and which Glinda the Good Witch gives Dorothy after the house falls on her (the Witch, not Glinda) and kills her. The ruby slippers protect Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West (sort of.) At any rate, the only way to take them off her is to kill her, which makes Dorothy quite a target. (You’d think Glinda would have thought about that.)

They also hold the secret to Dorothy’s getting home. All she has to do is click the heels together and say three times, “There’s no place like home” to be magically transported back to Kansas. That means they’re central to the plot and in many ways the heart of the movie. After Toto, of course.

Like everything else involved in the making of the movie, the ruby slippers were more complicated than they looked. In the first place, the book had specified “silver shoes”, but Louis B. Mayer wanted to show off his Technicolor so he decided they should be red–and that they should “sparkle.”…

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

May 12, 1989 The Return Of Swamp Thing premiered.  The follow-up to Swamp Thing, it was directed by Jim Wynorski, with production by Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan. The story was written by Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris.  It starred Dick Durock and Heather Locklear who replaced Adrienne Barbeau as the female lead which Barbeau was in Swamp Thing.  Louis Jourdan also returns as a spot-on Anton Arcane. Like its predecessor, neither critics nor the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes liked it so it had a poor twenty seven rating. The original Swamp Thing series which also Durock in contrast has an eight three Percent rating among audience reviewers! [CE]

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 12, 1812 – Edward Lear.  With us in fantasyland for his nonsense poems, he was famous in his day as a painter and illustrator.  First major bird artist to draw from live birds; look at this parrot.  Here are some Albanians.  Here’s Masada.  His musical settings for Tennyson’s poems were the only ones Tennyson approved of.  It may be that a grasp of reality makes his nonsense cohere – it holds together.  We may never see an owl dancing with a pussycat, but they do in his creation – in a hundred languages.  (Died 1888) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1828 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Put his third name first in honor of The Divine Comedy.  Founded the Pre-Raphaelite school of art because he thought Raphael (1483-1520) had ruined things; see how this led him to imagine Proserpine.  His poetry too was fantastic.  He is credited with the word yesteryear.  He loved wombats.  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1902 – Philip Wylie.  His novel Gladiator was an inspiration for Superman.  When Worlds Collide (with Edwin Balmer) inspired Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon.  No doubt he was a prolific pulp writer with quite a few of his novels adapted into films such as When Worlds Collide (co-written with George Balmer) by George Pal. Columnist, editor, screenwriter, adviser to the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy, vice-president of the International Game Fish Association.  Wrote “Anyone Can Raise Orchids” for The Saturday EveningPost.  In The Disappearance a cosmic blink forces all men to get along without women, all women without men.  (Died 1971) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1907 – Leslie Charteris.  Born with the surname Yin; his Chinese father claimed descent from the Shang Dynasty emperors.  Passenger on the maiden voyage of the Hindenburg.  A hundred books, also films, radio, television, about his character Simon Templar, the Saint; also “The Saint” Mystery Magazine; others wrote some too, Vendetta for the Saint is by Henry Harrison.  Detective fiction is our neighbor, and both ISFDB and ESF list the series with the latter noting that “Several short stories featuring Templar are sf or fantasy, typically dealing with odd Inventions or Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster and Caribbean Zombies.” The Last Hero really is SF, with a disintegrator and a scientist who doesn’t care who gets it.  (Died 1993) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1928 – Buck Coulson.  Applauded by fanziners  – we have costumers and filksingers, don’t we? –  for Yandro, ten times a Best-Fanzine Hugo finalist, winning once, co-edited with his wife Juanita – speaking of filksingers.  Together Fan Guests of Honor at the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle Fund sent them to the 37th.  With Gene DeWeese, Buck wrote Now You See It/Him/Them loaded with allusions to fans, including Bob Tucker whose doing this himself led to calling the practice “tuckerism”; Juanita is not left out.  Two Man from U.N.C.L.E. books with DeWeese, translated into Dutch, French, Hebrew, Japanese.  Book reviews for Amazing.  Active loccer (letters of comment to fanzines).  Two terms as as SFWA Secretary (first Science Fiction Writers, then Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers, of America).  Mildly described as having an acerbic writing style.(Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best known for the Hugo- and Nebula Award–winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well. Gerrold would later novelize it. An expanded version of the original novella as well as two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. (CE)
  • Born May 12, 1968 Catherine Tate, 52. Donna Noble, Companion to the Eleventh Doctor. She extended the role by doing the Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures on Big Finish. She also played Inquisitor Greyfax in Our Martyred Lady, aWarhammer 40,000 audio drama, something I did not know existed. [CE]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SUPERHERO PREVIEW. “DC’s Stargirl: New Images Offer the Best Look Yet at Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman” at ComicBook.com.

In just under a week, a new generation of justice comes to DC Universe when DC’s Stargirl premieres on the streaming service on Monday, May 18. The series, which follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore as she moves to Blue Valley, Nebraska following her mother’s marriage to Pat Dugan and becomes the hero Stargirl and inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to help her stop the villains of the past. Now, ComicBook.com has an exclusive look at two of those young heroes ready to fight for justice in their super suits: Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman.

(10) HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESCAPE POD. Hugo-nominated sff fiction podcast Escape Pod has reached a major milestone — “Escape Pod Turns Fifteen!” The celebration includes creation of a book — Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology.

Escape Pod has been bringing the finest short fiction to millions all over the world, at the forefront of a new fiction revolution. Specializing in science fiction, the podcast gives its audience a different story each week that’s fun and engaging, with thought-provoking afterwords from its episode hosts.

The anthology, assembled by editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, gathers original fiction and audience favorites from:

  • Maurice Broaddus
  • Tobias Buckell
  • Beth Cato
  • Tina Connolly
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Greg Van Eekhout
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Kameron Hurley
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mur Lafferty
  • Ken Liu
  • Tim Pratt
  • John Scalzi
  • Ursula Vernon

Preorder now from Titan Books, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, and Forbidden Planet.

(11) RETRO BLAST. Cora Buhlert continues to review the best of 1944 in “Retro Review: “City” by Clifford D. Simak”.

“City” is a science fiction novelette by Clifford D. Simak, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is a finalist for the 1945 Retro Hugo. The magazine version may be found online here. “City” is part of Simak’s eponymous City cycle and has been widely reprinted….

Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! …

(12) FASHION REPORT. Aliette de Bodard understandably likes this style.

(13) NOT HOME ALONE. In “Creativity in the Time of Shutdown”, Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green tells how everyday life is squeezing her writing time, and the commenters chime in about their own challenges.

…All this has made me wonder how the writers out there who have been used to having their alone time to write have coped with suddenly having their kids and spouses/partners home. With schools and businesses closed, our isolated work styles have been impacted by having people home all the time. A number of us have had to transform into teachers and tech advisors as our kids try to navigate their school classes through Zoom and similar programs. We’ve had to adjust to our spouses/partners invading our work area as they work from home.

Sooo many people in our spaces again.

And we can’t even escape to the library or the coffee shop because they’re closed too….

(14) STILL INFLUENTIAL. The Detroit News explains why “Octavia Butler’s prescient sci-fi resonates years after her death”.

…A revolutionary voice in her lifetime, Butler has only become more popular and influential since her death 14 years ago, at age 58. Her novels, including “Dawn,” “Kindred” and “Parable of the Sower,” sell more than 100,000 copies each year, according to her former literary and the manager of her estate, Merrillee Heifetz. Toshi Reagon has adapted “Parable of the Sower” into an opera, and Viola Davis and Ava DuVernay are among those working on streaming series based on her work. Grand Central Publishing is reissuing many of her novels this year and the Library of America welcomes her to the canon in 2021 with a volume of her fiction.

(15) PUTTING A GOOD FACE ON THINGS. Cheering viewers up while we’re stuck at home.“Lincolnshire make-up artists lifting lockdown spirits” – BBC video.

A group of make-up artists in Lincolnshire are painting themselves as superheroes and cartoon characters to pass the time during the lockdown.

They have been getting together online and setting each other make-up challenges to keep busy.

(16) LEARN FROM THE MASTER. “Studio Ghibli artist teaches anime fans how to draw Totoro” – video.

An anime film producer from Japan’s Studio Ghibli has given fans a quick lesson on how to draw one of its most famous characters: Totoro.

According to Toshio Suzuki – the secret lies in the eyes.

(17) FUN TO BE WITH? BBC introduces us to “The robot that helps before you ask it to” — short video.

A project led by Ocado Technology has developed a robot to work alongside people. Using advanced artificial intelligence, it can follow the motions of its human colleagues, and offer to help them before they even ask for assistance.

(18) STRIKING A PERFECT MATCH. Back in the days of black-and-white TV, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore treated their fans to puppet parody in Superthunderstingcar.

(19) THESE CHAIRS ARE MADE FOR TALKING. Past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about their favorite sff on the small screen in “TV or not TV?” at their latest Two Chairs Talking podcast. Their favorites include The Expanse, The Outsider, For All Mankind, and Star Trek: Picard.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Sea You” on Vimeo, Ben Brand finds the backstory of the fish a widow has for dinner.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/18/20 How Many Files To Babylon? Fifth Score Files And Ten

(1) BELATED RECOGNITION. BBC explores “Why Octavia E. Butler’s novels are so relevant today”.

The visionary sci-fi author envisaged an alternate future that foresaw many aspects of life today, from big pharma to Trumpism. Now she has a cult following, writes Hephzibah Anderson.

It’s campaign season in the US, and a charismatic dark horse is running with the slogan ‘make America great again’. According to his opponent, he’s a demagogue; a rabble-rouser; a hypocrite. When his supporters form mobs and burn people to death, he condemns their violence “in such mild language that his people are free to hear what they want to hear”. He accuses, without grounds, whole groups of people of being rapists and drug dealers. How much of this rhetoric he actually believes and how much he spouts “just because he knows the value of dividing in order to conquer and to rule” is at once debatable, and increasingly beside the point, as he strives to return the country to a “simpler” bygone era that never actually existed.

You might think he sounds familiar – but the character in question is Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarret, the fictional presidential candidate who storms to victory in a dystopian science-fiction novel titled Parable of the Talents. Written by Octavia E Butler, it was published in 1998, two decades before the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States.

…Fourteen years after her early death, Butler’s reputation is soaring. Her predictions about the direction that US politics would take, and the slogan that would help speed it there, are certainly uncanny. But that wasn’t all she foresaw. She challenged traditional gender identity, telling a story about a pregnant man in Bloodchild and envisaging shape-shifting, sex-changing characters in Wild Seed. Her interest in hybridity and the adaptation of the human race, which she explored in her Xenogenesis trilogy, anticipated non-fiction works by the likes of Yuval Noah Harari. Concerns about topics including climate change and the pharmaceutical industry resonate even more powerfully now than when she wove them into her work.

And of course, by virtue of her gender and ethnicity, she was striving to smash genre assumptions about writers – and readers – so ingrained that in 1987, her publisher still insisted on putting two white women on the jacket of her novel Dawn, whose main character is black. She also helped reshape fantasy and sci-fi, bringing to them naturalism as well as characters like herself. And when she won the prestigious MacArthur ‘genius’ grant in 1995, it was a first for any science-fiction writer.

(2) HOT WORDS ABOUT A COLD CLASSIC. The report in yesterday’s Scroll about Cora Buhlert’s takeoff on a classic, “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign”, prompted Filers to remember Richard Harter’s epic analysis “The Cold Equations – A Critical Study” (thanks to Andrew for finding the Usenet link.)

… Science fiction has been described as a literature of ideas, a literary arena in which the idea is hero. This may well be true. Too often, however, it is a flawed literature of ideas, marked by shoddy treatments received with uncritical enthusiasm. The Cold Equations has been cited an instance of the “literature of ideas” at its best.

In the original article I argued that the story is no such thing but rather that it is an example of systemic blindness to morally obtuse assumptions. This argument is considered in detail below. Given that, one asks: Why is the story so ardently defended – and attacked? Why has the story made such an impression?…

(3) HITLER BACK ON SALE. Amazon admits it simply makes criticism-driven decisions – “Amazon Bans, Then Reinstates, Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’” – the New York Times has the story.

Amazon quietly banned Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf” late last week, part of its accelerating efforts to remove Nazi and other hate-filled material from its bookstore, before quickly reversing itself.

The retailer, which controls the majority of the book market in the United States, is caught between two demands that cannot be reconciled. Amazon is under pressure to keep hate literature off its vast platform at a moment when extremist impulses seem on the rise. But the company does not want to be seen as the arbiter of what people are allowed to read, which is traditionally the hallmark of repressive regimes.

Booksellers that sell on Amazon say the retailer has no coherent philosophy about what it decides to prohibit, and seems largely guided by public complaints.

Over the last 18 months, it has dropped books by Nazis, the Nation of Islam and the American neo-Nazis David Duke and George Lincoln Rockwell. But it has also allowed many equally offensive books to continue to be sold.

(4) IN LIKE FINN. Camestros Felapton calls it “Perhaps the most significant story from a former Sad Puppy ever” – Declan Finn’s account of touring Italy with his wife when the coronavirus outbreak shut down the country. Camestros ends his I-read-it-so-you-don’t-have-to summary:

The short version therefore of how right wing blogs are reacting plays out in a personal level in Declan’s story. Initial scepticism and eagerness to carry on as if it is all a fuss over nothing which then collides with an escalating reality and blaming the government.

Not that you really ought to deny yourselves – Finn fits quite an epic in between requests for money and Dragon Award nominations.

…We went to the Al Italia counter and the moderately long line. It was processed quickly. We came to the counter.

“Americans?”

I showed her the passports. 

“No,” she said.

No? What do you mean no? Are you going to cancel our flight again? Am I going to have to leap across your sad, pathetic Corona rope line and throttle you into giving us a boarding pass out of this Hell hole? How much more ransom do we have to pay to get us out of here!

She took an abnormally long breath, thought about what she had to say next, and continued, “Other check in, around the corner.”

Whew. No manslaughter charges for me today…. 

While trying to get to their flight they stepped through the wrong door at the airport, ended up on the tarmac, and were corralled by security. Talk about the cold equations — for that violation Italian authorities slapped them with a 4000 euro fine, which is 4497.00 in US dollars. A friend has started a GoFundMe to try and help them recoup some of the money.

(5) WORKING AT HOME, LIKE USUAL. George R.R. Martin began his post “Strange Days” telling about how his theater and other ventures in Santa Fe are closed by the coronavirus outbreak, then gave his personal status:

For those of you who may be concerned for me personally… yes, I am aware that I am very much in the most vulnerable population, given my age and physical condition.   But I feel fine at the moment, and we are taking all sensible precautions.  I am off by myself in a remote isolated location, attended by one of my staff, and I’m not going in to town or seeing anyone.   Truth be told, I am spending more time in Westeros than in the real world, writing every day.   Things are pretty grim in the Seven Kingdoms… but maybe not as grim as they may become here.

Inverse took this to mean “Winds of Winter release finally back on track for one unexpected reason”.

 For now, we’re just excited to hear that George is back at work on The Winds of Winter (of course, it’s possible he’s referencing the script for the upcoming HBO prequel House of the Dragon, but that seems unlikely given the phrasing here).

Winds of Winter was originally scheduled for release in November 2018, but the book got delayed so Martin could focus on Fire & Blood, a “historical” account of House Targaryen that serves as the basis for House of the Dragon. Back in May 2019, he joked in a blog post that if he hadn’t finished the book by 2020 Worldcon New Zealand, he should be locked up on New Zealand’s White Island until he finished it.

In other words, Martin really wants to be done with Winds of Winter by the end of July when the annual conference takes place.

(6) HYPERFEASANCE. The Balticon committee was surprised when the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel started sending out room cancellation notices before they could make an announcement.  On March 12, the Governor of Maryland established a ban, of indeterminate duration, on all gatherings of more than 250 people in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The con had been scheduled for May 22-24. The committee told Facebook readers:

After we shut down online registration over the weekend pending a conversation with the hotel, continuing developments with COVID-19 and discussions with the convention committee had convinced the Baltimore Science Fiction Society Board of Directors we likely needed to cancel the convention. However, we had not yet identified a process for doing that with minimal confusion, nor had we had a conversation with the hotel discussing the process. Today we learned that the hotel had started canceling registrations. We were as surprised as everyone else to hear about the canceled reservations and see that our reservations were getting canceled.

(7) NO ÅCON. Finland’s Acon 11 has been postponed:

…We could have waited, made the decision closer the convention, but honestly, having spent some weeks following the evolving situation, listening to epidemiologists and public officials in both Finland and Sweden, our conclusion is that the chances of the situation having stabilised in May seem very slim indeed. It’s not just a question of whether we would be legally permitted to hold the con in May, but whether we could do it in a responsible manner.

We need to spare everyone involved the unnecessary work and costs. Adlon, our hotel, will take a financial hit. We need to let them know and plan. We want to avoid our members paying for non-refundable travel at a time when the committee don’t believe it will be possible to arrange a convention.

Fortunately, we have few costs we can’t recoup. …

The con was to have been held May 21-24 in Mariehamn.

(8) A DREAMER ROLE. Trans actress Nicole Maines, who plays Nia Nal, aka Dreamer, on Supergirl, was interviewed by SYFY Wire. “Supergirl’s Nicole Maines tells us why Dreamer is more than just a trans character”.

Supergirl is not known for its subtlety. Aliens in the show are a thinly veiled metaphor for immigrants, LGBTQ people, and “others.” The current story arc is coming to a head with the Agent Liberty storyline, in which a TV personality rises through the ranks of government thanks to his anti-alien rhetoric — which sounds familiar, even his real-world equivalent doesn’t have Lex Luthor providing him with fancy gear.

That said, the show is remarkably subtle about a milestone it reached last year: Supergirl features TV’s first openly transgender superhero, Dreamer. Rather than make Nia/Dreamer’s trans-ness a huge deal, after she came out as transgender, the other characters matter-of-factly accepted her, and it never became an issue….

(9) WORDEN OBIT. Astronaut Al Worden died March 17 at the age of 88 reports Florida Today.

“We remember this pioneer whose work expanded our horizons,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

Worden was one of only 24 people to have flown to the moon. He was also the first astronaut to conduct a deep-space extravehicular activity, or EVA, during Apollo 15’s return to Earth in 1971.

During the mission, he orbited the moon dozens of times while astronauts David Scott and James Irwin explored the surface.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 18, 1981 The Greatest American Hero premiered on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, the series features William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Sellecca.  It had  to fight off lawsuits from the owners of the Superman copyright who thought the concept and look of the suit was too close to their product.  After that, a real Mr. Hinckley tried on March 30th of that year to assassinate President Reagan, so scripts involving protagonist Ralph Hinkley had to be rewritten to be named Ralph Hanley (or sometimes just “Mr.H”).  You can see the pilot here. And yes, it’s up legally courtesy of the copyright holders.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 18, 1888 Alexander Leydenfrost. As an illustrator, he briefly worked for Planet Stories before being signed by Life magazine where the money was better. But his quite brief tenure at Planet Stories is credited with the creation of the enduring cliché Bug Eyed Monster as that’s what his illustrations showed. (Died 1961.)
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian-based Mission Impossible which if you not seen it, you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. He wrote a number of other genre friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 18, 1950 J. G. Hertzler, 70. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap as Weathers Farrington in the “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanCharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us. 
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 61. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and reviews leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less. 
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. He appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin on Babylon 5, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast,  Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 59. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group read prior to Eighties SF and fantasy, and Nicoll and his collaborators comment on the their reactions.
  • Born March 18, 1973 Max Barry, 37. He’s written a number of novels of which I’ve read his superb dystopian Jennifer Government and Machine Man when it was online serial. His newest is Providence which sounds fascinating though his book tour in the US got canceled he notes on his blog. 

(12) CRUSADING FOR A CAPE. The Guardian’s “80 years of Robin: the forgotten history of the most iconic sidekick” is really a call for the character to be written as a woman again – and reminds fans that it wouldn’t be the first time.

….Why we’ve not had more female Robins – or better served ones – is a symptom of a much wider problem. Of the 11 writers announced as contributing to DC’s anniversary issue for Robin, only two are women: Devin Grayson and Amy Wolfram. Between January and March last year, women accounted for 16% of the credits on comics released by DC; of writers, only 13% were women. The studio celebrated 80 years of Batman last year, but in that time not a single woman has been at the helm of Batman or Detective Comics. Aside from Grayson’s work on Nightwing and Gotham Knights, no female writer has ever written a Batman series. Given how many women are working on Batgirl, Catwoman and Batwoman, it would seem they are restricted to writing female heroes.

(13) A VERY SERIOUS QUESTION. This will make some folks cranky. Tom Morton asks “Avenue 5: Why Is Sci-Fi Comedy So Unfunny?” at Frieze.

… Given the impregnable humourlessness of most sci-fi – from the rigorously logical ‘hard sf’ of the novelist Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy (1951–53) to the dreamy vision of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Solaris (1972) – the genre’s tropes should be an open goal for the comic imagination. Why, then, do so many sci-fi themed comedies fail to raise a smile? Partly, it’s that parody, as a form, is hard to sustain – witness Seth Macfarlane’s television series The Orville (2017–20), a directionless send-up of Star Trek (1966–69), or Mel Brooks’s movie Spaceballs (1987), a staggering unfunny Star Wars (1977) take-off. Comparatively better were the first two seasons of British sitcom Red Dwarf (1988–2017). Drawing on the aesthetic of John Carpenter’s slackers-in-space movie, Dark Star (1974), the show centred initially on a classic odd-couple relationship between the last human in existence, a warm-hearted scouse wastrel, and his foil, an uptight, socially ambitious hologram. However, when Red Dwarf’s popularity and budget increased, it fell into two traps familiar to makers of ‘straight’ on-screen sci-fi: an overreliance on special effects and (fatally) a fan-servicing emphasis on the lore of its own fictional universe, which destroyed any tension that once existed between the show’s ‘situation’ and its ‘comedy’.

(14) CAN YOU DIG IT? Gizmodo says things are looking up for a NASA Mars probe: “And Now for Some Good News: The Mars InSight Heat Flow Probe Is Digging Again”.

…But the probe faced trouble on deployment. Impeded by an unexpectedly crusty soil texture that didn’t generate enough friction for the probe to dig, it only made it down to around a foot and a half. 

(15) JEOPARDY! Some of tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants didn’t get these sff references. (Honestly, I’d have missed all three myself.)

Category: Places in Fantasy

Answer: The name of this 2-word ancestral dwelling in Tolkien is a play on the translation of the French “cul-de-sac”.

Wrong question: “What is Middle Earth?”

Correct question: “What is Bag End?”


Answer: Much of the action in the “files” of this guy, the city’s resident practicing professional Wizard, takes place in Chicago.

No one could ask, “Who is Harry Dresden?”


Answer: In Bill Willingham’s graphic novels, Bigby, this foe of Rising Hood, is the sheriff of Fabletown.

Wrong question: “What is Nottingham?”

Correct question: “What is The Big Bad Wolf?”

(16) FUN WITH YOUR NEW HEAD. Will you be The One? An interview with the CEO of Valve: “Gabe Newell: ‘We’re way closer to The Matrix than people realize'”.

“The area that I’m spending a lot of time on has been growing out of a bunch of research that occurred a while ago on brain-computer interfaces,” Newell said. “I think that that’s kind of long lead stuff, so that’s kind of the background thread that I get pulled back into when other things aren’t demanding my attention.”

Human brains can already communicate with computers directly, though in very limited ways compared to the sci-fi systems of The Matrix or William Gibson’s Neuromancer, where physical reality can be totally replaced with a simulated, virtual one. But Newell doesn’t think that kind of sci-fi tech is as far off as it might seem.

“We’re way closer to The Matrix than people realize,” Newell said. “It’s not going to be The Matrix—The Matrix is a movie and it misses all the interesting technical subtleties and just how weird the post-brain-computer interface world is going to be. But it’s going to have a huge impact on the kinds of experiences we can create for people.”

(17) I CAN GET A WITNESS. A participant remembers “Launching the Hubble Space Telescope: ‘Our window into the Universe'” – video.

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, putting into orbit one of the most remarkable scientific instruments that has ever existed.

But initially the mission ran into problems, including a flawed mirror that meant the first images from Hubble were blurry.

Nasa astronaut Kathryn Sullivan was one of the five crew members who launched the Hubble.

(18) IT’S A BIRD. Free range dino — “Fossil ‘wonderchicken’ could be earliest known fowl”.

A newly discovered fossil bird could be the earliest known ancestor of every chicken on the planet.

Living just before the asteroid strike that wiped out giant dinosaurs, the unique fossil, from about 67 million years ago, gives a glimpse into the dawn of modern birds.

Birds are descended from dinosaurs, but precisely when they evolved into birds like the ones alive today has been difficult to answer.

This is due to a lack of fossil data.

The newly discovered – and well-preserved – fossil skull should help fill in some of the gaps.

“This is a unique specimen: we’ve been calling it the ‘wonderchicken’,” said Dr Daniel Field of the University of Cambridge.

“It’s the only nearly complete skull of a modern bird that we have, so far, from the age of dinosaurs and it’s able to tell us quite a lot about the early evolutionary history of birds.”

(19) TUB THUMPING. Don’t miss the Special “Social Distancing” Edition of The Late Show.

If you’re watching this from home right now, you’re doing the right thing. If you’re watching it from your bathtub bunker like our host, please remember to save some hot water for the rest of us. Either way, we’re glad you’re with us. So stay hunkered down and please enjoy this episode of The Lather Show with Scrubbin’ Colbath!

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

Pixel Scroll 2/15/20 Pixelo And Scrolliet – A Play In Three Acts By Filiam Scrollspeare

(1) NEBULA NOMINATIONS DEADLINE. It’s today, and only a few hours away.

(2) VET BILL APPEAL. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson has launched the “Bo the Wonder Dog Medical Fund” at GoFundMe.

My wife and I adopted Bo nearly 17 years ago.  

He’s been a great friend and companion, helping me through the loss of my wife to cancer and being a “great guy”.

Bo has some issues:  he’s had chronic pancreatitis and has been diagnosed with Chron’s disease.

…With the loss of my wife a couple of years ago, my personal financial picture has changed dramatically (loss of one entire income, health care, etc) and, while I’ve kept up with the bills (barely) and gotten some help from the family, I anticipate that expenses for treatment will continue for a while and I simply can not afford them.

At the current time, the outstanding balance on his bill is approximately $1300.00 – and that does not include the bill for emergency vet care when I had to bring him in at 11:30 pm on 2/16/20 [sic].  I expect that we are currently looking at around $2500 all told, and that’s just going to increase with additional office visits, tests and medications.

Bo is an extremely intelligent, vibrant, engaged silky terrier; the image shown here appeared on the cover of the Sunday Concord Monitor (NH) showing his involvement with Amazing Stories magazine.  

And Bo is the last remaining connection I have with my wife as we adopted him together and he is in many ways the child of our marriage.

I simply don’t want him to suffer, regardless of what the eventual diagnoses ends up being and I don’t want him to suffer simply because the bills can’t be paid.

(3) HWA INTERVIEW SERIES. Horror Writers of America is celebrating Women in Horror Month by interviewing some of the top women in the horror field in a series called Females of Fright. Here’s what’s online so far —

(4) BUTLER’S PARABLE ON STAGE. There will be a performance of the stage adaptation of “Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower” on Saturday, March 7 in UCLA’s Royce Hall. See details at the link.

Based on the novels Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler, this genre-defying work of political theater featuring a powerhouse ensemble of 20 singers, actors and musicians harnesses 200 years of Black music to give musical life to Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel. Parable of the Sower, set in 2024 and published in 1993, presciently grapples with many of the same issues we face today—global warming, corporate influence over government, a destabilized economy, water scarcity, food scarcity, the privatization of social services, homelessness, public safety, a return of long forgotten diseases and the profit-making machine that runs the medical industry. Written by singer, composer and producer Toshi Reagon in collaboration with her mother, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon (song leader, composer, scholar, social activist and founder of Sweet Honey In the Rock), Parable Of The Sower is a mesmerizing theatrical work of rare power and beauty that reveals deep insights into gender, race and the future of human civilization.

(5) STILL NO CIGAR. “Sonic the Hedgehog movie: Critics put the brakes on” – a BBC survey of the media response.

The reviews are in for the new-and-improved Sonic the Hedgehog movie, and the critics have been getting their (human) teeth stuck in.

The trailer was out last May, but Sonic went back to the drawing board after fans reacted badly to how he looked.

Variety said he “has been redesigned to satisfy fans, but no-one figured out how to make him as fun as he is fast”.

And IndieWire declared that “fixing Sonic’s terrifying face hasn’t made this movie any less of a nightmare”.

Jim Carrey plays Dr Robotnik, who – as well as the US government – is chasing the supersonic Sega hedgehog, portrayed in voice and facial motion capture by Ben Schwartz.

The Guardian gave the film two stars, noting how “dastardly Jim Carrey gives Sonic the blues”.

The paper’s critic Steve Rose wrote: “Carrey’s moustache-twirling villain is more fun and far more animated than the charmless hero in this derivative caper.”

(6) NOODLING AUDIBLY. Scott Edelman invites fans to nibble fried noodles with John Edward Lawson in Episode 115 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

My latest lunch on which you get to eavesdrop is with John Edward Lawson, the author of 16 books of fiction and poetry, plus numerous chapbooks. His short stories have been collected in such titles as Pocketful of Loose Razorblades, Discouraging at Best, and most recently Devil Entendre, while his poetry can be found in multiple titles, including The Plague Factory, The Scars Are Complimentary, Bibliophobia, and the Bram Stoker Award finalist The Troublesome Amputee.

He’s the founding editor of Raw Dog Screaming Press, which was given a Specialty Press Award by the Horror Writers Association in 2019. He currently serves as vice president of Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction, and also manages the Broadkill Writers Resort, which he founded in 2016.

We met for lunch recently on a rainy day in Washington D.C. at Dolan Uyghur restaurant. It was my first taste of Uyghur cuisine, and I was quite impressed, particularly by the hand pulled noodles in my Laghman.

We discussed the birth of the bizarro horror subgenre (and the surprisingly democratic way in which it was named), the reason Alien both repelled and attracted him, how trying to sell screenplays led to him publishing his first short fiction instead, the story of his which was the most emotionally difficult to write, how he won a poetry award only after giving up on poetry, the unexpected gift he was given when starting his own publishing company, his initial doubts about naming his press Raw Dog Screaming, how he survived the 2008 financial meltdown which sank so many small presses, why he loves watching people bicker, the reason he became known as “the forgotten black man of horror,” and much more.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 15, 1883 Sax Rohmer. Though doubtless best remembered for his series of novels featuring the arch-fiend Fu Manchu, I’ll also single out The Romance of Sorcery as he based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini who he was friends with. (Died 1959.)
  • Born February 15, 1907 Cesar Romero. Joker in the classic Batman TV series and film. I think that Lost Continent as Major Joe Nolan was his first SF film, with Around the World in 80 Days as Abdullah’s henchman being his other one. He had assorted genre series appearances on series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 15, 1914 Kevin McCarthy. Best remembered as Dr. Miles Bennell in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He would later have recurring roles in Twilight Zone and is in the Twilight Zone movie as well having a cameo in the Seventies remake of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Other SF credits include The Howling, Innerspace, Addams Family Reunion and Looney Tunes: Back in Action in which he had a cameo as Dr. Miles Bennell. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 15, 1916 Ian Ballantine. He founded and published the paperback line of Ballantine Books from 1952 to 1974 with his wife, Betty Ballantine. The Ballantines were both inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008, with a joint citation. During the Sixties, they published the first authorized paperback edition of Tolkien’s books. (Died 1995.)
  • Born February 15, 1917 Meg Wyllie. She was the Talosian “Keeper” in the Trek pilot episode, “The Cage”. She would show up later in Batman as Grandma in the “Black Widow Strikes Again” episode and earlier in her career, she was in Twilight Zone episode “The Night of the Meek” as Sister Florence. She’s Granny Gordon in The Last Starfighter. (Died 2002.)
  • Born February 15, 1935 Paul Wenzel, 85. Disney illustrator responsible for such works as the Mary Poppins posters, the Walt Disney commemorative stamp and concept art of The Haunted Mansion. For those of you asking why he’s here, I’ll note that during the Sixties, he did both covers and interiors for Fantastic Stories of ImaginationIf ,Galaxy, Space Travel and Worlds of Tomorrow
  • Born February 15, 1945 Jack Dann, 75. Dreaming Down-Under which he co-edited with Janeen Webb is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction. It won Ditmar Award and was the first Australian fiction book ever to win the World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. As for his novels, I’m fond of High Steel written with Jack C. Haldeman II, and The Man Who Melted. He’s not that well stocked digitally speaking though Dreaming Down-Under is available on Kindle. 
  • Born February 15, 1948 Art Spiegelman, 72. Author and illustrator of Maus which if you’ve not read, you really should. He also wrote MetaMaus which goes into great detail how he created that work. And yes, I know he had a long and interesting career in underground comics but I’ll be damn if I can find any that are either genre or genre adjacent. 
  • Born February 15, 1958 – Cat Eldridge, 62, is the publisher of Green Man Review and Sleeping Hedgehog. Cat, who’s had some severe health problems, likes to remind people, “Technically I died in 2017 and was revived in the same year.”
  • Born February 15, 1971 Renee O’Connor, 49. Gabrielle on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. I’m reasonably that I watched every damn episode of both series when they aired originally. Quite fun stuff. Her first genre role was first as a waitress in Tales from the Crypt andshe’s had some genre film work such as Monster Ark and Alien Apocalypse. She’s also played Lady Macbeth in the Shakespeare by the Sea’s production of Macbeth.

(8) PEAK TELEVISION IS HERE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Watching television in the modern era is like trying to drink from a fire hose: According to Nielsen, there were 646,152 unique programs available to view on television in 2019. This is the first time that there’s been a full survey done of available content, but they also ran numbers for the previous few years, and found that 2019 saw 10 per cent more content available than any previous year. From WIRED: “There Were 646,152 Things to Watch on TV Last Year”  

From the report: “We are at the flash point of the “streaming wars,” with an array of new subscription and ad-supported platforms seeking to capitalize on what is a massive global opportunity for consumer attention and value.”

(9) ANOTHER BRANCH IN THE TREE. “‘Ghost’ DNA In West Africans Complicates Story Of Human Origins”NPR has the story.

About 50,000 years ago, ancient humans in what is now West Africa apparently procreated with another group of ancient humans that scientists didn’t know existed.

There aren’t any bones or ancient DNA to prove it, but researchers say the evidence is in the genes of modern West Africans. They analyzed genetic material from hundreds of people from Nigeria and Sierra Leone and found signals of what they call “ghost” DNA from an unknown ancestor.

Our own species — Homo sapiens — lived alongside other groups that split off from the same genetic family tree at different times. And there’s plenty of evidence from other parts of the world that early humans had sex with other hominins, like Neanderthals.

That’s why Neanderthal genes are present in humans today, in people of European and Asian descent. Homo sapiens also mated with another group, the Denisovans, and those genes are found in people from Oceania.

The findings on ghost DNA, published in the journal Science Advances, further complicate the picture of how Homo sapiens — or modern humans — evolved away from other human relatives. “It’s almost certainly the case that the story is incredibly complex and complicated and we have kind of these initial hints about the complexity,” says Sriram Sankararaman, a computational biologist at UCLA.

(10) ONE OF THESE DAYS… “Wanted: New astronauts for Nasa Moon mission”

Going into space is a dream shared by children and adults around the world.

Although humans have not stepped foot on the Moon in almost half a century, Nasa hopes to change this. It plans to land the first woman – and the next man – on the lunar surface by 2024.

And now the US space agency is looking for candidates to take part in its future missions.

So with applications opening from 2 to 31 March, what does it take to become an astronaut?

Nationality matters

Since the 1960s, Nasa has selected 350 candidates to train as astronauts, with 48 currently in the active astronaut corps.

But as it is a US federal agency, the first requirement to join Nasa is American citizenship, although dual nationals are also eligible to apply.

This rule has not put everyone off: late British astronaut Piers Sellers left the UK and became a US citizen as part of his dream to become an astronaut, and later flew on three space shuttle missions.

(11) AND HOW. BBC video — “Record-breaking astronaut: ‘Do what scares you'”.

Christina Koch spent 328 days on the International Space Station and was part of the first all-female spacewalk.

The astronaut also surpassed the previous female record reached by Peggy Whitson in June 2017 for time spent in space.

She touched back down to Earth on 6 February.

(12) DRONING AWAY. PetaPixel invites you to “Watch an Anti-Drone Laser Literally Fry a Bunch of DJI Drones from Miles Away”.

Israeli defense technology company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd recently released a demo of their special “Drone Dome” counter-drone defense system. A car-mounted anti-drone solution that can fry unwelcome drones from miles away using a high-powered laser beam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

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

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

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Dawn by Octavia E. Butler

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 3/28/19 Old Rossum’s Book Of Pixelated SJW Credentials

(1) APOLLO REUNION. Forbes tells how the picture came to be: “Buzz Aldrin Dazzles In Photo Of Apollo Astronauts”. John A Arkansawyer, who sent the link, says, “But gosh, I love the suit Buzz Aldrin is wearing! It makes me want to go out and punch a goddam liar right in the face.”

The only man between here and the moon capable of pulling off a rocket ship patterned suit, four gold rings, American flag socks, and a double watch combo is Buzz Aldrin, 89. Aldrin was one of eight Apollo astronauts to attend the 115th Explorers Club Annual Dinner March 16. The dinner also celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 1969, by Aldrin and the late Neil Armstrong who died in 2012. Aldrin and his astronaut brethren were photographed in New York by Felix Kunze whose composite image rocketed to the top of Reddit Sunday evening.

(2) MY TYPE. That item in a recent Scroll about getting your cat its own keyboard? Kalimac sounds like his cat is overdue for one:

I came home from a quick visit to the library to find that a reply, fortunately unsent, had been opened to the e-mail that happened to have been sitting on my desktop at the time I left. The text read:

5v44444444444444444444444jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkumuuuuuuu

Just so you know.

(3) FUNEREAL POSTER. SYFY Wire makes an observation as “All those dusted heroes return(?!) in latest poster for Avengers: Endgame “.

Walt Disney Studios marketing president Asad Ayaz tweeted out the new Chinese poster for Endgame, and aside from giving us some new looks at the living heroes the post-Infinty War team will have to rely on, it also features 14 of the ones who are no longer with us. As with all the rest of Endgame’s intentionally mysterious marketing teases, though, there’s a catch to the way the two groups are presented:

(4) VISA CATASTROPHE ENDS MALAYSIAN CON. Eleven cosplayers from four Asian countries plus the con organizer were taken into custody: “A Dozen Cosplayers Arrested During Immigration Raid at Cosplay Convention”.  

Twelve people without proper work visas were arrested during an immigration raid at a cosplay convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on its first day over the weekend.

The event, Cosplay Festival 4, had a line-up of performances on March 23 when officers from the Immigration Department of Malaysia (Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia/JIM) stormed its venue at the Sunway Putra Hotel around 2 p.m. after receiving a tip.

(5) AMAZON DEVELOPING BUTLER BOOK FOR TV. “‘Wild Seed’: Viola Davis Developing Adaptation Of Octavia Butler Novel At Amazon, Scripted By Nnedi Okorafor And Wanuri Kahiu”: Shadow and Act has the story.

“We love Octavia Butler and her work and have for decades. But Wild Seed is our favorite. It’s expansive, disturbing, and unique. Wild Seed stays with you. It’s a love/hate story of African immortals that connects people on the African continent to the Diaspora. It merges the mystical and the scientific seamlessly. You’re going to see shape-shifting, body jumping, telepaths, people born with the ability to defy the laws of physics, all in the context of our past, present and future world,” said Kahiu and Okorafor.

(6) THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. Leonard Maltin says “‘Dumbo’ Begs the Question: Why?”

Disney’s new live-action Dumbo isn’t awful….but it isn’t very good, either. Why waste so much money and talent on a film that is foredoomed to take second place to a classic? I know it’s all about making money, yet surely there are new ideas to pursue instead of constantly reproducing past successes. In this case the bar is set impossibly high. Dumbo is my favorite animated Disney feature. It’s got heart, humor, and originality. What’s more, it tells its story in just over an hour’s time. It’s a perfect movie.

Why Tim Burton would devote himself to a mediocre remake with a bloated script I can’t imagine….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 28, 1918 Robert J. Serling . Brother of that Serling. Author of several associational works including Something’s Alive on the Titanic. He wrote “Ghost Writer” published in Twilight Zone: 19 Original Stories on the 50th Anniversary. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 28, 1922 A. Bertram Chandler. Did you ever hear of popcorn literature? Well the Australian tinged space opera that was the universe that of the Rim World and John Grimes was such. A very good starting place is the Baen Books omnibus To The Galactic Rim which contains three novels and seven stories. If there’s a counterpart to him, it’d be I think Dominic Flandry who appeared in Anderson’s Technic History series. Oh, and I’ve revisited both to see if the Suck Fairy had dropped by. She hadn’t.  (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 28, 1942 Mike Newell, 77. Director whose genre work Includes The AwakeningPhotographing Fairies (amazing story, stellar film), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (popcorn film — less filling, mostly tasty), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and two episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, to wit “Masks of Evil” and “The Perils of Cupid”.
  • Born March 28, 1981 Gareth David-Lloyd, 48. Best known for playing as Ianto Jones on Doctor Who and Torchwood. John Watson in (what is referred to as a steampunk version by Wiki) of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, also known simply as Sherlock Holmes. I also see him in Dark Signal, a supernatural thriller.
  • Born March 28, 1983 Natalie Lander, 36. I adore the amount of characterization that a performer brings to an animated character in the voice work they do. So it is with her work as Stargirl in the Justice League Action series of short animated works done recently. She created a smart and stubborn character who wasn’t going to be second to anyone. 

(8) REDDIT REELING AFTER MCDONALD SMEAR. A moderator of Reddit’s r/Fantasy group was one of the individuals engaged in the character assassination of Ed McDonald. The other moderators, trying to find a way forward, have posted a timeline of what they knew when, plus an apology. Here are excerpts.

WEDNESDAY

All hell broke loose within r/Fantasy. Up became down.

The r/Fantasy mods received information from multiple sources that there appeared to be a smear campaign against Ed McDonald. Retractions were posted from those who had put things out there involving Ed.

Later on Wednesday, we received information that one of the two individuals involved was a longstanding r/Fantasy moderator. WTF.

The r/Fantasy mod team shifted communications to remove that moderator from conversations and, during that process, that mod appears to have deleted his account. No information or other from that former mod.

TODAY – THURSDAY MORNING

We took time to try and sort things out. Again – looking to people across the industry and reputable sources. At this time there are retractions related to Ed McDonald across the internet from those who posted and information building that indicates mis-information was put out there against Ed McDonald. It also appears that one of those individuals was (a former) moderator of r/Fantasy.

The remaining r/Fantasy mods are reeling a bit with this crazy information.

NEXT STEPS

We would like to issue a formal apology to Ed McDonald for what has transpired. Go buy his books and give him a virtual hug. The information out there is incomplete but, at the very least, Ed is owed an apology for the call to ban him for 2019. Of course, he has been reinstated as an active r/Fantasy member.

Ed McDonald

No ill will should be borne towards those that were brought to be a part of something unwittingly. The level and scale of deception used to influence and coerce those that were used against me was extraordinary. And when I say that, unless you have seen the evidence, what you’re imagining by ‘extraordinary’ probably does not even begin to cover it. I’m going to go on stating this because even describing it that way does not begin to explain the lengths, depths and time investment that were put into this. The people who were coerced have been abused and they are also survivors of online stalking. Some of them have posted publicly to say that the perpetrator has groomed them for an entire year.

It is not right to be angry towards those whose trust has been abused. Those that have come forward and publicly apologised must not be blamed or attacked. Not in my name. Not because of this incident.

While I was the target, and the consequences of that targeting would have been life altering and devastating for me if not for the actions of those who believed in me and brought the truth to light, I am not the only survivor of online abuse. The people now discovering that they have spent months, or years, talking to and confiding in someone they believed to be a friend, only to discover that they have been played, are survivors as well.

Secondly, this has nothing to do with gender. I was not targeted because I was male. Due to the nature of the campaign, and because I have never met or spoken to the perpetrator, I do not know whether the person responsible is male or female. Please do not make this a platform for unrelated issues. The issue is entirely one of online harassment and falsification, which could happen to anybody irrespective of who they are.

Be kind to one another. If there’s at least one lesson we can all agree on, it’s surely that.

Author Mark Lawrence, creator of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, shared his own experience with being attacked.

[–]MarkLawrenceStabby Winner, AMA Author Mark Lawrence 136 points 2 hours ago 

It’s remarkably easy to raise a reddit lynch mob.

It happened to me (on a vastly smaller scale) in one thread. Half a dozen accounts – all started that day and all sharing the same word in their title – started calling me a cancer and accusing me of unspecified crimes against new authors.

Most people looking at the thread just saw lots of names saying I was the bad guy and me not lying down and taking my lumps. The one guy with many accounts got lots of upvotes and I was down in negative double digits.

Mods removed my replies.

It was unfortunate but not malicious on anyone’s part but the instigator. Modding a group is hard and there is often a lot going on at once.

The developments of the past few days have actually helped some people discover the author’s work for the first time, while others are trying to counter the toxicity with positive attention, such as Mark Timmony’s review of McDonald’s Blackwing.

(9) SJWC CRISIS. Not all cats live up to their reputation as companions in the quest for social justice…. BBC asks: “Should cats be culled to stop extinctions?”

Scientists are calling for a widespread cull of feral cats and dogs, pigs, goats, and rats and mice to save the endangered species they prey upon.

Their eradication on more than 100 islands could save some of the rarest animals on Earth, says an international team.

Islands have seen 75% of known bird, mammal, amphibian and reptile extinctions over the past 500 years.

Many of the losses are caused by animals introduced by humans.

Not naturally present on islands, they can threaten native wildlife.

“Eradicating invasive mammals from islands is a powerful way to remove a key threat to island species and prevent extinctions and conserve biodiversity,” said Dr Nick Holmes, from the group Island Conservation.

(10) SPACESUITS AREN’T THE ONLY PROBLEM. BBC finds way too much science gear is available only in large sizes: “One small step for man, but women still have to leap”.

Nasa has cancelled plans for its first all-female spacewalk this Friday, citing a lack of available spacesuits in the right size.

There are not enough suits configured on the International Space Station for both Christina Koch and Anne McClain to go out at the same time, so male astronaut Nick Hague will replace Lt Col McClain.

Last week, Lt Col McClain went on a spacewalk with Col Hague and learned that a medium-sized spacesuit fitted her best.

However, Nasa said in a statement: “Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday 29 March, Koch will wear it.”

For many women working in science, a choice between using equipment designed for men or missing out altogether is all too familiar.

(11) BITS BECOME BITERS. Or something like that: “Britain’s ‘bullied’ chatbots fight back”.

UK chatbot companies are programming their creations to deal with messages containing swearing, rudeness and sexism, BBC News has learned.

Chatbots have received thousands of antisocial messages over the past year.

One financial chatbot has been asked out on a date nearly 2,000 times and to “send nude [picture]s” more than 1,000, according to its makers, Cleo AI.

The chatbot now responds to the request by sending an image of a circuit board.

(12) MORE INTERNET TOXICITY. Apparently it far exceeds the ratio predicted by Sturgeon’s Law: “‘The biggest, strangest problem I could find to study'”.

Businesses are under siege every second of every day, bombarded by a “grey noise” of potentially harmful web traffic seeking access to their networks. But IT staff often can’t tell the malicious traffic from the benign. Why?

If your office building were visited thousands of times a day by criminals peering through the windows seeking a way in, you’d be understandably nervous about hanging around.

Yet any organisation with an online presence gets exactly this type of unwelcome attention all the time.

Security researcher Andrew Morris calls this constant barrage “grey noise” and has started a company of the same name with a mission of logging, analysing and understanding it.

…In 2018, Mr Morris’s network was hit by up to four million attacks a day. His honey-pot computers process between 750 and 2,000 connection requests per second – the exact rate depends on how busy the bad guys are at any given moment.

His analysis shows that only a small percentage of the traffic is benign.

That fraction comes from search engines indexing websites or organisations such as the Internet Archive scraping sites. Some comes from security companies and other researchers.

The rest of the internet’s background noise – about 95% – is malicious.

(13) MAKING A SPECTRE OF HERSELF. TIME Magazine dutifully published the official disclaimer. But the truth is out there! “‘As Far As We Know All Our Stores Are Ghost-Free.’ Supermarket Responds to Frozen Aisle Haunting Post”.

The employee, Christiana Bush, who works in the store’s bakery department, posted about the ghost sighting in a local, private Facebook group. ”This is going to sound really strange….but has anyone seen a ghost in the Wilmington market basket?” she wrote according to the Boston Globe. Adding that after she saw the woman, she looked to see if anyone else was catching a glimpse of the apparition and when she looked back she was gone.

“She looked kind of like melancholy and a little angry. So it was kind of a creepy kind of sense, but it was something,” Bush said Monday, according to the local NBC affiliate. She believes the woman was a ghost and asked the Facebook group whether anyone else had a paranormal experience in her store. The modern day ghost story has since gone viral with people across the country weighing in on the likelihood of a Victorian era ghost choosing to haunt a Market Basket.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/14/18 Good King Pixelslas Looked Out On The File Of Seven

(1) WRITING SPACE. In “Why I Write in Cafes”, Rachel Swirsky unpacks all of her reasons.

I’ve been writing a lot in cafes recently. Well, mostly one cafe, but I’ve dallied with others…

I always accomplish something, or prove I can’t.

Because I’m at the cafe with someone else, and we are there with a purpose, I always spend at least some time trying to write. Some days, nothing comes. More often, even if I feel creatively dry, I can scrape up something, whether it’s a bit of editing, a paragraph or two, or the beginning of a story (which I may never finish). On my own I can get depressed over those days when the writing doesn’twork, and it makes me avoidant for a while afterward. With a writing partner, there’s a set time to try again.

(2) BRING PLENTY OF NAPKINS. Scott Edelman will be at the microphone while you slurp down Thai Beef Noodle Soup with Stephen Kozeniewski in Episode 84 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This time around you’ll sit in on my meal at Noodle Charm with horror writer Stephen Kozeniewski.

At least I think we ate at Noodle Charm. I’m not really sure. (Give a listen to the episode to find out the reason for my uncertainty.)

Kozeniewski is the author of such gonzo novels as Braineater Jones, Billy and the Cloneasaurus, and The Ghoul Archipelago. He’s also been part of the writers room for Silverwood: The Door, a 10-episode prose follow-up to Tony Valenzuela’s Black Box TV series Silverwood, which was released in weekly installments in both prose and audiobook formats.

We discussed how it took nearly 500 submissions before his first novel was finally accepted, why he has no interest in writing sequels, his advice for winning a Turkey Award for the worst possible opening to the worst possible science fiction or fantasy novel, why his output is split between horror and science fiction (but not mysteries), the reason Brian Keene was who he wanted to be when he grew up, why almost any story would be more interesting with zombies, when you should follow and when you should break the accepted rules of writing, where he falls on the fast vs. slow zombies debate, and much more.

(3) BROKE-DOWN ENGINE. NPR’s Mark Jenkins is frank: “‘Mortal Engines’ Internally Combusts”.

…That’s just a cursory account of Mortal Engines, which would have benefited from losing a few supporting characters, several flashbacks and at least one subplot. Yet the movie’s major weakness is not story, but characterization.

The only actor who holds the screen is Weaving, and even he suffers from a cardboard role and plywood dialogue. Hilmar, Natsworthy and Jihae are all as bland as their parts, lacking charm, swagger and humor. The disastrous absence of the last quality can partly be blamed on the script, which hazards a joke about every 45 minutes.

(4) CAUGHT UP INTHE WEB. Meanwhile, Chris Klimek writes at NPR that “‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ Is A Fun, Warm-Hearted Treat”.

It’s hard to fathom that the same Sony Pictures that, in 2012, decided the best way to expand the appeal of its live-action Spider-Man franchise was to start over with lesser movies, has now become smart enough to put its resources into a superb new — really new — Spider-Man cartoon. Maybe someone in a Culver City boardroom got bit by a radioactive MacArthur Fellow.

Whatever the reason, for a powerful corporation to relax its grip on an ancient specimen of blue-chip IP enough to let the creatives have some fun is a rare thing, and one that should not go unheralded. Marvel Comics weathered the ire of reactionary fandom back in 2011 when it introduced Miles Morales, a Spider-Man no less Amazing than that nerdy orphan Peter Parker, but for the fact he was the son of a Puerto Rican ER nurse and an African-American beat cop. Miles became the Spider-Man of the publisher’s “Ultimate” line, a spiral arm of the Marvel Universe that…

…you know what? Don’t worry about it. To cite the refrain of this graphically dazzling, generously imaginative, nakedly optimistic, mercilessly funny and inclusive-without-being-all-pious-about-it animated oydssey called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, “Anyone can wear the mask.”

(5) STELLAR POPPINS.The BBC’s Nicholas Barber finds many defects compared to the original, but gives 4 stars to Mary Poppins Returns.

Sensibly, Blunt doesn’t impersonate Andrews. Less sensibly, she impersonates Maggie Smith: her haughty, upper-crust Mary would be right at home in Downtown Abbey. But otherwise, Mary Poppins Returns is so similar to its predecessor as to be almost identical. There are no revelations, no unexpected locations, no hints at what Mary gets up to when she isn’t looking after the Banks children – although we’ll probably get a prequel set in nanny-training college in a few years’ time. The only significant difference is that the story has been moved on from 1910 to the 1930s, so it’s Mary Poppins: The Next Generation.

(6) BORDER TOWN DROPPED. “DC Cancels Hit Comic Book Series ‘Border Town’ After Abuse Claims”says The Hollywood Reporter.

The publisher is immediately ending the critically acclaimed series, amid accusations of sexual abuse by writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel.

DC Entertainmentimprint DC Vertigo has canceled comic book series Border Town effective immediately, with all orders for the unreleased issues 5 and 6 being canceled, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. Those issues will not be published, and all issues already released are also being made returnable, according to the publisher.

The publisher has not commented on the reasons for the title’s cancellation, but it coincides with the release of a statement by toy designer Cynthia Naugle in which she wrote about being “sexually, mentally, and emotionally abused” by an unnamed figure later identified on social media — and seemingly confirmed by Naugle via retweets — as Border Town writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel.

Since Naugle’s statement went live, both Border Town artist Ramon Villalobos and color artist Tamra Bonvillain released statements via Twitter on the subject, distancing themselves from the project.

(7) HUGO VOTING STRATEGY TRUE OR FALSE. Karl-Johan Norén warns, “The meme that one should not ‘dilute’ ones Hugo nomination power under EPH is going around again, and I wrote a quick refutation.”

…As a voter and nominator for the Hugos, it is in your best interest to nominate as many works as you find worthy as you can.

I will illustrate it using two cases. The first is that if every single nominator in a Hugo category nominates only a single work, EPH will default back to a simple first past the post selection with six finalists — exactly the system that we had before EPH, but with much less input! …

(8) THE POINTY THRONE. This cover for the March issue of Amazing Spider-Man resonates with a certain TV show you may have seen….

(9) BLACK SCI-FI DOCUMENTARY. Three excerpts from Terrence Francis’ 1992 documentary Black Sci-Fi, originally broadcast on BBC2 as part of the Birthrights series.

The documentary focuses on Black science fiction in literature, film and television and features interviews with Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Mike Sargent, Steven Barnes and Nichelle Nichols.

In this extract, Octavia Butler discusses how her interest in science fiction developed and the genre’s potential for exploring new ideas and ways of being.

In this section Samuel R. Delany, Mike Sargent and Steven Barnes discuss the stereotypical portrayal of black characters in science fiction literature and cinema, including the predictable fate of Paul Winfield in films like Damnation Alley, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Terminator.

In this section, Nichelle Nichols discusses the significance of her character, Uhura, in Star Trek; Steven Barnes and Mike Sargent consider how attitudes towards race and skin colour might develop in the (far) future.

(10) VAULT OF THE BEAST. Robert Weinberg interviewed A.E. Van Vogt in 1980 – now posted at Sevagram.

Weinberg: How did you first get interested in science fiction, and in particular, how did you come to write a science fiction story?

Van Vogt: I first read science fiction in the old British Chum annual when I was about 12 years old. Chum was a British boy’s weekly which, at the end of the year was bound into a single huge book; and the following Christmas parents bought it as Christmas presents for male children. The science fiction in these stories was simple. Somebody built a spaceship in his tool shop (in his backyard) and when he left earth he took along all the neighborhood twelve-year-olds without the parents seeming to object.

Later, at age 14, I saw the November 1926 Amazing and promptly purchased it, read it avidly until Hugo Gernsbach lost control and it got awful under the next editor, T. O’Connor Sloane. So I had my background when I picked up the July, 1938 issue of Astounding and read “Who Goes There?” It was one of the great SF stories; and it stimulated me to send Campbell, the editor, a one paragraph outline of what later became “Vault of the Beast. “If he hadn’t answered, that would probably have been the end of my SF career. But I learned later he answered all query letters either favorably or with helpful advice. The helpful advice he gave me was to suggest that I write with a lot of atmosphere. To me that meant a lot of imagery, and verbs other than “to be” or “to have.”

(11) ANDERSON OBIT. Author Paul Dale Anderson (1944-2018) has died, the president of the Horror Writers Association Is reporting. Biographical details from hiswebsite —

Paul Dale Anderson has written more than 27 novels and hundreds of short stories, mostly in the horror, fantasy, science fiction, and suspense-thriller genres. Paul has also written contemporary romances, mysteries, and westerns. Paul is an Active Member of SFWA and HWA, and he was elected a Vice President and Trustee of Horror Writers Association in 1987.  Paul is also a member of International Thriller Writers, the Authors Guild, and MWA.

His wife, Gretta, predeceased him in 2012.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 14, 1984 – John Carpenter’s Starman premiered on this day.
  • December 14, 1984 – For better or worse – Dune debuted in theaters.
  • December 14, 2007 – Will Smith’s I Am Legend opened.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 14, 1916 Shirley Jackson. First gained public attention for her short story “The Lottery, or, The Adventures of James Harris” but it was her The Haunting of Hill House novel which has been made her legendary as a horror novelist as it’s truly a chilling ghost story.  I see that’s she wrote quite a bit of genre short fiction —has anyone here read it? (Died 1965.)
  • Born December 14, 1920 Rosemary Sutcliff. English novelist whose best known for children’s books particularly her historical fiction which  involved retellings of myths and legends, Arthurian and otherwise. Digging into my memory, I remember reading The Chronicles of Robin Hood which was her first published novel and rather good; The Eagle of the Ninth is set in Roman Britain and was an equally fine read. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 14, 1949 David A. Cherry, 69. Illustrator working mostly in the genre. Amazingly he has been nominated eleven times for Hugo Awards, and eighteen times for Chesley Awards with an astonishing eight wins! He is a past president of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists.
  • Oh and he’s is the brother of the science fiction writer C. J. Cherryh (“Cherry” is the original spelling of the last name of the family) so you won’t be surprised that he’s painted cover art for some of her books as well as books for Robert Asprin, Andre Norton, Diane Duane, Lynn Abbey and Piers Anthony to name but a few of his contracts.
  • Born December 14, 1966Sarah Zettel, 52. Her first novel, Reclamation, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award in 1996, and in 1997 tied for the Locus Award for the Best First Novel. Writing under the alias of C. L. Anderson, her novel Bitter Angels won the 2010 Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original novel. If you’ve not read her, I’d recommend her YA American Fairy Trilogy as a good place to start. 
  • Born December 14, 1968 Kelley Armstrong, 50. Canadian writer, primarily of fantasy novels since the early party of the century. She has published thirty-one fantasy novels to date, thirteen in her Women of the Otherworld series, another five in her Cainsville series. I’m wracking my brain to think what I’ve read of hers as I know I’ve read something. Ahhhh I’m reasonably sure I listened to the Cainsville series and would recommend it wholeheartedly.

(14) SAVE THE PICKLE! Has your deli warned of a shortage? Chip Hitchcock says, “Famous fan stop Rein’s, near Hartford, had a problem a few years ago.” From NPR : “Scientists Are Fighting For The Stricken Pickle Against This Tricky Disease”.

With failed harvests, fewer growers are taking a chance on cucumbers. According to USDA records, pickling cucumber acreage declined nearly 25 percent between 2004 and 2015. Globally, downy mildew threatens fields as far flung as India, Israel, Mexico and China.

“This is the number one threat to the pickle industry,” says vegetable pathologist Lina Quesada-Ocampo of North Carolina State University. The growers, she says, lose money on failed crops and pricey fungicides. “It is a really bad double whammy.”

Fortunately for pickle lovers, vegetable breeder Michael Mazourek of Cornell University is close to releasing varieties that resist downy mildew. “It’s been one of our proudest David and Goliath stories,” he says. But his success hinges on funding at a time when public support of agricultural research is declining.

(15) HEVELIN PHOTOS SOUGHT. Bruce Hevelin is looking for photos of his father, James “Rusty” Hevelin. If you have any scanned in or in digital form, please send them to him at: <bruce911@sonic.net>

(16) WOODEN FRIED CHICKEN. Forget about making this one of your last-minute gift purchases – The Takeout says “KFC fried chicken-scented firelog sold out in hours ¯\_(?)_/’”:

Update, December 14: Oh, you actually were interested in that chicken-scented log, eh? Sorry for those who didn’t snatch theirs up early, as the logs reportedly sold out within hours yesterday.

Original story, December 13:

“Back in my day,” your grandpa begins wheezily, “If we wanted fried chicken-smellin’ fires, we had to throw the chicken on the flames ourselves.”

He’s right, friends, but that hardship ends today, as KFC introduces a firelog that smells like the Colonel’s 11-herbs-and-spices fried chicken, made in partnership with Enviro-Log.

(17) NOT SOLD OUT.This is still available. No wonder! It will cost a heck of a lot more than a log! The Houdini Seance at LA’s Magic Castle.

The séance is held for a private group of ten to twelve guests in our historic Houdini Séance Chamber. Decorated in the High Victorian style, it is now the home of many priceless pieces of Houdini memorabilia, including the only set of cuffs Houdini was unable to open.

…You will experience remarkable things you might not fully understand. Don’t feel alone. It’s that way for all of us.

Your party begins its experience with a four-course gourmet meal at 6:30 p.m. with bottomless red and white house wine during the dining portion of your evening — all created by your own private chef and served by your own private butler.

A medium will then join you who will open the veil between this world and the next. Your medium will begin with fascinating experiments in the power of the unseen and then, forming a magic circle, will summon the spirits and allow them to demonstrate their awesome ability to manifest in our physical world.

(18) THE SECRET IS NOT TO BANG THE ROCKS TOGETHER. BBC asks “What chance has Nasa of finding life on Mars?”

It could be easier to detect the signs of ancient life on Mars than it is on Earth, say scientists connected with Nasa’s next rover mission.

The six-wheeled robot is due to touch down on the Red Planet in 2021 with the specific aim of trying to identify evidence of past biology.

It will be searching for clues in rocks that are perhaps 3.9 billion years old.

Confirming life on Earth at that age is tough enough, but Mars may have better preservation, say the researchers.

It comes down to the dynamic processes on our home world that constantly churn and recycle rocks – processes that can erase life’s traces but which shut down on the Red Planet early in its history.

“We don’t believe, for example, that Mars had plate tectonics in the way Earth has had for most of its history,” said Ken Williford from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

“Most of Earth’s rock record has been destroyed by subduction under the ocean crust. But even the rock left at the surface is heated and squeezed in ways it might not have been on Mars.”

(19) BEFORE THE STORY WAS TRAPPED IN AMBER. BBC tells about “The Jurassic Park film that was never made”.

The structure is so ancient that it feels almost prehistoric. Some people take a trip to a remote island, they see some dinosaurs, and then the dinosaurs try to have them for lunch. It’s what happened in Jurassic Park in 1993, and by the time the first sequel came out in 1997, the screenplay was already poking fun at how formulaic it was. “‘Ooh, aah’, that’s how it always starts,” says Jeff Goldblum’s Dr Ian Malcolm in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. “Then later there’s running and screaming.” How right he was. But this self-knowledge didn’t stop the makers of Jurassic Park III (2001) and Jurassic World (2015) sticking to the formula, and it wasn’t until the second half of this year’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that the series found somewhere else to go.

How different things might have been. Back in 2004, John Sayles (the writer-director of Passion Fish and Lone Star) wrote a half-crazy half-brilliant screenplay for Jurassic Park 4 that took the story all over the planet, and which pioneered several radical ideas that are only just being incorporated into the franchise now. Steven Spielberg, the series’ producer and its original director was keen at first, and it’s easy to see why: Sayles’ rollicking script is sprinkled with quintessentially Spielberg-y moments. On the other hand, it’s also easy to see why Spielberg cooled off on the project. A movie about a globe-trotting A-Team of genetically modified, crime-busting Deinonychuses might have strayed just a little too far from the Jurassic Park films that audiences knew and loved.

(20) TITANS. The season-ending episode:

Titans 1×11 “Dick Grayson” Season 1 Episode 11 Promo (Season Finale) – Robin faces off against Batman when Dick takes a dark journey back to Gotham in the first season finale of Titans.

(21) YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD BAGGAGE PROBLEMS. “Southwest Airlines flight turns back after human heart discovery” – BBC has the story.

A US passenger plane travelling from Seattle to Dallas was forced to turn back hours into its flight because a human heart had been left on board.

Southwest Airlines says the organ was flown to Seattle from California, where it was to be processed at a hospital to have a valve recovered for future use.

But it was never unloaded and its absence was not noticed until the plane was almost half-way to Dallas.

The heart itself had not been intended for a specific patient.

(22) WHERE TO FIND YOUR DOOM, AND WHAT TO DRINK ON THE WAY. Another thing for Worldcon travelers to check out: “In Ireland, a taste of the underworld”

Oweynagat cave is a placeof both birth and death. An unimposing gash in the ancient misty hills of north-western Ireland, it is said to be the entrance to the underworld where fairies and demons lure mortals to their doom, and the sacred birthplace of a warrior queen. For thousands of years, the Irish have regarded Oweynagat as a site of awe-inspiring magic, weaving a rich tapestry of mythology around it.

…For millennia, Queen Medb has remained the most intoxicating thing to come out of the cave. However, just this year that changed with the creation of a beer made from wild yeast cultivated from the walls of Oweynagat. Called Underworld Savage Ale for the mythic place that it was conceived, this beer is the first of its kind, with a backstory strange enough to fit within the cave’s fantastic mythology

(23) FROM THE HISTORIC RECORDS. Rachel Swirsky discovered a reference to File 770 in a 1981 copy of Fandom Directory.  The zine was only three years old at the time.

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mother of All Demos Hosted by Douglas Englebart” on YouTube is a video (recorded by Stewart Brand) of the December 1968 demonstration where Douglas Englebart introduced the world to videoconferencing, hypertext, and the computer mouse.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/8/18 Science Fiction Is What I Yell “ZAP!” For When I Throw At People

(1) WHITTAKER SHALL RETURN.The Hollywood Reporter quashes rumors to the contrary: “Jodie Whittaker Confirms Return for ‘Doctor Who’ Season 12”. Shame on rumor-spreading clickbait sites that got fans all stirred up about this, like, uh — let’s go right to the story, shall we?

The first female Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker, will be returning for another season. 

While it was largely presumed that Whittaker wouldn’t be handing over her sonic screwdriver anytime soon, the typically tight-tipped BBC hadn’t yet confirmed who would be playing Doctor Who for season 12 of the cult sci-fi series, and there was always the chance that she could go the way of Christopher Eccleston, who managed just one stint as the Time Lord. 

“I really can’t wait to step back in and get to work again,” Whittaker told The Hollywood Reporter.”It’s such an incredible role. It’s been an extraordinary journey so far and I’m not quite ready to hand it over yet.”

(2) NEW SFF ZINE DEBUTES NEXT WEEKEND. Future Science Fiction Digest, a new quarterly publication with a strong focus on translation and international fiction, will be available December 15, with the stories to be posted on the web over the next several months

It is a collaboration between Future Affairs Administration (a media and technology brand in China) and UFO Publishing (a small press from Brooklyn, NY) and is edited by Alex Shvartsman.

Our first issue features fiction from the United States, China, Nigeria, Italy, and the Ukraine, as well as several articles, totaling 65,000 words. It will be published on December 15, with stories posted on the web over the course of several months. The next issue will be published on March 15.

(3) TODAY’S BRADBURY REFERENCE. Dennis Howard got permission to share this image with File 770 readers:

My ex emailed me this photo she took at Walmart and asked if I remembered Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Jar”. Of course, I remembered that creepy episode based on a Ray Bradbury story. I wonder if the manufacturer of this thing remembers.

(4) KGB. The hosts of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, present Maria Dahvana Headley & Nicole Kornher-Stace on December 19.

Maria Dahvana Headley

Maria Dahvana Headley is a New York Times-bestselling author of seven books, most recently The Mere Wife,a contemporary retelling of Beowulf for the McD imprint at Farrar, Straus& Giroux, which will be followed in 2019 by a new translation of Beowulf, for the same publisher. She’s also the author of the young adult novels Magonia and Aerie. With Neil Gaiman, she edited Unnatural Creatures, and with Kat Howard, she wrote The End of the Sentence. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson Awards, and included in many Year’s Bests, including Best American Fantasy & Science Fiction, in which, this year, she has two stories. @MariaDahvana on Twitter, or www.mariadahvanaheadley.com

Nicole Kornher-Stace

Nicole Kornher-Stace is the author of Desideria, The Winter Triptych, the Norton Award finalist Archivist Wasp, and its sequel, LatchkeyHer short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Apex, and Fantasy, as well as many anthologiesShe lives in New Paltz, NY with her family. She can be found online at www.nicolekornherstace.com, on Facebook, or onTwitter @wirewalking.

Things begin Wednesday, December 19, 2018, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York, NY.

(5) PRATCHETT REFERENCE. Quoting an article by Simon Ings in the December 1 Financial Times about artists who have residencies at the CERN particle physics laboratory —

In The Science of Discworld 4: Judgment Day, mathematician Ian Stewart and reproductive biologist Jack Cohen have fun at the expense of the particle physics community.  Imagine, they say, a group of blind sages at a hotel, poking at a foyer piano.  After some hours, they arrive at an elegant theory about what a piano is–one that involves sound, frequency, harmony, and the material properties of piano strings.

Then one of their number, still not satisfied, suggests that they carry the piano upstairs and drop it from the roof. This they do–and spend the rest of the day dreaming up and knocking over countless ugly hypotheses  involving hypothetical ‘trangons’ and ‘thudons’ and, oh I don’t know, ‘crash bosons.’

(6) BUTLER. Samuel Delany encourages sff readers to get familiar with this Octavia Butler story and a parallel case of injustice.

Three years before she died, Octavia E. Butler wrote her last two science fiction stories: One of them, “Amnesty,” was published in 2003. Though it received no awards, it is arguably the most important SF story written in this the last quarter of a century. It is the penultimate story in the revised and expanded edition of this book (2005). You should have read it but if, for some reason, you haven’t; then you should learn who the models for the alien “Communities” were and the story’s general political inspiration. It is one of the last two story in the second edition of this book.
Wikipedia is a good start. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wen_Ho_Lee> After you familiarize yourself with this frightening case of injustice, probably you should read the story again.

(7) IMAGINING TECH. Brian Merchant covers the sci-fi/industrial complex for Medium: “Nike and Boeing Are Paying Sci-Fi Writers to Predict Their Futures”.

One of the most influential product prototypes of the 21st century wasn’t dreamed up in Cupertino or Mountain View. Its development began around a half-century ago, in the pages of a monthly pulp fiction mag.

In 1956, Philip K. Dick published a short story that follows the tribulations of a police chief in a future marked by predictive computers, humans wired to machines, and screen-based video communications. Dick’s work inspired a generation of scientists and engineers to think deeply about that kind of future. To adapt that same story into a $100 million Hollywood film 50 years later, Steven Spielberg sent his production designer, Alex McDowell, to MIT. There, a pioneering researcher?—?and lifelong Dickfan?—?named John Underkoffler was experimenting with ways to let people manipulate data with gloved hands. In 2002, a version of his prototype was featured in the film, where it quickly became one of the most important fictional user interfaces since the heyday of Star Trek. Bas Ording, one of the chief UI designers of the original iPhone, told me his work was inspired directly by the gesture-based system showcased in Minority Report.

For the past century, this messy, looping process?—?in which science fiction writers imagine the fabric of various futures, then the generation reared on those visions sets about bringing them into being?—?has yielded some of our most enduring technologies and products. The late sci-fi author Thomas Disch called it “creative visualization” and noted there was no more persuasive example of its power “than the way the rocket-ship daydreams of the early twentieth century evolved into NASA’s hardware.” Submarines, cellphones, and e-readers all evolved along these lines.

Minority Report produced a hundred patents and helped rapidly mainstream the concept of gesture-based computing?—?not just the iPhone but all touchscreen tablets, the Kinect, the Wii?—?and became cultural shorthand for anyone looking to point their ventures toward the future.

(8) SEIDEL OBIT. Myla Seidel, who more fans would have known as Anne Cox, died December 7 reports her son Kevin. Ed and Anne Cox were among the first fans I met in person in the Seventies. They later divorced. Ed died in 1997, and the last time I saw Anne was at a memorial gathering for him.

Ed Cox and Anne Cox (Myla Seidel).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 8, 1954 Atomic Kid, starring Mickey Rooney, was released on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Director of A Trip To The Moon which I know was one of Kage Baker’s most-liked films. It surely must be one of the earliest genre films and also one of the most visually iconic with the rocket ship stuck in the face of the moon. He did some other other genre shorts such as Baron Munchausen’s Dream and The Legend of Rip Van Winkle. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1894 E.C.Segar. Creator of Popeye who of course is genre.Who could not watch Altman’s film and not know that? Segar created the character who first appeared in 1929 in Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre. Fantagraphics has published a six-volume book set reprinting all Thimble Theatre daily and Sunday strips from 1928–38. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker,68. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London. So what else is he know for? Oh I’m not listing everything but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The Exorcist, Star Wars, The Howling which I love, Starman for the Starman transformation, Beast design on the Beauty and the Beast series and Hellboy. 
  • Born December 8, 1951Brian Attebery, 67. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and his Parabolas of Science Fiction recently published with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. 
  • Born December 8, 1965David Harewood, 53. First genre appearance is the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North (Billie Piper plays the lead). He played Tuck in the BBC’s Robin Hood series and showed up as Joshua Naismith in Doctor Who’s ‘The End of Time ‘ episode. Currently he plays two separate characters on Supergirl, J’onnJ’onzz/Martian Manhunter / Hank Henshaw and Cyborg Superman. 
  • Born December 8, 1976 Dominic Monaghan, 42. He  played Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck in Peter Jackson’s version of the Lord of the Rings.He’s also the narrator of Ringers: Lord of the Fans, a look at the early days of the Tolkien fandom when it was part of the hippie culture. He has a role as Maverick in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and will be appearing in the forthcoming Star Wars: Episode IX.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe questions the constant recycling of familiar movie franchises. Sort of.
  • Incidental Comics has a book lover’s holiday wish list.

(12) KEY INGREDIENTS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Have you ever felt the need to spend $250 on a set of replacement keycaps for your computer keyboard? If so, Novel Keys has you covered with this set captioned in Aurebesh characters. SYFY Wire has the full story (“Star Wars keyboard senses a great disturbance in your command of Aurebesh”). The keycaps are expected to ship“late April 2019” for preorders through 5 January. Two models are available,with only Aurebesh or with English legends added.

Alright, C-3PO, it’s time to break out those awesome translating skills you’re always humblebragging about — and while you’re at it, break out your wallet, too. Star Wars has just licensed its first-ever official computer keyboard replacement set, coded in Aurebesh, the written version of the official language spoken throughout the Galactic Empire.

This new key replacement set is color-themed to appeal more to the Death Star crowd than to supporters of the gauzy-hued Rebellion. That means don’t even bother looking for X-Wing symbols and Yoda silhouettes here; rather, the Galactic Empire DSA Set sports the cool iconography of the galactic alphabet, plus some killer stand-in Dark Side symbols (like TIE Fighters, AT-ATs, and Darth Vader helmets) for commonly used commands. A red lightsaber in place of an enter/return key? Swish, swish.

(13) THOSE WERE THE DAYS. An article in the December 1 Financial Times by David McWilliams about the possibility that Brexit would lead to the unification of Northern Ireland with Ireland includes this ST:TNGreference:

In 2990 an episode in the third series of Star Trek:  The Next Generation was deemed so incendiary that it was censored in Britain and Ireland.  In that Episode, “The High Ground,’the Starship Enterprise’s android officer data, musing on terrorism, noted from the vantage point of the year 2364 that Ireland had been unified in 2024. The episode was pulled for fear it might encourage more political violence; 1990 was the year the IRA bombed the London Stock Exchange, assassinated Conservative political Ian Gow and when 81 people on both sides of the conflict were murdered in Northern Ireland.

(14) EVEN OLDER DAYS. At theinferor4, Paul Di Filippo shared an antique poem he rediscovered: “Lament for 1999 from the Year 1911”.

…Think of the thrill to him who first took flight,

When all the vast familiar continent

Of air was unexplored….

(15) PLASTIC RAPS. A character who debuted in 1941 might be getting his own movie. The Hollywood Reporter thinks “‘Plastic Man’ Could Be DC’s Answer to ‘Deadpool'”.

And not just because both characters are dressed in red, have criminal backgrounds and smart mouths that don’t know when to shut up. That Warner Bros. is developing a Plastic Man movie perhaps shouldn’t come as quite the surprise that it does; after all, not only did the DC superhero headline his own ABC animated series for a couple of years, but he’s also the perfect choice to give Warners something that it never even knew it needed: A comedic foil to the rest of the DC cinematic universe.

This wouldn’t be a new role for Plas, as the character’s often called for short. Unusually for a superhero — and especially one whose origin involves having been a criminal who was left for dead by his gang after being exposed to some mysterious chemicals— Plastic Man has traditionally been a comedy character throughout his 75-plus year career. Indeed, his 1970s animated series underscored this appeal by being called The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show. (The series ran from 1979 through 1981; he’s also appeared in other DC animated shows, including Batman:The Brave and the Bold and Justice League Action.)

(16) HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL HAGGIS. NPR interviews the star of “‘Anna And The Apocalypse’: The Scottish Zombie Christmas High School Musical”.

Anna and the Apocalypse is a [checks notes] Scottish zombie Christmas high school musical.

It drew raves in Great Britain, and has now been released in the United States. It’s based on a short film by the writer-director Ryan McHenry, who died of bone cancer at age 27, and did not get to complete this feature-length production.

Anna and the Apocalypse is directed by John McPhail. Ella Hunt (who is English) stars as the young Scottish teen who’s about to graduate from school, but first has to contend with the zombie takeover of her village and perhaps the world — with a little help from her friends.

“I love that this film glorifies teenage friendship and not teenage romance,” Hunt says in an interview. “To me, it’s a much truer thing to glorify.”

(17) BONDING. In the Weekly Standard, Tony Mecia visits the James Bond museum in Murren, Switzerland, which was built to be Blofeld’s lair in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and which gives visitors the chance to pick up a red phone to hear instructions from M and “graft a photo of your face onto (George) Lazenby’s face as he aims a pistol.” —“High-Altitude Hideout”

In real life, the filming location called Piz Gloria was not destroyed. For decades, it was merely an observation point and restaurant. In 2013, its owners decided it needed more. They added a small museum, known as“Bond World 007,” and have been adding Bond-related features ever since.

Among serious Bond fans, the site “is the Holy Grail of Bond film locations,” says Martijn Mulder, a Dutch journalist who leads occasional Bond tours and coauthored On the Tracks of 007: A Field Guide to the Exotic James Bond Filming Locations Around the World. That’s because filmmakers bankrolled construction of Piz Gloria, which looks just as it did in the late 1960s.

Bond enthusiasts list other prime destinations, too, such as a site near Phuket, Thailand, that has come to be called “James Bond Island” after appearing in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun. Last year, Mulder led 40 people on a two-week tour of Japan to visit locations used in 1967’s You Only Live Twice. He was forced to scrap a two-hour hike to a volcano crater that was an earlier Blofeld hideout because the volcano showed signs of erupting.

(18) MAN’S BEST FIEND. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett begins “Bad Mad Vlad” with this unusual comparison —

Vampires are a lot like dogs, you know.

No. Don’t scoff. They really are if you think about it in just the wrong way (that’s always been the Doctor Strangemind way of course).

Here, let me explain.

So what is the single most noticeable feature of the animal known as dog? That’s right, the seemingly endless plasticity of the species.The fact is humanity has been able to twist and turn and breed dogs into a startling wide array of forms from poodles to corgis to dobermans. If the average Martian visited our planet what are the chances that this visitor from space would guess right off that all dogs are of the same species? Not likely is it? Instead the average Martian would probably decide that dogs make no sense to them. Which is probably why they don’t visit Earth all that often,they find this planet too weird and confusing to be a satisfactory holiday destination.

So what has this to do with vampires I’ve no doubt you’re wondering. Well, the answer to that is to point out how humanity has been able to twist and turn and write vampires into a startling wide array of types and situations, far more than any other supernatural creature….

(19) FIGHT TO THE FINNISH. NPR hopes “World’s First Insect Vaccine Could Help Bees Fight Off Deadly Disease”.

Bees may soon get an ally in their fight against bacterial disease — one of the most serious threats the pollinators face — in the form of an edible vaccine. That’s the promise held out by researchers in Finland, who say they’ve made the first-ever vaccine for insects, aimed at helping struggling honeybee populations.

The scientists are targeting one of bees’ most deadly enemies:American foulbrood, or AFB, an infectious disease that devastates hives and can spread at a calamitous rate. Often introduced by nurse bees, the disease works by bacteria feeding on larvae — and then generating more spores, to spread further.

(20) BREAKING MARTIAN WIND. BBC shares a sound clip: “Nasa’s InSight probe listens to Martian winds”.

The British seismometer package carried on Nasa’s InSight lander detected the vibrations from Martian air as it rushed over the probe’s solar panels.

“The solar panels on the lander’s sides are perfect acoustic receivers,” said Prof Tom Pike, who leads the seismometer experiment from Imperial College London.

“It’s like InSight is cupping its ears.”

Prof Pike compares the effect to a flag in the wind.As a flag breaks up the wind, it creates oscillations in frequency that the human ear perceives as flapping.

(21) DRAGONS HAVE GAS. Space flatulence is a real problem closer to home. Wired lays out the story: “A SpaceX Delivery Capsule May Be Contaminating the ISS”. Evidence is accumulating that the Dragon capsule is outgassing and the contaminants are, well, accumulating on the outside of the International Space Station.

In February 2017, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted through low clouds, pushing a Dragon capsule toward orbit. Among the spare parts and food, an important piece of scientific cargo, called SAGE III  rumbled upward. Once installed on the International Space Station, SAGE would peer back and measure ozone molecules and aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere. Its older siblings (SAGEs I and II) had revealed both the growth of the gaping ozone hole and,after humans decided to stop spraying Freon everywhere, its subsequent recovery.

This third kid, then, had a lot to live up to. Like its environmentally conscious predecessors, SAGE III is super sensitive. Because it needs unpolluted conditions to operate optimally, it includes contamination sensors that keep an eye on whether and how its environment might be messing up its measurements. Those sensors soon came in handy: When the next three Dragons docked at the Space Station, over the following months, SAGE experienced unexplained spikes in contamination. Something on these Dragons was outgassing—releasing molecules beyond the expected, and perhaps the acceptable, levels. And those molecules were sticking to SAGE.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Artificial Intelligence That Deleted a Century” on YouTube, Tom Scott shows what happened when a program released in 2028 to hunt down copyright violators on YouTube achieves artificial general intelligence.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/21/18 These Pixel Scrolls May Contain Apocalyptic Stories About The End Of Days

(1) CONGRATULATIONS MAYOR RODEN. World Fantasy Award winner Barbara Roden (1997, 2005) is the newly-elected mayor of Ashcroft, British Columbia – the first woman elected to the office. The population of Ashcroft is around 1,500.

(2) AWARD FOR SJW CREDENTIALS IN LITERATURE. The Stephen Memorial Book Award for books with distinctive cats is a literary award that will be of interest to many Filers.

The 2018 winner is a memoir:

The Three Kitties That Saved My Life by Michael Meyer

Cat: Sable, Coco and Pom Pom
Story: The Three Kitties that saved my life.

A biography of troubles and the rescued cats (& Kitty) that pulled him through it. Touching, raw and heart-warming.

The three runners up are all SFF books and are listed here:

Cat: Dascha
Story: Familiar Trials by Taki Drake and T S Paul

Learning to be a familiar is something Dascha was not expecting, but when she does begin, she shows bravery both in and out of the classroom, while learning what it means to be a familiar.

Awarded to Dascha, for bravery and determination in the face of dangerous trials. Stephen Memorial Award 2018

Cat: Purrcasso
Story: The Creatures of Chichester by Christopher Joyce

The cat from the art galley. Wrangling both teenagers and ghosts that came to the Sloe Festival in Chichester. Despite floods and fears, standing firm and proud as only a cat can.

Awarded to Purrcasso, for his assistance in the saving of several ghosts Stephen Memorial Award 2018

Cat: Sir Kipling
Story: Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Cat Magic by Lydia Sherrer

A magical cat who can talk to his wizard. While she is away, he decides that he should, of course, be keeping an eye on anything magical. Of course, when someone evil does try something, Sir Kipling is on hand to ensure that such plans go awry.

Awarded to Sir Kipling, for showing that it takes a good feline to be in charge. Stephen Memorial Award 2018

The award also has a charitable component – this year they partnered with CatChat.org, the cat rehoming charity, and donated £1 for each book entered. Bookangel reports the award raised enough to rehome twenty cats.

(3) KGB READINGS. Ellen Datlow posted her photos from the October Fantastic Fiction at KGB readings where the guests were Tim Pratt and Lawrence M. Schoen.

Lawrence Schoen and Tim Pratt

(4) GAME OF THROWNS. Channel your inner orc at “LA’s premiere ax-throwing facility” — LA AX.

Axe Throwing is a unique and exciting activity that was brought into existence just over a decade ago in the backwoods of Ontario, Canada. Since then, it has exploded into a sport that is making waves on the international stage. Yes, you read that correctly, Axe Throwing is an international sport! How does one become a professional Axe Thrower? Well there are few ways to break into this sport!  Whether you just want to be a casual thrower, a serious professional, or you have a group of friends looking for a fun night out; our LA AX coaches will give you the knowledge you need to become a professional in your own right!

(5) HONEST TRAILERS: SOLO. “The coolest new Star Wars character is… Never mind.” Got that right!

(6) IN THE VACUUM OF THEATER SPACE. According to Looper, First Man failed to gain an audience.

By all accounts, First Man is an excellent film, filled with great performances from stars like Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy. So why isn’t anyone going to see it? Here’s a look at why First Man has bombed at the box office so far…

 

(7) WHAT IF? The Hugo Award Book Club launches its review of Mary Robinett Kowal’s The Calculating Stars with this wee bit of snark —

While we quite enjoyed Seveneves, many readers described it as a bit dry.

A comparison between the two books is apt. Seveneves and The Calculating Stars are books that explore many similar ideas, but they do so in very different ways that will appeal to different people.

(8) WTF? Umm….

(9) FORWARDING ADDRESS. James Davis Nicoll explores “(Semi-)Plausible Strategies for Moving a Whole Damn Planet” at Tor.com. It’s a lot easier if you have the help of supremely intelligent aliens.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re living on a perfectly good planet in orbit around a perfectly acceptable star—and then suddenly, the neighbourhood goes to crap and you have to move. For a lot of people, this means marching onto space arks.

Recapitulating Noah on a cosmic scale is such a pain, though. All that packing. All that choosing who to take and who to leave behind. And no matter how carefully you plan things, it always seems to come down to a race between launch day and doomsday.

Why not, therefore, just take the whole darned planet with you?

(10) BRADBURYIANA. On display at the Ray Bradbury Center in Indianapolis —

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 21, 1904 – Edmond Hamilton, Writer and Member of First Fandom who was one of Weird Tales’ most prolific early contributors, providing nearly 80 stories from the late 20s to the late 40s. Sources say that in the late 1920s and early 1930s he had stories in all of the SF pulp magazines then in publication. His 1933 story “The Island of Unreason” won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year; this was the very first SF prize awarded by the votes of fans, and one source holds it to be a precursor of the Hugo Awards. From 1940 to 1951, he wrote at least 25 Captain Future stories (a universe recently revisited by Allen Steele). From the early 40s to the late 60s, he did work for DC, in stories about Superman and Batman, and he created the Space Ranger character with Gardner Fox and Bob Brown. He was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1964 Worldcon. He was married to fellow science fiction author, screenwriter, and fan Leigh Brackett for more than 30 years, until his death at age 72.
  • Born October 21, 1929 – Ursula K. Le Guin, Writer, Editor, Poet, and Translator. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer – instead preferring to be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brillance, be it it the Earthsea sequence, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home; her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, with a home library full of SF, showed in her writing. She wrote reviews and forewards for others’ books, gave academic talks, and did translations as well. Without counting reader’s choice awards, her works received more than 100 nominations for pretty much every genre award in existence, winning most of them at least once; she is one of a very small group of people who have won both Hugo and Nebula Awards in all four fiction length categories. She was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1975 Worldcon; was the second of only six women to be named SFWA Grand Master thus far; was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement; and was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In later years, she took up internet blogging with great delight, writing essays and poems, and posting pictures and stories of her cat Pard; these were compiled into a non-fiction collection, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, which won a posthumous Hugo for Best Related Work.

  • Born October 21, 1952 – Don Davis, 66, Artist and Illustrator known for his portrayals of space-related subjects. In addition to providing covers for several SFF magazines in the 70s, he worked for the U. S. Geological Survey’s branch of Astrogeologic Studies during the Apollo Lunar expeditions, and has since painted many images for NASA and provided texture maps for JPL’s Voyager computer simulations. He was part of the team of space artists who provided the visual effects for Carl Sagan’s TV series Cosmos – for which he received an Emmy – and he painted the cover of Sagan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Dragons of Eden, as well as contributing artwork to Sagan’s Comet and Pale Blue Dot. He received the Klumpke-Roberts Award for outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy. The asteroid 13330 Dondavis is named after him, and in 2000 he was elected a Fellow in the International Association of Astronomical Artists.
  • Born October 21, 1956 – Carrie Fisher, Saturn-winning Actor, Writer, and Comedian who is best known to genre fans for playing Leia Organa in the Hugo- and Saturn-winning Star Wars films, a role she started at the age of 19. With her quick mind and sharp wit, she was well-known in Hollywood as the go-to script doctor for films with scripts in trouble. She became an outspoken advocate for the de-stigmatization of mental illness, having struggled her entire adult life with bipolar disorder and the substance abuse it engendered. One of her autobiographies, The Princess Diarist, was a finalist for a Best Related Work Hugo, and she won a Grammy for her audiobook narration of it. She died suddenly and far too soon in December 2016 at the age of 60.
  • Born October 21, 1958 – Julie Bell, 60, Artist and Illustrator who has provided covers for more than 100 science fiction and fantasy books, as well as covers for videogames and Marvel and DC trading cards. She sometimes collaborates on art with her husband, Boris Vallejo; they have done many paintings for worldwide advertising campaigns, and together they put out a Fantasy Art Calendar every year. She has been nominated for the Chesley Award four times, winning three of them. She is also (I did not know this!) the mother, with first husband SF scholar Donald Palumbo, of SFF artists David Palumbo and Anthony Palumbo.
  • Born October 21, 1967 – Jean Pierre Targete, 51, Artist and Illustrator whose early work was cover art for many Avon paperback editions, including Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, the Second Foundation Trilogy, and Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat stories. More recently, he has produced a lot of artwork for RPG books and materials, including for publishers Wizards of the Coast and Paizo. His works have garnered ten Chesley Award nominations, winning once. Some of his work has been collected in the book Illumina: The Art of J. P. Targete.
  • Born October 21, 1971 – Hal Duncan, 47, Computer Programmer and Writer from Scotland whose first novel, Vellum: The Book of All Hours, won a Spectrum Award and received nominations for World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Kurd Laßwitz, Prix Imaginaire, and Locus Best First Novel Awards, as well as winning a Tahtivaeltaja Award for best science fiction novel published in Finnish. His collection Scruffians! and his non-fiction work Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions were also both finalists for British Fantasy Awards. An outspoken advocate and blogger for LGBTQ rights, he was a contributor to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project.
  • Born October 21, 1974 – Christopher J Garcia, 44, Writer, Editor, Filmmaker, Historian, Conrunner, and Fan who was the TAFF delegate to the UK Natcon in 2008. He has been editor and co-editor of several fanzines, and has been a finalist for the Fanzine and Fan Writer Hugos several times, including for The Drink Tank with James Bacon, which won a Hugo in 2011; his shall-we-say-effusive acceptance speech was nominated for Dramatic Presentatation Short Form Hugo the following year. He is a past president of the National Fantasy Fan Federation, and is known for running the fan lounges at cons. He has been Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Westercon.

(12) REASON TO READ. The Chicago Tribune advises, “Worried about the international panel report on global warming? Go read Octavia Butler’s ‘Earthseed’ books”.

…“Parable of the Sower,” published in 1993 when it was still possible to heed its warning, tells the story of a world collapsed due to climate change, economic inequality and unchecked corporate power. Resources are scarce, and only gated communities are safe.

Set near what used to be Los Angeles, the novel focuses on teenager Lauren Oya Olamina, who has “hyperempathy,” both a gift and an affliction that allows her to feel the pain she witnesses others experiencing. Spurred by her worldview, Lauren develops a new belief system called “Earthseed,” which posits that humans’ time on Earth is a kind of childhood and that they will emerge as adults once they travel to other planets.

It is a story of two diasporas, first as Lauren and other refugees are forced out of Los Angeles, and then as they look toward finding an extraterrestrial home.

(13) LOOK ALIVE. Rolling Stone asks just how far AR startup Magic Leap has gotten toward crossing the Uncanny Valley (“Is This Creepy New AI Assistant Too Lifelike?”).

Some people already talk to Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa like she’s a real person, setting her up for jokes, and having conversations that go way beyond the basic commands like “Alexa, play ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails.” And that’s how people are treating a disembodied voice. But what if you could see her — and what if she looked disturbingly human?

Magic Leap, an augmented-reality startup, introduced the next evolution of the virtual assistant at their conference earlier this month. Mica performs many of the same functions as Alexa or Apple’s Siri, but when users wear Magic Leap’s augmented reality glasses, they can also see her incredibly life-like avatar. Mica smiles, makes eye contact and even yawns, making the interactions even more convincing. “Our focus was to see how far we could push systems to create digital human representations,” John Monos, Magic Leap’s vice president of human-centered AI, said at the conference. “Above all else, her facial movements are what connect you to her.”

(14) PAUL ALLEN AT THE BEGINNING AND THE END. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport has an article about the Stratolaunch, a gigantic airplane funded by Paul Allen — “Paul Allen spent years building the world’s biggest airplane. He’ll never see it fly.”.  This passage explains why Allen was one of us:

Allen grew up knowing all the names of the Mercury 7 astronauts as if they were his favorite baseball players, he wrote in his memoir, “Idea Man.” And like many kids of his generation, he grew up wanting to become an astronaut. But then in the sixth grade he couldn’t see the blackboard at school, he told me in his office, and he knew that meant “my dreams of being an astronaut were over.”

His father was the associate director of the University of Washington Library, a second home of sorts for Allen. “My Dad was just letting me loose in the stacks,” he recalled. “I loved it.”

He devoured not just science fiction, but books about Wernher von Braun, the German-born architect of NASA’s might Saturn V rocket, which sent men to the moon. Once, Allen tried to build a homemade rocket of his own using the arm of an aluminum chair packed with powdered zinc and sulfur and firing it from a coffee pot. It didn’t work.

(15) FOUND AGAIN. There were huge losses in the museum fire, but at least the oldest human fossil found in Latin America was mostly recovered — “Brazil museum fire: Prized ‘Luzia’ fossil skull recovered”.

Most of the skull from a prized 12,000-year-old fossil nicknamed Luzia has been recovered from the wreckage of a fire in Brazil’s National Museum.

The 200-year-old building in Rio de Janeiro burned down in September, destroying almost all of its artefacts.

But on Friday the museum’s director announced that 80% of Luzia’s skull fragments had been identified.

The human remains – the oldest ever found in Latin America – were viewed as the jewel of the museum’s collection.

The museum staff said they were confident they could recover the rest of Luzia’s skull and attempt reassembly.

(16) A CAUTIONARY TALE. With many overseas fans contemplating a trip to Dublin for the 2019 Worldcon, this report from Forbes (“How To Handle Getting Ripped Off On Auto Insurance When Traveling Overseas”) could be of interest. Such a situation can happen anywhere, but this particular situation—where a Hertz clerk insisted wrongly on bundling an overpriced insurance product as a condition of renting a car—happened to be in Dublin.

[Rick] Kahler: As soon as we got back to the U.S., I filed a dispute with my credit card company on both the initial $424 car rental cost and the $584 insurance charge. My grounds were that Hertz violated their contract, which only required me to accept full financial responsibility or to have verified that I had insurance that would cover a loss. They violated the contact by demanding that I prove having coverage in excess of the value of the car and by refusing to accept that proof when I produced it. I eventually got my money back after I complained. But that doesn’t make up for the time and stress they caused me.

(17) ANOTHER SWORD FINDER. Unlike the girl Saga, this one is fictional…. The Kid Who Would Be King is coming to theaters January 25, 2019.

Old school magic meets the modern world in the epic adventure THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING. Alex (Ashbourne Serkis) thinks he’s just another nobody, until he stumbles upon the mythical Sword in the Stone, Excalibur. Now, he must unite his friends and enemies into a band of knights and, together with the legendary wizard Merlin (Stewart), take on the wicked enchantress Morgana (Ferguson). With the future at stake, Alex must become the great leader he never dreamed he could be.

 

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