Pixel Scroll 9/27/19 Pixel, Pixel, In The Scroll, Who’s The Blogger That’s A Troll?

(1) CHANGES TO NY TIMES BESTSELLER LISTS. Publishers Weekly reports “‘NYT’ Shifts Its Lists Again”. Mass market paperbacks and graphic books will be tracked again, and middle grade paperback and YA paperback lists will debut.

The New York Times Book Review has announced a new slate of changes to its bestseller lists, both in print and online.

After cutting the mass market paperback and graphic novel/manga lists in 2017, the TimesBest Sellers team will again track mass market paperback sales, as well as debut a combined list for graphic books, which will include fiction, nonfiction, children’s, adults, and manga. Two new monthly children’s lists, middle grade paperback and young adult paperback, will debut as well. (The Times retired its middle grade e-book and young adult e-book lists in 2017.) In addition, the Times will cut its science and sports lists, explaining that “the titles on those lists are frequently represented on current nonfiction lists.” The changes are effective October 2 online and October 20 in print.

The Times has already cut back its print lists on the combined print/e-book and print hardcover lists to 10 titles, from 15, although the online lists will continue to show 15 titles. A representative of the paper said that the change “was made for design reasons, specifically to improve the readability of the lists in print.”

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Barbara Krasnoff and Nicole Kornher-Stace on Wednesday, October 16.

Barbara Krasnoff

Barbara Krasnoff is the author of over 35 short stories, including “Sabbath Wine,” which was a finalist for the Nebula Award, and recently published a mosaic novel titled The History of Soul 2065. She’s also responsible for a series of captioned photos that can be found under the hashtag #TheirBackstories.

Nicole Kornher-Stace

Nicole Kornher-Stace is the author of the Norton Award finalist Archivist Wasp and its sequel, Latchkey. Her next novel, Firebreak, is due out from Saga in 2020. She can be found online at nicolekornherstace.com or on Twitter @wirewalking.

The event begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)
New York, NY.

(3) SUNDAY IN THE PARK. Last Sunday at the Brooklyn Book Festival, Andrew Porter took this photo of the Dell Magazines booth which was hosted by Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams and her daughter.

(4) NEW AWARD PROMOTES DIVERSE SFF. Gollancz and author Ben Aaronovitch are launching a writing prize championing under-represented voices in science fiction, fantasy and horror after stats showed less than 1% of the genres’ books come from British BAME authors. (BAME is used in the UK to refer to black, Asian and minority ethnic people.)

Submissions for the Gollancz and Rivers of London BAME SFF Award will be taken from October 1, 2019 until January 31, 2020 — 5,000 to 10,000 words consisting of either a self-contained short story or the opening of a novel that fits into the scifi, fantasy or horror genres

The prizes include:

  • £4,000 for the overall winner alongside a critique and year-long mentoring programme with Gollancz commissioning editor Rachel Winterbottom.
  • Second place: £2,000 and a critique of their work
  • Five runners-up will receive £800 and a Gollancz goodie bag.

Gollancz publisher Anne Clarke said:

The current lack of representation in science fiction and fantasy is no secret and it has to change. As modern speculative fiction publishers, we at Gollancz have a responsibility not just to say our doors are open, but to actively seek out and support writers whose backgrounds and experience have historically been – and still are – under-represented in our genre. I hope this award will encourage writers who have perhaps not always felt welcome in the world of science fiction and fantasy publishing and I’m looking forward to discovering exciting new writing talent within the submissions.

[Via Locus Online.]

(5) CINEMA’S SPINOFF STINKERS. ScreenRant offers these titles as “10 Of The Worst Spin-Off Movies Of All Time According To IMDB”.  Most are sff.

It’s Hollywood logic to try bleed more money from a stone. Whenever there’s a successful franchise, it’s natural for studios to stay safe and invest in more of the same product and produce as many sequels, prequels, TV shows, and reboots of the property. However, every so often, Tinseltown fails to catch lighting in a bottle a second time. Not every movie deserves 815 more iterations of the same story.

In the middle of the list is —

5. CATWOMAN

Long before DCEU fans bemoaned the current DC movies, they were (rightfully) bailing on another one. Somehow, DC was able to zap all of the fun and sultriness out of Selina Kyle for the long-gestating Catwoman movie, which starred Oscar winner Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, and Benjamin Bratt. All in all, not a bad trio. So what went wrong?

First, the entire origins of a cat burglar/vixen are heaved out the window and replaced with an Egyptian Cat Mythology. That mythology would have worked if it was a little more thought out and the movie itself wasn’t just an excuse to feature the gorgeous Berry in as little clothing as possible.

(6) STEAMFEST. Cora Buhlert shares lots of photos in her report “Steampunk in East Frisia: Steamfest Papenburg 2019”. (Before I read Cora’s post, Papenburg was, for me, only an obscure reference in a Patrick O’Brien novel.)

…Steampunk is not exactly something you would associate with Papenburg, even though the steamship MV Liemba a.k.a. Graf Goetzen, which starred in The African Queen as the German gunboat Königin Luise, was built here in 1913. Therefore, I was very surprised to learn that Papenburg not only has an active Steampunk community, but also hosts Steamfest, a Steampunk festival which took place for the second time in 2019. And since Papenburg is only about 114 kilometres away, I of course decided to pay Steamfest a visit.

(7) SHORT SFF FOR YOUR TBR PILE. Alex Brown monthly picks are listed on Tor.com: “Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: September 2019”.

Magic as revenge, retaliation, or retribution is the theme of many of September’s best short speculative fiction stories. There are some new authors on this list alongside some very well-known names, yet no matter where they are career-wise, the stories they’ve written have left a mark on this world. Here are some of the ten best science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories I read in September.

(8) FUTURE TECH CRIMINALS. Editors Eric Bosarge and Joe McDermott have launched a Kickstarter to fund their The Way of the Laser: Future Crime Stories anthology from VernacularBooks.

The contributing authors include Kameron Hurley, Mur Lafferty Patrice Sarath, Wendy Wagner, Julie C Day, Paul Jessup, Jamie Mason, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Ross Lockhart, Karen Bovenmyer, with open submissions to new authors.

It used to be if someone wanted to mug you, they had to look you in the face and make a threat. Not anymore. Hackers can wipe a bank account without ever having to risk drawing blood. Bad people use technology for personal gain. Nothing’s new about that. What is new is the ways technology opens up opportunities for exploitation.

New technology is coming on-line all the time, creating new opportunities for creative criminals and dissidents. Stolen elections, companies held hostage by hackers, and acts of terror have all been committed with technology that didn’t exist a few short years ago. 

Join leading edge speculative fiction authors on an exciting walk into darkness where people and machines plunder, cheat, kill, and steal in ways we can’t even imagine with tools that may not even exist, yet. But, they’re coming. 

(9) SATIRE ON TWO WHEELS. Remember Knight Rider? Well, here’s David Hasselhoff in Moped Rider…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 27, 1958 — In Italy, The Day the Sky Exploded (Italian: La morte viene dallo spazio, “Death Comes From Space”. It is known as the first Italian SF film, predating even the SF films of Antonio Margheriti.
  • September 27, 1979 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century began its regular first season (after the airing of the film) with an episode called “Planet of the Slave Girls”.
  • September 27, 2002 — Joss Whedon’s Firefly premiered on Fox TV. It was cancelled after eleven of the fourteen produced episodes were aired. Eventually it concluded in a film called Serenity which Will Shetterly reviewed here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 27, 1902 Henry Farrell. Novelist and screenwriter, best known as the author of the “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” story which was made into a film of the same name starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 27, 1932 Roger Charles Carmel. The original Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd as he appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek, “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd”” and one episode of the animated series as well, “Mudd’s Passion”. I say original because Discovery has decided that they have a Harry Mudd. He also had one-offs on I-Spy, Munsters, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Batman. It is rumored but not confirmed he was going to reprise his role as Harry Mudd in a first-season episode of Next Gen but died before filming could start. (Died 1986.)
  • Born September 27, 1934 Wilford Brimley, 85. His first genre role is as Dr. Blair in John Carpenter’s The Thing. He’s Benjamin ‘Ben’ Luckett in the Cacoon films, and Agency Director Harold Smith in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He made a rather splendid President Grover Cleveland in The Wild Wild West Revisted. And finally I note that he was Noa in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor
  • Born September 27, 1947 Meat Loaf, 72. He has a tasty role as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And I’d argue some of his music videos are genre stories in their own right. He also has film roles in Wishcraft (horror), Stage Fright (horror) and Urban Decay (yes, more horror). He’s also in BloodRayne which is yes, horror. He’s had one-offs on Tales from the Crypt, The Outer Limits, Monsters, Masters of Horror and was Doug Rennie, a main cast member of Ghost Wars
  • Born September 27, 1950 Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, 69. He’d be on the Birthday Honors list if he’d only been Zylyn in Space Rangers which lasted only six episodes. Damn. But he’s also shown up on Babylon 5, the premier of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Superboy, Alien Nation, the Australian version of Mission: ImpossibleSabrina the Teenage WitchStargate SG-1Poltergeist: The LegacyThe Librarians, voicing characters on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Wars Rebels. He’s currently got two main roles going, the first being Nobusuke Tagomi in The Man in The High Castle, the other being Hiroki Watanabe in Lost in Space
  • Born September 27, 1956 Sheila Williams, 63. Editor, Asimov’s Science Fiction last fifteen years. She won the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor in 2011 and 2012. With the late Gardner Dozois, she co-edited a bonnie bunch of anthologies such as Isaac Asimov’s RobotsIsaac Asimov’s Christmas and Isaac Asimov’s Cyberdreams. She was also responsible for the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing being renamed the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. 
  • Born September 27, 1972 Gwyneth Paltrow, 47. Yes, she is Pepper Potts in the Marvel Universe film franchise but her first genre role was as a young Wendy Darling in Hook. And she shows up in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow asPolly Perkins, a reporter for The Chronicle

(12) ROCKET ROYALTY. In Olav Rokne’s post “Many Princes; One Crown” at the Hugo Book Club Blog, readers are reminded of the challenges in voting on works translated to English, beginning with a recent Retro-Hugo winner.

…But the case of The Little Prince is more comparable to that of the first translated work to appear on a Hugo Ballot: the 1963 novel Sylva, which was written by French war hero Vercors (A.K.A. Jean Bruller). No translator is mentioned on the dust jacket of the book. And until this summer, when the record was updated at our request, the official Hugo Awards site did not list the name of the translator, Rita Barisse. The Wikipedia entry for the Hugo Awards, and several other publications continue to neglect Barisse’s contribution to the work….

(13) LAFFERTY AWARENESS. Shelf Awareness checks in with the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me in “Reading with… James W. Loewen”. R.A. Lafferty gets a big shout-out:  

Book you’re an evangelist for:

The only historical novel I recommend without reservation: Okla Hannali by R.A. Lafferty. Even though by a white author, I credit it as a Choctaw history of the 19th century, in the form of a biography of a fictional Choctaw leader who was born in Mississippi around 1801 and died in Oklahoma in 1900. I realize such a statement creates all sorts of problems for me–expropriation of Native knowledge, white arrogance, etc. My only defense is the work itself. I have no idea how Lafferty, otherwise known for science fiction, learned so much about Choctaws (and white folks), but every time I have checked out any fact in Okla Hannali, no matter how small, Lafferty got it right. And what a read! Only a little over 200 pages long, but an epic, nevertheless.

(14) ANOTHER WAY OF LOOKING AT THINGS. David Gerrold contends art and the artist should be regarded separately in his public Facebook post:

So let’s say that I point out that the owners of a specific fast-food chain have donated a lot of money to anti-LGBTQ+ causes.

This is not an invitation to say:

“The food is terrible.”

Let’s say that I point out that a particular actor has said some unsavory things about politics. This is not an invitation to say,

“She can’t act anyway.”

Or maybe a well-known author has said something egregiously stupid. That’s not an invitation to say,

“I never liked his writing in the first place.” …

(15) ETERNAL QUESTIONS. Meantime, Michael A. Burstein invited his FB friends to study a different moral dilemma:

You are on a runaway trolley. On one track are five people who have not yet seen The Good Place and don’t intend to, and who will die if you don’t move the lever. On the other track is one person who, like you, is caught up and can discuss the show with you. What do you do?

(16) PENN AND POURNELLE. There’s a pair of names you wouldn’t put in the same sentence – unless you’re Tedium’s Ernie Smith. In “All Penn, No Teller” he recalls when Penn Jillette was “a sometimes-rebellious big-name computer magazine columnist in the ’90s.”

…Now, tech writing of this era doesn’t have the pedigree of, say, good music journalism in the 1970s. Certainly, there were good tech writers during this time, particularly free-wheeling voices like fellow moonlighter Jerry Pournelle of Byte, hard-nosed insiders like journeyman scribe John C. Dvorak and the long-anonymous Robert X. Cringely, and well-considered newspaper voices of reason like syndicated columnist Kim Komando and the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg.

But Jillette was something different. He was already famous—certainly more famous than Pournelle, an established science-fiction author, thanks to being a regular fixture on television during much of his career and starring in a legendary Run-DMC music video—and he likely did not need a nationally distributed computer magazine column to make a living. Jillette simply liked computers and knew a lot about them, which meant that he could rant about the details of an Autoexec.bat file just as easily as he can about politics. He gave the tech writing form something of an edge, while maintaining the freewheeling nature established by fellow pre-blogging voices like Pournelle….

(17) EARLY WORMS. Science Daily reports “Otherworldly worms with three sexes discovered in Mono Lake”. The lede reads:

“Caltech scientists have discovered a new species of worm thriving in the extreme environment of Mono Lake. This new species, temporarily dubbed Auanema sp., has three different sexes, can survive 500 times the lethal human dose of arsenic, and carries its young inside its body like a kangaroo.”

Terry Hunt sent the link in with a note: “I was irresistibly reminded of Vonda N. McIntyre’s story ‘Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand’ and its novel expansion Dreamsnake.”

(18) LOOKING FOR ET IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD. The Beyond Center presented the 2019 Eugene Shoemaker Memorial Lecture with James Benford on September 5.

Abstract: A recently discovered group of nearby co-orbital objects is an attractive location for extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) to locate for observing Earth. Near-Earth objects provide an ideal way to watching our world from a secure natural object that provides resources an ETI might need: materials, a firm anchor, concealment. These co-orbital objects have been little studied by astronomy and not at all by SETI or planetary radar observations. I describe the objects found thus far and propose both passive and active observations of them by optical and radio listening, radar imaging and launching probes. We might also broadcast to them.

(19) SMACK DAB ON THE MOON. “Chandrayaan-2: India Moon probe made ‘hard landing’, says Nasa” – BBC has the story.

India’s Moon rover, which lost contact moments before it was to touch down on the lunar surface earlier this month, had a “hard landing”, Nasa has said.

New pictures from a Nasa spacecraft show the targeted landing site of the Vikram rover, but its precise location “has yet to be determined”.

The images were taken at dusk, and were not able to locate the lander.

India would have been the fourth nation to make a soft landing on the Moon.

Chandrayaan-2 was due to touch down at the lunar South Pole on 7 September, over a month after it first took off.

It approached the Moon as normal until an error occurred about 2.1km (1.3 miles) from the surface, Indian space officials said.

On Friday, Nasa tweeted the images of the targeted landing site of the Indian module.

(20) STAR WARS AT DISNEYLAND. Good Morning America shared an advance look at the “Rise of the Resistance” attraction that will be part of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area of the Disney parks,

(21) TITAN PROBE. According to the MIT Technology Review “NASA is testing a shape-shifting robot that could explore Saturn’s moon Titan”. NASA’s Shapeshifter would change its configuration to meet the demands of the mission.

The future: The fully realized version of Shapeshifter would be a “mothercraft” lander that carries a collection of 12 mini robots (“cobots”) to the surface, acts as the main power source, and uses a suite of scientific instruments that can directly analyze samples. The cobots could work together to carry and move the mothercraft to different areas. They would be able to operate individually or as one cohesive unit, in order to adapt to a variety of terrains and environments. 

For example, the cobots would be able to separate and fly out in different directions or together as a flock, link up together like a barrel of monkeys in order to explore narrow caves and caverns, or even float on or swim in liquid.

(22) SURVIVE BY A WHISKER. Gato Roboto is a video game designed to let you channel your inner feline.

Pounce inside of your cozy armored mech and set off on a dangerous trek through an alien underworld full of irritable creatures and treacherous obstacles in a valiant effort to save your stranded captain and his crashed spaceship. Tiptoe outside the friendly confines of your technological marvel and follow your feline instincts through tight tunnels and mysterious waterways to scavenge for new weapons and gear. Adventure awaits the most curious of cats in Gato Roboto!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Terry Hunt, Nina Shepardson,Cliff, Rob Thornton, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna NImmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 9/26/19 Pixel, Pixel On The Wall, Who’s The Filest In The Scroll?

(1) LITIGATION. Brianna Wu announced in a public Facebook post:

Alex Jones is suing me for defamation. Not a joke. He’s suing Young Turks too.

I obviously can’t comment on the legal aspects of the case until I get representation, but this is my statement for media.

If the Sandy Hook parents can stand up to Alex Jones, I can too.

According to a Boston News story, “Alex Jones Says Brianna Wu Defamed Him in a Tweet”, this is the provocation:

The lawsuit filed in Texas on Wednesday names Wu, as well as Cenk Uygur, of the news outlet the Young Turks, and Mark Follman, of the magazine Mother Jones. It seeks damages and a “jury trail [sic].”

(2) SPACE DRAMA. For All Mankind premieres November 1 on the Apple TV app for those with an Apple TV+ subscription. The series will dramatize an alternate history depicting “what would have happened if the global space race had never ended” after the USSR succeeds in the first manned Moon landing. It’s created by Emmy Award winner Ronald D. Moore (Outlander, Battlestar Galactica), Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi.

Told through the lives of NASA astronauts, engineers and their families, For All Mankind presents an aspirational world where NASA and the space program remained a priority and a focal point of our hopes and dreams.

(3) RESTORE THE LEGEND! Chris Garcia has given himself a task – to make Jack C. Haldeman II (or as everyone else called him, Jay) famous again! The legendary writer and SMoF, Jay was also the master of the SpecFi Sports story! This plan all starts with a simple plan – an issue of The Drink Tank!

We’re looking for stories about Jay, personal reminiscences, appreciation of his writings, anything! We’d love stories particularly about folks who knew him from the 1970s and 80s, and especially anything about the Discon II!  If you’ve got any photos of Jay, that’d be great, too!

We’ve set November 20th, 2019 as the deadline!

Any questions? Drop a line at journeyplanet@gmail.com

(4) GAHAN WILSON APPEAL. Paul Winters, organizer of the “Help Gahan Wilson find his way” GoFundMe, is calling for more donations after Wilson had a medical emergency.

We have a crisis.

Gahan had surgery over the weekend and he was discharged from the hospital yesterday. It turns out that the hospital and the memory care facility didn’t have the best communication going, because today we were told that the memory care unit could not care for Gahan because of the severity of the surgery. The hospital won’t take him back and he can’t go to a rehabilitation facility.

We were informed that for him to stay in the memory care facility, we would need to get him a 24 hour care person to stay with him for the next thirty days until the doctors can assess his condition.

All through this gofundme I have been careful not to take in too much money. A few months ago, I suspended donations because it looked like we would have enough. Today, that all changed. Please, if you can spare any more, we could use it to pay this unexpected expense.

The circumstances of this whole hospital event have been surreal. I will spare everyone the details of the surgery, but we did it because the doctor said he would die without it. None of the medical experts warned or prepared us for the change that would make in his care level after the surgery.

I know that even with Alzheimer’s Gahan wants to live. Whenever we are with him, he speaks of how lucky we all are to be alive and the last cartoon he drew was of a guy holding a sign that read “Glad to remain alive!” I know he was drawing himself. We will keep trying to give him the best quality of life until the end.

(5) ATTENTION, BUCKAROOS! Chuck Tingle’s game was released at the beginning of the month: “The Tingleverse: The Official Chuck Tingle Role-Playing Game”.

This rulebook contains everything a group of buckaroos will need, including four playable types (bigfoot, dinosaur, human, and unicorn), five trots (bad boy, charmer, sneak, true buckaroo, and wizard), several unique ways, as well as hundreds of cool moves that are specially crafted for each unique play style.

Within these 270+ pages you will also find various magical items and a menagerie of monsters, ranging from pesky Void crabs to this villainous Ted Cobbler himself.

The only question left is: what are you waiting for?

(6) WISDOM SEEKER. Likewise, UrsulaV knew who could help her navigate the recent fannish storm.

Tingle even promised to get into the topic on his “My Friend Chuck” podcast — but I must be in the wrong timeline, it hasn’t dropped yet.

(7) THE CAT’S MEOW. Orbit’s cover reveal for Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes explains why we’re interested. SJW Credentials in SFF… Irresistible.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 26, 1937 The Shadow radio serial premiered with the first episode being titled “The Death House Rescue”. The introduction to the program, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” was spoken by actor Frank Readick. 
  • September 26, 1987 Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Encounter at Farpoint” opening episode premiered in television syndication. The series would run for seven years, the longest Trek series to date. 
  • September 26, 2001 Star Trek: Enterprise debuted. It was called simply Enterprise for the first two seasons. “Broken Bow” was the name of the first episode. Captain Archer was played by Scott Bakula, star of Quantum Leap. It ran for four seasons before being cancelled. 
  • September 26, 2007 The Bionic Woman first aired. This is NBC’s retooling of the 1970’s SciFi channel series Bionic Woman which starred Lindsay Wagner, and now starring Michelle Ryan. It lasted exactly eight episodes. 
  • September 26, 2014 Star Wars: Rebels first aired. It was produced by Lucasfilm Animation and set in the Star Wars universe five years before A New Hope. It lasted four seasons. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 26, 1866 Winsor McCay. Cartoonist and animator who’s best remembered for the Little Nemo strip which ran between The Wars and the animated Gertie the Dinosaur film which is the key frame animation cartoon which you can see here. He used  the pen name Silas on his Dream of the Rarebit Fiend strip. That strip had no recurring characters or theme, just that a character has a nightmare or other bizarre dream after eating Welsh rarebit. What an odd concept. (Died 1934.)
  • Born September 26, 1877 Edmund Gwenn. Dr. Harold Medford in the classic Big Insect film Them.  He showed in the Fifties show Science Fiction Theatre twice, once as Dr. Pliny in “A Visit from Dr. Pliny” and another time as Dr. Lorenz in “The Strange Doctor Lorenz”. (We’re not mentioning his famous role as Santa Claus: since we all still believe, that must be classified as merely a courtroom drama.) (Died 1959.)
  • Born September 26, 1927 Charles Macaulay. He appear twice in Trek, once in “The Return of the Archons” as Landru, and in the “Wolf in the Fold” as Prefect Jaris. He was Captain Townsend in “God Save The Queen” in The Tales of The Golden Monkey, and in the Wonder Woman series, he was Ambassador McCauley in “Formula 407”. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 26, 1941 Martine Beswick, 78. Though she auditioned for Dr. No, she was instead cast in From Russia with Love as Zora. She also appeared  as Paula Caplan in Thunderball. She would appear in One Million Years B.C. opposite Raquel Welch.  She made several Hammer Studio films including Prehistoric Women and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde.
  • Born September 26, 1948 Olivia Newton-John, 71. She was Kira in Xanadu which is considered responsible for the creation of the Golden Raspberry Awards. In 2017, she appeared in Sharknado 5: Global Swarming. A coincidence? I think not. It got a 30% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Born September 26, 1956 Linda Hamilton, 63. Best known for being Sarah Connor in The Terminator film franchise and Catherine Chandler in the Beauty and the Beast series. She also played Vicky Baxter in Children of the Corn, and Doctor Amy Franklin in King Kong Lives. She would be Acacia, a Valkyrie in “Delinquents” of the Lost Girl series, a role she would reprise in two more episodes, “End of a Line” and “Sweet Valkyrie High”.
  • Born September 26, 1957 Tanya Huff, 62. Her Confederation of Valor Universe series is highly recommended by me.  And I also give a strong recommendation to her Gale Family series. I’ve not read her other series, so I’ll ask y’all what you’d recommend.
  • Born September 26, 1968 Jim Caviezel, 51. John Reese on Person of Interest which CBS describes as a “crime drama”. Huh. He was also Detective John Sullivan in Frequency, and Kainan in Outlander. And yes he played Number Six in the unfortunate reboot of The Prisoner
  • Born September 26, 1985 Talulah Riley, 34. Miss Evangelista in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, two Tenth Doctor stories. She also portrays Angela in Westworld, and she shows up in Thor: The Dark World as an Asgardian nurse. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Crankshaft obviously has seen authors hawking their books in the dealer’s room.
  • Free Range gets a laugh from an unexpected link between the Olympics and UFOs.

(11) KIDS IN THE HALL. The Chicago Tribune says even Stan Lee paid a visit: “He dared to build the Hall of Justice in his backyard — now there’s a superhero museum in Elkhart, Ind.”

As with any decent superhero origin, the Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum here began in ambition and humility, overreach and wonder: Allen Stewart loved superheroes and comic books and spent every dime from his paper routes on superhero comics and toys and refused to throw anything away. His fever never abated, not as a teenager, not after he entered the military, not after he started a family, and so, when he became an adult and made some money in local real estate, he decided to splurge: He decided he would build the Justice League’s Hall of Justice in his backyard.

This was a dozen years ago.

…Still, the Hall of Heroes and its unlikely Hall of Justice were becoming a draw in Elkhart County. Within a few years of opening, he had 10,000 annual paying visitors, and the collection — which he now calls the largest superhero memorabilia collection in the world, and believes is worth about $5 million — exploded to include: a nine-foot tall Hulk statue, a Captain America shield used in the 2011 movie, rare Superman toys, original artwork and the debut comics of nearly every major superhero. His Hall went from something like a child’s bedroom shrine to superheroes to something like a museum.

(12) DEADLY WALL. At Galactic Journey, Cora Buhlert precedes her reviews of the latest (in 1964) German sff with a local news bulletin: “[September 26, 1964] A Mystery Mastermind Double-Feature: The Ringer and The Death Ray of Dr. Mabuse”.

…Another visitor who received a warm welcome in Germany was American Civil Rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., when he visited Berlin earlier this month. The official reason for the visit was a memorial service for John F. Kennedy, but Dr. King also used the opportunity to visit the Berlin Wall, where only hours before a young man had been shot during an attempt to flee East Berlin and only survived due to the heroic actions of an US Army sergeant who pulled him to safety, a sad reminder that about fifty people have already been killed trying to surmount the Berlin Wall….

(13) THE HUBBLE GAZE. Abigail Nussbaum drills into new sff film Ad Astra at Asking the Wrong Question.

…This is absolutely a film that revels in the stark visual of a single space-suited protagonist made small against a backdrop of endless stars, or in stunning vistas of planetary bodies and orbital installations.  It absolutely features long wordless stretches in which the cosmic soundtrack strives to create a 2001-esque sense of grandeur.  And it absolutely filters all those sensory feasts through Pitt’s character, a soulful Competent Man whose emotional turmoil is both soothed and magnified by the scale of the setting he’s been placed in, and the challenges of surviving it.  But Ad Astra also feels like a film aware of its antecedents, of the movies that have come before it over the last decade and the tropes they’ve established.  If it isn’t quite a dismantling of those tropes, it is at least a more measured, more humane response to them….

(14) NOT SURPRISED BY DAN SIMMONS. RedWombat was ahead of the curve, like usual.

(15) ALT-RIGHT HATES SEEING THOSE CLICKS GO TO WASTE. Jon Del Arroz hopes he can rev up the last couple days of his latest Kickstarter campaign by tweeting his own crap about Greta Thunberg. Was getting banned for a week part of the plan? No idea. “BANNED On Twitter And Can’t Promote!” [Internet Archive link.]

(16) SOUND AND FURY. FastCompany explains “What it means that Samuel L. Jackson is the new voice of Alexa”.

…To get started, just say, “Alexa, introduce me to Samuel L. Jackson.” You can then choose whether you want him to use explicit language or not, so it’s safe to assume that those who want him to curse will get a dose of his iconic “Motherf—er!” The beauty of it is, you can always change your mind and toggle between clean and explicit content as much as your heart desires.

(17) NO DISASSEMBLE. BBC reveals how “Bacterial ‘striptease’ evades antibiotics”.

Bacteria have been caught “stripping off” in order to evade antibiotics and survive, scientists show.

Researchers at Newcastle University filmed bacteria “undressing” and taking off their outer layer – or cell wall.

Antibiotics can attack cell walls so scientists think this is a new form of drug resistance and could explain why some infections keep coming back.

But experts said it was still unclear if this was having an impact on patients.

What are they taking off?

Some species of bacteria have a cell wall built out of sugars and amino acids (the building blocks of protein).

It gives the bacterium shape and protection but it is also a weak spot that can be exploited by antibiotics.

The first antibiotic to be discovered, penicillin, disrupts the cell wall and causes bacteria to burst.

The study, published in Nature Communications, looked at bacteria from elderly patients with urinary tract infections that kept coming back.

Researchers spotted that some bacteria were responding to antibiotics by slipping out of their cell wall in order to escape the drug’s effects.

(18) STARKILLER! [Item by Olav Rokne.] Stars and galaxies are being torn asunder, and nobody really knows why.  Could it be The Doomsday Machine from Star Trek’s original series? Has some alien civilization found a Tox Uthat? Is it just a bunch of busy Vogons? Well, probably not. But hopefully, Canadian scientists working with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) will be able to figure out the exact mechanism that explains why galaxies are being destroyed. The New York Post has the story: “Something in the universe is killing off entire galaxies”.  

The cause of death is thought to be a shutdown of star formation, and a new project aims to use one of the world’s leading telescopes to observe the process in detail.

The Canadian-led project is called the Virgo Environment Traced in Carbon Monoxide survey (VERTICO).

It will investigate how galaxies can be killed off by their own environment.

Principal investigator Toby Brown explained in The Conversation that he is leading a team of 30 experts who will be using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) telescope to map stars being made in our nearest galaxy cluster, the Virgo Cluster.

(19) UP, UP AND AWAY. BBC learns: “Balloon ‘taxi service’ to take satellites to space”.

A satellite delivery “taxi service” using a giant helium balloon is being developed by a start-up company.

B2space is looking primarily to launch commercial satellites, but it has even fielded an inquiry about “space funerals”, sending ashes into space.

…Described as a satellite “taxi service” by the company, balloons have already been sent to the edge of the atmosphere to test their components and systems – their first launch was from Snowdonia Aerospace Centre, and they have since taken off from Shetland Space Centre.

B2space’s technology will use a giant helium balloon to lift an unmanned rocket up over the sea to a height of around 22-25 miles (35-40km). The rocket, carrying a satellite, will then blast into space to deliver its cargo, while the balloon deflates and falls to earth to be retrieved from the sea.

This will be cheaper because the rocket does not have to power itself up through dense air up to 22 miles, using 85% less fuel, and the rocket will be smaller, the company claimed.

(20) MODERN BUSINESS. Not like Macy’s telling Gimbel’s, any more… “Star Wars: Marvel boss Kevin Feige to develop film for Disney”.

The man behind Marvel Studios’ string of comic book movie blockbusters is to develop a new Star Wars film, a senior executive at Disney has revealed.

Alan Horn, co-chairman of Walt Disney Studios, said it “made sense” for Kevin Feige to work with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy on the project.

The film would be part of “a new era in Star Wars storytelling,” Horn told the Hollywood Reporter.

Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios are both subsidiaries of Walt Disney Studios.

Horn described Feige – who has been president of Marvel Studios since 2007 – as “a die-hard fan” of the Star Wars universe.

Under Feige’s leadership, the films that make up the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) have made more than $22 billion (£18 billion) worldwide.

(21) JEDI GAMES. EA has dropped a Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order game trailer — “Cal’s Mission.”

In the Galactic Empire, the Inquisitorius has only one mission: seek out and destroy all remnants of the Jedi Order. Learn more about what Cal Kestis is searching the galaxy for and why the Empire will stop at nothing to bring him down. Become a Jedi in Respawn Entertainment’s third-person action-adventure game, STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen Order™. Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC this holiday season, November 15, 2019.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/25/19 Oh But I Was So Much Scroller Then, I’m Pixel Than That Now

(1) DOZOIS FINALE. At Flogging Babel, Michael Swanwick reviews “Gardner Dozois’ Last Story”, “Homecoming” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, Sep/Oct 2019).

Chance plays such a major role in our lives! It was chance that killed Gardner Dozois. He died not of a lingering illness but from a fortuitous disease picked up in a hospital whose staff chanced not to be competent enough to take care of his original complaint in a reasonable lenth of time. So when he wrote “Homecoming,” he had no idea how close he was to death.

Nevertheless, it is hard to read this story as anything but his farewell….

(2) TIPTREE AWARD HOSTS COMMENT. The organizers of WisCon have made a “Statement of Support in Renaming the Tiptree Award”.

Since the creation of the Tiptree Award was first announced by Guest of Honor Pat Murphy at WisCon 15 in 1991, WisCon has been proud to host the award winners and to support the award by hosting fundraisers at-con. Making big changes can be difficult, but listening to the voices of our community members exemplifies the values that our con continues to strive towards. We fully support the Motherboard in their decision to rename the award, and we look forward to celebrating the award under its new name at WisCon 44 in 2020.

(3) REPLAY. From BBC we learn “Original Jurassic Park cast to return in next movie”.

The original stars of Jurassic Park are to reunite for the next instalment of the dinosaur film franchise.

Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum will reprise their roles in the upcoming Jurassic World 3.

The actors led the cast of the 1993 hit, directed by Steven Spielberg, and have appeared separately in subsequent instalments.

…It is believed the trio will appear alongside Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, the stars of 2015’s Jurassic World and 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The latter release saw Goldblum reprise his role as Dr Ian Malcolm, having previously done so in 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Neill and Dern reprised their roles as Dr Alan Grant and Dr Ellie Sattler in 2001 film Jurassic Park III.

(4) IN AND OUT OF FANDOM. Rob Hansen announces  some additions to his fanhistory site THEN:

  • Now that T. Bruce Yerke’s memoir of 1930s LA fandom is online I was able to expand my page on “The LASFS Clubroom” accordingly.

In the late 1930s the Los Angeles Science Fiction League – as they were then known – were meeting in Clifton’s Cafeteria, a downtown eatery located at 648 South Broadway after initially meeting at members’ homes and the like. T.Bruce Yerke recalled those LASFL days in his MEMOIRS OF A SUPERFLUOUS FAN (1943):

The great difference between the Chapter #4 of the SFL and the present LASFS is a subject of many ramifications, the product of an evolution of some years’ length, and a very interesting study. Perhaps it may be summed up in brief by the observation that the club in l937 had no social life to speak of. The chapter centered about meetings held roughly every other Thursday. Otherwise the members contented themselves with occasional Sunday gatherings of a highly informal and unofficial nature. Often groups of three or four attended shows together or went book hunting en masse, but that was virtually the sum of it. For the most part, members saw nothing of each other between alternate Thursdays, save the vicarious mediums of post and telephone….

Prominent among those dissidents were the trio – Vince Clarke, Joy Clarke, and Sandy Sanderson – known as ‘Inchmery’ after Inchmery Road in South London where they all shared a house together. Vince Clarke was not at all happy with fandom and was on the point of quitting it, as can be seen in this letter to him from George Locke dated 7 April 60…

(5) HUGO WANK. At Archive of Our Own, “Stanley Cup — What it Means” by Anonymous. Looks like this has been online for over a week, but it’s news to me!

…“What? No, the Oviraptors won fair and square. But the fans are saying they won.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Here, I’ll read you this tweet. Someone called PuckerUp wrote, “I can’t believe we won the Stanley Cup! I’m so excited you guys!” And there’s more like that. They really think they won it. So we want you to tell them that it was the Oviraptors team that won, not them. They can say they supported the actual winners.”

“Uh, are you sh—“ the spokesperson quickly changed course mid-sentence. “Are you sure someone saying “we won” instead of “my favorite team won” is a problem? I think everyone knows it was the athletes who actually won…”

“It dilutes what winning the Stanley Cup means, if just anyone can go around saying they won it. I mean, listen to this: HockeyLuvver63 tweeted, “Oviraptors won because I was the MVP and saved Darcy from rolling off the couch.” And then there’s a picture of this woman catching a Boston Terrier in a puck costume as it slides off a sofa. If people keep saying things like that, other people might start thinking the real winners and MVPs are just making it up too, and sneer at them for it.”…

(6) WILD IN THE STREETS. Although we covered this performance, I haven’t previously linked to The New Yorker story. In the magazine’s December 11, 2017 issue Alex Ross reviews War of the Worlds, an opera by Annie Gosfield based on the Orson Welles radio broadcast of 1938 and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic collaborating with the experimental opera company The Industry. 

The main audience was seated at Disney Hall, where the orchestra was ostensibly performing a new suit, by Gosfield, modelled on Holst’s The Planets.  The actress Sigourney Weaver, who has a history with aliens, assumed the pose of an unctuous gala host.  Halfway through the “Mercury” movement, she broke in with the first of many news bulletins.  As the concert faltered–we never got past “Earth”–Weaver elicited live reports from three nearby parking lots, each of which had its own performers and audience.  The auxiliary sites were placed near antiquated air-raid sirens that still stand throughout the city; they hummed with extraterrestrial transmissions.  Scientists jabbered technicalities; a TV reporter interviewed eyewitnesses; a military honcho tried to impose order.  Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, had a cameo, appearing onstage at Disney with a reassuring message:  “Please don’t attempt to leave this building.  Just outside these walls is utter chaos.  A climactic ray-gun assault on Disney was repelled by the metal shield that Frank Gehry had presciently installed on the exterior.  Weaver exclaimed, ‘The power of music has redeemed humanity once again!’

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 25, 1924 — Opened on this date in Moscow, Aelita: Queen of Mars. A silent film by Soviet filmmaker Yakov Protazanov. In the United States, Aelita was edited and titled by Benjamin De Casseres for release in 1929 as Aelita: Revolt of the Robots. The 2004 DVD has a musical score based on the music of Scriabin, Stravinsky, and Glazunov.
  • September 25, 1976 Holmes & Yoyo debuted. A heavy on the comedy police show where Detective Alexander Holmes keeps injuring his partners so he’s given an android partner which is John Schuck as Gregory “Yoyo” Yoyonovich in his first genre role. It lasted thirteen episodes. The reviews were not kind. Nor were the ratings.
  • September 25, 2006 — On NBC, Heroes aired its first episode, “Genesis”. It would last four seasons and remarkably would actually not be cancelled before it wraps up its story. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 25, 1862 Henry McNeil. Though he wrote two Lost Race novels, he’s here because he was a member of the Kalem Club circle that centered around Lovecraft. He played an important role in the career of Lovecraft as he was the first to urge that writer to submit his fiction to Weird Tales in the early Twenties. (Died 1929.)
  • Born September 25, 1919 Betty Ballantine. With her husband Ian, she created Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books seven years later. They won one special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1975 and another one shared with Joy Chant et al for The High Kings which is indeed an amazing work. ISFDB list one novel for her, The Secret Oceans, which I’ve not read. Anyone here done so? (Died 2019.)
  • Born September 25, 1930 Shel Silverstein. Not sure how he is SFF but ISFDB lists him as such and I’m more than thrilled to list him under Birthday Honors. I’m fond of his poetry collection Where the Sidewalk Ends and also note here A Light in the Attic if only because it’s been on “oh my we must ban it now attempts” all too often. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 25, 1951 Mark Hamill, 68. Ok, I’ll confess that my favorite role of his is when he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even doing on other such series as well. Pure comic genius! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy.
  • Born September 25, 1952 Christopher Reeve. Superman in the Superman film franchise. He appeared in the Smallville series as Dr. Swann in the episodes “Rosetta” and “Legacy”. His Muppet Show appearance has him denying to Miss Piggy that he’s Superman though he displays those superpowers throughout that entire episode. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 25, 1962 Beth Toussaint, 57. She was Ishara Yar in the “Legacy” episode of Next Gen and she’s been in a lot of genre series and films including BerserkerBabylon 5, the Monsters anthology series, Nightmare Cafe, Mann & MachineProject Shadowchaser II, Legend and Fortress 2: Re-Entry.
  • Born September 25, 1968 Will Smith, 51. Despite the vile stinkers that are Wild Wild West and Suicide Squad, he’s done some brilliant work — the first Men in Black film is quite superb as is Independence Day and Aladdin
  • Born September 25, 1969 Catherine Zeta-Jones, 50. Her first role ever was as in Scheherazade in French short 1001 Nights. Her next role was Sala in The Phantom. Does Zorro count as genre? If go, she appeared as Eléna Montero in The Mask of Zorro and Eléna De La Vega in The Legend of Zorro. She was Theodorain The Haunting, a riff off The Haunting of Hill House. And finally, she was in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Maya in “Palestine, October 1917”. 
  • Born September 25, 1980 Benedict Jacka, 39. Though I’ll admit I’ve fallen behind in my reading of his Alex Verusseries, what I’ve read of it has been quite excellent — superb protagonist, interesting story and a quirky setting. Good popcorn literature! 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) REPRESENTATION ON TV. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In advance of The Good Place’s return this week, Kwame Opam of the New York Times profiles the show’s understated convention-breaking character Chidi Anagonye, and what the positive depiction of a character like him means for nerds of color: “The Good Place”. Opam writes:

Chidi is the sort of character who, in past generations, might have been the butt of the joke more often than not. Instead, he’s a romantic lead on one of television’s most beloved shows.

(11) JOKER FILM VIOLENCE PROTESTED. “Batman shooting victim’s family ‘horrified’ by Joker film’s violence” – BBC has the story.

Families of those killed while watching a Batman film in 2012 have written to Warner Bros with concerns about the new Joker film and urging the studio to join action against gun violence.

Twelve people died in a cinema showing The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado.

They included Jessica Ghawi, 24, whose mother Sandy Phillips told BBC News she was “horrified” by the Joker trailers.

Warner Bros said the film – which stars Joaquin Phoenix – was not an endorsement of real-world violence.

Phoenix walked out of a recent interview when asked about the issue.

Sandy Phillips and her husband, Lonnie, who run Survivors Empowered, an anti-gun violence group, wrote to Warner Bros along with three others whose relatives were killed, injured or caught up in the 2012 shooting.

Speaking to BBC News, Mrs Phillips said: “When I first saw the trailers of the movie, I was absolutely horrified.

“And then when I dug a little deeper and found out that it had such unnecessary violence in the movie, it just chilled me to my bones.

“It just makes me angry that a major motion picture company isn’t taking responsibility and doesn’t have the concern of the public at all.”

(12) PLAY AT WORK? [Item by Chip Htchcock.] Student tells reporter: “My degree is not just riding roller coasters”.

Staffordshire University might be one of the smallest in the UK, but it has some quirky degree courses.

One is theme park management. Undergraduates spend half of their time at Alton Towers whose owner Merlin Entertainments helped design the course.

Amusing genre note: Wikipedia says the teaching site’s new wooden roller coaster (first woodie in the UK in 20 years, and first ever to include fire) is called the Wicker Man.

(13) WITHOUT A NET. “Boston Dynamics Atlas robot twists and somersaults” – BBC video.

US robotics firm Boston Dynamics has developed new techniques to let its Atlas robot blend together the movements of gymnastic routines more smoothly.

(14) YOUR METAL PAL WHO’S FUN TO BE WITH. “Boston Dynamics robot dog Spot goes on sale”.

A robotics company whose creations have amassed millions of views on YouTube, is renting out one of its stars, Spot.

Anyone wishing to lease the quadruped dog-like robot could do so for “less than the price of a car,” Boston Dynamics told IEEE Spectrum.

It suggested Spot could be useful in construction, the oil and gas industry and for those working in public safety.

One expert said its appeal may be limited by its price, which will be determined by demand.

Noel Sharkey, robotics experts and professor of computer science at Sheffield University, said “Spot is possibly the world’s finest example of a quadruped robot and since the addition of a robot arm, it seems a little more practical – but will it be practical enough at that price?

(15) RANSOMWARE. BBC says the evidence shows they’re back: “Notorious GandCrab hacker group ‘returns from retirement’”.

An infamous hacker group that was thought to have disbanded appears to be behind a wave of new attacks being carried out across the world.

Researchers at cyber-security company Secureworks say they reached their conclusion after analysing a new strain of computer virus.

They claim the culprits are the GandCrab crew.

The gang is thought to be Russian and previously sold customised ransomware to other criminals.

Their code had scrambled data on victims’ computers and demanded blackmail payments to decrypt it. It is estimated to have affected more than 1.5 million machines, with hospitals among those affected.

In May, the group had surprised many in the security industry when it announced it was “retiring” after earning more than $2bn (£1.6bn) from the trade.

Someone claiming to be part of the group claimed it had “cashed out” its earnings and quit the business.

It had been active since about January 2018.

But Secureworks has linked the group to a new strain of ransomware called REvil or Sondinokibi.

The malware has caused major disruption to hundreds of dental practices in the US as well as 22 Texas municipalities.

Researchers say not only is the code similar to that of the earlier attacks but that it contains similar mistakes.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/6/19 The Soylent Green Hills of Earth

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to chow down on chowder with the award-winning Jack Dann in episode 104 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jack’s an old friend I see far too infrequently ever since he moved to Australia. I was privileged to publish a story of his in Science Fiction Age back in the ’90s, but that’s the least of his accomplishments. His first novel, The Man Who Melted, was nominated for a 1984 Nebula Award, and since then he’s gone on to win a Nebula Award, two World Fantasy Awards, three Ditmar Awards, and the Peter McNamara Award for Excellence. His short story collections include Timetipping, Jubilee: the Essential Jack Dann, and Visitations. His 1998 anthology Dreaming Down-Under (co-edited with his wife Janeen Webb) is a groundbreaking work in Australian science fiction.

He’s also created some amazing stories in collaboration with the likes of Michael Swanwick, Gardner Dozois, Barry Malzberg, and others, and since you know from listening to Eating the Fantastic that collaboration completely baffles me, we dove into a discussion of that as well.

We stepped out to The Chowder House, which has been in operation since 1985, but has a history which goes all the way back to 1920, when Darcy’s Irish Pub opened — and over the decades expanded into a row of family-owned restaurants. It was a comfortable spot, with good food, and the perfect place for us to catch up after far too long apart.

We discussed the novel he and Gardner Dozois always planned to write but never did, how a botched appendectomy at age 20 which left him with only a 5% chance of survival inspired one of his most famous stories, why he quit law school the day after he sold a story to Damon Knight’s Orbit series, the bad writing advice he gave Joe Haldeman early on we’re glad got ignored, the secrets to successful collaborations, the time Ellen Datlow acted as referee on a story he wrote with Michael Swanwick, how it felt thanks to his novel The Man Who Melted to be a meme before we began living in a world of memes, why he’s drawn to writing historical novels which require such a tremendous amount of research, the time he was asked to channel the erotica of Anaïs Nin, the gift he got from his father that taught him to take joy in every moment — and much more.

Jack Dann

(2) RSR LAUNCHES IMPROVEMENT. Rocket Stack Rank announces “New Filtering and Simplified Highlighting” in an article that analyzes the most awards won, award nominations earned, and inclusion in year’s best TOC for short fiction from 2015-2018 by using the new filtering features added to RSR.

You can now filter stories in a table to show only the ones recognized with SF/F awards, year’s best anthologies, or prolific reviewers. Click the “Show:” drop-down list in the table header and choose one of the options (see image on the right). This is an easy way to dis-aggregate scores to see which stories received the most recognition by each type of recommendation for readers who favor one type over a combined score of all three.

(3) THE DELTA QUADRANT PRIMARY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Senator Cory Booker is trying to acquire the votes of undecided Trekkies by showing off his nerd cred. The 50-year-old challenger for the Democratic nomination spoke to the New York Times today about his love for all things Star Trek, and how the show has influenced his politics: “How ‘Star Trek’ Pushed Cory Booker to Make It So”.

What did your father see in Trek?

It was hope.

“Star Trek” was more than just an escape. It was a portal to say the future is going to be different. It’s incredibly hopeful and a belief that we’re going to get beyond a lot of these lines. We’re going to unite as humanity. It’ll be a place where your virtue guides you, the highest of human aspirations. I think there’s something about that he found really powerful.

Do you think you took it in differently as a person of color?

I took it in through that lens because I really believe that was the lens that compelled my father. My dad loved UFOs. When that television series “Project Blue Book” came out, that was another thing. He was fascinated by the universe and excited about it.

This idea that we as humans, where we are right now, are literally just not even at the foothills yet of the mountains of discovery that are out there. He was a man of infinite hope. “Star Trek” gave him that. It showed him that we are going to overcome so much of the stuff that rips at humanity now.

(4) SNEAK PREVIEW. Unusual drama and security accompanied The Testaments’ submission to Booker Prize judges the New York Times reports: “Judging Margaret Atwood’s Top Secret New Novel”.

In July, the author Xiaolu Guo was expecting the delivery of a book that would not be published until September: Margaret Atwood’s “The Testaments,” the highly anticipated follow-up to “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Guo was getting her copy so early because she is a judge for this year’s Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award. There was just one problem, Guo said in an interview on Tuesday: When the courier turned up, she was late getting home from the airport. The courier refused to give the book to her brother and sister-in-law, who were visiting from China.

Guo missed the courier’s visit the next day, too, as she was out running errands. By the time she finally got the book, she was furious, she said.

“For me, it was quite over the top, the whole security issue,” Guo added, laughing.

The secrecy around Atwood’s new novel, which is on the Booker Prize shortlist that was announced this week, has complicated the judging process this year. The prize’s organizer had to sign a nondisclosure agreement on behalf of all the judges, said Peter Florence, the chairman of the judging panel.

Secrecy agreements were not required for the 150 other novels that judges read to create an initial list of books in the running that was announced at the end of July. They then reread and argued over those thirteen titles to choose the final six.

At the shortlist announcement on Tuesday, all six books were piled on a table in front of the judges, among them Salman Rushdie’s “Quichotte” and Lucy Ellmann’s “Ducks, Newburyport.” But the copy of “The Testaments” was actually a dummy.

“That’s not the real Atwood, by the way, in case anyone’s thinking of stealing it,” Gaby Wood, the prize’s literary director, told reporters.

(5) GAY KISS GETS COMIC BANNED IN RIO. “‘Avengers’ Comic Featuring Gay Kiss Banned by Rio de Janeiro Authorities”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The collected edition of ‘Avengers: The Children’s Crusade’ has come under fire for featuring a kiss between two male characters.

In an unexpected move, Rio de Janeiro mayor Marcelo Crivella has announced that the translated edition of the Marvel comic book series Avengers: The Children’s Crusade would be removed from the literary festival Riocentro Bienal do Livro so as to protect the city’s children from what he described as “sexual content for minors.”

The so-called sexual content in question is an on-panel kiss between two male characters, Wiccan and Hulkling, who are in committed relationship. Both characters are clothed in the scene.

(6) STAR WARS SOUVENIR OKAYED TO FLY. A press release on the TSA.gov web site called “UPDATED: Statement on Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge themed soda bottles” says the TSA has relented on the “thermal detonator” soda bottles at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and is now treating the bottles like “oversized liquids” —

 “The issue concerning Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge-themed soda bottles has recently been brought to our attention by the general public, as these items could reasonably be seen by some as replica hand grenades. We appreciate the concerns being raised, because replica explosives are not permitted in either carry-on or checked bags. We have completed our review, and instructed our officers to treat these as an oversized liquid. Because these bottles contain liquids larger than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters), they should be put in checked baggage or emptied to be brought on as carry-on item. TSA officers will maintain the discretion to prohibit any item through the screening checkpoint if they believe it poses a security threat.”

(7) DUFF FUNDRAISER. Paul Weimer says, “I am auctioning a print of one of my photos to raise money for DUFF” – the Down Under Fan Fund. See it at eBay: 10″x13″ matboarded metallic print of Mt. Taranaki, New Zealand.

(8) GRAPHIC DETAILS. Joshua Corin begins Big Thrill’s “Getting Graphic: Sequential Crime” with “An Introduction to Crime-Inspired Graphic Novels and Comics.”

It’s 1962 in Milan and a former fashion model, Angela Guissana, is looking for material for a small publishing house she and her sister Luciana have opened.  She studies the reading tastes of the local commuters and concludes that thrillers—such as those featuring criminal mastermind Fantomas—are in.

Rather than hire someone else to forge ahead with their new thriller, she and her sister write the book themselves. To increase its appeal, they present the book as a fumetto, an Italian variation on the comic book format that has recently proven so popular in Europe with Tintin and Tex Willer—also thrillers. They make sure that each volume can fit inside a businessman’s coat pocket.

Thus, the Guissana sisters create Diabolik, which has in the 60 years since its inception, sold more than 150 million copies.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 6, 1953  — Hugo awards first presented at Philcon II (the second Philadelphia Worldcon).
  • September 6, 1956  — Fire Maidens from Outer Space premiered. A group of astronauts lands on a moon of Jupiter only to find it inhabited with sexy maidens. Well, and a hideous monster of course.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 6, 1904 Groff Conklin. He edited some forty anthologies of genre fiction starting The Best of Science Fiction from Crown Publishers in 1946 to Seven Trips Through Time and Space on Fawcett Gold in 1968. The contents are fairly a mix of the obscure and well known as Heinlein, Niven, Simak, Dahl, Sturgeon, Lovecraft and Bradbury show up here. (Died 1968.)
  • Born September 6, 1943 Roger Waters, 76. Ok, I’m stretching it. Is Pink Floyd genre? The Wall maybe. Or The Division Bell with its themes of communication. Or maybe I just wanted to say Happy Birthday Roger!
  • Born September 6, 1946 Hal Haag. Baltimore-area fan who found fandom in the early Eighties and who chaired Balticon 25 and Balticon 35 and worked on Balticon and quite a number of regionals.  He Co-founded BWSMOF (Baltimore/Washington SMOFs) along with Inge Heyer from Shore Leave, a regional organization whose purpose it is to discuss running regional conventions of all types. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society put together a very touching memorial site which you can see here. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 6, 1953 Patti Yasutake, 66. Best-known for her portrayal of Nurse Alyssa Ogawa in the Trek universe where she had a recurring role on Next Generation and showed up in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek First Contact. In doing these Birthdays, I consult a number of sites. Several of them declared that her character ended her time as a Doctor. Not true but made for a nice coda on her story. 
  • Born September 6, 1958 Michael Winslow, 61. Though he might bear as the comically voiced Radar Technicianin Space Balls, I’m more interested that his first genre role of significance was giving voice to Mogwai and the other gremlins in Gremlins, a role he didn’t reprise for the second Gremlins film. 
  • Born September 6, 1972 China Miéville, 47. My favorite novels by him? The City & The City is the one I’ve re-read the most, followed closely by Kraken. Scariest by him? Oh, that’d King Rat by a long shot. And I’ll admit the dialect he used in Un Lun Dun frustrated me enough that I gave up on it. I’ll hold strongly that the New Crobuzon series doesn’t date as well as some of his other fiction does. 
  • Born September 6, 1972 Idris Elba, 47. Heimdall in the Thor franchise, as well as the Avengers franchise. First genre role was as Captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and later he was in Pacific Rim as Stacker Pentecost. And let’s not forget him as the Big Bad as Krall in Star Trek: Beyond
  • Born September 6, 1976 Robin Atkin Downes, 43. Though he’s made his living being a voice actor in myriad video games and animated series, one of his first acting roles was as the rogue telepath Byron on Babylon 5. He later shows up as the Demon of Illusion in the “Chick Flick” episode of Charmed and he’s got an uncredited though apparently known role as Pockla in the “Dead End” episode of Angel. Ditto for Repo Men as well. He does get as the voice of Edward in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
  • Born September 6, 1976 –Naomie Harris, 43. She’s Eve Moneypenny in Skyfall, Spectre and the forthcoming No Time to Die. This was the first time Moneypenny had a first name. She also appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Tia Dalma. And lastly I’ll note she played Elizabeth Lavenza in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the National Theatre. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Molly Ostertag drew a K&S comic strip for Sam and Frodo. Hampus Eckerman says, “I think a lot of filers might enjoy this little comic.” Thread starts here.
  • A new Tales From The Slushpile at Publishers Weekly.

(12) PREVIOUSLY UNSUSPECTED SCIENCE. Really?

(13) NOT DISNEY. BBC tells how “Team plans colour film of black hole at galaxy’s center”.

The team that took the first ever image of a black hole has announced plans to capture “razor sharp” full colour video of the one at the centre of our galaxy.

Satellites would be launched to supplement the existing network of eight telescopes to make this movie.

The researchers say the upgraded network will be able to see the supermassive black hole consuming the material around it.

The team has been awarded the Breakthrough Award for Physics.

Prof Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who proposed the idea of the so-called Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), told BBC News that the next step was to see a black hole in action.

“Just like planets, a black hole rotates. And because of its incredibly strong gravity, it distorts space and time around it. And so seeing this very weird effect of space itself being rotated is one of the holy grails of astrophysics.”

(14) A LITTLE LIST. At CrimeReads, John Marks points out “Seven Techno-Thrillers to Read as Our World Crumbles”.

Tristan Da Cunha is the most remote yet inhabited island in the world. With just 297 people living on the volcanic enclave, it’s more than 1,750 miles away from its nearest coast of South Africa. There are no airports, hotels, or bars and it is only reachable following a six-day boat ride. Yet for all it lacks, the island still has access to the internet. There is virtually nowhere on earth where you can truly escape from technology.

Authors, like me, who write speculatively about tech, are only limited by our imaginations. And that’s why we are fascinated by it, because it offers limitless potential.

Often it is far more of a challenge to create characters and worlds that are overshadowed by tech that goes askew than tech that gets it right.

(15) 20/20 HINDSIGHT. I was soon won around to the name changes, but feel a bit jaded to read such confident reassurances from people who a month ago had no more idea than anyone else that this was coming:

Nancy Jane Moore in “Against Nostalgia” at Book View Café.

…Given the list of winners at the Hugos — which are fan awards and therefore a good marker of what the people who love their SF/F think is important — times have changed dramatically. I see no reason why Ng or anyone else needs to pay homage to Campbell, who is clearly going to be a marginal person in the genre if he’s mentioned at all fifty years from now.

…Many of the stories published in the 1950s gave us those possibilities, but they did so in the trappings of their times. Confusing those trappings with science fiction makes us misunderstand what the genre is truly about. And being nostalgic about the trappings is silly.

The world that gave us those stories has changed, and stories set in outdated realities, even good ones, often don’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t live in that period. There are a lot of times when you need context, which doesn’t mean saying someone is a “product of their times” and skipping over what they did, but looking at other layers in the story (assuming it’s a story that’s worth spending that much time on).

These days the audience for science fiction is much broader than the mythical 13-year-old (white) boys the Golden Age fiction was supposedly aimed at. We have a strong need for science fiction that breaks us out of the misogyny and racism and colonialism on which so much of western culture has been built. And the audience is worldwide, drawing from their own cultures and experiences.

If you believe storytelling is a vital part of being human – and I do – you have to realize that there are a lot of ways to tell a story and a lot of different ideas of who might be the hero.

John Scalzi in “The Gunn Center Makes a Change, and Further Thoughts on the Reassessment of John W. Campbell” at Whatever.

…This will no doubt start another round of anguished wailing from certain quarters about the erasure of John W. Campbell from the annals of science fiction history. The answer to this is he’s not being erased, he’s merely being reassessed. And the reassessment is: His extensive paper trail of bigotry, reactionary thought and pseudo-scientific nonsense wasn’t a great look at the time — a fact amply detailed by a number of his contemporaries in the field — and it’s even less of a great look now. As a result, his name is being taken off some things it was on before, because it staying on them means those things (and the people administering those things) would then have to carry the freight of, and answer for, his bigotry, reactionary thought and pseudo-scientific nonsense. And they would rather not.

…People aren’t perfect and you take the good and the bad together — but every generation, and every person, gets to decide how to weigh the good and the bad, and to make judgments accordingly. In the early seventies, in the wake of Campbell’s passing, such was Campbell’s reputation in the field of science fiction that he could be memorialized by two separate awards in his name, and apparently nobody batted an eye (or if they did, they didn’t count). Nearly fifty years later and at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, such is Campbell’s reputation in the field of science fiction that Campbell’s name is off one award, and may be off the other soon enough. In another 50 years, Campbell’s reputation in the field may be different again, or may simply be what so many things are after a century, which is, a historical footnote.

(16) SCAVENGER’S FEAST. Meanwhile, Richard Paolinelli is hastening to fill the sudden vacuum of Campbell-named awards by adding one to his personal collection of honors: “New Category Added To The Helicons in 2020” [Now links to toxic original blog].

“The Helicon Society is proud to announce that the 2020 Helicon Awards will also feature the inaugural John W. Campbell Diversity In SF/F Award.

The Society looks forward to honoring the award’s first-ever recipient next spring.”

I don’t know about you folks, but I’m pretty interested in finding out who this will be. Aren’t you?

These antics apparently help Paolinelli sell books. When he inaugurated his Helicon Awards earlier this year, Paolinelli also announced a pair of awards whose namesakes had recently been removed from awards by the American Library Association: the Melvil Dewey Innovation Award and Laura Ingalls Wilder Best New Author Award.

(17) BATTLE OF THE BULGE. In this week’s Science (the US version of Nature), Rosemary Wyse discusses “Galactic archaeology with Gaia”.

The past and present merger activity of the Milky Way galaxy has recently been put into sharp focus through the analysis of data from the Gaia astrometric satellite.

The emerging picture created is one of persistent disequilibrium, with high merger activity some 10 billion years ago that plausibly created the stellar halo and thick disk (see the figure), followed by a lull during which only lower-mass satellite galaxies were accreted. The Milky Way is now acquiring the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy, which is likely sculpting the galaxy’s thin disk….

…The first data release (DR1) from Gaia provided the position on the sky and apparent brightness for over a billion stars. One result stands out from Gaia DR1: the discovery by Belokurov et al. (3) of a population of stars with distinctive motions, which were identified as debris from a massive satellite that merged into the Galaxy a long time ago. These stars are moving on unexpectedly radially biased orbits and they dominate the stellar halo, particularly close to the peak of its chemical abundance distribution. 

(18) MEET YOUR WATERLOO. James Davis Nicoll wants you to know about “SFF Works Linked by One Canadian University”.

You might not immediately identify Ontario’s University of Waterloo as a hotbed of speculative fiction writing. The establishment is far better known for its STEM programs, baffled-looking first-year students, the horrifying things in the tunnels, and vast flocks of velociraptor-like geese. So you may be surprised to learn that the University has produced a number of science fiction and fantasy authors over the years

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Eric Wong, Hampus Eckerman, Chip Hitchcock, SF Cocatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/26/19 We Didn’t Start The File, It Was Always Scrolling Since The Fans Been Squeeing

(1) STAMPEDE ZONE. Fran Wilde, in one of the New York Times’ op-eds from the future, implores “Please, Stop Printing Unicorns”. Tagline: “Bioprinters are not toys, and parents shouldn’t give them to children.”

… Making bioprinting more accessible to the public — especially to children — will be likely to lead to even worse disasters than last Friday’s blockade of the Chicago I-899 skyways off-ramp by a herd of miniature unicorns. Sure, the unicorns (whose origins are unknown) were the size of ducklings, but their appearance caused several accidents and a moral quandary.

These bioprinted unicorns were living creatures with consciousness — as defined by the A.I. Treaty of 2047 — trying to find their way in the world…..

(2) NYRSF STARTS SEASON 29. The New York Review of Books’ readings open their 29th season on September 3 with Gregory Feeley and Michael Swanwick.

Gregory Feeley writes novels and stories, most in some respect science-fictional. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award, and his short fiction has twice been nominated for the Nebula Award. His most recent novels are the historical novel Arabian Wine, and Kentauros, a fantasia on an obscure Greek myth. He recently completed a long novel, Hamlet the Magician.

Michael Swanwick writes fantasy and science fiction of all sorts, at lengths ranging from novels to flash fiction. Over the years, he’s picked up a Nebula Award, five Hugos and the World Fantasy Award–and has the pleasant distinction of having lost more of these awards than any other writer. Tor recently published The Iron Dragon’s Mother, completing a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter twenty-five years ago. That’s far longer than it took Professor Tolkien to complete his trilogy.

The event is Tuesday, September 3 at The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue  (between Hoyt & Bond St.). Doors open at 6:30 p.m., event begins at 7:00 p.m.

(3) D&D FILES — THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE. Kotaku challenges the received wisdom: “Dungeons & Deceptions: The First D&D Players Push Back On The Legend Of Gary Gygax”.

Everybody calls Rob Kuntz last, he says. Those who want to know about the history of Dungeons & Dragons start with co-creator Gary Gygax’s kids, one of Gygax’s biographers, or D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast. As they’re wrapping things up, they might get around to dialing up Kuntz, a 63-year-old game designer. And once they call him, he tells them the same thing: Everything they know about the creation of the tabletop role-playing game is, in his opinion, sorely mistaken or flat-out wrong.

“There’s a myth that’s been propagated in the industry,” Kuntz told Kotaku during an interview in February of this year. “If you keep digging into this, you’re going to come up with a story that will enrage people and expose the truth.”

(4) MIND OF THESEUS. In the August 14 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Library of Congress fellow Susan Schneider critiques the arguments of Ray Kurzweil and Elon Musk that we should figure out how to download our brains into the clouds to prevent really smart AI machines from taking over our lives.

“Here is a new challenge, derived from a story by the Australian science fiction writer Greg Egan.  Imagine that an AI device called ‘a jewel’ is inserted into your brain at birth.  The jewel monitors your brain’s activity in order to learn how to mimic your thoughts and behaviours.  By th time you are an adult, it perfectly simulates your biological brain.

At some point, like other members of society, you grow confident that your brain is just redundant meatware.  So you become a ‘jewel head,’ having your brain surgically removed. The jewel is now in the driver’s seat.

Unlike in Mr Egan’s story, let us assume the jewel works perfectly, So which is you–your brain or your jewel?”

(5) CHAMBERS PRAISED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The recent Worldcon in Dublin seems to be prompting some discussion of the literary merit of genre work. Writing in the Irish Times, John Connolly (“The future of sci-fi never looked so bright”) holds up the work of Hugo-winner Becky Chambers as an example of meritorious genre work, writing that:

In a world in which intolerance seems to be implacably on the rise, the fundamental decency at the heart of Chambers’s narratives, her depiction of a post-dystopian humanity attempting to construct a better version of itself while encountering new worlds and species, begins to seem quietly, gently radical.

(6) THE STORY OF A GENERATION. USA Today reports from D23 — “Disney unveils new ‘Rise of Skywalker’ footage, ‘Star Wars’ fans lose it over Rey’s double lightsaber”. The clips start with a walk down memory lane…  

Disney released a new poster depicting the battle, presenting it to all attendees.

Fans can now watch the pinnacle moment of the footage – a cloaked Rey pulls out what appeared to be a red, double lightsaber in battle, similar to the infamous weapon wielded by Darth Maul in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.”

The D23 crowd let out an immediate, overpowering cheer at the sight of the weapon’s return and proclaimed the sighting on Twitter.

It caused a disturbance in the Force which was felt well beyond the D23 walls.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 26, 1911 Otto Oscar Binder. He’s  best remembered as the co-creator with Al Plastino of Supergirl and for his many scripts for Captain Marvel Adventures and other stories involving the entire Marvel Family. He was extremely prolific in the comic book industry and is credited with writing over four thousand stories across a variety of publishers under his own name. He also wrote novels, one of which was The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker, one of the series created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby. (Died 1974.)
  • August 26, 1912 Ted Key. Of interest to us is his screenplay for The Cat from Outer Space about an apparent alien feline who has crash-landed here (starring Ken Berry, Sandy Duncan and Harry Morgan), which he followed up with a novelization. He also conceived and created Peabody’s Improbable History for producer Jay Ward’s The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. It would become the Sherman and Peabody Show. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 26, 1912 Gerald Kersh. He wrote but one genre novel, The Secret Masters, and two genre stories in his Henry the Ghost series. So why’s he here, you ask? Because Ellison declared “you will find yourself in the presence of a talent so immense and compelling, that you will understand how grateful and humble I felt merely to have been permitted to associate myself with his name as editor.” You can read his full letters here. (Died 1968.)
  • Born August 26, 1938 Francine York. Her last genre performance was on Star Trek: Progeny. Never heard of It? Of course not, as it was yet another fan project. It’s amazing how many of these there are. Before that, she appeared in Mutiny in Outer SpaceSpace Probe Taurus and Astro Zombies: M3 – Cloned. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 26, 1949 Sheila E Gilbert, 70. Co-editor-in-chief and publisher of DAW Books with Elizabeth R (Betsy) Wollheim. For her work there, she has also shared the Chesley Awards for best art director with Wollheim twice, and received a solo 2016 Hugo award as best professional editor (long form). 
  • Born August 26, 1950 Annette Badland, 69. She is best known for her role as Margaret Blaine on Doctor Who where she was taken over by Blon Fel-Fotch Pasameer-Day, a Slitheen. This happened during “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” during the Era of the Ninth Doctor. Her story would conclude in “Boom Town”. 
  • Born August 26, 1970 Melissa McCarthy, 49. Yes, I know she was in the rebooted Ghostbusters. Fanboys across the net are still wetting their pants about that film. I’m more interested in Super Intelligence in which she is playing a character that has an AI who has decided to take over her life. It reminds me somewhat of Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” premise. It will be released on December 20 of this year.  (And we are not talking about her The Happytime Murders.)
  • Born August 26, 1980 Chris Pine, 39. James T. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot series. He also plays Steve Trevor in both Wonder Woman films and Dr. Alexander Murry in A Wrinkle in Time. He’s also Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods. Finally, he voices Peter Parker / Ultimate Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) LOOKS LIKE DEATH (EXTREMELY) WARMED OVER. Delish says“Cheetos Is Rumored To Be Bringing Back Its ‘Bag Of Bones’ Snacks For Halloween” in Flamin’ Hot and White Cheddar flavors.

If you haven’t had a chance to try this snack yet, they’re basically Cheetos puffs that are shaped into various parts of a skeleton like the head, ribcage, hands, and bones. This means that besides being as delicious as a classic Cheeto, you can also build spooky skeletons with your food if you can resist scarfing down the whole bag for a while.

.(10) LAUNCHING FROM THE ANTIPODES. Ars Technica invites readers “Behind the scenes at Earth’s most beautiful rocket launch site” – lots of photos.

Not a blade of grass longer than the rest, a red “Remove Before Flight” tag unchecked, or a single Kiwi (be it bird or engineer) out of place: Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex-1 looks like an industry brochure come to life (better in fact). Located at the southern tip of the picturesque Mahia Peninsula on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, LC-1 is currently the only operational Rocket Lab launch site where the Electron vehicle—Rocket Lab’s low-cost small satellite launch vehicle—takes flight.

Rocket Lab just took advantage of the latest window at LC-1 on August 19. But back in December 2018, fellow rocket launch photographer Brady Kenniston had the exclusive opportunity to photograph Rocket Lab’s first NASA mission, ElaNa-19, from this private launch site. This launch was going to be Rocket Lab’s most important mission to date because, as the leader in the small satellite industry, they had an opportunity to show NASA (and the world) what they are made of. If successful, it could lead to future business from other small satellites in need of a ride to space—not to mention, the company would earn the endorsement of NASA Launch Services as an eligible vehicle to fly future NASA small-satellite science payloads.

(11) SO FAR, SO GOOD. Joe Sherry, Adri Joy, and Paul Weimer identify the high points of 2019 in “Blogtable: Best of the Year So Far” at Nerds of a Feather.

Joe: We’re a little more than seven months into what is shaping up to be an absolute stellar year for science fiction and fantasy fiction and I wanted to check in with the two of you to see what you’ve been reading and what has stood out in a year of excellence.

Adri: Indeed! well for starters I lost my heart in the time war…

Paul: I, too, lost my heart in the Time War. Among many other places, but having recently finished that, it is strongly on my mind. I am Team Blue, Adri, how about you?

(12) FEEDBACK. Heinlein is both an important influence on genre history and in the regard of author Chris Nuttall, who goes deep into Farah Mendlesohn’s book in “Review: The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein”. Nuttall ends a substantial discussion by saying —

Heinlein was not fond of critics, not entirely without reason. Even in his day, a good critic could be a wonder – and a bad one a nightmare. But I think he might have liked this book – and, as Heinlein remains popular, we should ask ourselves why. You may not agree with everything in this book, but it will make you think. Mendlesohn treats Heinlein as what he was, a man. Not an angel, or a demon, but a man. An influential man, but a man nonetheless.

(13) SMILE! Guess what this scene made Kevin Standlee think of —  

(Now imagine, what if somebody used X-ray film?)

(14) CHALLENGES IN PRODUCING HEINLEIN BOOK. Shahid Mahmud of Arc Manor Publishers sent out an update about Phoenix Pick’s Heinlein novel The Pursuit of the Pankera.

…As many of you are aware from my previous emails, this is the parallel text to The Number of the Beast. 
 

It is, effectively, a parallel book about parallel universes.


We had originally attempted to release the book before Christmas, but some production issues have delayed the release to Sprint/Summer of 2020.

These include sorting out some fairly intricate details discussed in the book. For example (for those of you dying to see what it is that we publishers actually do), here are a few internal excerpts between editors working on various aspects of the book:

“The planet-numbering system may be off in certain parts of the story. At the beginning of the story (and in real life) we live on planet Earth. In the course of the story, there is time travel, and that’s where it gets confusing… the story refers to both Earth-One and Earth-Zero. There is a detailed explanation of the numbering system (see pg. 312) wherein “Earth-Zero is so designated because Dr. Jacob Burroughs was born on that planet…”

However, in other parts of the book, Earth-One is referred to as the characters’ home planet.”

OR

“After discussion with Patrick, I’ve settled on the following conventions: x-axis (hyphenated, lowercase, no italics) but axis x (no hyphen, lowercase, italic single letter). In the manuscript, of course, the italic letter would be underlined rather than set italic. The letters tau and teh remain in the Latin alphabet (rather than Greek or Cyrillic) and are lowercase but not set italic. When used with the word “axis” (tau-axis) they are hyphenated.”

These are the little details that keep us Publishers up at night 🙂

But alas, given a book of this magnitude and size (this is a BIG book, over 185,000 words) all this takes time.

Hence the delay.

Mahmud says the ebook will be priced at $9.99 at launch, but they will run a Kickstarter beginning September 4 to help pay for production, which will allow people to buy the ebook for just $7.00. And there will be other rewards available.

(15) THE NEXT BIG THING. Best Fanzine Hugo winner Lady Business tweeted a get-acquainted thread for new followers (starts here) which closes with this appeal –

OMG, what a great idea, nominating business meeting agenda items in Best Related Works! Chris Barkley will be so excited (Best Translated Novel Hugo Category Proposed)! Am I right or am I right?

(16) NOT A GOOD IDEA. Just because Trump doesn’t know this it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t: “Nuclear weapons and hurricanes don’t mix, NOAA advises”.

Using nuclear weapons to destroy hurricanes is not a good idea, a US scientific agency has said, following reports that President Donald Trump wanted to explore the option.

The Axios news website said Mr Trump had asked several national security officials about the possibility.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the results would be “devastating”.

Mr Trump has denied making the suggestion.

Hurricanes typically affect the US east coast, often causing serious damage.

It’s not the first time the idea has been considered.

Following reports of Mr Trump’s suggestion, the hashtag #ThatsHowTheApocalyseStarted has been trending on Twitter.

What effect would nuking a hurricane have?

Mr Trump asked why the US couldn’t drop a bomb into the eye of the storm to stop it from making landfall, news site Axios said.

The NOAA says that using nuclear weapons on a hurricane “might not even alter the storm” and the “radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas”.

(17) A VOLCANO SPEAKS. There was smoke on the water. Then this: “Vast ‘pumice raft’ found drifting through Pacific Ocean”. Opinions vary on whether it will reach Australia or break up, and on how likely it is to be helpful — “Giant Pumice Raft Floating Toward Australia Could Help Replenish Great Barrier Reef”:

A vast “raft” of volcanic rocks stretching over 150 sq km (93 sq miles) is drifting through the Pacific Ocean, scientists say.

The sea of pumice – the size of 20,000 football fields – was first reported by Australian sailors earlier this month.

Experts say the mass likely came from an underwater volcano near Tonga which erupted around 7 August according to satellite images.

Sailors have been warned to stay clear of the potential hazard.

Pumice is a lightweight, bubble-rich rock that can float in water. It is produced when magma is cooled rapidly.

(18) NOT COKE. “World of Warcraft Classic: Hit game goes back to basics” – BBC has the story.

The hit video game World of Warcraft (WoW) is going back to basics with the launch of WoW Classic this evening.

First released in 2004, the online multi-player game has evolved and changed dramatically over the years.

Many players had asked developer Blizzard Entertainment to revive the original version of the game, known as “classic” or “vanilla” WoW.

While not identical to the original, WoW Classic will replicate a majority of the features from the first game.

World of Warcraft is a fantasy game in which players roam the virtual world, fighting monsters and completing quests.

Blizzard said some players who had been given early access to the classic version – which is released at 23:00 BST on Monday – mistakenly thought some of the original features were errors.

(19) FASTER THAN A PET ROCK. A BBC video shows “Gloucestershire man walks tortoise to the pub every day”. Doesn’t move as slow as you might think…

A Gloucestershire man has started walking Nancy Drew the tortoise to the pub and around town.

Jason Smith says the African sulcata tortoise, which is actually male, needs to burn off energy, as in the wild he would ordinarily be looking for a mate at this time of year.

The creature has become famous around Tewkesbury, with people loving to stop and say hello.

(20) CRASH LANDING. “Natalie Portman rockets toward madness in mind-bending ‘Lucy in the Sky’ trailer” Yahoo! Entertainment cues it up.

Natalie Portman blasts off through the wildest reaches of the universe in the new trailer for Lucy in the Sky.

Legion creator Noah Hawley’s feature directorial debut stars the Oscar-winning actress as Lucy Cola, a loose adaptation of real-life astronaut Lisa Nowak, who, after returning to earth from a length mission to space, began an obsessive affair with a coworker….

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

Pixel Scroll 7/17/19 By The Time I Get To Pixel, She’ll Be Scrolling

(1) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. Christopher J. Garcia and Chuck Serface are co-editing an issue of The Drink Tank dedicated to science-fiction comics of the 1950s and 1960s! Any critical articles, fanfic, personal remembrances, artwork, and any media we can publish in a fanzine are welcome.

Chuck Serface says, “Consideration of materials from any comic publisher of the time is fair game: Atlas/Marvel, DC, Gold Key, Charlton, Warren, EC, ones I’m forgetting at the moment — all of them.”

The deadline’s October 14, 2019. They’ll have it out by the end of the calendar year. Send submissions to ceserface@gmail.com.  

(2) COLSON WHITEHEAD Q&A. His new book is not sff, but some of his answers are about genre in “Powell’s Interview: Colson Whitehead, Author of ‘The Nickel Boys’”.

Rhianna: You’ve mentioned in other interviews being an avid reader of horror, and your novel Zone One is a zombie horror story. You’re very skilled at depicting violence. I was wondering if the horror genre has stylistically influenced the way that you depict historical atrocities, like those in The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys.

Whitehead: Again, I think the story determines how you tell it. The violence in Zone One is gorier. It’s more flamboyant than some of the stuff in The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys. In those two books, I think the horrific brutality that they experience speaks for itself. They don’t have to be dramatized.

This kind of language, I borrowed from reading the slave narratives. You don’t have to dramatize or sell to the listener or the reader how terrible everything is that is happening because it speaks for itself. If the violence is speaking for itself, I can concentrate more on the characters and what they’re feeling.

(3) TOLD WITH CONVICTION. LAist tells how “This LA Writer Turned Comic-Con Into A Crime Story”.

San Diego’s Comic-Con International starts Wednesday night, which makes this the perfect time to talk about Bad Weekend, a noir set against the backdrop of a fictionalized version of the now famous comics convention.

Writer Ed Brubaker described the graphic novel — with art by Brubaker’s longtime collaborator Sean Phillips and colors by Phillips’ son Jacob — as a weird love letter to comics, being a fan, and the strangeness of the comic book industry.

Bad Weekend is the product of filing away stories he’s heard around the comic book industry for the past 20 to 30 years, according to Brubaker — stories of who screwed over whom, of success not bringing happiness, and of comic companies getting rich off their work with movies and TV shows without the creators sharing in that wealth.

(4) OP-EDS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] If, like me, you’ve been enjoying the New York Times’ series of science fictional op-eds, they’ve just created a landing page with all the articles in the series now organized in one place:  “Op-Eds From the Future”

It’s worth checking back every second Monday to see the latest installment, as they’ve been excellent so far. 

(5) FILER NAMED FGOH. Chris Barkley shared on Facebook: “I am pleased to report that I was asked and accepted to be the Fan GoH at the 2021 Astronomicon in Rochester, NY along with my good friend (and Identical twin) Robert J. Sawyer.”

(6) TRANSLATED NOVEL HUGO REDUX. Chris Barkley has also addressed criticism of the Best Translated Novel Hugo category in a Facebook post which begins —

I have taken this past week to ponder a response to Neil Clarke and Taiyo Fujii’s objections to the viability of a Hugo Award category for Best Translated Novel. And frankly, their objections puzzle me.

I ask this of Mr. Fujii and to Mr. Clarke; if the three Hugos awarded to translated works are the awakening of fandom to translated literature, why haven’t more of those works been nominated in their wake? In the past three years of nominations; only 2017’s Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu, has been included in the Best Novel category, all of the other nominees in the category have all been decidedly anglocentric.

The truth of the matter we think that the Worldcon and the Hugo Awards have been overwhelmingly perceived for quite a while as an English speakers only party since a majority of the conventions have been held in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Mr. Clarke and Mr. Fujii may see the proposed award as either unnecessary, pandering or condescending to authors and fans but all Ms. Cordasco, my co-sponsors and I only want to do is shine a spotlight to fervently call attention to and honor authors and their translators. Speaking for myself, had there been three, four or five nominees on the final ballot since those historic awards, I would not have contemplated initiating and offering this proposal for an open debate…

(7) JUDGE UNCONVINCED. “Marvel Finally Beats a Lawsuit Over the ‘Iron Man 3’ Poster”The Hollywood Reporter has the story. There does seem to be a family resemblance, just the same:

Horizon still could have gotten the case to trial, but it then needed to show an inference of copying through the similarity of the works. Specifically, Horizon argued the two works were “strikingly similar,” with reliance on an expert report discussing anatomical structures, faces and heads, and camera views.

The judge responds that the expert report is “equivocating” on some of the noteworthy similarities by addressing features on careful viewing and not going quite so far to rule out any reasonable possibility of independent creation. Plus, the judge adds, “there remain enough differences between the two works,” nodding to Marvel’s pointing out differences in pose, differing placement of blue lights, and significantly different overall coloring.

(8) SEE READERCON 30. Ellen Datlow has posted 89 photos taken at ReaderCon 30 in a Flickr album.

Catherynne M. Valente, Heath Miller, and Sebastian

(9) ARE YOU WHAT YOU CONSUME? Surprising no one, here’s where The Hollywood Reporter lands on the meaning of “fan” and “fandom” — “Among Fandoms, Marvel May Reign Supreme, Poll Finds”.

A nationally representative sample of 2,200 adults carried out between July 8 and 10 revealed that, when it comes to genre properties, Marvel is far and away the most successful, with 63 percent of those surveyed considering themselves fans. The next most popular property was Marvel’s Disney sibling, Star Wars, with a 60 percent fandom, and DC followed with 59 percent.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 17, 1955 — Disneyland Park opened in Anaheim, California.
  • July 17, 1987 Robocop premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 17, 1858 Florence Balcombe Stoker. She was the wife and literary executor of Bram Stoker. She’s best remembered for her extended legal dispute with the makers of Nosferatu, an unauthorized film blatantly based on her husband’s novel Dracula. (Died 1937.)
  • Born July 17, 1889 Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best known for the Perry Mason series of detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 17, 1944 Thomas A. Easton, 75. SF critic and author who wrote the book review column in Analog from 1979 – 2009. His Organic Future series is quite entertaining and I’m reasonably certain I read Sparrowhawk when it was serialized in Analog
  • Born July 17, 1952 Robert R. McCammon, 67. Horror writer whose Michael Gallatin books, The Wolf’s Hour and The Hunter from the Woods, Alllied WWII werewolf agent and his adventures, I strongly recommend. His “Nightcrawlers” short story was adapted into an episode of the Twilight Zone.
  • Born July 17, 1954 J. Michael Straczynski, 65. Best known rather obviously for creating and writing most of Babylon 5 and its short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for as well as the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the commit sides, he’s written The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written Superman, Wonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles.
  • Born July 17, 1967 Kelly Robson, 52. I just got done reading her brilliant “Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach”.  Right now, it appears only this plus “A Human Stain” and “Waters of Versailles” are available on iBooks and Kindle for reading as she has no collection out yet. And no novel as far as I can tell. 
  • Born July 17, 1971 Cory Doctorow, 48. I’ll admit that I’ve mixed feelings about his work. I enjoyed Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, his first novel, and thought The Rapture of the Nerds had potential but really failed to live to that potential to great. Everything else is ‘Meh’. His activism is oft times that of an overeager puppy trying to get attention for himself. 
  • Born July 17, 1976 Brian K. Vaughan, 43. Wow. Author of  Ex Machina,  Pride of BaghdadRunawaysSagaY: The Last Man, and his newest affair, Paper Girls. And yes, he’s won Hugo Awards. You could spend an entire summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of the television series Lost during seasons three through five. And was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series.

(12) IN THE BEGINNING. The San Diego Union-Tribune explores “50 Shades of Comic-Con: What we’ve gained and lost in five decades of pop culture celebrations”.

From its inception, Comic-Con had intergalactic ambitions.

The initial show, then called San Diego’ Golden State Comic Con, featured science fiction writers Ray Bradbury and A.E. Van Vogt; Jack Kirby, creator of Captain America, X-Men and other iconic superheroes; vintage films; an art auction; and dozens of dealers peddling mountains of new and used comics.

An unforgettable event — for the 300 attendees. Few others noticed and even they dismissed this as a juvenile jamboree. For instance:

On the show’s first day, Aug. 1, 1970, the author of “Fahrenheit 451″ and “The Martian Chronicles” granted an interview to The San Diego Union. Yet Bradbury’s spirited defense of comics was buried on page B-11, under articles about a flower show, the repainting of the White House East Room and a medical brief with the headline “Fat Men More Tipsy.”

… Neil Kendricks is a writer, filmmaker and teacher who recently led a San Diego State course on comics and sequential art. In the early 1980s, though, he was a high school student at his first Comic-Con. In the dealer’s room, he bumped into a white-haired gentleman flipping through the cardboard boxes full of used comics.

“Mr. Bradbury,” he stammered, “will you be here for awhile?”

When Ray Bradbury nodded yes, Kendricks dashed out of Golden Hall and ran the half-mile to Wahrenbrock’s Book House.

“I went upstairs to the science fiction section and bought as many of his books and I could find. Then I ran all the way back and he signed them. That,” Kendricks said, “could never happen now.”

(13) UP ON CHARGES. Trae Dorn reports at Nerd & Tie that a conrunner is being prosecuted in the Twin Cities: “How to React When a Member of Your Con Staff is Accused of Rape”. Documentation accompanies the post.

On Monday it came to light that long time staffer of Twin Cities based Anime Detour Stephen Gifford has been charged with third-degree sexual assault in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Gifford was head of Convention Communications for Anime Detour’s 2019 event earlier this year, and has previously served as the event’s convention chair.

… Now we’ve seen cons react to situations like this in many ways, but thankfully Anime Detour’s staff has taken the situation seriously.

(14) KNIT ONE, PEARL TWO. While they still can, WIRED lets readers decide for themselves what to think about this coming technology: “Here’s How Elon Musk Plans to Stitch a Computer into Your Brain”.  

…At a presentation at the California Academy of Sciences, hastily announced via Twitter and beginning a half hour late, Musk presented the first product from his company Neuralink. It’s a tiny computer chip attached to ultrafine, electrode-studded wires, stitched into living brains by a clever robot. And depending on which part of the two-hour presentation you caught, it’s either a state-of-the-art tool for understanding the brain, a clinical advance for people with neurological disorders, or the next step in human evolution.

The chip is custom-built to receive and process the electrical action potentials—“spikes”—that signal activity in the interconnected neurons that make up the brain. The wires embed into brain tissue and receive those spikes. And the robotic sewing machine places those wires with enviable precision, a “neural lace” straight out of science fiction that dodges the delicate blood vessels spreading across the brain’s surface like ivy.

…And, sure, there’s more. A public records request from WIRED in April 2019 found that Neuralink is licensed to have hundreds of rats and mice in its research facilities. In a seemingly unplanned moment at the Cal Academy, Musk also acknowledged that Neuralink’s research had progressed beyond rodents to non-human primates. It’s only because of a records request filed by Gizmodo that Neuralink’s affiliation with the primate research center at UC Davis is public knowledge. That affiliation has apparently progressed: “A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain, just FYI,” Musk said during the Q and A after the presentation.

His team seemed as surprised and discombobulated by the announcement as the audience. “I didn’t know we were running that result today, but there it goes,” said Max Hodak, president of the company, on stage next to Musk. (Monkeys have controlled computers via BCIs before, though presumably this would be the first time one used Neuralink.)

(15) APOLLO 11 AT 50 CLIPPINGS.

One small holograph for man, one giant holograph for the Washington Monument.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a life-size projection of the Saturn V rocket on the Washington Monument on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The Saturn V rocket is now iconic for carrying the Apollo 11 crew to the moon in 1969. The projection-mapping artwork will occupy 363 of the monument’s 555 vertical feet.

As the 17th century’s most famous Italian astronomer surveyed the heavens, he likely never dreamed a rocket shooting fire would one day power people up among the stars he eyed through his telescope, or that his work would help guide a ship to the moon.

But Galileo Galilei’s observations would become a key link in the chain of scientific research and discovery fundamental to our understanding of the universe and our drive to explore it.

That scientific continuum is at the heart of a new Houghton Library exhibit connecting early celestial calculations to the Apollo 11 mission that put two American astronauts on the lunar surface 50 years ago this July. “Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty” features gems from Harvard’s collection of rare books and manuscripts as well as NASA artifacts from an anonymous lender and Harvard alumnus, many of which were aboard the spaceship that left Earth’s orbit in 1969.

Not all of the equipment carried into space was cutting edge and expensive. Some of the more humble odds and ends even prevented disaster.

…25: Length of duct tape rolls carried to the Moon, in feet

If there’s one saviour time and again of American space missions over the past 50 years, it’s a roll of duct tape. During Apollo missions, it was used for everything from taping down switches and attaching equipment inside the spacecraft, to fixing a tear on a spacesuit and, during Apollo 17, a fender on the lunar rover.

One of the surviving crew members of the first manned mission to the Moon – Apollo 11 – has returned to the site where the mission set off 50 years ago.

Michael Collins, 88, visited Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday. He marked theprecise time – 09:32 (13:32 GMT) – when their rocket took off.

Mr Collins had stayed in lunar orbit while his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon.

…Mr Collins described how he felt during take-off.

“The shockwave from the rocket power hits you,” he told Nasa TV. “Your whole body is shaking. This gives you an entirely… different concept of what power really means.”

Esquire was not expecting much from Neil Armstrong.

“While the space program is poised on the brink of a truly epoch-making triumph of engineering, it is also headed for a rhetorical train wreck,” the story said.

“The principal danger is not that we will lose the life of an astronaut on the Moon, but that the astronauts will murder English up there . . . . That they are likely to litter the intergalactic void with gibberish and twaddle.”

The smugness is rather remarkable, because despite the talent of the people it enlisted, Esquire got not a single decent line from any of them.

It got, in fact, a lot of gibberish and twaddle.

…With that as your benchmark, here’s a sampling of what Esquire’s best and brightest came up with:

John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist: “We will hafta pave the damn thing.”

Ayn Rand, libertarian thinker and novelist: “What hath man wrought!”

…Leonard Nimoy, the actor, then in his third season as Spock on the new TV series Star Trek: “I’d say to Earth, from here you are a peaceful, beautiful ball and I only wish everyone could see it with that perspective and unity.”

(16) BACK SEAT FLYING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Washington Post: “Airline tweets about where passengers are least likely to die in a crash”. The pic below is cribbed from the WaPo article. Apparently, they got ahold of a screenshot of the since-deleted tweet. The thought process of whoever sent this out must have been, well, let’s just call it astounding.

(17) A KING WILL BE CROWNED. Looper fills us in about The Most Anticipated Sci Fi Movies Of 2020.

2020 might feel far away, but Hollywood’s major studios are already planning ahead with some legit super hits on the horizon. And if you’re a fan of sci-fi flicks, then 2020’s looking like an especially good year for you. These are just a few of the most anticipated sci-fi blockbusters on their way to a big screen near you. Film fans will finally get the answer to an age-old question in 2020, when Godzilla and King Kong face off on the big screen. Director Adam Wingard has already assured fans that his take on the two monsters will crown a definitive winner, unlike the 1962 film that first pit the two characters against each other. This will be the fourth entry in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, first established in 2014’s Godzilla and further explored in Kong: Skull Island.

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

Motion to Extend Hugo Eligibility of Prospect

By Olav Rokne: Recently, JJ, Chris Barkley, and Kevin Standee helped me refine a motion that I intend to present at the next WSFS business meeting. The motion is in support of extending the eligibility of the movie Prospect, which was eligible for the 2019 nomination season, but was largely unavailable to most viewers until just over a month ago. It’s a low-budget SFF movie that I think really deserves attention from the fandom community. Getting this a Hugo nod would help it reach the wider audience that it thoroughly deserves. 

Here’s the motion: 


Short Title: Hugo Eligibility Extension for Prospect

Moved, to extend for one year the eligibility of the movie Prospect, based on limited availability, as authorized by Section 3.4.3 of the WSFS Constitution.

Proposed by: Olav Rokne, Marshall Boyd, Amanda Wakaruk, Chris M. Barkley

Commentary: The American film Prospect had its global premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas on March 5, 2018. There were a very limited number of theatrical screenings in large American cities in November of 2018.

Prospect was released on video-on-demand and home media on March 8, 2019.

Due to its limited release in 2018 and early 2019, very few members of Worldcon 76 or Dublin 2019 had the opportunity to view the film before the deadline for nominating the 2019 Hugo Awards.


Pixel Scroll 3/22/19 Dial P For Pixel

(1) LABORS OF LOVE. The Hugo Award Book Club has completed its series of articles on the depiction of labor unions in science fiction. Olav Rokne sent the links with a note, “I welcome any feedback, and appreciate being informed of any omissions.” 

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

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

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

Cory Doctorow has been one of the leading lights of the genre’s reappraisal of the role of employment in society and the relationship between workers and employers. Tackling such subjects as employment precarity, labour mobility, and income inequality, Doctorow’s work consistently shows a strong understanding of the labour union world.

Of particular note is his 2010 novel For The Win which depicts a unionization drive amongst workers who are paid to gather resources in a World Of Warcraft-style online game. This depiction shows the necessity of worker organization in the face of capital overreach, and is informed by knowledge of the systemic flaws in traditional labour organizing.

The first unmistakable labour union in science fiction cinema that we were able to find is the Textile and Garment Workers Union depicted in the 1951 Ealing Studios comedy The Man In The White Suit. The film revolves around the invention of an indestructible fabric by a mild-mannered chemist played by Sir Alec Guinness, and the subsequent attempts by business and labour unions to suppress the invention. The depiction of unions in this movie is broad and largely inaccurate, depicting them as collaborating with management and encouraging industrial sabotage.

Despite these inaccuracies about how unions operate, we will be endorsing The Man In The White Suit for 1952 Retro Hugos, . It is in most ways a superb and thoughtful piece of science fiction about the introduction of a new technology, and is elevated by witty dialogue and star-worthy performances (Guinness was nominated for an Academy Award that year for a different comedy from the same studio).

(2) COLD READING. Wil Wheaton has done a free audiocast of a 1931 story from Astounding, “The Cave Of Horrors” by Captain S.P. Meek at Soundcloud.

I needed to get out of my comfort zone, so I went to Project Gutenberg, clicked through a few bookshelves until I got to classic Science Fiction, and decided to do an unrehearsed, essentially live narration of a story that was published in Astounding Stories of Super Science in 1931.

It’s not the greatest story I’ve ever read (if I’d read it before I narrated it, I wouldn’t have chosen it), but it’s a fine representative of that era’s genre fiction writing. I had some fun doing my best impression of someone reading it in 1931, and I recorded it to share with any of you who are interested in this sort of thing.

(3) DAYS OF YORE. Rob Hansen has added reports, photos, and publications from “Brumcon 2 – The 1965 Eastercon” to his British fanhistory site THEN. Charlie Winstone’s conreport sets the stage:

It all started some fifteen months ago, – the Brummies, in a fit of derring-do, talked Ken Cheslin into standing up and calling for the 1965 Convention venue to be Birmingham. This he did, not without some misgivings. After all the British Science-Fiction Association’s Committee was also centred upon Birmingham. Still, there were plenty of Brummies (Easter Brummies, as they were christened by Archie Mercer) around – it was surely not an impossible task to put on a Convention.

(4) THE FINAL COURSE. Scott Edelman welcomes you to dig into dessert with Parvus Press publisher Colin Coyle in Episode 91 of Eating the Fantastic

Colin Coyle

This episode of Eating the Fantastic almost didn’t happen, and not just because it was recorded somewhat spontaneously. No, the reason this episode almost didn’t happen was because instead of digging into dessert, we were afraid we might be spending the night being interrogated by the Secret Service. And if that had occurred, the blame would be entirely on Parvus Press publisher Colin Coyle.

It was all due to his afternoon mission to visit the White House and fulfill Kickstarter rewards relating to his recently released anthology If This Goes On, edited by Cat Rambo. And because that title contains my short story “The Stranded Time Traveler Embraces the Inevitable,” I decided to tag along. We had an off-the-record lunch at Jaleo, but once we we’d completed our mission, we debriefed what we’d just done over dessert at Art and Soul.

We discussed the reason we were glad we got to record the episode rather than spend the night in jail, how the tragic events of Charlottesville inspired him to hire Cat Rambo to assemble the If This Goes On anthology, why he switched over to the Kickstarter model for this book and what surprises he discovered during the process, the reason his company isn’t publishing horror even though he’d like to, the surprising shared plot point slush pile writers used to indicate future American culture was failing, what an episode of West Wing taught him about launching Parvus Press, what he isn’t seeing enough of in the slush pile, the acting role of which he’s proudest from back in his theater days (hint: you’ve probably seen Danny DeVito do it), the advice he wishes he could have given himself when he started out as a publisher, and much more.

(5) RIGHTS GRAB. Peter Grant flags “Another Attack on Author Rights” at Mad Genius Club. He points to an Authors Guild report that the “Los Angeles Times Wants Rights to Books Written by Staff”, which begins –

One of the nation’s leading newspapers is attempting an unprecedented rights grab, according to its writers. In the midst of contract negotiations with its newsroom staff, the Los Angeles Times, purchased last year by biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shionghas proposed that its journalists, as a condition of employment, cede control of any books or other creative works made outside of their daily journalistic duties.

The Los Angeles Times Guild, a trade union representing some 400 newsroom staffers, has called the proposal “a new low in the newspaper industry,” pointing out that no other major newspaper has such strict copyright restrictions. “If we have a book idea related to our work,” according to the Times Guild, “the company wants unfettered power to claim control over whether it gets written, who owns the copyright and what we might get paid for it.”

 In a comment Dorothy Grant asks whether the AG complaint should be taken at face value:

Several thoughts on that: first, we’re not seeing the actual contract clause, we’re seeing what one party to the negotiations has taken public in an attempt to pressure the other side. Which means that the ratio of truth to hyperbole is… unknown.

(6) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. “Many of the short stories that inspired Love, Death + Robots are free online” says The Verge’s Andrew Liptak in a post that supplies the links.

(7) PUNCHING IN. Charlie Martin touts “The Power of Pulp” at PJ Media.  

But have you read any “quality” fiction recently? Between making sure that all the right demographics are presented in the exact right way, and the tendency of “quality” fiction to still be about nothing, most of it is not much fun. In fact, there’s even a technical term for reading that’s supposed to be fun: it’s called ludic fiction. It’s characterized by a particular experience: you get lost in it. You forget you’re reading and you’re engrossed in the vicarious experience.

Have you noticed that the people who stress the importance of “fun” rarely sound like they’re having any?

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 22, 1920 Ross Martin. Best known for portraying Artemus Gordon on The Wild Wild West. I watched the entire series on DVD one summer some decades back include the films in less than a month from start to finish. Now that was fun! It looks like Conquest of Space, a 1955 SF film, in which he played Andre Fodor was his first genre outing. The Colossus of New York in which he was the brilliant Jeremy ‘Jerry’ Spensser came next, followed by appearances on Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond, The Twilight Zone, Zorro, The Immortal, Night Gallery, Invisible ManGemini Man (a far cheaper version of Invisible Man), Quark (truly one of the worst SF series ever), Fantasy Island and Mork & Mindy. (Died 1981.)
  • Born March 22, 1930 Stephen Sondheim, 89. Several of his works were of a fantastical nature including Into The Woods which mines deeply into both Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault for its source material. And there’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which is damn fun even if it isn’t genre. 
  • Born March 22, 1931 William Shatner, 88. Today is indeed his Birthday.  I could write a long, detailed Birthday entry but y’all know everything I could possibly say here. Suffice it to that I did enjoy him on Trek for the most part and actually found his acting on TekWar where he was Walter H. Bascom to be some of his better work. Now the short-lived Barbary Coast series featuring his character of Jeff Cable was the epitome of his genre acting career. 
  • Born March 22, 1946 Rudy Rucker, 73. He’s certainly best known for the Ware Tetralogy, the first two of which, Software and Wetware, both won Philip K. Dick Award. Though not genre, I do recommend As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel.
  • Born March 22, 1950 Mary Tamm. She’s remembered for her role as Romana, the companion to the Fourth Doctor in “The Key to Time” story. It seemed liked she was there longer only because another actress, Lalla Ward, played her in the following season. This actress was soon to be married to Tom Baker. She also appears briefly in the 20th Anniversary special The Five Doctors through the reuse of footage from the uncompleted story Shada. Tamm had only one other genre gig, to wit as  Ginny in  “Luau” on the Tales That Witness Madness series. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 22, 1969 Alex Irvine, 50. I strongly recommend One King, One Soldier, his offbeat Arthurian novel, and The Narrows, a WW II Detroit golem factory where fantasy tropes get a severe trouncing. He’s also wrote The Vertigo Encyclopedia which was an in-house project so, as he told me back then, DC delivered him one copy of every Vertigo title they had sitting in the warehouse.  For research purposes. And he’s written a fair number of comics, major and minor houses alike.  
  • Born March 22, 1978 Joanna Page, 41. Queen Elizabeth I in the first episode of “The Day of the Doctor” on Doctor Who in which the Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor and the War Doctor all make appearances. Other genre appearances are scant but she did play María on Bedlam, a British supernatural series, she was Gladys in a film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and she also played of Ann Cook in  the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s From Hell.  

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • In Baldo someone has come up with a good trick for increasing their reading time.
  • Cats’ fascination with laser pointers is the basis for the science fictional humor in Grimmy.
  • Arctic Circle has a gag inspired by Chang’e-4.
  • A retro tech joke in Bizarro. (How many Filers remember when these were sold in the backs of comic books?)
  • BBC’s article “How a bookshop wolf handles awkward customers” includes lots of illos.

We’ve all heard of the saying “the customer is always right” but when you work in service industries, what can you do to vent your frustration when the customer is rather annoying?

Whether it’s children running riot, requests for the most obscure information, or just plain rude customers, Australian bookshop worker Anne Barnetson has faced it all. But she’s come up with a rather novel way of dealing with such awkward situations.

Anne is the creator of Customer Service Wolf, a comic found on Instagram and Tumblr. It gives a humorous anthropomorphic take on life dealing with strangers turning up in bookshops with strange requests.

(10) PLAYING IN OVERTIME. Tolkien and Hubbard are not the only prolific deceased authors in our midst. See “Isaac Bashevis Singer from Beyond the Grave” in The Paris Review.

As if in fulfillment of his own prophecy, Isaac Bashevis Singer has been astonishingly prolific in death. An untranslated magnum opus, Shadows on the Hudson, was translated into English in 1998, followed by a sequel collection of reminiscences of pre-1914 Jewish Warsaw, More Stories from My Father’s Court, followed by a steady, enviable beat of short stories, either unpublished or published in Yiddish but never translated, stories steadily adding to and enriching Singer’s great twin themes: the magical Yiddishkeit cosmos wrecked in World War II and the scattered, wandering survivors of that wreckage. In the past two years, Singer’s stories have been published in Harper’s and The New Yorker. Another, “The Murderer,” appears in the current spring issue of The Paris Review. Every few months, it seems, there is a Singer dispatch from beyond the grave, another unlabeled bottle floating in on the tide. Reading his bibliography, one would never guess he has been dead nearly three decades. And there will be more Singer for the foreseeable future, as the editor of his estate told The New Yorker: “There are novels, short stories, memoirs, even plays—some of which appeared in Yiddish and some of which … exist only as handwritten manuscripts.” Heaps of Singer’s words are wheeling blindly about in library archives, at the bottoms of desk drawers, manuscripts translated by hand on magazine tear sheets, unilluminated microfilm vibrantly uncollected and unclassified. He and his oeuvre refuse to be still. They seem to wend their way to the surface with something like the residue of Singer’s consciousness, or rather with the uncanny pseudoconsciousness of an automaton, set in motion by a now-dead hand.

(11) GAME IN THE WORKS. Rad Magpie’s mission is to “Support underrepresented creators and radical interactive media.” Their first in-house studio is working on the first Sri Lankan fantasy game to exist called Sigiriya with Mary Anne Mohanraj

Sigiriya is a mobile game set in the ancient Sri Lankan fortress of the same name. Our interactive experience marries heart-centered, narrative-driven gameplay with both fantastical and historical elements.

Our team is working to bring this game to life, and we are currently in the early production phases.

(12) YOU ASKED FOR IT, WE GOT IT.  “Toyota to Help Develop Moon Rover” says the headline, though Daniel Dern comments, “In my initial glimpse I thought it said “Moon River” and wasn’t sure if it was about the song, or they were going ‘Lunar Duckboats!’”

Toyota will be adding some depth to its development prowess when it partners with Japan’s space agency to create a manned lunar rover powered by fuel cell technologies.

According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), though Japan has no plans to send humans into space at this time, the rover could serve as a building block to eventually get them there.

(13) DRAGON LADY. In her New Yorker article “A Battle for My Life”. Emilia Clarke, TV’s Daenerys Targaryen, reveals she had two surgeries for brain aneurysms after season 1 and season 3 of Game of Thrones, and discusses that people should be urgently treated if they have brain or stroke problems.

Just when all my childhood dreams seemed to have come true, I nearly lost my mind and then my life. I’ve never told this story publicly, but now it’s time.

(14) ABOVE THE STORM. BBC admires this photo taken by Juno: “Planet Jupiter: Spectacular picture of Jupiter’s storms”.

This beautiful picture of Jupiter was assembled from three separate images acquired by Nasa’s Juno spacecraft as it made another of its close passes of the gas giant.

The probe has a colour camera onboard and citizen scientists are encouraged to play with the data to make their own views of the planet.

This one, which is colour-enhanced, was produced by Kevin M Gill.

The US space agency has dubbed it “Jupiter Marble” – a reference to the full disc pictures of Earth captured by satellites down the years that have been called “Blue Marble”.

(15) LOOK OUT, IT’S A JUGGERNAUT! From BBC we learn – “Autonomous shuttle to be tested in New York City”.

A self-driving shuttle service is to be deployed in New York City by the middle of the year.

Boston start-up Optimus Ride will run vehicles on private roads at the Brooklyn Navy Yard site located on New York’s East River.

The shuttle will help workers get around the large site.

(16) CALL FOR A VERDICT. The question is: “Can you murder a robot?” The BBC story covers a lot of ground.

Back in 2015, a hitchhiker was murdered on the streets of Philadelphia.

It was no ordinary crime. The hitchhiker in question was a little robot called Hitchbot. The “death” raised an interesting question about human-robot relationship – not so much whether we can trust robots but whether the robots can trust us.

The answer, it seems, was no.….

Hitchbot is not the first robot to meet a violent end.

Dr Kate Darling, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), encouraged people to hit dinosaur robots with a mallet, in an workshop designed to test just how nasty we could be to a machine.

She also conducted an experiment with small bug-like robots.

Most people struggled to hurt the bots, found Dr Darling.

“There was a correlation between how empathetic people were and how long it took them to hit a robot,” she told BBC News, at her lab in Boston.

“What does it say about you as a person if you are willing to be cruel to a robot. Is it morally disturbing to beat up something that reacts in a very lifelike way?” she asked.

The reaction of most people was to protect and care for the robots.

“One woman was so distressed that she removed the robot’s batteries so that it couldn’t feel pain,” Dr Darling said.

(17) MERGER MASHUPS. Chris Hemsworth on Instagram celebrated the Disney-Fox merger by wearing a Deadpool outfit with a Viking helmet.  Ryan Reynolds marked the merger by wearing mouse ears on his Deadpool outfit on his Instagram post.

View this post on Instagram

Our love child #thor #deadpool @vancityreynolds

A post shared by Chris Hemsworth (@chrishemsworth) on

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Feels like the first day of ‘Pool.

A post shared by Ryan Reynolds (@vancityreynolds) on

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Why Do Flat-Earth Believers Still Exist?” on YouTube, John Timmer of Ars Technica shows the increasinly flimsy evidence flat earth followers have for claiming the earth is flat.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/19 Pix-El: The Man of Scroll

(1) TOLKIEN RESEARCH SURVEY. Robin Anne Reid of the Department of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce is continuing to collect surveys for the project mentioned in the January 11 Scroll (item 2) – “I have 42 but more would be nice.”

The link leads to Reid’s academic Dreamwidth page for the informed consent information. The link from there goes to SurveyMonkey. Reid’s cover letter says: 

Hello: I am a professor of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMUC) who is doing a research project. The project asks how readers of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium who are at least eighteen years old and who are atheists, agnostics, animists, or part of New Age movements interpret his work in the context of the common assumption that Tolkien’s Catholic beliefs must play a part in what readers see as the meaning of his fiction.

I have created a short survey which consists of ten open-ended questions about your religious and/or spiritual background, your experiences of Tolkien’s work, and your ideas about the relationship between religious beliefs and interpreting his work. It would take anywhere from thirty minutes to several hours to complete the survey, depending on how much you write in response to the questions.  The survey is uploaded to my personal account at Survey Monkey: only I will have access to the responses. My research proposal has been reviewed by the TAMUC Institutional Review Board.

If you are eighteen years or older, and are an atheist, agnostic, animist, or part of a New Age movement that emphasizes spirituality but not a creator figure, you are invited to go to my academic blog to see more information about the survey. The survey will be open from December 1, 2018-January 31, 2019, closing at 11:30 PM GMT-0500 Central Daylight Time.

Complete information about the project and how your anonymity and privacy will be protected can be found at by clicking on the link:

https://robin-anne-reid.dreamwidth.org/50424.html

(2) RETRO READING. The Hugo Award Book Club‘s Olav Rokne recalls: “The Retro-Hugo for Best Graphic Story was overlooked by enough nominators that it failed to be awarded last year. That’s a real shame, because I can tell you that there was a lot of work that’s worth celebrating. It’s actually quite sad that it was forgotten last year, and I’m sincerely hoping that people don’t neglect the category this year.” That’s the reason for his recommended reading post  “Retro Hugo – Best Graphic Story 1944”.  

(3) A FEMINIST SFF ROUNDUP. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview of 2018 in “A Year In Feminist Speculative Fiction” at the British Science Fiction Association’s Vector blog. Morgan’s first recommendation —

Top of the list for anyone’s feminist reading from 2018 must be Maria Dahvana Headley’s amazing re-telling of Beowulf, The Mere Wife. Set in contemporary America, with a gated community taking the place of Heorot Hall, and a policeman called Ben Wolfe in the title role, it uses the poem’s story to tackle a variety of issues. Chief among them is one of translation. Why is it that Beowulf is always described as a hero, whereas Grendel’s Mother is a hag or a wretch? In the original Anglo-Saxon, the same word is used to describe both of them. And why do white women vote for Trump? The book tackles both of those questions, and more. I expect to see it scooping awards.

(4) HONEY, YOU GOT TO GET THE SCIENCE RIGHT. Where have I heard that before? Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is netting all kinds of awards, but writing for CNN, physicist Don Lincoln opines that, “‘Spider-verse’ gets the science right — and wrong.” Of course, this is an animated movie and maybe Don is a bit of a grump.

CNN—(Warning: Contains mild spoilers) 

As a scientist who has written about colliding black holes and alien space probes, I was already convinced I was pretty cool. But it wasn’t until I sat down to watch “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” that I understood the extent of my own coolness. There on the screen was fictional scientific equipment that was clearly inspired by the actual apparatus that my colleagues and I use to try to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Amid the action, the coming-of-age story, a little romance and a few twists and turns, the movie shows a fictional gadget located in New York City called a collider, which connects parallel universes and brings many different versions of Spider-Man into a single universe.

(5) SFF TV EDITOR. CreativeCOW.net features a rising star in “Editing SYFY”.

When talking about her career path, you get the immediate sense that rejection isn’t a “no” for Shiran Amir. There’s never been an obstacle that’s kept her from living her dream. Shattering ceiling after glass ceiling, she makes her rise up through the ranks look like a piece of cake. However, her story is equal parts strategy and risk – and none of it was easy.

After taking countless chances in her career, of which some aspiring editors don’t see the other side, she has continually pushed herself to move onward and upward. She’s been an assistant editor on Fear the Walking Dead, The OA, and Outcast to name a few, before becoming a full-fledged editor of Z Nation for SyFy, editing the 4th and 9th episodes of the zombie apocalypse show’s final season, with its final episode airing December 28, 2018. She’s currently on the Editors Guild Board of Directors and is involved in the post-production community in Los Angeles.

And she’s only 30 years old.

(6) ARISIA. Bjo Trimble poses with fans in Star Trek uniforms.

The con also overcame horrible weather and other challenges:

And here’s a further example of the Arisia’s antiharassment measures:

(7) EXTRA CREDITS. The Extra Credits Sci Fi series on YouTube began Season 3 with “Tolkien and Herbert – The World Builder”

Mythic worldbuilding and intentionality just weren’t staples of science fiction until the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert were published. We’ll be doing an analysis of The Lord of the Rings and Dune, respectively–works that still stand out today because they are meticulously crafted.

Here are links to playlists for the first two seasons:

  • The first season covered the origins of SF up to John Campbell.
  • The second season covered the Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke era up to the start of the New Wave.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. Early pulp writer whose career consisted of eight complete novels and a number of short stories. Gutenberg has all of all his novels and most of his stories available online.  H. P. Lovecraft notes in a letter that he was a major influence upon his writings, and a number of authors including Michael Moorcock and Robert Bloch list him as being among their favorite authors. 
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” being his only ones as he didn’t do SF Really preferring Westerners. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 20, 1926 Patricia Neal. Best known to genre buffs for her film role as World War II widow Helen Benson in The Day the Earth Stood Still. She also appeared in Stranger from Venus, your usual British made flying saucer film. She shows up in the Eighties in Ghost Story based off a Peter Straub novel, and she did an episode of The Ghost Story series which was later retitled Circle Of Fear in hopes of getting better ratings (it didn’t, it was cancelled).  If Kung Fu counts as genre, she did an appearance there. (Died 2010)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 85. The Fourth Doctor and my introduction to Doctor Who. My favorite story? The Talons of Weng Chiang with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worse of the stories, and there were truly shitty stories, were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. He did have a turn before being the Fourth Doctor as Sherlock Holmes In The Hound of the Baskervilles, and though not genre, he turns up as Rasputin early in his career in Nicholas and Alexandra! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of SinbadThe MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech made  Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • Born January 20, 1946 David Lynch, 73. Director of possibly the worst SF film ever made from a really great novel in the form of Dune. Went on to make Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me which is possibly one of the weirdest films ever made. (Well with Blue Velvet being a horror film also vying for top honors as well.) Oh and I know that I didn’t mention Eraserhead. You can talk about that film.
  • Born January 20, 1948Nancy Kress, 71. Best known for her Hugo and Nebula Award winning Beggars in Spain and its sequels. Her latest novel is If Tomorrow Comes: Book 2 in the Yesterday’s Kin trilogy.
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 61. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing indeed. She’s also worked for Tor, TSR and Dark Horse. Wow. Where was I? Oh about to mention her writings… if you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories
  • Born January 20, 1964 Francesca Buller, 55. Performer and wife of Ben Browder, yes that’s relevant as she’s been four different characters on Farscape, to wit she played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee. Minister Ahkn is likely the one you remember her as being. Farscape is her entire genre acting career.  

(9) IS BRAM STOKER SPINNING? It’s all about Scott Edelman:

(10) MAGICON. Fanac.org has added another historic video to its YouTube channel: “MagiCon (1992) Worldcon – Rusty Hevelin interviews Frank Robinson.”

MagiCon, the 50th Worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. In this video, Rusty Hevelin interviews fan, editor and author Frank Robinson on his career, both fannish and professional and on the early days of science fiction. Frank talks about the war years, the fanzines he published, the Ray Palmer era in magazines, his time at Rogue Magazine and lots more. Highlights include: working with Ray Palmer, discussion on the line between fan and pro writing, the story of George Pal’s production of ‘The Power’ from Frank’s story of that name, and Frank’s views on the impact of science fiction and of fantasy. Frank Robinson was a true devotee of the field – “Science fiction can change the world.”

(11) MUONS VS. MEGS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Those cheering for the stupid-large shark in last year’s The Meg, may now know what to blame for the lack of megalodons in the current age. A story in Quanta Magazine (“How Nearby Stellar Explosions Could Have Killed Off Large Animals”) explains a preprint paper (“Hypothesis: Muon Radiation Dose and Marine Megafaunal Extinction at the End-Pliocene Supernova”). Using iron-60 as a tracer, supernovae have been tracked to a time of mass extinction at the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary 2.6 million years ago. The paper’s authors make the leap from that to a hypothesis that a huge spike in muons that would have occurred when supernova radiation slammed into Earth’s atmosphere could have contributed to that extinction.

Even though Earth is floating in the void, it does not exist in a vacuum. The planet is constantly bombarded by stuff from space, including a daily deluge of micrometeorites and a shower of radiation from the sun and more-distant stars. Sometimes, things from space can maim or kill us, like the gargantuan asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. More often, stellar smithereens make their way to Earth and the moon and then peacefully settle, remaining for eternity, or at least until scientists dig them up.

[…] But the search for cosmic debris on Earth has a long history. Other researchers have demonstrated that it’s possible to find fossil evidence of astrophysical particles in Earth’s crust. Some researchers are pondering how these cosmic events affect Earth — even whether they have altered the course of evolution. A new study suggests that energetic particles from an exploding star may have contributed to the extinction of a number of megafauna, including the prehistoric monster shark megalodon, which went extinct at around the same time.

“It’s an interesting coincidence,” said Adrian Melott, an astrophysicist at the University of Kansas and the author of a new paper.

(12) STEPPING UP. “Girl Scouts of America offers badge in cybersecurity” – a BBC video report.

Girl Scouts of America is now offering girls as young as five a badge in cybersecurity.

It’s part of a drive to get more girls involved in science, technology engineering and mathematics from a young age.

An event in Silicon Valley gave scouts an opportunity to earn the first patch in the activity, with the help of some eggs.

(13) A LITTLE GETAWAY. The BBC asks “Is this the least romantic weekend ever?”

The road runs straight and black into the gloom of the snowy birch forest. It is -5C (23F), the sky is slate-grey and we’re in a steamy minibus full of strangers. Not very romantic you’re thinking, and I haven’t yet told you where we’re going.

My wife, Bee, had suggested a cheeky New Year break. Just the two of us, no kids. “Surprise me,” she’d said.

Then I met a bloke at a friend’s 50th. He told me how much he and his girlfriend had enjoyed a trip to Chernobyl – that’s right, the nuclear power station that blew up in the 1980s, causing the worst civilian nuclear disaster in history.

“Don’t worry,” my new friend declared, a large glass of wine in his hand. “It’s safe now.”

Well, she’d said she’d like something memorable…

(14) HARRIMAN REDUX. BBC considers the question — “Chang’e-4: Can anyone ‘own’ the Moon?”

Companies are looking at mining the surface of the Moon for precious materials. So what rules are there on humans exploiting and claiming ownership?

It’s almost 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. “That’s one small step for a man,” the US astronaut famously said, “one giant leap for mankind.”

Shortly afterwards, his colleague Buzz Aldrin joined him in bounding across the Sea of Tranquility. After descending from the steps of the Eagle lunar module, he gazed at the empty landscape and said: “Magnificent desolation.”

Since the Apollo 11 mission of July 1969, the Moon has remained largely untouched – no human has been there since 1972. But this could change soon, with several companies expressing an interest in exploring and, possibly, mining its surface for resources including gold, platinum and the rare earth minerals widely used in electronics.

(15) UNIDENTIFIED FEDERAL OUTLAYS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Piggybacking on a Washington Post article (paywalled here) and a Vice article (freely available here), SYFY Wire says, “The government’s secret UFO program has just been revealed, and it’s something out of a sci-fi movie.”

We didn’t know much about the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program until now, but apparently, the Department of Defense has been focusing its efforts far beyond potential threats on Earth.

The Defense Intelligence Agency has finally let the public in on at least some of what it’s been up to by recently releasing a list of 38 research titles that range from the weird to the downright bizarre. It would have never revealed these titles—on topics like invisibility cloaking, wormholes and extradimensional manipulation—if it wasn’t for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request put in by the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Society, Steven Aftergood.

(16) STANDING TALL. BBC traces “How Japan’s skyscrapers are built to survive earthquakes” in a photo gallery with some interesting tech info. “Japan is home to some of the most resilient buildings in the world – and their secret lies in their capacity to dance as the ground moves beneath them.”

The bar is set by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. This was a large earthquake – of magnitude 7.9 – that devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, and killed more than 140,000 people.

For earthquakes of a greater magnitude than this benchmark, preserving buildings perfectly is no longer the goal. Any damage that does not cause a human casualty is acceptable.

“You design buildings to protect people’s lives,” says Ziggy Lubkowski, a seismic specialist at University College London. “That’s the minimum requirement.”

(17) ORDER IN THE TINY BRICK COURT. SYFY Wire reports “Ruth Bader Ginsburg will uphold the Constitution in Lego Movie 2: The Second Part cameo”.

If nothing else, the upcoming sequel to The Lego Movie will adhere strictly to the legal confines of the U.S. Constitution.

That’s because 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will have a cameo as a black-robed, law-defining minifigure in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, according to the film’s director, Mike Mitchell.

“These movies are so full of surprises. And we were thinking, ‘Who’s the last person you would think to see in a Lego film as a minifig?’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg!” Mitchell told USA Today. “And we’re all huge fans. It made us laugh to think of having her enter this world.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More details at the link.

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

9. Sarah Maria Griffin (1988-)

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st Place

  • Owl Goingback – Indian Pumpkin Fry Bread

2nd Place – Tie

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

3rd Place – Tie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True or False:

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

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

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

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

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel scroll, pixel scroll,

Pixels all the way.

Oh, what fun it is to rhyme

With Camestros today.

Scrolling pixels through

With Camestros today,

Internets we view,

Laughing all the way.

Trolls will fail to sting,

Making spirits bright.

Camestros and we shall sing

A scrolling song tonight.

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