Pixel Scroll 4/8/21 Illinois Pixels! I Hate Illinois Pixels.

(1) AMAZING STORIES ON HIATUS. Steve Davidson’s Amazing Stories issued a press release announcing that “A major licensing agreement using the Amazing Stories name has been terminated owing to non-payment.” As a result, the magazine won’t be coming out. (The website will remain active.)

… Due to the failure to pay and due to the many other costs directly related to this contract, Experimenter Publisher is currently no longer able to maintain the publishing schedule of Amazing Stories magazine, and that publication has been placed in hiatus pending the resolution of these issues…

The licensee is not named, although curiously the press release criticizes another company, Disney, by name. (Disney isn’t the licensee. And you don’t need to tell me in comments who you think it is – I know who it is. The point is this press release announces litigation yet refuses to speak the target’s name out loud.)  

The Amazing Stories’ Patreon page is slightly more forthcoming than the press release.

We licensed a major corporation several years ago and factored licensing fees into our budget.  Unfortunately, those fees have not been received, which places us behind the 8-ball.

Our licensee has been formally notified of numerous breeches of our contract and our intention to terminate that contract.  Service was sent to the contractually designated addresses and we have received no response, not even an acknowledgement of our notice to them.

This strongly suggests that they are planning on waiting to see what we are going to do and then will use their enormous budget and other assets to continue to ignore the fact that they no longer have the rights to use the name, or, perhaps even more problematic, sue us in order to remove us from the picture.

We can not afford to defend ourselves from such an unjustified action at this point in time.  Further, the current state of limbo discourages any other studio from working with the property, preventing us from developing other potential revenue sources.

Perhaps “encouraging” us to go away was the plan all along – but given the lack of communication, we doubt we’ll ever know the real reasons behind why they have chosen not to honor their contractual obligations.

What we DO know is, fighting this fight has put us in a deep hole and if the licensee decides to fight (likely), we’ll be in an even deeper hole.

We need your help to keep this dream alive.

(2) VANDERMEER’S LATEST. Paul Di Filippo reviews “’Hummingbird Salamander,’ by Jeff VanderMeer for the Washington Post.

… Now from this daring and ever-shifting author comes “Hummingbird Salamander,” a volume more naturalistic, more like a traditional thriller than its predecessors, but one that also features hooks into the literary novel of paranoid conspiracy, a genre best exemplified by Thomas Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49.” In fact, our doughty and frankly terrifying heroine, “Jane Smith,” might be the Oedipa Maas the 21st century needs.

(3) THAT DIDN’T TAKE LONG. Joel Hodgson is running a Kickstarter — “Let’s Make More MST3K & Build THE GIZMOPLEX!” Did people think that was a good idea? Yes! In the first 24 hours they’ve raised $2,162,492 of their $2,000,000 goal. The reasons for returning to crowdfunding the series include —

In the not-too-distant past – about 6 years ago, November 2015 AD – we ran a Kickstarter to BRING BACK MST3K after 15 years in hibernation.

It was a little bit stressful, and a lot of work, but I’ve gotta tell you… the whole experience went better than we had ever hoped:

  • Thanks to you, our campaign broke a bunch of Kickstarter records.
  • Over 48,000 of you took up the cause… and together, we raised over $6 million.
  • With your help, we got picked up on Netflix and made 20 new episodes!

And you know, you can’t ever please everybody, but it seems like most of you were pretty happy with ’em…. and the critics were too: 

Also, having those new episodes on Netflix, along with a lot of our “classic” episodes, helped a lot of folks discover Mystery Science Theater for the first time. So, if you weren’t there to help #BringBackMST3K… Welcome! We’re glad you’re here to help  #MakeMoreMST3K.

Anyway: as you know, nothing good lasts forever.  Sometime in late 2019, during our third live tour, we got word: even though Netflix liked how our new episodes came out, they wouldn’t be renewing us for a third new season….

2. It’s time to try something new.

  • If enough of you want more MST3K, maybe we don’t need anyone to renew us.
  • From now on, we want you to decide how long MST3K keeps going.
  • We don’t need a network to “let us” make more MST3K. We can make it for you. 
  • When we do, you should be the first ones to see it.

(4) A LAND OF MARVELS. “Avengers Campus at Disneyland Resort Set to Open and Recruit Super Heroes June 4”Disney Parks Blog has a preview.

Super Heroes Assemble! As we’ve all been anticipating, I’m pleased to share that Avengers Campus – an entirely new land dedicated to discovering, recruiting and training the next generation of Super Heroes – will open June 4, 2021 at the Disneyland Resort!

…The first key area is the Worldwide Engineering Brigade – also known as WEB. It brings together bright innovators like Peter Parker who have been assembled by Tony Stark to invent new technologies and equip everyday people to become Super Heroes like the Avengers. WEB will house the new WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure, the first Disney ride-through attraction to feature the iconic friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!

We previously shared that Tom Holland will reprise his role as Spider-Man in the new family-friendly attraction, which invites you to put your web-slinging skills to the test and experience what it’s like to have powers alongside Spider-Man – a feat accomplished with innovative technology adapted specifically for this attraction, perfect for up-and-coming recruits of all ages.

The second anchor attraction looms high above the land, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!, a fan-favorite that opened in 2017….

(5) FEARS FOR WHAT AILS YOU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In“Scary Times Call for Scary Reads” on CrimeReads, Jennifer MacMahon says that scary books are what you should be reading during the pandemic.

Recently, I was talking with a friend who was excited to hear I had a new book coming out soon. “But is it scary?” she asked apprehensively. I told her a little about it: a woman returns to her old family home after her sister drowns in the spring fed pool—oh, and the pool is rumored to be bottomless and her sister believed there was something lurking in the water. So yeah, it’s a little creepy. My friend apologized and said that she just couldn’t read unsettling books because of how unsettling the world is right now. I would argue (and did!) that that is exactly when we need these books the most; they take us to dark places and help us explore our fears from the relative safety of our favorite reading spot…

(6) DON’T ASK. “Yahoo Answers, a Haven for the Confused, Is Shutting Down” reports the New York Times.

At times on Yahoo Answers, the people asking questions of strangers lunged for the hallucinatory limits of human curiosity: What would a heaven for elephants be like? Should scientists give octopi bones?

It helped people identify their sense of self: Why do people with baguettes think they are better than me? Is being popular in high school a good skill I can use in a job interview?

It sought explanations for the unexplainable: Smoke coming from my belly button? Why is everything at my grandma’s house moist?

And it gave air to gaps in knowledge and admissions that perhaps had nowhere else to go: What does a hug feel like?

Yahoo, which is owned by Verizon Media, will be shutting down the question-and-answer service and deleting its archives on May 4, erasing a corner of the internet that will be widely remembered for its — to be charitable — less-than-enriching contributions to human knowledge since its arrival in 2005.

Less charitably, BuzzFeed News this week called it “one of the dumbest places on the internet.” Vulture said it was “populated entirely with Batman villains, aliens pretending to be human, and that one weird neighbor you’d rather climb down your fire escape in a blizzard than get caught in a conversation with.”

There is plenty of evidence for that position. People asked: Can you milk Gushers to make fruit juice? Can I cook raw chicken in the Michael wave? I forgot when my job interview is? What animal is Sonic the hedgehog? IS THIS YAHOO EMAIL SUPPORT?

Most famously, in a question that launched a meme, a confused soul who had learned little about reproductive science or spelling asked: How is babby formed?

It was never known how many of the questions were based in earnest ignorance and curiosity, and how much was intentional trolling. Answering required no expertise, and often displayed little of it.

But the site clearly was seen by some people, including children, as a comfortable space to ask the questions — sometimes important ones — they’d never dare to ask friends, families and teachers….

(7) ZOOMING INTO FANHISTORY. [Item by Joe Siclari.] The Fanac Fan History Project has three more Zoom Programs coming up over the next two months.

April 17, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London –  Early Star Trek Fandom, with Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam.  Stories and anecdotes from Ruth and Devra about their entry into fandom, about the origins of Star Trek fandom, and how they came to publish T-Negative and Spockanallia. For those of us that came into fandom later, here’s a chance to hear how Star Trek was received in general fandom, how Trek fandom got started, who the BNFs were and what they were they like.  How did the first Trek fanzines and Trek conventions affect fandom, and how did Trek fandom grow  and become its own thing. RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.

April 27, Tuesday – 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT,  9PM London. An Interview with Erle Korshak by Joe Siclari. Erle Korshak is one of our remaining FIrst Fans (inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996) and a Guest of Honor at Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon). Erle was an organizer of the first Chicon,  the 1940 Worldcon, and was one of the Worldcon auctioneers for many years. He started Shasta Publishers, one of the first successful specialty SF publishers.  He was also involved with early SF movies. In this session, fan historian Joe Siclari  will interview Erle and his son Steve about early fandom, early conventions (including Worldcons), Shasta, and both Erle and Steve’s continuing interest in illustration art. Note: this is a midweek session. RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.

May 22, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London – An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble. Bjo and John Trimble have had an enormous impact on fandom from the 1950s onward. They’ve pubbed their ish, and some of the zines are available on FANAC.org. Bjo created the convention art show as we know it today (pre-pandemic) with Project Art Show, and published PAS-tell to share info with interested fans everywhere. In LASFS,  Bjo had a large role in reviving a flagging LASFS in the late 50s. Her most famous contribution was the successful Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in a 3rd year of the original series. Bjo was one of the organziers of Los Angeles fandom’s film making endeavors.  John is a co-founder of the LASFS clubzine, De Profundis and an editor of Shangri-L’Affaires. Bjo and John were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJose (2002), and were nominated twice for Best Fanzine Hugos. Bjo was nominated for the Best Fan Artist Hugo. In this interview, expect stories and anecdotes of Los Angeles fandom, how the art show came to be, Save Star Trek and much more.  RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.

(8) SPEAKING OF MATH. Although James Davis Nicoll is aTor.com blogging machine, after he ran the numbers he realized, “I still won’t hit 1000 tor essays until 2032 or 2033….” Whichever number this is, the title is: “Five SF Stories That Embrace the Scientifically Improbable Reactionless Drive”.

… The rocket equation is vexatious for SF authors for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s math. 2) It imposes enormous constraints on the sort of stories the sort of author who cares about math can tell.   Drives that produce thrust without emitting mass are therefore very attractive.  Small surprise that persons with an enthusiasm for space travel and a weakness for crank science leap on each iteration of the reactionless drive as it bubbles up in the zeitgeist.

One such crank was John W. Campbell, Jr., the notorious editor of Astounding/Analog (for whom a dwindling number of awards are named). Because of his position and because authors, forever addicted to luxuries like clothing, food, and shelter, wanted to sell stories to Campbell, Campbell’s love of reactionless drives like the Dean Drive created an environment in which stories featuring such drives could flourish, at Analog and elsewhere….

(9) BONANNO OBIT. Author Margaret Wander Bonanno (1950-2021) has died reports Keith R.A. DeCandido. She wrote seven Star Trek novels, several science fiction novels set in her own worlds, including The Others, a collaborative novel with Nichelle Nichols, a biography, and other works. Her novel Preternatural was a New York Times Notable Book for 1997.[

DeCandido’s tribute “Margaret Wander Bonanno, RIP” says in part:

…We remained friends over the years, and when she came back to writing Trek fiction in the 2000s, I got to work with her a few times: I served as the line editor on her Christopher Pike novel Burning Dreams, I was the continuity editor on her Lost Era novel Catalyst of Sorrows, and best of all, I commissioned her to write the conclusion to the Mere Anarchy eBook series that celebrated Trek‘s 40th anniversary in 2006. Margaret did a superb job with the conclusion of this miniseries, which was entitled Its Hour Come Round, and which included one of my favorite scenes in any work of Trek fiction, a conversation between Raya elMora (one of the recurring characters in Mere Anarchy) and Klingon Chancellor Azetbur (from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • April 8, 1887 Hope Mirrlees. She is best known for the 1926 Lud-in-the-Mist, a fantasy novel apparently beloved by many. (I’m not one of them.) In 1970, an American reprint was published without the author’s permission, as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born April 8, 1907 – Vincent Napoli.  Four covers, two hundred forty interiors for us; WPA (Works Progress Adm’n) muralist, e.g. this.  Here is an interior for “Time and Time Again” – H. Beam Piper, Apr 47 Astounding.  Here is one for “The Earth Men” – R. Bradbury, Aug 48 Thrilling Wonder Stories.  Here is one for ”Dark o’ the Moon” – S. Quinn, Jul 49 Weird Tales.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born April 8, 1912 –Ted Carnell.  Fan Guest of Honor at Cinvention the 7th Worldcon, brought by the Big Pond Fund.  Chaired Loncon I the 15th Worldcon.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 11.  Developed a pro career, editing New Worlds, Science FantasySF AdventuresNew Writing in SF; five dozen author profiles.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born April 8, 1933 – Cele Goldsmith.  Edited Amazing and Fantastic – both at once – living up to those names.  Special Committee Award form Chicon III the 20th Worldcon.  Amazing memoir years later in the Mar 83 issue.  Andrew Porter’s appreciation here.  Mike Ashley’s here.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born April 8, 1939 – Trina Hyman. Twoscore covers, a score of interiors for us; illustrated a hundred fifty books all told, e.g. A Room Made of Windows.  Here is Peter Pan.  Here is the Aug 88 F & SF.  Here is The Serpent Slayer.  Caldecott Medal, Boston Globe – Horn Book and Golden Kite Awards.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • April 8, 1942 Douglas Trumbull, 79. Let’s call him a genius and leave it at that. He contributed to, or was fully responsible for, the special photographic effects of Close Encounters of the Third Kind2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner, and directed the movies Silent Running and Brainstorm. And Trumbull was executive producer for Starlost. (CE) 
  • April 8, 1967 Cecilia Tan, 54. Editor, writer and founder of Circlet Press, which she says is the first press devoted to erotic genre fiction. It has published well over a hundred digital book to date with such titles as Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords and Other Stories from the Erotic Edge of SF/Fantasy (Wouldn’t Bester be surprised to learn that. I digress), Sex in the System: Stories of Erotic Futures, Technological Stimulation, and the Sensual Life of Machines and Genderflex: Sexy Stories on the Edge and In-Between. She has two series, Magic University and The Prince’s Boy. (CE) 
  • Born April 8, 1968 – Alex Toader, age 53.  (Romanian name, “toe-AH-derr”.)  Here is The Day Dreamer.  Here is the Predator drop ship (Predators, N. Antal dir. 2010).  Here is a Terra-to-Mars spaceport.  Here is Tractor Beams Engaged.  [JH]
  • April 8, 1974 Nnedi Okorafor, 47. Who Fears Death won a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.  Lagoon which is an Africanfuturism or Africanjujuism novel (her terms) was followed by her amazing Binti trilogy. Binti which led it off that trilogy won both a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award for best novella. Several of her works have been adapted for video, both in Africa and in North America. (CE) 
  • Born April 8, 1978 – Natasha Rhodes, age 43.  Eight novels, one shorter story.  Motion pictures too, some of the novels are tie-ins.  Interview here; among much else she says “There were a lot of male sulky faces and pouty lips when women’s rights came in and became the norm rather than the exception.” [JH]
  • April 8, 1980 Katee Sackhoff, 41. Being noted here  for playing Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica though I must confess I’ve only seen in her excellent role as Deputy Sheriff Victoria “Vic” Moretti on Longmire. She also played Amunet Black, a recurring character who showed up on the fourth season of The Flash. To my pleasant surprise, I see her on Star Wars: The Clone Wars in a recurring role voicing Bo-Katan Kryze. (CE)
  • April 8, 1981 Taylor Kitsch, 40. You’ll possibly remember him  as the lead in John Carter which I swear was originally titled John Carter of Mars. He also played Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and was Lieutenant Commander Alex Hopper in Battleship which was based off the board game but had absolutely nothing to with that game. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) ANSIBLE LINKS. David Langford, in the wake of hosting of Alison Scott’s Eastercon bid speech and Farah Mendlesohn’s ConFusion polemic, has added two more items of interest to the Ansible site:

Alison’s brief Doc Weir Award acceptance speech.

And, Jerry Kaufman’s presentation speech for the “FAAn Award for Lifetime Achievement”, virtually presented to Langford during the recent FAAn Awards ceremony.

… When I share the least fragment of this person’s extensive contributions to fanzines, science fiction, and fan culture, you’ll know immediately who I am talking about. But let’s pretend we don’t. He discovered science fiction at an early age in Wales (how green was his Soylent), and found fandom at the Oxford University SF Group…. 

(13) MARS WAVES HELO. Space.com’s opinion is “These selfies of NASA’s Mars helicopter with the Perseverance rover are just amazing”.

Seán Doran created this mosaic of Perseverance and the Ingenuity helicopter together using 62 images captured by the rover on its 46th Martian sol.

And also – “Perseverance snaps headshots on Mars in latest pics”.

Perseverance’s SHERLOC WATSON camera captured imagery of the Mast ‘head’ of the rover on April 6, 2021 (Sol 45). The imagery is combined with Martian wind audio captured by Perseverance on Sol 4.

(14) AN UNUSED SCROLL TITLE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] As someone who didn’t watch TNG as it happened, only random in returns over the decades since, and who finds Q annoying at best, my thought is, potential title-wise:

Q? Feh

(15) SACRE BLEU! Andrew Porter was tuned into tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! and witnessed this:

Category: Books by the number

Answer: Jules Verne’s first novel was “Cinq Semaines en Ballon”, or this long “In a Balloon”

Wrong question: What is 80 days?

Right question: What is five weeks?

John King Tarpinian, meanwhile, was pleased the show had a Bradbury reference, and sent this screenshot.

(16) HERE’S A CLUE. In “The 100 Best, Worst, and Strangest Sherlock Holmes Portrayals of All-Time, Ranked” on CrimeReads, Olivia Rutligiano ranks 100 actors (99 humans and one dog) who have portrayed Sherlock Holmes.  She includes characters who think they’re Sherlock Holmes, so Data and Stewie from Family Guy are here.  The actors include two who played Doctor Who and three from various versions of Star Trek.

…What are the criteria we’re using to rank these portrayals? Fidelity to the source text? Creativeness of the interpretations? Resemblance to Sidney Paget’s illustrations? Quality of acting? Kind of. Simply put, portrayals are ranked in their ability to present a Holmes who makes sense as a derivation of the original character while exploring, interrogating, and expanding the character’s qualities in a thoughtful and meaningful way. And of course, yes, the quality of the performance itself matters.

The dog ranks ahead of Data! And the new number two is —

2. Basil Rathbone, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), etc.

The consummate actor Basil Rathbone, besides having my favorite name ever, is often considered to be the gold-standard for Holmes portrayals, having played Holmes in fourteen films in the 1930s and 40s. For many out there, he is *the* Holmes, and this is more than fair. Rathbone’s Holmes is an interesting take… very logical, though not wry, but also very vigorous. While he’s certainly very affable, there is little whimsy, nothing too nonconformist about him. It’s truly marvelous to behold (though more marvelous is how he never once turns around to flick Nigel Bruce’s idiot Watson on the head).

(17) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. “Leonard Nimoy As Sherlock Holmes:  The Interior Motive (1976) Full Version” on YouTube is a 1976 episode of the PBS show “The Universe and I” in which Leonard Nimoy, as Sherlock Holmes, provides a science lesson about the nature of the earth’s core.

And here’s a clip featuring Peter Capaldi’s performance as Holmes — because you can never have enough Peter Capaldi.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Joe Siclari, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Ben Bird Person, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/20 The Television Will Not Be Revolutionized

(1) FLIGHT WORN ART. Artist Gregory Manchess tells how he designed the Dragon Crew One patch – and how he got the gig in the first place: “Mission Patch: Crew One” at Muddy Colors.

…Through a convoluted process of attending conventions and patiently waiting for the right timing, I’d met an astronaut who is a fan of science fiction. Kjell Lindgren, the year before, had opened the envelope to read one of the winners for the World Science Fiction convention in 2016. . .while floating in zero g at the space station.

The following year, Kjell (pronounced ‘Chell’) attended the WSF convention in Helsinki, which I attended, and I got to meet him. A year after that, I ran into him again at the same convention in Texas. I asked him about his next flight up and joked that I’d like to come along. He asked if I knew how to handle a robotic arm and I said, “Man, I can handle a brush. How could that be any harder?” I think he actually did a spit take on that one.

Then I asked him, seriously, who was doing their mission patch. Several conversations later, I found myself on a Skype call with Kjell, the mission commander, Mike “Hopper” Hopkins, and mission pilot, Victor “Ike” Glover.

One never knows when an opportunity may arise that can be taken advantage of. My timing was right and my enthusiasm authentic. A deadly combination for winning over clients….

(2) THE IMAGINATION DESK. The latest episode of the Center for Science and the Imagination’s podcast The Imagination Desk features an interview with science fiction author, editor, and researcher Regina Kanyu Wang. Here are direct links to the podcast, on the CSI website (which links out to the other services), Apple PodcastsSpotifyRadioPublic, and Libsyn

Regina Kanyu Wang is a science fiction writer, researcher, and critic from Shanghai. She is now based at the University of Oslo, where she is part of the CoFUTURES project. In this conversation, we talk about the Chinese science fiction scene, its fan culture, and gender politics in the genre, as well as insights on Regina’s own recent writing—including how she builds nuance and complexity into her portrayals of AI and other technologies.

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Priya Sharma and Justin C. Key on Wednesday, December 16, at 7 p.m. in a livestreamed event on YouTube. Link forthcoming. Listen to their podcast of readings here.

  • Priya Sharma

Priya Sharma is a short story writer whose collection All the Fabulous Beasts won a British Fantasy Award and a Shirley Jackson Award. Her first novella Ormeshadow from Tor won a Shirley Jackson Award. When she’s not writing she works as a doctor in the UK.

  • Justin C. Key


Justin C. Key is a speculative fiction writer and psychiatrist. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Tor.com, Escape Pod, and Crossed Genres. His novella, Spider King, will be released by Serial Box in early 2021. He’s currently working on a near-future novel inspired by his medical training. He lives in Los Angeles.

(4) DON’T BEAM UP THE PLAGUE. “Captain Kirk calls out Alberta for not adopting federal tracing app” – Edmonton’s City News has the story.

It appears Captain Kirk is a fan of the federal COVID-19 tracing up and a critic of Alberta’s decision not to adopt it.

Canadian icon William Shatner, who played the famous Star Trek character, voiced his opinion on Twitter Wednesday, promoting the COVIDAlert app.

“Now you just need to get Alberta on board,” said Shatner. “I’ve heard that certain people have an issue with the app because they have their own app.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada responded to the tweet, thanking Shatner for promoting contact tracing.

(5) SEA SQUARED. Being a successful writer is a dream come true. Or is that a nightmare? “Jeff VanderMeer on the Saga of The Festival of the Freshwater Squid” at LitHub.

…The Ambergris books received a ton of critical acclaim, well beyond what one might expect for fictions centered around squid and mushroom people. They also sold well enough that a non-rabid, fairly polite fan base sprouted up around Ambergris.

In short, I wrote about the fantastical Festival of the Freshwater Squid for years without anything particularly odd happening. What did happen tended to fall into one of three categories.

Category the first. Dried squid. Tons of it. Acres of it. More dried squid than there are undried squid. Every year, without fail, people sent me dried squid in the mail. Never the same people, I must add, so this was not a stalkery situation, but merely an issue of proper methods of disposal. I don’t actually like to eat squid because having become an amateur squidologist, I know just how intelligent squid are and how likely it is that they would rule over us if they lived fifty years instead of two to four. But, of course, it’s the thought that counts, and the thought of receiving bags and bags of dried squid for the rest of my life might’ve been disturbing, but it was also a testament to the power of Ambergris. (Ironically, I never received any ambergris in the mail.)…

(6) THREE MORE FOR YOUR TBR. Because why would you only read the first book after seeing this pitch? “Kelly Link: Why You Should Read This Classic Trilogy” in LitHub.

…At the heart of the Deptford Trilogy is a set of mysteries. There is the question of whether the woman struck in the head by the snowball may or may not be, afterward and as a consequence, a saint capable of raising the dead and other miracles. Tied to this is the question of the peculiar death of a man named Boy Staunton. At the end of Fifth Business, a clue is offered by a Brazen Head, which floats above a stage. “He was killed by the usual cabal,” it says. But the cabal of characters here and in Fifth Business’s sequels is anything other than usual. It is, in fact, an extraordinary cabal and unlike any you are likely to encounter in novels less bold in their scope. Davies has the scalpel-like acuity of a mystery novel sleuth who has been invited to attend a birthday party and for his own entertainment proceeds to pin down the secret desires, transgressions, and petty misdeeds of each guest. In fact, part of the strangeness and originality of Fifth Business is that, in the moment where a clue is offered by the Brazen Head, it becomes apparent that we are reading a mystery novel in reverse order. First, we are given a leisurely and pleasurable introduction to a cast of disreputable, eccentric characters along with their motivations, opportunities, and confessions. Then, as the book draws to its end, we arrive with a jolt at the moment when a body is discovered under the most perplexing circumstances. Afterward, rather than being given a solution, we are briskly shown out of the novel by its narrator.

(7) PRESERVE TOLKIEN’S HOME. The stars are aligning to make sure one of Tolkien’s homes meets a better fate than, say, Ray Bradbury’s. The goal is to establish a literary center there: “Lord of the Rings Cast Reunite to Buy $6 Million Home of Author J.R.R. Tolkien” reports People. The Tolkien Estate is not involved.

Lord of the Rings stars Sir Ian McKellen and John Rhys-Davies are embarking on another epic adventure.

Rather than crossing Middle Earth to battle the evil forces of Sauron, however, the British actors have joined a fellowship to save 20 Northmoor Road, the Oxford house in which J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, in advance of it being put on the market by realtors Breckon & Breckon.

The initiative, called Project Northmoor, starts crowdfunding on December 2 and hopes to raise $6 million to purchase the home and create a literary center in honor of Tolkien. It is also supported by The Hobbit star, Martin Freeman.

…”This is just an opportunity that can’t be ignored,” John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli and voiced Treebeard in the films, tells PEOPLE from his self-isolation in a New Zealand hotel.

“If people are still reading in 1,000 years, Tolkien will be regarded as one of the great myth-makers of Britain and it will be evident within a matter of years that not to secure this place would have been such an act of arrogance and ignorance and folly on our part.”

The donation site is here: “Project Northmoor – Save Tolkien’s Home”.

J.R.R. and Edith Tolkien moved into 20 Northmoor Road with their young family in 1930. Over the next 17 crucial years the house was the heart of the Tolkien home. It was here that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, which he had begun as a bedtime story for his children, and followed that with another unexpected journey. That book became The Lord of the Rings.

(8) KEAYS-BYRNE OBIT. Boing Boing reports “Hugh Keays-Byrne, of Mad Max fame, dead at 73”

(9) MORE ABOUT BOVA. Ben Bova’s son commemorated his late father in this Facebook profile: “Ben Bova, by his son. Benjamin William Bova”.

… Widely read, Dr. Bova would delight in reciting entire poems of, say, Rudyard Kipling, or the songs of Cole Porter on occasion. He would acknowledge the most esoteric pun or obscure reference with a groan or a wry grin. He could – as he often did during writing breaks – with pen and sans eraser, complete entire New York Times crossword puzzles in the time it takes to finish a lunch cup of yoghurt. Words were his tools; his memory and imagination, his toolbox. And his two pointing fingers – he never used his entire set of fingers to write, the hammers that pounded first the typewriter keys and then, when it was invented, the home computer to conceive and mold a good story….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 – Twenty-five years ago Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Forgiveness Day,” published in the November 1994 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, would win the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. The other nominees were Maureen F. McHugh’s “Nekropolis” and Michael Bishop’s “Cri de Coeur”.  It would also win a Locus Award for Best Novella. It was last published in The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin on Saga Press which is available in print and digital editions.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 – Jerry Sohl.  Fourteen novels, two dozen shorter stories for us, other work including television, film, a chess book and a bridge book.  Title of posthumous collection Filet of Sohl not his fault.  (Died 2002)  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best remembered, of course, for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. Before that, played the Devil in Damn Yankees. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleSix Million Dollar ManGalaxy of TerrorAmazing Stories, PopeyeFriday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.   He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born December 2, 1929 – Lael Littke, age 91.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; she has published forty books, six dozen shorter stories, including Ellery Queen’sLadies Home JournalSeventeen.  “The trick is to recognize a good idea when it sweeps by.”  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1937 – Brian Lumley, age 83.  Eight Cthulhu novels, a score of shorter stories (“My guys fight back.  Also, they like to have a laugh along the way”); two dozen more novels including Necroscope best-sellers, ten dozen more shorter stories, three dozen poems.  World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 74. British-born American illustrator and writer who is genre adjacent I’d say. Creator of such cool works as CathedralThe New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and I really like one of latest works, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World. (CE) 
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other writer such as Mecedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman.   I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that is she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and  Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago: “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”  (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 68. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good. (CE)
  • Born December 2, 1954 – Laura Underwood, age 66.  Nine novels, eighty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for Bradley Sinor’s Dark & Stormy Nights.  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1968 Lucy Liu, 52. She was Joan Watson on Elementary in its impressive seven-year run. Her other genre role, and it’s been long running, has been voicing Tinkermist in the Disney Fairies animated franchise. I kid you not. She’s had a few genre one-offs on The X-FilesHercules: The Legendary Journeys and the Rise: Blood Hunter film, but not much overall haughty she did show up in Luke Cage. (CE) 
  • Born December 2, 1971 Frank Cho, 49. Writer and illustrator, best remembered  as creator of the let excellent  Liberty Meadows series as well as work on HulkMighty Avengers and Shanna the She-Devil for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. I recommend the Frank Cho Art Book from Delcourt as being a superb look at his work. CE)
  • Born December 2, 1976 – Kate Milford, age 44.  Eight novels, another due next February.  Has read A Canticle for LeibowitzPoems of Ambrose Bierce, Borges’ Ficciones, and Serve It Forth.  She very frankly says “I update this site sometimes.”  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1980 – Leander Deeny, age 40.  One novel by this man whom someone wants us to know was in the BBC series Merlin and the Captain America film The First Avenger.  He likes whisky, cookery, falconry, and another thing I keep forgetting.  [JH]

(12) ALIEN REAL ESTATE. “Netflix Reveals What Mysterious ‘Alien Worlds’ May Look Like” – let the Daily Beast fill you in.

Netflix is brimming with outlandish out-of-this-world genre fare, but the streaming giant’s latest docuseries, Alien Worlds, puts the science back in science fiction. Imagining what life might be like on distant planets, producer Nigel Paterson’s four-episode endeavor utilizes what we know about biology and civilization on Earth to speculate about extraterrestrial existence—a mix of knowledge and conjecture that’s echoed by its form, which marries nature documentary footage from around the globe with inventive CGI panoramas of bizarre landscapes and creatures. The result is a fantastical—and fascinating—intergalactic version of Planet Earth.

In light of that structure, it’s only natural that Alien Worlds (premiering Dec. 2) boasts its own David Attenborough-like narrator: acclaimed English actress Sophie Okonedo, who imparts surprising and enlightening facts about Earth’s varied ecosystems—and surmises about what that could mean for life elsewhere—with sonorous, import-laden gravity….

(13) RETURN OF THE TOASTMAKER. Food Network ran a listicle about the “12 Best Star Wars Kitchen Tools”. This is the kind of thing we’re talking about – aren’t you glad these helmets are good for something?

Star Wars Storm Trooper Toaster

$49.95 

WILLIAMS SONOMA

We’re willing to bet that this is the fiercest toaster you’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s shaped like a Stormtrooper’s helmet, but that doesn’t stop it from perfectly preparing your toast. The slots are extra-wide in order to accommodate different types of bread, and features a removable crumb tray for easy cleaning.

(14) CREDENTIAL HEALTH CHECK. Michael Toman sent this link with a reassuring note: “Nope, I’m definitely NOT suggesting ‘Cats Throw Up on SF’ as a new photo contest category for File 770!” Anyway, it’s Mental Floss’ fault that we’re wondering “Why Do Cats Throw Up So Often?”

And y’know, maybe I’ll forego putting an excerpt here.

(15) A MATCH MADE IN HELL. Ryan Reynolds calls it “A Love Story for the ages. Or at least this age.”

(16) I’M PIXELING MY SCROLL FOR THE MISTY MOUNTAINS. Another reason to remember today’s date, on December 2, 1971 Led Zeppelin released ”Misty Mountain Hop” as a single in the US.

The most common interpretation of the song’s title involves a reference to the Misty Mountains in J. R. R. Tolkien‘s The Hobbit.

(17) BOMBS AWAY. While tuned in to tonight’s Jeopardy, Andrew Porter saw these efforts to score during Final Jeopardy:

Novel Characters.

Answer: This character from an 1851 novel “was intent on an audacious, immitigable, and supernatural revenge.”

Wrong questions: “Who is Frankenstein?” “Who is The Count of Monte Cristo?”

Correct question: “Who is Captain Ahab?”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life” on YouTube is a short film, written and directed by Peter Capaldi, that was originally broadcast on BBC Scotland in 1993.  The film, starring Richard E. Grant as Kafka, really is a variation on Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, and earned Capaldi an Oscar for Best Short Film–Live Action in 1995.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Arnie Fenner, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Alan Baumler, Olav Rokne, Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, Dann, Steve Davidson, Sean Wallace, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/16/20 The Diversity Of Pixels Prove That Scrolls Evolved From Files

(1) BEFORE GENESIS. Kim Huett begins a deep dive into Hugo history in “A Different View of the Early Hugo Awards (Part 1.)” at Doctor Strangemind.

…First of all the Eleventh World Science Fiction Convention committee called them the First Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards and not the Hugo Awards. Officially they continued to be called the Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards for many decades. It wasn’t until 1993 that they were officially renamed the Hugo Awards. Exactly when fans began giving the awards the nickname of Hugo I can’t be entirely sure. However, the earliest mention of the practise I’m aware of appeared in the 1955 Clevention’s Progress Report #4. In an article about the physical aspects of the award appears the following comment:

A great deal of hard work, money and time went into the project of making this “Hugo”, as some people have already dubbed the trophy.

Just who was using the term and how widespread the practise was by this point isn’t made clear in this article. It could be that committee members were aware of the nickname being used elsewhere but I suspect such usage was confined to the committee itself. After all, given that at this point the awards had only been given once and then were seemingly discontinued it seems a bit unlikely that fandom at large had decided to give something they couldn’t be certain would ever be seen again a nickname. Moreover, given that the awards are then continually referred as Hugos in the rest of the article I rather suspect some or all of the committee had not only adopted the term but also wanted to push the idea of calling it that as one way to put their stamp on the awards idea. All speculation of course but it does make for an interesting theory.

(2) BEFORE NUMBERS. And Galactic Journey’s Hugo headline deals with news that’s only a tad more recent — “The 1965 Hugo Ballot Is Out!” They also invite fans to join them for an online discussion on May 23.

… Since the Journey has covered virtually everything on the list, we’ve created a little crib sheet so you can vote in an educated fashion.

Also, we’ll be talking about this ballot on May 23rd at 1PM PDT on a special broadcast of KGJ Channel 9 — so please tune in and join us in the discussion!

(3) AN EPISODE RECAP – SPOILERS? I’M NOT SURE. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the May 10 episode of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El and her friends were trying to track down bad guys who called themselves Leviathan.  They went to the “United States Congressional Library” which eerily resembles a Canadian public library to talk to a librarian who was a “symbologist”–you know, like the guy in The Da Vinci Code.  The symbologist explained that he tried to search for “leviathan”–but all of searches were blocked!  Scary! 

So they decided to visit “special collections,” which of course was the vault in the basement where The Good Stuff is kept and can only be seen by people with the secret passcode,  But just as our hero punches the buttons, the bad guys start shooting at them.  How these guntoters managed to get past the security guards is not explained, possibly because the “United States Congressional Library” doesn’t have any security guards.

Any resemblance between the “United States Congressional Library” and the Library of Congress is nonexistent.

(4) YOU ARE NUMBER SIX. Den of Geek boasts the cover reveal for the next installment in Martha Wells’ series: “The Murderbot Diaries: Fugitive Telemetry Cover Reveal”.

…While Fugitive Telemetry may be the sixth installment in the series, it is something new for this world: a murder mystery. The novella follows Murderbot as it discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, and sets about assisting station security to determine who the body was and how they were killed. Fugitive Telemetry takes place after the events of novella Exit Strategy and before the events of novel Network Effect, and is slated for an April 2021 release.

(5) WHO SUPPORTS THEM. The Doctor Who Companion points fans to a fundraising video: “Peter Capaldi Reads Story By Frank Cottrell Boyce For National Brain Appeal’s Emergency Care Fund”.

Actor Peter Capaldi, shows his support for The National Brain Appeal’s Emergency Care Fund – set up in response to the Covid-19 crisis. We’re raising money for staff on the frontline at The National Hospital – and those patients who are most in need at this time. He reads from The Runaway Robot by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

(6) SOUND ADVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Katherine A. Powers, who reviews audiobooks in the Washington Post, has a piece about the problems of bad audiobooks. “Don’t let a bad reader ruin your audiobook experience. Here are recordings to savor — and to avoid.”  She writes:

Any devoted audiobook listener can attest:  Spending nine hours (or more) in the company of a terrible reader–a shrieker, mumber, droner, tooth whistler, or overzealous thespian–is an experience that can truly ruin a book.  A narrator’s voice is not merely a delivery system, an element extraneous to the text, but an integral one–fulfilling, enriching, injuring, or sinking a book.”

She explains this is particularly true with books in the public domain.  She notes that Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd comes in a dozen versions. including a superb one by John Lee and readings by Nathaniel Parker and Joe Jameson “are excellent if a little fast.” But “excruciating performers” of hardy’s novel include “a drawling old fogy; a governess on an elocution bender; a sprinter whose words tear along in a blur; and a man who seems to be recording inside a tin can.

This doesn’t have much to do with sf except that she says that Neil Gaiman is a very good reader of his own fiction (I agree).  But I thought she made some good points.

(7) PEOPLE WHO KNEW PKD. “The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick” on YouTube is a 2007 Argentine documentary, directed by Emiliano Larre, that includes with Dick’s ex-wives Kleo Mini, Anne Dick, and Tessa Dick, his stepdaughter Tandie Ford, and authors K.W. Jeter, Ray Nelson, and Tim Powers.

(8) WILLARD OBIT. Comedic star Fred Willard, who appears in the forthcoming show Space Force, died May 15 at the age of 86. He gained fame in a long career that included roles in Best in Show, This Is Spinal Tap, Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family. More details at People.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 16, 1891 Mikhail Bulgakov. Russian writer whose fantasy novel The Master and Margarita, published posthumously, has been called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. The novel also carries the recommendation of no less than Gary Kasparov. If you’ve not read it, a decent translation is available at the usual digital sources for less than a cup of coffee. (Died 1940.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1917 – Juan Rulfo.  Author, photographer.  In Pedro Páramo a man going to his recently deceased mother’s home town finds it is populated by ghosts; translated into 30 languages, sold a million copies in English.  A score of shorter stories; another dozen outside our field.  Here are some photographs and comment.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1918 – Colleen Browning.  Set designer, illustrator, lithographer, painter.  A Realist in the face of Abstract Realism and Abstract Expressionism, she later turned to magic realism blurring the real and imaginary. See here (Union Mixer, 1975), here (Mindscape, 1973), here (Computer Cosmology, 1980s), and here (The Dream, 1996).  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1920 – Patricia Marriott.  Cover artist and illustrator, particularly for Joan Aiken (1924-2004); 21 covers, 18 interiors.  See here and here.  (Died 2002) [JH] 
  • Born May 16, 1925 – Pierre Barbet.  French SF author and (under his own name; PB is a pen name) pharmacist.  Towards a Lost FutureBabel 3805; space opera, heroic fantasy, alternative history.  In The Empire of Baphomet (translated into Czech, Dutch, English, Hungarian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish) an alien tries to manipulate the Knights Templar; in Stellar Crusade the knights go into Space after him; 72 novels, plus shorter stories, essays.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1928 – Burschi Gruder.  Romanian pioneer and prolific illustrator of children’s books, textbooks, comic books; cover artist; reprinted in East Germany, Moldova, Poland, U.S.S.R., Yugoslavia.  See here and here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1937 Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy”. She also appeared in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestVoyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the GiantsFantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1942 – Alf van der Poorten.  Number theorist (180 publications; founded Australian Mathematical Society Gazette; Georges Szekeres Medal, 2002) and active fan.  One of “Sydney’s terrible twins”.  Reviewer for SF Commentary.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1944 Danny Trejo, 76. Trejo is perhaps most known as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids films. He’s also been on The X-FilesFrom Dusk till DawnLe JaguarDoppelgangerThe Evil WithinFrom Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood MoneyMuppets Most Wanted and more horror films that I care to list here. Seriously, he’s really done a lot of low-budget horror films. In LA he’s even better known for donuts – i.e., he owns a shop with his name on it. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1953 – Lee MacLeod.  Four dozen covers, plus interiors, among us.  Lee MacLeod SF Art Trading Cards.  BatmanHoward the DuckPocahontas (i.e. Disney’s).  Air Force Art Program.  Here are two covers for The Mote in God’s Eye from 1993 and 2000.  For his fine art e.g. plein air, see here.  
  • Born May 16, 1962 Ulrika O’Brien, 58. A Seattle-area fanzine fan, fanartist, con-running fan, and past TAFF winner. Her list of pubished fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3 is quite amazing — FringeWidening Gyre and Demi-TAFF Americaine (TAFF Newsletter). Her APAzines include Mutatis Mutandis, and APAs include APA-LLASFAPAMyriad and Turbo-APA. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1968 Stephen Mangan, 52. Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot episode which saw a major reset. He played Arthur Conan Doyle in the Houdini & Doyle series which I’ve heard good things about but haven’t seen. He did various voices for the 1999 Watership Down, and appeared in Hamlet as Laertes at the Norwich Theatre Royal. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1969 David Boreanaz, 51. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DISNEY’S NEXT PLANS FOR THE STAGE. The Washington Post’s Peter Marks not only reports the demise of Frozen on Broadway, but that Disney Theatrical Productions president Michael Schumacher announced several musicals in development, including The Princess Bride, Jungle Book, and Hercules. “Citing the pandemic, Disney puts Broadway’s ‘Frozen’ permanently on ice”.

Schumacher also used the letter to detail other projects in the works — notably, a stage musical version of the 1987 cult movie favorite “The Princess Bride,” with a book by Bob Martin and Rick Elice and a score by David Yazbek, and an expanded stage version of the “Hercules” that debuted last summer in Central Park. Book writer Robert Horn, a Tony winner for “Tootsie,” will be added to the songwriting team of Alan Menken and David Zippel.

(12) PRINCEJVSTN’S FINEST. Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist Paul Weimer’s “Hugo Packet 2020” is available from an unlocked post on his Patreon page. (I have the right URL here but can’t get it to open from the Scroll, which is why I am also including Paul’s tweet).

(13) WIGTOWN FLIPS. Hey, I read it right here — “Wigtown book festival makes online switch”.

Scotland’s national book town has decided to take its annual festival online.

The Wigtown event will still run from 25 September to 4 October with the themes of resilience and connection.

Creative director Adrian Turpin said a key aim would be to raise the town’s profile while looking forward to a time when the region could welcome visitors.

He said nobody had wanted the situation but it might help the event to reach new audiences.

A number of link-ups with other book towns around the world will feature as part of the festival.

As well as live online speaker events, the 2020 festival will feature its usual mix of art exhibitions, film events, music and performance.

The Magnusson lecture – in honour of Magnus Magnusson – will also go digital for the first time and be delivered by historian Rosemary Goring.

(14) VASCO II. BBC reports “Facebook to build internet cable ‘circumference of Earth'”.

Facebook is teaming up with telecoms companies to build a 37,000km (23,000-mile) undersea cable to supply faster internet to 16 countries in Africa.

Its length – almost equal to the circumference of the Earth – will make it one of the longest, it said.

It is part of a long-running bid by Facebook to take its social media platform to Africa’s young population.

Ready for use by 2024, it will deliver three times the capacity of all current undersea cables serving Africa.

“When completed, this new route will deliver much-needed internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability across Africa, supplement a rapidly increasing demand for capacity in the Middle East, and support further growth of 4G, 5G, and broadband access for hundreds of millions of people,” said Facebook in a blog.

Africa lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to internet access, with four in 10 people across the continent having access to the web, compared with a global average of six in 10.

(15) NEEDED ONE MORE GHOST. Yahoo! Movies UK quotes the actor from a TV interview: “Bill Murray missed Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis on ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife'”.

Bill Murray really missed working alongside Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis while filming the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

The legendary comedian admitted as much during his recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres, saying that the pair were “greatly missed for so many reasons,” adding, “They were so much a part of the creation of [Ghostbusters] and the fun of it.”

(16) TOASTS OF THE TOWN. At the #OrbitTavern on Instagram, Creative Director Lauren Panepinto interviews an author about their upcoming book Ann Leckie and Laura Lam in one session) —and teaches viewers how to make the perfect cocktail to pair it with! Replays of their live shows are also available on Orbit’s website.

For example, a couple of days ago they celebrated World Cocktail Day with Alix Harrow.

(17) NESFA PRESS SALE. NESFA Press has announced a 20% discount good through June 14, 2020  on all NESFA Press physical books — with some exceptions. This does not include E-Books, ISFiC books (including the Seanan McGuire Velveteen books), and the following limited-edition books: Stan’s Kitchen by Kim Stanley Robinson and A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison (limited, boxed edition).

To take advantage of this discount, go to the NESFA Press online store: http://nesfapress.org/, select the titles you wish to purchase, and during checkout enter “COVID-19” in the coupon text field. The 20% will be automatically deducted from the book price.

(18) LIFESIZED ORRERY. “What It Would Look Like If All The Planets Orbited Between The Earth And The Moon” – this video has been out for awhile but it was news to me – a very exotic view!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/10/20 She Scrolls Like A Pixel, Dances Like A Nipped Out Cat

(1) SOUND CHOICES. AudioFile’s Candace Levy helps listeners “Discover 5 New Fantasy Audiobook Series”.

Feeling down because you’re all caught up with your current fantasy series? Be sad no more, because 2020 is overflowing with new characters and new adventures for audiobook lovers.

First on the list –

Camille Peters’s PATHWAYS, the first in the Kingdom Chronicles series, finds its roots in two classic stories—“The Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstilskin”—and contains many familiar fairy tale elements, such as an enchanted forest and a peasant girl who meets a prince. At the same time, the plot includes fresh twists, making it easy for teen listeners to relate to the budding romance, the magical woods, the secrets and betrayals, and the hope for redemption and a happily ever after. Our reviewer praised narrator Shiromi Arserio for her skill in conveying the full range of emotions felt by our heroine as she follows her destiny.

(2) WHAT THE SHOW’S ABOUT. Abigail Nussbaum, in “Deus Ex: Thoughts on Westworld’s Third Season”, begins her summary with an example:

There’s a moment in the third season premiere of Westworld that, though incidental, also feels like it encapsulates the entire show. Dolores, the former “host” at the titular park, who has gained awareness, escaped her enslavement, and vowed to destroy humanity in her pursuit of safety for her people, has arrived at a swanky party wearing a classic Little Black Dress. Striding onto the scene with elegant purpose as only the statuesque Evan Rachel Wood can, she tugs at a bit of fabric, and the dress transforms, unfolding and draping itself around her to become a glittery ballgown. It’s very pretty, and an impressive feat of dressmaking (presumably vying for an Emmy nomination for costuming, the show has even released footage of a test run for the dress transformation). But a moment’s thought can only leave you wondering what it was all for. Both dresses are appropriate evening attire. Neither one makes Dolores more or less noticeable. Neither one conceals her from pursuit (of which there appears to be none). It’s not even as if the LBD was particularly “practical”. The whole thing exists purely for the cool moment. Which is not a bad thing in itself, of course–what is on-screen science fiction for, after all, if not providing us with cool moments to GIF and meme? But it also feels like Westworld in a nutshell: it looks super-dramatic, but when you give it a moment’s thought, it means nothing….

(3) SPFBO BEHIND THE SCENES. Mihir Wanchoo’s post about the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off at Fantasy Book Critic, “SPFBO 5: Conclusion & Some Thoughts”, includes a lot of “inside baseball,” but ends with these passionate thoughts about the contest’s mission —

Lastly I would like to clarify what the point of the contest is… Here’s what I think:
– It’s NOT about the authors.
– It’s NOT about the bloggers
– IT’S ABOUT THE READERS
– It’s about shining a spotlight on books that readers might have overlooked or never heard about. It doesn’t matter whether a book has a single Goodreads rating or 5K-plus because it can still reach more people by being in the contest.

I vehemently believe that every book should be judged on its own merit and not whether its author has won SPFBO or been a previous finalist or is a famous one (either traditionally published or self-published). Yes we can have rules about how frequently a previous winner or finalist can re-enter their new books (maybe with a cooling period of 2/3 years for a winner and a year for the finalist) but that’s a discussion to be had.

(4) THERE’S AN ART TO THIS KIND OF WRITING. Add NPR’s Steve Mullis to the list of people who adore the series: “Murderbot Makes A Triumphant (And Cranky) Return In ‘Network Effect'”.

…Wells’ latest, Network Effect, is the first full-sized novel featuring our favorite cranky, cynical, sentient, artificially intelligent robot. For those unfamiliar, I’ll give you a few minutes to catch up on the first four books. Done? OK, well that might not be long enough for a simple human, but for Murderbot, it would have been plenty of time to read the previous four volumes, watch an episode of future soap opera The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon and break into a security system to complete a mission.

(5) WRITE-IN. Marc Scott Zicree, creator of Space Command, makes headlines when Neil deGrasse Tyson joins the cast!

Mr. Sci-Fi shares how famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested a story for Space Command and now is a character in the show!

(6) REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL WISCON. WisCon, the world’s first feminist sff convention, is preparing to hold its first ever all-online edition. WisCon 44 will run virtually over U.S. Memorial Day Weekend — May 22-25, 2020. Registration is now open.

Aqueduct Press is collaborating with the organizers to encourage registration with a book giveaway: the first 100 people to register for the online con will receive a digital copy of this year’s volume of The WisCon Chronicles (Vol. 12): Boundaries and Bridges. This year’s volume of the traditional series, which gathers thoughts and creations by WisCon attendees, is edited by Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota.

The volume features Charlie Jane Anders’s and G. Willow Wilson’s WisCon 43 Guest of Honor speeches and the Tiptree (now Otherwise) award winner Gabriela Damián Miravete’s speech and fiction, as well as essays by Alexandra Erin, Julia Rios, Nisi Shawl, John Scalzi, and more.

(7) COMPANY CLOSES AFTER COFOUNDER DIES. [Item by Steve Green.] Twilight Time, the boutique home video label founded in 2011 by Brian Jamieson and the late Nick Redman, announced today (May 10) that it will be shutting down this summer and has begun a ‘closing down’ sale of warehouse stock. Effective July 1, Screen Archives will be taking over remaining inventory. Press release: “It’s Twilight Time For Us!”

Redman died on January 17, aged 63, following a lengthy illness. During his time at the Fox Music Group, he oversaw such movie soundtracks as the 1996 boxset Star Wars Trilogy and the following year’s Star Wars: A New Hope. Thanks to his input, most of the Twilight Time releases had isolated music tracks.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 10, 1945  — Green Hornet’s “An Armistice From Death” was broadcast on WXYZ in Detroit. It has a cast of Bob Hall as the Green Hornet and Rollon Parker as Kato. The latter actor also voiced The Newsboy at the end of each episode who hawked the Extra edition of The Sentinel that carried the story of the weekly racket or spy ring being smashed. The story this time was that though the Nazis have surrendered, a team of a German agent and a Japanese spy plan to carry on the fight against America. The Japanese spy says, “Honorable Hitler never admit defeat!” The first step is to kidnap Kato, Next, they leave a bio weapon in the form of a fatal virus to attack the celebrating Americans. This broadcast followed the actual V-E Day by only 2 days! You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As SFE puts it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ’mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these Novels is available from iBooks  and Kobo. (Died 1920.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1870 Evoe. Brother of Ronald Knox, husband of Mary Shepard who illustrated Mary Poppins and whose father illustrated Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows.  Edited Punch 1932-1949 after contributing for years.  When in 1960 Punch ran a series “Authors in Space” – “Dickens in Space”, “Kipling in Space”, “Joyce in Space” – Evoe (a pen name) wrote “Conan Doyle in Space”. (Died 1970.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable. Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930.  Who could follow that?  He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled.  He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist.  Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both; likewise Sirius, about a superdog, on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  First recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, 2001.  Science Fiction Hall of Fame, 2014. (Died 1950.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1900 Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Groundbreakingly proposed in her doctoral dissertation (first Ph.D. from Radcliffe, at the time women-only) that the Sun was mainly hydrogen and helium; proved right four years later.  First woman to head a department at Harvard.  Six honorary degrees.  Stars in the Making (non-fiction) reviewed by Schuyler Miller in the July 1953 Astounding. Biography, What Stars Are Made Of (D. Moore; just published 2020). (Died 1979) [JH]  
  • Born May 10, 1905 Alex Schomburg. One of our finest graphic artists. 130 covers 1939-1993 from Startling to Tomorrow, including Amazing, Astounding and AnalogF & SFGalaxyAsimov’s, books – and the Westercon 37 Program Book; 250 interiors; not that numbers are supreme. Worldcon Special Committee Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1989, and Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1987; First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1990.  Six years an Illustrators of the Future judge.  See him in Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds. (Died 1998.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. (Died 2019.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 57. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre , so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here. [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 51. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokeyfor my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of. [CE]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz wonders what else is in the universe.
  • Garfield enjoys a fan favorite.
  • Free Range plays with a skeptical rock climber.

(11) LINE BY LINE. Gideon Marcus surveys the state of the computing arts – in 1965 – for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 10, 1965] A LANGUAGE FOR THE MASSES (TALKING TO A MACHINE, PART THREE)”.

This is part three of our series on programming in the modern computer age.  Last time, we discussed the rise of user-oriented languages.  We now report on the latest of them and why it’s so exciting.

…These days, thanks to companies like IBM, Rand, and CDC, digital computers have become commonplace — more than 10,000 are currently in use!  While these machines have replaced de Prony’s human calculators, they have created their own manpower shortage.  With computation so cheap and quick, and application of these computations so legion, the bottleneck is now in programmers.  What good does it do to have a hundred thousand computers in the world (a number being casually bandied about for near future years like 1972) if they sit idle with no one to feed them code?

(12) WHEN JUPITER COLLIDES WITH MARS. Yahoo! News asks “Will Coronavirus Kill Astrology?” Are they kidding?

If ever there was one, Susan Miller would be a blue-chip astrologer. So in January, when she appeared on CBS New York and predicted that 2020 would “be a great year, and it will be a prosperous year,” people listened.

People listened when she said Capricorn would be the year’s “celestial favorite,” Cancer was the most likely to wed, Libra was set to score in real estate, and Taurus could expect a calendar full of international travel.

And then people got mad because — it probably doesn’t need pointing out — things didn’t exactly go according to the stars’ plan….

(13) ONE PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND BRICKS. Apartment Therapy introduces fans to “The New Harry Potter LEGO Collection [which] Includes Tiny Mandrake Plants and a Giant Hedwig”.

The Harry Potter universe is expanding, with six new LEGO sets coming this summer. They include scenes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as the house on Privet Drive where Harry spent his childhood and a large Hedwig that can move its wings with the turn of a crank.

The LEGO world of Harry Potter is already vast. The first sets came out in 2001 along with the first film, and 19 years later, you can find LEGO versions of everything from the Hogwarts Castle to Diagon Alley, with niche sets dedicated to moments in the books and films.

See them all at the LEGO site, including the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower.

(14) CAPALDI PITCHES IN. “Peter Capaldi on For The Love of Scotland Livestream 22/4/2020” is a segment Capaldi did (including reading Kurt Vonnegut) for the “Masks for Scotland” fundraiser held on April 22. He quips, “My life is mostly unchanged because i avoid people anyway.”

(15) LEM BACK IN PRINT. Brendan Byrne makes “The Case for Stanislaw Lem, One of Science Fiction’s Unsung Giants” at Medium.

Since his death in 2006, the work of Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem has slowly slid from view. While his impact upon on American audiences was always softened by the Iron Curtain — he was was in peak form during the ’60s and ’70s — and an often tortured translation process, Lem was at one point “the most widely read science fiction writer in the world,” at least according to Theodore Sturgeon, an eminent writer of SF’s so-called Golden Age.

Lem was acknowledged, especially by fellow authors, as an especially important figure in the genre, but of late he seems to be primarily remembered as the author of the novel Solaris, the base material for the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky and the 2002 version by Steven Soderbergh. This is a poor fate for an author who, for the latter half of the 20th century, skipped nimbly between SF sub-genres, with occasional excursions outside SF. While his sphere of influence was massive — he sold 45 million books worldwide — Lem’s refusal to settle into some comfortable little niche is distinctly unusual in a contemporary marketplace which today sections writers into increasingly sub-sub-genres.

Lem was simultaneously a moralist, stylist, and semi-professional scientist (a teenage inventor who trained as a physician). He managed to write hard science fiction that engaged with contemporary developments in science, medicine, and philosophy without ever condescending to his audience or engaging in specialist-speak (unless he was satirizing it).

Fortunately, the MIT Press has seen fit to help rejuvenate Lem’s oeuvre — they recently republished six of his key books, and, in the process, made the case for a Lemian resurgence — just in time for his 2021 centenary….

(16) THE END IS NEAR. The wait is over. “Here Comes the Droughtlander! Everything You Need to Know About Outlander Heading into the Season 5 Finale” in Parade.

…“Almost anybody can write a good love story, in which people meet and fall in love and get married or run off together,” Gabaldon says, adding, “It’s much harder and thus more interesting to find out what it takes to be married for 50 years. I had never seen anybody do that, so that’s what I decided I’d like to do.”

The Starz series that follows the heroic journey of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is such a success that the term “Droughtlander” has been coined for the period of time in between seasons. And we will be heading there shortly. The season five finale airs May 10, and according to Heughan, it’s going to be “big.”

(17) NOT QUITE AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. [Item by David Doering.] From the Truth is Stranger than Fiction department, here’s the tale of how SF turned fact gave us the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and banned slavery. “The $60,000 Telegram That Helped Lincoln End Slavery”.

…Statehood looked promising, particularly for Nye, who had great political ambitions. He preferred living on the East Coast and saw his post in Nevada as a way to launch himself into what he really wanted to be — a Senator. Nye was charismatic and known for his “winning friendly face,” but his countenance changed rapidly when a telegram arrived the evening of Tuesday, October 25, 1864. The head of the California Pacific Telegraph passed on a telegram to him, which said, “The President has not received a copy of your constitution.” The deadline for the materials was just a few days away. There wasn’t enough time to mail it to the President. If Nye was going to get 175 pages of this official document to Abraham Lincoln, he was going to have to use the new technology that was just installed three years prior — the telegraph.

…When these electrical impulses finally reached the last leg of their journey, they were sent to the telegraph office of the War Department. This transmission was of such importance that intelligence from the warfront was put on hold for five hours to make way for Nevada’s telegram. Hodge’s and Ward’s message took two days to get to Lincoln and the cost of sending the message was $4,303.27 ($60,000 today). Nevada’s electric constitution reached Lincoln on the evening of October 28 and he proclaimed it a state on the 30th. On the 31st of October, Nevada officially celebrated its statehood, which gave it the right to participate in the election a week later on November 8….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Inside The Making of Dr. Strangelove” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary about Dr. Strangelove that includes interviews with production designer Sir Ken Adam, Kubrick biographer John Baxter, and James Earl Jones, who made his debut in the film.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/9/20 A Pixel Scroll Title That Turns Out To Have Been Used Before

(1) NOT DEAD YET. Since the cancellation of San Diego Comic-Con 2020 was announced in mid-April the people behind it have been thinking about an online counterpart. This humorous video dropped on May 8.

What it all means has yet to be revealed. However, in April SDCC started posting coloring books and videos with the theme of Comic-Con Museum@Home.

While Comic-Con 2020 has been cancelled (we’ll return in 2021!) and the Comic-Con Museum is currently closed along with the rest of the museums in Balboa Park, we want to welcome you to our newest endeavor: Comic-Con Museum@Home!

We have great plans for this new section of our website. This will be your main source for some amazing Comic-Con Museum content, such as exclusive videos—including past events (Sense of Wonder with Jen Bartel, The Art of Shag, Will Eisner Week), and new video content created exclusively for the Museum@Home program. Plus, we’re proud to introduce our exclusive “Fun Book” series, a regularly scheduled downloadable PDF featuring activity and coloring sheets created by the Comic-Con Museum for various age groups.

For one example – “Comic-Con Museum Celebrates Will Eisner: Life Forces: The Art of the Comics Memoir.“

(2) GNAW, YOU’RE KIDDING ME. The New York Times’ Cathy Weaver says it’s “Time to Check Your Pandemic-Abandoned Car for Rats”.  

You might want to make sure there’s not a rat living (or recently dead) in your car’s engine.

Why are you still reading? Check your car for a rat, I said. That’s the tip. Rats like it in there, and while they could take up residence in a car engine at any time, anecdotal reports (and mankind’s modern if imperfect knowledge of rat behavior) suggest the phenomenon may be occurring more frequently right now.

Three line breaks into this story, it is becoming increasingly clear that the depth of your interest in rats plunges far deeper than basic car maintenance tips. You are a person who seeks to understand rats in a way that rats may not even understand themselves. You want to read the invisible instruction encoded in a rat’s brain that compels him to abandon the deli dumpster where he has spent the majority of his short life and, all of a sudden, carry a leaf and perhaps some twigs into the engine of your Jetta. OK. Here is more rat information…

(3) LEAPIN’ LEPUS. “Juliet Johnson and Peter Capaldi On The Story of Richard Adams’ Watership Down” on YouTube is a promotional video for Black Stone Publishing in which Richard Adams’s daughter, Juliet Johnson, and Peter Capaldi discuss a new, unabridged version of Watership Down which Capaldi recorded to commemorate Richard Adams’s centennial.

(4) SURVIVAL OF THE SFFEST. “Everything I Need To Know To Survive Covid-19 I Learned By Watching Scifi & Horror Movies” is a clever mashup by Evan Gorski and Michael Dougherty.

(5) SOFT RE-OPENING. South Pasadena’s Vidéothèque movie rental business told people on its mailing list they expected to be allowed to reopen for pick-up service today.

Pursuant to County Health Dept provisions (& crossing our fingers), we will re-open Saturday, May 9 from 11am-7pm with front door service & will keep these hours daily.

Please refer to our website vidtheque.com to search for titles 

They included a bunch of movie recommendation lists to stimulate the demand, including Time Out’s “The 100 best horror films – the scariest movies ranked by experts”. Number four on the list is

Alien

The miracle of birth
Talk about above and beyond: Ridley Scott was hired by Twentieth Century Fox to make ‘“Jaws” in space’, and came back with one of the most stylish, subversive, downright beautiful films in either the horror or sci-fi genre. The masterstroke, of course, was hiring Swiss madman HR Giger as the film’s chief designer – his work brings a slippery, organic grotesquerie to what could’ve been a straight-up bug hunt (© ‘Aliens’). But let’s not overlook Dan O’Bannon’s script, which builds character without assigning age, race or even gender – plus one of the finest casts ever assembled.

(6) VIDEO GAME CREATOR. The Strong Museum of Play has received a collection of prototypes and projects from the family of inventor Ralph Baer.

Ralph Baer, known as the father of home video games and the first person to patent the idea of playing a video game on a television, spent more than four decades creating, inventing, and changing the landscape of play. The Strong museum, home to the World Video Game Hall of Fame, is pleased to announce that it has received a donation of prototype toys and technologies from Baer’s family that showcase his work and his creative thinking. The items add to the museum’s existing collection of Baer materials, which includes his personal papers and one of his desktop inventing workstations.

…Baer is known for his work in the video game industry, but in addition to creating the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972, the first home console machine, Baer led a successful career in toy and handheld electronic game design, creating the matching game Simon and the plush bear TV Teddy, among many other products. This collection includes dozens of items in various stages of development, including a Big Bird Talking Bank, the Video Buddy interactive system, augmented GI Joe rescue set, Super Simon, along with various other pieces or concepts, including talking greeting cards, a twirling carnival ride, modified stuffed animals, and a toy phone. Together, along with the museum’s existing personal papers, they provide a window into Baer’s design process.

“My father escaped Nazi Germany as a child, and he spent much of his life after that thinking differently about the world and trying to introduce more fun and whimsy into it. He was a visionary and creative force who never stopped learning, inventing, and tinkering—even into his 90s,” says Mark W. Baer, his son and the Trustee of the Ralph H. Baer Trust. 

(7) CREATURE FEATURE. Marie Brennan considers “New Worlds: Working Animals” at Book View Café.

…In fact, dogs serve as kind of a template for things we use working animals to do. The tasks of draft (pulling things like wagons or plows), pack (carrying loads directly) and riding came up when we talked about transportation, so I won’t rehash the list of species used in different parts of the world — but I will note that certain animals we can’t domesticate, like zebra and moose, can occasionally be tamed to perform those tasks. This category is where the Industrial Revolution made the most immediate and obvious dent: once we could replace muscle power with steam power and its successors, we no longer needed to keep millions of horses and mules and donkeys and camels and so forth to work for us.

(8) WHAT’S STUFFED INSIDE. NPR’s Jason Sheehan rides the line: “These ‘Little Eyes’ Watch The World Burn”.

Samanta Schweblin is not a science fiction writer. Which is probably one of the reasons why Little Eyes, her new novel (translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell) reads like such great science fiction.

Like Katie Williams’s 2018 novel Tell The Machine Goodnight before it, Little Eyes supposes a world that is our world, five minutes from now. It is a place with all our recognizable horrors, all our familiar comforts and sweetnesses, as familiar (as if anything could be familiar these days) as yesterday’s shoes. It then introduces one small thing — one little change, one product, one tweaked application of a totally familiar technology — and tracks the ripples of chaos that it creates.

In Tell The Machine, it was a computer that could tell anyone how to be happy, and Williams turned that (rather disruptive, obviously impossible) technology into a quiet, slow-burn drama of family and human connection that was one of my favorite books of the past few years. Schweblin, though, is more sinister. She basically gives everyone in the world a Furby with a webcam, and then sits back, smiling, and watches humanity shake itself to pieces.

You remember what a Furby is, right? They were those creepy-cute, fuzzy animal toys that could blink and squawk and sing, dance around and respond to some basic commands. They were toys that pretended (mostly poorly) that they were alive.

Schweblin’s version is called a kentuki. It’s a simple, fur-covered crow or mole or bunny or dragon with cameras for eyes, wheels, a motor. And a person inside. Virtually, of course. Not, like, for real. Because that would be horrifying. And Little Eyes is absolutely horrifying, but not that kind of horrifying….

(9) REDECORATING THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE. ScreenRant tries to explain “Why The Fourth Doctor Had A Second (Original) TARDIS Console Room”.

…In the debut episode of Doctor Who‘s original season 14, The Doctor takes his then-companion, Sarah Jane Smith, to a different, unused console room, and then strongly suggests this place was actually the original hub of the TARDIS. This console room remained The Doctor‘s base for the remainder of the season and was a massive visual departure from what had come before, with wooden panel walls, stained glass windows, and a smaller, cabinet-like console. Unfortunately, the Victorian-style console room only lasted a single season before the white, pimply decor returned. Reports conflict as to whether the wood of the previous set was proving problematic to maintain, or whether incoming producer, Graham Williams, simply wasn’t a fan.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 9, 1973 Soylent Green premiered in theatres. It was the last performance by Edward G. Robinson who gets a great death scene here. It starred Charlton Heston and Leigh Taylor-Young. It was directed by Richard Flieschier and produced by Walter Seltzer and Russell Thacher. It was rather loosely based on Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison. Most of the critics at the time generally liked it, and at Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 71% rating among audience reviewers.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 9, 1860 J. M. Barrie. For us and for many others he’s the author of Peter Pan.  After that he had a long string of successes in the theater.  He knew George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells.  He joined the Authors Cricket Club and played for its team along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A.A. Milne, and P.G. Wodehouse.  He was made a baronet in 1913. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 9, 1913 Richard McKenna. His short story “The Secret Place” was a Hugo finalist and won the Nebula.  “Casey Agonistes” (short story) and “Hunter, Come Home” (novelette) are in many anthologies; “Casey” has been translated into French, German, Italian; “Hunter” into French, German, Italian, Romanian; “Secret” into Dutch, German, Italian, Polish.  Cover artist for Volume 3 of the NESFA Press Essential Hal Clement (Variations on a Theme by Sir Isaac Newton).  Best known outside our field for The Sand Pebbles.  (Died 1963.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 Richard  Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago so will not read it again so the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Are any of the various Watership animated affairs worth seeing? Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the the other.  Heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016)
  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn. Clute says in ESF that ‘From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.’  That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 9, 1925 Kris Neville. His most well-remembered work, the “Bettyann” novella, is a classic of science fiction. It would become part of the Bettyann novel, a fix-up of it and “Overture“, a short story of his. He wrote a lot of rather great short fiction, much of which can be in the posthumous The Science Fiction of Kris Neville, edited byBarry N Malzberg (who greatly admired him) and Martin H Greenberg, and more (some overlapping with the first collection) Earth Alert! and Other Science Fiction Tales. He’s not alas wisely available in digital form. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 9, 1926 Richard Cowper. Writer of some seriously comic genre fiction that Martin Amis loathed. The White Bird of Kinship series is what he’s best remembered for and I’d certainly recommend it as being worth reading.  It appears that all of here are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2002.)
  • Born May 9, 1936 Albert Finney. His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a deeply disturbing film. He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. In the wonderful Big Fish and voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. He was Kincade in Skyfall. He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. Oh, and he played Prince Hamlet in Hamlet at the  Royal National Theatre way back in the Seventies! (Died 2019.)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Immortal words from The Far Side.
  • Bookshelves dominate Grant Snider’s new Incidental Comic.

(13) KEEPING COMIC SHOPS AFLOAT. Shelf Awareness reports money will start flowing from the rescue fund next week: “Binc Distributing $950K to Comic Book Stores”.

Next Tuesday, May 12, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) will distribute more than $950,000 raised by the Comicbook United Fund to comic store owners. The fund was created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic by Creators 4 Comics, Jim Lee, DC and Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group. Binc is distributing amounts ranging from $800 to $2,400 to 637 comic book shops across the U.S. and U.S. territories.

The Comicbook United Fund grew out of the Forge Fund, which Oni-Lion Forge established last year with a donation to Binc of $100,000. This year, DC added another $250,000 to the fund. In addition, after the pandemic hit, a coalition of artists, authors, comics creators and other supporters held more than 600 auctions on Twitter, and DC’s Jim Lee began auctioning 60 original sketches in 60 days on eBay, with 95% of sales going to Binc.

In addition to the more than $950,000 that Binc is distributing to comic stores next week, Binc has distributed another $174,786 to 156 comic retail employees and owners to help with rent, mortgage, utilities, food and other necessities during this pandemic

(14) TIME AND TIDE. Wil Wheaton’s latest read is “By request, an HP Lovecraft short story.” Hear him at Soundcloud.

…I love the Cthulhu mythos, but I’m not crazy about Lovecraft’s storytelling. I feel like he spends a lot of time in the high concept and the world building, without ever really going more than skin deep on his protagonists and narrative characters. NB: I haven’t read a ton of Lovecraft, probably six or so short stories, so maybe he has a novel or novella with rich characters and narratives, but I haven’t found it.

None of this is to suggest that he wasn’t brilliantly creative and imaginative, just that his stories aren’t the most satisfying use of my time.

However, hundreds of you have reached out in comments and emails, asking me to narrate something from the Cthulhu Mythos, so today’s RFB Presents is a short, weird, lurid story called Dagon.

(15) OUR DYING EARTH. Tammy reviews “GOLDILOCKS By Laura Lam” at Books, Bones, and Buffy.

Goldilocks has a fantastic premise and uses one of my favorite sci-fi tropes: leaving our dying Earth and striking out to colonize a new planet, in the hopes of saving humankind. And for the first half of the story, it lived up to this promise. But I ended up with mixed feelings, and I felt the first half was way stronger than the second half. Still, I had a lot of fun reading this book, and I’m going to recommend it to readers who love strong female characters and enjoy reading about current social issues. There are some scary events in Goldilocks that really hit close to home (can you say “pandemic”?) which added a lot of tension to the story, but I also felt that Lam made a few missteps with the characters’ choices in some cases.

(16) IN THE BEGINNING. “Supergirl: 10 Things You Never Noticed About The First Episode” at ScreenRant.

… Since so much has happened in the meantime, it’s easy to forget what Supergirl was like in its beginnings when Kara Danvers was still learning how to use her powers and was hoping to figure out how to be a hero. No matter how many times you’ve seen the show’s first episode, you might have never noticed the following 10 details.

Number 10 —

National City

Kara reveals shortly after the beginning of the first episode that she lives and works in National City. The name of the city is a nice easter egg for all fans of the publisher DC comics.

National City doesn’t have its origin in the comics, but by choosing this name for Supergirl’s home, the show’s creators paid homage to DC comics. Before DC was, well, DC, the company’s name was National Comics Publications, hence the ‘National’ in the name of Supergirl’s city.

(17) MASTERPIECE THEATRE. Gideon Marcus is there when That Was The Week That Was goes off the air, and other real news is happening, but no time to waste! This is the magazine with Robert Sheckley’s Mindswap! — “[MAY 8, 1965] SKIP TO THE END (JUNE 1965 GALAXY]” at Galactic Journey.

…And then, having given my report, I’d tie it pithily to the subject at hand, namely the June 1965 Galaxy science fiction digest.  But the fact is, there’s lots to cover and I’m anxious to get it all down while it’s still fresh in my mind.  So, you’ll just have to pretend that I was clever and comprehensive in my introduction…. 

(18) THE FAR FUTURE – 1947. At First Fandom Experience they’ll take you back even further in time where you can see “A Rarity: Tellus News”.

This issue of Tellus News, a “newspaper of the future,” was discovered among a collection of fanzines from the 1940s.  It was mis-categorized because of the cover date: “Sol 23, 1947”

But this hand-drawn fanzine was created in 1932 by Howard Lowe as a vision of what news might look like 15 years hence.  It’s not a copy — it’s an original set of drawings. Rendered in colored pencil, it was likely never reproduced, and as such is a one-of-a-kind artwork….

(19) STAR WARS FOR THE 1 PERCENTERS. Michael Verdon, in the Robb Report story “Why ‘Star Wars’ Characters Are Taking Over the World’s Most Expensive Superyachts” says the British superyacht firm Thirtyc has been putting out Star Wars-related yachts for Star Wars Day on May 4, and Verdon shows how the onepercenters are having cosplay fun with their expensive yachts.

…Seeing a storm trooper and Darth Vader on a million-dollar tender isn’t an everyday occurrence. Neither is catching a glimpse of Princess Leia or Chewbacca driving away on another tender.

At first, the firm received a lot of compliments about their whimsical but highly realistic work. “As it spoke to peoples’ imaginations, they started asking us to use their boats,” says Armstrong. Soon, Star Wars vehicles like AT-AT Walkers and Starfighters appeared on superyacht helipads and rear decks.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Universe” on YouTube is a 1960 documentary, directed by Roman Kroitor and Colin Low for the National Film Board of Canada, which Stanley Kubrick said was one of his inspirations for 2001.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/15/20 Random Scroll Is The Kindest, Bravest, Warmest, Most Wonderful Pixel File I’ve Ever Known In My Life

(1) COSTUMING COMMUNITY MEMORIAL 2020 The International Costumers Guild posted their annual In Memoriam video.

This video memorializes those who were lost within the costuming community since Costume-Con 37, 2019.

(2) SIGN OF THE TIMES. Emergency Awesome’s “The Batman 2021 Movie Announcement Breakdown – Batman Easter Eggs” shared this clever image:

(3) RAZZIE AWARDS. Having forgotten these hadn’t been announced about the same time as the Oscars, it was news that the Razzie Awards ceremony was scheduled to be livestreamed March 14. Except it wasn’t, because the City of LA shut down the facility they had booked: Deadline explains, “Razzie Awards Halted By City Coronavirus Restrictions, As Producers Unsure Whether To Cancel Or Postpone”.

(4) WESTWORLD QUIZ. A featurette from HBO.

Thandie Newton and Tessa Thompson play “Who Said It?” in advance of the Season 3 premiere.

(5) MYTHBOOSTERS. I’m sure none of you fell for these. ScreenRant lists “10 Myths About Godzilla that Some Fans Still Believe”.

With over thirty films and hundreds of pieces of media spanning nearly seventy years, Godzilla is one of the most recognizable figures in all of popular culture. But as with anything that has become so enshrined in our collective imagination, there are more than a few falsehoods about Godzilla that many people continue to believe….

8 Godzilla is Green

This largely emerged from North American advertisements for the first G-film that depicted the monster in a shade of vibrant green. Throughout most of the franchise, though, Godzilla has been shown with grey or charcoal skin.

For the most part, this trait has remained the same, with the exception being Godzilla 2000, which was actually the first iteration of the creature to be green in color.

(6) EARLY PETER CAPALDI.[Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Maltin on Movies podcast with Craig Ferguson at about the one hour mark, Leonard Maltin asked Ferguson if he really was in a band called “Bastards From Hell.”  Ferguson explained that he was, but he was the drummer in Peter Capaldi’s band.  Leonard Maltin explained that Capaldi was best known for his role as Doctor Who, and Ferguson of course said, “You mean The Doctor.”

The episode ended with the Maltins and Ferguson talking about their pets.  Ferguson explained that he kept chickens, and Jessie Maltin asked if the chickens has Scottish accents.  Ferguson said he didn’t know because “I don’t speak chicken” but then gave his impression of what chickens would sound like if they had Scottish accents…

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 15, 1956 Forbidden Planet premiered. It was produced by Nicholas Nayfack, and directed by Fred M. Wilcox.  The story was by Irving Block and Allen Adler. It starred Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, and Leslie Nielsen. The narration was done by Les Tremayne. Shot in glorious Eastmancolor and CinemaScope, it is considered one of the great science fiction films of all time as it well should be. It features the first appearance of Robby the Robot who, under many different guises, will show up in different advertisements, films and series down the decades. You can go watch it here.
  • March 15, 1967 Frankenstein Created Women premiered. It was yet another Hammer Frankenstein film as directed by Terence Fisher. It stars Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein and Susan Denberg as his latest creation. Anthony Frank Hinds, who was also known as Tony Hinds and John Elder, wrote the screenplay. Critics generally generally found it Lis king a coherent script and gory while currently it has a 56% rating by the audience at a Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here. Unfortunately we could only find it as a German print, so Cora may be the only one here who can fully enjoy it!
  • March 15, 1972 Slaughterhouse-Five premiered. Based on the Vonnegut novel of the name, it would win a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Torcon II in 1973. The screenplay is by Stephen Geller while the film was directed by George Roy Hill. It starred Michael Sacks, Ron Leibman, and Valerie Perrine, and also features Eugene Roche, Sharon Gans, Holly Near, and Perry King. Critics in general liked it a lot, but more importantly Vonnegut thought it got the novel perfectly. It currently carries a 67% audience rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. It’s available on pretty much every streaming service in this universe.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 15, 1852 Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory (née Persse). Irish dramatist, folklorist, theatre manager. With William Butler Yeats and Edward Martyn, she created the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre. She produced a number of books of retellings of stories taken from Irish mythology. Gods and Fighting Men, all seven hundred pages strong, is the best look at her work. It’s available at all the usual digital sources. (Died 1932.)
  • Born March 15, 1911 Desmond  W. Hall. He served as assistant editor of Astounding Stories of Super Science. His writing career is best remembered for his Hawk Carse series which would as Space Hawk: The Greatest of Interplanetary Adventures in the Fifties. These were co-written with Harry Bates, Astounding Editor.  Unfortunately, it appears that he never stayed in print, either in paper or digitally. (Died 1982.)
  • Born March 15, 1920 Lawrence Sanders. Mystery writer who wrote several thrillers that according to ISFDB had genre elements such as The Tomorrow File and The Passion of Molly T. Now I’ve not read them so I cannot comment how just on how obvious the genre elements are, but I assume it’s similar to what one finds in a Bond film. One these novels btw is described on the dust jacket as an “erotic spine tingler”. (Died 1998.)
  • Born March 15, 1924 Walter Gotell. He’s remembered for being General Gogol, head of the KGB, in the Roger Moore Bond films as well as having played the role of Morzeny, in From Russia With Love, one of Connery’s Bond films. He also appeared as Gogol in The Living Daylights, Dalton’s first Bond film. I’m fairly sure that makes him the only actor to be a villain to three different Bonds. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 15, 1926 Rosel George Brown. A talented life cut far too short by cancer. In 1959, she was nominated for the Hugo Award for best new author, but her career was ended when she died of lymphoma at the age of 41. Some wrote some twenty stories between 1958 and 1964, with her novels being Sibyl Sue Blue, and its sequel, The Waters of Centaurus about a female detective, plus Earthblood, co-written with Keith Laumer. She’s not available in digital form but used copies of her works are readily available on Amazon. (Died 1967.)
  • Born March 15, 1939 Robert Nye. He did what the Encyclopaedia of Fantasy describes as “bawdy, scatological, richly told, sometimes anachronistic reworkings of the traditional material“ with some of his works being Beowulf, Taliesin (which is the name of my SJW cred), Faust, Merlin and Mrs. Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Some of his works are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 15, 1943 David Cronenberg, 77. Not a Director whose tastes are at all squeamish.  His best films? I’d pick Videodrome, The Fly, Naked Lunch and The Dead Zone. Though I’m tempted to toss Scanners in that list as well. ISFDB says he has one genre novel, Consumed, which garnered a Bram Stoker Award nominated for A Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Oh and he was in  the film version of Clive Barker Nightbreed.
  • Born March 15, 1967 Isa Dick Hackett, 53. Producer and writer for Amazon who helped produce The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, and The Adjustment Bureau, all of which are based on works by her father, Philip K. Dick.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) NEVERMORE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post’s Kate Silver has a piece about Nevermore Park: “In Chicago, muralist Hebru Brantley’s outdoor art moves inside”. This is something like Meow Wolf, in that it is an immersive art installation with lots of things to do for your $28.  It is also based on imaginary characters.  But the difference is that this is the creation of one artist, Hebru Brantley, and this is Afrofuturist art.

In 2019, Brantley created Nevermore Park inside his old Chicago art studio because he wanted to tell the characters’ stories in a different way. He sought to explore how Flyboy and Lil Mama — the female character — live, what they eat, how they think, where they play, what public transportation looks like in their neighborhood. And he wanted it to be tangible, built for interaction. “In the higher-art world, it’s always ‘Look but don’t touch,’?” he says. In Nevermore Park, there are no such rules.

(11) SIGNS OF LIFE. NPR says “Australia’s Fire-Ravaged Forests Are Recovering. Ecologists Hope It Lasts”.

In the back corner of a burned lot in Australia’s fire-ravaged South Coast stands a torched tree. It’s uppermost branches reach into a cloudless sky, brittle and bare. Against its charred trunk rests half-burned rubble, remains from the gift shop it used to shade.

But that’s not where local resident Claire Polach is pointing. She gestures to the middle part of the tree, where lime green leaves sprout from blackened bark, as if the tree is wearing a shaggy sweater.

To Polach, the burst of regrowth is a sign that despite a months’ long assault of flame and smoke, the second-hottest summer on record and a multi-year drought, Australia’s nature “is doing it’s thing.”

As for people like her, recovering from the same? “We’ll follow the nature,” she says.

This cycle of fire, rain and recovery has played out in Australia for millennia. The majority of the country’s forests are uniquely adapted to fire. Some species need it. “Australia is, more than any other, a fire continent,” writes ecologist and historian Stephen Pyne in his book “World Fire.”

But scientists have long warned that a warming climate could mean more severe fires, more often. Now there are concerns that even a fire continent will struggle to recover from the scale and severity of recent events.

New research published in the journal Nature Climate Change found that a staggering 21 percent of Australia’s forested area burned in the 2019-2020 fire season, a figure the authors say is “globally unprecedented” and may indicate “the more flammable future projected to eventuate under climate change has arrived earlier than anticipated.”

The question now is whether Australia’s nature can keep pace.

(12) MUIR, PLEASE. Maria Popova discusses “The Universe as an Infinite Storm of Beauty: John Muir on the Transcendent Interconnectedness of Nature” at Brain Pickings.

…A year earlier, during his famous thousand-mile walk to the Gulf of Mexico, Muir recorded his observations and meditations in a notebook inscribed John Muir, Earth-Planet, Universe. In one of the entries from this notebook, the twenty-nine-year-old Muir counters the human hubris of anthropocentricity in a sentiment far ahead of his time and, in many ways, ahead of our own as we grapple with our responsibility to the natural world. More than a century before Carl Sagan reminded us that we, like all creatures, are “made of starstuff,” Muir humbles us into our proper place in the cosmic order…

(13) GETTING THE LOWDOWN. NPR tells how “To Forecast Spring Flooding, NOAA Planes Fly Slow And Low”.

This time of year, pilots in small blue and white airplanes are busy gathering information about how much snow is on the ground — and more importantly, how much water that snow contains.

National Weather Service forecasters say parts of Minnesota could see flood conditions later this spring, according to preliminary outlooks. The National Weather Service flood outlook map says there’s a significantly elevated chance of flooding in the Upper Mississippi River and Red River watersheds.

On a clear, very cold morning at Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie, Lt. Conor Maginn and Lt. j.g. Mason Carroll warm up their twin engine turboprop and run down the pre-flight checklist. They are pilots with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Commissioned Officer Corps. On this flight, Carroll pilots while Maginn operates the scientific instruments and scans the navigation charts.

At 3,500 feet a half hour north of the Twin Cities, Maginn lets air traffic controllers know they’ll drop down to 500 feet, an altitude so low that snowmobile tracks, the stilts beneath deer stands, and the letters on the Mora water tower are easy to spot in the bright sunshine.

From a large tablet computer, Maginn activates the suitcase-sized gamma ray detector that’s mounted in the belly of the plane. The low altitude is critical; any higher and the instrument can’t get a good reading. They scan the horizon for hazards like birds and cellphone towers.

Once a second, the detector measures the amount of low-level natural radiation emanating from the soil and compares it to readings taken in the same spot last autumn, before the snow built up.

“If we fly over the same lines like we’re doing now, we can compare those two numbers and get an idea of how much water is in the snowpack,” Maginn explained.

The computer reveals that the snow in the sample contains about 3.5 inches of water. Because snow can be fluffy or compact or anything in between, forecasters calculate a figure called snow water equivalent. This is critical to forecasting how much will drain into rivers and streams when the snow melts in the spring.

(14) SPIN DOCTOR. In the Washington Post Magazine, Menachem Wecker profiles Smithsonian cultural history curator Harry Rand, who, in his book Rumpelstiltskin’s Secret:  What Women Didn’t Tell The Grimms says that the real fairy tale about Rumpelstiltskin, as conveyed orally through women-only gatherings called Spinnstubes, is that the character is sterile. “How a Smithsonian researcher reinterpreted Rumpelstiltskin for the #MeToo era”.

Harry Rand might be the most intriguing Washington researcher you’ve never heard of. The Smithsonian Institution senior cultural history curator is a published poet who holds a 1989 patent for design of a “modular space vehicle for deep space applications.” Rand has also penned critically acclaimed books on artists and has investigated topics from what Vermeer’s famous milkmaid is making (spoiler: bread pudding) to the social implications of medieval foie gras production to how the Trojan Horse was named. Still, it’s surprising even for such an omnivorous thinker to devote nearly 300 pages, with footnotes, endnotes and appendixes, to a fairy tale. But he does just that in his new book, “Rumpelstiltskin’s Secret: What Women Didn’t Tell the Grimms,” in which he claims that the story was never intended for children.

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

Pixel Scroll 03/05/20 So Goodbye Yellowed Book Scroll, Where The Cats Of Society Riff

(1) COMING TO ANOTHER PLANET NEAR YOU. Science News posted the winning name in NASA’s contest to name the new Mars rover.

Meet Perseverance, NASA’s next ambassador to the Red Planet.

The Mars rover’s new name was announced March 5, after a six-month “Name the Rover” competition that drew more than 28,000 entries from students in kindergarten through high school. Students were asked to make their name suggestions in essays.

The winning entry came from 7th grader Alex Mather, who became interested in becoming a NASA engineer after he attended the space agency’s Space Camp at age 11. 

(2) WORLDCON STATEMENT ON CORONAVIRUS. CoNZealand’s chairs Norman Cates and Kelly Buehlermade this public statement:

Although New Zealand has not been affected by Covid-19 to the extent of the rest of the world, our government and the NZ Ministry of Health have extensive civil defence plans. We are monitoring the situation and will be prepared for what the future brings.

As usual, we strongly advise all members purchase their own comprehensive travel insurance for any foreign travel, including cancellation insurance. If you have already purchased insurance for your journey to New Zealand, we recommend that you check the full terms with your insurance provider.

We are in touch with the Ministry of Health as well as with our venue planning managers. We want everyone to have a safe and healthy convention, and we will be following best practices.

(3) OTHER EVENTS MAKING DECISIONS DRIVEN BY CORONAVIRUS. A Seattle convention due to start on March 12 has announced a refund option: “As coronavirus concerns loom, Emerald City Comic Con exhibitors wrestle with the question: to con or not to con” – the Seattle Times has the story:

Emerald City Comic Con organizers Reedpop announced a refund option on Wednesday for fans who choose not to attend this year’s four-day pop-culture celebration, still scheduled for March 12-15 at the Washington State Convention Center, due to coronavirus concerns. The decision was made public shortly before city and county officials announced they were advising community groups against holding gatherings that would draw more than 10 people.

Organizers acknowledged that not everybody would agree with the decision, but “we feel we owe it to the customer to grant you the personal choice whether or not to attend,” they said in a statement.

However, Publishers Lunch says Book Expo in New York plans to carry on: “Book Expo Knows You’re Already Worried About Their Show (and Maybe Mad At Reed), So Issues Update, While Staying On Track”.

Book Expo officials are moving to get in front of community concerns about COVID-19, following the London Book Fair’s reluctant cancellation of their show. (Both shows are part of Reed Exhibitions.) Event director Jenny Martin writes in a statement, “The effect of the COVID-19 virus on the publishing business and our people is significant and difficult to navigate. Many industry events outside of the United States, have had to make difficult decisions about proceeding with their events. We understand the impact that has on the publishing industry and we want to be proactive and transparent about BookExpo.”

For now: “BookExpo & BookCon will proceed as planned May 27-31. We do not anticipate any changes or delays to our event. Our mission is to serve our customers as best we can, and we plan to provide a place for you to conduct business in these difficult times…. We will continue to be take necessary precautions to facilitate an environment for the entire community to unite, make meaningful new connections, and discover new titles.”

(4) FANHISTORY. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda praises a thoroughly illustrated tribute to sf fandom: “‘The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom’ beautifully demonstrates the evolution of a genre”. In his article, Dirda explains a great deal about early fandom and explains Bob Madle’s importance and how Madle will turn 100 this June.

In “The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom — Volume One: The 1930s,” David and Daniel Ritter — a ­father-and-son team — show us, through words and pictures, how a passion for science fiction evolved into a way of life for young people who couldn’t get enough of that crazy Buck Rogers stuff. The result is a sumptuous scrapbook of photographs, magazine covers, artwork and hundreds of articles, letters and typescripts, everything beautifully held together by the Ritters’ concise but enthralling text. The physical book is expensive but, given the amount of material in it and the high quality of the printing, one doubts that First Fandom Experience is doing more than breaking even. Happily, there is a less costly digital version available for e-readers.

(5) FAN NAME USAGE. Fanlore, a project by the Organization of Transformative Works, has announced “Upcoming Changes to Fanlore’s Pre-1995 Fan Name Use Policy”.

On 10 March, Fanlore will be making some changes to its policy on Pre-1995 Fan Name Use in order to bring it in line with our broader Identity Protection policy. Here’s why…

In the days prior to the Internet, some fans who wrote in zines (or contributed to other fanworks) used their real names as opposed to a fan name. The expectation at that time was that fanworks would remain within the fairly closed community of fandom. With respect to this different environment and in order to protect the identity of fans, Fanlore created a policy stating that fanwork authors credited in zines and other fannish publications prior to 1995 should be identified with a first name and last initial (e.g. Mary R. as opposed to Mary Richards).

However, as time went by, it became apparent that a great deal of zine content containing fans’ full names and/or preferred names had already been online for many years, and on many established websites. Additionally, many fans writing prior to 1995 used “real” sounding pseudonyms that did not need to be abbreviated. The policy of abbreviating fans’ last names has also caused a great deal of confusion over fan authors who share a first name and last initial. Different early print communities (such as science fiction zines) would often use a first initial and last full name to attribute authors, adding to the confusion.

Because of this, the Fanlore Committee has decided to bring the Pre-1995 Fan Name Use policy in line with the wider Fanlore policy on Identity Protection. Author names on fanworks made prior to 1995 will be recorded on Fanlore as they appeared at the time, but if the fan in question wishes to protect their identity, the Fanlore Committee will replace their name with a first name and last initial (e.g. Mary R.), with initials only (e.g. M.R.), or with a pseudonym of the fan’s choice (e.g. Unnamed Fan X). We are happy to work with fans to find an arrangement that they are comfortable with and that sufficiently protects their identity.

(6) YOU DO SAY. Natalie Zutter points out “Twelve SFF Stories Told From Second-Person Perspective” at Tor.com.

Writing in second person—forgoing I or she/he/they of other perspectives in favor of that intensely-close, under-your-skin you—can, ironically, be rather alienating. Often it feels too intimate for the reader, or it distracts them from the story unfolding with questions of who is actually telling it. But when a writer commits to telling a story to you, about you, through you, the result can often be masterful—an extra layer of magic surrounding a sci-fi/fantasy/speculative tale and embedding the reader in the protagonist’s journey more intensely than even the most self-reflective first or closest-third could achieve….

(7) MCLAUGHLIN OBIT. Comics artist Frank McLaughlin (1935-2020) died March 4. His earliest work was for Charlton, and he became the company’s art director in the Sixties. worked throughout the Charlton line, including on the superhero titles Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and Son of Vulcan, the adventure comic The Fightin’ 5, the supernatural/science-fiction anthologies Strange Suspense Stories and Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds, and the espionage comic Sarge Steel,

In the Seventies he settled into a career as an inker, working for both Marvel (on Captain Marvel, Captain America and The Defenders before becoming primarily a DC inker. He became the regular series inker for Justice League of America, some Batman stories in Detective Comics, and Green Lantern.

In the 1980s McLaughlin was regular inker on penciler Carmine Infantino’s The Flash, Gene Colan’s Wonder Woman, and Dan Jurgens’ Green Arrow, among other assignments.

His books include How to Draw Those Bodacious Bad Babes of Comics (2000) and How to Draw Monsters for Comics (2001), both with Mike Gold.

(8) WISE OBIT. Writer David Wise (1955-2020) died March 3. A graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop (one of his stories was published in the third Clarion anthology from NAL), he was well-known in the animation field, writing episodes for television series like Star Trek: The Animated Series, the 1984 Transformers cartoon and the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, among dozens of other shows. He’s survived by his wife Audry Taylor.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 5, 1943 The Ape Man premiered. It originally known as The Gorilla Strikes. It was directed by William Beaudine and starred Bela Lugosi and Louise Currie. It was promoted as a sequel to Return of the Ape Man but it wasn’t. Critics at the time generally liked it, but that not true of the audience at Rotten Tomatoes which gives it a 12% rating. See it here.
  • March 5, 1980 — The Beyond Westworld series debuted on CBS. It starred Jim McMullan, James Wainwright and Connie Sellecca. It was based on the film but ignored the sequel. It lasted a mere eight episodes. We cannot show you an episode as that’s behind a paywall. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 5, 1853 Howard Pyle. Author of The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire commonly known as The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood which is in print one hundred and twenty-five years later. He also did a four-volume work on King Arthur. (Died 1911.)
  • Born March 5, 1920 Virginia Christine. Likely best remembered as Wilma Lentz in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but she’s been in a number of other genre films including The Mummy’s Curse, Billy the Kid Versus Dracula, Women in the Night, plus appearances on The Adventures of Superman, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Science Fiction Theatre and The Twilight Zone. She was The Boss on The Time Guardian (Died 1996.)
  • Born March 5, 1936 Dean Stockwell, 84. You’ll no doubt best remember him as Al the hologram on Quantum Leap. He had one-offs on Mission Impossible, The Night Gallery, A Twist in The Tale, Orson Welles’ Great Mysteries and The Twilght Zone.
  • Born March 5, 1942 Mike Resnick. Damn, losing him hurts. It’s worth noting that he’s has been nominated for 37 Hugo Awards which is a record for writers and won five times. Somewhat ironically nothing I’ve really enjoyed by him has won those Hugos. The novels making my list are his John Justin Mallory detective novels, The Red Tape War (with Jack L. Chalker & George Alec Effinger), and, yes it’s not genre, Cat on a Cold Tin Roof. (Died 2020.)
  • Born March 5, 1952 Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, 68. She’s better known by her pen names of Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm.  I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read and enjoyed by her was Wizard of the Pigeons, but The Gypsy with Steven Brust was equally enjoyable and had the added bonus of a Boiled in Lead soundtrack.  What’s she done recently that I should think of reading? 
  • Born March 5, 1955 Penn Jillette, 65. Performed on Babylon 5 in the episode scripted by Neil Gaiman titled “Day of The Dead” as part of Penn & Teller who portrayed comedians Rebo and Zooty. It’s one of my favorite episodes of the series. Also, he had a recurring role on Sabrina the Teenage Witch as Drell, the head of the Witches’ Council. He’s been in Fantasia 2000Toy StoryFuturama: Into the Wild Green YonderSharknado 3: Oh Hell No!Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanVR.5Space Ghost Coast to Coast and most recently Black Mirror. 
  • Born March 5, 1971 David J. Williams, 49. British author that I confess I hadn’t heard of but now I’m intrigued by in Jack Campbell called his debut novel, The Mirrored Heavens, “a 21st century Neuromancer”.  He’s written the Autumn Rain trilogy of which this novel is the first book, and Transformers: Retribution in that franchise.
  • Born March 5, 1974 Matt Lucas, 46. He played Nardole, a cyborg, who was a companion to the Twelfth Doctor.  He is the only regular companion introduced under Steven Moffat to have never died on screen. He provided the voice of Sparx on Astro Boy, and was Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Alice through the Looking Glass.
  • Born March 5, 1986 Sarah J. Maas, 34. Author of the Throne of Glass series wherein Cinderella is a stone cold assassin. If you’re so inclined, there’s A Court of Thorns and Roses Coloring Book. Really. Truly. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full shows us a vampire’s favorite fruit. Of course it is.

(12) FREE DOWNLOAD. Tor.com invites readers to “Download the Nevertheless, She Persisted Short Fiction Bundle For Free, Starting This International Women’s Day”. It will be available on March 8 from various outlets which are linked here. (I was able to preorder the free download at Amazon today.)

Nevertheless She Persisted: Flash Fiction Project features Charlie Jane Anders, Brooke Bolander, Amal El-Mohtar, Maria Dahvana Headley, Kameron Hurley, Seanan McGuire, Nisi Shawl, Catherynne M. Valente, Carrie Vaughn, Jo Walton, and Alyssa Wong.

March 8th is International Women’s Day, which the United Nations describes as “when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.” More than celebratory, International Women’s Day is aspirational, striving toward a more gender-inclusive world. Speculative fiction has had an impact in fostering this egalitarian dream through creative expression and critique. After all, science fiction in particular was born with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, written in the “Year without a Summer” while tumultuous storms raged over Lake Geneva. This dream was the utopia penned by Muslim feminist Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain in her 1905 story “Sultana’s Dream”, and the same year Charlotte Perkins Gilman published Herland in Forerunner magazine. In the decades since, women have provided some of the most crucial and insightful voices in our community.

(13) QUICK, HENRY, THE FLIT. This is unintentionally hilarious. JDA complaining about people doing to him what he did to everybody else: “The ComicsGate Harassment Business Model” [Archive link].

  1. They Launch An Attack On A Creator – Mike MIller did this to me last week making a hate youtube stream ranting about me for an hour like a nutjob and riling up his dwindling audience against me.
  2. They Launch A New Book – Within 24 hours of the clickbait attack on youtube of me, Miller launched his new kickstarter.
  3. Repeat as necessary. 

What do they say – “Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em, And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.”

(14) JDA’S WORLDCON SUIT. Meanwhile, there are signs that Jon Del Arroz’ defamation suit against Worldcon 76 might get a trial date later this year. The case was reassigned to another judge on February 14, and on February 18 the new judge issued a Minute Order indicating a trial setting conference will happen on July 14. The court website explains this is where The judge sets a trial date for sometime in the next 90 days. Bring your calendar so you can tell the judge when you are available. After you get trial date, get ready to go to trial on that date.”

(15) TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched Jeopardy! contestants swing and miss on this one –

Final Jeopardy: British Novels

Answer: A laboratory known as the house of pain is on Noble’s Isle, the title setting of this novel.

Wrong questions: “What is Frankenstein?”

“What is ?” (nothing)

“What is Shudder Island?”

Correct question, which none of the contestants got: “What is The Island of Doctor Moreau?”

(16) HEALTH SPY? BBC considers the implications of coronavirus warnings: “Coronavirus privacy: Are South Korea’s alerts too revealing?”

As South Korea battles a snowballing number of Covid-19 cases, the government is letting people know if they were in the vicinity of a patient. But the volume of information has led to some awkward moments and now there is as much fear of social stigma as of illness, as Hyung Eun Kim of BBC News Korean reports.

As I sit at home, my phone beeps alarmingly with emergency alerts.

“A 43-year-old man, resident of Nowon district, tested positive for coronavirus,” it says.

“He was at his work in Mapo district attending a sexual harassment class. He contracted the virus from the instructor of the class.”

A series of alerts then chronicle where the men had been, including a bar in the area until 11:03 at night.

These alerts arrive all day, every day, telling you where an infected person has been – and when. You can also look up the information on the Ministry of Health and Welfare website.

No names or addresses are given, but some people are still managing to connect the dots and identify people. The public has even decided two of the infected were having an affair.

And, even if patients are not outright identified, they’re facing judgement – or ridicule – online.

When you search online for a virus patient’s case number, related queries include “personal details”, “face”, “photo”, “family” – or even “adultery”.

Some online users are commenting that “I had no idea so many people go to love motels” – the by-the-hour hotels popular with couples.

They are also joking that people cheating on their spouses are known to be keeping a low profile these days.

(17) THE SPILLOVER CONTINUES. “Ted conference to go virtual or be postponed”

The annual Ted (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference will not go ahead as planned, amid growing concerns about coronavirus.

Instead, attendees are being asked to vote on whether to postpone the Vancouver-based event until July or hold a virtual one.

A decision will be made next week.

Ted curator Chris Anderson said: “We are not cancelling. We have two compelling options for how to outwit this virus”.

In an email to attendees, he said: “As you know, the Covid-19 virus is spreading around the world, causing many challenges.

“We’ve heard from many of you asking whether we intend to press ahead with Ted 2020 – and the consensus of expert advice is that it would indeed be unwise to press ahead with the event in its current form in April.”

(18) ARGUS IN THE SKY. BBC reports a “UK firm plans ultra-high definition space videos”.

A UK company says it’s building a constellation of satellites to gather ultra-high definition (UHD) video of Earth’s surface.

London-based Sen hopes to have the first microwave oven-sized spacecraft in orbit by the middle of next year.

The idea is to provide real-time, or at least very timely, video of events unfolding on the planet, such as natural disasters.

Sen already has some UHD cameras in orbit, hosted on a Russian satellite.

These are primarily for inspection purposes, but they’re also steerable to look down and so give a sense of what the company’s future “EarthTV” concept might look like.

“Each of the satellites will have four cameras to put imagery into context, because that’s sort of the way the human brain works,” explained Charles Black, founder and CEO of Sen.

“So there’ll be wide-angle imagery, from about 250m a pixel to give that country-wide view, all the way down to our highest-resolution imager which is a small telescope that will be able to do 1.5m per pixel,” he told BBC News.

…”We actually compress the high-definition video onboard satellite, which means we can stream it back to the ground and don’t need a huge amount of bandwidth.

“We’re actually using the same algorithm as Netflix to do the compression. Because we do all that in space, we can get back really high-definition videos just using flight-proven X-band transmitter.”

(19) MOORE, PLEASE! Cora Buhlert assesses a Retro-Hugo-eligible story in “Retro Review: ‘No Woman Born’ by C.L. Moore”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

“No Woman Born” is a novelette by C.L. Moore, which was first published in the December 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is therefore eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The magazine version may be found online here.

(20) NEW TODAY. An interesting, nuanced review of FX on Hulu’s DEVS, created by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation) which premieres today on Hulu. The Ringer’s Alison Herman says “‘Devs’ Is a TV Show—but It Feels Like Something Completely Different”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

There’s not much I can tell you about Devs. I can’t disclose, for instance, the precise nature of the show’s namesake, the top-secret research division of a Silicon Valley tech company named Amaya. I can’t reveal what Amaya’s gnomic founder, Forest (Nick Offerman), plans to do with Devs once its quantum computing system is perfected, nor the theoretical breakthroughs that lead to its perfection later in the limited series’ eight-episode season. I also can’t say why Devs was commissioned and paid for by FX but is available exclusively on Hulu in the latest wrinkle of the ongoing Disney-Fox merger, though that has more to do with reasons of personal comprehension than spoiler-dictated secrecy.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Exploring the Surreal With Peter Capaldi” on YouTube is an introduction to surrealism, written by Jessica Lack, as part of the Tate Museum’s “Unlock Art” series.  And hey, it’s Peter Capaldi!

[Thanks to Meredith, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, N., Daniel Dern, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Elton Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 9/2/18 Elvish Has Left The Building

(1) DECOPUNK CITATION. Language Log quotes Cat Valente today in “Decopunk and other quasicompositional compounds”.

Complex lexical items generally have analogical historico-semantic accretions similar to those in the X-punk domain. This includes phrases like red tide, solar energy, or historical fiction,  as well as compounds like jumpsuitski lift, or break room. In the other direction, proper names are far from being semantically arbitrary in practice — to quote from a Decopunk work, Catherynne Valente’s Radiance

(2) THE MATTER OF ENGLAND. One people, divided by a common tongue…

https://medesha.tumblr.com/post/131750372841/altarandwitchinghour-kingfucko-gollyplot

(3) PETER CAPALDI, VENTRILOQUIST. This caught my eye –

(4) AND THEN, AT DRAGON CON. Remember what they said about “Inconceivable”?

(5) THE MEANING OF IT ALL. Bow Tie Writer asked an array of fans at Worldcon 76 to answer his question. I recognized Judy Bemis, Kevin Standlee, and Michelle Pincus among them.

Worldcon 2018 was held in San Jose August 15th – 20th. I went around and I asked people one simple question: What does Worldcon mean to you. This video is my homage to fandom, to internet friends, and to all the good people who come together to celebrate the things we love.

 

(6) RSR’S WORLDCON REPORT. At Rocket Stack Rank, Greg Hullender has an interesting set of “WorldCon 76 Takeaways” (including coverage of the Filer meetups).

…The audience for this panel had lots of people with many decades of experience with fanzines, so we had a lively but always cordial discussion. I was pleased to learn that even the folks who’d done fanzines back in the days of mimeograph machines all seemed to agree that online publications were definitely the future, particularly in terms of their ability to immediately involve fans via comments that don’t need to wait a month or more for publication. They worried that blogs in particular lack some of the feel of a fanzine, which has an arrangement of related stories. (At RSR, we’ll think about how a content-management system might capture that for an online publication.)

I was very pleased when someone in the audience told me that Rocket Stack Rank fit into a long tradition of “Review Fanzines,” of which Tangent is another surviving example. That made me feel a lot less like an impostor….

(7) TRUESDALE’S WORLDCON 76 PHOTO GALLERY. Dave Truesdale’s Worldcon 76 report for Tangent, “Photos from Worldcon 76, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention”, begins with coverage of Saturday’s alt-right demonstration, and ends by explaining what a raw deal he got when his 2016 Worldcon membership was revoked. In between there are a quite a few fine author photos. Here are the captions from one set —

Below Left: Lezli Robyn, helping out at the Galaxy’s Edge dealer’s table. Below Right: Galaxy’s Edge Publisher Shahid Mahmud. Both Lezli and Shahid are two of the most delightful people I’ve met in a long time. Shahid’s enthusiasm and love of SF is infectious. We talked for quite some time about this and that, and his intelligence and sense of humor shone through everything. I can’t imagine anyone not liking Shahid once they’ve met him.

(8) PROMETHEUS SPEECH. The Libertarian Futurist Society presented the Prometheus Awards at Worldcon 76. The author of the Prometheus Award-winning novel, Travis Corcoran, was unable to attend, so his acceptance speech for Powers of the Earth was read by Chris Hibbert. Its message is conveyed with classic libertarian subtlety.

…Since the first Worldcon in 1939 science fiction has been a libertarian territory under attack from authoritarians. Futurian Donald Wollheim was a communist, and argued that all of science fiction “should actively work for the realization of the . . . world-state as the only . . . justification for their activities”.

Wollheim failed with his takeover in 1939—he was physically removed from Worldcon—but he started a Gramscian long march through the institutions, and it worked. In the current year conventions, editors, and publishing houses are all cordy-cepted. The sociopaths have pushed the geeks out and have taken over the cultural territory.

“You made this? <pause> I made this.”

When the state tries to take your home, they come with guns, and you have to fight them with guns, if at all.

When a subculture tries to take your home, they come with snark and shame and entryism . . . and you fight them by making better art….

(9) DIRT FARMING. James Davis Nicoll has a long fannish exploration of “Science Fiction’s Trouble with Terraforming” at Tor.com.

Terraforming is, of course, the hypothesized art of converting an uninhabitable rock into a habitable world. Jack Williamson coined the term in his Seetee-related short story, “Collision Orbit”, published under the pen name Will Stewart in the July, 1942 issue of Astounding Magazine. While Williamson invokes non-existent super-science in order to make the task seem doable, he probably felt confident that terraforming would someday make sense. In the short run, we have seen humans shaping the Earth. In the long run—well, Earth was once an anoxic wasteland. Eons of life shaped it into a habitable planet. Williamson suspected that humans could imitate that process elsewhere…and make it happen in centuries rather than eons. Perhaps in even less time!

(10) AUGUSTULUS: With the help of a belated July issue, Jason has compiled a diminutive list of notable reading in Summation: August at Featured Futures:

This month has been doubly strange. Despite reading 42 stories of about 201K words from the August magazines, I’m in the unprecedented and unpleasant position of only being able to note one story (and that’s not even fully recommended). Counting a late July story and things for a couple of Tangent reviews, I read 59 stories of about 324K words this month and can at least add two recs and another honorable mention, all from the July/August Black Static, but only one of those is even speculative with the other two being straight horror.

(11) GIDDINGS OBIT. Sff writer and critic Joseph “Joe” Giddings passed away from ALS at the age of 45 on August 16. He was born April 6, 1973. His criticism appeared in Bull Spec and Tangent Online (among others). His fiction appeared in Mystic Signals and Dark Stars (more information in his entry at Internet Science Fiction Database.) Giddings blogged at “The Clockwork Pen”.

Joseph Giddings

(12) TODAY’S MEMORIAL DAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge. Who looked at the wrong ISFDB page today — but waste not, want not!]

  • Died September 2, 1973. J.R.R. Tolkien. It’d be extremely silly of me to list what he’s done given what the group knows, so instead I’ll ask instead what’s your favourite work by him. Mine’s still The Hobbit, a book I delight in re-reading in the Autumn as I think of him as being of that season.
  • Died September 2, 2000 – Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in the horror and science fiction film genres, with such films as The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain with the latter being adapted from his novel of the same name. Siodmak is credited with creating the legend that only silver can kill a werewolf. He also wrote the screenplays for include Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, I Walked With a Zombie and The Beast With Five Fingers.
  • Died September 2, 2013 – Frederik Pohl. Obviously needs no introduction here. His first published was a 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna”. Noted work include the Heechee series whose first novel, Gateway, was the winner of the Campbell Memorial, Hugo, Locus SF, and Nebula Awards, Man Plus , and The Space Merchants with Cyril M. Kornbluth. I won’t say that any of the short story collections thrill me but Platinum Pohl is a decent collection. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) HOGWARTS EXPRESS. More “Back to Hogwarts” hype: “Eddie Redmayne and Jude Law were at Kings Cross for the Hogwarts Express”.

As every good Harry Potter fan knows, the Hogwarts Express departs from Kings Cross station, London, platform nine and three-quarters at 11.30am on September 1. This year Professor Dumbledore and Newt Scamander themselves, aka Hollywood stars Jude Law and Eddie Redmayne, were there to kick off the new year.

(15) AND WHILE WE’RE HOGWARTING. Gwynne Watkins, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “A ‘Harry Potter’ neophyte watches all 8 movies for the first time: Here’s what happened”  says that “my cred as a film nerd and a nerd nerd has been threatened by a shameful omission”– she had never seen a Harry Potter movie (not literally – she’d seen the first one in its initial theatrical release.)  So she decided to watch them all over a 24-hour binge. Some notes are better than others. Is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix really about the problems of standardized testing? On the other hand, she had an interesting response to this 20-years-after rewatch of the very first movie —

What surprised me most on my second viewing of Sorcerer’s Stone was how much I loved Emma Watson’s Hermione. The first time around, I remember thinking that her show-offish, know-it-all nature was borderline unbearable. Now I love how unapologetic she is about her intelligence, how confidently she wields it in a room full of boys. (Seriously, where are the Hogwarts girls? Hermione needs some female friends!) Maybe as a girl who grew up downplaying her intelligence, Hermione made me uncomfortable in some primal, fourth-grade part of my subconscious. If that’s true, it only makes me more grateful that my daughter will grow up in a post-Hermione world.

(16) THE HORROR. From Agouti (@bitterkarella) comes news of the horror genre’s Midnight Society of writers. Dean Koontz, HP Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Edward Lee, Stephen King, and Edgar Allen Poe trade inspirations for their next novels. The thread starts here.

(17) NED KELLY AWARDS. My internet wanderings brought me the results of the Australian Crime Writers Association’s 2018 Ned Kelly Awards, and far be it from me to turn down literary award news…

2018 Ned Kelly Awards

Best Crime

  • Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill

Best First Crime

  • The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

Best True Crime

  • Unmaking A Murder: The Mysterious Death of Anna Jane Cheney by Graham Archer

(18) NGAIO MARSH. Likewise, I learned the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards for the “very best in Kiwi Crime” were recently presented in New Zealand.

Best Crime Novel

  • Marlborough Man by Alan Carter (Fremantle Press)

Best First Novel

  • All Our Secrets by Jennifer Lane (Rosa Mira Books)

(19) RENAME THAT TUNE. The IAU will probably decide that Hubble needs to share credit – The Conversation has the story: “Game-changing resolution: whose name on the laws of physics for an expanding universe?”

Astronomers are engaged in a lively debate over plans to rename one of the laws of physics.

It emerged overnight at the 30th Meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), in Vienna, where members of the general assembly considered a resolution on amending the name of the Hubble Law to the Hubble-Lemaître Law.

The resolution aims to credit the work of the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître and his contribution – along with the American astronomer Edwin Hubble – to our understanding of the expansion of the universe.

While most (but not all) members at the meeting were in favour of the resolution, a decision allowed all members of the International Astronomical Union a chance to vote. Subsequently, voting was downgraded to a straw vote and the resolution will formally be voted on by an electronic vote at a later date.

(20) BEWARE BENNU. The NASA mission to visit and sample Bennu — a “potentially hazardous asteroid” — has entered a new phase (“NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins Asteroid Operations Campaign”). The spacecraft has begun approach operations:

After an almost two-year journey, NASA’s asteroid sampling spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, caught its first glimpse of asteroid Bennu last week and began the final approach toward its target. Kicking off the mission’s asteroid operations campaign on Aug. 17, the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera obtained the image from a distance of 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km).

…The spacecraft has traveled approximately 1.1 billion miles (1.8 billion km) since its Sept. 8, 2016, launch and is scheduled to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 3.

…During the mission’s approach phase, OSIRIS-REx will:

  • regularly observe the area around the asteroid to search for dust plumes and natural satellites, and study Bennu’s light and spectral properties;
  • execute a series of four asteroid approach maneuvers, beginning on Oct. 1, slowing the spacecraft to match Bennu’s orbit around the Sun;
  • jettison the protective cover of the spacecraft’s sampling arm in mid-October and subsequently extend and image the arm for the first time in flight; and
  • use OCAMS to reveal the asteroid’s overall shape in late-October and begin detecting Bennu’s surface features in mid-November.

Ultimately, the craft will map the asteroid, then perform a sampling “touch-and-go” maneuver. The sample will be dropped off at Earth in a Sample Return Capsule in September 2023. OSIRIS-REx itself will end up in a solar orbit.

(21) LOX WARNING. It used to be a thing — and may still be in some fannish circles — to whip up fresh ice cream at room parties using liquid nitrogen. The US Food and Drug administration has issued a safety alert about the danger of drinks and food prepared with LN2 at the point of sale (CNN: “FDA issues warning about liquid nitrogen on food”):

“The FDA has become aware of severe — and in some cases, life-threatening — injuries, such as damage to skin and internal organs caused by liquid nitrogen still present in the food or drink,” the FDA said in issuing its safety alert. “Injuries have occurred from handling or eating products prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption, even after the liquid nitrogen has fully evaporated due to the extremely low temperature of the food.”

In its warning, the FDA said inhaling the vapor “released by a food or drink prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption may also cause breathing difficulty, especially among individuals with asthma.”

…The FDA did not say how many reports of injuries it has received or provide details on life-threatening cases.

(22) MOON WALKER. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber gives “Five Stars for First Man”

The life story of Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, is so full of astounding courage, tragedy and triumph that it is just begging for an old-school Hollywood biopic, with all the inspiring speeches, swelling orchestras and grand themes that the genre entails. First Man is not that biopic.

Directed by Damien Chazelle (La La Land) and scripted by Josh Singer (Spotlight), the film is an understated, economical drama which, like a rocket that has to escape from the Earth’s gravity, jettisons absolutely everything it doesn’t need. Dialogue is kept to a minimum. Exposition is edited out. Extraneous characters are stripped away to the point that you see almost nothing of Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), who moonwalked with Armstrong, and even less of Mike Collins (Lukas Haas), who piloted the orbiting craft. You don’t hear about Armstrong’s Korean War heroics, for that matter, and the space-race politics that were behind Nasa’s Apollo programme remain in the background. And yet, as restrained as First Man is, this riveting, exhaustively researched and utterly believable film manages to shake you, take your breath away and even pull a few tears from your eyes.

(23) SCREEN PLAY. “Movie Madness: Why Chinese cinemas are empty but full”. Speculators think buying seats (to fake up hits, to push stock prices) is cheaper than making good movies.

For a country which will soon assume the mantle of the world’s largest cinema audience, China comes out with a surprising number of big budget B-grade flops.

Some blame this on censorship, others on a lack of creativity but there are also those who see a more sinister force at work, which has nothing to do with film-making.

It also has nothing to do with selling tickets: at least not real ones.

Some investors are apparently financially backing movies with the sole goal of boosting their stock price that can shift on the perception of a movie’s performance, irrespective of its true popularity.

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Bridge Tongues” on YouTube is a look back at our times from the 25th century, where no one argues with each other and everyone lives in their own digital bubble.

[Thanks to JJ, Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Gregory Benford, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill Burns, Dann, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Other Awards Presented at Dragon Con

At last night’s Dragon Con Guest of Honor Banquet the Julie Award and Hank Reinhardt Fandom Award were presented. (Also the Eugie Foster Award, reported last night.)

2018 Julie Award

  • Peter Capaldi

In 1998, Dragon Con established the Julie Award presented annually in tribute to the legendary Julie Schwartz. The Julie Award is bestowed for universal achievement spanning multiple genres, selected each year by our esteemed panel of industry professionals.

The first recipient in 1998 was science fiction and fantasy Grandmaster Ray Bradbury.

As it happens, Fran Wilde captured a shot of Capaldi at the banquet before she was named the Eugie Award winner.

2018 Hank Reinhardt Georgia Fandom Award

  • Robby Hilliard

The Hank Reinhardt Georgia Fandom Award is presented for outstanding contributions to the genre by a Georgia writer, artist, or fan.

[Thanks to Cat Rambo, Fran Wilde, and Matt Kressel for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 5/30/17 When A Pixel Meets A Pixel, Scrolling Through The Rye

(1) CATREON. Cat Rambo has updated her Patreon appeal video.

(2) WHERE’S WEIMER? DUFF traveler Paul Weimer has reached Hobbiton in New Zealand.

(3) OPTION. Steve Davidson announced that the Experimenter Publishing Company has formed Experimenter Media LLC to develop the Amazing Stories name.

Amazing Stories, the iconic title of the world’s first science fiction magazine and the title of a well-known Steven Spielberg helmed 1980s anthology show, has been optioned for a multi-year deal with Experimenter Media LLC, a newly minted development studio.

The title was previously optioned by NBC/Universal Television in 2015.

Experimenter Media intends to develop the show as an anthology series that will showcase top quality writing by some of the greatest Science Fiction authors in the field.

(4) SAUR PRAISE. “Several-day trips provide a good way to (try) catch(ing) up on my sf (deadtree) magazine reading,” says Daniel Dern. “The highlight for this past weekend was Richard Chedwyk’s latest ‘saur’ story, ‘The Man Who Put the Bomp,’ in F&SF, March/April 2017.

“If you’re a long(-enough) regular reader of F&SF (since 2000, based on info I’m about to cite), you’ve been enjoying these charmingly delightful ‘Saur Stories’ (including the 2004 Nebula short story “Bronte’s Egg”).

“I wouldn’t dream of spoiling your reading enjoyment with any actual details. I will say that this story answers or at least addresses some of the questions about the saurs. Although not all.”

Here’s F&SF’s “Gallery of Covers for Richard Chwedyk’s Saur Stories”

(5) GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION. Can this job be automated? “Robot priest delivers blessings in five different languages”:

The video shows a man selecting one of five languages from a screen on BlessU-2’s chest which prompts the robot to begin reciting Bible verses while raising its arms in the air as its hands began to glow.

“We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine, or if a human being is needed,” Stephan Krebs of the church responsible for the robot told The Guardian.

Krebs added the robot was not designed to “robotize our church work,” but create a new discussion around religion 500 years after Martin Luther sparked a cultural upheaval by posting his 95 theses to a church in the 16th century.

 

(6) CLASS M PLANET. It may be Earth-sized but, baby! It’s cold outside — “New potentially habitable ‘super-Earth’ orbiting star 21 light years away has just been spotted”.

Astronomers have found a new “super-Earth” circling an M-dwarf star, and it could be habitable. The dwarf star, designated as GJ 625, is around 21 light years away from our solar system and is around 1/3rd the size and mass of the Sun.

Super-Earths are a kind of exoplanet with a greater mass than the Earth, but not exceeding the mass of ice giants such as Neptune or Uranus. Although the term “super-Earth” is generally used to refer to the mass of the planetary body, scientists also use the term to describe planets that are visually larger than Earth.

(7) WHO DAT? While viewing the Paddington 2 trailer, Peter Capaldi’s face popped out at me. Whoever “Mr. Curry” is, the soon-to-be-former Doctor Who is playing him in this movie. Paddington 2 hits UK cinemas on November 10.

Featuring an all-star returning cast of Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin with Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington and Imelda Staunton as Aunt Lucy and joined by new cast members Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson.

 

(8) IMPERIAL MIDLIFE CRISIS. They say clothes make the man — but what do they make him? “I’ll take the sandtrooper in white: Meet the rebel scum making Star Wars armour sets for a living”.

“I think a lot of the older men are buying it because they’ve always wanted to look like a character from Star Wars but have never been able to afford the originals,” says Edwards. “There is that thinking if you dress up as a stormtrooper and look at yourself in the mirror, then you are transported into the world of Star Wars.”

So, where does a 30-something who wants a piece of the legend go? Not the mass market of sub-£1,000 suits that targets the fancy dresser.

No, they tap a cottage industry of British specialists — Ainsworth’s Shepperton Design Studios, Edwards’ CfO, and RS Prop Masters in the UK.

This trio is busy vacuum forming sheets of white ABS plastic using curved moulds to a 1.5mm thickness, cutting out and assembling around 30 pieces per suit, making straps, body suits, eyepieces, mics, boots and blasters. Prices run from £1,200 — around $1,550.

And in case you were wondering, there are few concessions on size or girth. The original stormtrooper was 5ft 10in and 110lbs. He remains so. The most you can expect is a little extra plastic around the overlapping at the edges if you’re a little large for a stormtrooper.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Loomis Day

The History of Loomis Day. As with many things, the history of Loomis Day is actually the history of a man, and an event, and how they changed the world to come. Mahlon Loomis was a dentist in the 1800’s who had an idea that had nothing to do with teeth. He knew about the electrical properties of the atmosphere, and like Tesla had conceived of an idea to transmit electricity through the air to a distant location. His idea was, perhaps, off a bit. He thought to ‘charge’ a layer of the atmosphere to create an electrical conduit between two metal towers set high on mountaintops (Sound familiar?). What we find interesting about this entire process is that in the end, most if not all of Loomis’s theories on how the atmosphere worked and, indeed, how his own apparatus worked were completely wrong.

Click here for the rest of the story.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born May 30, 1908  — Mel Blanc, voice of Bugs Bunny and many, many others cartoon characters.
  • Born May 30 — Anna Feruglio Dal Dan
  • Born May 30 — Ross Chamberlain
  • Born May 30 — Paul Oldroyd
  • Born May 30 — Nancy Lebovitz

(11) LISTEN UP. Seven of Laura Resnick’s “Esther Diamond” stories are available from Graphic Audio.

(12) CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR. Dave Farland tells Writers of the Future entrants who didn’t reach the highest rungs “Why You Only Got an Honorable Mention”.

Right now on my computer, I have a story up. I’ve read the first two pages, and although I’m a little soft on the opening paragraph, the rest of the first page is quite intriguing. My reaction is, “Looks like I’ll have to read this one.” In other words, I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m hoping that it can be a grand prize winner. I’m hoping that someday I’ll be able to say, “I was the one who discovered this author.”

Why do I feel that I have to read this particular story? First off, it has an engaging idea at its core. I know that from the first page. Second, the author is writing with clarity and grace. Third, the pacing is just right. In short, there are a lot of good things happening here for a first page.

Stories that keep me reading all the way through will almost always get an Honorable Mention. That’s my way of saying, “You’re writing almost at a professional level, but this one didn’t quite do it for me.” Or better yet, “I’d really like to see more from you. Keep trying!”

There are four simple reasons why a story may not rise above Honorable Mention.

* The idea for the story isn’t particularly fresh or interesting. You may not realize it, but the basic concept of your story has probably been done before. For example, let’s say that you decide to write a story about “Zombie Sharecroppers.” Great. You might write it beautifully, and I might get through the entire tale and enjoy it. But ultimately I have to look at it and ask, “Is the basic tenet of the story fresh and original? Did the author give it a surprise twist that lifted it above similar stories?” If the answer to both of those questions is no, then it will probably not get higher than an Honorable Mention. You’ll need to come at me next time with a fresh idea….

(13) SURROUNDED BY ALIENS. In the Washington Post, Ben Guarino uses the release of Alien: Covenant to discuss what we know about parasites, concluding that the notion in the Alien franchise that “a parasite could become a hybrid of human and host organism…has some scientific merit.”– “Disgusting ‘Alien’ movie monster not as horrible as real things in nature”.

The new film, according to Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday, is “a largely turgid, often thoroughly unpleasant affair.” Savvy moviegoers certainly expect some amount of unpleasantness — that sensation being par for the course whenever egg-laying parasites are involved.

But for all the cinematic aliens’ gravid grotesquerie, there exists a world where they would simply be chumps. It is a place crawling with more deceptive, more horrible things. Welcome to Earth.

The inhabitants of our planet directly inspired “Alien” screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and director Ridley Scott. O’Bannon in part looked to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and previous works of science fiction. But he also plumbed the depths of nature, patterning “the Alien’s life cycle on real-life parasites,” as he said in his 2003 essay “Something Perfectly Disgusting.”

(14) FINELY TUNED EAR. Can you tell which track was written by computer? “For Video Soundtracks, Computers Are The New Composers”.

Four years later, Villegas, who works at a technical college, has a side business doing product reviews on his YouTube channel. He found that adding a little music really improved his videos.

“It just adds that third dimension that is missing sometimes,” he says.

But he hit a snag. Music is expensive. Villegas would either have to pay for rights or pay a composer.

“I upload weekly,” Villegas says. “So for me to pay a composer for 52 separate custom songs … wouldn’t make sense in the return on investment for me.”

Then Villegas discovered Jukedeck, a company that creates and sells computer-generated music. Jukedeck charges as little as 99 cents a track for a small business and $21.99 for a large business.

Chip Hitchcock comments, “The human track is by Vivaldi; IMO this means the program might be able to play checkers, but it’s a long way from winning at go.”

(15) BUBBLE AND SQUEAK. Preserving the sounds of old computers: “Fossils Of Technology: ‘The Imitation Archive’ Turns Near-Extinct Machines Into Music”.

Computers are part of the everyday sounds of our times — for a while. But as each new digital device slips into inevitable obsolescence, so do their signature sounds. Composer Matt Parker thought that meant losing touch with some of our history — so, he’s has created an archive of 126 sound recordings from the historic computers of Bletchley Park, the site where British mathematicians, scientists and spies broke German’s military codes during World War II. And he’s worked those sounds into a new series of musical compositions on an album called The Imitation Archive.

(16) THE GLASS HARMONICA CEILING. “The woman who could ‘draw’ music” (but was ignored because sound engineering was man’s work).

Few people know Daphne Oram, but she helped shape the sounds, and songs, we listen to today. A pioneer of electronic music, she wrote Still Point — thought to be the world’s first composition which manipulates electronic sounds in real time — in 1949. In 1957, she set up the famous BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The same year, she began working on her Oramics machine, which turned graphical gestures into music: the user could ‘draw’ the sounds they wished to hear.

(17) RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP. Wouldn’t you know it belongs to Microsoft? “Inside the quietest place on Earth”.

If LeSalle Munroe stands still for a few moments in his “office”, something unsettling can happen — he can hear the blood rushing around his body and his eyes squelch as they move in his skull.

While many people work in places filled with the tip-tap of keyboards, the hubbub of chatter from colleagues and a constant hum of computers, Munroe is surrounded by almost total silence. His office is the quietest place on the planet.

The specially constructed chamber is hidden in the depths of Building 87 at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, where the firm’s hardware laboratories are based. Products like the Surface computers, Xbox and Hololens have all been developed here. Microsoft’s engineers built the room — known as an anechoic chamber — to help them test new equipment they were developing and in 2015 it set the official world record for silence when the background noise level inside was measured at an ear-straining -20.6 decibels.

(18) HE’S MAD, YOU KNOW. Wikipedia’s Featured Article for May 30 — “Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book”:

Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book is a graphic novel by American cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman, published in 1959. Kurtzman aimed it at an adult audience, in contrast to his earlier work for adolescents in periodicals such as Mad. The social satire in the book’s four stories targets Peter Gunn-style private-detective shows, Westerns such as Gunsmoke, capitalist avarice in the publishing industry, Freudian pop psychology, and lynch-hungry yokels in the South. Kurtzman’s character Goodman Beaver makes his first appearance in one of the stories.

Kurtzman created the satirical Mad in 1952, but left its publisher EC Comics in 1956 after a dispute over financial control. After two failed attempts with similar publications, Kurtzman proposed Jungle Book as an all-original cartoon book to Ballantine Books to replace its successful series of Mad collections, which had moved to another publisher….

(19) LONDON TOWN. If you want to hear more about London Comic Con than just Flash Gordon and The Hulk throwing tantrums, read the BBC’s mini-interviews with cosplayers and creators who were there.

Comic book illustrator Karen Rubins

“I’m here to sell my comics and prints and meet people who like my work.

“I work for a comic called The Phoenix with a strip called The Shivers by Dan Hartwell, and our characters include girl heroes solving mysteries and standing up to supernatural threats.

“In the comic village here at Comic Con there’s at least 50% female artists and it’s a great space to work, it’s really inclusive and there’s loads of different comics you can discover.”

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