Pixel Scroll 8/4/21 I Think We’re A Scroll Now, There Doesn’t Seem To Be Any File Around

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The July 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is Justina Ireland’s “Collateral Damage”, about how an Army platoon responds when an experimental military robot is embedded with it.

…Unit 10003 interacted with assigned platoon during physical training and assisted in small tasks. Complete recordings are now available for download. Morale of assigned unit is high and no hostility was experienced. ENTRY COMPLETE…

Writer and military historian Andrew Liptak’s response essay asks “Will members of the military ever be willing to fight alongside autonomous robots?”

…The development of the Greek phalanx helped protect soldiers from cavalry, the deployment of English longbows helped stymie large formations of enemy soldiers, new construction methods changed the shape of fortifications, line infantry helped European formations take advantage of firearms, and anti-aircraft cannons helped protect against incoming enemy aircraft. The technological revolution of warfare has not stopped, and today, robotics on the battlefield—through the use of drones, automated turrets, or the remote-controlled Flir PackBot—have made appearances in the most recent conflicts….

(2) BOUCHERCON CANCELLED. The 2021 Bouchercon, a convention for mystery fans that was scheduled to be held this month in New Orleans, has been cancelled by the organizers. Members received an email explaining the decision (which has not yet been published). Writers commenting on Facebook pointed to Louisiana’s COVID spike, The con will be held in the city in 2025, instead. The Anthony Awards are still happening and details of the online/virtual awards ceremony will be coming soon.

(3) LONGYEAR ACCEPTANCE SPEECH. Barry B. Longyear invites Facebook readers to hear his Prometheus Award acceptance speech via Zoom on August 21, followed by a panel discussion “SF, Liberty, Alternative Publishing Trends and the Prometheus Awards” hosted by LFS and sponsored by Reason Magazine. The Zoom event will take place 3:00-4:30 PM EDT on August 21 and it is open to the public. This is the Zoom event link.

(4) FLASH FICTION ROUNDUP. Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA presents “An evening of Flash Science Fiction with stories by Christopher Ruocchio, Brent A. Harris and David Brin” on August 10 at 6:00 p.m Pacific. Register for the free Zoom event here.

(5) BLUE PLAQUE SPECIAL. Another commemorative plaque honoring Tolkien has been installed on a British building: “Blue plaque celebrates time Lord of the Rings author Tolkien spent near Withernsea a century ago” reports the Yorkshire Post.

A blue plaque has gone up in Withernsea to mark the time Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien and his wife spent there when he was a soldier during World War One.

The Lifeboat Café, where it has gone up, occupies the site of 76 Queen Street, where Tolkien’s wife Edith lodged in 1917, while he was stationed at nearby Thirtle Bridge Camp, three miles away, for a time as commander of the Humber Garrison, which was tasked with protecting the coast from invasion.

Tolkien, who was recovering from trench fever which he’d picked up in France, had not yet been published

…The plaque, funded by wellwishers, was organised by Phil Mathison, the author of Tolkien in East Yorkshire 1917-1918.

Two others have been installed at the Dennison Centre in Hull, which was Brooklands Hospital during the First World war, and in Hornsea, where his wife stayed at 1 Bank Terrace.

(6) KISWAHILI SF PRIZE. The Nyabola Prize for Science Fiction was announced earlier this year, inviting writers between the ages of 18 and 35 to submit sci-fi and speculative fiction in the Kiswahili language. Over 140 million people speak Kiswahili in Eastern and Southern Africa and it is the most widely spoken African language in the world. The deadline to enter was May 31. Read the March 24 announcement here. It offers $1,000 to the first place winner, and $500 and $250 to the second and third place winners. The top ten stories will be published in an anthology.

In a recent interview published in The Conversation, two of the prize’s principal administrators, Mukoma wa Ngugi and Lizzy Attree, commented on the impact of empowering writers to create sci-fi in African language literature. “New Kiswahili science fiction award charts a path for African languages”.

…Mokoma adds that fostering science fiction in African languages changes the narrative that African languages cannot accommodate scientific discourse:

“There is also the idea that African languages are social languages, emotive and cannot carry science. Most definitely not true. All languages can convey the most complex ideas but we have to let them. There is something beautiful about African languages carrying science, fictionalised of course, into imagined futures.”

(7) THERE WILL BE WAR. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] This was originally a thread on Twitter, but Cory Doctorow compiled and posted it to his blog. “Games Workshop declares war on its customers (again)”. It references Making Light, Warhammer 40K (extensively) and “Starship Troopers.” 

There’s a difference between a con-artist and a grifter. A con-artist is just a gabby mugger, and when they vanish with your money, you know you’ve been robbed.

A grifter, on the other hand, is someone who can work the law to declare your stuff to be their stuff, which makes you a lawless cur because your pockets are stuffed full of their money and merely handing it over is the least you can do to make up for your sin.

IP trolls are grifters, not con artists, and that’s by design, a feature of the construction of copyright and trademark law.

Progressives may rail at the term “IP” for its imprecision, but truly, it has a very precise meaning: “‘IP’ is any law that lets me control the conduct of my customers, competitors and critics, such that they must arrange their affairs to my benefit.”…

(8) TALKING ABOUT PIRANESI. Susanna Clarke will discuss her Hugo-nominated and Kitschie-winning book Piranesi with Neil Gaiman in a free (or pay-what-you-can) online event September 2 at 11:30 a.m. Pacific. Get tickets here.

Step into the extraordinary and mysterious world of Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author Susanna Clarke as she discusses her spectacular novel, Piranesi, with the one and only Neil Gaiman live and online exclusively for 5×15. Join us for what promises to be an unmissable conversation between two of our best loved, most powerfully imaginative writers.

(9) THE BOOK OF VAUGHN. Boing Boing reports there’s a “Vaughn Bode documentary in the works”. [Note: The line over the “e” in his name is not shown here because WordPress doesn’t support the character.]

Vaughn Bode was one of the coolest underground artists of the 1960s and 1970s, painting a joyous mix of sexuality, psychedelia and appropriated cartoon tropes. It would have been his 80th birthday this month, and director Nick Francis is preparing a documentary about his short life and long influence.

(10) THE FORCES OF EVIL DO NOT SLEEP. Cora Buhlert writes about the new Masters of the Universe: Revelation cartoon and the classic sword and sorcery influences on the Masters of the Universe franchise in general in “Eternia Revisited – Some Reflections on Master of the Universe: Revelation”. Includes spoilers.

…Those cartoons were basically 25-minute toy ads and I knew that even as a kid (especially since the commercial breaks helpfully ran ads for the very same toys). Nonetheless, I loved them. They also had a big influence on me – how big I wouldn’t realise until many years later. And I’m far from the only one. Look at how many reboots, reimaginationings, live action versions, etc… of 1980s kid cartoons there have been in recent years. For example, right now Snake Eyes, a pretty neat looking movie based on the ninja character from G.I. Joe, is in the theatres. They may only have been glorified toy commercials, but those cartoons influenced a whole generation and have outlasted many of the more serious and wholesome media of the same era. At any rate, I don’t see a big screen Löwenzahn reboot anywhere. As for wholesome and educational cartoons, how wholesome and educational does Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids look now, knowing what we know about Bill Cosby?…

(11) THREE COSTUMERS PASS AWAY. The International Costumers Guild has announced the deaths of three veteran masqueraders in recent days.

R.I.P. Robert “G. Bob” Moyer. He was a fixture at many East-Coast Costume-Cons, and always had good garb. He was also known for his middle-eastern dance skills and charming personality.

More sad news for our community, Leo d’Entremont passed away suddenly at home last night. [August 1] He will be missed at many events and our thoughts go out to his wife and family.

Dana MacDermott passed last night. [August 3] An inspiration and icon to many, she will be missed. Our thoughts go out to her husband, Bruce MacDermott, as well as her sons, family and many friends.

(12) J.W. RINZLER (1962-2021). Jonathan Rinzler, who wrote under the name J.W. Rinzler, died July 28 from pancreatic cancer at the age of 58.

Berkleyside has a detailed appreciation of his career: “Remembering Jonathan Rinzler, bestselling author of ‘Star Wars’ books”.

Rinzler had a prodigious career as a bestselling author of cinematic history books about Star WarsIndiana Jones, and other 20th century blockbuster films. He joined Lucasfilm in 2001 and became the executive editor of its publishing arm, Lucasbooks. Over 15 years, he authored an extensive body of Star Wars-related publications, including The Making of Star Wars (a New York Times bestseller), The Making of The Empire Strikes BackThe Making of Return of the JediStar Wars: The Blueprints, and The Sounds of Star Wars.

… In addition to his multiple books about the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, he wrote The Making of AliensThe Making of Planet of the ApesThe Making of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and Howard Kazanjian: A Producer’s Life.

…In addition to his nonfiction works, Rinzler wrote two novels, the No. 1 best-selling graphic novel The Star Wars, which he co-authored with artist Mike Mayhew, and his recent space history novel All Up…

Mary Robinette Kowal added this note to the announcement:

(13) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1972 – Forty-nine years ago at L.A.Con 1, Poul Anderson win the Best Novella Hugo for “The Queen of Air and Darkness”. (It was his fourth Hugo. All of his Hugo wins would be in the non-Novel categories.) Other nominated works “A Meeting with Medusa” by Arthur C. Clarke, “The Fourth Profession” by Larry Niven, “Dread Empire” by John Brunner and “A Special Kind of Morning” by Gardner R. Dozois. It would also win a Locus Award for Short Fiction and a Nebula Award for a Novelette. (One work, three different categories.)  It’s available, not surprisingly, in The Queen of Air and Darkness: Volume Two of the Short Fiction of Poul Anderson which is available from the usual suspects.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 4, 1923 Paul Schneider. He wrote scripts for the original Star TrekStar Trek: The Animated SeriesThe StarlostThe Six Million Dollar Man, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He’s best remembered for two episodes of the original Trek series: “Balance of Terror” and “The Squire of Gothos.” “Balance of Terror,” of course, introduced the Romulans. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 4, 1937 David Bedford. Composer who worked with Ursula K. Le Guin to produce and score her Rigel 9 album which the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says is “a work that is musically pleasant although narratively underpowered.” I’ve not heard it, so cannot say how accurate this opinion is. (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 4, 1942 Don S. Davis. He’s best-known for playing General Hammond on Stargate SG-1 and Major Garland Briggs on Twin Peaks. He had a small part in Beyond the Stars as Phil Clawson, and was in Hook as Dr. Fields. Neat factoid: on MacGyver for five years, he was the stunt double for Dana Elcar. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 4, 1944 Richard Belzer, 77. In the Third Rock from The Sun series as himself, also the Species II film and an adaption of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, along with series work too in The X-FilesThe InvadersHuman Target, and a recurring role in the original Flash series to name a few of his genre roles.
  • Born August 4, 1950 Steve Senn, 71. Here because of his Spacebread duology, Spacebread and Born of Flame. Spacebread being a large white cat known throughout the galaxy as an adventuress and a rogue. He’s also written the comic novels, Ralph Fozbek and the Amazing Black Hole Patrol and Loonie Louie Meets the Space FungusSpacebread is available at the usual suspects for a mere ninety cents as is Born of Flame: A Space Story!
  • Born August 4, 1968 Daniel Dae Kim, 53. First genre role was in the NightMan series, other roles include the Brave New World tv film, the second Fantasy Island of three series, recurring roles on LostAngel and Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff Crusade series, Star Trek: VoyagerCharmed and voice work on Justice League Unlimited.
  • Born August 4, 1969 Fenella Woolgar, 52. Agatha Christie in “The Unicorn and The Wasp” episode of Doctor Who where she more than capably played off against David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. She was series regular Min in the Jekyll series. Her only other genre work was as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. 
  • Born August 4, 1981 Meghan, the former Duchess of Sussex, 40, Yes she’s done a genre performance or so. To be precise, she showed up on Fringe in the first two episodes of the second season (“A New Day in the Old Town” and “Night of Desirable Objects” as Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup. She was also in the “First Knight” episode of Knight Rider as Annie Ortiz, and Natasha in “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose” on Century City

(15) COMICS SECTION.

(16) FF@60. Fans will get to experience two of the Fantastic Four’s greatest adventures in a new way when Fantastic Four Anniversary Tribute #1 is published in November. In the tradition of Giant-Size X-Men: Tribute To Wein & Cockrum #1 and Captain America Anniversary Tribute #1, this giant-sized issue will present classic stories with new artwork by today’s leading artists.

 Sixty years ago, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby made history and brought about the beginning of the Marvel Age of comics with the release of FANTASTIC FOUR #1. Now a bevy of Marvel’s finest creators will pay tribute to that monumental moment by reinterpreting, page by page, the story from that inaugural release as well as FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #3, the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm!

(17) HULL & POHL. Andrew Porter took these photos of Elizabeth Anne Hull and her husband Frederik Pohl in years gone by. Hull died this week, and Pohl in 2013.

(18) TRYING TO BE HELPFUL. Daniel Dern nominates these as the titles for Phillip Pullman Dark Materials sequels.

  • The Precient Wrench
  • His Uglee Mugge
  • The Ambitious Protractor
  • The Slye Pliers
  • The Open Source Aleitheometer
  • The Dust Buster
  • The Unworthy Hammer
  • The Book In The Stone
  • The Sword In The Scroll

(19) SOUL MAN. The dark year 2204, in a world that has seen 73 years of continuous war. A Shaman is sent on a mission to convert the soul of a giant battle colossus. “The Shaman” curated by DUST.

The dark year 2204, in a world that has seen 73 years of continuous war. Recently mankind re-discovered the arts of Shamanism. The Shaman’s school of thought believes that every person or object has a soul. During battle Shamans step over into the Netherworld to find and convert the souls of their enemies’ giant battle machines. This tactic enables a single man to overcome an invincibly seeming steel monster. This is the story of Joshua, a Shaman, who is sent on a mission to convert the soul of a giant battle colossus. He does not yet know that the soul is prepared for his coming and that the deadly psychological soul-to-soul confrontation in the Netherworld will be on eye level.

(20) A DIFFERENT SHIELD BEARER. “The Multiverse Blows Open With Captain Carter In New Clips From Marvel’s ‘What If…?’ Series On Disney+”SYFY Wire sets the frame:

The animated series, which arrives on Disney+ next week, takes Loki‘s introduction of the multiverse and runs with it, presenting alternate outcomes for our favorite MCU heroes and villains. Overseeing all of these parallel dimensions is Uatu the Watcher (voiced by Wright), an omnipotent celestial being whose job it is to watch over the Earth without interfering….

(21) THE DRINK OF DRAGON CON. Makes me wonder what the official beverage of the Worldcon would be named.

(22) AIR APPARENT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] What a difference a (longer) day makes: “’Totally New’ Idea Suggests Longer Days On Early Earth Set Stage For Complex Life” at Slashdot.

“A research team has proposed a novel link between how fast our planet spun on its axis, which defines the length of a day, and the ancient production of additional oxygen,” reports Science Magazine. “Their modeling of Earth’s early days, which incorporates evidence from microbial mats coating the bottom of a shallow, sunlit sinkhole in Lake Huron, produced a surprising conclusion: as Earth’s spin slowed, the resulting longer days could have triggered more photosynthesis from similar mats, allowing oxygen to build up in ancient seas and diffuse up into the atmosphere.”

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and Retaliation,” the Screen Junkies say the first two G.I. Joe movies are “like Team America but without the jokes” that mixes “generic military dudes and hot military babes.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Jennifer Hawthorne, Joey Eschrich, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/3/21 No One Will Be Watching Us, Why Don’t We Pixel In The Scroll?

(1) NEW CLIMATE IMAGINATION FELLOWSHIPS. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has announced a new Climate Imagination Fellowship, which brings together an international team of science fiction authors to craft positive visions of climate futures, grounded in real science and local realities. The inaugural fellows are Libia Brenda, Xia Jia, Hannah Onoguwe, and Vandana Singh. Learn more at climateimagination.org, or check out the full announcement, “Climate Imagination Fellows inspire visions of resilient climate futures”.

The Climate Imagination Fellowship, hosted by the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, seeks to inspire a wave of narratives about what positive climate futures might look like for communities around the world.

The first four climate fellows are talented sff authors from all around the world “will generate hopeful stories about how collective action, aided by scientific insights, culturally responsive technologies, and revolutions in governance and labor, can help us make progress toward inclusive, sustainable futures.”

Hannah Onoguwe, Xia Jia, Vandana Singh, Libia Brenda. (Photo credits: Greatman Shots and Claudia Ruiz Gustafson.)
  • Libia Brenda is a writer, editor and translator based in Mexico City. She is one of the co-founders of the Cúmulo de Tesla collective, a multidisciplinary working group that promotes dialogue between the arts and sciences, with a special focus on science fiction; and Mexicona: Imagination and Future, a series of Spanish-language conversations about the future and speculative literature from Mexico and other planets. She was the first Mexican woman to be nominated for a Hugo Award for the bilingual and bicultural anthology “A Larger Reality/Una realidad más amplia.”
  • Xia Jia is a speculative fiction author and associate professor of Chinese literature at Xi’an Jiaotong University in Xi’an, a city in the Shaanxi province in northwest China. Seven of her short stories have won the Galaxy Award, China’s most prestigious science fiction award. She has published a fantasy novel, “Odyssey of China Fantasy: On the Road” (2009), and four collections of science fiction stories: “The Demon-Enslaving Flask” (2012), “A Time Beyond Your Reach” (2017), “Xi’an City Is Falling Down” (2018), and “A Summer Beyond Your Reach” (2020), her first collection in English. Her stories have appeared in English translation in Nature and Clarkesworld magazine. 
  • Hannah Onoguwe is a writer of fiction and nonfiction based in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State in southern Nigeria, a region famous for its oil industry. Her short stories have been published in the anthologies “Imagine Africa 500” (2016), from Pan African Publishers, and “Strange Lands Short Stories” (2020), from Flame Tree Press. Her work has appeared in publications including Adanna, The Drum Literary Magazine, Omenana, Brittle Paper, The Stockholm Review and Timeworn Literary Journal. In 2014, “Cupid’s Catapult,” her collection of short stories, was one of 10 manuscripts chosen to kick off the Nigerian Writers Series, an imprint of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).
  • Vandana Singh is an author of speculative fiction, a professor of physics at Framingham State University and an interdisciplinary researcher on the climate crisis. She is the author of two short story collections, “The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories” (2014) and “Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories” (2018), the second of which was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award. Her short fiction has been widely published, including the short story “Widdam,” part of the interdisciplinary climate-themed collection “A Year Without a Winter” (2019). She was born and brought up in New Delhi and now lives near Boston.

Each fellow will write an original piece of short climate fiction, building on local opportunities, challenges, resources and complexities, and drawing on conversations with experts in a variety of fields, ranging from climate science to sociology to energy systems to biodiversity. They will also write a set of shorter “flash-fiction” pieces. These pieces of short fiction will be collected, along with essays, interviews, art and interactive activities, in a Climate Action Almanac, to be published in 2022.

(2) YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll is having the young people read old Hugo finalists. And now it is Niven’s turn in the barrel. “Neutron Star”.

“Neutron Star” or at least the collection of which it is the title story enjoys the distinction of being the piece most likely to entice new readers to read more Niven. To quote:

“It seemed to (Spike McPhee) that he should suggest to readers that they try a different Niven book first, as an introduction to Known Space. He tried out his theory: Of a sample set of about 60 or so readers, he got them to first try the Neutron Star collection before attempting Ringworld. Doing so improved the sample set’s desire to continue on to other Known Space books?—?from one-third to approximately two-thirds.”

It certainly worked for me: having encountered the collection, I hoovered up every other Niven work I could find in the mid-1970s. However, if there is one thing this series has taught me in the last five years, it is that material that appealed to people half a century ago does not appeal to young people today. Will this be the exception? 

Oh, you sweet summer child….

(3) WORLDCON MASQUERADE SIGNUPS. DisCon III is taking registrations for both the Virtual and In-Person Worldcon Masquerades. Click on the link for full details: Masquerade.

Virtual Dates

  • Online registration for the Virtual Masquerade is OPEN now. Register here.
  • Online registration for the Virtual Masquerade CLOSES: 11:59 PM EDT on Wednesday, September 1, 2021
  • Videos must be SUBMITTED BY: September 1, 2021 via the addresses on the registration forms.

In Person Dates

  • Online registration for the in person Masquerade OPENS: July 1, 2021. Register here.
  • Online registration for the Masquerade CLOSES: 11:59 PM EDT on Wednesday,  December 15 , 2021
  • In-person registration OPENS: 3 PM on Wednesday, December 15, 2021
  • In-person registration CLOSES: Noon on Friday, December 17, 2021

(4) SPACE: THE VINYL FRONTIER. Arun Shastri looks at the reason why some products look familiar: “Read Before Assembly: The Influence Of Sci-Fi On Technology And Design” at Forbes.

In 1966 a television series called “Star Trek” introduced the communicator, a device Captain Kirk flips open to talk to his crew remotely.

Decades later, in the mid-1990s, Motorola released its StarTAC model phone—credited as the first flip phone and clearly inspired by the communicator device from the science fiction series.

… Sci-fi writers have been instrumental in imagining our present and our future—so much so that large tech firms have sponsored lecture series where fiction writers give talks to employees and commissioned “design fiction” projects to develop more sophisticated products and experiences.

For instance, Arizona State University has founded the Center for Science and the Imagination, whose goal is to ignite collective imagination for a better future. The Center created Project Hieroglyph, a web-based project that provides “a space for writers, scientists, artists and engineers to collaborate on creative, ambitious visions of our near future”—and presumably also to steer us away from dystopian futures worsened by irresponsible technology use.

(5) CLOTHES CIRCUIT TELEVISION. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] Lisa Hayes found the VHS video tape buried in one of my boxes that had the ConAdian 1994 Worldcon Masquerade video on it, digitized it, and I’ve uploaded it to the Worldcon Events YouTube channel.

Unfortunately, the last part of the credits didn’t make it onto the 2 hour VHS tape. Also, due to YouTube copyright reasons, there is at least one entry that has its sound muted.

(6) SPECIAL BOOKS WILL COMMEMORATE MUSEUM OPENING. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will publish three debut catalogs on the work of legendary moviemakers Hayao Miyazaki , Spike Lee, and Pedro Almodóvar, whose careers will be celebrated when the museum opens its inaugural exhibitions to the public on September 30, 2021.

Bill Kramer, Director and President of the Academy Museum, said, “These first Academy Museum publications are a lasting record of our extraordinary inaugural exhibitions and our dynamic collaborations with Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli and filmmakers Spike Lee and Pedro Almodóvar. Like the exhibitions, these catalogs will bring readers closer to the filmography, art, influences, and careers of these remarkable artists.”

…The richly illustrated catalogue Hayao Miyazaki is published in partnership with Studio Ghibli. It will be available through the Academy Museum Store on September 7, 2021. Marking the museum’s eponymous inaugural temporary exhibition, the publication features hundreds of original production materials, including artworks never seen outside of Studio Ghibli’s archives in Japan. The 288-page hardcover book illuminates Miyazaki’s creative process and animation techniques through imageboards, character designs, storyboards, layouts, backgrounds, and production cels from his early career through all 11 of his feature films, including My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). The bookfeatures a foreword by producer and Studio Ghibli cofounder Toshio Suzuki along with texts by Pixar Chief Creative Officer Pete Docter, Cologne-based journalist and film critic Daniel Kothenschulte, and Academy Museum Exhibitions Curator Jessica Niebel. Hayao Miyazaki is designed by Jessica Fleischmann/Still Room and copublished with DelMonico Books.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1973 – Forty-eight years ago at Torcon II, Slaughterhouse-Five won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. Other finalists that year were The PeopleSilent Running and Between Time and Timbuktu (also based on a number of works by Vonnegut). The novel it was based on, Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, had been nominated for a Hugo three years earlier at Heicon ’70. Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness would win that year. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 3, 1904 Clifford Simak. [By Paul Weimer.] I first encountered Clifford Simak in the story whose last four lines haunts me to this day, the tale of a man, his dog and Jupiter: “Desertion”.  From this singular story, I discovered the wealth of his work, the rest of the stories besides Desertion in the City cycle, Way StationThe Goblin Reservation, and a host of short stories. Many things strike me about his work, in reading and re-reading his work: his abiding love of dogs, his aliens, funny, amusing, well drawn and yet sometimes inhumanly incomprehensible. (Not Explaining Everything is a feature, not bug, of Simak’s fiction) And time travel. Not in the traditional sense of a Time Patrol, but much of Simak’s fiction sends his protagonists forward and backward in time, or they’ve found they already HAVE done so, and it did not go well. Pastoral is the other note that Simak’s work evokes for me, the rural midwest setting of many of his stories and novels, his backcountry characters vividly and sometimes a bit tetchily deal with the issues they are faced with.  But there is a fundamental sense of themes of independence and autonomy and being true to oneself that inhabits his fiction, including those last four lines:   

“I can’t go back,” said Towser.
“Nor I,” said Fowler.
“They would turn me back into a dog,” said Towser.  
“And me,” said Fowler, “back into a man.”

(Simak died in 1988.)

  • Born August 3, 1920 P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?”. Made into a film which she said she really liked despite it being substantially different than her novel. I like authors who can do that. ISFDB lists her as having done a short story called “Murder, 1986” which they say is genre but I’ve not read it. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 3, 1940 Martin Sheen, 81. So that was who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be Sheen. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but that’s the ones I like most. Though I will single him out for voicing Arthur Square in Flatland: The Movie.
  • Born August 3, 1950 John Landis, 71. He’d make this if all he’d done was An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which is the best Tim Curry role ever. And Executive Produced one of the best SF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon. Neat fact: he was the puppeteer for Grover in The Muppet Movie, and he later played Leonard Winsop in The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • Born August 3, 1954 Victor Milán. New Mexico author who specialized in media tie-in fiction. He had work in BattletechForgotten RealmsOutlanders UniverseStar Trek and Dinosaur Lords franchises to name but a few. His universe was The Guardians series. And a lot of stories in the Wild Card Universe. Craig W. Chrissinger has a remembrance here. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 3, 1972 Brigid Brannagh, 49. Also credited as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish red headed colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The EmbraceAmerican GothicSliders, Enterprise (as a bartender in one episode), RoarTouched by an AngelCharmedEarly EditionAngel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), GrimmSupernatural and she had a run in Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes.
  • Born August 3, 1980 Hannah Simone, 41. She was Mera, the lead, in the film remake of The Greatest American Hero. She was also Leena Param  in The H+ series in which humanity is nearly wiped and addicted to the internet, and host for several seasons of the WCG Ultimate Gamer series.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro — You wouldn’t think Dr. Frankenstein could make this mistake.

(10) HORSEBLEEP. Although the topic has been in the Scroll before, this June 2020 article may still be fresh for a lot of us — The Atlantic looks at how “’My Little Pony’ Fans Confront Their Nazi Problem”.

… For years, this has been the status quo in the world of My Little Pony. In supposed deference to principles of free speech and openness on the internet, the presence of self-described Nazis within a fandom that idolizes compassion-oriented cartoon characters has become a coolly accepted fact. The community has sorted itself largely into two camps: those who think anything goes as long as someone finds it funny, and those who would rather ignore toxic elements than admit that not everything is perfect.

Until now. Following a new wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the United States, the fandom is in an all-out civil war, forced to either confront or deny what it’s let go on for so long. The abrupt reckoning has raised an existential question for internet spaces large and small: If you’ve gone online to live in a fantasy space, can you avoid taking responsibility when the real world finds its way in?…

… Now the real world and Equestria are colliding. Over the past few weeks, some My Little Pony fans have mocked the protests with racist fan art, most of which was posted to Derpibooru,  then massively upvoted by /mlp/ users. One much-discussed image was a pony version of a white-nationalist meme that circulated after the launch of a SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station: a photo of the two white astronauts side by side with a photo of black protesters “rioting.” The artist replaced the black people in the image with cartoon zebras—which are awkwardly coded as African in the real My Little Pony universe, but often referred to on 4chan with a portmanteau of zebra and the N-word. “Beautiful,” one user responded to the image. “Perfect for subtle messaging.”

At the same time, My Little Pony art that was supportive of the Black Lives Matter protests was being hit with hundreds of downvotes—an apparently coordinated action that is against the site’s rules….

(11) FAMILIARS. The Guardian interviews the artist about the project in “Rankin designs covers for Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy”. More covers at the link.

Portraying Marisa Coulter, who has “tortured and killed without regret”, Rankin juxtaposed her with her golden monkey dæmon so that their eyes appear almost superimposed.

He said: “I wanted to create this amalgamation of the dæmon and the person. It’s really trying to embody the darkness of the series.”

The photographer said book covers should be more dramatic: “With classics, there’s a lot of playing safe … because one aesthetic or another might not be liked … What’s great about His Dark Materials is that the publisher and Philip went for the stronger, darker, more mysterious images.”

(12) DEATH WARMED OVER. Ars Technica’s Jennifer Oullette says “Post Mortem is the Norwegian vampire procedural dramedy we need right now”.

… The trailer opens with Live waking up in a hospital. Odd tells her that everyone thought she was dead after her body was found in a field. The responding officers processed the scene and transported her body to the morgue—at which point she woke up on the autopsy table. Officers Judith and Reinert are beside themselves about the mix-up, although Judith adds, “In our defense, you seemed really dead.”

Live soon realizes she isn’t quite herself. There’s the sudden onset of insomnia, and her senses are strangely heightened—so much so that she can hear a person’s pulse. Also, her eyes have changed color to a rich emerald, and she finds that she is significantly stronger. Then there’s her growing thirst for blood, culminating in a shot of Live waking up with her mouth covered in it—hopefully from the local blood bank, but Officer Judith has her suspicions that something stranger is going on. Odd, for his part, is happy to admit that he wishes there were a serial killer on the loose, as at least that would drum up some much-needed business for his funeral home….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Jungle Cruise Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George has, in a spoiler-packed episode, has the producer interrupt the pitch by taking a call from Dwayne Johnson, who says he has to be in every movie with “jungle” in the title and you can’t question Dwayne Johnson because he’ll raise an eyebrow at you!

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Joey Eschrich, Paul Weimer, Jennifer Hawthorne, Kevin Standlee, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

2020 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / olegd

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2020 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 50 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • 38 of the novellas published in 2018,
  • 57 of the 2019 novellas,
  • and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas from my library, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 59!

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and I do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas are listed in two sections below. The first section, those with cover art, are the ones I have read, and they include mini-reviews by me. These are in approximate order from most-favorite to least-favorite (but bear in mind that after around the first dozen listed, there was not a large degree of difference in preference among most of the remainder, with the exception of a handful at the bottom). The second section is those novellas I haven’t read, in alphabetical order by title.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Some short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included, and in a couple of cases, novelettes which were long enough to be in the Hugo Novella tolerance were also included.

Please feel free to post comments about 2020 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your File 770 comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

If you see something that looks like gibberish, it is text that has been ROT-13’ed to avoid spoilers. (Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)
Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 11/16/20 The Sith Who Sang

(1) UNPREDICTABLE QUESTIONS. On the 50th anniversary of the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy, the Toronto Public Library blog quizzes a trio of workers about their favorite memories: “Merril Collection at 50: Stories from the Spaced Out Library”. This is a wonderful Q&A.

The year 2020 will go down in history for many reasons. It also happens to be a major milestone for Toronto Public Library’s most far-out collection. In 1970, science-fiction author and editor Judith Merril donated 5,000 books to TPL to found the “Spaced Out Library.”

…To help mark the 50th anniversary of the Merril Collection, I asked Lorna Toolis (former Collection Head), Annette Mocek (Services Specialist) and Kimberly Hull (Librarian) to reflect on their favourite items and stories from the stacks. Together, they have 88.5 years of experience working with the collection! … 

What is the strangest or most memorable patron request you ever received?

Lorna: On my first day of work, a patron ran in and demanded “that book you have on UFOs, with the chart so that people can distinguish between the ones with round lights and the ones with square lights.” Other memorable questions included the Madonna of Lourdes as a UFO phenomenon, the possibility of pregnancy for vampires, Victorian era fiction involving carnivorous plants, transhumanism, etc. A recurring favourite question was the quest for H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. Apocryphal books were always in demand. 

People tend not to remember the authors or titles of short stories. More patrons than I could count over the years wanted to know the title of the short story where someone travels back in time to hunt a dinosaur and kills a butterfly and everything changes. “The Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury was probably the most requested short story ever. 

(2) YOUR TV GUIDE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Season 2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials starts tonight, Monday November 16.

I liked Season 1. My question: Will Lin-Manuel Miranda, playing rifle-packing aeronaut/balloonist Lee Scoreseby, get to sing, or at least say that he is not going to miss his shot?

(3) PKD THOUGHTS AND THEMES. Arthur B. analyzes the final novels and stories [Philip K.] Dick wrote from 1967 until “his transformative 2-3-74 experience” in “A Maze of Dick” at Fake Geek Boy. Quite interesting.

…This does not include A Scanner Darkly, which is properly placed among the novels written after 2-3-74; although begun in 1972, Dick would make extensive revisions to it until it was finally in a state he was satisfied with in 1976, and among those revisions were a number of additions and tweaks which worked in themes and imagery related to 2-3-74.

The Exegesis makes this explicit: Dick breaks down particular, identifiable scenes from A Scanner Darkly and directly says that he included them as a result of the experience, rather than those scenes informing the experience, and included them in a manner which was conscious and deliberate, as opposed to the inadvertent subconscious inclusion of such themes in pre-2-3-74 fiction which he occasionally believed had happened. (Those of us with more conventional understandings of cause and effect may instead conclude that the 2-3-74 experience, being a neurological incident produced by Dick’s mind, naturally ended up reflecting the themes and concepts that Dick had been thinking extensively about over his lifetime.)…

(4) BISHOP MEDICAL UPDATE. Michael Bishop shared about his cancer treatment in a public Facebook post on November 13. Much more at the link.

Had my first immunotherapy infusion yesterday at Emory University Hospital Midtown. No side effects yet, and I feel better this morning than I did yesterday morning. Even if it’s my imagination, I’m grateful….

One predictable side effect of my therapy, Dr. Read had told us, is a palpable energy deficit, and although it seemed too early for any such effect to kick in, I was totally dragged out by the time we got home. So I hit our bed upstairs and slept for almost two hours. All in all, a happy 75th birthday indeed.

(5) IN WORK TO COME. Editor Diana M. Pho introduces a WIRED Magazine series in “6 Sci-Fi Writers Imagine the Beguiling, Troubling Future of Work”.

…Today’s collaborative tension between humans and machines is not a binary divide between master and servant—who overthrows whom—but a question of integration and its social and ethical implications. Instead of creating robots to perform human labor, people build apps to mechanize human abilities. Working from anywhere, we are peppered with bite-sized names that fit our lives into bite-sized bursts of productivity. Zoom. Slack. Discord. Airtable. Notion. Clubhouse. Collaboration means floating heads, pop-up windows, chat threads. While apps give us more freedom and variety in how we manage our time, they also seem to reduce our personalities to calculations divided across various digital platforms. We run the risk of collaborating ourselves into auto-automatons.

First up, “‘Work Ethics,’ by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne”.

“SO YOU’RE TELLING me we’re going to be automated out of existence,” Romesh said. “I’m telling you that what you’re doing is wrong, wrong, wrong, and if you had any morals you’d shoot yourself.”

The complaint was made in a bar that was mostly cigarette smoke by this point, and to a circle of friends that, having gathered for their quarterly let’s-meet-up-and-catch-up thing, had found each other just as tiresome as before. Outside, the city of Colombo was coming to a crawl of traffic lights and halogen, the shops winking out, one by one, as curfew regulations loomed. Thus the drunken ruminations of Romesh Algama began to seem fundamentally less interesting….

(6) SUPPORT SUSAN PETREY SCHOLARSHIPS. Organizers Debbie Cross and Paul M. Wrigley are holding a fundraiser through eBay for the Susan Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund, which has been helping people attend Clarion and the Clarion West Writer’s Workshops since 1982.

At present we award two scholarships & one fellowship annually. Our biggest fund raiser is at the OryCon science fiction convention which should have been held this past weekend. Instead we are running an Ebay auction with books, glass & jewelry,  many quilted items & artwork. The link is below, the auction runs through  Friday. We’ll ship everything but pickup in Troutdale is available.

100% goes to the charity.

 (7) MEET MARVEL’S CREATORS. Marvel’s Storyboards season 2 premieres today on their YouTube channel.

Marvel’s Storyboards is a 12-episode non-fiction series following Joe Quesada, EVP, Creative Director of Marvel Entertainment, as he explores the origin stories and inspirations of storytellers of all mediums, backgrounds, and experiences at their favorite spots throughout New York City and beyond. The series aired its first six-episode season this past summer, and continuing this second season, will showcase a variety of visionary, critically acclaimed storytellers including Sasheer Zamata (actress, stand-up comedian and former SNL), Ed Viesturs (high-altitude mountaineer), Nelson Figueroa (former MLB pitcher for the New York Mets), Gillian Jacobs (Community, Love), Samhita Mukhopadhyay (Executive Editor, Teen Vogue), and Taboo (Black Eyed Peas), adding to the first season’s featured guests Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Bobby Lopez (EGOT winning songwriter, Frozen, Avenue Q), Johnny Weir (former Olympic figure skater), Christian Borle (Something Rotten, Smash), Margaret Stohl (Life of Captain Marvel), and Hugh Jackman (Wolverine).

Marvel’s Storyboards Season 2 Episode Release Schedule:

  • Monday, November 16: Episode 1 feat. Gillian Jacobs
  • Friday, November 20: Episode 2 feat. Sasheer Zamata
  • Tuesday, November 24: Episode 3 feat. Samhita Mukhopadhyay
  • Tuesday, December 1: Episode 4 feat. Nelson Figueroa
  • Tuesday, December 8: Episode 5 feat. Taboo
  • Tuesday, December 15: Episode 6 feat. Ed Viesturs

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1975 — Forty five years ago, Patricia McKillip’s Forgotten Beasts of Eld would win the World Fantasy Award over Poul Anderson’s A Midsummer Tempest and H. Warner Munn‘s Merlin’s Ring.  It would the nominated for the Locus Best SF Novel and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award as well. The wrap-around cover art was by Peter Schaumann. (CE)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 16, 1862 – Edith Ogden Harrison.  Five novels, half a dozen collections, of fairy tales and other fantasy; retold Bible stories; travel; recollections.  Wife of five-term Chicago mayor, illustrated his memoirs.  The Lady of the Snows illustrated by J. Allen St. John.  (Died 1955) [JH]
  • Born November 16, 1907 Burgess Meredith. Brief though his visit to genre be, he had two significant roles. The first was in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Narrator although initially he was uncredited. One of his other genre roles was a delightful take as The Penguin in original Batman series. He also shows up in Tales of Tomorrow, an anthology sf series that was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953, and on The InvadersThe Twilight ZoneFaerie Tale Theatre: Thumbelina (with Carrie Fisher!) and The Wild Wild West. Did I mention he he voiced Puff the Magic Dragon in a series of the same name? Well he did.  Ok, so his visit to genre wasn’t so brief after all… (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born November 16, 1942 – Milt Stevens.  Co-chaired L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon, Westercon 33, and the first Loscon.  Fan Guest of Honor at Loscon 9, Westercon 61.  Among our finest fanwriters, in his own zine The Passing Parade and many letters of comment.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  Mine here (PDF; p. 7).  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born November 16, 1950 – P.J. Evans, 70.  A frequent Filer (which tested my typo-avoiding powers).  Her adventures on an electric bendy-bus have been reported elsewhere.  Her many other adventures in fandom I have not found documented, and I won’t rely on memory.  I think they included Reynolds Rat and Rat Masterson.  [JH]
  • Born November 16, 1952 Candas Jane Dorsey, 68. Canadian writer who’s the winner of the Prix Aurora Award and the Otherwise Award for Genre Bending SF for her Black Wine novel. She’s also won a Prix Aurora Award for her short story, “Sleeping in a Box”.  She’s one of the founders of SF Canada which was founded as an authors collective in the late Eighties as Canada’s National Association of Speculative Fiction Professionals. At the present time, she appears to have little available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born November 16, 1958 Marg Helgenberger, 61. She’s best remembered no doubt as Catherine Willows on CSI which might be treated as genre. She was Hera in the recent Wonder Woman, and also appeared in Conan: Red Nail which doesn’t even get ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, Species and Species II, not to mention Tales from the Crypt. Oh, and two Stephen King series as well, The Tommyknockers and Under the Dome. (CE) 
  • Born November 16, 1972 Missi Pyle, 48. Laliari in Galaxy Quest which is one of my fav SF films of all time. Let’s hope that a series never comes to be.  She’s also has been in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Percy Jackson: Sea of MonstersA Haunted House 2Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Star Trek: The Next Generation,  RoswellThe TickPushing Daisies and Z Nation. (CE) 
  • Born November 16, 1959 – Jessica Rydill, 61.  Five novels, three shorter stories.  Here is her own cover for Malarat (there are other editions too).  In Winterbloom actual historical figures appear, including John Dee, whom I’ve always thought more interesting than Aleister Crowley, but what do I know?  With Cora Buhlert, edits Speculative Fiction Showcase.  [JH]
  • Born November 16, 1972 – Tobe Sunaho, 48.  (Her personal name last, Japanese style.)  Illustrator and character designer.  Here is Yurusa reshi itsuwari (“Forgiven and False”).  Here is Riviera.  Here are some images from Yggdra Unison (or Union).  Here is a Halloween greeting.  Here is an image from Shiueru’s Web.  [JH]
  • Born November 16, 1976 Lavie Tidhar, 44. The first work I read by him was Central Station which was the2017 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel winner. It certainly deserved that accolade! The next work by him I experienced was The Bookman Histories in which Mycroft Holmes is murdered and, well, everything of a pulp nature gets tossed into alternate history England.  Both brilliant and annoying at times. I’ve just read Unholy Land, his telling of the founding of a Jewish homeland long ago in Africa, and I’ve got By Force Alone, his profane Arthurian retelling, on my TBR list. (CE) 
  • Born November 16, 1977 Gigi Edgley, 43. Though her genre experiences are varied, I think she’ll be only remembered for her role as Chiana, a Nebari who was a member of Moya’s crew on Farscape. Other genre appearances include BeastmasterThe Lost WorldQuantum Apocalypse and she has a role in the video fanfic Star Trek Continues in the “Come Not Between the Dragons” episode. (CE) 
  • Born November 16, 1988 – Samantha Bailly, 32.  Six novels for us, three shorter stories; nine other novels, three collections, manga.  Imaginales de Lycéens prize for her first novel Oraisons (French, “prayers”) at age 19.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Broom Hilda almost immolates some visitors to a small planet.

(11) TA-NEHISI COATES’ BLACK PANTHER RUN RETURNS. Ta-Nehisi Coates resumes his run on Black Panther in February. Featuring outstanding art by Daniel Acuña and Ryan Bodenheim, Black Panther #23 will continue to reveal Coates’ grand vision for the character of King T’Challa and the Kingdom of Wakanda.

Since taking over as writer in 2016, the acclaimed author has taken Black Panther and Wakanda to the stars and beyond. Across the multiverse, T’Challa discovered an alternate Wakanda, one ruled far differently than his own. Having abandoned their once peaceful ways, this Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda will stop at nothing to rule all of the cosmos. After initially being enslaved by the empire and then joining a rebellion against it, T’Challa has finally made his way back to Earth, but this twisted reflection of Wakanda is not far behind…

…Said editor Wil Moss, “I promise, these last three issues will be worth the wait — Ta-Nehisi and Daniel have been building to this finale for over two years now, and the ensuing battle between the forces of T’Challa’s Wakanda and Emperor N’Jadaka’s Intergalactic Empire is going to knock your socks off! Just wait’ll you see who shows up to help defend Wakanda…”

(12) NOT MANDALORIAN RFD. Yahoo! Life invites everyone to “Watch Bryce Dallas Howard’s sweet homage to her dad in last week’s Mandolorian”. (Luckily my first thought was wrong, that we were going to see a green Opie.)

This weekend, Baby Yoda wasn’t the only endearing Child of a doting father to turn up on The Mandalorian. Episode director Bryce Dallas Howard took the opportunity to remind the world—well, at least to remind Apollo 13 fans—that she, like Baby “The Child” Yoda, has a dad.

…Given the opportunity to pay a little homage to one of her dad’s better-known flicks, it seems that Bryce Dallas Howard couldn’t resist. And yes, technically this is her second go-round as one of The Mandolorian’s directors, but here she was given a chance to nod to Apollo 13 in a way that’s absolutely suited to the story she was telling. Miss the reference and it’s still a cool sequence.

(13) GIVE OR TAKE A COUPLE YEARS. Jacke Wilson’s The History of Literature podcast arrives at last at “The Real Golden Age of Science Fiction”.

In Part Two of our look at great literary genres, Jacke probes the development of science fiction, from ancient Greek travels to the moon to the amazing stories of the 20th century. Along the way, he chooses four candidates for the Mount Rushmore of Science Fiction, reads a passage from science fiction’s O.G., and sees if there is a secret to science fiction that he can discover.

Jacke Wilson: …[Hugo Gernsback] had a tumultuous career as a publisher and a lousy reputation in the industry. Writers couldn’t stand him. They thought he ripped them off. They thought he was a crook. He was a little sleazy. He didn’t pay writers well and he stole their rights. He himself tried writing stories and the results were not good. But his magazine, that first magazine especially, Amazing Stories, was transformative. There’s no denying that the stories in the magazine are what launched the genre as we know it today. These magazine stories led to the Golden Age of Science Fiction. They were there for a whole generation of young people to discover.

That’s sort of the joke about the Golden Age of Science Fiction. They say, what’s the Golden Age of Science Fiction? Answer: 14. Get it? We call the ’30s and ’40s and ’50s the Golden Age as magazines thrilled readers with stories about space travel and time travel and nuclear power and everything else. And this was the era of World War II and the Cold War, and we had Sputnik and all of that to fill the need of science, fill the gap that that our confusion and fear about the world was putting into place thanks to our existential threat. Well, science was there to fill that gap, and science stories were there, too.

But 14 is the Golden Age. That’s what people say when they tell this joke. The Golden Age is that these stories hit you when you’re 14, when you’re looking for answers, looking to absorb reality, looking to make sense of it, and looking for something else, too—which is what I’ll save until the end.

(14) STATION-TO-STATION. “SpaceX launches 2nd crew, regular station crew flights begin” – the AP has the story.

SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday on the first full-fledged taxi flight for NASA by a private company.

The Falcon rocket thundered into the night from Kennedy Space Center with three Americans and one Japanese, the second crew to be launched by SpaceX. The Dragon capsule on top — named Resilience by its crew in light of this year’s many challenges, most notably COVID-19 — reached orbit nine minutes later. It is due to reach the space station late Monday and remain there until spring.

(15) NEW WONDER. Maria Andreeva, in the Deadline story “‘Wonder Girl’ TV Series With Latina Lead From Dailyn Rodriguez & Berlanti Productions In Works At the CW” says that “Wonder Girl,” based on characters developed by Joelle Jones for DC Comics, is currently in development at the CW.,

…This would mark the first Latina superhero title character of a DC TV series. Rodriguez, who is the daughter of Cuban immigrants, is executive producing with Berlanti Prods.’ Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter and David Madden. Berlanti Productions produces in association with Warner Bros. Television.

The series tells the backstory/origin story of the DC Comics character of Yara Flor, who was recently revealed as a new Wonder Woman. Yara will make her comic book appearance this January in Future State: Wonder Woman, part of DC’s Future State event written and drawn by Jones.

(16) GENE-IUS. “Uh-Oh, Scientists Used Human Genes to Make Monkey Brains Bigger” reports Yahoo! Finance.

In an experiment that could portend a real-life Planet of the Apes situation, scientists spliced human genes into the fetus of a monkey to substantially increase the size of the primate’s brain. And it worked.

Researchers from Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Germany and Japan’s Central Institute for Experimental Animals introduced a specifically human gene, ARHGAP11B, into the fetus of a common marmoset monkey, causing the enlargement of its brain’s neocortex. The scientists reported their findings in Science.

The neocortex is the newest part of the brain to evolve. It’s in the name—“neo” meaning new, and “cortex” meaning, well, the bark of a tree. This outer shell makes up more than 75 percent of the human brain and is responsible for many of the perks and quirks that make us uniquely human, including reasoning and complex language.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Star Trek:  Into Darkness Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains the reason Spock throws a cold-fusion machine into a volcano early in the film “was because it has ‘cold’ in the title.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 10/10/20 Schrödinger’s Box Remains Both Ticked And Unticked At The Same Time Until You Pixel It

(1) A NOT-SO-LITTLE LIST. BookRiot concocted a way of assessing an interesting question: “How Do Readers Rate The New York Times Best-Selling Books?”

…For their research, the organization pooled all titles on the NYT List from June 22, 2008 to March 29, 2020. They then determined the top 100 titles from the NYT list based on the number of times it appeared on the lists in that time frame, and each of those titles was subtracted from its average ranking on the list. This made for a total of 716 unique titles.

Once those titles were identified, the top 100 reviews on Goodreads—the reader’s view of books—were pulled. The researchers looked at how many times those titles appeared on the NYT List, then subtracted this from the average list ranking. A book’s total score was calculated using this number, as well as the average Goodreads starred rating for the title….

READERS RANK THE BEST BESTSELLERS

Using the methodology laid out above, which books that landed on the NYT List were among the most well-reviewed by readers on Goodreads? The researchers calculated 20 titles among the top.

… The top ranking best seller for readers was Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. The book appeared on the bestseller list over 600 times, ranking at an average of #3, and readers gave it an average rating of 4.1 stars on Goodreads.

Interestingly, 11 of the titles on this list are children’s, middle grade, or YA books, and of the remaining titles, six are self-help/productivity books. Given that the NYT List has primarily featured white authors until more recently—and it’s still primarily white in some categories—it’s not a surprise to see that only a small number of the top 20 books are by authors of color…

(2) HOW HUMANS RELATE TO PROGRAMS. Future Tense ran a piece by Torie Bosch about “Shouting at Alexa”.

… For years now, commentators have reminded us that the gendered dynamics of digital assistants are troubling. In September, Future Tense ran an excerpt from The Smart Wife: Why Siri, Alexa, and Other Smart Home Devices Need a Feminist Reboot by Yolande Strengers and Jenny Kennedy . “Friendly and helpful feminized devices often take a great deal of abuse when their owners swear or yell at them. They are also commonly glitchy, leading to their characterization as ditzy feminized devices by owners and technology commentators—traits that reinforce outdated (and unfounded) gendered stereotypes about essentialized female inferior intellectual ability,” they write.

That’s me, swearing and yelling at my feminized device even though it only wants to be friendly and helpful.

What I tell myself, though, is that I’m really trying to avoid anthropomorphizing the Echo and the rest of the tech in my life. It’s a tendency I’ve had ever since I got to know ELIZA, the chatbot created by an MIT researcher in the 1960s. ELIZA was designed to mimic Rogerian therapy—which basically means that this simple program turns everything you say into a question. For some reason, it was installed on some of the computers in my middle-school library in the ’90s. Most of the time, I tried to get her—I mean it!— to swear, but I also spilled my tweenage heart out occasionally. And I’m not the only one. As a Radiolab episode from 2013 detailed: “At first, ELIZA’s creator Joseph Weizenbaum thought the idea of a computer therapist was funny. But when his students and secretary started talking to it for hours, what had seemed to him to be an amusing idea suddenly felt like an appalling reality.”…

(3) THE WRITER’S CRAFT. Delilah S. Dawson on how to write a synopsis. Thread starts here. (H/t to Cat Rambo.)  

(4) IT’S A NOPE. The Mary Sue checked the social media response from two people whose opinions we’d like to hear: “Rhianna Pratchett and Neil Gaiman React To the First Trailer for The Watch.  

…Terry Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, responded to the clips on Twitter, writing “Look, I think it’s fairly obvious that
@TheWatch shares no DNA with my father’s Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.”

… Beloved author Neil Gaiman also weighed in on Twitter in response to fan questions on the faithfulness of adaptions. Gaiman, who collaborated with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens, personally oversaw the novel’s adaptation into a miniseries on Amazon Prime, serving as writer and showrunner for the series. Gaiman defended the creator’s original vision of their work, stating “If you do something else, you risk alienating the fans on a monumental scale. It’s not Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat.”

(5) VINTAGE DARKNESS. “25 years of His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman on the journey of a lifetime” as told by the author in The Guardian.

It was 1993 when I thought of Lyra and began writing His Dark Materials. John Major was prime minister, the UK was still in the EU, there was no Facebook or Twitter or Google, and although I had a computer and could word-process on it, I didn’t have email. No one I knew had email, so I wouldn’t have been able to use it anyway. If I wanted to look something up I went to the library; if I wanted to buy a book I went to a bookshop. There were only four terrestrial TV channels, and if you forgot to record a programme you’d wanted to watch, tough luck. Smart phones and iPads and text messaging had never been heard of. The announcers on Radio 3 had not yet started trying to be our warm and chatty friends. The BBC and the National Health Service were as much part of our identity, of our idea of ourselves as a nation, as Stonehenge.

Twenty-seven years later I’m still writing about Lyra, and meanwhile the world has been utterly transformed.

To some extent, my story was protected from awkward change because I set it in a world that was not ours. It was like ours, but different, so I could take account of the real-world changes that helped my story, and ignore those that didn’t. 

(6) SATISFIED CUSTOMER. “One Good Thing: The wonderful sci-fi novel A Memory Called Empire makes diplomacy enthralling” – a review at Vox.

Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire, which recently won the Best Novel award at science fiction’s prestigious Hugo Awards, reads like its author was simultaneously influenced by Game of Thrones, histories of the Cold War, various anti-colonialism writings, and the Star Wars prequels. It’s a grand, galaxy-spanning space opera that is mostly about diplomacy. Or, if you prefer, it’s an impressively wonky novel about galactic geopolitics that just happens to feature spaceships and aliens. I love it.

It’s difficult to talk about A Memory Called Empire without spoiling some of its best surprises because the core of the book sounds impossibly dry. But let me give it a shot anyway, because the best way to read this book is to know almost nothing about what happens after its first few chapters….

(7) AFTERGLOW. The Guardian’s Matt Kamen asks — “Cancel culture: is Netflix killing off series too soon?”

Another day, another cancellation – or at least, that’s how it’s starting to feel when it comes to Netflix. Having culled the likes of Sense8, The OA, Santa Clarita Diet and Altered Carbon in recent years, all after two or three seasons and often leaving viewers on major cliffhangers, the streaming service has turned its bloodlust on to Glow, which had already started filming its fourth season before the pandemic hit, and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

The latter, a prequel to the cult-favourite 1983 Jim Henson movie, produced and performed entirely with staggeringly intricate puppets and animatronics, and featuring an all-star cast, premiered on Netflix in August 2019. It garnered near-universal acclaim from critics, and a slate of awards nominations – including, crucially, picking up a 2020 Emmy for outstanding children’s program. Yet even awards success hasn’t spared it the axe, with the executive producer, Lisa Henson, confirming it won’t be returning….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1993 – Twenty-seven years ago, The Flash Girls released their first album, The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones. The Minneapolis based band consisted of Emma Bull and Lorraine Garland, also known as The Fabulous Lorraine. Garland is notable as being Neil Gaiman’s personal assistant. Among the songwriters were Jane Yolen, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman. Bull and Garland adopted the names Pansy Smith and Violet Jones as their alternate personas and would become characters in the DC Sovereign Seven series where they run a coffee shop. They would release two more albums, Maurice and I and Play Each Morning Wild Queen. Bull and Shetterly moved to California which broke up the band and Garland formed Folk Underground which also had songs written by Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 10, 1895 – Lin Yutang, Ph.D.  Author, editor, translator, gifted popularizer (yes, it’s possible).  One SF novel.  Built a working Chinese typewriter (yes, it’s –) never developed commercially but pivotal in machine-translation research.  My Country, My People a best-seller.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? The Bulldance is at least genre adjacent. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase”, a Second Doctor story. In the Seventies, he wrote the BBC Doctor Who and the Pescatons audio drama which I remember hearing. It was quite excellent. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1931 – Jack Jardine.  Writing under another name, four Agent of T.E.R.R.A. novels, three others.  Indeed many other names.  Radio disc jockey, humorist.  See Bill Mills’ appreciation here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1942 – Wojtek Siudmak, 78.  More than seven hundred covers, seventy interiors.  Six artbooks (in French).  Two Chesleys.  Here is Double Star.  Here is a volume of Norman Spinrad.  Here is Dune.  Here is The Return of the King.  Here is Expansion.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1957 – Rumiko Takahashi, 63.  (Names would be reversed in Japanese style.)  Manga artist with 200 million copies of her work in circulation.  Two Shogakukan Awards, two Seiun Awards.  Inkpot.  Science Fiction & Fantasy Hall of Fame, Eisner Hall of Fame.  Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême, second woman and second Japanese to win.  Scottish rock band named for Urusei Yatsura, her first to be animated.  This cover reprinting vols. 1&2 of Ranma 1/2 shows Ranma’s dad changed into a panda and Ranma into a girl.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1959 Kerrie Hughes, 61. Anthologist, some of which impressively have had several printings. Favorite titles for me for me include Chicks Kick Butt (co-edited with Rachael Caine), Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies (with Martin H. Greenberg) and Shadowed Souls (with Jim Butcher). She’s written short fiction and essays as well. It looks like almost all of her anthologies are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1968 Mark Bould, 52. British academic whose done a number of interesting genre-related works including Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction, co-edited with China Miéville, Parietal Games: Critical Writings by and on M. John Harrison with M. John Harrison and Michelle Reid, and Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction written with Andrew M. Butler and Adam Roberts and Sherryl Vint. (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1976 Marjan Neshat, 44. Best remembered for her recurring role as Samar Hashmi on Quantico which is at least genre related. She’s also had roles in the Robocop reboot, FringeElementaryNew Amsterdam and Person of Interest. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1971 – Jeff Miracola, 49.  Magic, the Gathering (over a hundred cards) and Shadowrun; children’s books e.g. The Book of Impossible Objects; Electronic Arts video game Mini-Golf.  In eight issues of Spectrum so far (2-5, 15-16, 19-20); Advanced Photoshop magazine; 30 Years of Adventure (Dungeons & Dragons).  Here is a cover for Tower of Babel.  “Continue to work on your craft.  Draw, paint, and create always.  Consider getting together with other artists…. actually creating and feeding off each other’s energy.”  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1984 Jenna Lê, 36. Minnesota-born daughter of Vietnam War refugees, her genre poetry is collected in A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora along with other poems. That collection placed second for an Elgin Award. You can find an excellent interview with her here. (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. This weekend, the New York Comic Con managed to run a cosplay competition despite being a virtual event: “Sew And Tell! Virtual Championships Of Cosplay Winners Announced At NYCC 2020” at SYFY Wire.

… The Beginners victor was Commander Poptart, a U.S. entrant who dressed as Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “This was an incredible build for a beginner. Well, done, Commander Poptart,” said JediManda, who was dressed as Baby Yoda from The Mandalorian

No runner-up was announced.

The runner-up in Needlework was Demorafairy from the U.K., who dressed as Little Red Ashe from Overwatch. “We loved this costume, the letterwork is so impressive on it. All her engineering, like the vest, was done in three different layers, so every piece would lay correctly,” said Yaya Han. “I thought that was just really genius and it just has such a great balance of different techniques used. All her sewing was very clean and the skirt was the right length and everything was finished.”

Sewcialist Revolution from the U.S. nabbed the top honor for the Needlework category with her Claire Fraser costume inspired by Outlander. She spent five years learning how to make 18th-century clothing and then hunkered down for an extra six months putting the dress together. “This is needlework in its best representation,” Han added. “She used period-accurate methods, so much of it was hand-done … We really appreciated all of the efforts that she went into.”…

And more.

(12) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY EFFECTS. “Making the Monsters of ‘Lovecraft Country’” is discussed in the New York Times.

…Consider the monstrous, man-eating Shoggoths of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” last seen decimating a squad of racist police officers on Sunday night. They may not be the mind-bending series’s most terrifying menace — that title goes to vintage, 1950s white supremacy — but it isn’t for lack of trying.

Shoggoths are hideous to look at — pale, bulbous, covered in scabby, asymmetric eyes — and deadly to encounter, with concentric rows of gnarled teeth that turn trespassers into tartare. H.P. Lovecraft first wrote about blob-like creatures called Shoggoths in the late ’20s in a series of sonnets, and they appeared in his 1936 novella “At the Mountains of Madness.”

But the original Shoggoths, described by Lovecraft as “normally shapeless entities composed of a viscous jelly which looked like an agglutination of bubbles,” bear little resemblance to the fast-moving, gorilla-like beasts that first terrorized Tic, Leti and co. in the series premiere.

(13) IN SPACE THEY CAN HEAR YOU SING. Earlier this year NPR’s “Science-Fiction Music: Monsters, Aliens In ‘Filk'” covered all pop music, including work by fans.

As science fiction spread within music, fans began to share songs with one another, and the movement became known as Filk. It took its name from a 1950s article about these unusual songs, which misspelled “Folk” as “Filk.” Bill Sutton is the president of Interfilk, an organization that helps fans and musicians attend Filk conventions. Sutton says otherworldly ideas in popular music, combined with excitement about the space program, made people believe that technology could save everything.

(14) 007, MUNSTER, AND RIPLEY, OH MY! Want to buy the Green Hornet’s car? At Profiles in History’s “The Icons & Legends of Hollywood Auction” on November 12-13, many extraordinary costumes, props and relics are going under the hammer. 

Following is just a glimpse of the items awaiting you in these pages that left indelible marks in Hollywood history: 

  • John Travolta “Tony Manero” screen worn signature leather jacket from Saturday Night Fever.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio “Jack Dawson” poker game/boarding costume from Titanic.
  • Roger Moore “James Bond” Royal Navy uniform jacket from The Spy Who Loved Me.
  • Jane Seymour “Solitaire” psychic medium cape and headdress from Live and Let Die.
  • Orson Welles “Charles Foster Kane” coat from Citizen Kane.
  • Marilyn Monroe “The Girl” fantasy tiger gown from The Seven Year Itch.
  • Gene Kelly “Don Lockwood” legendary rain suit from the Singin’ in the Rain.
  • Gary Cooper “Lou Gehrig” Yankee uniform from The Pride of the Yankees.
  • James Dean “Jett Rink” tuxedo from Giant.
  • Elizabeth Taylor “Leslie Benedict” arrival to Reata ensemble from Giant.
  • Vivien Leigh “Scarlett O’Hara” traveling dress from Gone With the Wind.
  • Fred Gwynne “Herman Munster” signature costume from The Munsters.
  • Tina Louise “Ginger” signature glamor dress from Gilligan’s Island.
  • Sir Richard Attenborough “John Hammond” signature cane from Jurassic Park
  • Sigourney Weaver “Ripley” signature Nostromo jumpsuit from Alien.
  • Hero “ramming” Chestburster with articulating jaw and “whiplash” tail from Alien
  • Hero “Ra” Cheops class Pyramid Warship filming miniature from Stargate.
  • Hero X-71 Shuttle “Independence” filming miniature from Armageddon.
  • Zed’s “Grace” Harley chopper ridden by Bruce Willis “Butch Coolidge” in Pulp Fiction

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

Pixel Scroll 8/28/20 Maslow’s Filerarchy Of Pixels

(1) GARCIAGATE GOFUNDME. Chris Garcia, Vanessa and the boys had to evacuate from their Northern California home because of the fires. So far their house has survived, but there’s no telling when they will be able to return. Til then, they’re in hotels. A GoFundMe appeal launched yesterday: “GarciaGatePenguins Fire Relief”  People have donated $5,780 of the $10,000 goal in less than 24 hours.

…Initially they believed their home is lost, but are holding out hope that their home and belongings aren’t destroyed. It may still be a long voyage in the clean up process, assuming the house is still standing. What may have been destroyed by smoke damage is also still an unknown. It has been an incredibly hard time and they are incurring many added expenses for temporary lodging and having to eat out. 

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman continues having the conversations he would have had in New Zealand had there been a flesh-and-blood CoNZealand. It’s time for tea and scones with Farah Mendlesohn on Episode 126 of Eating the Fantastic.

I’d previously made plans to chat and chew with three guests on the ground in Wellington, but since that proved impossible, I decided to go virtual, too, urged on by my Patreon supporters. And so, during my previous two episodes, you were able to eavesdrop as I dined with Lee Murray in New Zealand and Stephen Dedman in Australia. This time around, we’re off to Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England for tea and scones with Farah Mendlesohn.

Farah was a Hugo Award finalist this year in the category of Best Related Work for her book The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, and had previously been nominated in that category for The Inter-Galactic Playground: A Critical Study of Children’s and Teens’ Science Fiction, and On Joanna Russ. She won a Hugo (with Edward James) in 2005 for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, as well as a World Fantasy Award in 2017 for Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction, which she wrote with Michael M. Levy.

She’s also edited anthologies, including Glorifying Terrorism, Manufacturing Contempt: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction, which she created to protest laws introduced by the British Government she saw as restricting free speech. She was the chair of the Science Fiction Foundation from 2004-2007, served as President of the International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts from 2008-2011, and is currently an Associate Fellow of The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy.

We discussed the reasons Robert A. Heinlein resonated with her, how her early and current readings of Heinlein differ, why the science fiction of the ’30s was far more politically radical than that of the ’40s and ’50s, her deliberately controversial comment about Ursula K. Le Guin, the circumstances under which she’s more interested in the typical rather than the groundbreaking, that period during the ’20s when everyone was fascinated by glands, the one Heinlein book she wishes we’d go all back and reread, our joint distaste for fan policing, and much more.

(3) INTO THE UNKNOWN. Deadline introduces “‘His Dark Materials’ Teaser: First Look At Season 2 Of HBO/BBC Adaptation Of Philip Pullman’s Fantasy Epic”.

We’re getting the first look at the upcoming second season of His Dark Materials, HBO/BBC’s big-budget adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy epic.

The second season begins after Lord Asriel has opened a bridge to a new world, and, distraught over the death of her best friend, Lyra follows Asriel into the unknown. In a strange and mysterious abandoned city she meets Will, a boy from our world who is also running from a troubled past. Lyra and Will learn their destinies are tied to reuniting Will with his father but find their path is constantly thwarted as a war begins to brew around them. Meanwhile, Mrs. Coulter searches for Lyra, determined to bring her home by any means necessary.

(4) ROWLING RETURNS AWARD. “J.K. Rowling Returns Kennedy Family Award Following Kerry Kennedy Remarks”Variety has the story.

Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has emerged into a fresh controversy after she returned the Ripple of Hope Award bestowed upon her by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization in December 2019, following criticism from Kerry Kennedy. Kerry is the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, and the president of the organization.

“Over the course of June 2020 — LGBTQ Pride Month — and much to my dismay, J.K. Rowling posted deeply troubling transphobic tweets and statements,” Kennedy posted on the organization’s website on Aug. 3. “On June 6, she tweeted an article headlined “Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate.” She wrote glibly and dismissively about transgender identity: ‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

Kennedy said she had spoken with Rowling “to express my profound disappointment that she has chosen to use her remarkable gifts to create a narrative that diminishes the identity of trans and nonbinary people, undermining the validity and integrity of the entire transgender community — one that disproportionately suffers from violence, discrimination, harassment, and exclusion and, as a result, experiences high rates of suicide, suicide attempts, homelessness, and mental and bodily harm. Black trans women and trans youth in particular are targeted.”

On Thursday, Rowling responded with a statement posted to her website.

“Because of the very serious conflict of views between myself and RFKHR, I feel I have no option but to return the Ripple of Hope Award bestowed upon me last year,” said the author. “I am deeply saddened that RFKHR has felt compelled to adopt this stance, but no award or honor, no matter my admiration for the person for whom it was named, means so much to me that I would forfeit the right to follow the dictates of my own conscience.”

Rowling said Kennedy’s statement “incorrectly implied that I was transphobic, and that I am responsible for harm to trans people.”

(5) FAMILY FEUD. The Independent eavesdropped on David Tennant’s podcast and learned: “William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy rivalry sparked by fan letter jealousy, claims George Takei”.

While appearing on David Tennant’s celebrity interview podcast, David Tennant Does a Podcast With…, Sulu actor Takei alleged that the cast of the original Star Trek TV series all got along apart from Shatner, with Takei confirming that it often felt like “William Shatner versus the rest of the world”.

“It got more and more intense,” Takei recalled. “How do I put it? It began from the TV series. There was one character whose charisma and whose mystery was like a magnet.

“It was Spock, the strange alien with pointy ears. That intrigued the audience and women thought ‘I’m the one who can arouse him.’ His fan letters were this many, and Leonard’s were that many, and that created an insecurity [in Shatner].”

He continued: “Movie-making, TV-making, theatre-making is all about collaborative teamwork. A good actor knows that the scene works when there’s that dynamic going on with the cast. Some actors seem to feel that it’s a one-man show. That’s the source of some tensions.”

Shatner saw the article and lashed out —

Then, in an unrelated exchange on Twitter, Shatner downplayed Trek’s immediate benefits to his career.

(6) THE MARTIAN CANTICLES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the August 24 Financial Times, Ludovic Hunter-Tilney talks to progressive rocker Rick Wakeman about his new album, The Red Planet, He says he got the idea for the album about Mars by attending the Starmus International Festival of astronomy and music in Tenerife, Spain.

“Next year’s Starmus, due to be held in Armenia, marks the 50th anniversary of the first orbit of Mars by a space probe.  Wakeman will be among the musicians appearing.  He describes how the event’s founder, the astrophysicist Garek Israelian, updated him about the latest Martian findings.

‘He told me that it’s beginning to look like 20bn years ago Mars was a blue planet with oceans and rivers.  ‘Your good friend David Bowie may have been right,’ Wakeman recalls.  The rock musician–who played the piano part on Bowie’s celebrated ‘Life on Mars’ in 1971–went very quiet as the scientist spoke.  Inside, a light went on.  ‘Bingo!’ he said to himself/”

(7) THE TOON IS OUT THERE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Lower Decks must look like a success, since now X-Files seems to be jumping onto the animated spin-off bandwagon. But since this show is being done by the creators of Movie 43 (which currently earns a generous 5% on Rotten Tomatoes) I wouldn’t hold out much hope for the series being watchable. From Variety: “‘X-Files’ Animated Comedy Series in Development at Fox”.

An animated “X-Files” comedy series spinoff is in the works at FoxVariety has confirmed.

The project is currently titled “The X-Files: Albuquerque.” It has received a script and presentation commitment at the broadcaster. The show would revolve around an office full of misfit agents who investigate X-Files cases too wacky, ridiculous or downright dopey for Mulder and Scully to bother with. They’re basically the X-Files’ B-team.

“X-Files” creator Chris Carter is attached to executive produce the project, with Rocky Russo and Jeremy Sosenko attached to write and executive produce. Gabe Rotter, who worked on the “X-Files” revival at Fox, will also executive produce. 20th Television and Fox Entertainment will produce. Bento Box will provide animation. Neither Gillian Anderson or David Duchovny is involved with the project at this time.

(8) UP THE AMAZON. Publishers Lunch reports:

…In advance of Independent Bookstore Day on August 29, Powell’s Books announced that it will no longer sell rare and collectible books through Amazon Marketplace. Owner Emily Powell wrote in a message to customers, “For too long, we have watched the detrimental impact of Amazon’s business on our communities and the independent bookselling world…. The vitality of our neighbors and neighborhoods depends on the ability of local businesses to thrive. We will not participate in undermining that vitality.”

(9) TALKING ABOUT MY GENERATION. James Davis Nicoll tells about “Five Stories About Generation Ships That Don’t End in Disaster”. (Did I know there were any such stories? Couldn’t remember, but I guess I must, because I’ve read the first two he names.)

We’ve all read about it: after decades of construction, a shiny new generation ship is loaded with a crew of bright-eyed optimists. Once the sun is just another bright star in the sky, mutiny and civil war reduce the crew to ignorant peasants…unless something worse happens. This is a narrative pattern set as early as Murray Leinster’s 1935 “Proxima Centauri,” solidified by Heinlein’s 1941 “Universe,” and embraced by authors ever since: human foibles in the confined space of a generation ship ensure calamity. Ideally not of the sort that leave everyone too dead to be interesting.

But it does not have to go that way! Here are five examples of generation ships that managed to avoid mutiny, civil war, barbarism, and mass cannibalism.

(10) THE MAGIC OF LONDON BOOKSHOPS. Publishers Weekly conducted a “Q & A with Garth Nix” whose new book is The Left-Handed Booksellers of London.

Why did you choose to set the tale in 1983 London?

In part I chose to set the story in 1983 London because that was when I first saw it in person, visiting from Australia. I was there for about six months, off and on—even though I have returned to the U.K. many times since—so I have particularly concrete memories of that time. But I also wanted to make it a slightly alternate 1983, so the world of the book could be more diverse and have greater gender equality, and I could enjoy myself including and transforming various cultural references of the time.

The magic users in your book are booksellers rather than being specifically wizards, witches, magicians, etc. What’s the connection for you, between selling books and casting spells?

I think bookshops have always been rather magical, so by extension, the people who work in them are too! There is also something magical about making the connection between a book and a reader. I always had tremendous satisfaction in match-making a customer with a book they didn’t know they wanted, but would later come back in to rave about and buy everything the author had written.

In Merlin and the booksellers generally, you’ve created a group of characters who are magically gender-fluid. Why was it important for you to include this facet of the characters?

I think this is similar to my writing about places I wish really existed, that I could visit. While it isn’t easy for the booksellers to physically become the gender they feel they are, it is far easier than it is in this world. I think it would be good to be, as Merlin says, “somewhat shape-shiftery.”

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 28, 1956 X Minus One’s “Surface Tension.” Based off the short story of the same name by the Hugo Award winning James Blish that was first published in the August 1952 edition of Galaxy Science Fiction,  it first aired on this date in 1956. A Cold War tale in which The East and The West knowing the sun will soon explode meet to decide how to save  the human race. Can this end well? The story was adapted as usual by George Lefferts. The rather extensive radio cast was   Luis Van Rooten, Danny Auchal, Lawson Zerbe, Larry Haines, Mason Adams, Jim Stevens and Bob Hastings. You can listen to it here.         

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 28, 1749 – Johann von Goethe.  Two-part play Faust big in the history of fantasy; four shorter stories, a dozen poems, also ours; other plays, poems, novels; criticism; science, particularly anatomy, botany, color; three thousand drawings.  Inspired Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Gounod.  On the cusp leaving the balance of Classicism for the passion of Romanticism.  (Died 1832) [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1833 – Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Bt.  Painter, illustrator, designer.  “I mean by a picture a beautiful, romantic dream of something that never was, never will be – in a light better than any light that ever shone – in a land no one can define or remember, only desire – and the forms divinely beautiful”.  Here is The Beguiling of Merlin.  Here is Angeli laudantes (Latin, “Angels praising”; tapestry).  Here is The Golden Stairs.  Here is The Wheel of Fortune.  Here is a study for The Masque of Cupid (Desiderium is Latin, “desire”).  His accepting a baronetcy disgusted his socialist wife and friends.  (Died 1898) [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1896 Morris Ankrum. Numerous appearances in the Fifties — in Rocketship X-M as Dr. Ralph Fleming, as a Martian leader in Flight to Mars, in Red Planet Mars playing the United States Secretary of Defense, in Invaders From Mars playing a United States Army general, and as yet another Army general in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. (Died 1964.) (CE)
  • Born August 28, 1916 – Jack Vance.  Forty novels – these are round numbers; I think The Dying Earth is a novel, and I think it’s science fiction.  Sixty shorter stories.  Memoir This Is Me, Jack Vance (or more properly “This is I”).  Interviewed in AberrationsLighthouseLocusOrbit (Dutch, hello Kees van Toorn), SF ReviewStarShipSofa.  Mystery novels too (Edgar for The Man in the Cage), unless they all are.  Three Hugos, a Nebula; Prix Utopia; Forry (for service to SF; Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.); Jupiter; Emperor Norton Award (for extraordinary invention and creativity); Seiun; World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement; SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master; SF Hall of Fame.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1917 Jack Kirby. Responsible for a goodly part of modern comics from Captain America and the X-Men to Challengers of the Unknown and the New Gods. I’m very much looking forward to the New Gods film being worked on, now delayed by the Pandemic. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born August 28, 1925 – Arkady Strugatsky.  A score of novels, fifty shorter stories, with his brother Boris; also translated English (with B) and Japanese.  Roadside Picnic is much applauded; I recommend Hard to Be a God.  Interviewed in Fiction (French), FoundationLocusPolaris (German), Urania (Italian), Yellow Submarine (French).  Together Guests of Honour at Conspiracy ’87 (45th Worldcon).  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1948 Vonda McIntyre. I’ve read a number of her works including Dreamsnake and The Moon and the Sun which are all phenomenal. The latter was based on a short stor of hers done as a faux encyclopaedia article “The Natural History and Extinction of the People of the Sea”, that was illustrated by Le Guin. Way cool. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born August 28, 1951 – Barbara Hambly, 69.  Forty novels, two dozen shorter stories.  Interviewed in Andromeda SpacewaysLocus.  Forry Award.  Two Lord Ruthven Awards.  Children of the Jedi NY Times Best Seller.  Served a term as SFWA President.  Black Belt in karate (shôtôkan).  Outside our field, notably historical fiction (free man of color Benjamin January, nineteen detective novels in antebellum New Orleans; The Emancipator’s WifeSearch the Seven Hills; several others).  Peter Nicholls calls her writing vigorous, interesting, and alert.  [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1954 – Diane Turnshek, 66.  Astronomer; teaches at Carnegie Mellon Univ. and Univ. Pittsburgh.  Four short stories and a Probability Zero.  SFWA Speakers’ Bureau.  Dark Sky Defender Award from Int’l Dark Sky Ass’n.  Ranks Flatland about the same as The Taming of the Shrew.  [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1964 – Traci Harding, 56.  A score of novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Her publisher (HarperCollins/Voyager Australia) says she blends fantasy, fact, esoteric theory, time travel, and quantum physics; sold half a million books in Australia alone.  Worked in film studio management before starting to write novels.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 28, 1965 Amanda Tapping, 55. She’s best known for portraying Samantha Carter on Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. She also starred as Helen Magnus on Sanctuary which I never managed to see. Anyone seen it? She was in The Void which also starred Adrian Paul and Malcolm McDowell. (CE)
  • Born August 28, 1978 Rachel Kimsey, 42. She voices Wonder Woman on Justice League Action, yet another series that proves animation, not live, is the DC film strong point. Here’s a clip of her voice work from that show. She was Zoe, the old imaginary friend of Frances, on Don’t Look Under The Bed, a supposedly horror that ran on Disney. Disney, horror? And she was a zombie in the “Don’t Let Her Pull You Down” musical video by New Found Glory. (CE) 
  • Born August 28, 1978 Kelly Overton, 42. She has the lead role of Vanessa Van Helsing in Van Helsing, a Syfy series based off of Zenescope Entertainment’s Helsing graphic novel series. She‘s been on True Blood as the werewolf Rikki Naylor, and then there’s The Collective, a  horror film written, directed, and produced by her and her husband, Judson Pearce Morgan. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTON.

(14) GREAT EXPECTATIONS. LitHub introduces a NewberyTart podcast episode: “What We’ve Come to Expect From Heroines in Science Fiction”. (The podcast link is embedded at the post.)

Each week on NewberyTart, Jennie and Marcy, two book-loving mamas (and a librarian and a bookseller, respectively), read and drink their way through the entire catalogue of Newbery books, and interview authors and illustrators along the way.

On today’s episode, Jennie and Marcy talk about the finalist of the 1971 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature, Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl.

Marcy: Since I started reading what I consider to be better science fiction, the tone of the book leaves me thinking it could be a little better, even if it might not necessarily be true, but it just falls in that category. Does it make sense the association?

Jennie: I think that we’re both talking about prejudices we have when it comes to books as we approach them and what we enjoy versus what we have been exposed to in the past. I think that makes total sense. I’m just like, Elana should be with a knife in her teeth and she should be hanging from the rafters.

Marcy: You want her to be Zoe from Firefly.

Jennie: I was thinking more Ripley.

This is a really great discussion about what we’ve come to expect from heroines in sci-fi!

Marcy: Which is ironic because this is probably one of the building blocks that got us to where we are to the ones that we wanted.

Jennie: I think it’s really good that we take some time and look at this and hopefully bring it to some new new readers.

Marcy: I have nothing but gratitude for the innovators who gave us any main characters, much less ones who rebelled in even any small ways and accomplished things and were characters who had agency. In this case, literally, even if they make bad choices sometimes, which people do. It’s still totally necessary to get us to where we are now, where we have so many choices and so many great female characters. We wouldn’t be here without those.

(15) ALL A LOAN.  I Love Libraries investigated “What It’s Like to Be a Library Cat During the Pandemic”.

Libraries have long been home to feline residents who keep patrons company, promote activities and programs, and assist with pest control. We checked in on four library cats (and their humans) to see how their lifestyles have changed during the pandemic.

Browser from Texas’s White Settlement Public Library may be one of the nation’s most famous library cats. In a viral story from 2016, a city council member tried to oust Browser from his position at the library; after a public outcry, Browser was reinstated for life while his political opponent lost his reelection campaign.

Browser has stuck around the library during the pandemic closure but seems to be missing the crowds.

“He is generally quite independent, but since the closure he always wants to be near people. We can usually find him in the lap of a staff member, or lying helpfully on their keyboard,” library staffer Kathryn King told I Love Libraries. “Now that we are offering curbside service, he posts himself at the window during curbside hours to watch the patrons come and go.”…

(16) FREE IS NOT ENOUGH. In “The Public Domain Will Not Make You Popular”, John Scalzi disputes an SFFAudio tweet that essentially claims Heinlein would be more widely read if his work was available free.

…What is true is that Heinlein is probably less generally relevant to newer science fiction readers and writers than he was to new SF readers and writers in earlier eras. I have essayed this at length before and therefore won’t go into it again now. I will say, however, that Heinlein’s work and the work of many of his contemporaries are at an awkward age: enough decades after publication that the underlying cultural assumptions of the work and the author are no longer consonant with contemporary times, but not enough decades out that the work can be comfortably be considered a “period piece,” which means that consonance is no longer expected.

In other words: a lot of “Golden Age of Science Fiction” work currently lies in a sort of cultural uncanny valley, existing in a simultaneous state of being too distant from contemporary readers, and also not nearly distant enough. That’s not Heinlein’s fault, precisely; it’s a matter of time and culture. It’s going to happen to most creative work — well, most work that’s remembered at all.

SFFAudio’s thread starts here. They also say:

(17) BRADBURY’S CRIME. Time travelers…dark carnivals…living automata…and detectives? Hard Case Crime is celebrating Ray Bradbury’s centennial, with a deluxe illustrated commemorative collection of his finest crime stories: Killer, Come Back To Me.

Honoring the 100th birthday of Ray Bradbury, renowned author of Fahrenheit 451, this new, definitive collection of the master’s less well-known crime fiction, published in a high-grade premium collectible edition, features classic stories and rare gems, a number of which became episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Ray Bradbury Theater, including the tale Bradbury called “one of the best stories in any field that I have ever written.” 

Is it murder to destroy a robot if it looks and speaks and thinks and feels like a human being? Can a ventriloquist be incriminated by the testimony of his own dummy? Can a time traveler prevent his younger self from killing the woman they both loved? And can the survivor of a pair of Siamese twins investigate his own brother’s murder? No other writer has ever rivaled the imagination and narrative gifts of Ray Bradbury, and the 20 unforgettable stories in this collection demonstrate this singular writer’s extraordinary range, influence and emotional power.

(18) HOLE NEW IDEA. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Universe Today brings to our attention a new theory that would allow human-transmissible wormholes. There are, however, just a feeeew caveats. For instance, though the trip would be almost instantaneous for the passengers, an outside perspective would see the trip take longer than light would take to travel the same distance. Oh, and there’s the bit where the engineering would be many, many orders of magnitude greater than anything humans are currently capable of. And the thing where the effect depends on whether a particular 5-dimensional model of the universe correctly describes it or not. “One Theory Beyond the Standard Model Could Allow Wormholes that You Could Actually Fly Through”.

The study, titled “Humanly traversable wormholes,” was conducted by Juan Maldacena (the Carl P. Feinberg Professor of theoretical physics from the Institute of Advanced Study) and Alexey Milekhin, a graduate of astrophysics student at Princeton University. The pair have written extensively on the subject of wormholes in the past and how they could be a means for traveling safely through space.

(19) JDA’S SELF-ASSESSMENT. Jon Del Arroz told readers of his blog how he’s “Making Science Fiction Greater” [Internet Archive].

…The fireworks underlined the light in the darkness, the path forward, the bombs bursting in air, and made me reflect on our journey here for our movement to push this great American culture in a healthy and wondrous direction through science fiction and comics.

God’s blessed me with talents beyond most of the field in science fiction, fantasy, and comics, and on top of it, a clear vision of what needs to be done with the work not only to produce greatness for my own edification, but to do glory to His name and bring a return to hope, heroism, and the exceptionalism of mankind to fiction and culture.

It’s been missing for a long time, and the trials and tribulations, the struggles, the blacklisting, the bannings, they all were trials given to me to push me to outwork and out-innovate the competition, which is the true American way of winning.

(20) SONG DYNASTY CAT TWEETS. You wouldn’t want to miss this. Thread starts here.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Michael Toman, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, Chris Barkley, Olav Rokne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 7/23/20 Flat Scrolls And Geocentric Pixels

(1) HIS DARK MATERIALS TRAILER. Decider has eyeballs on Comic-Con@Home where this new trailer was aired today.

HBO is celebrating Comic-Con@Home with a first look at Season 2 of His Dark MaterialsDuring today’s virtual panel for the show, HBO unveiled the trailer for the upcoming season of the drama, which introduces some fresh faces.

The YouTube description adds –

His Dark Materials stars Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Adapting Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy of the same name, which is considered a modern masterpiece of imaginative fiction, the first season follows Lyra, a seemingly ordinary but brave young woman from another world. Her search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and becomes a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. As she journeys through the worlds, including our own, Lyra meets Will, a determined and courageous boy. Together, they encounter extraordinary beings and dangerous secrets, with the fate of both the living?—?and the dead?—?in their hands.

(2) DO IT YOURSELF. There’s only one of me so I can’t write a post about every one of these items – darn it! Here is programming for Thursday, July 23, 2020, for Comic-Con International – much of it available for replay on YouTube.

(3) COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE? A second trailer for Bill & Ted Face the Music. Available On Demand and in theaters September 1.

(4) SCARES THAT CARE. Brian Keene and friends have done a few 24-hour telethons to raise funds for Scares That Care.  The most recent event was canceled due to Covid.

They are opting to do a virtual fundraiser on August 1st.  It’s only 13 hours, but it looks like it will be packed with lots of interesting panels. See the FAQ and schedule at the Scares That Care Virtual Charity Event link. Say, they get the same kind of questions as the Worldcon!

Q: I’m a celebrity who works in the horror genre. Why wasn’t I included in programming?
A: We tried to accommodate as many horror professionals as we could, but unlike our physical Scares That Care Weekend charity events, we are limited by the technological restrictions and time constraints of this virtual event. However, you can still help the cause by sharing the event with your fans and encouraging them to donate.

(5) HOLY SH!T. The New York Times shared a discovery — “How to Sell Books in 2020: Put Them Near the Toilet Paper” .

If you want to sell books during a pandemic, it turns out that one of the best places to do it is within easy reach of eggs, milk and diapers.

When the coronavirus forced the United States into lockdown this spring, stores like Walmart and Target, which were labeled essential, remained open. So when anxious consumers were stocking up on beans and pasta, they were also grabbing workbooks, paperbacks and novels — and the book sales at those stores shot up.

“They sell groceries, they sell toilet paper, they sell everything people need during this time, and they’re open,” said Suzanne Herz, the publisher of Vintage/Anchor. “If you’re in there and you’re doing your big shop and you walk down the aisle and go, ‘Oh, we’re bored, and we need a book or a puzzle,’ there it is.”

Big-box stores do not generally break out how much they sell of particular products, but people across the publishing industry say that sales increased at these stores significantly, with perhaps the greatest bump at Target. In some cases there, according to publishing executives, book sales tripled or quadrupled.

Dennis Abboud is the chief executive of ReaderLink, a book distributor that serves more than 80,000 retail stores, including big-box and pharmacy chains. He said that in the first week of April, his company’s sales were 34 percent higher than the same period the year before.

“With the shelter in place, people were looking for things to do,” he said. “Workbooks, activity books and just general reading material saw a big increase.”

(6) PROMOTION TOOLS. C.E. Murphy gives readers a look behind the curtain in “Writing Career: Running The Numbers”.

…And then the other reason we’re never sure how much we should talk about it is because rolling this information out in numbers can sort of feel like it’s…IDK. Attempting to lay on a guilt trip, or something, which is honestly not the goal! Because, like…there are always reasons people aren’t gonna buy a book! It’s not their genre! They don’t have any spare money right now! They already have a copy! There’s a million reasons! So talking about this is never meant to make people feel badly for not buying a book right now! Okay? Okay! 🙂

So let’s talk about numbers. Newsletter numbers, specifically, because the people who have chosen to be on my newsletter are my captive audience, and presumably are the most likely to buy any given book. (Join my newsletter! :))

Right now I have about 1630 newsletter subscribers, and in any given month, about 100 people—7% of the subscribers—buy the book I’m promoting that month. That’s pretty reliable.

(7) US IN FLUX. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “Even God Has a Place Called Home” by Ray Mwihaki, a story about environmental health, witchcraft, technophilia, and transcendence.

On Monday, July 27 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, they wll host another virtual event on Zoom, with Ray and science fiction author Christopher Rowe.

(8) CLARKE AWARD LOWDOWN. On Five Books, Cal Flyn interviews Arthur C. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter about this year’s nominees for the prize: “The Best Science Fiction of 2020”.

…In terms of who the audiences are for these books, on the one hand, if you like science fiction, you’ll find much to enjoy here but if you haven’t really tried the genre before, or if you might have been put off, I’d stress that these are all books published in 2019, for a 2020 prize, so they’re very contemporary-feeling in terms of their characterisation, quality of prose, plotting and so forth. You can definitely trace their lineage through the different eras of science fiction as it has evolved as a genre, and all of these books interrogate and tease and play with that tradition in different ways, but are also respectful of it. That’s the difference between, say—insert name of mainstream author—who has discovered a science fiction concept and written a book about it, then does a press tour where they try and convince you they’ve somehow invented robots, or space travel or parallel universes, or whatever. You know: ‘Before me science fiction was just cowboys in space, but my book is about real futures…’

(9) RENDEZVOUS WITH JOHN CLUTE. In “Arthur C. Clarke’s Scientific Romances Eschew Spectacle for Dumbstruck Wonder”, John Clute takes Rendezvous with Rama as the text to explore his views for LitHub readers.

… In his rendering of the 2001 story, Clarke may be marginally more emollient than Kubrick when it comes to assessing humanity’s chances of genuine uplift at the hands of a transcendent superbeing, but compared with contemporary in-house American SF visions of the future, both novel and film are baths of cold water.

Both were tortuously understood by many genre viewers as optimistic paeans to technological progress, with a bit of hoo-ha at the end; and Clarke himself never directly contradicted Kubrick’s dramatic rendering of his own exceedingly measured presentation of his clear message—also articulated in Childhood’s End, and hinted at strongly in Rendezvous with Rama—that as a species we may simply not quite measure up.

But this calm magisterial verdict, couched smilingly, mattered little to his own career, even when understood correctly. The huge success of 2001 had both made him rich and transformed him into a world gure; an addressable, venerated guru whose declarations on the shape-of-things-to-come were now given to the world at large. The best of this nonfiction work was collected years later as Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! (1999), a huge volume whose title perfectly sums up the coign of vantage from which he wrote: which is to say, as though from the future itself, from somewhere on the far side of the slingshot ending….

(10) MORE UK FANHISTORY ONLINE. Rob Hansen has expanded THEN’s 1961 coverage of the SF Club of London. And “I’ve also added a link to a report by George Locke on the 1960 Minicon in Kettering. I didn’t think any report beyond a couple of sentences in Skyrack existed for that con so I was quite surprised to stumble across it.” Scroll down to 1960s section for links on the THEN index.

Then there’s the 1967 London Minicon, with photos. All part of filling in the history.

(11) BACK TO BASICS. “It’s Time to Re-Re-Re-Meet the Muppets”, and the New York Times makes the introductions.

At the dawn of “The Muppet Show” in the late 1970s, a visit to the Muppet Labs consisted of watching its nebbishy proprietor, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, demonstrate misbegotten inventions like an exploding hat or a self-destructing necktie with a brief burst of pyrotechnics, a canned explosion sound and a puff of smoke.

Today, a return visit to those labs on the Disney+ series “Muppets Now” features Honeydew and his agitated assistant, Beaker, using a homemade device called the Infern-O-Matic to reduce everyday items — a carton of eggs, a wall clock, a guitar — to smoldering piles of ashes.

If this scene from “Muppets Now” feels manic and combustible — and even a bit familiar — that is by design: as Leigh Slaughter, vice president of the Muppets Studio, explained recently, she and her colleagues are hopeful that this series will conjure up “that true Muppet anarchy — that complete chaos.”

She added: “If they’re going to take on real-world science, we thought, we have to burn things. We have to drop things. We have to blow things up.”

“Muppets Now,” a six-episode series that debuts on July 31, is both Disney’s attempt to bring those familiar, fuzzy faces to its streaming service and a parody of internet content. Its segments feature characters like Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef in rapid-fire comedy sketches that lampoon popular online formats.

The new series also strives to reconnect the Muppets with the disorderly sensibility they embodied in the era of “The Muppet Show” and get back to basics after other recent efforts to reboot the characters fizzled out.

“The thinking is to stop trying so hard to be like everybody else and just be the Muppets,” said Bill Barretta, a veteran Muppet performer and an executive producer of “Muppets Now.” “Let’s celebrate the fact that they all have to deal with each other and just be silly and play and entertain again.”

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 23, 1995 The Outer Limits aired “I, Robot”. This is a remake of the November 14th, 1964 episode that aired during the second season of the original Twilight Zone. This is not based on Asimov’s “ I, Robot” but rather on a short story by Eando Binder that ran in the January 1939 issue of Amazing Stories. The script was by Alison Lea Bingeman who also wrote episodes of RobocopFlash GordonForever KnightBeyond Reality and The Lost World at that time. Adam Nimoy was the director and Leonard Nimoy, his father, was in it as he been the earlier production playing a different character. (CE)

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 23, 1889 – Yuri Annenkov.  Illustrator, portraitist, theater and cinema designer.  Zamyatin said he “has a keen awareness of the extraordinary rush and dynamism of our epoch.”  Here is a Synthetic landscape.  Here is the photographer M.A. Sherling.  Here is Zamyatin.  Here is a frog costume.  Here is Miydodir, an animated washstand that eventually makes the boy at left wash.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1910 Ruthie Tompson, 110. An animator and artist. Her first job was the ink and paints, uncredited, on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She was involved in every animated from film Disney for three decades, stating with Pinocchio (Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form). Some she was an animator on, some she was admin on. She worked on Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, too. (CE)
  • Born July 23, 1914 – Virgil Finlay.  Pioneering illustrator.  Hugo for that in the first year we gave them; five Retrospective Hugos.  First sale, the Dec 1935 Weird Tales; probably 2,600 works of graphic art; fifty poems, mostly published after his death.  Here is a cover for The Stars Are Ours.  Here is the Dec 56 Galaxy.  Some of his marvelous monochrome: The Crystal Man“Flight to Forever”; I haven’t identified this, can you?  SF Hall of Fame.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  See the Donald Grant and the Gerry de la Ree collections.  (Died 1971) [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1926 Eunice Sudak, 94. Novelizer of three early Sixties Roger Corman films: Tales of TerrorThe Raven and X, the latter based of The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. She wrote a lot of other novelizations but they weren’t even genre adjacent.(CE)
  • Found Fandom July 23, 1937 Cyril M. Kornbluth. Wikipedia says July 2 is his birthday — 1940 Who’s Who in Fandom says July 23 is the date he discovered fandom. I certainly read and liked The Space Merchants and The Syndic which are the two I remember reading these years on. Given his very early death, he wrote an impressive amount of fiction, particularly short fiction which Wildside Press has all of n a single publication, available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1958.) (CE)
  • Born July 23, 1947 – Gardner Dozois.  Three novels, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors, translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian.  Two Nebulas.  Editor of Asimov’s 1984-2004; two dozen Asimov’s anthologies, many with Sheila Williams.  Four years editing Best SF Stories of the Year, thirty-five of The Year’s Best SF (no, I shan’t explain, and I shan’t tell the jelly-bean story, either).  Four dozen more anthologies; one Nebula Showcase.  Fifteen Hugos as Best Pro Editor; one as Best Pro Editor, Short Form.  Skylark Award.  SF Hall of Fame.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1948 – Lew Wolkoff, 72.  Long-time laborer in fanhistory and the workings of our conventions.  Some highlights: co-chaired ArtKane IV, an art-focussed con in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1979; assembled Phoxphyre, a fanzine anthology of the 1936 Philadelphia convention, with reminiscences by Baltadonis, Goudket, Kyle, Madle, Newton, Pohl, Train, 1983; Program Book appreciation of Barbi Johnson, a Guest of Honor at Lunacon 26, 1983; helped design the base for the 1951 Retro-Hugo trophy, 2001; chaired PSFS (Philadelphia SF Soc.) Young Writers’ Contest, 2018; got 120 audiotapes of Philcon proceedings to the SF Oral History Ass’n; founded, or purported to found, the SF Union of Unpublished Authors (“ess-eff-double-U-ay”, i.e. taking off SFWA the SF Writers of America).  [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1949 – Eric Ladd, 71.  Twenty covers for us.  Here is The Falling Torch.  Here is Convergent Series.  First suggested to Bob Eggleton that BE should exhibit in our Art Shows.  [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1954 – Astrid Bear, 66.  One of the great entries in our Masquerade costume competitions was The Bat and the Bitten, Karen Anderson and her daughter Astrid at the 27th Worldcon.  In 1983 Astrid married Greg Bear; they have two children.  Here is AB at the 76th Worldcon on a panel discussing the 26th (L to R, Astrid, Tom Whitmore, Mary Morman, Ginjer Buchanan, Suzanne Tompkins, Gay Haldeman).  For the 71st, since Jay Lake whom she and all of us loved had contrived to obtain whole-genome sequencing, and AB had become a fiber artist, she made Jay Lake Genome Scarves in time to give him one, as you can see here.  Fanzine, Gallimaufry.  It’s not true that this book is about her.  [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1970 Charisma Carpenter, 50. She’s best remembered as Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. She was also Kyra on Charmed and Kendall Casablancason Veronica Mars.  She was Sydney Hart in Mail Order Monster and Beth Sullivan in the direct to video Josh Kirby… Time Warrior! Franchise. (CE)
  • Born July 23, 1982 —  Tom Mison, 38. He is best-known as Ichabod Crane on Sleepy Hollow which crosses-over into Bones. Currently he’s Mr. Phillips in The Watchmen. It’s barely (if at all) genre adjacent but I’m going to that he Young Blood in A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets. (CE)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Fresh from his Hugo voter reading, Dann writes, “In light of Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night, I thought this xkcd might be useful.  Check out the mouse-over/alt text.”

(15) WORLDCON TIME OUT OF JOINT. Bill Higgins started out teasing David Levine about CoNZealand’s July 16 “Wild Cards” panel, then his imagination ran away with him:

(16) THIS JUST IN…THE ONION. “Disaster: Luigi Left His Space Heater Plugged In For 3 Days And The Entire ‘Paper Mario’ Kingdom Burned Down”.

For years, Luigi’s kindhearted nature and well-meaning oafishness have endeared him to millions of fans who were willing to look past his lengthy history of incompetence. But it seems like the iconic Nintendo character might have just passed the point of no return: The big guy in green apparently left his space heater plugged in for three days straight, and now the entire Paper Mario kingdom has burned to the ground….

(17) STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. CBS All-Access dropped a clip today.

Get an exclusive look at a hilarious scene from the upcoming series premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks, an all-new animated comedy featuring the voices of stars Jack Quaid (Ensign Brad Boimler) and Tawny Newsome (Ensign Beckett Mariner).

(18) LONG MARCH TO MARS. NPR reports “China Launches Ambitious Mission To Mars”

A heavy-lift Long March-5 roared off a launch pad on Hainan Island Thursday, carrying China’s hopes for its first successful Mars mission – an ambitious project to send an orbiter, lander and rover to the red planet in one shot.

If everything goes according to plan, Tianwen-1 will be China’s first successful mission to Mars, after a previous attempt failed in 2011 — gaining it membership in an elite club including only the U.S. and Russia, of nations who have successfully landed on the planet. (Even so, the Soviet Union’s Mars 3 lander, which touched down in 1971, transmitted for mere seconds before contact was lost.)

…The goals of the mission are to map surface geology, examine soil characteristics and water distribution, measure the Martian ionosphere and climate and study the planet’s magnetic and gravitational fields.

The BBC adds details: “China’s Tianwen-1 Mars rover rockets away from Earth”.

China has launched its first rover mission to Mars.

The six-wheeled robot, encapsulated in a protective probe, was lifted off Earth by a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang spaceport on Hainan Island at 12:40 local time (04:40 GMT).

It should arrive in orbit around the Red Planet in February.

Called Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven”, the rover won’t actually try to land on the surface for a further two to three months.

This wait-and-see strategy was used successfully by the American Viking landers in the 1970s. It will allow engineers to assess the atmospheric conditions on Mars before attempting what will be a hazardous descent.

…The targeted touchdown location for the Chinese mission will be a flat plain within the Utopia impact basin just north of Mars’ equator. The rover will study the region’s geology – at, and just below, the surface.

Tianwen-1 looks a lot like Nasa’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers from the 2000s. It weighs some 240kg and is powered by fold-out solar panels.

A tall mast carries cameras to take pictures and aid navigation; five additional instruments will help assess the mineralogy of local rocks and look for any water-ice.

This surface investigation is really only half the mission, however, because the cruise ship that is shepherding the rover to Mars will also study the planet from orbit, using a suite of seven remote-sensing instruments.

(19) THERE WLL BE SPACE WAR. Or so Jerry Pournelle might have said.“UK and US say Russia fired a satellite weapon in space” – BBC has the story.

The UK and US have accused Russia of launching a weapon-like projectile from a satellite in space.

In a statement, the head of the UK’s space directorate said: “We are concerned by the manner in which Russia tested one of its satellites by launching a projectile with the characteristics of a weapon.”

The statement said actions like this “threaten the peaceful use of space”.

The US has previously raised concerns about this Russian satellite.

In his statement, Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth, head of the UK’s space directorate, said: “Actions like this threaten the peaceful use of space and risk causing debris that could pose a threat to satellites and the space systems on which the world depends.

“We call on Russia to avoid any further such testing. We also urge Russia to continue to work constructively with the UK and other partners to encourage responsible behaviour in space.”

(20) FIRST PEOPLE. “Earliest evidence for humans in the Americas”.

Humans settled in the Americas much earlier than previously thought, according to new finds from Mexico.

They suggest people were living there 33,000 years ago, twice the widely accepted age for the earliest settlement of the Americas.

The results are based on work at Chiquihuite Cave, a high-altitude rock shelter in central Mexico.

Archaeologists found thousands of stone tools suggesting the cave was used by people for at least 20,000 years.

(21) DIH-DIH-DIH-DAH. “Secret Morse code tune sees game removed in China”.

A popular mobile game has been taken offline in mainland China for “rectification work”, after netizens discovered its musical director had written a song containing Morse code with a hidden Hong Kong pro-democracy message.

According to China’s Global Times newspaper, the Cytus II musical rhythm game, produced by Taiwan’s Rayark Games, has been removed from China’s mainland app stores.

This was done after netizens discovered a controversial song by Hong Kong musical director ICE, real name Wilson Lam, on his Soundcloud account.

The piece, Telegraph 1344 7609 2575, was actually posted on his page in March, but after netizens discovered it contained in Morse code the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times”, many in the mainland called for him to be sacked.

(22) RIGHT OUT FROM UNDER YOU. Floors that can scare you – a gallery of wild images at Imgur.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fandom Games’ Honest Game Trailers:  SpongeBob Square Pants–Rehydrated on YouTube says that “children and extremely inebriated adults” will enjoy this new version of a classic SpongeBob SquarePants game featuring “Rube Goldberg machines that require a Ph.D. in SpongeBob to complete.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/9/20 Too Strange To Win A Hugo, The Unexploded Book

(1) US IN FLUX. The latest story from the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “The Wandering City,” a story about temporal anomalies, public spaces, and a new global consciousness by Usman T. Malik.

On Monday, 7/13 at 4pm Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Usman in conversation with James Graham, an architect and historian and director of the great series Columbia Books on Architecture and the City. Register at the link.

(2) AURORA AWARDS VOTING. Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association members can now vote online for the Aurora Awards through July 25. You must be logged in with an active CSFFA membership in order to access the voting page.

In addition, our Nominee’s Page is now live

This page provides informatin on this year’s Aurora nominees.  

The Voter Package Downloads also give you access to many of the works up for the awards this year.  Like with voting, you need to be logged in to the website with an active membership to access these downloads.

(3) OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN. [Item by Olav Rokne.]  The Manchester Guardian newspaper pays tribute to Star Trek icon Sir Patrick Stewart on the advent of his 80th birthday today, printing reminiscences from numerous of Stewart’s friends, colleagues, and co-stars. It’s a delightful piece to read,and paints a picture of someone who is not only iconic, but warmly human. My favorite bit is from his X-Men co-star Ian McKellen: “He’s long forgiven me my advice not to risk a solid career on the British stage by falling for an uncertain future in Star Trek.” “‘He’s so strapping and virile’: Patrick Stewart at 80 – by Shatner, McKellen, Tennant and more”  

‘I said: “Wear silk stockings to avoid chafing”’

William Shatner

He’s a love and he is an intellectual in an athlete’s body. We had a long horse scene to do together once, and I recommended him wearing women’s silk stockings to avoid chafing and he nodded his head as a thank you. When he came out of his dressing room, he was wearing the lace stockings outside of his costume. “No, no, Patrick, underneath your costume!” We laughed, as we ordinarily did. I didn’t know he was so old.

(4) BRIDGE PLAYER. In his own way. “Hugo Fan Writer: Why you should vote for…Paul Weimer” – fifth entry in Camestros Felapton’s series.

… It can’t be true that Paul Weimer knows everybody in science fiction but if we were to draw a huge network graph, I think Paul would be at on of those nodes that helps joins multiple groups together. A regular columnist and pod-casting panellist in multiple venues, Paul is an insightful observer of the wider landscape of science fiction and fantasy. Paul is a bridge that links communities and people (exemplified by his revival of the popular mind-meld posts (http://www.nerds-feather.com/2019/09/the-hugo-initiative-mind-meld-favorite.html ).

(5) CHILLING OUT. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to end with Part 4″ reports Entertainment Weekly.

…On Wednesday, Netflix announced that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will conclude with Part 4 of the series, meaning that the final eight episodes will be the series’ last. Those eight episodes are set to air in late 2020 and will explore what happens when The Eldritch Terrors descend upon Greendale. (Odds are it won’t be good.)

(6) FANTASTIKA (SWECON 2020) NEWS. Even a postponement til October won’t work, so this year’s con is off. Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf told Facebook followers:

We had a committee meeting last Monday. We decided not to have Fantastika in October. We do not know when the restriction about having a max attendance of 50 persons is going to end. What we are thinking of is organising a smaller event for local fans in October with some items that are web based. We are also planning to move Fantastika to spring.

(7) THE PEOPLE SPEAK. Inverse ran a poll: “The Best Netflix Science Fiction Show, According To 1,200 Inverse Readers”. The winner is not a surprise, but I thought #2 was.

In an effort to decide which Netflix sci-fi show is actually the best, Inverse asked our readers to fill out an online poll and over 1,200 of you did (1,234 to be exact). Here are the results, presented from worst (or least popular) to best science fiction series.

In first place —

1. STRANGER THINGS

We always knew it would end this way. Stranger Things is Netflix’s biggest original anything ever, and it gets bigger with each new season. With 377 votes, it’s also the winner of our poll by a huge margin. And with Stranger Things Season 4 delayed indefinitely due to Covid-19, there’s never been a better time to rewatch the entire series, right?

(8) RETIRING, BUT NOT FROM READING. Shelf Awareness’ news item “Nan A. Talese Retiring at End of Year” ends with this quote from a major genre figure:

Margaret Atwood commented: “No editor has seen so many changes and done so much in publishing as the legendary and much beloved Nan Talese, known fondly to some as ‘the Nanster.’ She first came into my life at Simon & Schuster, then dragged me behind her troika as she galloped through the wilderness to Houghton Mifflin–where she acquired The Handmaid’s Tale sight unseen, in a preemptive bid–and then sashayed over to Doubleday. ‘Nanster, what are you doing?’ I cried in dismay. ‘I like a challenge,’ she said calmly, adjusting her white beret and trademark pearls. I can’t imagine her actually ‘retiring.’ It’s a figure of speech. She will continue reading, and reading my work, I hope, and offering commentary: ‘None of these people are very nice.’ “

(9) THE WRONG FUTURE. Megan Garber contends “Americans Are Living in an Alternate History” in The Atlantic.

…So I was unprepared when, watching Sliding Doors again recently, I found myself absolutely wrecked by the viewing. The movie’s perky setup was agonizing; its cheerful toggling between Helen’s two fates felt painful to witness. Because when I watched the movie this time around—in the midst of a global pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 people, with no end in sight—I wasn’t just thinking of Helen’s divergent futures. I was thinking of everyone else’s. To be alive in America right now is to be acutely aware of the paths not taken—to live, essentially, in the Sliding Doors proposition, and in the paradigm of the alternate history. Our news is doubly haunted: by the horror of real loss, and by the shadow of what might have been.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 9, 1926 – Murphy Anderson.  Drew for Planet and Amazing; after his World War II service, also Fantastic Adventures and Buck Rogers.  At DC he drew the AtomBatmanthe FlashGreen LanternHawkmanthe SpectreSuperman; inked Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Curt Swan; designed the costume of Adam Strange.  Drew Wonder Woman for the first cover of Ms.  Helped me with the L.A.con II Program Book (42nd Worldcon) when we gave the Forry Award to Julie Schwartz.  Seven Alleys; Inkpot; Kirby, Eisner, Sinott Halls of Fame.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born July 9, 1927 – Robert Goldston.  Four novels for us, ten covers for Nebula (as by James Stark), like this (back cover by Ken McIntyre), and this and this (back covers by Atom).  Guggenheim Fellowship.  Histories, juveniles, many more.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born July 9, 1927 Susan Cabot. Her final film appearance was in Roger Corman’s horror feature, The Wasp Woman in which she played the lead role.  She played Sybil Carrington in his earlier SF film, War of the Satellites. And in yet a third Corman film, The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent, she was Enger. (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born July 9, 1938 Brian Dennehy. He was Walter in the Cocoon films, and, though it’s more genre adjacent than actually genre, Lt. Leo McCarthy in F/X and F/X 2. He also voiced Django in Ratatouille. His very last performance was as Jerome Townsend in the “Sing, Sing, Sing” episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels series. (Died 2020.) (CE)
  • Born July 9, 1911 Mervyn Peake. Best remembered for the Gormenghast series which is delightfully weird. Most fans hold that there are but there novels in the series (Titus GroanGormenghast and Titus Alone) though there’s a novella, “Boy in Darkness”, that might be part of it. It has been adapted for radio three times and television once, and Gaiman is writing the script for a forthcoming series. (Died 1968.) (CE)
  • Born July 9, 1945 – Dean Koontz, 75.  A hundred novels, sixty shorter stories; nine pen names; translated into forty languages; 500 million copies sold.  Used to look like Gordon Liddy but tired of it and changed.  Warns that supposed appearances in fanzines after 1968 are suspect, the tale to be told in his memoirs.  His Website is here.  [JH]
  • Born July 9, 1946 – Lynne Aronson, 74.  Recruited by Phyllis Eisenstein.  Entered the NyCon 3 Masquerade (25th Worldcon) in a dress made of magazine rejection slips.  With husband Mark co-founded Windycon, chaired the first three, Guests of Honor at Windycon XV and XXX (some use Roman numerals, some don’t).  Organized, if that word may be used in a fanzine, the Noreascon Two One-Shot Chorale (38th Worldcon).  [JH]
  • Born July 9, 1957 – Todd Lockwood, 63.  A hundred eighty book and magazine covers, a hundred sixty interiors.  Here is a cover for Analog.  Here is Karavans.  Here is Resurgence.  Known too for Dungeons & Dragons.  Twelve Chesleys, one for Cerberus the Aardvark.  Artbook, Transitions.  [JH]
  • Born July 9, 1971 Scott Grimes, 49. He’s Lieutenant Gordon Malloy. on The Orville, a show I’ve not watched and so would very much like to hear what y’all think of it. He did show up once in the Trek verse, playing Eric in the “Evolution“ episode Of Star Trek: The Next Generation. (CE)
  • Born July 9, 1972 – Rachel Hartman, 48.  Three novels; a dozen cartoons in Strange Horizons.  Madrigal choir, the QuasiModals.  Having shown us the Goreddi religion she takes particular interest in its saints and their dogs.  Admits her chief failing as a Canadian is that she is not a hockey person, but she did interview Ngozi Ukazu.  [JH]
  • Born July 9, 1978 Linda Park, 42. Best-known for her portrayal of communications officer character Hoshi Sato on the Enterprise. Her first genre role was Hannah in Jurassic Park III, she was Renee Hansen in Spectres which Marina Sirtis is also in. She was in some called Star Trek: Captain Pike three years back as Captain Grace Shintal. It has to be another one of those fan video fictions. (CE)
  • Born July 9, 1995 Georgina Henley, 25. English actress, best remembered  for her portrayal of Lucy Pevensie throughout the Chronicles of Narnia film franchise from age ten to age fifteen.  She’s listed as having an unspecified role in an untitled Game of Throne prequel series but given the number of those proposed, this may or may not exist. (CE)

(11) LEFTOVER MATERIALS. “Pullman to Publish New Story Set in World of His Dark Materials”Publishers Weekly has the story.

In time for the 25th anniversary of his beloved fantasy series-starter The Golden Compass, British author Philip Pullman will publish a new standalone short story featuring Lyra Belacqua and her daemon Pan. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers announced today the October 15 release of Serpentine in hardcover and ebook format, featuring illustrations by Tom Duxbury. Listening Library will simultaneously release an audiobook, narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Olivia Colman (The CrownThe Favourite).

(12) IF THERE WERE AIRBNB REVIEWS OF THESE. Riley Sager, in “Don’t Stay In These Famous Literary Haunted Houses!” on CrimeReads, has Airbnb news of haunted houses where you shouldn’t go on vacation, including the house where The Amityville Horror was set “how can you list a place on this site and NOT MENTION THERE’S A DEMON PIG!” and the Overlook Hotel, setting for The Shining (“I’m not sorry the place was destroyed #sorrynotsorry”.)

(13) ON YOUR MARK. Nate Hoffelder’s good work in registering www.cirsova.com and pointing it at Black Lives Matter caught someone’s attention:

Hmm, a search of the US Patent and Trademark Office shows no dead or live attempts to register Cirsova as a trademark. Maybe Nate could do that next?

(14) THEY’RE SO EASILY CONFUSED. Rich Lynch insists “No, I am not trying to buy the New York Mets!” That’s a look-alike making sports news: “Steve Cohen is reportedly back in the running to buy the Mets”. Sort of twins separated at the age of 60?

(15) ON THE SQUARE. The New York Times says the North American Scrabble Players Association has ”agreed to remove all slurs from their word list for Scrabble tournament play.” “Scrabble Tournaments Move Toward Banning Racial and Ethnic Slurs”.

Josephine Flowers became a ranked, competitive Scrabble player more than a dozen years ago, and to commemorate the moment, she inscribed her custom-built game board with one of her favorite sayings: “Never underestimate the power of words.”

The phrase serves as a constant reminder to her that, even when people say that the words formed on a Scrabble board are supposedly divorced of meaning, they can still inflict pain.

That is why Flowers, who is Black, and several other members of the North American Scrabble Players Association, have called on the organization to ban the use of an anti-Black racial slur, and as many as 225 other offensive terms, from its lexicon.

“You could be sitting there for a 45-minute game just looking at that word,” said Flowers, a mental health worker from West Memphis, Ark. “And if you don’t know the person who played it, then you wonder, was it put down as a slight, or was it the first word that came to their mind?”

Needless to say, the article does not include a list of these 226 terms.

(16) QUICKER FIX. “Cathedral’s spire will be restored to 19th Century design”.

The spire of Notre Dame cathedral, which was destroyed in a fire last April, will be restored according to the original Gothic design.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced the decision, putting an end to speculation that the spire would be rebuilt in a modern style.

Mr Macron had previously hinted he was in favour of a “contemporary gesture”.

However he has said he wants the restoration to be completed by 2024, when Paris is hosting the Olympics.

The Elysée said Mr Macron’s main concern was “not delaying the reconstruction and making it complicated – things had to be cleared up quickly”.

It added that the process of designing a modern spire, with an international competition for architects, could have caused unnecessary delays.

(17) RATS LIKE US. “To Come To The Rescue Or Not? Rats, Like People, Take Cues From Bystanders” says NPR.

Rats will enthusiastically work to free a rat caught in a trap — and it turns out that they are especially eager to be a good Samaritan when they’re in the company of other willing helpers.

But that urge to come to the rescue quickly disappears if a potential hero is surrounded by indifferent rat pals that make no move to assist the unfortunate, trapped rodent.

These findings, reported Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, suggest that rats are similar to people in that they’re usually eager to help, but bystanders can affect whether or not they’ll take action in an emergency.

“We are constantly looking at others to see their reactions. And this is not a human thing. This is a mammalian thing,” says Peggy Mason, a neurobiologist at the University of Chicago, adding that it’s something she watches play out in the daily news.

…”With the addition of more and more bystanders, the likelihood of helping goes progressively lower,” Mason explains. “It’s in every textbook. It’s a pillar of modern psychology.”

Until recently, though, the bystander effect had only been tested in humans. And Mason studies rats.

(18) KEEP COOL. “‘Don’t scream and be serious’ Japan theme park tells rollercoaster riders”

Many people might find it tricky keeping quiet through an entire roller coaster ride, but one Japanese theme park wants you to do that – and more.

Fuji-Q Highland near Tokyo re-opened last month after its virus shutdown.

It asked riders to avoid screaming when they go on its rollercoasters, to minimise spreading droplets, and instead “scream inside your heart”.

And to encourage people to play along, it’s getting riders to put on their most “serious face” for the ride photo.

They can share their photo online in the #KeepASeriousFace challenge, and those who do best will be given free day passes

…The no screaming rule – in addition to the mandatory use of masks – is meant to stop potential virus-carrying droplets from flying out of your mouth at 80mph.

Clearly, it’ll be impossible to enforce this ruling – and according to executives who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, violations will not actually be punished.

But it’s all part of measures being taken by theme parks to give customers the confidence to return after the shutdowns, and assure them their safety is being taken seriously.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 12/17/19 After the Police Bread, What Can You Expect?

(1) DESPITE CODES OF CONDUCT. In a post for Medium, Erica Friedman and J. Lynn Hunt count off the many reasons “Why Anime Conventions Are Still Inviting Sexual Predators As Guests”. They hit a lot of familiar problems, and explain them concisely.

…Here’s why.

1)Lack of Training
2) Policies Without Procedures
3) Lack of Organizational Memory
4) Tribalism
5) Misogyny
6) Financial Incentive

Let’s look at each of these in order.

Lack of Training
Con chairs are usually mostly-untrained volunteers with a staff of untrained volunteers. Even the largest cons tend to draw chairs from their own volunteers, so there’s no competence required beyond years of experience and your team of volunteers not walking out on you. No one receives training in sexual harassment policies, or, frankly, anything. Worse, many of the leadership structures in conventions encourages those seeking power and rewards those willing to be assholes. In our experience, we’ve seen volunteers who exploit or abuse their staff allowed to continue because no one feels comfortable removing them from that position. As people around them leave, they rise in the ranks, filling holes they cause. Abusive and exploitative leaders report to no one, especially at small conventions that are privately funded. AnimeMidwest is a perfect example of this. Having been banned from one con, [Ryan] Kopf created his own. Who will be in a position to police him? No one….

(2) TOMORROW THROUGH THE PAST. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll introduces the panel to “A Matter of Proportion” by Ann Walker and gets a good range of responses.  

In general, classic SF wasn’t particularly interested in fiction about the disabled, except perhaps as a first step towards a new life as brain-a-jar piloting a space ship or a cyborg covert operative, or to justify testing Phillips’ experimental regeneration treatment on a Lensman. In A Matter of Proportion, Walker focuses on the challenges facing a disabled individual in a world not particularly invested in accommodating their needs. Anne Walker is an author new to me, one I discovered thanks to Rediscovery, Volume 1. This story convinced me I need to seek out more of her work.

(3) TOY LAUNCH. BBC serves up a slice of genre marketing history: “Star Wars: The Leicestershire factory at the centre of a toy galaxy”.

…But initially, with no guarantee that the first film would be a box office success, let alone spawn a smash-hit series, and with no actual toys or market data to show potential buyers, Palitoy had a tough job to convince retailers to invest.

“You have to remember, this was a film people weren’t sure about… they were reluctant to take stuff because it was what they thought was a B-movie – you know, science fiction, all that business,” said Bob Brechin, the firm’s chief designer.

Salvation came in the form of Action Man. Retailers were offered discounts on the firm’s hugely popular soldier figures if they would take Star Wars toys.

Sales manager John Nicholas recalled how one chain’s whisky-loving buyer was handed a bottle of Scotch and asked how many Star Wars figures he wanted.

About half an hour later, and with a third of the bottle gone, he had decided. He would take a million.

“Well, it was my biggest order ever. I’ve never taken an order for that, and, you know, when Woolworths came along and said, ‘All right, I’ll have 100,000’, it was ‘Oh, is that all?’.”

(4) SPEAKING OF CREDENTIALS. I’d love to get another Cats Sleep on SFF entry to see the year out!

(5) THE RESISTANCE. Philip Pullman not only discusses the poem, but interrogates what prevents many people from enjoying poetry in general: “The Sound and the Story, Exploring the World of Paradise Lost” at The Public Domain Review.

A correspondent once told me a story — which I’ve never been able to trace, and I don’t know whether it’s true — about a bibulous, semi-literate, ageing country squire 200 years ago or more, sitting by his fireside listening to Paradise Lost being read aloud. He’s never read it himself; he doesn’t know the story at all; but as he sits there, perhaps with a pint of port at his side and with a gouty foot propped up on a stool, he finds himself transfixed.

Suddenly he bangs the arm of his chair, and exclaims “By God! I know not what the outcome may be, but this Lucifer is a damned fine fellow, and I hope he may win!”

Which are my sentiments exactly.

I’m conscious, as I write this essay, that I have hardly any more pretensions to scholarship than that old gentleman. Many of my comparisons will be drawn from popular literature and film rather than from anything more refined….

(6) WATCHMEN EFFECTS FEATURETTE. I don’t know if there are any spoilers – caveat emptor!

The visual effects on Watchmen are a thermodynamic miracle. See how we brought you squid attacks, clones, and Europa

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 17, 1973 Sleeper premiered. Directed by Woody Allen, starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, and written by him, it was made as a tribute to Groucho Marx and Bob Hope. Sleeper was awarded the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II. It was equally well received among critics and reviewers, indeed it currently holds a hundred percent rating among the latter at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 17, 2010 Tron: Legacy premiered. It was directed by Joseph Kosinski, in his feature directorial debut, from a screenplay written by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, based on a story by Horowitz, Kitsis, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. It is a sequel to Tron, whose director Steven Lisberger returned to produce. The cast includes Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprising their roles as Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley.  It did decently at the box Office, got deciedly mixed reviews among critics and currently holds a 51% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 17, 1903 Erskine Caldwell. He’s listed by ISFDB as having only two SFF pieces, both short stories, of which one, and no I’m kidding, is titled “Advice About Women”. It was published in The Bedside Playboy as edited by a certain Hugh Hefner and published of course on Playboy Press in 1963. Fredric Brown, Ray Bradbury, Avram Davidson, Richard Matheson and Robert Sheckley were the SSF writers present therein. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As Barbara Wright, she was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) She’d play another character later in the series. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazinetheSF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton whose Birthday was noted here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed? I find it really impressive that he attended every WorldCon from except one, from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (Died 2005.)
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 73. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film. Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of films including Leviathan, Shark Attack, Hood of Horror, Dragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume!, as he voiced Lucius Fox in Batman: Bad Blood.
  • Born December 17, 1953 Bill Pullman, 66. First SF role was as Lone Starr in Spaceballs, a film I’ll freely admit I watched but once which was more than enough.  He next appears in The Serpent and the Rainbow which is damn weird before playing the lead in the even weirder Brain Dead. Now we come to Independence Day and I must say I love his character and the film a lot.   Post-Independence Day, he went weird again showing up in Lake Placid which is a lot of fun and also voiced Captain Joseph Korso in the animated Titan A.E. film. Which at least in part was written by Joss Whedon.   He reprises his Thomas J. Whitmore character in Independence Day: Resurgence which I’ve not seen. 
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 46. Director responsible for the superb Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi  and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. 
  • Born December 17, 1974 Sarah Paulson, 45. She’s most likely best known for being Bunny Yeager in The Notorious Betty Paige, but she has solid genre creds having acted in Serenity, The Spirit, Bird Box, Abominable, American Gothic and Glass. She was in seven series of American Horror Story playing at least fifteen different characters. And she’s Nurse Ratched in the upcoming Ratched series.
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 44. First SFF appearence was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me when I watch it. She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is five films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Miliday de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy. 
  • Born December 17, 1993 Kiersey Clemons, 26. There’s a Universe in which films exist in which performers actually performed the roles they were hired for. Case in point is her who was Iris West is Justice League but all her scenes were deleted. You can see hose scenes in the extras of course. She has other genre creds including being in the reboot of Flatliners (saw the original but this one), in the live action version of Lady and the Tramp which is at least genre adjacent, and Lucy in Extant, a series produced by Steven Spielberg. 

(9) GET IN ON THE DRAWING. Standback is so enthusiastic about “The Outspoken Authors Bundle, curated by Nick Mamatas” for Storybundle that he’s organized his own giveaway.

(10) EAT YOUR VEGGIES, OR VICE-VERSA. Plants in Science Fiction: Speculative Vegetation – I love the title. The essay collection, edited by Katherine E. Bishop, will be released by the University of Wales Press in May 2020.

Plants have played key roles in science fiction novels, graphic novels, and film. John Wyndham’s triffids, Algernon Blackwood’s willows, and Han Kang’s sprouting woman are just a few examples. Plants surround us, sustain us, pique our imaginations, and inhabit our metaphors – but in many ways they remain opaque. The scope of their alienation is as broad as their biodiversity. And yet, literary reflections of plant-life are driven, as are many threads of science fictional inquiry, by the concerns of today. Plants in Science Fiction is the first-ever collected volume on plants in science fiction. Its original essays argue that plant-life in SF is transforming our attitudes toward morality, politics, economics, and cultural life at large; questioning and shifting our understandings of institutions, nations, borders, and boundaries; erecting – and dismantling – new visions of utopian and dystopian futures

(11) IN MEALS TO COME. Coincidentally, the journal Science asked young scientists to write an advertisement that answers this question: “How will food options, food availability, and individuals’ food choices change in the future?” Their answers were decidedly SFnal. “Foods of the future” [PDF file.] For example —

Health food

Tired of managing your diet? Health Capsule provides non-invasive, cognitive control of your hunger, satiation, and weight. Made possible by deep brain stimulation and neuromodulation technology, this environmentally sustainable capsule will keep you healthy and fit while satisfying all your cravings. Put calculating your calories and carbon footprint behind you!

Saima Naz

 Pakistan.

Personalised diet

Send us your DNA, and we will predict your food preferences! Receive your personalized food basket, with a day-by-day diet program. We will send you full meals and personalized smoothies based on your genetic taste predisposition. We know what you love; it’s in your DNA.

Ada Gabriela Blidner

Laboratorio de Inmunopatología,

Argentina.

(12) EMPLOYEE THEFT! From Jimmy Kimmel Live, “Star Wars Cast on Premiere, Stealing from Set & Gifts from J.J. Abrams.”

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie & Keri Russell talk about the premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, gifts that J.J. gave them, what they stole from set, and they surprise the audience with IMAX movie tickets.

Followed by —

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell & Chewbacca from the cast of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker play #ForceFamilyFeud!

(13) WINDOW ON TRAVEL INTO CHINA. [Item by Bill.] Bunnie Huang is a well-known hardware hacker.  He goes to China annually with a group of MIT students to show them where the products they design will be built, and has written a “how-to” guide for navigating the Shenzen electronics district.  Most of it is specific to the electronics markets, but there is good information on getting around in China generally – internet limitations and work-arounds (p. 19), local customs (dress, tipping, etc.) (p. 20),  point-to-translate written material for getting around (p. 67), visas and border crossing (p. 84), etc. With all the recent discussion about China’s Worldcon bid, it might be a useful introduction. The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen [PDF file].

(14) ARCHAEOLOGICAL SUPERFUND SITE? In this case, we know why it was buried. “Israelis find rare Roman fish sauce factory”.

Israeli archaeologists have discovered the well-preserved remains of a 2,000-year-old factory for making garum, the fabled fish sauce that the Romans took with them on all their journeys of conquest.

The Israel Antiquities Authority came across the small cetaria, or factory for making the prized sauce, while inspecting the site of a planned sports park on the outskirts of the southern city of Ashkelon, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reports.

The dig was funded by the local authorities, and young people and school children from the Ashkelon area came to help out.

It is one of the very few garum factories found in the eastern Mediterranean, despite the Romans’ long presence in the area and the premium they put on the pungent fermented sauce.

Most surviving examples are to be found in the Iberian Peninsula and southern Italy.

“We have something really unusual here,” Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Dr Tali Erickson-Gini told The Times of Israel, as the Romans added garum to almost all their dishes to give them a salty savoury kick.

“It’s said that making garum produced such a stench that cetariae were located some distance from the towns they served, and in this case the factory is about two kilometres from ancient Ashkelon,” Dr Tali Erickson-Gini said, according to Kan.

(15) FACIAL RECONSTRUCTION. “DNA from Stone Age woman obtained 6,000 years on” – image at the link.

This is the face of a woman who lived 6,000 years ago in Scandinavia.

Thanks to the tooth marks she left in ancient “chewing gum”, scientists were able to obtain DNA, which they used to decipher her genetic code.

This is the first time an entire ancient human genome has been extracted from anything other than human bone, said the researchers.

She likely had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

Dr Hannes Schroeder from the University of Copenhagen said the “chewing gum” – actually tar from a tree – is a very valuable source of ancient DNA, especially for time periods where we have no human remains.

“It is amazing to have gotten a complete ancient human genome from anything other than bone,” he said.

What do we know about her?

The woman’s entire genetic code, or genome, was decoded and used to work out what she might have looked like. She was genetically more closely related to hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe than to those who lived in central Scandinavia at the time, and, like them, had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

(16) ECUMENICAL. “Gloas and Cruinlagh: Planet and star become first with Manx names” reports BBC.

A star and planet will be given Manx Gaelic names for the first time after being chosen in an international competition.

The star WASP-13 will be known as Gloas (which means ‘to shine’) and the planet WASP-13b as Cruinlagh (‘to orbit’).

A class of Manx eight and nine-year-olds came up with the names for a competition run by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Professor Robert Walsh said they had made their “mark on the universe”.

The names were chosen due to their “sense of mystery” after taking 20% of 15,000 votes cast by members of the public.

(17) LINE ITEM. Popular Mechanics proclaims “The Space Force Will Become the Sixth Branch of the U.S. Military”. Will it be the right kind of smoke and mirrors?

It’s really happening. A bipartisan budget agreement for 2020 will see the creation of a new branch of the military specifically oriented towards space. The United States Space Force will be the first new service branch in more than 60 years, tasked to ensure America’s freedom to operate in outer space—or take space away from somebody else.

According to a draft of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Agreement, also known as the 2020 U.S. defense budget, the Pentagon will redesignate the U.S. Air Force’s Space Command the U.S. Space Force, spinning it off from an arm of the Air Force into a separate service.

The service will be headed by a Chief of Space Operations, similar to how the U.S. Navy is headed by a Chief of Naval Operations and consist of “the space forces and such assets as may be organic therein.” That’s pretty ambiguous language but probably means most of the Air Force’s space assets, from satellite launching facilities like Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to spacecraft ground control bases like Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. It’ll also include america’s network of GPS satellites, the X-37B spaceplane, and other military space assets. The Space Force will also likely strip away a smaller number of assets and personnel from the U.S. Army and Navy.

(18) A FEW WOODS FROM OUR SPONSOR. Somebody has taken care of making a bunch of cute sequels to these commercials: “Geico makes sequels to popular Pinocchio, racoons and woodchucks ads” at The Drum.

…Six humorous spots from The Martin Agency continue where the originals left off. Pinocchio continues his lying ways in two spots. One finds him pulled over by a cop and his nose grows as he tries to fib his way out of a ticket to no avail. The other finds his lengthening wooden nose becoming a problem as he lies on a first date he booked on a dating app….

You can access the playlist if you click through this video to YouTube.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Bill, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 11/3/19 When You’re At The Bottom Of A Pixel, It’s Time To Put Down The Scroll

(1) FAN NONPROFIT CALLS FOR SUPPORT. Con-or-Bust, the organization that helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions, has put out a call for workers to keep it going. Their Twitter thread about what’s needed starts here.

(2) FRESH MONSTERS. “Creepy Stories (and More) from Victor LaValle and Benjamin Percy” on Lit Hub links to an episode of the Lit Hub podcast Fiction/NonFiction, which features interviews with LaValle and Percy and each author reading three excerpts from their fiction.

LaValle explains how devices like monsters make it possible to write about how something feels, rather than merely what happened; Percy discusses doppelgängers, and asks whether politically, the call is coming from inside the house.

(3) COMPLETING THE ARC. John Scalzi had a good time at the movies — “Terminator: Dark Fate Review” on Whatever.

…As I walked out of the film last night I posted a five word recommendation of this film: “It gets Sarah Connor right.” This actually matters because despite the name of films, the “Terminator” films are about Sarah Connor, and the arc of her life dealing with the terrible fate that life has dealt her: Victim to fighter to avenger. Sarah Connor is realistically (with the context of these films) damaged by this fate of hers; particularly in this film she’s a PTSD wreck. And, well, she would be, wouldn’t she. It’s important that the Terminator films show her this way. It’s for better or worse the grounding the films need to make every other absurd thing that happens in them function on the level of plausibility.

(4) NOT SO BLITHE SPIRIT. In “Like It or Not, Damon Lindelof Made His Own Watchmen”, Vulture’s Abraham Reisman gets showrunner Damon Lindelof to answer several ethical questions about Watchmen, including the morality of how he is making the series without Allan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’s permission because the rights were supposed to revert to them if the comic books were out of print, and they’ve never gone out of print, and how Robert Redford is “in the series” as the perpetual president but the actual Robert Redford was neither approached or asked because he had retired before the series started production.

Does it keep you up at night? Or have you made your peace with it?
It wakes me up at night, but much less so now that it’s done. I’m about to say something very ridiculous, but in all sincerity, I was absolutely convinced that there was a magical curse placed upon me by Alan [Moore]. I’m actually feeling the psychological effects of a curse, and I’m okay with it. It’s fair that he has placed a curse on me. The basis for this, my twisted logic, was that I heard that he had placed a curse on Zack [Snyder]’s [Watchmen] movie. There is some fundamental degree of hubris and narcissism in saying he even took the time to curse me. But I became increasingly convinced that it had, in fact, happened. So I was like, “Well, at least I’m completely and totally miserable the entire time.” I should be!

(5) ALL ABOARD PULLMAN. The new BBC/HBO His Dark Materials mini-series starts Monday, November 4. The credits alone are enough to leave Io9’s Julie Muncy bowled over: “The Opening Title Sequence for His Dark Materials Is Stunningly Good”.

His Dark Materials is a sweeping fantasy epic, and it deserves a title sequence to match. Fortunately, thanks to HBO and the BBC, it’s got one. Today, BBC released the opening for the upcoming His Dark Materials TV show, and it absolutely lives up to the pedigree of the series. If you’re looking for something to build hype, this is it. I’m especially partial to the graphics at the end. Like, wow.

(6) HIS BARK MATERIALS. The previous item also reminded Daniel Dern of a photo he shot at Arisia 2016 of an “Armored polar bear” from The Golden Compass.

DanielDern-Arisia2016-DSC08657-DogCosplay

(7) NANOWRIMO AT 20. The New York Times celebrates the anniversary: “Ready. Set. Write a Book.” Article includes tips and tools.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the National Novel Writing Month project, which challenges people to write a 50,000-word novel in November. NaNoWriMo, as it is known, is a nonprofit that supports creative writing and education. Those who sign up for the group’s free annual event get community support, progress tracking and motivational advice to complete a book draft.

If you think you have a novel in you, here is a quick guide to digital tools to help you along your way.

(And if the thought of cranking out an average of 1,667 words a day in the NaNoWriMo challenge doesn’t fit in with your schedule or you need more prep time — don’t despair. You could write it at your own pace.)

(8) SLADE OBIT. Bernard Slade, who co-created The Flying Nun and wrote 17 episodes of Bewitched, has died at the age of 89 reports the New York Times. Outside of genre his successes were creating the 1970s television series The Partridge Family, and the Broadway play “Same Time, Next Year.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 3, 1954 — In Japan, Godzilla (Gojira) premiered. This is the very first film in the Godzilla franchise.  It was written by Honda, Takeo Murata, and Shigeru Kayama, and was produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya.  It enjoys a 89% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers and an even more impressive 93% among critics. It made almost nothing on its first run here on the States. 

And here is a good place to link to Funny or Die’s Rambo/Godzilla mashup (released in June).

  • November 3, 1967 — The Trek episode of “I, Mudd” first aired. Starring Roger C. Carmel as Harry Mudd with Richard Tatro as  Norman,  Alyce Andrece as Alice #1 through #250, Rhae Andrece as Alice 251 through 500 and, lest we forget, Kay Elliot as Stella Mudd. Written by Stephen Kandel as based on a story by Gene Roddenberry.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 3, 1921 Charles Bronson. He didn’t do he a lot of genre acting but I’ve got him in One Step Beyond as Yank Dawson in “The Last Round” and he’s in The Twilight Zone in “Two” as The Man opposite Elizabeth Montgomery as The Women. He was also in Master of The World which is  based on the Verne novels Robur the Conqueror and its sequel Master of the World. (Died 2003.)
  • Born November 3, 1932 Monica Vitti, 87. She’s best remembered in the English language movie going world for her performance as the lead agent in Modesty Blaise. It‘s rather loosely based upon the Modesty Blaise strip by Peter O’Donnell, who co-wrote the original story upon which Evan Jones based his screenplay. 
  • Born November 3, 1932 Jack Harness. Usually I’d give a précis of his fan bio based Fancyclopedia 3 and sources. Oh, this time you really need to go read the Fancyclopedia 3 write-up as the writer has detailed a true character among characters: Jack Harness (Died 2001.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Aneta Corsaut. If you saw The Blob, the original Fifties version, she was Jane Martin. Her only other genre film work was as an uncredited tourist mother in Blazing Saddles. And unless I’m mistaken, she had no other genre series work at all though she was popular in Westerns. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Jeremy Brett. Still my favorite Holmes of all time. He played him in four Granada TV series from 1984 to 1994 in a total of 41 episodes. One source said he was cast as Bond at one point, but turned the part down, feeling that playing 007 would harm his career. Lazenby was cast instead. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Ken Berry. He’s making the Birthday Honors for Disney’s The Cat from Outer Space in which he was Dr. Frank Wilson. No, the cat wasn’t Goose. And he played seven different roles on the original Fantasy Island which well may be a record. Oh, he like pretty much everyone else was a guest performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. I know it’s not genre, I just find that amusing. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 3, 1952 Eileen Wilks, 67. Her principal genre series is the World of Lupi, a FBI procedural intertwined with shapeshifters, dragons and the multiverse. Highly entertaining, sometimes considered romance novels though I don’t consider them so. The audiobooks are amazing as well! 
  • Born November 3, 1953 Kate Capshaw, 66. Best known as Willie Scott in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which I’ll confess I’ve watched but a few times unlike the first film which I’ve watched way too much), and she was in Dreamscape as well. She retired from acting several decades ago.
  • Born November 3, 1953 Adam Ant, 66. He actually has a decent genre acting history having been on the Eighties Amazing Stories, in Out of Time (a time travel film), Love Bites (oh guess), Tales from The Crypt, voiced a role on Batman: The Animated Series and Cyber Bandits. Oh and voicing Sri Charge-A-Lot on The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries!
  • Born November 3, 1956 Kevin Murphy, 63. Best known as the voice and puppeteer of Tom Servo for nine years on the Mystery Science Theater 3000. He was also the writer for the show for eleven years. I’m surprised the series was never nominated for a Hugo in the Long Form or Shot Form. Does it not qualify?
  • Born November 3, 1963 Brian Henson, 55. Can we all agree that The Happytime Murders should never have been done? Thought so. Wash it out of your consciousness with Muppet Treasure Island or perhaps The Muppet Christmas Carol. If you want something darker, he was a puppeteer on The Witches, and the chief puppeteer on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And he voices Hoggle in Labyrinth.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) CARTOON-LIKE SCULPTURE. This towering figure sits in front of a new high-rise on the waterfront in Greenpoint, NYC.

(13) KEEPING AHEAD. Steven James advises authors “How to Write Crime Fiction Set in the Near Future” at CrimeReads.

2) Trust your reader’s imagination.

In my latest novel, Synapse, I refer to slates, which are basically the tablets of the future. Who knows what phones thirty years from now or even five years from now will be able to do? Don’t make the smartphones of the future too dumb. If you can imagine it, there’s probably some software engineer somewhere out there who’s thought of the same thing.

So, when it comes to technology don’t try to get so specific that the technology will be outdated by the time the book comes out.

Here’s a prime example: years ago when I was writing my book The Rook, I thought it would be cool if someone could look up a song online just by humming it and search using sound-based search algorithms rather than just text-based ones. Cutting-edge, right? Well, as I was writing the manuscript, that technology was released. If I’d included it in my book as something new or innovative, readers would have shaken their heads: “They’ve been able to do that forever.” It’s important to keep an eye on current trends and technological breakthroughs.

(14) FANTASTIC ART. CBS’ Sunday Morning paid a visit to “Art collective Meow Wolf”.

What is Meow Wolf? An art collective founded in Santa Fe, N.M., whose name came from words picked out of a hat, and which puts on immersive exhibitions that tantalize audiences with vivid visuals and storytelling that is magical, mysterious, or just downright weird. Their latest exhibit, called “The House of Eternal Return,” is contained in a former bowling alley purchased by one of the group’s benefactors, “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin. Conor Knighton reports.

(15) NEXT WEB. Looper sounds the alert: “Get ready for a Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sequel”.

The news drop came after several days of teasing and a pair of cryptic tweets posted to the official Twitter account for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. On October 27, the account posted a GIF of a genetically modified spider silk-gliding down to the streets of New York and creepy-crawling toward the camera — a moment fans will remember from the aesthetically striking film. The post was accompanied by an emoji of a pair of eyes, often used to indicate that secrecy, sneaky behavior, or some kind of deceitful act is taking place. Then, on October 31, the Into the Spider-Verse Twitter page shared a hype-boosting warning: “Something’s up. Our Spidey sense is tingling. RT if yours is, too.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “How To Power Your House, With xkcd’s Randall Munroe” on YouTube, Randall Munroe offers all sorts of options for powering your house using the amount of space in a typical front yard.

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