Pixel Scroll 2/27/21 If Sharon Carter Became A Zombie, Would She Be Agent Rot-13?

(1) SIDEBAR. Cat Rambo has some of the most insightful comments yet offered about the harassment spawned by Jason Sanford’s report on Baen’s Bar, as well as Mercedes Lackey’s response to others’ claims made about her history with the Bar, in “Opinion: When Writers Punch – Up, Down, or Sideways” at The World Remains Mysterious.

… When a writer publicly calls someone out, they need to be aware of all of the implications, including the fact that the more popular the writer, the more devastating the results can be, not due to any intrinsic quality of the writer, but the number of fans. The more fans, the more likely it is that the group will contain people who, emboldened by the idea of pleasing a favorite writer, can — and will — go to lengths that go far beyond the norms of civil, and sometimes legal, behavior.

This played out recently with reactions to Jason Sanford’s piece on a specific forum within the Baen’s Bar discussion boards administered by Baen Publishing, which have included web posts doxxing Sanford and calling for complaints to be made to a lengthy list of people at Sanford’s placement of employment about the post he made on his free time on a platform that has nothing to do with his employment.

As I’ve said earlier, I have a great deal of respect for Baen and hope it emerges from this watershed moment in a way that suits the bigheartedness of its founder. But in the fray, a lot of writers have been egging their followers on to do shitty things in general, and what has emerged include the above specifics.

It’s not okay to point your readers at someone and basically say “make this person miserable.” It is okay to vote with one’s pocketbook. To not buy the books of people you don’t support. That is called a boycott, and it is an established tactic. (One of my consistent practices throughout the years, though, is to read a book by each one before I make that decision, so I know what I might be missing out on. So far, no regrets.) Going beyond that is, in my opinion, is the act of someone who’s gotten carried away and is no longer seeing their target as a fellow human being, and who needs to stop and think what they are doing….

(2) COMMENTING ON THE UNSTOPPABLE. Harper Campbell reviews Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction edited by Joshua Whitehead in “An Indigenous sci-fi moment” at The Ormsby Review.

…It really matters that so much space is being created by Native writers to tell Native sci-fi stories. Science fiction has seeped into the cultural subconscious of the world, providing our basic frame of reference for each successive wave of technological change. We understand that we have entered an age of technological modernity, and it isn’t enough to see the future as simply an extension of the past. Science fiction is what helps people all over the world make sense of a “normal” that is in perpetual change.

It is a serious shortcoming of science fiction, then, that it tends to gloss over colonialism and imperialism. The implicit view of most science fiction, after all, is one in which colonizers are the true vehicle of world-historical change. Science fiction is always saying — look how far we’ve come, look how much we’ve accomplished, see how unstoppable we’ve been. And what they mean is, look how unstoppable colonialism has been.

And like colonizers, the implicit perspective of science fiction tends to see the cosmos as a field of pure resource. The tendency is to insist that the earth, our beloved green and blue earth, is after all just one planet, theoretically interchangeable with any other that could support life. And why stick to just one planet? Like Cecil Rhodes, the arch-imperialist, sci-fi aspires to annex the stars.

So when an Indigenous writer starts to put down the first words of a science fiction story, they must already be grappling with nothing less than the significance of the history of the world and what it will mean for the future. They must wrestle with the cosmic dimension of colonialism from the other side, from a perspective that could never say “Look how unstoppable we’ve been.”

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Released today, the latest in a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives (and the second presented by ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, as part of its work on Learning Futures and Principled Innovation.) Leigh Alexander’s short story “The Void” at Slate begins –

Five things you can touch, whispers Rose, and I touch: duvet, her hand, my own hair, the rough plaster of the wall, and my device. It wakes up, a rectangle of soft light in our dark bedroom.

Four things you can hear, she says, and I listen for the tap-tap of water from somewhere in the kitchen, the rhythm of a neighbor’s music through the floor, the rustling of bedsheets and my pounding heart.

Then Andrea Thomer, an expert on information science, provides a response essay: “Leigh Alexander’s “The Void” and information overload”.

In grad school, I remember reading about—or at least, I think I remember reading about—a new browser plug-in designed to capture your internet click trails for later re-searching. The promo materials visualized this as a beautiful network of interconnected websites, making it possible to refind any page, article, recipe, meme etc. I am easily distracted and spend approximately 18 hours a day on the internet, so this sounded like a dream come true: Never again would I waste time retracing my digital steps to find something vaguely remembered reading but neglected to bookmark! I signed up to beta test this tool immediately. Or at least I think I did. I never heard anything about this widget again, and my attempts to remember its name have all been in vain. I’ve searched through my email, browser history, Twitter likes: nothing. I may have imagined this thing. Looking for it made me feel like a character in a Borges story: wandering the library stacks in search for the one book that will tell me what stacks I’ve already been in….

On Thursday, March 4, at noon Eastern, author Leigh Alexander and Andrea K. Thomer, information scientist and assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, will discuss this story in an hourlong online discussion moderated by Punya Mishra, professor and associate dean of scholarship and innovation at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. RSVP here.

(4) THE NEXT GRANTVILLE GAZETTE. On March 1, 2021, 1632 Inc. will release Issue 94, March 2021 of The Grantville Gazette at www.grantvillegazette.com.

The Gazette is a SFWA-approved venue for professional writers, and pays professional rates. The Gazette is published every other month, and has been published since 2007. It is available in several different electronic editions, including Kindle, ePub, PDF, and more. It can be downloaded directly from the Gazette website, or from our distributor, Baen.com.

This issue features works by best-selling authors Virginia DeMarce, Iver P. Cooper, and Edward M. Lerner, as well as columns by Kristine Katherine Rusch and Walt Boyes.

Edited by Walt Boyes, with Bjorn Hasseler as managing editor, and Garrett Vance as Art Director, the Gazette offers fiction and fact, both from the 1632Universe and from the UniverseAnnex, which is designed to provide a venue for general SFF.

More than 160 authors have had their first professional sale to The Grantville Gazette, through the medium of critique and workshops, both for 1632 fiction and general SF. Some of these authors have gone on to successful careers as writing professionals.

(5) LAPL FUNDRAISER. Charles Yu will be one of the Honorary Chairs for “The Stay Home and Read a Book Ball” on March 7, hosted by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.

WHEN:
Anytime, and for as long as you choose to celebrate on Sunday, March 7, 2021.

WHERE:
Stay safe and read in the comfort of your home, bed, or even in the bathtub! Or mask up and go for a walk with an audiobook from the Library!

HOW:
Choose a book (or many!) and let the pages transport you! Have a ball while reading at home, and show your support for the Los Angeles Public Library by donating what you would have spent at an annual gala or a night out.

Share photos of your literary festivities on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and tell us what you’ll be reading – tag #StayHomeandRead to let others know how you are celebrating!

ATTIRE:
Choose formal or warm and fuzzy – anything goes when you’re having a ball at home.

FOOD & DRINK:
Feast on lobster and champagne, milk and cookies, or wine and cheese.

Kindly RSVP by visiting LFLA.org/StayHome, or text the word LIBRARY to 41444.

(6) SMALL TOWN, GREAT RESOURCE. The Middletown Public Library, a small town library outside of Harrisburg PA, is associated with the Science Fiction Book Club on Facebook. In 2017 the library’s Director, John Grayshaw, started reaching out to sci-fi authors and doing Q&As with them. There are now over 60 Science Fiction Author Interviews in the archives with many well-known writers including Lois McMaster Bujold, Samuel R. Delany, and Robert J. Sawyer.

The latest addition is the interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky:  

Bryan Stewart: I’m curious what’s your favorite answer to the Fermi Paradox? Do you think we’ll make first contact in our lifetimes?

[AT] I have become more pessimistic about this as I’ve got older (and the personal element of that ‘in our lifetimes’ necessarily becomes shorter). I do believe life is common in the universe, but the universe is very big so that can still produce colossal, uncrossable vistas between any two species that might appreciate each other’s’ existence. On a bad day I feel that a sufficiently advanced civilization is likely to destroy itself rather like we’re in the process of doing ourselves. On a good day I suspect that our attempts to find life are predicated far too much on that life being like us, and that we may simply not be sifting unusual alien signals from the background hiss, or may be looking in the wrong place.

(7) YOU’VE READ HER. Jonathan Lethem tells Literary Hub “Why Shirley Jackson is a Reader’s Writer”.

Ten and twenty years ago I used to play a minor parlor trick; I wonder if it would still work. When asked my favorite writer, I’d say “Shirley Jackson,” counting on most questioners to say they’d never heard of her. At that I’d reply, with as much smugness as I could muster: “You’ve read her.” When my interlocutor expressed skepticism, I’d describe “The Lottery”—still the most widely anthologized American short story of all time, I’d bet, and certainly the most controversial, and censored, story ever to debut in The New Yorker—counting seconds to the inevitable widening of my victim’s eyes: they’d not only read it, they could never forget it. I’d then happily take credit as a mind reader, though the trick was too easy by far. I don’t think it ever failed.

Jackson is one of American ?ction’s impossible presences, too material to be called a phantom in literature’s house, too in-print to be “rediscovered,” yet hidden in plain sight….

(8) FANCASTS TO CONSIDER. Cora Buhlert has expanded her Fanzine Spotlight project to fancasts, of which these are the latest entries. She says, “I’m really enjoying this project, though it has upset my Hugo ballot, because there are so many great podcasts out there I never knew about.”

Tell us about your broadcast.

The Journey Show is an outgrowth of Galactic Journey, our time machine to 55 years ago in fact and fiction. That site has been around since 1958…er…2013, and the conceit is that we are all fans living in the past, day by day, reviewing all the works of the time in the context of their time.

Tell us about your podcast or YouTube channel.

On our podcast we like to explore how narrative helps people to envision and achieve a better future. In turn, we like to talk to writers, editors, activists, gamers, and anyone else who helps us imagine those worlds. We consider our podcast to be linked thematically with HopePunk. Our interpretation of HopePunk takes a stance of hope through resistance to the current norms. Emphasis on the PUNK. Any given podcast discussion can range from a specific novel or story, to a guest’s career, politics, religion, music, writing tips, and ttrpgs. Guests often include editors, traditionally published writers, and Indie writers.

Some other previous guests have included folks like Bill Campbell, Tobias Buckell, Malka Older, P. Djeli Clark, and James Morrow, Janet Forbes (founder of the world building platform World Anvil), and Graeme Barber (writer and ttrpg critic).

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

[Alasdair Stuart] I had it gently and affectionately pointed out to me that there was no reason not to. I’d had a lot of frustrations with freelance projects at that point (multiple projects paid years late, another company going insolvent, etc). So one day I made a joke about what my newsletter would be and 50 ‘I’d read that’ emails later I realised I had an audience if I wanted to do it. And I did. I took Matt Wallace’s words about building your own platform to heart and started building mine.

Sisters Alice Baker and Ann Spangler have set themselves the goal of reading and discussing all Hugo and Nebula winning novels.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

Alice: For me, it was because I was looking for a way to connect with my sister who I do not often get to see in person. We both have a love of the genre (although Ann likes Fantasy more), and since we were going to be discussing it anyway, I thought we should record them. I have some previous experience on the Educating Geeks podcast. Also, I find it difficult to read for hours like I used so I am trying to retrain myself.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

Way back in 2014, Andi was live-tweeting her first time through Star Trek, Grace was podcasting on All Things Trek, Jarrah was blogging at Trekkie Feminist, and Sue was podcasting and blogging at Anomaly Podcast. At different points in time, Andi, Jarrah, and Sue had all been guests with Grace on All Things Trek on TrekRadio – sometimes with each other, sometimes individually. Having been connected through podcasting, and with that show coming to a close, Andi proposed that we start our own. After much planning, Women at Warp launched as an independent podcast in 2015.

(9) PREPARING FOR THE APOCALYPSE. RS Benedict theorizes about the state of genre film in “Everyone Is Beautiful and No One Is Horny” at Blood Knife.

When Paul Verhoeven adapted Starship Troopers in the late 1990s, did he know he was predicting the future? The endless desert war, the ubiquity of military propaganda, a cheerful face shouting victory as more and more bodies pile up?

But the scene that left perhaps the greatest impact on the minds of Nineties kids—and the scene that anticipated our current cinematic age the best—does not feature bugs or guns. It is, of course, the shower scene, in which our heroic servicemen and -women enjoy a communal grooming ritual.

On the surface, it is idyllic: racial harmony, gender equality, unity behind a common goal—and firm, perky asses and tits.

And then the characters speak. The topic of conversation? Military service, of course. One joined for the sake of her political career. Another joined in the hopes of receiving her breeding license. Another talks about how badly he wants to kill the enemy. No one looks at each other. No one flirts.

A room full of beautiful, bare bodies, and everyone is only horny for war.

… This cinematic trend reflects the culture around it. Even before the pandemic hit, Millennials and Zoomers were less sexually active than the generation before them. Maybe we’re too anxious about the Apocalypse; maybe we’re too broke to go out; maybe having to live with roommates or our parents makes it a little awkward to bring a partner home; maybe there are chemicals in the environment screwing up our hormones; maybe we don’t know how to navigate human sexuality outside of rape culture; maybe being raised on the message that our bodies are a nation-ending menace has dampened our enthusiasm for physical pleasure. 

Eating disorders have steadily increased, though. We are still getting our bodies ready to fight The Enemy, and since we are at war with an abstract concept, the enemy is invisible and ethereal. To defeat it, our bodies must lose solidity as well….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 27, 1994 — On this date in 1994, the TekWar episode TekLab first aired. Though created by William Shatner, it was actually ghost-written by writer Ron Goulart. This extended episode was directed by Timothy Bondoff the the story by Westbrook Claridge which was developed into a teleplay by? Chris Haddock. As always the lead character was Jake Cardigan played by Greg Evigan, and yes, Shatner was in the series as Walter Bascom. Torri Higginson, of later Stargate fame, got her start on this series. The series doesn’t far well with the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes where it currently has a dismal thirty six percent rating. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 27, 1807 – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Taught at Bowdoin and Harvard.  First American translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy; better known to many for “Paul Revere’s Ride” and Hiawatha, whose accessibility had better not blind the thoughtful.  Book-length poems, novels, plays, anthologies, a dozen volumes of poetry.  “What a writer asks of readers is not so much to like as to listen.”  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1850 – Laura Richards.  Ninety books addressed to children; fifty stories ours, at least (what should count can be unclear with “children’s”).  LR’s mother Julia Ward Howe wrote the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”; 1917 Pulitzer Prize for biography of JWH by LR & sister Maud Howe Elliott “assisted by [sister] Florence Howe Hall”.  LR also wrote biographies of Abigail Adams, Florence Nightingale, Joan of Arc; 5 others.  Maybe best known for “Eletelephony”.  (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1934 Van Williams. He was the Green Hornet (with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato) on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, and also do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born February 27, 1938 T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well-disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he also appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)  (CE) 
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not at all familiar with. So what else is worth reading by him? (Died 2003.) (CE) 
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 61. Creator and illustrator of Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits that “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil. He’s won a very impressive eleven Harvey Awards and ten Eisner Awards! (CE)
  • Born February 27, 1945 – Hank Davis, age 76.  Nine short stories in e.g. AnalogF&SF, not counting one for The Last Dangerous Visions.  A dozen anthologies.  Correspondent of SF CommentarySF Review.  Served in the Army in Vietnam.  [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1951 – Mark Harrison, age 70.  Two hundred sixty covers, fifty interiors.  British SF Ass’n Award.  Here is The Story of the Stone.  Here is Valentine Pontifex.  Here is the Mar 93 Asimov’s.  Here is the Mar 95 Analog.  Here is Mercury.  Artbook, Dreamlands.  [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1964 John Pyper-Ferguson, 57. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser which turns only such role. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series with over two dozen appearances, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon as he’s Agent Bernard Fainon the new Night Stalker for the episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship as Tex  Nolan. (CE)
  • Born February 27, 1970 – Michael A. Burstein, age 51.  Twoscore short stories.  Served a term as SFWA Secretary (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America), simultaneously Vice-President of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n).  Campbell Award (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  President, Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet.  Fanzine (with wife Nomi Burstein), Burstzine.  [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1976 Nikki Amuka-Bird, 45. The Voice of Testimony in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctor story, “Twice Upon A Time”.  She’s shown up quite a bit in genre work from horror (The Omen), space opera (Jupiter Ascending)takes on folk tales (Sinbad and Robin Hood) and evening SF comedy (Avenue 5). (CE)
  • Born February 27, 1993 – Ellen Curtis, age 28.  Three novels (with Matthew LeDrew), three shorter stories; four anthologies (with Erin Vance).  Has read The Essential Calvin and HobbesThe Adventures of Huckleberry FinnThe Castle of OtrantoThe Name of the Rose, a Complete Stories & Poems of Lewis CarrollGrimms’ Fairy TalesHans Andersen’s Fairy Tales.  [JH]

(12) REDISCOVERING ‘UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY’. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Looking back on the final voyage of the original Star Trek crew, Escapist scribe Darren Mooney makes a compelling argument for the subtext of the movie. He reads the movie as a rejection of nostalgia, and the need to hear new voices within genre fiction. It’s an article that’s relevant to several of fandom’s ongoing internecine struggles: “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Rejected Franchise Nostalgia in a Way Impossible Today” at Escapist Magazine.

…Three decades later, it’s impossible to imagine a major franchise demonstrating this level of introspection without provoking a fandom civil war. The Undiscovered Country provides a contrast with films like The Rise of Skywalker, in that The Undiscovered Country is about an older generation learning that they need to step aside and make room for those that will follow, while The Rise of Skywalker is about how the older generation is never too old for a joyride in the Millennium Falcon….

(13) SLIPPED DISC. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Talking of mysterious bronze age artefacts, here is an article about the archeological dispute involving the famous Nebra sky disc:  “Archaeologists Are Caught Up in an Intense Fight Over Just How Important the Mysterious Nebra Sky Disk Really Is” at Artnet News. Even if the sky disc is not as old as previously assumed, it is still an intensely cool artefact. I was lucky enough to see it in person a few years ago, since I have family in Halle/Saale, the town where it’s kept.

  … In September, Rupert Gebhard, director of the Munich’s Bavarian State Archaeological Collection, and Rüdiger Krause, an early European history professor at Goethe University in Frankfurt, published a paper in the German journal Archäologische Informationen arguing that the artifact—which features images of the sun, the moon, and the Pleiades star cluster—is not the remarkable earliest-known depiction of astronomical phenomena that it had been heralded as.

“It’s a very emotional object,” Gebhard told the New York Times. He believes that the looters who discovered the disk before it was recovered in 2002 moved it from its original site and reburied it with real Bronze Age artifacts to make it appear older and more valuable.

Now, a competing paper put forth by experts including Harald Meller, director of the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle, Germany, which owns the disk, has fired back….

(14) ALL THAT ROT. Here’s an interesting article about cryptography for everyday use in the 17th century: “Beyond Espionage: Cryptography for Everyday Use in 17th Century England” at Criminal Element.

 Cryptography in seventeenth-century England was not just the stuff of spies and traitors, a fact that became a major plot point in The Sign of the Gallows, my fifth Lucy Campion historical mystery. While ciphers had grown more complex between the 16th and 17th centuries with the development of new mathematics, the actual practice of secret and hidden writing occurred in different domains of everyday life. Merchants might send messages about when and where shipments might occur out of fear of theft. Leaders of non-conformist religious sects like the Quakers might communicate with their followers in code, informing them of their next meeting. Friends and merry-makers might write riddles and jests using ciphers to entertain one another, in a type of pre-parlor game. Lovers, especially those unacknowledged couples, might write amorous messages that could not be read if discovered by jealous husbands or angry parents….

(15) WRITERS’ BLOCK. Mental Floss knows fans will enjoy these “8 Facts About ‘Attack the Block’”.

5. PLACES IN THE ATTACK THE BLOCK ARE NAMED AFTER FAMOUS BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION AUTHORS.

The movie takes place in a fictional neighborhood. The main council block in the film is called Wyndham Tower in honor of John Wyndham, the English science fiction writer famous for novels such as The Day of the Triffids (1951) and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957). Other locations include Huxley Court (Aldous Huxley), Wells Court (H.G. Wells), Moore Court (Alan Moore), Ballard Street (J.G. Ballard), and Adams Street (Douglas Adams). Just after the movie title appears, the camera pans across a map of the area, showing the various names.

(16) WORSE THAN THE DIET OF WORMS. Antonio Ferme, in “George A. Romero’s Lost Movie ‘The Amusement Park’ Comes to Shudder” at Variety, says that Shudder will show Romero’s 1973 film The Amusement Park which was believed lost until it was found and restored in 2018.  The film was commissioned by the Lutheran Society to showcase problems of elder abuse but suppressed because the Lutherans thought it was too gory.

… “Amusement Park” stars Lincoln Maazel as an elderly man who finds himself increasingly disoriented and isolated during a visit to the amusement park. What he initially assumed would be an ordinary day quickly turned into a hellish nightmare filled with roller coasters and chaotic crowds….

(17) NOTHING SECEDES LIKE SUCCESS. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri interviews residents of Potatopia about their threat to secede if Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head became gender-neutral. “Opinion | An oral history of the Mr. Potato Head secession”.

… Helen Helenson, first applicant for asylum in Potatopia: The minutes when I thought I would have to look at a brownish plastic oval and not clearly know what gender it was were some of the most frightening of my life. I started to sob. I thought, what will they come for next? Soon I won’t know what gender any of the plastics are around my home….

(18) STREAMLINED FELINE. Gizmodo’s Andrew Liszewski sounds quite revolted by the whole idea: “Meet Flatcat, the Creepiest Robot We’ve Ever Seen”. Question: is the writer aware of that term’s sf roots? He doesn’t acknowledge them in the article.

…To make Flatcat more endearing so people will actually want to touch and interact with it, its creators at a Berlin-based robotics startup called Jetpack Cognition Lab have wrapped it in soft, fluffy fur so that it looks more like a cat—or at least a cat that somehow survived repeated run-ins with a semi-truck. In reality, Flatcat is more like like a ThiccFurrySnake, or maybe a FlattenedCaterpillar. Calling it a cat is certainly a stretch….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “That Mitchell and Webb Look–Holmes And Watson” on YouTube, British comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb play two actors who keep fighting over who gets to play Holmes and who gets to play Watson.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Kurt Schiller, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Walt Boyes, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/19/21 Why, I Sweep My Scroll With A Geiger Counter Every Day, And Nary A Pixel!

(1) DISCON III REACTIONS. Today’s decision by the 2021 Worldcon committee to remove Toni Weisskopf as a GoH (“DisCon III Removes Weisskopf as a Guest of Honor”) is being widely discussed.

Toni Weisskopf posted a concise response on Facebook.

The committee of Discon III approached me this week to discuss the allegations about Baen’s Bar that were posted at Patreon. Baen is conducting a thorough investigation, which we feel we cannot rush, and has taken down the Bar while we conduct the investigation.

I do understand the immediate appeal of Discon III wishing to act quickly to respond to their community. Today they informed me of their official decision to remove me as their Editor Guest of Honor.

While I strongly disagree with the committee’s decision, I will regretfully accede to their wishes.

These excerpts for the Scroll are primarily by authors who condemned the decision (except for the final one).

David Weber responded on Facebook.

So Toni Weisskopf has been formally disinvited by WorldCon and DisCon. Can’t say it was a surprise. I will however remind people of the personal policy I adopted years ago and reiterated in the case of ConCarolina and John Ringo. I will not attend a con which has disinvited a guest. You are always free to invite —or not—anyone you like. Any con which disinvites someone after the invitation has been issued and accepted, especially when they do so under pressure, however, does not deserve to be trusted by future guests.

He said more in the comments on his post, including —

Bob Eggleton made this comment —

Chuck Gannon also made a comment on Weber’s post, repeating one of his quotes linked here yesterday and extending it as follows:

…So Toni Weisskopf activated the most proactive, realistic option available to her: she closed the Bar, thereby ending any possibility that it might do further ostensible injury.

36 hours later, however, she was disinvited without any additional cause.

You will note, however, that no one asserted that she did not respond quickly enough. In fact, in disinviting her, there were no further/new discoveries added to those put forth in Mr. Sanford’s essay.

So what had changed? If the concom believes that 36 hours is enough time for her to resolve the matter completely, I once again point out that

a) any business person operating in the real world would *know* that is not enough time to conduct anything like a thorough review

b) in order to ensure that what Mr. Sanford reported could not expand or remain as a potential threat, SHE CLOSED THE WHOLE BAR DOWN.

If she had meant to stonewall, or not actually investigate the matter, she would not have taken the step of closing the Bar.

Do I repeat myself in this post? Assuredly so . . . because these are salient points which are being repeatedly, perhaps purposively, overlooked.

For anyone familiar with the musical Hamilton, cue “The Room Where It Happened” as we ponder “so what changed in 36 hours?”

Larry Correia shames the SMoFs in “An Open Letter To The Old Time Fans at WorldCon” [Internet Archive link].

…Then several years later, after the old controversy I caused had died off and most of us barbaric outsiders had said screw cheesy WorldCon and moved on with our lives, some of you still felt guilty for how you’d treated Toni, so you extended an olive branch. You offered her the Guest of Honor spot at your little convention. How nice. How fucking magnanimous.

Toni, being a far better human being than any of you could ever aspire to be, thought the offer over. She knew there was risks. She knew that she’d take heat from people on the right (and she has). Morons on my side of the political would call her a sell-out, quisling, traitor, boot licker, so on and so forth, and they did. She got attacked by the useless grifters on both sides, looking for hate clicks. But unlike you, Toni ignores the baying mob and always does what she thinks is the right thing to do.  She looked at your peace offering, and said fine, If you want to try and mend fences, okay, I’ll take the heat, I’ll be your guest of honor. She was the bigger person.

She talked to me about her decision. I told her I understood, I wouldn’t do it, but I respected her call, but that she’d surely get yelled at by the idiots on both sides. She already knew, but she thought it was the right thing to do anyway. Because unlike you, Toni actually has a moral compass. Your moral compass is a windsock. Her one mistake in all this was assuming that any of you old time Smofs would have a spine….

A very large number of people today are reaching for rhetorical flourishes to complain about what happened. RS Benedict made this connection. (If you don’t recognize Isabel Fall’s name, run a search here. Also let it be noted that Weisskopf has been removed as GoH, not banned from attending.)

Mike VanHelder, an experienced conrunner, tried to understand the decision from a convention running perspective. As part of that he wrote this How It Should Have Ended scenario, in addition to other insights. Thread starts here.

(2) NO ONE TO FOLLOW. While we’re at it, let WIRED’s Angela Wattercutter tell you about “The Crushing Disappointment of Fandom”.

…When we really, truly admire someone, whether they’re an Avenger or Anthony Fauci, there’s a tendency to mimic their personality, even their morality. Media theorists call these bonds “parasocial relationships”; parents of kids with one too many Star Wars posters (probably) call it “over the top.” But the people in it, the ones who write fic and spend days making cosplay before the next convention, call it part of their identity, the fabric of who they are.

Until it’s not. Earlier this week, actress Gina Carano lost her job playing Cara Dune on The Mandalorian. The former MMA fighter had been facing criticism for months for her anti-science views on mask-wearing, mocking transgender-sensitive pronouns, and tweets about voter fraud. Then, on Wednesday, after she shared an Instagram story that suggested having differing political views was akin to being Jewish during the Holocaust, the hashtag #FireGinaCarano began to trend on Twitter. That night, Lucasfilm issued the following statement: “Gina Carano is not currently employed by Lucasfilm and there are no plans for her to be in the future. Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.”

Carano’s comments are harmful for a lot of reasons, but they seem to carry an additional weight for fans. Cara Dune was a hero, someone who fought for people, a tough, competent female warrior in a genre often dominated by men. Fans looked up to Cara, and by extension Carano, but the actor’s comments on social media left one of those things harder to do….

(3) BY POPULAR DEMAND. The UK’s Daily Mail proclaims: “WandaVision: Fans CRASH Disney+ to stream latest episode”.

Viewers of WandaVision crashed Disney+ on Friday morning as the latest installment dropped on the streaming service.

There was a brief 10-minute outage in the early hours of Friday as episode seven of the Marvel Cinematic Universe-based series was made available, PEOPLE reports.

Fans expressed their frustration on social media after experiencing issues as they signed on in droves to catch the latest installment of Wanda and Vision’s Westview adventures.

(4) RECOVERED. Claire O’Dell has released a second edition of her award-winning River of Souls trilogy with new covers and updated text: River of Souls Series. The author blogged about the books here.

…Once Tor returned the rights to me, I decided to release a second edition, with new covers and updated text. I commissioned new artwork from the amazing Jessica Shirley. I badgered my long-suffering spouse into designing new covers. And I spent several months editing and proofreading the manuscripts. The e-books are now available at my on-line bookstore (here), individually or as a bundle, and will appear at all the usual vendor sites later this week….

(5) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. James Davis Nicoll helps us keep these two things straight: “Five SF Works Featuring Dyson Shells (and Not Dyson Swarms)” at Tor.com.

…There are at least two kinds of Dyson Sphere. The first—the one Dyson intended—is made up of a myriad of independently orbiting objects. While this presents an interesting traffic control challenge, the Dyson Swarm has the advantage that not only can it be built incrementally over a very long period, but the components are gravitationally coupled to the star in question.

The second option is a solid shell with the star in the middle….

Here’s one of James’ picks:

“Back to Myan” by Regina Kanyu Wang (2017)

Retrieved by the Union from certain extinction on the ice-encrusted world Myan, Kaya is somewhat less than entirely grateful. After all, the reason Myan was freezing in the first place was Project Saion, the Union’s vast energy-gathering structure blocking Myan from its star, Saion. While the Union did belatedly notice the Myan natives and rescue them, this didn’t come to pass until 997 out of every 1000 of Kaya’s species had perished in the cold. Still, the Union is very, very powerful, while the handful of Myans are not. There is nothing Kaya can do to save her home world. At least, that’s what the Union believes…

(6) GREG BEAR INTERVIEWED. Frank Catalano, who was SFWA Secretary back when Greg Bear was SFWA President, pointed out a good profile of Greg Bear in the Seattle Times today, including his thinking that his newest novel may be his last one, and the trouble he had in finding a publisher for it: “Lynnwood’s Greg Bear, stalwart of modern science fiction, starts writing his life story”.

The 69-year-old Lynnwood-based author and first-class raconteur still has a lot to say. He’s published four novels since aortic dissection surgery left him with a titanium heart valve six years ago and has plans for more. But he’s just not sure he wants to deal with the business of fiction publishing anymore after having a hard time finding a buyer for “The Unfinished Land,” eventually published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint John Joseph Adams Books.

“If I had written it and no one wanted to publish it, what would I do right at that point?” Bear said. “I considered just retiring. And I think I’m still making that decision at this point.”

Catalano reacts: “It’s end-of-days when Greg Bear can’t find a publisher. Ack.”

(7) ENDLESS RIVER. “Doctor Who’s River Song Alex Kingston writes new novel”Radio Times has the story.

… Alex Kingston is releasing a brand new River Song novel, taking the popular companion on a brand new adventure.

The book, entitled The Ruby’s Curse, promises to tell a thrilling story set in New York in 1939, featuring both River Song and her alter-ego Melody Malone. It is Alex Kingston’s first foray into writing Doctor Who fiction, following in the footsteps of Tom Baker, whose story Scratchman follows the escapades of the Fourth Doctor….

“Having absolutely no idea of the journey I would be taking with River Song when I first uttered those words, “Hello Sweetie,” I cannot begin to express how excited I am to be able to continue not only River, but Melody’s adventures on the written page,” she says.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1961 — Sixty years ago at Seacon in Seattle, A Canticle for Leibowitz, a fix-up of three short stories published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, written by Walter M. Miller, Jr. wins the Hugo for Best Novel. It was published by J. B. Lippincott. Other nominees that year were The High Crusade by Poul Anderson, Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys, Deathworld by Harry Harrison and Venus Plus X by Theodore Sturgeon. Surprisingly this is the only award this novel won.  

(9) BLACKBURN OBIT. Graphic designer “Bruce Blackburn, Designer of Ubiquitous NASA Logo, Dies at 82” reports the New York Times. He died February 1 at the age of 82,

…In 1975, NASA introduced the worm, a sleek sequence of winding red letters, and the logo quickly became a tangible symbol of a boundless space age that lay ahead.

“We did get what we set out to accomplish,” Mr. Blackburn said. “Anybody we showed it to immediately said, ‘Oh I know what that is. I know them. They’re really great. They’re right on the leading edge of everything.’”

But in 1992, a few years after the Challenger explosion, NASA dropped the worm and revived the meatball in a decision that was said to be intended to improve company morale.

Mr. Blackburn and other designers lamented the choice. “They said, ‘This is a crime. You cannot do this,’” he said. “‘This is a national treasure and you’re throwing it in the trash bin.”

“His design sensibility was offended by what happened,” his daughter said. “He thought the meatball was clumsy and sloppy and not representative of the future.”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 19, 1923 – Alan Hunter.  Fan and pro artist; founded the Fantasy Art Society (U.K.); fifty covers, three hundred fifty interiors, for Banana Wings, DreamFantasy TalesMatrixNebulaNew Worlds, SF ChronicleVector, the Millennium Philcon Program Book (59th Worldcon), the LoneStarCon 3 Program Book (71st Worldcon).  Artist Guest at Fantasycon 1981.  Here is the Spring 53 Nebula.  Here is an interior from the Mar 53 New Worlds.  Here is an interior from Dream.  Here is the Oct 86 SF Chronicle.  Here is Vector 112.  Here is Banana Wings 38.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1937  Terry Carr. Well-known and loved fan, author, editor, and writing instructor. I usually don’t list awards both won and nominated for but his are damned impressed so I will. He was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and he was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. Wow. He worked at Ace Books before going freelance where he edited an original story anthology series called Universe, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year anthologies that ran from 1972 until his early death in 1987. Back to Awards again. He was nominated for the Hugo for Best Editor thirteen times (1973–1975, 1977–1979, 1981–1987), winning twice (1985 and 1987). His win in 1985 was the first time a freelance editor had won. Wow indeed. Novelist as well. Just three novels but all are still in print today though I don’t think his collections are and none of his anthologies seem to be currently either. A final note. An original anthology of science fiction, Terry’s Universe, was published the year after his death with all proceeds went to his widow. (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born February 19, 1963 Laurell K. Hamilton, 58. She is best known as the author of two series of stories. One is the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter of which I’ll confess I’ve read but several novels, the other is the Merry Gentry series which held my interest rather longer but which I lost in somewhere around the sixth or seventh novel when the sex became really repetitive. (CE) 
  • Born February 19, 1946 – Rosemary Ullyot, age 75.  Early member of the Ontario SF Club.  Fanzine Kevas & Trillium with Alicia Austin and Maureen Bournes.  “Kumquat May” column in Energumen.  Twice finalist for Best Fanwriter.  [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1957 – Jim Rittenhouse, age 64.  Founded Point of Divergence, alternative-history apa.  Guest of Honor at DucKon 12, Windycon 32.  Judge of the Sidewise Award.  Has read As I Lay DyingUncle Tom’s Cabin, Suetonius’ Twelve Caesars, Adam BedeLolitaOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  “Why do I like fountain pens?  The smoothness and ease of writing, the clarity and solidity of the line, the profound coloring and the strong saturation of the ink.”  [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1964 Jonathan Lethem, 57. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a weird mix of SF and detective fiction, is fantastic in more ways that I can detail briefly here. I confess that I lost track of him after that novel so I’d be interested in hearing what y’all think of his later genre work particularly his latest, The Arrest. (CE)
  • Born February 19, 1966 Claude Lalumière, 55. I met him once here in Portland at a used book store in the the SFF section, and his wife wrote reviews for Green Man once upon a year. Author, book reviewer and editor who has edited numerous anthologies including two volumes of the excellent Tesseracts series.  Amazing writer of short dark fantasy stories collected in three volumes so far, Objects of WorshipThe Door to Lost Pages and Nocturnes and Other Nocturnes. Tachyon published his latest anthology, Super Stories of Heroes & Villains. (CE) 
  • Born February 19, 1968 Benicio del Toro, 53. Originally cast as Khan in that Trek film but unable to perform the role as he was committed to another film. He’s been The Collector in the Marvel film franchise, Lawrence Talbot in the 2010 remake of The Wolfman, and codebreaker DJ in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Let’s not forget that he was in Big Top Pee-wee as Duke, the Dog-Faced Boy followed by being in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Dr. Gonzo which damn well should count as genre even if it isn’t. (CE) 
  • Born February 19, 1970 – Victor Ehikhamenor, age 51.  Writer, visual artist including photography and sculpture.  Exhibited in the first Nigerian pavilion at the Venice Biennale (57th Biennale, 2017).  Here is I Am Ogiso, the King of Heaven.  Here is The Unknowable (enamel & steel), Norval Foundation, Cape Town.  Here is Hypnotic Lover.  Here is Wealth of Nations, Nat’l Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1973 – Nikki Alfar, age 49.  A score of short stories.  Three Palanca Awards.  Manila Critics’ Circle Nat’l Book Award.  Co-editor, Philippine Speculative Fiction.  Interviewed in Fantasy.  [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1984 – Marissa Meyer, age 37.  Re-told CinderellaLittle Red Riding HoodRapunzel, and Snow White in the Lunar Chronicles; the first, Cinder, MM’s début, was a NY Times Best-Seller; later Fairest, a prequel.  Heartless has the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland.  Half a dozen more novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Introduction to Yolen’s How to Fracture a Fairy Tale.  Has confessed to writing (under another name) twoscore pieces of Sailor Moon fanfiction.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio is always bizarre – this time it’s even funny.
  • Non Sequitur chronicles the Alexa / Siri conspiracy.
  • The Flying McCoys reveals that Superman buys outfits off the rack! (When they’re in stock.)

(12) HE’LL BE REMEMBERED. Milton Davis reports the GoFundMe was successful and that the headstone and monument for Charles R. Saunders’ grave have arrived.  The grave of famous fantasy writer Charles R. Saunders was without a headstone until friends raised money for it.

(13) REPURPOSED AND FUNNY. [Item by rcade.] The paranormal fantasy novelist Richard Kadrey has been reading some obscure science fiction paperbacks from the golden age of the lurid cover. Authors include Supernova Jackson, Cliff Zoom and Brawny Magnum.

The titles of Kadrey’s novels in his Sandman Slim series would be right at home on a shelf with these classics. They include Kill The Dead, Aloha from Hell, Ballistic Kiss and King Bullet, which comes out in August.

He’s also the founder with cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling of the Dead Media Project, which sought to save obsolete and forgotten forms of media. But it died.

(14) NOT A FAN. Variety’s Caroline Framke is not amused: “’Superman and Lois’ Brings The CW Superhero Brand Back Down to Boring Earth: TV Review”.

…It makes sense on paper for a new show about Superman to fast forward through the stuff that’s been done to death in order to find some new way into the man, the myth, the legend. Why not make him a harried dad juggling apocalyptic threats with teenage boys, one of whom might have the same kind of powers as he does? The CW’s dads are already supernaturally hot, so hey, might as well lean into the brand. (Hoechlin, like Tom Welling before him, does not at all have a Christopher Reeve level of charisma to bring to the role — but to be fair, who does?)

But for all the logical storylines and character journeys that “Superman and Lois” includes, it nonetheless lacks the spark to make any of it very interesting. Despite solid efforts from Tulloch, Garfin, and especially Elsass to bring life to their stiff scenes, these Kents feel more stuck than striking

(15) DO YOU REMEMBER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.[ Hugh freakin’ Jackman does the “announcer guy“ voiceover for a movie teaser… Io9 points to “Reminiscence First Look: The Sci-Fi Mystery Romance Is Out 9/3”. The clip is in Hugh Jackman’s tweet:

[Thanks to Michael Toman, rcade, James Davis Nicoll, John Hertz, Danny Sichel, Jeffrey Jones, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Steven H Silver, Frank Catalano, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris R.]

Pixel Scroll 1/4/21 She’s Got
A Pixel To Scroll, And She Don’t Care

(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB virtual reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Lauren Beukes and Usman T. Malik on Wednesday, January 20 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Check back at their website or social media to get the link when it drops.

Lauren Beukes


Lauren Beukes is a South African novelist, ex-journalist and sometime documentary maker who has written five novels, a pop history, a short story collection and New York Times best-selling comics. Her novel Zoo City won the Arthur C Clarke Award, The Shining Girls is soon to be a tv show for Apple with Elisabeth Moss, and won the University of Johannesburg Prize and the Strands Critics Choice Award among others. Her new book Afterland, about a world (almost) without men, is currently in development. She lives in Cape Town with her daughter.

Usman T. Malik
 

Usman T. Malik is a Pakistani-American writer and doctor. His fiction has been reprinted in several year’s best anthologies, including The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy series, and has won the Bram Stoker Award and the British Fantasy Award. Usman’s debut collection, Midnight Doorways: Fables from Pakistan, will be out in early 2021.

(2) COULD HAVE BEEN A CONTENDER. In search of prospects to nominate for the video game Hugo, Camestros Felapton explores another game he hopes will meet his criteria of “look[ing] like they might be interesting/notable from the perspective of science fiction & fantasy as a broad genre” — “Review: Spiritfarer (Nintendo Switch)”.

…However, the game I will nominate in this category isn’t Hades but a game set in a quite different afterlife: Spiritfarer. The two games couldn’t be more different and yet both borrow Charon the Ferryman and Hades as characters from Greek mythology and both use (different) genres of game play to lead you to interact with a series of characters from whom you learn about their lives (and deaths) and your own characters back story. Spiritfarer has fewer murderous, laser firing crystal things though.

The genre of gameplay is resource management and exploration. You have a ship with a small number of passengers and you sail between islands collecting resources and improving your ship. It’s all presented as 2D animation largely moving horizontally.

(3) ELDRITCH FOR MILLIONS. IGN Southeast Asia tells “How Cosmic Horror Went Mainstream”. (You didn’t know that, did you?)

…Alternately called cosmic horror or Lovecraftian horror, this brand of story is focused on unknowable and ancient terrors. While the genre’s most iconic monster, Cthulhu, slumbers in a lost underwater city, cosmic horror just as often directly lives up to its name and comes from the cold of space or is lurking in isolated areas like Antarctica. The genre has few real heroes, mostly focusing on people who are already deeply flawed or struggling before they confront these horrors. While they may be killed, the protagonists are just as likely to be rendered insane or somehow fundamentally transformed into something as equally unknowable and terrible as the unspeakable creatures they have encountered.

But how did cosmic horror seep into the mainstream of movies, TV, and games? Let’s trace that history from D&D to True Detective to Nicolas Cage and beyond…

(4) ELLISON REFERENCE. In the discussion of other things,Scientific American’s “Hellscapes” column “A Quick Look at Underpaid Female Docs, Unethical Ethicists and Frogs with Intestinal Fortitude” ends with the following:

Speaking of hell, a study in the August 3 issue of the journal Current Biology revealed that the vast majority of members of a species of beetle, Regimbartia attenuata, perform a literally death-defying feat after being swallowed by various species of frogs. The beetle apparently swims its little heart out till it pops out of the frog’s derriere. Because, as another axiom has it, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

To find out whether the insect’s passage was active or passive, researchers immobilized some beetles by coating them with wax before going into the mouth of hell, or rather, frog. None of these beetles survived. To paraphrase science-fiction legend Harlan Ellison (who definitely would have come up with this experimental protocol if he’d lived long enough): they really don’t want to open their mouths, and they must scream.

(5) NO FORWARDING ADDRESS. “Is anybody out there? All the intelligent aliens in our galaxy could be dead…”SYFY Wire distills a scientific article about the chances.

…The Milky Way has been around for billions of years. In that time, life has not only had had plenty of time to evolve to an advanced level and achieve heights of technology even our wildest sci-fi dreams couldn’t fathom, but also to destroy itself.

“We found [self-annihilation of complex life] to be the most influential parameter determining the quantity and age of galactic intelligent life,” the physicists said in a study recently published in Astrophysics of Galaxies.

There were three types of limitations for the existence of aliens that the team studied. They considered the possibilities of abiogenesis, how long it might have taken (or be taking) for an intelligent civilization to evolve, and chances of such a civilization crushing itself. Abiogenesis is the idea of life spawning from things that are definitely not alive. 

(6) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Here’s someone who’s theorizing is not discouraged by the preceding study: “Harvard Professor Says Alien Technology Visited Earth in 2017”Yahoo! has the story.

…Loeb says there are two big details that suggest Oumuamua wasn’t just a comet, but rather a piece of alien technology. The first detail is the object’s dimensions, as it was determined to be “five to 10 times longer than it was wide.” Loeb argues the cigar-like shape isn’t typical for a natural space object.

But the theoretical physicist says the biggest detail that supports his theory is Oumuamua’s movement.

“The excess push away from the sun, that was the thing that broke the camel’s back,” he said.

Loeb explains that the sun’s gravitational force would cause a natural object to move faster as it approaches, and eventually push the object back, causing it to move slower as it moves away. Loeb points out that this didn’t occur with Oumuamua, which accelerated “slightly, but to a highly statistically significant extent” as it moved further and further away.

“If we are not alone, are we the smartest kids on the block?” Loeb asked. “If there was a species that eliminated itself through war or changing the climate, we can get our act together and behave better. Instead, we are wasting a lot of resources on Earth fighting each other and other negative things that are a big waste.”

(7) HEADLONG RETREAT. R.S. Benedict has posted a new episode of the Rite Gud podcast.”I talk to writer/artist Sloane Leong about SFF’s retreat into childhood nostalgia, and the beauty of mature fiction.” Listen here.

As the world looks grimmer and grimmer, Millennials and Gen Xers retreat deeper and deeper into childhood nostalgia. Adults dominate fandoms meant for children, like Steven Universe, Young Adult fiction, and My Little Pony. Within SFF, many writers, readers and editors have begun to treat all media as though it were meant for children: It must be didactic and escapist and safe. But there are still some of us who want art to treat us like adults.

In this episode, writer and artist Sloane Leong joins us to talk about the power of embracing your inner grownup.

(8) ROBERTS STILL ALIVE. People sent links to articles reporting the actress death, however, actress Tanya Roberts is still alive at this writing according to TMZ.

(9) JAEL OBIT. Artist Jael died November 17 reports Locus Online Jael (1937-2020). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says Jael did covers for Baen and DAW, as well as magazines. Jael’s work received eight Chesley Award nominations between 1995 and 2002.

(10) SHELLEY OBIT. Hammer Films star Barbara Shelley has died at the age of 88 according to The Sun: ”’Queen of Hammer’ who starred in horror films and Doctor Who dies after surviving Covid”.

She also appeared in the Doctor Who episode Planet Of Fire, starring Peter Davison as the fifth Doctor.

Her agent, Thomas Bowington, said: “She really was Hammer’s number one leading lady and the technicolour queen of Hammer.

…Shelley was also known for TV roles in series including The Saint, The Avengers, The Borgias, Blake’s 7 and Crown Court, and later played Hester Samuels in EastEnders.

Robert J. Sawyer praised Shelley’s performance in Quatermass and the Pit (1967) on Facebook in which she”played a completely professional scientist, paleontologist Barbara Judd, the female lead, in one of the best science-fiction films ever made.”He also posted a great quote from Shelly:

“I adored science fiction. When I was a very little girl my father used to have all these science fiction magazines and we used to go through them together. My mind had been opened up to science fiction by my father so when I got these scripts it wasn’t `What’s this rubbish?’ It was ‘that’s interesting.'”

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1971 — Fifty years ago,  Larry Niven’s Ringworld would win the Hugo for Best Novel at Noreascon I over Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero, Robert Silverberg’s Tower of Glass, Wilson Tucker‘s The Year of the Quiet Sun and Hal Clement’s Star Light. It would also win the Locus, Nebula and Ditmar Awards, and Locus would later include it on its list of All-Time Best SF Novels before 1990.  It would spawn three sequel novels and a prequel series as well which was co-written with Edward M. Lerner. One film and three series have been announced down the decades but none to date have been produced.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 4, 1882 – P.J. Monahan.  Newspaper cartoonist, illustrator in the “pulp” days (when our and other magazines were printed on cheap pulp paper).  Thirty covers, twenty interiors.  Here is Semi Dual, the Occult Detector.  Here is Thuvia.  Here is the 26 Jun 20 All-Story Weekly – weekly!  How’d you like to be the editor of that?  To show PJM’s range, here is the 1 Sep 12 Leslie’s, and here is a portrait of Pope Pius X.  (Died 1931) [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1882 – Violet Van der Elst.  Twoscore short stories, half a dozen collections, for us.  Starting as a scullery maid, she developed cosmetics including the first brushless shaving cream – don’t say we’ve made no progress – and grew rich; fought against the death penalty, threw her money and her mind into it, lost both, barely lived to see it abolished.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1890 Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Creator of the modern comic book by publishing original material in the early Thirties instead of reprints of newspaper comic strips. Some years later, he founded Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications which would eventually become DC Comics. (Died 1965.) (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1904 – Dale Ulrey.  Four covers, a dozen interiors.  Also a comic-strip artist, notably Apple Mary, famous during the Depression, still running today as Mary Worth.  Here is her Wizard of Oz.  Here is an interior for Jaglon and the Tiger Fairies.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1927 Barbara Rush, 94. She won a Golden Globe Award as the most promising female newcomer for being Ellen Fields in It Came From Outer Space. She portrayed Nora Clavicle in Batman, and was found in other genre programs such as the revival version of Outer LimitsNight GalleryThe Bionic Woman and The Twilight Zone. (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1930 – Ruth Kyle.  Founding member of the Lunarians (New York club, famous in song and story).  Hard-working Secretary of NYCon II the 14th Worldcon; married its chairman Dave Kyle; his tale of their honeymoon flight to Loncon I the 15th is here.  Good cook, gracious hostess.  Part of an adventure I had with Dave, see here (bottom of three).  (Died 2011) [JH]  
  • Born January 4, 1933 – Phyllis Naylor, age 88.  A dozen novels for us; a hundred thirty all told; some 2,000 articles.  Newbery Medal.  Sequoyah Children’s Book Award.  Mark Twain Readers Award.  William Allen White Children’s Book Award.  Kerlan Award.  “What spare time?  If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing.”  [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1946 Ramsey Campbell, 75. My favorite novel by him is without doubt The Darkest Part of the Woods which has a quietly building horror to it. I know he’s better known for his sprawling (pun full intended) Cthulhu mythology writings but I never got into those preferring his other novels such as his Solomon Kane movie novelization which is quite superb. (CE) 
  • Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 63. His greatest role has to be as Max Headroom on the short-lived series of the same name. Amazingly I think it still stands thirty-five years later as SF well crafted. Just a taste of his later series SF appearances include playing Jim Taggart, scientist and dog catcher on Eureka, Pestilence in Supernatural, Dr. Kirschner in 12 Monkeys and Carnage in Altered Carbon.  His film genre appearance list is just as impressive but I’ll single out Supergirl,  Honey, I Shrunk the KidsThe StandMonty Python’s The Meaning of Life (oh do guess where he is in it) and lastly Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, a series of films that I really like. (CE) 
  • Born January 4, 1960 Michael Stipe, 61. Lead singer of R.E.M. which has done a few songs that I could argue are genre adjacent such as “Losing My Religion”. But no, I’ve got him here for being involved in a delightful project called Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Lots of great songs given interesting new recordings. His contribution was “Little April Shower” from Bambi which he covered along with Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe, Mark Bingham and The Roches. Fun stuff indeed! (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1981 – Sarah Crossan, age 40.  Two books for us, seven others.  Has read four each by Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf, two by George Eliot.  [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1985 Lenora Crichlow, 36. She played Cheen on “Gridlock”, a Tenth Doctor story. She also played Annie Sawyer on the BBC version of Being Human from 2009 to 2012, and she appeared as Victoria Skillane in the “White Bear” episode of Black Mirror. (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1985 – Lorenz Hideyoshi Ruwwe, age 36.  A dozen covers.  Here is Desert Stars.  Here is The Sentinel.  Here is Omni.  Here is his page at ArtStation.  [JH]

(13) THE SIGN OF THE Z. In the Washington Post, Michael Sragow notes the centennial of THE MARK OF ZORRO, the first Zorro movie.  He notes that both Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger and Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster say that Zorro’s twin identity as the masked crimefighter and the foppish Don Diego as a precursor to Batman and Bruce Wayne and Superman and Clark Kent.  In addition, Sragow sees Zorro’s secret lair as a precursor of the Batcave and Lolita Pulido’s ditching Don Diego for Zorro as Lois Lane favoring Superman over Clark Kent. “On Zorro’s 100th birthday, the father of swashbucklers and superhero movies is still relevant”

…Like Tennyson’s Sir Galahad, Zorro has the strength of 10 because his heart is pure. He’s also irreverent and mischievous. His sparkle exudes hipness: He embraces the New World’s egalitarian ethos while his enemies defend the feudal past.

Zorro lifted spirits in the 1920s. In the 2020s, his ebullience can generate ecstatic highs.

During Fairbanks’s previous run as the parody hero of contemporary action comedies like “His Picture in the Papers,” fans came to think of him as “Doug,” a tribute to his offhand elegance — like Fred Astaire’s, a triumph of talent and willpower. Doug transports this knockabout grace into “The Mark of Zorro.” With his light heart and “can-do” demeanor — qualities the world embraced as quintessentially American — Zorro soon dominated action-film iconography. Cinema would never be the same.

(14) ZOOMIN’ DOWN THE ROAD. “Movin’ Right Along With Kermit The Frog and Fozzie Bear” on YouTube has Kermit and Fozzie welcoming the new year with dreams of a road trip and showing they know how to use Zoom.

(15) THANKS, MY GOOD COUNTRYMAN. James Davis Nicoll surveys “Canadians in SF as Written by Non-Canadians” at Tor.com. (Is that allowed?)

Canada! Perhaps best known to fans of British soap operas, for whom it serves as that mysterious land to the west to which characters vanish after their purpose on the show has been served. Of course, all that is needed to learn far more about Canada than you would ever need or want to know is to get trapped in a conversation with a Canadian, uninvited exposition concerning their homeland being as natural to the average Canadian as it is any given inhabitant of a fictional utopia confronted by a woken sleeper from the pre-utopian past.

One might reasonably expect that most SF touching on Canada was written by Canadians and the Canadian-adjacent. Perhaps it is. Quite a lot of it is not. Here are five examples of Canada and Canadians in science fiction, as seen by foreign eyes.

First on the list is Bob Shaw, who’s challenging because he lived and worked in Canada for a period.

(16) HOPE HE GETS HIS MD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The first baby of 2021 in one Alabama town has a possibly-unique name, Anakyn Gene Strange. Yeah, they changed the spelling of the first name a bit, but wouldn’t it be lovely if the young lad went into medicine. Think of it  — Dr. Anakyn Strange. “‘The Force is Strong’ with Florence’s first baby in 2021”

Star Wars fans immediately know the reference when hearing the name Anakyn.

While it may not be spelled the same as it was in the series, Hope and Dusty Strange used the name on Florence’s first birth of 2021. Anakyn Gene Strange was born at 1:04 a.m. on January 1 at North Alabama Medical Center.

According to our news partners at the Times Daily, Anakyn was 5 pounds, 12 ounces and was 19 3/4 inches long with brown eyes and curly brown hair.

“There actually was a feeling of relief because 2020 was a horrible and challenging year,” she said. “It was the most pure way to start out the year.”…

(17) RAVENCON ANTHOLOGY KICKSTARTER. Michael D. Pederson, RavenCon 2022 chair, explains:

Being an April convention, we were forced to announce this year’s [2020] cancellation three weeks before the convention. Needless to say, after having spent 11 months buying supplies and paying fees for the con we didn’t have much (read: any) capital left after refunding the vendors. And we still needed to refund about a third of our attendees that wanted money. And now that we’ve had to cancel for 2021 as well, we’re really stuck for funds. So, we created an anthology, with story donations coming from many of our regular programming guests as well as a few of my old Nth Degree contributors. We’re using the anthology to raise funds through Kickstarter. We funded the entire project on our first day and hit our first stretch goal a week later. We’re working on a second stretch goal and expect to announce a third stretch goal later this week.

You can find the fundraiser at: CORVID-19 — Kickstarter. The stories in CORVID-19: A RavenCon Anthology are:

  • “Windows to the Soul” by Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  • “Raven’s Sacrifice” by Heather Ewings
  • “The Cruelest Team Will Win” by Mike Allen
  • “Jenny” by Debbie Manber Kupfer
  • “Daughter of the Birds” by Maya Preisler
  • “Kvetina and the Crows” by Rhys Schrock
  • “Corvus Monitus” by Cass Morris
  • “If the Moon is Real” by Samantha Bryant
  • “Life in a Moment” by James Maxey
  • “Crows’ Feet” by Diana Bastine
  • “A Warning of Crows” by Jennifer R. Povey
  • “Wet Birds” by Elizabeth Massie
  • “Heart Truth” by Jenna Hamrick
  • “Table for One” by Joan Wendland
  • “Dominion” by Margaret Karmazin
  • “The Gore-Crow” by Meryl Yourish
  • “The Song of the Raven” by Toi Thomas
  • “Fledging” by Kathryn Sullivan
  • “Feather Fall” by Kara Dennison

(18) ESCHEW SURPLUS CONSONANTS. A whole collection of tweets from people who seem qualified to join File 770’s crack proofreading staff: “People Who Don’t Know How to Spell ‘Cologne’ Are Hiralous” at Sad and Useless.

Who would have thought that “cologne” is such a complicated word to spell correctly? Or it just might be that many people really are enjoying the smell of large intestine…

(19) LONG PLAYING. And long ago. This interesting discovery is available at Archive.org – “A Child’s Introduction To Outer Space: Jim Timmens” (1959) – with songs performed by The Satellite Singers, and dramatic readings, and a credit on the album cover to Scientific Advisor Willy Ley who won one of the first Hugos in 1953.  

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Wonder Woman 1984 Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that the reasons why Steve Trevor appears in Wonder Woman 1984 have really creepy implications and that it’s highly unlikely that Wonder Woman could make an escape from the Smithsonian by stealing a fully fueled airplane from the Air and Space Museum.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/7/20 When All You Have Is A Scroll, Everything Looks Like A Pixel

(1) WHERE THE BLOOD STILL PULSES – SO TO SPEAK. R.S. Benedict’s article for Blood Knife “How Horror Makes Itself Ungovernable” says that horror alone resists the corporatization of geek culture.

…Geek culture—comic books, video games, sci-fi, fantasy—is mainstream now, squeezing out mysteries, dramas, and period pieces at the box office.

…This is nothing to be celebrated. This is not victory. The mainstreaming of geek culture is artistic gentrification, a way for moneyed interests to wrest control of culture from the creatives who built it and crowd out any voice with something new or subversive to say. Sci-fi, which once gave us visions of the future, and fantasy, which once nurtured our imaginations, have been hijacked to sell imperialism and soda pop. The invaders have won; our loved ones have been replaced by pod people.

Only one speculative genre has managed to escape the Disneyfication process and retain something resembling a soul: horror….

(2) THE TRUTH, OR SOMETHING, IS OUT THERE. The news got George Takei’s attention.

“Former Israeli space security chief says aliens exist, humanity not ready” reports The Jerusalem Post.

Has the State of Israel made contact with aliens?

According to retired Israeli general and current professor Haim Eshed, the answer is yes, but this has been kept a secret because “humanity isn’t ready.”

Speaking in an interview to Yediot Aharonot, Eshed – who served as the head of Israel’s space security program for nearly 30 years and is a three-time recipient of the Israel Security Award – explained that Israel and the US have both been dealing with aliens for years.

And this by no means refers to immigrants, with Eshed clarifying the existence of a “Galactic Federation.”

The 87-year-old former space security chief gave further descriptions about exactly what sort of agreements have been made between the aliens and the US, which ostensibly have been made because they wish to research and understand “the fabric of the universe.” This cooperation includes a secret underground base on Mars, where there are American and alien representatives.

If true, this would coincide with US President Donald Trump’s creation of the Space Force as the fifth branch of the US armed forces, though it is unclear how long this sort of relationship, if any, has been going on between the US and its reported extraterrestrial allies.

But Eshed insists that Trump is aware of them, and that he was “on the verge” of disclosing their existence. However, the Galactic Federation reportedly stopped him from doing so, saying they wished to prevent mass hysteria since they felt humanity needed to “evolve and reach a stage where we will… understand what space and spaceships are,” Yediot Aharonot reported.

As for why he’s chosen to reveal this information now, Eshed explained that the timing was simply due to how much the academic landscape has changed, and how respected he is in academia.

“If I had come up with what I’m saying today five years ago, I would have been hospitalized,” he explained to Yediot.

Of course, the timing may also have something to do with the release of Eshed’s newest book, The Universe Beyond the Horizon – conversations with Professor Haim Eshed. And considering all the year’s travails, I liked this reaction —

(3) FELLOWSHIP OF THE PREQUEL. In the “Silmarillion Seminar”, hosted at The Tolkien Professor, a bunch of academics sit down and talk about the Silmarillion chapter by chapter:

Despite its challenging learning curve, The Silmarillion is an amazing set of stories. Some of these stories may be even more profound and more moving than The Lord of the Rings. What’s more, once you know The Silmarillion, you will begin to understand The Lord of the Rings in a whole new way.

In the Silmarillion Seminar, listeners will be reading through the book slowly and carefully, at the pace of about a chapter a week, and gathering together to have an online audio discussion with the Tolkien Professor about each chapter. Each session will be recorded and posted here on this page. Hopefully, you will pick up your copy of the book and give this truly incredible book another chance.

(4) IN A BEGINNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] OK, now here’s a book I want to read (and have just library-reserved)…

A year or two or three ago, I went to an interesting lecture at Harvard on the origins of alphabets. It was interesting… but it didn’t address my question, and, when either in the Q&A session at the end or while we were milling afterwards, I asked about the origin of alphabetic order, to which I was told, more or less, IIRC, that was a different question. Fair ’nuff.

So, I just saw this review in our paper edition of the December 6 New York Times’ Book Review section (tho, per the URL, I see it ran online back in late October): A Place For Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order by Judith Flanders.

A few paragraphs into reading the review, I made a note (snapped a pic using my phone) and have reserved-requested it through/from my local library.

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. Young People Read Old SFF reaches the second-to-last story in the Rediscovery collection from Journey Press, “Cornie on the Walls” Sydney van Scyoc. What does James Davis Nicoll’s panel think about this 1963 entry?

Sydney J. van Scyoc was mainly active in the 1960s through the 1980s. Although new short pieces appear as late as 2005, her most recent novel was 1991’s Deepwater Dreams. I haven’t read Deepwater because van Scyoc occupied a blindspot in my collecting. Having read this example of her work, I’ve taken to picking up her novels when I see them. Finding time to read them has thus far eluded me.

But were my Young People as enthusiastic? Let’s find out…. 

(6) MURDER IN SPACE. James Davis Nicoll also found time to write about “Five Space-Based Murder Mysteries” for Tor.com. One of them is —

Places in the Darkness by Christopher Brookmyre (2017)

230,000 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, Ciudad de Cielo is filled with almost every vice and foible known to humanity. This is a paradise for bent private cop Nicola “Nikki Fixx” Freeman, because it offers many ways for a high-ranking Seguridad officer to siphon off some extra wealth for herself. The system works, as long as nobody gets too greedy and everyone remembers that there are limits to the crimes to which the authorities can turn a blind eye….

(7) GHOSTS IN THE BIG APPLE. The NY Ghost Story Festival can be viewed free on YouTube.

Night One: Thursday December 10, 2020 7PM EST

Guests are Gwendolyn Kiste, Hysop Mulero and Rudi Dornemann

Night Two: Saturday December 10, 2020 7PM EST

Guests Sarah Langan, Lee Thomas, and Douglas Wynne

Here is the event page for Night Two on Facebook.

When the year grows old and December’s daylight departs too soon it is time to fill the dark nights with stories of ghosts and the supernatural.

Welcome to The New York Ghost Story Festival. An annual event of ghost story readings and discussion hosted by Daniel Braum. Featuring authors of the uncanny, strange and fantastic from New York and around the globe.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 1995 — “Two Tales of Korval,” the very first stories in Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Adventures in the Liaden Universe series was published by SR in a very limited sixty copies. There was two stories here, “To Cut an Edge” and “A Day at The Races”, plus “A Partial Liaden Glossary”.  More printings would follow. Both stories are in A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 1 which is available from the usual digital suspects.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 7, 1873 – Willa Cather.  A dozen stories for us, besides the work of her fame like O Pioneers!My ÁntoniaOne of Ours.  Pulitzer Prize.  Fellow, Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Nat’l Inst. Arts & Letters gold medal for fiction.  Nat’l Women’s Hall of Fame.  New York Writers Hall of Fame.  (Died 1947) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1886 – Heywood Broun.  Sportswriter, drama critic, columnist, editor; co-founded the Newspaper Guild.  One of the Algonquin Round Table.  Often wrote against racism, censorship, persecution of people for their beliefs. A novel and three shorter stories for us, much other work.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1915 Leigh Brackett. Let’s us praise her first for her Retro Hugo this year for Shadow Over Mars, originally published in the Fall 1944 issue of Startling Stories. Now surely her scripts for The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye are genre adjacent? Why not? Ok, then her very pulpy Sea-Kings of Mars is? Being rhetorical there. And I love her Eric John Stark stories! (Much of these were written with her husband Edmond Hamilton.) And yes, she competed The Empire Strikes Back script just before she died.  Is that the actual shooting script? (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1947 – Anne Fine, O.B.E., age 73. Three novels, four shorter stories for us; seventy children’s books, eight adults’.  Two Carnegie Medals, two Whitbread Awards, The GuardianAward.  Children’s Laureate (U.K., awarded every two years).  Fellow, Royal Soc. Literature.  Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1949 Tom Waits, 71. He’s got uncredited (but obviously known) roles in Wolfen and The Fisher King. He is in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as R.M. Renfield, and he shows up in Mystery Men as Doc Heller and in Mr.Nick in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He’s simply Engineer in The Book of Eli. (CE)
  • Born December 7, 1953 Madeleine E Robins, 67. I’m very fond of her Sarah Tolerance series which starts often Point of Honour, it features a female PI in an alternate version of Georgian London. The Stone War set in a post-apocalyptic NYC is quite interesting as well, and she has quite a bit short fiction, though only three have been collected so far in Luckstones: Three Tales of Meviel. Much of her fiction is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1957 – Terri Blackstock, age 63.  Six novels for us; forty others.  Carol Award.  Two NY Times best-sellers.  “I still print things out and mark all over the hard copies after each draft.  Under glass, I have pictures of my characters, with important stats about them, such as their ages, so I can refer to them often.”  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1973 Kelly Barnhill, 47. Her The Girl Who Drank the Moon novel was awarded the Newbery Medal and she was a McKnight Writing Fellow in Children’s Literature. Four years ago, her “Unlicensed Magician” novella received the World Fantasy Award for Long Fiction. Iron Hearted Violet was nominated as Andre Norton Award.  (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1980 – Satô Yûya, age 40.  (Surname first, Japanese style.)  Mishima Yukio Prize.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  “Same as Always” closes the just-released Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories.  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1984 – Walter Dinjos.  This just-emerging Nigerian had a dozen stories in e.g. Abyss & ApexBeneath Ceaseless SkiesGalaxy’s Edge.  (Died 2018) [JH]

(10) ROLLING ON THE RIVERS. You Rivers of London fans might want to know about Ben Aaronovitch’s Titan Comics series, the latest title being Rivers of London Volume 8: The Fey and the Furious. (Writers: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel. Artist: Lee Sullivan.)

Trouble never lies far from the race track. When a flash car belonging to a young boy racer from England washes up in the Netherlands with a bagload of unusual cargo, it’s evident there is more than meets the eye happening at street races held in an Essex car park. Enter Detective Inspector Peter Grant. Fresh from suspension, he takes to the track in his orange ‘asbo’ Ford Focus to try and infiltrate the big leagues. But Peter soon finds himself sucked back into an Otherworld – a real-life fairyland!

They’ve also diagrammed where the comics fit into the overall series. (Click for slightly larger version.)

(11) PANDEMIC HEROES. “Real Nurses, Real Stories” describes The Vitals, a comic Marvel produced in collaboration with the Allegheny Health Network based on true stories of nurses fighting the pandemic. Read the comic here —  The Vitals: True Nurse Stories (2020). (I’ll start typing again in a moment, right now I have something in my eye…)

(12) ALIEN COMICS ON THE WAY. Marvel Comics earlier announced plans for all-new comics set in the iconic world of the Alien franchise. The first of these will arrive March 2021 with ALIEN #1, written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, art by Salvador Larroca, and cover by InHyuk Lee.

ALIEN #1 will be a thrilling addition to the incredible legacy that began with the groundbreaking 1979 film. Featuring both new and classic characters from Earth and beyond, this bold take on the Alien mythology will entertain both longtime fans and newcomers to the legendary horror/science-fiction saga.

The new story will feature a Weyland-Yutani mercenary named Gabriel Cruz as he battles a deadly new breed of xenomorph with the survival of his child hanging in the balance.

(13) THE PLAY’S THE THING. File 770 contributor Francis Hamit’s stage play Memorial Day is now available for community and other theatre groups. See Stageplays.com. To read the opening scenes, click here.

Francis Hamit is the last guy you would expect to write an anti-war play.  He is an Army brat who served four years in the U.S. Army Security Agency during the Vietnam War and had a tour there himself.

“I mostly write about two things,” he says, “Soldiers and spies.  My background is in Military Intelligence and I try to stay current with how the American military has changed in the decades since the Vietnam War ended.  For many of those who were it there, it never did, because American society turned on us and blamed us for losing the war and every bad thing that happened there.  We were all accused of being drug addicts and war criminals, and that legacy has passed to subsequent generations of American soldiers.  Most Americans no longer know us, nor do they want to.  We are there on the front lines, but everyone else is at the Mall.”

MEMORIAL DAY is a two act, one set, seven character play set in a small town or city neighborhood someplace in the USA.  Anywhere between Alabama and Alaska.  One of the men was an Army Ranger on D-Day in World War Two.  Part of the so-called “Greatest Generation”.  The others came later.  The bar is owned by a Vietnam veteran, a draftee who one day got into a situation that earned him the Medal of Honor.  He doesn’t know what to do with the fame that comes with that award, and resists efforts by other to exploit it.  He will not even march in the town’s annual Memorial Day parade.  Anyone who ever lived in a small town will find these folks relatable.

(14) A NIP HERE, A TUCK THERE. Peter Jackson didn’t pull a Lucas on Lord of the Rings, but here’s what did change: “Peter Jackson talks 4K remasters for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies” at SYFY Wire.

Peter Jackson recently revisited Middle-Earth to remaster his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies in 4K Ultra HD. The undertaking allowed the celebrated director to go back to the original films (for example, The Fellowship of the Ring turns 20?! next December) and update their visual effects with modern tools. But don’t worry, this isn’t a Star Wars Special Editions-type situation of a director going back in and adding a bunch of stuff that wasn’t there originally.

“Visual effects technology has advanced a lot in 20 years and when they became ultra-crisp and sharp with the 4K process, we realized that some of the shots were not holding up too well. So, we got the opportunity to go back and remove and paint out any imperfections,” Jackson explains in a new video posted by Warner Bros. “I should make it clear: we didn’t upgrade or enhance any of the effects shots. They’re exactly the same as you’re used to seeing them, except they do look as if they were done today rather than 20 years ago.”

In doing so, he was also able to make both trilogies feel like one seamless unit, despite the fact that The Hobbit adaptations were shot years later and at a much higher frame rate. “They now feel like it’s one big, long film, telling the same story and looking and sounding the same,” Jackson added.

(15) CELEBRITY TSUNDOKU. “Dolly Parton Likes to Read by the Fire in Her Pajamas” according to the New York Times Book Review. Some of what she reads is sff!

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of? 

Not enough folks know what a great book “Kindred,” by Octavia E. Butler, is. It’s kind of tricky to describe but somehow it all works — it’s about race relations and there’s time travel and romance. It’s powerful.

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid? 

I love historical fiction with a touch of romance — writers like Lee Smith or Diana Gabaldon. I avoid horror.

(16) WERE YOU INVITED TO THE FUNERAL? Colin Broadmoor claims “The Future Died in 1999” at Blood Knife.

The future died in 1999. Ever since, we’ve been trapped in the eternal present—waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For two decades, we’ve fought the same wars, watched the police murder the same people, voted for the same duopoly, and paid for the same IPs in books, movies, and video games. I’m typing this at the close of A.D. 2020—the year I waited for all my life, the way some Christians wait for the Second Coming.

2020, the year forever associated with media like R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk 2020 (2nd ed., 1992). Each day I wake in 2020 and look around to see myself surrounded by the ash and shadows of the spent neon future of my youth.

For those of you who were not there or don’t remember, it’s difficult to explain the ways in which the 1990s were different from today. There are two key aspects of that final decade of the 20th century that you must keep in mind:

  1. It was the last decade in the West in which the analog took precedence over the digital in all fields.
  2. People felt as if we were witnessing the first rays of a 21st-century dawn, one that promised humanity better living through technology.

(17) A REASON FOR THIS SEASON. Several versions of this holiday tree decoration are for sale — no wonder! The 2020 LED Flickering Dumpster Fire.

[Thanks to Cliff, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, R.S. Benedict, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Danny Sichel.]

Pixel Scroll 4/3/20 Andy Warhol, Pixel Scroll, Can’t Tell Them Apart At All

(1) THE CONLINE LIFE. NYC area convention HELIOsphere is running online this weekend. Here’s how to locate the schedule and tap into the programming.

When we had to cancel HELIOsphere 2020 because of the coronavirus, we were sad. And, we were bored. So, this weekend, we bring to you:

HELIOsphere: Beyond the Corona! (a virtual event)

Join us while we all #StayHome! We unfortunately had to cancel our in-person event this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still gather together online for some presentations, panels, games, and lots of filk! Check for the latest schedule and Zoom and Discord links. And finally, stay safe and healthy, everyone! We want to see you all in person next year!

(2) NOT MAKING BOOK. Writer and editor Beth Meacham updated Facebook readers with the current struggles of the publishing industry.

I want to talk for a minute about why publishing is in so much trouble right now. It’s way more complicated than most people seem to think.

First, you need to know that the vast majority of our business remains in hardcover and paperback books. Hard copies, physical objects. The second strongest sector has been audio books. Ebooks are a distant third.

Selling books is a very long and complicated supply chain. Ignore editorial — writers and editors can work at a distance and electronically. It really starts with the paper. Storing paper for the big presses takes an enormous amount of warehouse space, which costs money. Printers don’t store a lot — they rely on a “just in time” supply chain so that when a book is scheduled to go to press, the paper is delivered to the printer. Most of that paper is manufactured in China. Guess what isn’t coming from China? Anything, for the last three months. Some of it comes from Canada. Guess what the Trump administration put a big tariff on at the beginning of the year?

So, we don’t have adequate paper supplies. Then consider, big printing plants are not “essential businesses”…. 

(3) RITE GUD. The latest episode of the Rite Gud podcast is up. In it, R.S. Benedict talks to horror writer Gretchen Felker-Martin about Isabel Fall’s controversial story “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” and about the need to make space for messy, difficult, transgressive queer fiction. “Transgressive Queer Fiction and the Right to Be Messy”

(4) RAILING AGAINST FATE. Prepare to brace…. Snowpiercer, starring Oscar® winner Jennifer Connelly and Tony Award® winner Daveed Diggs premieres May 17.

Set more than seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland, Snowpiercer centers on the remnants of humanity who inhabit a perpetually moving train, with 1001 cars, that circles the globe. Class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival play out in this riveting television adaptation based on the graphic novel series and film from Oscar® Winner Bong Joon Ho (Parasite).

(5) LBJ’S WALKERS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The U.S. National Archives blog Text Message reveals the behind-the-scenes story of how the government tried to build AT-AT style walking war machines in the 1960s. It’s an interesting story, and the images they’ve posted are amazing“Bringing Sci-Fi to Life: The Walking War Machines of ARPA and G.E.” 

One has only to look to the 1980 movie Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back to see the relationship between science fiction and scientific research to recognize the surviving creative influence of the ambulating quadruped transporter.

(6) ELUSIVE QUARRY. James Davis Nicoll reads a lot – and there are even more books he’d read, if he could! “SFF Books That Are Hard to Track Down in North America” at Tor.com.

…It can be frustrating to have heard of an interesting book, to want to read that book, and to find that it is available ONLY in an imported edition. Well, at least it’s available (failing a breakdown in global trade networks, and how likely is that)…but it may take longer to get the book and the book may be more expensive.

You may be wondering why I am vexed about this. Allow me to list a few books that I wanted to acquire and that were not available in North American editions, as far as I can tell.

(7) BY THAT SPECIAL GLINT IN THEIR…UM. “Proof of Life: How Would We Recognize an Alien If We Saw One?” Tagline: “Some day, astrobiologists will need to answer that question – if they’re lucky.”

…One thing that sets life apart from nonlife is its apparent design. Living things, from the simplest bacteria to the great redwoods, have vast numbers of intricate parts working together to make the organism function. Think of your hands, heart, spleen, mitochondria, cilia, neurons, toenails – all collaborating in synchrony to help you navigate, eat, think and survive. The most beautiful natural rock formations lack even a tiny fraction of the myriad parts of a single bacterial cell that coordinate to help it divide and reproduce. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 3, 1953 — In London, The War Of The Worlds based on the H.G. wells novel had its very first theatrical showing. It was the recipient of a 1954 Retro-Hugo Award at Noreascon 4 in 2004.  It was produced by George Pal, and directed by Byron Haskin. It starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. It was deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant in 2011 by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. 
  • April 3, 1968 Planet Of The Apes had it a full U.S. wide release after several smaller city wide openings. It was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. It starred Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly and Linda Harrison. The screenplay was by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, and was somewhat based on Pierre Boulle‘s La Planète des Singes. It was not on the final Hugo ballot in either 1968 or 1969 for Best Dramatic Presentation, though it was met with critical acclaim and is widely regarded as a classic film and one of the best films of 1968. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an 87% rating with over 117,000 having expressing an opinion! 
  • April 3, 1998 — The rebooted Lost In Space film premiered. Produced by Mark W. Koch, Stephen Hopkins, Akiva Goldsman and Carla Fry, it was directed by Stephen Hopkins from a script by Akiva Goldsman based on ideas by Irwin Allen. It was universally panned by critics on release, it lost enough money to kill the planned sequel and it received a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Remake or Sequel, but lost to the tied GodzillaThe Avengers and Psycho. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 24% rating. 
  • April 3, 1999 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World first aired on TNT.  It starred Peter McCauley, Rachel Blakely, William Snow, David Orth, Jennifer O’Dell and Michael Sinelnikoff. Produced in Australia, it would run for three seasons and last for sixty six episodes. The never produced fourth season would have featured guest appearances of two other Arthur Conan Doyle characters, Holmes and Moriarty. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 3, 1927 Donald M. Grant. He was responsible for the creation of several genre small press publishers. He co-founded Grant-Hadley Enterprises in 1945, Buffalo Book Company in 1946, Centaur Press in 1970 and Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. in 1964. Between 1976 and 2003, he won five World Fantasy Awards and a Balrog Award as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born April 3, 1928 Colin Kapp. He’s best remembered  for his stories about the Unorthodox Engineers which originally largely appeared in the New Writings in SF anthologies. I’d also single out his Cageworld series which is set in the future when humanity lives on nested Dyson spheres. Both series are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 2007.)
  • Born April 3, 1929 Ernest Callenbach. Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston was rejected by every major publisher so Callenbach initially self-published it. Ecotopia Emerging is a prequel and sequel as well published later. Yes, I read both. As such fiction goes, they’re ok. Nothing spectacular, characters flat and writing style pedestrian.  If you can find a copy, Christopher Swan’s YV 88: An Eco-Fiction of Tomorrow which depicts the rewilded Yosemite Valley is a much more interesting read. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 3, 1946 Lyn McConchie, 74. New Zealand author who has written three sequels in the Beast Master series that Andre Norton created and four novels in Norton’s Witch World as well. She has written a lot of Holmesian fiction, so I’ll just recommend her collection of short stories, Sherlock Holmes: Familar Crimes: New Tales of The Great Detective. She’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born April 3, 1958 Alec Baldwin, 62. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve see him in Beetlejuice as Adam Maitland since it’s one of my favorite films, period. Despite those who don’t like The Shadow and him in his dual role of Lamont Cranston and The Shadow, I’m quite fond of it. Let’s just skip past any mention of The Cat in the Hat… Ahhhh Rise of the Guardians where he voices Nicholas St. North is quite fantastic. Another go to, feel good film for me. He’s Alan Hunley in some of the Mission: Impossible franchise, a series I think I’ve only seen the first two films of. And here’s a weird one — the US. run of Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends replaced the U.K. narrator, some minor musician no one had ever heard of by the name of Ringo Starr, with him. 
  • Born April 3, 1961 Eddie Murphy, 59. He’s got a long history in genre starting with The Golden Child and going on to include Wes Craven’s Vampire in BrooklynThe Nutty Professor films, Mulan, the Dr. Dolittle films, the Shrek franchise and The Haunted Mansion
  • Born April 3, 1962 James R. Black, 58. I’d like to say he’s best known for his leading role as Agent Michael Hailey on The Burning Zone but since it was short-lived and I’m not sure anyone actually watched it on UPN that might be stretching reality a bit. If you like great popcorn viewing, The Burning Zone is certainly worth seeing. Prior to his run on that series, he’s got a number of one-offs including Babylon 5Deep Space 9, The SentinelSpace: Above and Beyond with his first genre role being Doctor Death in Zombie Cop.
  • Born April 3, 1970 Jo Graham, 50. Her first novel, Black Ships, re-imagines The Aeneid, and her second novel, Hand of Isis, features the reincarnated main character of the first novel. If that‘s not enough genre cred for you, she’s written Lost Things, with Melissa Scott and a whole lot of Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1 novels.

(10) HELP IS ON THE WAY. Rick Kovalcik announced the results of the “Help Ben and Ireland Hatcher” GoFundMe on March 31:

Two money orders totaling $1661 (since USPS money orders are limited to $1000) went out by Priority Mail to Ben Hatcher today.

(11) NEW WORLD ORDER. SYFY Wire’s Dana Forsythe talks to people trying to ride out the financial storm: “Comic Cons, Artists, And Fans Search For A Way Forward Amid Coronavirus Cancellations”.

…At the top, many convention organizers were caught between a rock and a hard place after C2E2 seemingly went off without a hitch from Feb. 28 through March 1. Without guidance from local (not to mention the federal) government, con creators were still bound by contract to hold these major events. By March 12, though, tough decisions were made simple as federal and state leaders alike declared emergencies and issued bans on large gatherings. With mandatory shelter in place orders now spreading, what happens now? While comic cons big and small fight to stay afloat, the artists, vendors, and support staff scramble for solutions.

Gary Sohmers is the organizer of the NorthEast Comic Con & Collectibles Extravaganza, which organizes two midsize cons that happen three times a year just outside of Boston. The cons usually attract about 4,000 attendees over three days with the average person spending about $100 on merchandise. Sohmers employs a small staff of 12 to 15 people and then usually hires a handful of service contractors per show. That’s not to mention thousands of dollars in marketing costs, he tells SYFY WIRE.

(12) SXSW 2020 SCREENINGS ONLINE. “Amazon will stream SXSW Film Festival selections for free for 10 days”Engadget has the story. Date still to be determined.

SXSW was cancelled this year due to COVID-19, but that isn’t stopping organizers from offering a taste of what the Austin event would have offered. They’re partnering with Amazon on an SXSW Film Festival Collection that will stream movies from the festival on Prime Video for 10 days, completely free in the US — you won’t need a subscription. While creators will have to opt in, they’ll receive a screening fee for their trouble. Amazon and SXSW are tentatively looking at a late April timeframe for the virtual festival.

(13) BRAIN-TO-TEXT! [Item by Daniel Dern.] From Slashdot: “Scientists develop AI that can turn brain activity into text”.

Two immediate (media) plot uses:

1, Superman 1, when Lois Lane, while being flown by Supes, is thinking, “Can you hear what I’m thinking”

2, Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist, for Zoe’s unable-to-speak dad (btw, this show is doing Good-Place-level exploration of Zoe’s ‘superpower’, including one bit, last week, too funny to spoil.)

3, Speechless, for JJ, also unable to talk.

(14) IT’S FREE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] More free watches/reads via io9.

Update: According to TrekCore, CBS All Access has expanded the free trial to 60 days with a second code, ENJOY. Enter both at checkout to get two months free, and if you’ve already done the first one you can extend it by going into My Account and entering ENJOY….

Scribt: In a press release, Scribt announced it’s making book, magazine, and audiobook services free for 30 days—without requiring folks to put down a credit card. All you have to do is visit the website to sign up. There’s a great collection of science fiction and fantasy books on there, as well as some self-help, healthy living, and mindfulness books for folks interested in that as well.

(15) HAPPY DEATH DAY. [Item by N.] Ladyknightthebrave’s video essay on the Happy Death Day movies. I used to dismiss these movies out of hand for their Blumhouse associations but based on the analysis/scenes featured here, they appear to be supremely underrated.

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

2019 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / pjgon71

[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 2019 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,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

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.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

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 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 I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

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. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

(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 2/14/20 Requires Much More Work Before It Can Be Submitted

(1) VOTE ON BOOK SUPER LIST. A bit of genre seasons the stew: “British Book Awards 2020: Nibbies unveils #30from30 super list” at The Bookseller. [Via Locus Online.]

Books by J K Rowling, E L James, Peter Kay, Stephenie Meyer, Philip Pullman and Zadie Smith will battle it out to be crowned the overall book of the past 30 years at this year’s British Book Awards (a.k.a. the Nibbies), as part of a unique celebration of the three decades of publishing championed at the annual awards, which were founded in 1990.

The longlist of titles—from Brick Lane to Longitude to Dreams From My Father—is made up of past winners at the British Book Awards, the book and trade awards founded in 1990 by Publishing News, and run since 2017 by The Bookseller. The longlist makes for a compelling history of the book trade and 30 years of successful publishing, with books such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by Rowling, The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, Northern Lights by Pullman, and The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown going on to become huge backlist bestsellers, and spawning many imitators.

See the full list and ballot here.  The winner will be announced May 18, 2020.

The Bookseller now invites readers and the trade to share their memories of these books, make the case for titles to make it through to the next round, and suggest wildcard entries. A shortlist of ten will be announced in March. The winning author will be invited to the British Book Awards on 18th May to pick up their prize.

Which 10 books would make up your shortlist?

Vote below, tweet using #30from30 or email 30from30@thebookseller.com and share your memories of the longlist.      

(2) IT JUST GOT STRANGER. Netflix has dropped a trailer for Season 4 of Stranger Things.

(3) WHEN GREEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS IN FLOWER. [Item by Dann.] Corey Olsen is an English professor with at PH.D. in medieval literature. His classes cover a broad range of medieval mythologies; including Arthurian legends and faerie stories. His course offerings include the obvious children of those mythos; J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He has adopted the sobriquet of The Tolkien Professor.

In addition to his work in academia, Professor Olsen has also participated in many cons and symposiums (symposia?) focused on LOTR and medieval literature. He currently serves as the president of Signum University; an online university.

Back in 2011, Professor Olsen recorded a series of classes at Washington University on the original Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It may be useful to listen to some of his earlier classes on faerie in medieval literature to acquire a broader context of faeries within that period.

There are one, two, three, four episodes covering the Green Knight story.

(4) SLF TAKING GRANT APPLICATIONS. The Speculative Literature Foundation is accepting applications for the 2020 Older Writers Grant and A.C. Bose Grant for South Asian Speculative Literature through March 31st, 2020.

The $1,000 Older Writers Grant is awarded annually to a writer who is fifty years of age or older at the time of grant application, and is intended to assist such writers who are just starting to work at a professional level. Grant funds can be used as each writer determines will best assist his or her work. For more information about the Older Writers Grant, or how to apply, click here.

The $1,000 A.C. Bose Grant for South Asian Speculative Literature, co-sponsored by the SLF and DesiLit, is awarded to a South Asian or South Asian diaspora writer developing speculative fiction. The grant is named in memory of Ashim Chandra Bose, a lover of books, especially science fiction and fantasy, and was founded by his children, Rupa Bose and Gautam Bose. For more information about the A.C. Bose Grant, or to how to apply, click here.

The SLF is also currently accepting applications for the 2019 Working Class Grant until February 29, 2020.  For more information, or how to apply, click here

(5) SLF HONORS ART. Sofiia Melnyk’s “Sir Spacediver 3020” is the Speculative Literature Foundation’s 2020 Illustration of the Year.

The Speculative Literature Foundation has chosen its 2020 Illustration of the Year, for a piece of artwork that combines elements of science fiction and fantasy as well as incorporating the SLF’s literary focus. The 2020 Illustration of the Year, entitled “Sir Spacediver 3020, is by artist and animator Sofiia Melnyk. Melnyk has a degree in animation from the Animationsinstitut of the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. Melnyk’s winning piece is now featured n the Speculative Literature Foundation’s website and will be on its social media and marketing material throughout 2020. 

(6) FANDOM IN THE SHADE. The Rite Gud podcast has posted Part 2 of their discussion — “The Dark Side of Fandom Part 2: Friendship Simulator”. It’s all about parasocial relationships.

Why do people love the Disney corporation? Why do people watch other people play video games? Can fans influence creatives’ work for the worse? Does the mainstreaming of geek culture represent a triumph for social outcasts, or is it all just a capitalist plot?

In part two of our discussion on the dark side of fandom, RS Benedict talks to Tim Heiderich about parasocial relationships, Twitch streamers, Nazis, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and fans who want to watch their idols burn.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 14, 1963 The Day Mars Invaded Earth premiered. Directed by produced and directed by Maury Dexter, it stars Kent Taylor, Marie Windsor, and William Mims. Dexter named the film in hopes it’d remind film goers of The Day The Earth Stood Still. The storyline is merging of the story lines in The War of the Worlds and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Strangely enough, it was the bottom half of a double feature with the Elvis Presley‘s Kissin’ Cousins. The NYT critic at the time  called it a “pallid, pint-sized exercise” and the audience score at Rotten Tomatoes is a rather poor 18%.  You can see the film here.
  • February 14, 1986 Terrorvision premiered. It was directed by Ted Nicolaou, produced and written by Albert and Charles Band. It starred  Diane Franklin, Gerrit Graham, Mary Woronov, Chad Allen and Jonathan Gries. Wiki notes that “several songs (including the movie’s theme) were contributed by Los Angeles art rock band The Fibonaccis. TerrorVision was hoped to bring more attention to the group, but the movie (and ultimately the soundtrack) failed.” Pop Matters called TerrorVision “a truly wretched movie.”  It holds a decent 43% audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Of course you can judge the film by seeing it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 14, 1919 David A. Kyle. He chaired the 1956 Worldcon, was a leader in First Fandom, and wrote innumerable fanhistorical articles for Mimosa. Along with Martin Greenberg, he founded Gnome Press in the late Forties. He also penned two illustrated SF histories, A Pictorial History of Science Fiction and The Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas and Dreams. He wrote three novels set in the Lensman universe: The Dragon Lensman, Lensman from Rigel and Z-Lensman. So has anybody read these? (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 14, 1925 J. T. McIntosh. Scottish writer at his best according to Clute in his early work such as World Out of Mind and One in Three Hundred. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital sources at very reasonable rates. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 14, 1942 Andrew Robinson, 78. Elim Garak on Deep Space Nine. He wrote a novel based on his character, A Stitch in Time, and a novella, “The Calling,” which can be found in Prophecy and Change, a DS9 anthology edited by Marco Palmieri. Other genre credits include Larry Cotton in Hellraiser, appearing in The Puppet Masters as Hawthorne and playing John F. Kennedy on the The New Twilight Zone.
  • Born February 14, 1951 John Vornholt, 69. I was musing on the difference between fanfic and profic (if such a word exists) when I ran across this writer. He’s written in a number of media properties with the most extensive being the Trek ‘verse where he’s written several dozen works, but he’s penned works also in the Babylon 5, Buffyverse, Dinotopia, Earth 2, Marvel metaverse… Well you get the idea. All authorized, but really no different than fanfic on the end, are they? Other than they pay a lot better. 
  • Born February 14, 1952 Gwyneth Jones, 68. Interesting person the she is, let’s start with her thoughts on chestnuts. Just because I can. Now regarding her fiction, I’d strongly recommend her Bold As Love series of a Britain that went to pieces as it now certainly is, and her twenty year-old Deconstructing the Starships: Science, Fiction and Reality polemic is still worth reading.
  • Born February 14, 1963 Enrico Colantoni, 57. Any excuse to mention Galaxy Quest is one I’ll gladly take. He played a delightful Mathesar on that film and that was his first genre role, lucky bastard. Up next for him was A.I. Artificial Intelligence as The Murderer followed by appearing in the most excellent animated Justice League Dark as the voice of Felix Faust where his fate was very, very bad. He had an amazing role on Person of Interest as Charlie Burton / Carl Elias. Not genre, but his acting as Sgt. Gregory Parker on Flashpointa Canadian police drama television series is worth noting.
  • Born February 14, 1970 Simon Pegg, 50. Best known for playing Montgomery Scott in the new Star Trek franchiseHis first foray into the genre was Shaun of the Dead which he co-wrote and had an acting role in. Late genre roles include Land of the Dead where he’s a Photo Booth Zombie, Diary of the Dead where he has a cameo as a Newsreader, and he portrays Benji Dunn in the ongoing Mission: Impossible franchise.
  • Born February 14, 1975 M. Darusha Wehm, 45. New Zealand resident writer who was nominated for the Nebula Award and won the New Zealand Sir Julius Vogel Award for The Martian Job novel. She says it’s interactive fiction. You can read the standalone prequel novella, Retaking Elysium, on her website which can be found here.

(9) DEMONSTRATING APPLIANCES. That doesn’t mean what it used to. “Why ‘Star Trek’ Star Jeri Ryan Had a Tough Time Returning for ‘Picard'”The Hollywood Reporter found out. BEWARE SPOILERS, dammit.

“The scale of the show. The scale of these sets, the costumes, it’s crazy. It’s like you’re doing a feature film every week.” Ryan says with a big smile. What impressed her most was the advances in set design and tech from her days on Voyager

“In one of my scenes, where I had to go in and work a console, we go in for the first rehearsal and I had to touch buttons and the screen actually does something! And I totally flipped out, like: ‘Oh my god, actually having buttons that work!” 

There was another change from working on Voyager that surprised her.

“What’s funny is that they actually added time to my ready time. They made [Seven’s] prosthetics more complicated to put on. So now I actually do have prosthetic makeup to add, outside of the full Borg suit and makeup, that I didn’t have on the old show.” (And yes, fans, she still has Seven’s original facial appliances somewhere in her house. “Though it’s pretty crunchy at this point,” she says. She also got to keep her first new set of appliances from Picard.)

(10) UNMAKING BOOK. Publishers Weekly reports “In 2021 Budget Proposal, Trump Once Again Seeks to End Federal Library Funding”.

For a fourth straight year, the Trump administration has once again proposed the permanent elimination of the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and with it virtually all federal funding for libraries.

…In a statement, IMLS officials confirmed the Trump Administration will once again propose the elimination of the agency, with $23 million reportedly proposed in the 2021 budget proposal to wind the agency down.

The good news for library supporters: for the last three years, the library community has not only successfully countered the administration’s proposal to axe the IMLS—the agency through which most federal library funding is distributed in the form of grants to states— but IMLS has actually seen increases in each of the last three years. The FY2020 budget, which Trump signed in January, included a $10 million increase to the IMLS budget, including $6.2 million for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), the largest increase in LSTA funding in over a decade.

(11) FAKIN’ BACON. FastCompany tells how they’re doing it: “This bacon looks like the real thing as it sizzles—but it’s made from fungus”.

Most fake meat products get protein from a small group of plants. In the case of the Beyond Burger or Nestle’s Awesome Burger, the main ingredient is pea protein; the Impossible Burger gets protein from soy and potatoes. Kellogg’s “Incogmeato” line is made with soy. But one new Bay Area startup relies on fungus instead—specifically, koji, the fungus used to make sake.

The startup, called Prime Roots, launched limited sales of its first product—a fungi-based bacon—online today. Bacon “is a very underserved meat alternative,” says Prime Roots cofounder Kimberly Le. “There’s a lot of ground beef out there. But there isn’t as much in the way of whole-muscle meat or a more formed product like bacon or chicken breast, which is something that koji does really well at replicating.”

(12) ALONG CAME JONES. Harrison Ford is making the rounds to promote the next Indy film. The Hollywood Reporter got an article out of his appearance on Ellen: “‘Indiana Jones 5’ Will Begin Filming This Summer, Harrison Ford Says”.

The 77-year-old actor told host DeGeneres that filming would begin late this summer. 

“it’s going to be fun,” Ford said. “They are great fun to make.” 

The upcoming film’s title has yet to be revealed. 

Ford has a TV interview about the production that will air on Sunday – here’s a teaser.

In this preview of a conversation with correspondent Lee Cowan to be broadcast on “CBS Sunday Morning” on February 16, Harrison Ford, the actor who has played iconic characters in the “Star Wars” and Indiana Jones franchises, talks about returning to familiar roles.

(13) I’VE BEEN THINKING. Maltin on Movies visited with Craig Ferguson.

Craig Ferguson is one of the funniest men on the planet, as he proves yet again in his multi-episode web series Hobo Fabulous, a hybrid of stand-up comedy and documentary on the Comedy Dynamics network. It’s no surprise that the former late-night host is a master of conversation, leaving Leonard and Jessie to marvel at his rapid-fire mind. He has significant film credits, as well, not the least being his voice-over work in the How to Train Your Dragon animated features. Be sure to listen if you’re in need of cathartic laughter.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Hair Love–Oscar Winning Short Film” on YouTube is the animated feature by Matthew A. Cherry that won this year’s Oscar for best short animated film.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to PJ Evans with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 1/23/20 No-One Expects The Scrollish Pixelation!

(1) THE DOCTOR IS STILL IN. Entertainment Weekly confirms “Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker will play time traveler for at least one more season”.

… “I’ve seen loads of fan art, which I always love,” she says. “But it’s never been that great for me to immerse myself in noise that you can’t control, good or bad. I think both are a rabbit hole that you shouldn’t necessarily go down. We know that we work really hard for the show to be the best it can be in this moment. Once it’s out in the ether, how people feel, in a way, is kind of irrelevant.”

But Whittaker isn’t going anywhere. The length of time an actor has played the Doctor has varied over the years — back in the ’70s and ’80s, Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor piloted the TARDIS for seven seasons; in the aughts, Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor survived just one. So, will Whittaker return for a third run of shows? “Yes, I’m doing another season,” she confirms. “That might be a massive exclusive that I’m not supposed to say, but it’s unhelpful for me to say [I don’t know] because it would be a massive lie! [Laughs] I absolutely adore it. At some point, these shoes are going to be handed on, but it’s not yet. I’m clinging on tight!”

(2) GUINAN. Patrick Stewart, while appearing on The View, extended an invitation to host Whoopi Goldberg to appear in Picard’s second season. See 4-minutue video here. Stewart said —

“I’m here with a formal invitation, and it’s for you, Whoopi.  Alex Kurtzman, who is the senior executive producer of Star Trek: Picard, and all his colleagues, of which I am one, want to invite you into the second season.”

The crowd delivered a standing ovation as Goldberg and Stewart hugged, and Goldberg replied, “Yes, yes, yes!” 

(3) THE PEOPLE ALL RIDE IN A WORMHOLE IN THE GROUND. The New York Post tells readers “Here’s where to get ‘Star Trek: Picard’ MetroCards featuring Patrick Stewart”.

“Star Trek: Picard” is beaming to a subway station near you.

For three weeks starting Thursday, when the show premieres on CBS All Access, the series will be promoted on special MetroCards available at six MTA stations in Manhattan.

In the drama, Sir Patrick Stewart, 79, reprises his “Star Trek: The Next Generation” role of Jean-Luc Picard, the retired Starfleet admiral and former captain of the Starship Enterprise who is living out his latter days on his family’s vineyard in France. Fittingly, the subway promotion will showcase two different cards — one featuring Picard on the front and his family’s sweeping vineyard on the back, the other with Picard’s dog, No. 1, on the front and several planets on the flip side.

(4) IS PICARD MESSAGE-HEAVY? The Daily Beast argues “‘Star Trek: Picard,’ With Its Refugee Crisis and Anti-Trump Messaging, May Be the Most Political Show on TV”.

…At the crux of the Picard premiere is a devastating monologue Stewart delivers recounting a catastrophic event that happened years before, triggering a refugee crisis and driving Picard to quit his position in the Starfleet, disgusted by what the organization and the Federation now stood for. 

It might sound in the weeds if you’re not a Trekkie, but the basics of the plot are refreshingly simple. 

A supernova blast threatened the planet Romulus. Despite their antagonistic relationship, the Federation agreed to rescue the Romulan people. But in the midst of the rescue mission, synthetic lifeforms like Data, who helped Picard pilot his ship, went rogue and destroyed the Federation’s base on Mars, killing over 90,000 people. In the wake of the incident, synthetic lifeforms were banned, a decision that appalled Picard and caused him to quit before he carried out his Romulan rescue mission. 

“It has always been part of the content of Star Trek that it will be attempting to create a better future with the certain belief that a better future is possible if the right kind of work and the right kind of people are engaged in that,” Stewart told reporters. “And my feeling was, as I look all around our world today, there has never been a more important moment when entertainment and show business can address some of the issues that are potentially damaging our world today.” 

(5) CLONE WARS TRAILER. The final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars starts streaming Feb. 21 on DisneyPlus.

One of the most critically-acclaimed entries in the Star Wars saga will be returning for its epic conclusion with twelve all-new episodes on Disney+ beginning Friday, February 21. From Dave Filoni, director and executive producer of “The Mandalorian,” the new Clone Wars episodes will continue the storylines introduced in the original series, exploring the events leading up to Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

(6) HAVE SPACEWORTHY 3D PRINTER, WILL TRAVEL. Daniel Dern looks into “NASA’s 3D Printing Space Initiatives” in an article for GrabCAD.

…The SLS [Space Launch System] is intended to be the primary launch vehicle of NASA’s deep space. By manufacturing as many of the engine’s parts as possible (like the fuel injectors, turbo pumps, valves, and main injectors) with 3D printing, NASA can significantly reduce time and money spent.

“NASA is on track to reduce the number of individual parts by an order of magnitude — from hundreds to tens — and reduce the cost of the entire engine by 30% and later by 50%, and the build time by 50%,” John explains.

Dern notes, “This is the 3rd or 4th NASA-related article I’ve gotten to do over the past six months. I had a lot of fun researching and writing this, and hope find more assignments on this stuff over the coming year.”

(7) WHAT IT TAKES. “Oscar-nominated filmmaker Chris Butler’s top animation tips” – BBC video.

Film writer and director Chris Butler, who has been nominated for an Oscar, has said anyone who wants to be an animator needs to be prepared for “hard work”.

His film Missing Link is up against Toy Story 4 in the Animated Feature category, but Butler, from Maghull, Merseyside, has already beaten it – and Frozen II – to a Golden Globe.

He said he was “shell-shocked” when it was announced as the winner earlier this month – so much so that he cannot remember going on stage to collect the award.

Butler said making animated films was “not easy” and warned that budding filmmakers have to “put in long hours” to make it in the industry.

(8) STONE AGE. First Fandom Experience not only remembers when — “In 1939, Lithography Came To Fanzines — But Why?”. Zine scans at the link.

Beginning in 1932, Conrad H. Ruppert reshaped the world of fan publications with the printing press he bought with money saved by working in his father’s bakery. He printed issues of the most prominent fanzines of the period, including The Time Traveller, Science Fiction Digest, and Charles D. Hornig’s The Fantasy Fan. It’s not unreasonable to assert that the professional appearance of Hornig’s leaflet-sized ‘zine contributed to his ascension to the editorship of Wonder Stories at the age of 17….

(9) THOSE DARN FANS. RS Benedict posted a new episode of the Rite Gud podcast — “This is the first of a two-part series about the dark side of fandom. Why does fandom turn toxic? Can over-investment in fandom stunt your social and artistic growth?” The first episode is here: “The Dark Side of Fandom, Part 1: Have You Accepted Spider-Man as Your Lord and Savior?”

Tim Heiderich of Have You Seen This took the time to talk to us about the creative perils of fandom. Fandom can be fun, but it can also turn ugly too, or it can keep us so busy focusing on someone else’s work that we fail to develop our own talents.

This was a huge conversation, so we split it into two parts. In the first installment, we talk about toxic fandom, simulacra, and the siren song of nostalgia.

(10) EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT. “Orange Mike” Lowrey’s TAFF win attracted local media attention: “From Chester County High School to Stockholm and Birmingham (England)” in the Chester County Independent.

…Lowrey has been attending these conventions since 1975 and loves it. He said he loves how the conventions are filled with interesting, intelligent people. The interaction of science fiction fans overseas is awesome as well he said.
“I got people I consider good friends that I never met before,” he said.
He actually met the woman whom he would spend his life with and marry, C.K. “Cicatrice” Hinchliffe of Bertram, Iowa, at the local Milwaukee science fiction convention in 1981.
Lowrey graduated from Chester County High School in 1971 and earned a magna cum laude degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In addition to his job with the State of Wisconsin, he’s been working as a writer and editor since 1984.
He is also a bookseller, serves as a local president and state executive board member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and acts as a volunteer administrator for Wikipedia. He has had book reviews published and also Dungeon and Dragon articles published in Dragon magazine.

(11) KARLEN OBIT. John Karlen , the actor who played multiple roles (Willie Loomis, Carl Collins, William H. Loomis, Desmond Collins, Alex Jenkins and Kendrick Young) on the ABC serial Dark Shadows died January 22 at the age of 86.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 23, 1954Killers From Space made it to your local drive-in. It was produced and directed by W. Lee Wilder, brother of Billy Wilder. It has a cast of Peter Graves, Barbara Bestar and James Seay. We should note that Killers From Space came about as a commissioned screenplay from Wilder’s son Myles Wilder and their regular collaborator William Raynor. How was it received? Not well. There was, in the opinion of critics, way too much too talk, too little action, poor production values… you get the idea. Though they liked Graves. Who doesn’t? Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a decidedly unfavourable rating of just 24%. 
  • January 23, 1974 The Questor Tapes first aired on NBC. Created and written by Roddenberry himself with Gene L Coon as co-writer, it was by Richard Colla. It starred Robert Foxworth, Mike Farrell and John Vernon. (Fontana’s novelisation would be dedicated to Coon who died before it aired.) though it was intended to be a pilot fir a series, conflict between Roddenberry and the network doomed the series. It would place fifth in the final Hugo balloting the following year at Aussiecon One with Young Frankenstein being the Hugo winner.
  • January 23, 1985 — The Rankin-Bass version of ThunderCats premiered in syndication. Leonard Starr was the primary writer with the animation contracted to the Japanese studio Pacific Animation Corporation, with Masaki Iizuka as the production manager. It would run for four years and one and thirty episodes. Need we note that a vast media empire of future series, films, comics, t-shirts, statues, action figures and so forth have developed since then?

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 23, 1923 Walter M. Miller Jr. He’s best remembered  for A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime. Terry Bisson would finish off the completed draft that he left of Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, a sequel of sorts to the first novel. He did a fair amount of short fiction as well. He’s poorly represented both digitally and in the dead tree sense as well beyond A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Died 1996.)
  • Born January 23, 1932 Bart LaRue. He was the voice of The Guardian  of  Forever in the “City on the Edge of Forever” episode of Trek as well as doing voice roles in “Bread and Circuses” (on-screen too) “The Gamesters of Triskelion” as Provider 1 (uncredited) “Patterns of Force” as an Ekosian newscaster (Both voice and on-screen) and “The Savage Curtain” as Yarnek. He did similar work for Time Tunnel, Mission Impossible, Voyage to The Bottom of The Sea, The Andromeda StrainWild Wild West, Land of Giants and Lost in Space. (Died 1990.)
  • Born January 23, 1939 Greg and Tim Hildebrandt. Greg’s aged eighty one years, and Tim passed in 2006. I’d say best known for their very popular and ubiquitous Lord of the Rings calendar illustrations, also for illustrating comics for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. They also did a lot of genre covers so I went to ISFDB and checked to see if I recognized any. I certainly did. There was Zelazny’s cover of My Name is Legion, Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham and Poul Anderson’s  A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. Nice.
  • Born January 23, 1942 Brian Coucher, 78. He appeared in three genre series — first  the second actor to portray Travis in Blake’s 7 and also as Borg in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Robots of Death”. Finally genre wise he appeared in a Doctor Who spin-off that I’ve never heard existed, Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans. No Who characters appeared though Sophie Alfred played someone other than Ace here. 
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 77. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really a truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination regarding titles that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan created Star Trek: New Voyages. 
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 70. Unless you count MacGyver as genre which I can say is open to debate, his main and rather enduring SF role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate Universe series. Well Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah, I really liked it. And damn it should’ve caught on. 
  • Born January 23, 1976 Tiffani Thiessen, 44. Better known by far by me at least her role as Elizabeth Burke on the White Collar series which might be genre adjacent, she did end up in three films of genre interest: From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th (a parade of the Friday the 13th films) and Cyborg Soldier. They’re average rating at Rotten Tomatoes among reviewers is fifteen percent in case you were wondering how good they were. 
  • Born January 23, 1973 Lanei Chapman, 47. She’s most remembered as Lt. Vanessa Damphousse on Space: Above and Beyond, a series that ended well before it should’ve ended. She made her genre debut on Next Gen as Ensign Sariel Rager, a recurring character who was a conn officer. 
  • Born January 23, 1977 Sonita Henry, 43. Her very first was as President’s Aide on Fifth Element. She was a Kelvin Doctor in the rebooted Star Trek film, and she’s Colonel Meme I the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Time of The Doctor”.  Her latest is playing Raika on Krypton.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) AND SPREAD HIM OUT THIN. Adweek says “Rest in Peace, Mr. Peanut—Planters Kills Off Iconic Mascot in Lead-Up to Super Bowl”.  

… In a shocking move, Planters, the Kraft-Heinz-owned snack brand, has killed off its iconic mascot in a teaser for its Big Game spot. Mr. Peanut’s untimely demise began with a Nutmobile crash, followed by falling off a cliff and ending in an explosion.

… And when will the classic mascot be memorialized? During Super Bowl 2020, naturally.

…The loss of Mr. Peanut is a major moment for the brand. Planters first introduced Mr. Peanut to audiences in 1916, meaning that the mascot has been around since the midst of World War I, making him of the longest-standing brand mascots of all time.

The spot, which will air during the third quarter of the Big Game on Feb. 2, was produced by VaynerMedia. Planters also has several promotions and activations to honor Mr. Peanut’s life, including commemorative pins for fans who spot the Nutmobile on the streets and a hashtag, #RIPeanut, for fans to share their sympathies.

(16) POMPEII AND CIRCUMSTANCE. “Mount Vesuvius eruption: Extreme heat ‘turned man’s brain to glass'” – BBC has the story.

Extreme heat from the Mount Vesuvius eruption in Italy was so immense it turned one victim’s brain into glass, a study has suggested.

The volcano erupted in 79 AD, killing thousands and destroying Roman settlements near modern-day Naples.

The town of Herculaneum was buried by volcanic matter, entombing some of its residents.

A team of researchers has been studying the remains of one victim, unearthed at the town in the 1960s.

A study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, said fragments of a glassy, black material were extracted from the victim’s skull.

Researchers behind the study believe the black material is the vitrified remains of the man’s brain.

(17) YOUR PAL IN SPACE. “Meet Vyom – India’s first robot ‘astronaut'” – BBC video.

India’s space agency has unveiled a robot that will travel to space later this year as part of an unmanned mission

Scientists hope that it will be able to later assist astronauts in a manned space mission called Gaganyaan, which is scheduled for December 2021.

Isro will conduct two unmanned missions – one in December this year and another in June 2021 – before the Gaganyaan mission.

The robot, which has been named Vyom Mitra (which translates from the Sanskrit to friend in space) is designed to perform a number of functions including responding to astronaut’s questions and performing life support operations.

(18) DO IT FOR SCIENCE. Public spirited citizens arise! “Wanted – volunteers to monitor Britain’s growing slug population”.

Citizen scientists are being sought to help carry out the first survey in decades of Britain’s slug populations.

To take part, all that’s required is curiosity, a garden, and a willingness to go out after dark to search for the likes of the great grey or yellow slug.

The year-long research project will identify different slug species and the features that tempt them into gardens.

The last study conducted in English gardens in the 1940s found high numbers of just nine species of slug.

Many more have arrived in recent years, including the Spanish slug, which is thought to have come in on salad leaves. Less than half of the UK’s 40 or more slug species are now considered native.

(19) TRANSMUTING GOLD TO LEAD. Iron Man never had days like this. GQ asks “Does Dolittle’s Box Office Flop Spell Trouble for Robert Downey Jr.?”

For over a decade, Robert Downey Jr. played MCU pillar Tony Stark, a billionaire superhero who would almost certainly consider Dolittle’s abysmal opening weekend earnings to be little more than pocket change.

Despite opening on a holiday weekend, RDJ’s Dolittle made just $29.5 million over the four-day period, and only an additional $17 million internationally. Dolittle cost a jaw-dropping $175 million to make, so those box office numbers are kind of catastrophic, with Universal expected to lose $100 million on the movie, according to The Wrap. Universal, it should be noted, also took a bath last month when the furry fever dream that is Cats flopped, but at least Cats only cost $90 million to make, so the loss isn’t quite as terrible.

The only slim hope for Dolittle’s prospects is a higher than expected haul in the international markets where it hasn’t opened yet—including China—but maybe don’t hold your breath.

It took the strain of wielding all six Infinity Stones to kill him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so Robert Downey Jr. will probably survive Dolittle’s bomb. Still… yikes.

(20) I SPY, AGAIN. “Twitter demands AI company stops ‘collecting faces'”

Twitter has demanded an AI company stop taking images from its website.

Clearview has already amassed more than three billion photographs from sites including Facebook and Twitter.

They are used by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security and more than 600 other law-enforcement agencies around the world to identify suspects.

In a cease-and-desist letter sent on Tuesday, Twitter said its policies had been violated and requested the deletion of any collected data.

…US senator Ron Wyden said on Twitter Clearview’s activities were “extremely troubling”.

“Americans have a right to know whether their personal photos are secretly being sucked into a private facial-recognition database,” he said.

“Every day, we witness a growing need for strong federal laws to protect privacy.”

(21) PYTHON PASSPORT. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] A fitting (and unintentional) tribute to Terry Jones. I’d vote for a Brexit for this one if I could.

Original:

Sad to say, the Express graphic is fixed now — “Britons will fly to 2020 summer holiday destinations on classic BLUE passport”.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Model Citizen” on YouTube, David James Armsby portrays what seems to be the perfect nuclear family–but why is it controlled by evil robots?

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

Pixel Scroll 1/3/20 Please Vasten Your Seatbelts

(1) A CENTURY OF THE GOOD DOCTOR. This week Asimov would have been 100. James Gunn marked the occasion in an article for Science “Asimov at 100”.

A case can be made that, like H. G. Wells, Asimov came along at the right time. (Wells once commented that he made his writing debut in the 1890s, when the public was looking for new writers.) But Asimov also had a restless and productive mind. His early experience of reading, and then writing, science fiction gave his popular science writing a rare narrative model, while his fiction similarly benefited from his scientific training.

(2) NOW A JOURNALISTIC TECHNIQUE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Columbia Journalism Review, in “Journalism and the foreseeable future”, takes note of the trend in mainstream publishing to look at contemporaneous and emerging issues through the lens of science fiction. It’s a welcome trend that is producing excellent work we’ve seen featured on the Pixel Scroll several times, and I’m very glad to see this getting attention within journalistic circles. 

Despite its dangers, [Sam] Greenspan sees the value of speculative journalism’s mix of the true and the fanciful. “I think the goal should be to use fiction or sci-fi to tell a better true story,” he says. “And I’m taking seriously the kind of emotional impact these stories have on people. By introducing even just the slightest amount of something fantastical, it gives your audience permission to have their minds wander a bit from what we know to be true, and really opens up this window into possibility and hope.”

(3) GUD LISTENING. On the latest Rite Gud podcast R.S. Benedict’s guest is Stephen Mazur, associate editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. They talk about whether or not originality really matters in writing. Stephen also gets into a bit of inside baseball regarding F&SF publishing: the recent history of the magazine, how many submissions they get, what kind of submissions they get, the process, etc.

(4) ROMANCE WRANGLERS BEWARE. Who but Chuck Tingle would add “no sex” as a selling point? Or need to?

Gorblin Crimble is an aspiring romance author with a brand new novel that could be his first breakthrough hit. Of course, Gorblin is going to need some help getting his work out there, and starts by seeking likeminded creatives.

After attending a local writer’s group, Gorblin makes a new friend, Amber, who points him towards Romance Wranglers Of America. It sounds like this community is exactly the helpful, loving, supportive group that Gorblin is looking for, but when him and Amber arrive at the Romance Wranglers Of America headquarters, they quickly realize something is wrong. This once loving group has been taken over by a dark and mysterious force; lead by a man named Demon and his chanting coven of board members in jet-black robes.

Something horrible from the depths of the cosmic Void has taken hold, but is it too late to prove that romance is about love, not hate?

This important no-sex tale is 4,300 words of reasonable writers looking for a kind and supportive romance community that respects its members and treats them fairly.

(5) SFF ZINES. Jason Sanford today posted three more interviews with editors done in conjunction with his fine “#SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines” report.

Jason Sanford: I suspect most people in the SF/F genre don’t understand the difficulties of publishing a magazine. What’s one aspect of running a genre magazine you wish more readers and writers knew about?

Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas: We think it’s important that people know the financial margins for magazines to stay in the black are razor thin, and that most of the magazines are unable to generate income for their publishers. (And many aren’t able to pay the editors.) Almost all of the income generated by magazines are going to the writers and artists….

Jason Sanford: Amazing Stories was the first science fiction magazine, and helped launch the pulp fiction era of the 1920s and ’30s. What is it like publishing a magazine with such history? Has that history presented any difficulties to your relaunch of the magazine?

Steve Davidson: Well, you get unexpected support and assistance;  a lot of people in the field are still very fond of both the magazine and its place in Science Fiction’s history.  But that brings with it two difficulties.  One, most younger fans among our potential market seem to assume that we’re publishing reprints of older works or new works in a golden-age style, despite the fact that promotion and discussion of the magazine – let alone our contributor’s own statements – clearly say otherwise.  We’re an old, venerable name in the genre publishing new, ground-breaking science fiction from the current era. …

Jason: In many ways Clarkesworld helped birth the current movement in online and genre magazines. How have things changed since the founding of Clarkesworld? Would you say it’s harder or easier to run a genre magazine these days?

Neil: It was a very different world for magazines in 2006. Online fiction wasn’t particularly respected. I remember having established authors tell me point-blank they wouldn’t publish online because it was the domain of “newbie writers and pirates.” The year’s best anthologies and various genre awards rarely featured works from those markets. With two-to-three years, that started changing and today, the awards have heavily swung the other direction – something you could reasonably argue is just as problematic….

(6) BURNED OUT. Australian fan Don Ashby, who lost his home to one of the fires now raging Down Under, was interviewed by The Age: “The sky turned black. The beast had arrived in Mallacoota”. (Via Irwin Hirsh.)

When Don Ashby caught a lift through town on Tuesday afternoon, he counted as many as 20 properties destroyed. One was his mother-in-law’s mudbrick cottage. Another was his own home of 20 years.

Ashby had evacuated his family to Melbourne and spent Monday night helping a friend to defend her house.

It had been an exhausting night and morning, punctuated by the rapid combustion of gas cylinders at a nearby storage business.

“It was like we were in the middle of the battle of the Somme,” he said.

When he returned to his own home, it looked unscathed. Then he realised it was just the facade that had been untouched by fire. The rear of the house was a blazing ruin. With no CFA tankers nearby and no water pressure left to fight the fire, he could only stand and watch it burn.

“It is all a bit grim really,” he said. “We really copped it.

“I have been in a few bushfires before but nothing like this. Nothing like this has happened before. The whole of Gippsland was on fire.”

(7) BABY IT’S GOLD OUTSIDE. Plagiarism Today reports from the front in “The Battle Over ‘Baby Yoda’”.

…However, those were just the first drops of a tidal wave that came crashing down on the internet. Etsy, for example, is swarming with unauthorized Baby Yoda merchandise of all types and eBay is much the same way.

This has become the subject of a lot of media coverage as well, such as this article on The Nerdist highlight a Baby Yoda plush toy.

This glut of unauthorized toys isn’t due to a lack of effort on Disney’s part. Several artists have reported receiving takedown notices after selling Baby Yoda merchandise on such sites and even the toy referenced above was also removed. Still, it’s clear that the Baby Yoda craze has outpaced even Disney’s capacity for control.

And the issues aren’t just related to physical items. Back in November, the popular gif website Giphy pulled all of its Baby Yoda gifs. Though Disney was initially blamed for this, it turned out it was a proactive move by Giphy that aimed to head off potential legal action by Disney. Disney hadn’t done anything.

(8) 2020 SIR JULIUS VOGEL AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) is taking nominations for the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel awards until 11.59 pm NZT on March 31.

The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2019 calendar year.

…A nomination made by a SFFANZ member carries a weight of two nominations, where non-members’ nominations carry a weight of one.

Full information about the awards, including the rules and criteria for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, can be found here. Eligibility list is here.

(9) PRO-ROWLING. Megan McArdle’s opinion piece in the Washington Post “Has J.K. Rowling figured out a way to break our cancel culture?” says that Rowling’s defense of Maya Forstater and her refusal to back down after social media protests shows that “the opinions of officious strangers, possibly thousands of miles away, who swarm social media like deranged starlings over and over again” can be safely ignored.

The censorious power of Mrs. Grundys always depends on the cooperation of the governed, which is why their regime collapsed the moment the baby boomers shrugged off their finger-wagging. If Rowling provides an unmissable public demonstration that it is safe to ignore the current crop, we can hope others will follow her example, and the dictatorship of the proscriptariat will fall as quickly as it arose.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 3, 1970 Doctor Who’s “Spearhead from Space” serial started airing. The Third Doctor as played by John Pertwee first appears in this episode. It would also be the first appearance of companion Liz Shaw who’s played by Caroline John. She only lasted a season because the next showrunner decided she was too intelligent to be a proper companion.
  • January 3, 1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in television syndication. As you know, it would have a seven-year run with one seventy-six episodes in total. S.D. Perry wrote a sort of authorized ninth season in her Avatar novels. She’s written a number of Trek universe novels including a Section 31 one.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 3, 1892 J. R. R. Tolkien. I’m not going to waste my time detailing Tolkien to this group. My go-to book for him for him after over forty years of reading him remains The Hobbit. The book that still annoys me? The Two Towers. Best Tolkien experience? Seeing The Father Christmas Letters read live. (Died 1973.)
  • Born January 3, 1898 Doris Pitkin Buck. She’s got my feline curiosity aroused. Wiki says “She published numerous science fiction stories and poems, many of them in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.” That’s fine but there’s little said about her or how she came to be a SF writer. ESF notes her “still unpublished tale “Cacophony in Pink and Ochre” has long formed part of the announced contents of Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions.” So what do y”all do about her? (Died 1980.)
  • Born January 3, 1930 Stephen Fabian, 90. He specializes in genre illustration and cover art for books and magazines such as H. Warner’s The Werewolf of Ponkert which you can see here. I see he got a World Fantasy Award—Life Achievement, and was nominated seven times for Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. Is that the most times for being nominated without winning? His collected works include Ladies & Legends and Women & Wonders. Of course, they’re genre. 
  • Born January 3, 1937 Glen A. Larson. Triple hitter as a producer, writer and director. Involved in Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980The Six Million Dollar Man, ManimalBuck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Knight Rider. He also was responsible for Magnum, P.I. which I love but I’ll be damned if I can figure any way to claim that’s even genre adjacent. He also did a lot of Battlestar Galactica novels, some with Ron Goulart. (Died 2014.)
  • Born January 3, 1940 Kinuko Y. Craft, 80. She is a Japanese-born American painter, illustrator and fantasy artist. True enough. So why is she here?  Because she had an amazing run of illustrating the covers of the Patricia McKillip novels until quite recently. I’m linking here to our review at Green Man of The Bards of Bone Plain for a favorite cover she did. There’s a slim volume on Imaginosis called Drawings & Paintings which collects some of her work.
  • Born January 3, 1956 Mel Gibson, 64. I know the first thing I saw was genre wise involving him was The Road Warrior in a cinema which would be some forty years ago. Likewise I saw Mad Max 2 and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in cinemas, but I admit have mixed feelings about both of those films, though less about the latter as it’s at least fun. He’s in FairyTale: A True Story, a look at the the Cottingley Fairy photographs of the 1920s, and voices John Smith in Pocahontas. He plays Hamlet in Hamlet but I really don’t think I can call that genre, but I know some of you will. 
  • Born January 3, 1975 Danica McKellar, 45. From 2010–2013 and since 2018, she’s voiced Miss Martian in Young Justice. It’s just completed its third season and it’s most excellent! She’s done far, far more voice work than I can list here, so if you’ve got something you like that she’s done, do mention it. 
  • Born January 3, 1976 Charles Yu, 44. Taiwanese American writer. Author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and the short-story collections, Sorry Please Thank You and Third Class Superhero. His novel was ranked the year’s second-best science fiction novel by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas — runner up for the Campbell Memorial Award. 

(12) ALL ROBOT DOGS GO TO THE CLOUD. BuzzFeed: “While Americans Worry About The AI Uprising, People In Japan Are Learning To Love Their Robots — And Be Loved Back”.

It was before 10 a.m. on a gray summer Sunday, but already a small crowd had gathered outside Penguin Café at the end of a block in residential Tokyo. A woman named Kyoko, dressed in a white T-shirt and apron, unlocked the doors and motioned for everyone to come inside.

Half a dozen or so people filed in, several with signature pink dog carriers slung over their shoulders. As more entered, the group clustered at the center of the café. Carefully, they unzipped the mesh panels of their carriers and removed the small white and silver dogs inside, setting them down on the wooden floor. One owner peeled back a yellow blanket over a baby carrier strapped to her chest where she held her dog, still asleep.

Some of the owners fussed with the dogs’ outfits before putting them down — straightening a necktie or pulling up the elastic band on a pair of shorts. One owner had dressed their dog in a Hawaiian shirt, while another was wearing aviator goggles and had a strong resemblance to Snoopy. Several had tiny straw hats affixed between their ears. All the dogs were plastic, powered by facial recognition and artificial intelligence….

(13) BOOKMARKS. Nerds of a Feather features “6 Books With Yoon Ha Lee”.

6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome? 

Thor: Metal Gods
is a Serial Box serialized novel by Aaron Stewart-Ahn (the lead writer), Jay Edidin, Brian Keene, and myself.  It features Thor and Loki, both coming to terms with old sins and old friends, a Korean tiger goddess, and a genderfluid space pirate and astronomer.  There are black holes, eldritch abominations, heavy metal, and mayhem.  We had terrific fun writing it and we hope you’ll enjoy it too.

(14) CLEANER OR MEANER? Daily Beast writer David Axe contemplates whether “It’s the First Orbiting Garbage Collector—or a New Kind of Space Weapon”.

… The European Space Agency is about to pull one of the bigger hunks of garbage from orbit. But there’s a problem: The same tech that could help make space cleaner might, in the long run, also make it more dangerous.

That’s because the ESA’s ClearSpace-1 orbital garbage truck, as well as other spacecraft like it, could double as a weapon. 

Swiss startup ClearSpace designed the ClearSpace-1 vehicle to intercept a chunk of debris, latch onto it, and drag it back into Earth’s atmosphere where it can safely burn up. The ESA has scheduled the clean-up mission for 2025 and has even identified its target: a 265-pound piece of an old rocket orbiting 310 miles above Earth’s surface.

The 2025 mission will involve what ClearSpace CEO Luc Piguet called “non-cooperative capture.” That is to say, the targeted piece of debris wasn’t designed with an interface or any other system that might help a clean-up craft grab onto it. 

(15) AMAZONS! A growing body of archaeological evidence shows that legends about the horseback-riding, bow-wielding female fighters were almost certainly rooted in reality. The Washington Post has the story: “Amazons were long considered a myth. These discoveries show warrior women were real. “

…In a landmark discovery revealed this month, archaeologists unearthed the remains of four female warriors buried with a cache of arrowheads, spears and horseback-riding equipment in a tomb in western Russia — right where Ancient Greek stories placed the Amazons.

The team from the Institute of Archaeology at the Russian Academy of Sciences identified the women as Scythian nomads who were interred at a burial site some 2,500 years ago near the present-day community of Devitsa. The women ranged in age from early teens to late 40s, according to the archaeologists. And the eldest of the women was found wearing a golden ceremonial headdress, a calathus, engraved with floral ornaments — an indication of stature.

(16) WORDSMITH ALSO TUNESMITH. Don’t say you never got the chance to hear Norman Spinrad sing. Today on Facebook he reminded people about the time he performed at the Cirque Electrique in Paris.

Not that I’m planning to ever give up my day job, but I’ve had a long slow minor career with music, something around a dozen songs written or co-written, something less than that creating and recording, occasional live performances too such as this one, my best I think.

(17) 2019. Joe Sherry explains his choices for the “Top 9 Books of the Year” at Nerds of a Feather.

7. Middlegame: Middlegame is perhaps the most ambitious novels from Seanan McGuire and is a showcase for her skill at telling a good and complex story. Twins, math, alchemy, murder, time-bending, family, secret organizations, impossible powers, and just about everything McGuire can throw into this wonderous novel. Seanan McGuire has blended together as much as she possibly could stuff into one novel and she makes the whole thing work. It’s impressive. McGuire goes big with Middlegame. Doubt Seanan McGuire at your peril. (my review)

(18) IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE HONOR OF THE THING. Publishers Weekly declared “Dav Pilkey Is PW’s Person of the Year for 2019”.

Pilkey’s Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers, the ninth book in his popular children’s novel series, published in 2012, features a comic strip made by the book’s incorrigible pranksters George and Harold, the stars of the series. This comic-within-a-novel marks the first appearance of Dog Man, Pilkey’s lovable crime-fighting superhero, who is surgically constructed from the body of a cop and the head of his police dog companion after they were both injured in a typically Pilkey-style zany accident.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  From Savag Entertainment, “Timelapse Reveals How Clever This Billboard Ad For The BBC’s ‘Dracula’ Is.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/19 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Tsundoku. Attempt No Pixels There

(1) MARVEL SNAPSHOTS. Kurt Busiek is overseeing a Marvel showcase series featuring history-making characters.

This March, prepare to see the greatest moments of Marvel’s 80-year history told like never before! In MARVEL SNAPSHOTS, industry legend Kurt Busiek will bring together incredible creative teams for eight standalone, double sized issues showcasing Marvel’s most beloved characters from the golden age to today. Like 1994’s critically acclaimed MARVELS series, MARVEL SNAPSHOTS will be tales told through the eyes of ordinary people, offering unique insights on the legendary mythos of the Marvel Universe. MARVELS SNAPSHOTS also reunites Busiek with renowned MARVELS co-creator Alex Ross who will be providing the series with his iconic painted covers.

It all begins with SUB-MARINER: MARVELS SNAPSHOT #1 when best-selling novelist and Emmy Award-winning TV writer Alan Brennert (L.A. LAW, TWILIGHT ZONE) and superstar artist Jerry Ordway (ALL-STAR SQUADRON, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS) unite to tell an unforgettable story about Marvel’s original antihero: Prince Namor!

Set circa World War II, things kick off with an action-packed tale featuring Namor, Betty Dean, and the All-Winners Squad–a dream come true for Brennert. “I can honestly say that I enjoyed working on this story more than any comics story I’ve done in years. I grew up reading (and loving) Marvel’s Golden Age heroes in the 1960s, in reprints in FANTASY MASTERPIECES. But I never thought I’d have a shot at writing them–especially the All-Winners Squad!–and I’m grateful to Kurt Busiek and Tom Brevoort for providing me the opportunity, and to Jerry Ordway for bringing it all to glorious life,” Brennert says. “I’m enormously proud of ‘Reunion’ and honored to be the first story published in MARVELS SNAPSHOTS.”

Artist Jerry Ordway is just as passionate about bringing this tale to life. “When I was offered this project, I jumped at it, being a big fan of the original MARVELS book by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. Getting to draw a Sub-Mariner story set in the 1940s, with appearances by the All-Winners Squad, lets me connect with Marvel’s World War II era history, and the work of Subby’s creator, Bill Everett,” says Ordway. “I’ve been a Marvel maniac from the age of 10, so this is pretty cool! Alan Brennert wrote a great script which fits neatly into the bigger tapestry that is the Marvel Universe. I’m thrilled to get to play in this sandbox after so many years as an artist.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Listeners are invited to join host Scott Edelman and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry for lunch in Little Italy on Episode 111 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

My guest this time around is Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, who was a winner of the Best Semiprozine Hugo Award earlier this year for her work as a Guest Editor of Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue. She was also a 2019 Hugo Award finalist for Best Fan Writer. Her fiction has appeared in such magazines as Fireside and Uncanny, as well the anthologies Ghost in the Cogs and Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. She’s written non-fiction for The Boston Globe, Barnes & Noble, Tor.com, and other venues. She is a feminist scholar and disability rights activist (which I knew), but also a burlesque historian (which I did not know).

We lunched at La Tavola, where I’d previously joined Marv Wolfman during the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con. We discussed her roller coaster of emotions the night she won a Hugo Award earlier this year during the Dublin Worldcon, how that editorial gig increased her empathy, the way writing roleplaying games and being a Sherlock Holmes nerd taught her about world-building and led to her first professional fiction sales, the dinosaur-themed Twitter feed that gave birth to her most recently published short story, the novel she’s working on which she describes as The Conjuring meets The Stand, her expertise in obscenity law and fascination with the history of burlesque, why she felt the Bird Box novel handled blindness better than the movie, her background in competitive improv and the way that helped her within science fiction, advice on how not to let Internet trolls get you down, and much more.

(3) PILE PELION ON OSSA. John Scalzi chronicled the results of his Twitter poll which asks: “Would Baby Yoda eat a porg?” (Is it cannibalism if one cute thing eats another cute thing?) Thread starts here.

(4) JUST PLAIN FOLKS TALES. RS Benedict has released another episode of the Rite Gud podcast, “No More Heroes with JR Dawson”. In this interview with sff short fiction author JR Dawson, they talk about writing fiction that doesn’t focus on Big Important Heroes of Destiny. It’s called No More Heroes.

Much of speculative literature focuses on superheroes and Chosen Ones. But what about ordinary people or flawed people who don’t save the world? Do they matter?

Sci-fi/fantasy author JR Dawson joins us to talk about why she writes about ordinary people, and how privilege and inequality warp our idea of whose story deserves to be told. She also talks about being a Midwestern writer, her favorite literary losers and that time Hans Christian Andersen got really weird with Charles Dickens’ family.

(5) BEST SFF. Andrew Liptak chimes in with “The best science fiction and fantasy books of 2019” at Polygon. (It’s interesting to see that several of the year’s most-discussed books only made his Honorable Mentions.)

Here’s one that made the list —

The Waste Tide by Chen Quifan

Cixin Liu might have become the best-known science fiction writers to come out of China, but he’s far from the only one. Chen Qiufan’s Waste Tide is a far cry from Liu’s epic science fiction tales, taking a grim look at the near future of China, where impoverished workers struggle to make a living from the world’s electronic waste.

Waste Tide follows a series of people who come together in Silicone Isle: Mimi, a worker who heads there for work; Scott Brandle, an American who is trying to arrange a contract; and Chen Kaizong, a translator, all of whom find themselves wrapped up in a greater plot for control. It’s a book that reminded me quite a bit of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, with a pointed commentary on class warfare and the lifecycle of the devices we use.

(6) HAPPY BLANDINGS. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll wryly claims “SFF Needs More Incompetent Autocrats”. This turns out to be a Wodehouse tribute as much as anything.

One of SFF’s grand traditions is carefully filing the serial numbers off historical events (the American Revolutionary War, perhaps, or the Napoleonic Wars), or famous and classic works (Lord of the Rings, the Hornblower series, Zulu), and re-purposing the result as SFF. This is usually known as “research” (See Tom Lehrer on this point). Examples abound—my disinclination to deal with crowds of irate authors protesting at my door precludes naming them here….

(7) HOLLYWOOD HISTORY. Profiles in History’s “Hollywood: A Collector’s Ransom Auction” has all kinds of genre movie props, models, and figurines. It even has examples of correspondence between director Sam Peckinpah and Ray Bradbury. “Ray and Sam would lunch (hoist a few pints) at the Formosa Café,” recalls John King Tarpinian.

(8) A PYTHON SPEAKS. Leonard and Jesse interviewed Terry Gilliam for their Maltin on Movies podcast.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote completes a quest that has consumed Terry Gilliam for thirty years, but as Leonard and Jessie learned, he bears his burdens lightly. He made his name supplying unique animated sequences for   Monty Python’s Flying Circus and his films include Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Brazil, and The Fisher King. He’s a delightful man with stories to tell (about everyone from Robin Williams to Heath Ledger) and a great outlook on life.

(9) MICROLOAN. Rachel Swirsky signal-boosted an “Opportunity to Support a Palestinian Library” and so will we.

I’ve been making microloans through Kiva.org through years, and this project caught my eye. A Palestinian woman is looking to convert an old house into a library and bookshop: 

Check it out at Kiva: https://www.kiva.org/lend/1893559

Duha is a nice girl who lives with her family in a small humble house near Ramallah. Duha has an amazing idea: she decided to restore an old house to make it a library and a place to sell books and other stationery.

She went to Palestine for Credit and Development (FATEN) to request a loan to help her to cover all restoration expenses to convert the old house into a library. Duha hopes that all the students and residents of the area will benefit from the library.

(10) OVERCOMING REJECTION. Alex Woolf advocates “Seven Ways to Grow Your Resilience as a Writer” at the SFWA Blog.

Study the nuances of rejection
In the miserable miasma of reading a fresh rejection, it can be easy to miss the nuggets of positivity and constructive feedback that are often contained in the message too. Some messages are form rejections, but it’s well-known that many venues have form messages that vary according to their take on the writer. A writer a venue wishes to encourage, for example, may get a standard message that’s quite different from the standard message that’s sent to a writer that for whatever reason they are never likely to publish.

So once the initial disappointment has subsided, make a point of going back to the message and seeing what you can learn from it for your next project or submission. Sometimes there is a valuable nugget in there (e.g. Try to use fewer adverbs or We felt we wanted to know more about what was happening from the protagonist’s perspective.) These are valuable insights that you can work with.

However disappointing the message, always send an acknowledgment – stay polite and professional. And if a venue says you should submit again, then do so, once or twice more at least. They didn’t have to say that, after all.

(11) YIKES! Bloomberg confirms “Silicon Valley Is Listening to Your Most Intimate Moments”.

Amazon declined interview requests for this story. In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman wrote, “Privacy is foundational to how every team and employee designs and develops Alexa features and Echo devices. All Alexa employees are trained on customer data handling as part of our security training.” The company and its competitors have said computers perform the vast majority of voice requests without human review.

Yet so-called smart devices inarguably depend on thousands of low-paid humans who annotate sound snippets so tech companies can upgrade their electronic ears; our faintest whispers have become one of their most valuable datasets. Earlier this year, Bloomberg News was first to report on the scope of the technology industry’s use of humans to review audio collected from their users without disclosures, including at Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Few executives and engineers who spoke with Bloomberg Businessweek for this story say they anticipated that setting up vast networks of human listeners would be problematic or intrusive. To them, it was and is simply an obvious way to improve their products.

… Several of the big tech companies tweaked their virtual-assistant programs this year after a steady drip of news reports. While Google has paused human transcriptions of Assistant audio, Apple has begun letting users delete their Siri history and opt out of sharing more, made sharing recordings optional, and hired many former contractors directly to increase its control over human listening. Facebook and Microsoft have added clearer disclaimers to their privacy policies. And Amazon has introduced a similar disclosure and started letting Alexa users opt out of manual reviews. “It’s a well-known thing in the industry,” Amazon’s Limp recently said about human transcription teams. “Whether it was well known among press or customers, it’s pretty clear we weren’t good enough there.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Cat Eldridge emailed that he needed urgent care for some physical problems – I hope they are able to get him feeling better soon. Go ahead and mention birthdays you know about in the comments.]

(13) STAR TREK SHIP IN A BOTTLE. So is there a teeny-tiny Kirk and Spock in there somewhere?

On this episode of Ben’s Worx I make a ship in a bottle with epoxy resin and Australian burl.

(14) RABID IN THE NORTHWEST. Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, was referenced by the Guardian in a story about a Washington state representative: “Report on far-right Republican Matt Shea in hands of Washington legislators”

Outside investigators have submitted a report to the Washington state house about the activities of the far-right Republican state representative Matt Shea, but legislators on both sides of the aisle remain tight-lipped about its contents.

…Last Monday the independent investigator, the Rampart Group, presented their findings to the chief clerk of the Washington state legislature . He in turn delivered the findings to the executive rules committee, composed of leaders of both parties in the house.

…Shea, meanwhile, was interviewed last week on Infowars’ David Knight Show, where he attacked perceived critics.

Shea then quoted Theodore Beale, whom the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes as a “champion of the alt right movement”, and whose blog is described as a home of “misogynistic, white supremacist diatribes”.

“Social justice warriors always lie, they always double down on their lie, and they always try to project on to you how they really are themselves,” Shea said.

(15) HIGH-STAKES COMICS AUCTION. Heritage Auctions brought home the bacon again: “Marvel Comics #1 Brings Record $1.26 Million to Lead Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Auction Beyond $14.9 Million”.

The finest known copy of Marvel Comics No. 1, sold for $1,260,000 to lead Heritage Auctions’ record-setting Comics & Comic Art auction to $14,936,295 Nov. 21 in Dallas, Texas.

The second-largest comic auction of all time, trailing only the $15,121,405 realized in Heritage Auctions’ Chicago Comics & Comic Art Auction in May 2019, this sale included 15 lots that sold for at least $100,000.

…The issue, with famous cover art by Frank R. Paul and interior art by a group of illustrators that included Bill Everett, Carl Burgos and Paul Gustavson, was purchased by a Pennsylvania postal carrier who bought every No. 1 issue he could of both comic books and magazines, beginning in the 1940s. It’s grade of 9.4 on a scale of 1-10 makes it the best copy of the issue ever found, according to Certified Guaranty Company (CGC).

More than two dozen collectors made bids for Robert Crumb Your Hytone Comix #nn “Stoned Agin!” Inside Back Cover Original Art (Apex Novelties, 1971) before it closed at $690,000, breaking the record for the most ever paid for an interior piece of comic art. Created at the height of the artist’s popularity, the image is instantly recognizable, even by many who don’t know the work of Crumb, who is revered for his contribution to the underground comics movement in the 1960s. This iconic image was reproduced countless times, including on a blacklight poster, on pinback buttons, postcards and t-shirts.

Neal Adams Batman #251 Cover The Joker Original Art (DC, 1973) sold for $600,000, the most ever paid through Heritage Auctions for a piece of DC art. The spectacular image of one of the most famous Joker covers of all time debuted a new version of the villain, trumpeting the return of the Joker after a four-year hiatus from Batman comics….

(16) HE CREATED THE UBIQUITOUS MARKS. NPR reports “IBM Engineer Who Designed The Universal Product Code Dies At 94”.

On a June morning in 1974, a Marsh Supermarket cashier in Troy, Ohio, rang up a 67-cent pack of Juicy Fruit chewing gum using something novel — the black and white stripes of a universal bar code.

The Universal Product Code is now a packaging mainstay on everything from cereal boxes and produce to electronics and airplane tickets, but it might not have worked without IBM engineer George Laurer.

Laurer, who died this month at 94 in North Carolina, had been given an assignment by his manager: Write a proposal for grocery executives explaining how IBM would take a previously invented bar code pattern, in the shape of a bull’s-eye, and make it work in supermarkets across the country.

But when that manager returned from a vacation, Laurer was there to meet him. “I didn’t do what you asked,” he said.

Instead, Laurer had created something else — the bull’s-eye was gone and in its place was a linear bar code. Laurer had deemed the bull’s-eye design unworkable. The circular code, inspired by Morse code and patented by N. Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1952, was too small, and it would smear when run through the poor-quality printing presses used for most food labels at the time.

(17) SIMMERING. Kotaku discovered that “Baby Yoda Can Be Bought In The Sims 4”.

Because EA owns The Sims, and because EA also has the rights to Star Wars video games, we finally have a digital tie-in with the new live-action Mandalorian series. It’s not a Carl Weathers outfit. It’s not a “Bounty Hunter” job for your Sim. It’s a Baby Yoda statue you can buy and put in your yard.

(18) IN SEARCH OF REPRODUCIBLE RESULTS. They hope a tool will make them easier to come by. “Can A Research Accelerator Solve The Psychology Replication Crisis?”

In 2008, psychologists proposed that when humans are shown an unfamiliar face, they judge it on two main dimensions: trustworthiness and physical strength. These form the basis of first impressions, which may help people make important social decisions, from whom to vote for to how long a prison sentence should be.

To date, the 2008 paper — written by Nikolaas Oosterhof of Dartmouth College and Alexander Todorov of Princeton University — has attracted more than a thousand citations, and several studies have obtained similar findings. But until now, the theory has been replicated successfully only in a handful of settings, making its findings biased toward nations that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic — or WEIRD, a common acronym used in academic literature.

Now, one large-scale study suggests that although the 2008 theory may apply in many parts of the world, the overall picture remains complex. An early version was published at PsyArXiv Preprints on Oct. 31. The study is under review at the journal Nature Human Behavior.

The study is the first conducted through the Psychological Science Accelerator, a global network of more than 500 labs in more than 70 countries. The accelerator, which launched in 2017, aims to redo older psychology experiments but on a mass scale in several different settings. The effort is one of many targeting a problem that has plagued the discipline for years: the inability of psychologists to get consistent results across similar experiments, or the lack of reproducibility.

(19) THEY LIE, YOU KNOW. “How ‘dark patterns’ influence travel bookings” – BBC will explain.

If you’ve wondered whether there were actually 30 people trying to book the same flight as you, you’re not alone. As Chris Baraniuk finds, the numbers may not be all they seem.

Ophir Harpaz just wanted to get a good deal on a flight to London. She was on travel website OneTravel, scouring various options for her trip. As she browsed, she noticed a seemingly helpful prompt: “38 people are looking at this flight”. A nudge that implied the flight might soon get booked up, or perhaps that the price of a seat would rise as they became scarcer.

Except it wasn’t a true statement. As Harpaz looked at that number, “38 people”, she began to feel sceptical. Were 38 people really looking at that budget flight to London at the same exact moment?

Being a cyber-security researcher, she was familiar with web code so she decided to examine how OneTravel displayed its web pages. (Anyone can do this by using the “inspect” function on web browsers like Firefox and Chrome.) After a little bit of digging she made a startling discovery – the number wasn’t genuine. The OneTravel web page she was browsing was simply designed to claim that between 28 and 45 people were viewing a flight at any given moment. The exact figure was chosen at random.

Not only that, the website’s innards were surprisingly blatant about what was going on. The bit of code that defined the number shown to users was even labelled “view_notification_random”.

(20) MECHANICAL BULLS***. “General Election 2019: How computers wrote BBC election result stories”.

For the first time, BBC News published a news story for every constituency that declared election results overnight – all written by a computer.

It was the BBC’s biggest test of machine-generated journalism so far.

Each of nearly 700 articles – most in English but 40 of them in Welsh – was checked by a human editor before publication.

The head of the project said the tech was designed to enhance the service provided rather than to replace humans.

“This is about doing journalism that we cannot do with human beings at the moment,” said Robert McKenzie, editor of BBC News Labs.

“Using machine assistance, we generated a story for every single constituency that declared last night with the exception of the one that hasn’t finished counting yet. That would never have been possible.”

VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Quail on Vimeo, Grant Kolton explains that if you want to be a quail, it’s hard work!

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