Pixel Scroll 12/30/19 Code of the Headline-Maker by James Scrollgan

(1) QUEEN’S NEW YEAR HONOURS. Over a thousand people are on the list. It is a very good New Year to be a musician with the surname “John” — both Olivia Newton-John and Elton John received honours.

As for literature and genre…

In the Queen’s New Year’s Honors list, literary agent Felicity Bryan was given an MBE for services to publishing, and novelist Rose Tremain was made a Dame.

Director Sam Mendes received a Knighthood for services to drama. He was Executive Producer of Penny Dreadful, and his two James Bond movies, the Oscar winning Skyfall and Spectre, released in 2012 and 2015 respectively, are the most successful in the history of the franchise.

(2) THE BEST OF TIMES, THE WORST OF TIMES. Jason Sanford has released “a detailed look at science fiction and fantasy magazine publishing in this day and age” — “#SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines”. His report is loaded with information and includes observations by a dozen magazine editors.

Introduction

Back in August I tweeted congrats to the fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies for achieving their fundraising goal. Which again, excellent news! But I then foolishly used that thread to try and demonstrate why BCS’s success was proof that science fiction and fantasy magazines were doing better than ever.

Spoiler: I was wrong. As multiple editors and publishers of genre magazines quickly pointed out.

Now don’t misunderstand. In many ways we’re living through the best of times for writers and readers of science fiction and fantasy short fiction. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America lists more than 25 professional-level magazines, likely more than the genre has ever witnessed at the same time. And Locus Magazine’s most recent analysis of the genre’s magazines found “70 magazines, 14 audio sites, and nine critical magazines.

And that’s merely English-language magazines. There are also many great magazines around the world such as XB-1, Galaxies Science-Fiction, and Fantastica. And the biggest SF/F magazine currently in existence is Science Fiction World in China, which reportedly has a circulation of over 200,000 a month.

In addition, the boon of e-publishing has lowered the traditional printing and distribution cost barriers to creating new genre magazines. This allows more people than ever, including marginalized and diverse voices, to create their own magazines without the need for a large company or trust fund to support their dreams.

But despite all this, times are still tough for many magazines. A number of high-profile and award-winning genre magazines have shut down in the last two years, including Apex Magazine, The Book Smugglers (although their review site continues), Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Shimmer.

And during this same time period Neil Clarke, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Clarkesworld, has been speaking publicly about the many issues faced by genre magazines and warning that the short fiction market was “oversaturated when compared to the number of paying readers.” He believed this might eventually result in a market correction and said a big part of the problem was that having so many SF/F short stories available to read for free had “devalued short fiction.”

(3) CLIMATE CHANGE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Not strictly SF but since climate fiction is arguably a sub-branch of SF —

The BBC Radio 4 morning Today programme is the most listened radio news programme in the British Isles.

In the dead period between Christmas and New Year, when Westminster and Capitol Hill are shut down, the Today programme gives over editorial control to guest editors. This morning (30th Dec) we had Greta Thunberg as the day’s editor who brought on folk from Antarctic researchers to the head of the Bank of England.

It is a three-hour programme interspersed with the general news of the day — such as the Australian wildfires.  Rarely do we get such an intense, diverse burst of climate information on a news programme. You can listen to it here.

Of course, if you have been studying for an environmental science degree between 2007- 2018 then likely you might be aware of my own take on the biological and human aspects of climate change.

I have also talked about this at conventions.

10 years ago I wrote a short article based on the questions people often asked me.

Back then I was perhaps considered as depressing and even a few might have thought a little controversial alarmist. However over the subsequent decade I have bullet-point listed the key science developments since my original writing of the essay.  These show how the overall science view has slowly migrated to my own perspective.  In fact, today my own views might be considered by some as positively conservative…

But if you want a short (8 minute) summary as to how well we are doing addressing the issue then here’s Thunberg herself earlier this month:

(4) CLEVER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The idea/company is great (and a few years old at this point), but for some of us, the name is likely the coolest part. (Via Scott Kirner’s column in the Dec 30 Boston Globe, “Technology and planning are helping to take a bite out of food waste”, and don’t worry if you can’t get see it because paywall.)

The Boston startup Spoiler Alert runs an online trading platform that enables food producers and distributors to get rid of excess inventory by selling it or donating it.

https://www.spoileralert.com/ – I wonder if they had to buy the URL, hard to believe it hadn’t previously been taken.

(5) CARTOPHILE’S LITTLE LIVER PILLS. If you’re a mapophile (or whatever the technical term is), this site is for you: “Download Over 91,000 Maps from the World’s Largest Private Collection” at My Modern Met.

Map lovers will be thrilled by the possibility to peruse some of the world’s most unique historic maps. Over 91,000 maps from the exhaustive David Rumsey Map Collection have been placed online for the world to view and download, making it a treasure trove of information related to cartography. The collection, which was started over 30 years ago, is now housed at Stanford University.

In the 1980s, David Rumsey, president of the digital publishing company Cartography Associates, began building his collection by first focusing on maps of North and South America. With materials dating from the 16th to 21st centuries, the collection is unique in its scope of maps focusing on the United States. From 19th-century ribbon maps of the Mississippi to the world’s largest early world map, the collection is filled with special gems that show the wide variety of artistic maps produced throughout history.

(6) THAT PANTING SOUND. Brenda Clough advises “Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Listen!” at Book View Café.

If you’re a pantser you are not in sole charge of the work. The characters, the plot, the theme, all chip in and drag the book to new and exciting places. You want them to do that. This is the whole point of pantsing in the first place. The book will go to places that you, if you outlined it at the beginning, could never have imagined. You know the thing’s really alive, when it gets up and runs!

But to get this to happen, you have to listen…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 30, 1865 Rudyard Kipling. Yea, Kipling. I didn’t do him last year and he’s written enough of a genre nature such as the Just So Stories for Little Children stories like “How the Camel Got Hump“ and “ The Cat that Walked By Himself“ being wonderful stories with a soupçon of the fantastic in them that I should’ve of done so. Or there’s always The Jungle Books, which run to far more stories than I thought. Yes, he was an unapologetic Empire-loving writer who expressed that more than once but he was a great writer. (Died 1936.)
  • Born December 30, 1922 Jane Langton. Author of the Hall Family Chronicles series which is definitely SFF in nature having both fantasy and SF elements in these charming tales for children. The eight books herein are mostly not available digitally though Kindle has the final novel but the Homer Kelly mysteries which both Fantastic Fiction and ISFDB list as genre or genre-adjacent are partially available. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 30, 1942 Fred Ward, 77. Lead in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins which was pleasant but forgettable upon finishing.  Co-lead with Kevin Bacon in several of the Tremors films. Plays The Captain in The Crow: Salvation and Maj. General David Reece in the Invasion Earth series. My favorite role for him? Detective H.P. Lovecraft in Cast a Deadly Spell. Is he that Lovecraft? Maybe, maybe not. 
  • Born December 30, 1945 Concetta Tomei, 74. Blank Dominique, operator along with Blank Reg (the late Morgan Shepherd) of Big Time Television, on Max Headroom. She’s had one-offs on Touched by an Angel, Numb3rs, Ghost Whisperer, and Voyager.
  • Born December 30, 1950 Lewis Shiner, 69. Damn, his Deserted Cities of the Heart novelwas frelling brilliant! And if you’ve not read his Wild Cards fiction, do so now. He also co-wrote with Bob Wayne the eight-issue Time Masters series starring Rip Hunter which I see is on the DC Universe app. Yea! Anyone that’s read the Private Eye Action As You Like It collection of PI stories I see listed on Kindle with Joe Lansdale?  It looks interesting. 
  • Born December 30, 1951 Avedon Carol, 68. She was the 1983 winner of the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund to Albacon II in Glasgow, And she was GOH at Wiscon II along with Connie Willis and Samuel R. Delany. She has been nominated for three Hugos as Best Fan Writer. She’s been involved in thirty apas and fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3.
  • Born December 30, 1959 Douglas A. Anderson, 60. The Annotated Hobbit, for which he won the Mythopoeic Award, is one of my favorite popcorn readings. I’m also fond of his Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction which has a lot of great short fiction it, and I recommend his blog Tolkien and Fantasy as it’s one of the better ones on fantasy literature out there. Today he’s saying a few words about Holdstock.
  • Born December 30, 1976 Rhianna Pratchett, 43. Daughter of Terry who now runs the intellectual property concerns of her father. She herself is a video game writer including the recent Tomb Raider reboot. For her father, she’s overseen and being involved several years back in The Shepherd’s Crown, the last Discworld novel, to print. She was also with Simon Green the writer of The Watch, the Beeb’s Ankh-Morpork City Watch series. She’s a co-director of Narrativia Limited, a production company which holds exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to her father’s works following his death. They, of course, helped develop the Good Omens series on Amazon.
  • Born December 30, 1980 Eliza Dushku, 39. First genre role was Faith in the Buffyverse. Not surprisingly, she’d star in Whedon’s Dollhouse. I think her Tru Calling series was actually conceptualized better and a more interesting role for her. She voices Selina Kyle, Catwoman, in the animated Batman: Year One which is quite well done and definitely worth watching.   She done a fair of other voicework, two of which I’ll single out as of note. One is is the character of Holly Mokri in Torchwood: Web of Lies – view here. The other role is fascinating — The Lady In Glen Cook’s The Black Company series. Here’s the link to that story.
  • Born December 30, 1986 Faye Marsay, 33. Shona McCullough In a Twelfth Doctor story, “The Last Christmas”. She also was on A Game of Thrones for several seasons as The Waif. (Who that is I know not as I didn’t watch that series.) She also played Blue Colson in Black Mirror’s “Hated in the Nation” tale. Her theater creds include Hansel & Gretel, Peter Pan and Macbeth — all definitely genre.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) AMONG THE MISSING. LA Curbed’s article “Mapping the most incredible lost mansions of Los Angeles” has Ray Bradbury’s home at #10 – with John King Tarpinian’s photo that originated on this blog.

…The most recent teardown on our list, this 1937 Cheviot Hills house was the home of author Ray Bradbury for more than 50 years. In January 2015, starchitect Thom Mayne began deconstruction of the house, much to the chagrin of Bradbury fans and local preservationists. Mayne claimed, “I could make no connection between the extraordinary nature of the writer and the incredible un-extraordinariness of the house. It was not just un-extraordinary, but unusually banal.”

(10) A STUNNER. Joe Sherry’s confidence in the Old Guard is not misplaced: “The Hugo Initiative: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2001, Best Novel)” at Nerds of a Feather.

In Retrospect: Rowling’s Hugo Award is very likely one of the most controversial in the history of the award – while beloved, the Harry Potter novels have never quite received their due as literature. They are books for children and the series is wildly popular, a combination which is great for success and less great for earning respect (such that it truly matters). 

The main thing working against Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for its place in Hugo Award history, though, is that it won the award over A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin (as well as novels from Ken MacLeod, Robert Sawyer, and Nalo Hopkinson). A Storm of Swords is, notably, the third novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire sequence and widely considered the finest novel in not only that series but in Martin’s acclaimed career. To those who care about such things, Martin is considered “core genre”, writing epic fantasy and being a lifetime part of the Worldcon community. Rowling was an outsider who writes children’s books. I’m sure there is a segment of the old guard Worldcon crowd who still has not gotten over Rowling’s win and Martin’s loss…. 

(11) CUBIC. Cat Eldridge flagged this New York Times article as “really SFnal” — “WeWork Planned a Residential Utopia. It Hasn’t Turned Out That Way.”

After first pledging to upend the way people worked, WeWork vowed to change how they lived: WeLive, a sleek dormitory for working professionals with free beer, arcade games in the laundry room and catered Sunday dinners, would spread around the world.

It has not quite turned out that way.

WeLive has not expanded beyond its first two locations and efforts to open sites in India and Israel have collapsed. In addition to long-term rentals, WeLive offers rooms at its only locations, in New York City and Virginia, for nightly stays on hotel sites.

…Now WeLive’s chances of surviving as the We Company tries to recover from its failed initial public offering are slim, said Scott Galloway, a business analyst and professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“I bet WeLive is wonderful for everyone except the shareholders and We,’’ Mr. Galloway said. “There was a total lack of internal controls. Where were the board’s basic questions like, ‘Why are we doing WeLive?’”

The uncertainty about WeLive comes as other co-living companies are thriving and expanding. A London-based company, The Collective, has plans to build a co-living building in Brooklyn, while another company, Common, has more than 12,000 beds under development in multiple cities, including a 600-unit building in Miami.

(12) WHEN FANDOM IS IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT. Vox critic-at-large Emily VanDerWerff and Constance Grady join Aja Romano to discuss “Fandom went mainstream in the 2010s — for better and worse”.

Constance: Ooh, this is tricky, and actually, Veronica Mars is a good case study here.

Veronica Mars went on as long as it did entirely because of its fandom. In the ’00s, fan mail-in campaigns got it renewed for a second and third season despite low ratings. In 2013, the fan Kickstarter campaign raised over $5 million to pay for the movie’s production budget. This year, the show’s history of intense fan engagement is an enormous part of what led to the Veronica Mars Hulu revival — and in that revival, Veronica’s love interest Logan dies, destroying the ship that large swaths of the fandom were hugely invested in and, with it, their fannish investment in the show.

My impulse when Logan died was to think, “Well, that sucks, but certainly showrunner Rob Thomas is entitled to do whatever he wants with his characters. He doesn’t owe me or his fans anything.” But a number of fans disagreed: Rob Thomas, they said, had taken advantage of their desire to see Veronica and Logan together, using their investment as shippers to leverage not just their time and attention, but the literal dollars out of their pockets. In that case, didn’t he owe them something? Wasn’t killing Logan a betrayal of the contract Thomas had made with the fandom?

To be honest, I can see the argument. When a show’s survival depends this heavily on its fans, the power dynamic between creator and fandom does change dramatically. The Veronica Mars fandom went above and beyond to keep that show coming back again and again, and the showrunner responded by destroying the piece of the show that a huge part of the fandom cared about most. Emotionally, that does feel like a betrayal.

Emily: …I think a lot about a quote from Joss Whedon that I heard when I was a teenager and decided was accurate without a ton of reflection: “Don’t give people what they want; give them what they need.” Of the many bits of storytelling wisdom Whedon has dispensed in interviews over the years, this is the one that has most taken on a life beyond his fandom, because it speaks to something that I think we’re all a little wary of in 2019: anesthetizing art against the horrors of the world so much that it becomes a sort of safe space.

(13) RENAISSANCE PLAYER. Paul Weimer appraises the next book in a series, “Microreview [book]: Priest of Lies by Peter McLean”, at Nerds of a Feather.

…That rich worldbuilding seen in the first novel is extended and expanded on here. From the nature of magic, to the political structure of the capital (including the true structure of the Queen’s Men), the novel enfolds rich details of the main character’s world. Both Ellisberg and now, Dannsburg come across as distinct, real cities that you can imagine walking down the streets of (although do mind the smell of the first, and all the guards in the second)….

(14) JEOPARDY! On tonight’s Final Jeopardy, contestants showed they can draw a blank on non-sff literary items, too. Andrew Porter took notes —

Answer: In a New Yorker profile, he said, “Where I like it is out west in Wyoming, Montana, & Idaho, & I like Cuba & Paris.”

Wrong questions: “Who is Kerouac?” and “Who is John Wayne?”

Correct question: “Who is Hemingway?”

Not skiffy, but what the hey…

(15) HOW DO YOU GET THIS THING OUT OF SECOND GEAR? Jason Kottke frames a video in “How Do You Move a Star? Stellar Engines!”

In this episode of Kurzgesagt, they’re talking about building engines powerful enough to move entire stars, dragging their solar systems along with them….

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, N., Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Bill, Alan Baumler, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Bradbury: The Legend Grows

Fulfilling File 770’s motto “All Bradbury all the time,” here’s a new roundup of links about the popular writer.

TIDE FOR FIRST. Extra Sci Fi unexpectedly anoints him “Ray Bradbury – Grandfather of the New Wave.”

We talked a little bit about Ray Bradbury on our Fahrenheit 451 episode, but he contributed so much more to the world of literature and science fiction. While he may not be “technically” considered a part of the New Wave sci fi, but he certainly influenced it. His works touch on the fantastical, the psychedelic, and even the theological. So why did Ray Bradbury refuse to consider himself a science fiction writer, even when his stories were filled with space travel and other technological wonders? Let’s explore!

BEFORE THE CENTERFOLD. Vocal reproduces the “Ray Bradbury Interview” that originally appeared in Genesis. Because that was a men’s magazine, the interviewer spent a disproportionate amount of time trying to get Ray to explain why he didn’t put sex in his stories. But they did ask a few other questions…

Genesis: How do you feel after you’ve finished a book?

Bradbury: Every time a book is published, there’s two things that happen—the day a book goes into the mail I am one up on death, you know? I say, “Okay, death, there you go. One more right in the chops!” and then after the book is published I carry it around with me for about a week. It’s my baby. I can hardly believe it’s there and I keep staring at it and this seems terribly egotistical but I think it’s only natural because you love it so. People say, “What’s new?” and you say, “Well, here it is! Now that you ask, here it is in my hand.” Those are happy times.

A NOVEL APPROACH. “Here Are 40 Covers For Classic Books (IF They Were Honest)” – presented by Cracked.com.

There’s a well-known rule about not judging books by their covers, but that’s nuts. The entire point of a book cover is to show you what’s inside. The fact that the book covers don’t actually prepare a person for what’s inside doesn’t mean we should stop using them as a source of information. It just means the cover designers should be doing a better job.

Here’s the Bradbury entry –

CHANNEL 452. Alix E. Harrow’s “op-ed from the future” in the New York Times included a Bradbury reference: “Books May Be Dead in 2039, but Stories Live On”.

… The printed word has not gone unmourned. Social media is flooded with nostalgic images of textbooks and battered paperbacks, and the best-selling candle scents are “Indie Bookshop” and “Library Dream.” The surviving cable networks fill slow news cycles with tours of defunct paper mills and interviews with bitter authors who failed to transition from novels to experiences. Last week, the Public Broadcasting Service uploaded the first part of its four-part retrospective “The Written Age,” which featured David Brett, associate professor in the University of Vermont’s recently rebranded department of English and experiential literature. “Virtual reality has given us a post-literacy landscape more grimly banal than Bradbury could ever have imagined, where it is not necessary to burn books because no one wants to read them anyway,” Dr. Brett concluded. “Gutenberg would weep. We ought to weep with him.”

But I, for one, remain dry-eyed. Books may be dead, but the stories themselves — those unruly creatures we trapped in paper and pixels, the narratives that delight and dismay and define us — are still very much alive.

MAGIC-MAKING RELIC. Los Angeles magazine ran a series in 2013 celebrating “the history of Los Angeles as told through 232 objects” leading up to the city’s then-numbered 232nd anniversary. One of them was “DispL.A. Case #71: Ray Bradbury’s Typewriter”.

… Bradbury was a futurist, but never used a computer; he continued to type all of his 30 books and 600 short stories on a typewriter. This Royal KMM was manufactured in 1947 and was in Bradbury’s home during a documentary film shoot. Producers mentioned they needed a vintage typewriter for a scene recreating Bradbury’s early years and he offered them this Royal….  

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for the stories.]

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.]

Pixel Scroll 12/8/19 Why The Pixel Shudders When It Perceives The Scroll

(1) MCINTYRE BEQUEST. Clarion West announced in August that they are the recipient of the literary assets of Vonda N. McIntyre, who wished that the organization manage her literary copyrights in perpetuity. Locus Online in an article today reported —  

She also left a bequest of $387,129 to the program, the largest single financial gift in the organization’s history: “The bequest will bolster the Clarion West endowment, strengthening our mission and ensuring our financial stability for years. Vonda’s extraordinary generosity will allow Clarion West to continue to support emerging writers for generations to come.” Janna Silverstein has joined as literary contract manager, and will advise Clarion West on how to manage “all copyright materials.”

(2) A BORROWER AND A LENDER BE. In the Washington Post, Heather Kelly looks at dedicated e-book patrons who sign up with multiple library systems (including out of state ones) because e-book sales to libraries are rationed and signing up for multiple libraries is the only way to quickly check out popular e-book titles: “E-books at libraries are a huge hit, leading to long waits, reader hacks and worried publishers”.

…And while there are technically an infinite number of copies of digital files, e-books also work differently. When a library wants to buy a physical book, it pays the list price of about $12 to $14, or less if buying in bulk, plus for services like maintenance. An e-book, however, tends to be far more expensive because it’s licensed from a publisher instead of purchased outright, and the higher price typically only covers a set number of years or reads.

That means Prince’s recently released memoir “The Beautiful Ones” recently had a four-week wait for the e-book in San Francisco. Library-goers in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County were waiting 13 weeks to download Jia Tolentino’s book of essays, “Trick Mirror.”

Library e-book waits, now often longer than for hard copies, have prompted some to take their memberships to a new extreme, collecting library cards or card numbers to enable them to find the rarest or most popular books, with the shortest wait.

(3) CLARION WEST SCHOLARSHIP CREATED. With a gift of $1,000, Blue Corn Creations, a publishing firm undertaking a variety of Native American-themed projects, has launched a scholarship for writers of Native American descent at the Clarion West Writers Workshop: “Blue Corn Creations Sponsors Scholarship for Native American Writers”

 “We’re excited about developing the next generation of Native superhero, science fiction, and action/adventure stories,” said Rob Schmidt, owner of Blue Corn Creations. “To do that, we also need to develop the next generation of Native writers. This scholarship will help accomplish that.”

Clarion West has helped emerging writers reach for their dreams of professional careers in speculative fiction since 1971. Every summer, aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers attend the Clarion West Writers Workshop, a six-week intensive whose instructors include the best and brightest in the genre. Attendees benefit from the opportunity to hone their craft with the guidance of successful writers.

“Historically the field has reflected the same prejudices found in the culture around it, leading to proportionately fewer successful writers of color,” according to Clarion West’s vision statement. That’s why the Blue Corn Creations scholarship is a great fit with Clarion West’s mission, said Schmidt. “With it the workshop can serve another group with untapped potential: Native Americans.”

The Blue Corn Creations Scholarship for students of Native descent will help cover tuition, fees, and lodging for one student in 2020. The winner will be awarded in a blind judging to those indicating an interest on the application form. 

…Blue Corn Creations and Clarion West encourage others to contribute to the scholarship fund. The goal is to establish a permanent full scholarship for students of Native American descent.

(4) BAIZE WHITE MOURNED. Mark Oshiro is going on immediate hiatus while he deals with the sudden death of his partner Baize White.

The pair figured in an important story about Code of Conduct enforcement in 2016 when they surfaced issues of mistreatment at a midwestern con: “Mark Oshiro Says ConQuesT Didn’t Act On His Harassment Complaints”.

(5) SPINNEY OBIT. Sesame Street’s Caroll Spinney died December 8 reports the New York Times:

Sometimes he stood 8 feet 2 inches tall. Sometimes he lived in a garbage can. He often cited numbers and letters of the alphabet, and for nearly a half century on “Sesame Street” he was Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, opening magic doors for children on the secrets of growing up and the gentle arts of friendship.

His name was Caroll Spinney — not that many people would know it — and he was the comfortably anonymous whole-body puppeteer who, since the 1969 inception of the public television show that has nurtured untold millions of children, had portrayed the sweet-natured, canary-yellow giant bird and the misanthropic, furry-green bellyacher in the trash can outside 123 Sesame Street.

…Big Bird appeared in “The Muppet Movie” (1979) and “The Muppets Take Manhattan” (1984), and in 1985 starred in “Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird,” in which a meddlesome social worker sends him to live with “his own kind,” a family of dodos in “darkest Illinois.” He runs away, and has a cross-country adventure.

…With the impending 50th anniversary of “Sesame Street” in October 2018, Mr. Spinney left the show after his own remarkable half-century run as the embodiment of two of the most beloved characters on television and one of the last surviving staff members who had been with the show from its beginning.

(6) AUBERJONOIS OBIT. René Auberjonois, known to fans as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s shapeshifting Odo, died December 8. Variety noted his famous roles in and out of genre: “René Auberjonois, ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Boston Legal’ Actor, Dies at 79”.

Auberjonois was a prolific television actor, appearing as Paul Lewiston in 71 episodes of “Boston Legal” and as Clayton Runnymede Endicott III in ABC’s long-running sitcom “Benson” — a role that earned him an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor in a comedy in 1984. He played shape-shifter Changeling Odo in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and carried that role into video games, voicing Odo in “Harbinger” and “The Fallen.” His appearance as Judge Mantz in ABC’s “The Practice” earned him another Emmy nod for guest actor in a drama in 2001.

… Other film credits include Roy Bagley in 1976’s “King Kong” and Reverend Oliver in “The Patriot,” as well as parts in “Batman Forever,” “Eyes of Laura Mars” and “Walker.”

…Auberjonois was also known for his voice roles, particularly in 1989’s Disney Renaissance hit “The Little Mermaid,” in which he voices Chef Louis and sang the memorable “Les Poissons.” Fans of “The Princess Diaries” would recognize him as the voice of Mia Thermopolis’ father, Prince Philippe Renaldi, in an uncredited role.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 8, 1954 The Atomic Kid premiered.  It was produced by Maurice Duke and Mickey Rooney, and directed by Leslie H. Martinson. It stars Mickey Rooney, Elaine Devry and Robert Strauss. This is the film showing in 1955 at the Town Theater in Back to the Future

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Best known as a film director for A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) which he said was influenced by sources including Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1894 E. C Segar. Best known as the creator of Popeye who first appeared in 1929 in Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre. Popeye’s first line in the strip, upon being asked if he was a sailor, was “Ja think I’m a cowboy?” J. Wellington Wimpy was another character in this strip that I’m fond of.  (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1916 Richard Fleischer. Starting in the early Fifties, he’s got he an impressive string of genre films as a Director — 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Fantastic Voyage (which came in second to Star Trek’s “The Menagerie” at NyCon 3 in that Hugo category), Doctor DoolittleSoylent Green (placed third in Hugo voting), Conan The Destroyer and Red Sonja during the thirty year run of his career. (Died 2006.)
  • Born December 8, 1939 Jennie Linden, 80. She’s here for being Barbara in Dr. Who and the Daleks, the 1965 non-canon film. Her next genre forays were both horror comedies, she was in A Severed Head as Georgie Hands, and she’d later be in Vampira as Angela. She’d show up in Sherlock Holmes and The Saint as well. 
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker, 69. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London.  So what else is he known for? Oh, I’m not listing everything, but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The Exorcist, Star Wars, The Howling which I quite love, Starman for the Starman transformation, Beast design on the  Beauty and the Beast series and the first Hellboy film version.
  • Born December 8, 1951 Brian Attebery, 68. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and Parabolas of Science Fiction with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. 
  • Born December 8, 1953 Kim Basinger, 66. She was the of Bond girl Domino Petachi in Never Say Never Again. After that, it’s Vicki Vale in Burton’s Batman as far as we’re tracking her. (We’re pretending My Stepmother Is an Alien never happened.) Ahhhh, Holli Would In Cool World… there’s an odd film.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur has Alexa working on helping you to become a better writer.

(10) 124C2020. Nicholas Whyte is able to tell us all about the coming year because he’s been reading its history for years: “Life in 2020, as portrayed in science fiction”. Here’s what one author has in store for us:

In 1907, the gloriously named Horace Newte published The master beast : being a true account of the ruthless tyranny inflicted on the British people by socialism A. D. 1888-2020, republished in 1919 as The Red Fury: Britain Under Bolshevism. Unlike the other two, Bellamy isn’t mentioned explicitly but it’s clearly a response all the same. Newte’s hero is dismayed to see socialists come to power in Britain at the start of the twentieth century, followed of course by a successful German invasion. He then sleeps from 1911 to 2020, and awakes to find a morally degenerate country where women behave with dreadful freedom. But England is then invaded again, this time by African and Chinese forces, and he escapes to France. It’s online here.

(11) A SEASON FOR GIVING. Nerds of a Feather helps fans with their holiday shopping in a series of posts about gift suggestions, such as — “Holiday Gift Guide: Games (All Kinds!)”. Adri Joy’s enthusiasm about the Goose Game is contagious.

Untitled Goose Game (Recommended by Adri)

It will come as a surprise to nobody that Untitled Goose Game is my pick for a video game gift this year. This year’s most memeable game, from indie developer House House, combines elaborate stealth-based mechanics with the aesthetics of a rural English village, and puts you in the shoes (well, the webbed feet) of a horrible goose completing a number of tasks to mess with a series of villagers. Featuring four main areas for mischief which open up into an increasingly elaborate world, its a game whose puzzles are satisfying and unrepentantly sadistic, with a great flow through the “level-based” tasks and into more elaborate post-game tests. There’s also plenty of fun to be have in tasks which serve no in-game purpose apart from the pure-hearted joy of being a goose, and while this isn’t quite Breath of the Wild levels of “exploring the world because its there” content, it’s still a diversion that can be returned to even once your goose to-do is all crossed off.

(12) BREAKING IN. The Odyssey Writing Workshop posted an interview with Guest Lecturer JG Faherty.

Once you started writing seriously, how long did it take you to sell your first piece? What were you doing wrong in your writing in those early days?

I started writing fiction in 2004, but prior to that I had been writing non-fiction for a long time. Laboratory manuals and procedures, business documents, etc. Then I got a part-time gig writing elementary school test preparation guides for The Princeton Review. That required writing fictional reading passages. I found I liked it, and here’s where real serendipity enters the equation. Makes you wonder if Fate really exists. I wanted to write horror and sci-fi, so I attended a convention (LunaCon) in New York, where I met Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos. We talked, and she said I should submit something to an anthology she was working on. I had two days before the deadline. I went home and wrote like a fiend. Finished my first-ever short story and sent it to her, unedited, unproofed.

It got rejected, of course.

But she sent it back with a note saying I almost made it in, I had real talent, and I should keep writing. So I did. And a year later I made my first professional sale, a short story. The year after that, it was two pieces of flash fiction and some poems. Then another couple of short stories. I went on like that for five years, all while also working on my first novel, which was published in 2010.

In those days, I’d have to say I was doing EVERYTHING wrong! I didn’t know about using editors or beta readers. I thought you just proofed your work and the publishers edited it. I didn’t know about first or third drafts. I didn’t know how to write a cover letter. I didn’t know anyone in the business except Jeanne. Over time, I attended more conventions. Met people. Joined the Horror Writers Association and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Took some classes. Learned how to edit properly.

And gradually, the quality of my work improved.

(13) BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. In “The Hugo Initiative: They’d Rather Be Right (1955, Best Novel)”, after mustering all the possible explanations for the book’s unlikely victory, Nerds of a Feather’s Joe Sherry drops this bomb:

Is They’d Rather Be Right the worst Hugo Award winning novel of all time? I’m in the minority of readers who hated The Three-Body Problem, so that will always be in contention for my personal Worst Hugo Winner of All Time category.

(14) BONES. The New York Review of Books’ Verlyn Klinkenborg dismisses their own question “What Were Dinosaurs For?” while covering a selection of dino books.

…As I was reading some recent books on dinosaurs, I kept wondering, “What were dinosaurs for?” It’s a ridiculous question, and I wondered why I was wondering it. After all, dinosaurs were “for” exactly what we are “for,” what every organism has been “for” since life began. Every species that has ever lived is a successful experiment in the enterprise of living, and every species is closely kinned at the genetic level with all other species. This is harder to grasp than it seems, partly because the logic of that Satanic preposition—“for”—is so insidious, so woven through the problem of time. Teleology is the moralizing of chronology, and nowadays science tries to keep watch for even the slightest trace of it, any suggestion that evolution has a direction tending to culminate in us or in what we like to call intelligence or in any other presumably desirable end point.

(15) LEGACY. PopHorror interviewed the actor about his myriad projects including his one-man Ray Bradbury show: “He’s No Dummy – Actor Bill Oberst, Jr. Talks ‘Handy Dandy,’ Ray Bradbury And Bill Moseley’s Beard”.

PopHorror: Are you still touring with Ray Bradbury Forever (Live)?

Bill Oberst, Jr.: Yes. I’ve got a show in Atlanta next year and then I’m going to Walla Walla, Washington. I wanted to go there just so I could say Walla Walla. It’s fun. And then I’ll be performing at some libraries next year because it will be the 100th anniversary of Ray’s birth. We did it on Broadway, and we did it in Los Angeles. We did about ten performances last year, so I learned what worked and what didn’t work. My goal is to get it to the point where people who know nothing at all about Ray Bradbury, people who have never read a word of his, can say, “Wow, I got something out of that.” I’m not interested in the Wikipedia info, where he was born and what he wrote and all that.

Think about it: after we’re all gone and all the people who have known us are gone, what’s left of Tracy and Bill? What were our lives lived for? What did we stand for? What is it about us that future people can say, “Well, I don’t know anything about Tracy or Bill, but this thing they did could apply to my life.” That’s the test. In 100 years, who is going to remember you unless you have some legacy, some mark.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/28/19 I Cannot Tell A Lie, Officer Opie, I Put That Envelope At The Bottom of The Death Star Trash Compactor

(1) TOP 30. Yesterday Ellen Datlow did a cover reveal for Edited By:

(2) OWL AIR BNB. Real Simple is excited — “You Can Stay in Harry Potter’s Childhood Home on Airbnb—and We’re Heading for the Floo Network Right Now”.

Other than the Hogwarts acceptance letter we’ve been stubbornly awaiting for the past 20-something years, this is the best possible news a grown-up Harry Potter fan could hope for. The cottage where Harry Potter was born is now available to rent on Airbnb.

De Vere House appeared in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as the home where Lily and James Potter raised baby Harry, until (obvious spoiler alert) Lord Voldemort killed Harry’s parents and left him with the badass scar (which Prince William also has). After the attack, he was forced to live in a closet under the stairs at the Dursleys’ house.

The village of Lavenham in Suffolk, in which De Vere House is located, also appeared in the movie as the fictional town of Godric’s Hollow.

(3) FORTRESS UNHIDDEN. The Guardian reports that the inevitable adaptation will be performed November 28: “Japanese theatre to stage kabuki version of Star Wars”.

The classical Japanese theatre, which combines highly stylised movement and unusual vocalisation, will swap samurai swords for lightsabers and replace feudal warriors with the forces of light and darkness.

Star Wars Kabuki-Rennosuke and the Three Light Sabers, which are being staged in Tokyo, will combine plots from each of the franchise’s latest trilogy, substituting plots drawn from the days of feudal clan rivalry with drama from a galaxy far, far away.

Ichikawa Ebizo XI, Japan’s pre-eminent kabuki actor, will take to the stage as Kylo Ren, the conflicted son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, in front of 50 winners of an online lottery.

A livestream will be accessible on YouTube:

(4) LIVE, FROM 1964! Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus will be all over the Southern California map in December.

  • Loscon, Los Angeles, Dec. 1, 1:00 PM

Crest of a New Wave“, discussing 1964 in science fact and fiction

Talking about “What Science Fiction got wrong…and right!

The First Moon Race“, talking about the troubles and ultimate triumph of Project Ranger.

Once more, talking about the Women Pioneers of Space Science at another great dark sky site.

(5) DRAFT OF EMPIRE. “See an original Star Wars script and more at ‘Fahrenheit 451’ author’s IUPUI center” — the IndyStar tells the unexpected reason why Ray Bradbury had a copy.

The second movie in the original trilogy is the one Bradbury almost co-wrote. 

In the early 1940s, the writer studied with Leigh Brackett, a pioneer for women and the melodramatic space opera in science fiction. That gave way to a collaboration with “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” a novella about a powerful, siren-like woman who controls the strong, barbarian body that a convict has recently been transplanted in.

Brackett went on to become a screenwriter and was a co-writer with Larry Kasdan on the “Empire” script. But she was in failing health, so the producer asked Bradbury whether he was familiar enough with her work to finish it if she couldn’t.

“Ray Bradbury said, ‘Yes, I do. But I want her to have credit,’ ” center director Jon Eller said.

As it turned out, Brackett completed her draft before she died in 1978, so Bradbury never had to work on it.

But the script — a fourth revision that doesn’t even contain Darth Vader’s big reveal to Luke because that detail was so secretive — remains part of Bradbury’s collection

(6) IN THE MOMENT. Barbara Ashford tells five ways to “Make Your Big Moments Sing!” on the Odyssey Writing Workshop blog.

3) Use your own experiences to help you create emotional resonance on the page.

This is another acting technique that can help you get closer to a character. If you’re writing a scene of grief, go back to a moment where you lost someone or when you first learned of this person’s passing. Write down as many specific details as you can recall.

* Your physiological responses (e.g., shaking, goose bumps, pulse racing, face/skin flushing);

* Your physical responses (e.g., recoiling, fleeing, turning your face away);

* Your emotional reactions (which could be conveyed via action, dialogue or inner monologue);

* The small details that intruded on the moment, like the laughter of children playing a game or the scent of your mother’s gardenia bush outside her bedroom window. Choose details that will show readers what the POV character is feeling. Does the laughter make the character angry because it reminds her of her loss? Or comfort her because she realizes life goes on?

(7) DEVELOPMENT HEAVEN AND HELL. Tor.com’s own Stubby the Rocket has compiled a vast list of “(Almost) Every Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV or Movie Adaptation in the Works Right Now”. For example —

Adapted from: The Eternals by Jack Kirby / Eternals by Neil Gaiman (writer) and John Romita (artist)
Originally published:
1976, Marvel Comics / 2006, Marvel Comics
Optioned for: Film (Marvel Studios)
What it’s about: The Eternals are a race of humans created through experimentation by the alien Celestials, intended to be defenders of Earth against the unstable Deviants (also experiments). Plot details for the film are unclear, but there is some suggestion it may follow the Gaiman miniseries.
Status: Chloe Zhao (The Rider) will direct a cast including Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Don Lee, Barry Keoghan, Gemma Chan and Kit Harington.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 28, 1987 — Next Generation’s “Haven” aired in which Deanna Troi’s mother Lwaxana Troi was performed by Majel Barrett. She would go on to have a role in every Trek series produced up to her death. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 28, 1911 Carmen D’Antonio. In the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe Thirties reel, she was Ming’s Dancing Girl, she’ll show up in the soon to be released Arabian Nights as a harem girl. And her last genre performance was in The Twilight Zone. (Died 1986.)
  • Born November 28, 1946 Joe Dante, 73. Warning, this is a personal list of Dante’s works that I’ve really, really enjoyed starting off with The Howling then adding in Innnerspace, both of the Gremlins films though I think only the first is a masterpiece, Small Soldiers and The Hole. For television work, the only one I can say I recall and was impressed by was his Legends of Tomorrow “Night of the Hawk” episode.  That’s his work as Director. As Producer, I see he’s responsible for The Phantom proving everyone has a horrible day. 
  • Born November 28, 1952 S. Epatha Merkerson, 67. Both of her major SF roles involve Robos. The first was in Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Tarissa Dyson; a year later, she had a recurring role as Capt. Margaret Claghorn in Mann & Machine. And she had a recurring role as Reba on Pee-wee’s Playhouse which I can’t remember if the consensus here was that it was genre or genre adjacent.
  • Born November 28, 1962 Mark Hodder, 57. Best known for his Burton & Swinburne Alternate Victorian steampunk novels starting off with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack that deservedly garnered a Philip K. Dick Award. He also wrote A Red Sun Also Rises which recreates sort of Victorian London on a far distant alien world. Emphasis on sort of. And then there’s Consulting Detective Macalister Fogg which appears to be his riff off of Sherlock Holmes only decidedly weirder.
  • Born November 28, 1981 Louise Bourgoin, 38. Her main SFF film is as the title character in The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, directed by Luc Besson. Anybody know if it got released in a subtitled English version? She also played Audrey in Black Heaven (L’Autre monde), and she’s the voice heard in the Angélique’s Day for Night animation short.
  • Born November 28, 1984 Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 35. She was in the 2011 version of The Thing. She was in Sky High which is a lot of fun followed by a series of horror films such as the cheerful holiday charmer Black Christmas that earned her a rep as a Scream Queen. And she’s Huntress (Helena Bertinelli) in the forthcoming Birds of Prey film.
  • Born November 28, 1987 Karen Gillan, 32. Amy Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor. Nebula in the Guardians of The Galaxy and in later MCU films, Ruby Roundhouse in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Two episodes of Who she was in did win Hugos, “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang” and “The Doctor’s Wife”. 
  • Born November 28, 1988 Scarlett Pomers, 31. The young Naomi Wildman on Voyager, a role she played an amazing seventeen times. Retired from acting, one of her last roles was in A Ring of Endless Light which at least genre adjacent as it’s written by Madeleine L’Engle. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

Grant Snider (Incidental Comics) did this for a magazine with stories and comics for kids.

(11) THAT’S COZY, NOT CRAZY. Sarah A. Hoyt continues her Mad Genius Club series about writing cozy mysteries with “Meet Interesting Strangers”. Tons of advice here about the need for colorful supporting characters.

REMEMBER — this is important — eccentricities in fiction must be larger than in real life to be perceived as such.  In real life Stephanie Plum and half the cozy heroines, including my own Dyce Dare would be locked up in the madhouse. (So would half the characters in sitcoms) BUT on paper there is a tendency to see things as less extreme than in real life. So exaggerate all the interesting bits, or your character will come across as very very boring.

(12) VAST MACHINERY. “How a cake company pioneered the first office computer” – a BBC video takes you back.

In the early 1950s the British catering firm J Lyons & Co, pioneered the world’s first automated office system.

It was called LEO – Lyons Electronic Office – and was used in stock-taking, food ordering and payrolls for the company.

Soon it was being hired out to UK government ministries and other British businesses.

Mary Coombs worked on the first LEO computer and was the first woman to become a commercial computer programmer.

(13) IS YOUR FAVORITE THERE? Entertainment Weekly brings you “The droids of the Star Wars universe, ranked”. The one I went looking for isn’t ranked – could be those Roomba-style things that dodge underfoot don’t have enough IQ to qualify as droids.

In honor of the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which will introduce a tiny wheeled green droid named D-O, EW has put together an extremely serious and extremely scientific ranking of the best droids in the galaxy. From tiny cameos to starring roles, these are the finest and most memorable droids depicted on the big screen. (A note: We’re limiting this list to the Star Wars films, so our apologies to Chopper from Star Wars Rebels and IG-11 from The Mandalorian.)

(14) WATCH YOUR WALLET. Over the summer, SYFY Wire ranked “The 12 biggest genre box office bombs of all time”.

The movies are ranked by their estimated loss (per BoxOfficeMojo). Where that is given as a range, SYFY Wire has generously used the lower end of the range as the ranking criterion.

Aaaaaand the winner among losers is Mortal Engines, with an estimated loss of $175 million.

(15) SECURITY BREACH. Whose side is Poe on, really? “Star Wars: How did John Boyega’s script end up on eBay?”

It’s one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year, shrouded in secrecy. Yet that didn’t stop the script for the new Star Wars sequel ending up on eBay.

And it was all because Britain’s John Boyega left it under his bed.

Speaking on US TV, Boyega said his Rise of Skywalker script had been found by a cleaner and that it was subsequently offered for sale online “for £65”.

“So the person didn’t know the true value,” he continued, admitting the situation had been “scary”.

“Even Mickey Mouse called me up [saying] ‘what did you do?'” the actor joked – a reference to the Walt Disney Company which now owns the Star Wars franchise.

(16) TIKTOK ACCOUNT RESTORED. BBC reports “TikTok apologises and reinstates banned US teen”.

Chinese-owned social network TikTok has apologised to a US teenager who was blocked from the service after she posted a viral clip criticising China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslims.

The firm said it had now lifted the ban, maintaining it was due to 17-year-old Feroza Aziz’s prior conduct on the app – and unrelated to Chinese politics.

Additionally, the firm said “human moderation error” was to blame for the video being taken down on Thursday for almost an hour.

TIkTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has insisted it does not apply Chinese moderation principles to its product outside of mainland China.

Ms Aziz posted on Twitter that she did not accept the firm’s explanation.

“Do I believe they took it away because of a unrelated satirical video that was deleted on a previous deleted account of mine? Right after I finished posting a three-part video about the Uighurs? No.”

(17) DOG YEARS. “Siberia: 18,000-year-old frozen ‘dog’ stumps scientists” – BBC has the story.

Researchers are trying to determine whether an 18,000-year-old puppy found in Siberia is a dog or a wolf.

The canine – which was two months old when it died – has been remarkably preserved in the permafrost of the Russian region, with its fur, nose and teeth all intact.

DNA sequencing has been unable to determine the species.

Scientists say that could mean the specimen represents an evolutionary link between wolves and modern dogs.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Let’s revisit this 2015 video of a Sasquan GoH showing his musical range.

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren plays Amazing Grace on the bagpipes from the International Space Station.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mlex, Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of Turkey Day, Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/18/19 Timeo Filers Et Dona Pixeles

(1) OUT OF THE BAG. Spies in Disguise just had a “super-secret” drop.

Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is … not. But when events take an unexpected turn, this unlikely duo are forced to team up for the ultimate mission that will require an almost impossible disguise – transforming Lance into the brave, fierce, majestic… pigeon. Walter and Lance suddenly have to work as a team, or the whole world is in peril. “Spies in Disguise” flies into theaters this Christmas.

(2) BOOMER DOOM. John Scalzi speaks sooth in “Reader Request Week 2019 #2: The War Between the Generations”.

…The special sauce of this particular moment of generational conflict is that it involves the Baby Boomers for the first time being the antagonists of the generational story, rather than either the protagonists or the somewhat neutral mainstream. The Boomers are now the older generation and are having a moment being seen as the ossified and inflexible group whose opinion is not worth considering, and they don’t appear to like it at all. There is the (some would say delicious) irony of the generation that famously professed it would never trust anyone over 30 having become the generation that those under 30 allegedly doesn’t trust. I’m pretty sure the Boomers don’t appreciate that irony at all.

(3) ON THE BLOCK. Time Out discusses auctions of collectibles from the Happiest Place on Earth in “A History of Disneyland & Walt Disney World”.

Since first being approached by one man and his collection of Disneyland materials about five years ago, gallery co-founder Mike Van Eaton has become a go-to figure for these auctions. He estimates that he sells about 98% of the stock each auction, so it’s no surprise that prolific collectors and former parks employees keep approaching him to offer relics on consignment. Those relationships are part of how he verifies the pieces’ provenance; he’ll consult with Disney Imagineers to separate the fan-made items from the park-used ones, and he’ll use the plausibility of their backstories to suss out how one It’s a Small World doll is from the Florida version of the ride, while another is clearly from a promotional storefront activation in New York (the use of electric parts instead of pneumatic was the tip-off). Others are more directly verifiable, like when a former county assessor dropped off official plans he’d overseen for the railroad that Walt Disney built in his Holmby Hills backyard.

(4) I’M BAAACK! Hollywood Collectibles will let you have this sweetheart for only $1,599. Easy payment plan available!

This stunning life-size wall display pays homage to the terrifying Alien Queen’s iconic battle with Ripley, in the climatic scenes of Aliens.

(5) ETCHISON MEMORIAL. Dennis Etchison’s memorial marker, “paid for by a long-term friend of his who wishes to remain anonymous,” is now in place at Pierce Brothers, Westwood Village. It’s marker #127 on the ‘Cenotaph’ wall, (quite near the graves of Ray and Maggie Bradbury).

(6) LE GUIN ON UK SCREENS. Another chance to see the BBC4 TV documentary “The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” which also has contributions from Margret Atwood and Neil Gaiman. The link only works in the UK – which will be fine for some of you.

(7) TIMING IS EVERYTHING. ScienceAlert says “NASA Has Detected Weird Orbital Movement From Two of Neptune’s Moons”.

The two moons in question are Naiad and Thalassa, both around 100 kilometres or 62 miles wide, which race around their planet in what NASA researchers are calling a “dance of avoidance”.

Compared with Thalassa, Naiad’s orbit is tilted by about five degrees – it spends half of its time above Thalassa and half of it below, in a linked orbit that’s unlike anything else on record.

“We refer to this repeating pattern as a resonance,” says physicist Marina Brozovic, from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “There are many different types of dances that planets, moons and asteroids can follow, but this one has never been seen before.”

The two small moons’ orbits are only around 1,850 kilometres (1,150 miles) apart, but they are perfectly timed and choreographed to keep avoiding each other. Naiad takes seven hours to circle Neptune, while Thalassa takes seven and a half on the outside track.

(8) INFLUENCER RULES. Pirated Thoughts provides a reader update: “Explaining the FTC’s New Social Media Influencer Sponsorship Disclosure Rules”.

When to Disclose

Influencers must disclose when they have any financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand.  If given free or discounted products, an Influencer is required to disclose this information even if they were not asked to mention that product.  The FTC reminds Influencers that even wearing tags or pins that show favorability towards a company can be considered endorsements of said company.  However, if you simply enjoy a product and want to talk about the product, you are not required to declare that you don’t have a relationship with that brand.  Lastly, even if these posts are made from abroad, U.S. law will still apply if it is reasonably foreseeable that the post will affect U.S. consumers.

(9) BIG TROUBLE. Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes is tuned in for the latest (55 years ago) doctoral thesis: [November 17, 1964] A Continuing Adventure In Space And Time (Doctor Who: Planet Of Giants).

PLANET OF GIANTS

AWOOOGA, AWOOOGA. We’re barely a minute in and already things are going wrong aboard the good ship TARDIS. As the Doctor brings her in to land, the doors start opening by themselves. Fortunately, the companions manage to get them closed and they land safely. Or do they? The Doctor is very agitated about the doors opening, but doesn’t do a good job of explaining what it is that’s bothering him. Something strange is afoot, that’s for sure.

(10) WHO CLUES. Mirror UK is in tune with the series’ more current events: “Doctor Who series 12 release date, cast, episodes, plot for Jodie Whittaker return”. Lots of hints, like this one:

Doctor Who series 12 release date

Doctor Who series 12 is due to air in very early 2020.

However, fans should keep an eye out for something on November 23 2019 , according to a recent BBC teaser.

There have been rumours of a surprise Christmas Special for December 25, 2019, but this will likely air in 2020 instead.

(11) DEEP THOUGHTS ABOUT STAR WARS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Film blogger Darren Mooney has offered some pretty awesome analysis of Star Wars on Twitter. Thread starts here. Some highlights:

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 18, 1928 Steamboat Willie, was released featuring Mickey Mouse.
  • November 18, 1959  — The Incredible Petrified World enjoyed its very first theatrical screening for residents of Burlington, North Carolina.
  • November 18, 1992 Killer Tomatoes Eat France! premiered  in the U.S. home video marketplace.  Written and directed by John De Bello, it starredJohn Astin,  Marc Price and Angela Visser. It rates a surprisingly high 41% over at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 18, 1994 Star Trek Generations premiered. Starring Patrick Stewart and William Shatner, the film did very well but had a decidedly mixed critical reception and the film holds a 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes currently. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 18, 1939 Margaret Atwood, 80. Well there’s that work called The Handmaid’s Tale that garnering a lot of discussion now. There’s the excellent MaddAddam Trilogy which I recommend, and I’ve good things about The Penelopiad.
  • Born November 18, 1946 Alan Dean Foster, 73. There’s fifteen Pip and Flinx novels?!? Well the first five or so were superb. Spellsinger series is tasty too. Can’t say anything about his SW work as I ever got into reading what amounted to authorized fanfic. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Michael Swanwick, 69. I will single out The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and Jack Faust as the novels I remember liking the best. His short fiction superb and I see both Apple Books and Kindle have the most excellent Tales of Old Earth collection with this lovely cover.
  • Born November 18, 1950 Eric Pierpoint, 69. I’d say that he’s best-known for his role as George Francisco on the Alien Nation franchise. He has also appeared on each of the first four Trek spin-offs. And he’s got a very impressive number of genre one-offs which I’m sure y’all will tell me about. 
  • Born November 18, 1952 Doug Fratz. Long-time fan and prolific reviewer for the  New York Review of Science Fiction and Science Fiction Age who also published a number of zines including the superbly titled Alienated Critic. He was nominated for Best Fanzine Hugo four times. Mike has a remembrance of him here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 18, 1953 Alan Moore, 66. His best book is Voice of the Fire. Though the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen very close. Pity about the film. His worse work? The Lost Girls. Shudder. 
  • Born November 18, 1961 Steven Moffat, 58. Showrunner, writer and executive producer of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. His first Doctor Who script was for Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, a charity production that you can find on YouTube and I suggest you go watch now.   He also co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a most excellent animated film. He has deservedly won four Hugo Awards. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield depends on a rare astronomy lesson for a joke.
  • Even one of the character’s is surprised by Garfield’s Asimov reference. 

(15) EFFECTED OR AFFECTED? [Item by Olav Rokne.] On his personal blog, former Guardian SF book reviewer Damien Walter (@damiengwalter) admits that he didn’t read a single novel in 2019 — “I stopped reading novels last year. I think you did too.”

In an essay that gets a bit finger-pointy, he decries the state of novel writing, casts aspersions at NaNoRiMo books, and asks for something new that will “inspire” him. Warning: if you’re anything like me, you might find the piece a bit aggravating. 

If anything killed the magic of the novel, it’s seeing the novel utterly degraded and disrespected by the fevered egos who crank out junk and self publish it on the Kindle. I really wish this didn’t effect how I see the novel, but inevitably, it does.

And mainstream publishing isn’t all that much better. They don’t seem to invest anywhere near enough into developing talented new writers. New writers are published too early, then disappear before they have a chance to develop, which rarely happens before half a dozen lesser novels have been published.

Curious about what the Filers have to say about Walter’s opinion.  

(16) NO CAMERA TRICKS. BBC outlines “How Mary Poppins has changed for the stage”. The scene with the carpetbag is cited as an example of bad camera fakery; now they’re doing it live.

The stage adaptation of Mary Poppins is not the kind of show where the actors can afford to let their concentration lapse.

There are several precise and tricky cues for the cast to hit across the three-hour West End production.

Props have to appear from (or disappear into) thin air. There are magic tricks. Characters dance upside down on the ceiling. There are scenes that involve complex choreography, kite flying and statues coming to life.

It’s a testament to how tightly rehearsed the show is that nothing went wrong at the show’s opening night on Wednesday.

“It does sometimes!” laughs Zizi Strallen, who plays the legendary leading role. “But there are contingency plans, that’s the beauty of live theatre, and it’s my job to cover it up as well if it does go wrong.”

The most complicated part of the show, she says, is a scene which will be familiar to fans of the original 1964 film starring Julie Andrews, where Poppins is seen somehow pulling huge items out of a relatively small handbag.

“Not only am I singing and being Mary Poppins, I’m then essentially doing magic tricks,” Strallen explains, crediting the magic specialist who was hired to teach her. “There’s a magic teapot, bringing a plant out of the bag, a hat stand, a mirror, putting them all on the wall so they don’t fall off.

“There’s a lot of pressure in that number, a lot of things to think about. So my brain is going 100 miles per hour. And then when that number’s done I think ‘right, now I can just have fun’.”

(17) LAWFUL NEUTRAL. FastCompany says local governments are finding ways to keep this from being a purely rhetorical question, despite the FCC: “Should the internet be a public utility? Hundreds of cities are saying yes”.

Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon are free to slow down, block, or prioritize internet traffic as they wish, without interference by the federal government. That’s the effect of an October ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a 2017 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that reversed rules requiring what is called “net neutrality“—treating all internet traffic equally, regardless of where it’s from or what kind of data it is.

Giving corporate telecom giants this power is wildly unpopular among the American people, who know that these companies have overcharged customers and interfered with users’ internet access in the past.

However, people who advocate for an open internet, free of corporate roadblocks, might find solace in another aspect of the court’s ruling: States and local governments may be able to mandate their own net neutrality rules.

The effort is underway

Governors in six states—Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have already signed executive orders enforcing net neutrality by prohibiting state agencies from doing business with internet service providers that limit customers’ online access. Four states have passed their own laws requiring internet companies to treat all online content equally: California, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. A New Hampshire bill is in the works.

More than 100 mayors representing both large urban centers such as San Francisco and small cities such as Edmond, Oklahoma, have pledged not to sign contracts with internet service providers that violate net neutrality.

(18) AVENUE 5. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Three words: Hugh Laurie. HBO. Space cruise. Comedy.

OK, that’s six words.

Gizmodo believes “The Space Cruise Comedy From the Creator of Veep May Become Our New Obsession”.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Sunspring, a Sci-Fi Short Film Starring Thomas Middleditch” on YouTube is a fim from Ars Technica based on a screenplay written by an AI who had digested hundreds of script for sf films and tv shows.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/30/19 Pixels And Gatherings Of Pixels, File Beyond File Without End, The Light

(1) FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND. Vaught Contemporary Ballet once again will perform Dune, The Ballet on November 2 at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park, which is outside Baltimore.

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, is widely recognized as the best selling science fiction novel of all time. It’s exploration of politics, religion, sexism, and ecology against an interstellar backdrop, allows the reader a reflection on the human condition in the modern era. Herbert’s Fremen of Arrakis provide a counterpoint to a culture consumed by avarice – the desire for melange.

Join us as we interpret this classic science fiction story through the art of ballet. Movement will be on full display in its varied definitions as we follow Paul Atreides in his rise to power as both royalty and the prophet of the Fremen.

The Baltimore Sun previewed another performance this summer:

…Katie Vaught of Vaught Contemporary Ballet has choreographed a piece that follows Paul through his many tribulations. It will feature parts of the soundtrack from David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation scored by Toto, as well as tracks from 2013 documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune.” Though it is meant to stand alone as a ballet and to be accessible to anyone, those who have read the novel will understand the plotline clearly and pick up on references to the book.

(2) NEOLOGOS. Slate’s Laura Spinney, in “Tongue Twisters”, shows why “Invented languages—or conlangs—have a scientific and cultural impact far beyond Klingon.”

The recent proliferation of conlangs has been driven by the internet, as resources became more accessible and people who were initially ashamed of a nerdy pastime discovered like-minded others and came together in online communities. That in turn meant that producers of sci-fi movies and TV series knew where to turn when they wanted a now obligatory alien-sounding conlang built, and some conlangers—like David Peterson, the inventor of Game of Thrones’ Dothraki—have turned professional. There is another category of conlangers, however, who couple their love of linguistic creativity with serious scientific investigation.

(3) ROANHORSE WRITES STAR WARS. USA Today talks to the author: “Exclusive excerpt: New ‘Star Wars’ novel rallies the good guys before ‘Rise of Skywalker'”.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” left Rey, Finn, General Leia Organa and the rest of the scrappy, rag-tag Resistance with a win against the evil First Order but far, far away from having a legit army.

The highly anticipated movie “The Rise of Skywalker” (in theaters Dec. 20) promises major battles between good guys and bad, but before that the new novel “Resistance Reborn” (Del Rey Books, out Nov. 5) acts as an important bridge between films. It picks up immediately after “Last Jedi.” Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac in the movies) has been tasked to reunite with his Black Squadron, while Leia is aboard the Millennium Falcon trying desperately to reach their allies.

Writing Leia “was an honor and a gift,” says author Rebecca Roanhorse, adding that the late Carrie Fisher‘s heroine “was really my way into the ‘Star Wars’ universe. Her continued leadership and strength in the face of loss and grief was a great inspiration for understanding not only her character but Poe, Finn and Rey, as well.

“I remember the first time I wrote, ‘Leia said’ or ‘Leia laughed.’ I definitely got a bit choked up. That’s when this fantastic journey all became real.”…

Andrew Liptak provides a thorough rundown about the book at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.: Star Wars: Resistance Reborn Sets the Stage for a Galactic Final Showdown with the First Order”.

While many Expanded Universe novels exist at the edges of the Star Wars galaxy, Resistance Reborn feels like a vital next step in the saga. While the Resistance’s dire position was made patently obvious at the end of The Last Jedi, Roanhorse hammers the point home: the movement is down to its last people, and if they’re found, they’ll be snuffed out completely by the First Order’s stormtroopers. While the odds are certainly against them, the narrative feels like an inherently optimistic one, despite it all. (You know how these rebels react to being told the odds.) It feels particularly pressingly relevant in our world of 2019, a time when mass protests against oppressive governments are raging in the streets of Chile and Hong Kong.

(4) CHARACTER REFERENCE. Deborah J. Ross helps authors understand their wayward characters in “Auntie Deborah’s Autumn Writing Advice Column” at Book View Café.

Dear Auntie Deborah: Help! My characters have gone amok and won’t follow the plot of my book! What can I do to whip them into shape?

— A Frustrated Author

Dear Frustrated: The short (but brutal) answer is that your characters behave the way you created them. Their histories, personalities, goals, and motivations are all part of that creation. So if you — like so many of us! — find your characters resisting the demands of the plot or going off on their own adventures, it’s time to take a step back and delve deeper into what’s on the page and what’s in your creative imagination that isn’t explicit but nonetheless exerts a powerful influence over the character’s behavior….

(5) RAMBO’S VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR. T. Kent Writes hosts today’s stop on the Carpe Glitter blog tour with “10 Things I Have Learned From Writing by Cat Rambo”. Number One is:

If you binge read or watch something, it will seep into the writing you are producing at the moment, which may or may not be a good thing.

 Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo was released by Meerkat Press on October 29.

What do you do when someone else’s past forces itself on your own life? Sorting through the piles left behind by a grandmother who was both a stage magician and a hoarder, Persephone Aim finds a magical artifact from World War II that has shaped her family history. Faced with her mother’s desperate attempt to take the artifact for herself, Persephone must decide whether to hold onto the past—or use it to reshape her future.

(6) JOE HILL. Andrew Liptak interviews “Joe Hill on Full Throttle, Netflix Adaptations, and Working With His Dad” for the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

[AL]: My favorite one so far is “Late Returns”.

[JH]: “Late Returns” is sort of a soft, sentimental fantasy, and I think that’s probably my favorite in the collection too, that and “You Are Released.”

I do think I think you’re right that there’s a wider, wider range of genres. I was actually surprised at how much Bradbury is in the book. I didn’t realize it until I was writing the introduction and going through the stories. But “By the Silver Waters of Lake Champlain” feels a little bit like a rip on Bradbury’s classic tale “The Fog Horn,” about a prehistoric monster falling in love with a lighthouse. “Faun” is about men who go to a farmhouse in Maine who slip through a tiny door and enter a Narnia-like world called Palomino, full of orcs and trolls and fauns. They’ve gone their ton to shoot Fauns and to shoot orcs, and bring home ahead, you know, a trophy head for the wall. That story has a little bit of C.S. Lewis and a little bit of Hemingway in it. But a lot of Bradbury, a lot of “Sound of Thunder.” 

Joe Hill meets Ray Bradbury for the first time at 2009 Comic-Con. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

(7) RIVERS OF LONDON GRAPHIC NOVEL. Titan Comics will release Rivers of London: Action at a Distance, a 112-page graphic novel, on November 13. Authors: Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch; Artists: Brian Williamson, Stefani Renne; Cover artist: Anna Dittmann.

A new story in the bestselling cops-and-wizards series Rivers Of London, from chart-topping author Ben Aaronovitch! Uncover the secret World War II history of Peter Grant’s fan-favorite mentor, the mysterious Nightingale. When a serial killer with strange powers arrives on the streets of London, an old soldier remembers the man who mastered the occult at the height of World War II!

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 30, 1938 — The broadcast of Orson Welles’ radio drama, War of the Worlds, caused a national panic.
  • October 30, 1974 Invasion From Inner Earth premiered. The film, also known as Hell Fire and They, starred Paul Bentzen and Debbi Pick. It has an audience rating of 0% at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 30, 1896 Ruth Gordon. You’ll likely best remember her as Minnie Castevet in Rosemary’s Baby. (Trust me, you don’t need to see Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby.) she’s quite excellent as Cecilia Weiss in The Great Houdini, and that pretty much sums up her genre work save Voyage of the Rock Aliens which keeps giving the giggles. Serious giggles. (Died 1985.)
  • Born October 30, 1923 William Campbell. In “The Squire of Gothos” on Trek, he was Trelane and in “The Trouble With Tribbles”, he played the Klingon Koloth, a role revisited on Deep Space Nine in “Blood Oath”. He had one-offs in the Six-Million Dollar Man, Wild Wild West and The Next Step Beyond. (Died 2011.)
  • Born October 30, 1951 Harry Hamlin. His first role of genre interest was Perseus on Clash of The Titans. He plays himself in Maxie, and briefly shows up in Harper’s Island
  • Born October 30, 1972 Jessica Hynes, 47. Playing Joan Redfern, she shows up on two of the Tenth Doctor stories, “Human Nature” and “ The Family of Blood”. She’d play another character, Verity Newman in a meeting of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, “The End of Time, Part Two”. Her other genre role was as Felia Siderova on Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) in the “Mental Apparition Disorder” and “Drop Dead” episodes.
  • Born October 30, 1980 Sarah Carter, 39. She’s known for her recurring role as Alicia Baker in Smallville, and Maggie in Falling Skies. She was on The Flash in a recurring role as Grace Gibbons who was The Cicada.
  • Born October 30, 1981 Fiona Dourif, 37. Her longest running SFF role is as Bart Curlish in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. She’s played Nica Pierce in two of the Chucky horror films, and she’s Good Leader Tavis on The Purge, an ongoing horror series.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) FRIGHTENING IN ANY CASE. CrimeReads’ Zach Vasquez picks “20 Essential Films That Blur the Line Between Horror and Noir”.

Targets (1968)

In his debut feature (made for Roger Corman’s American International Pictures), Peter Bogdanovich brilliantly cast Boris Karloff (who owed Corman two days of shooting from a previous project) as a worn-out horror film icon only a few steps removed from his real life persona. He then split the narrative with a seemingly unrelated story about a clean-cut young man (inspired by real life mass murderer Charles Whitman) who randomly embarks upon a mass shooting spree. Eventually, the dual narratives do intersect, resulting in a profoundly disturbing statement about the nature of idealized horror versus the banality of the real thing. In the decades since, Targets has grown even more prescient and unnerving.

(12) WHAT JOKER MASK SIGNIFIES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] CNN is reporting that “Some Hong Kong protesters are adopting the Joker as their own. Others are horrified”.

Halloween is just days away — and with “Joker” smashing box-office records, it seems inevitable that throngs of film fans will dress as killer clowns for the festivities that await.

But in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy, anti-government protests have stretched on for four months, the mask of the Joker holds greater weight — and reveals a divide between some protesters who see themselves reflected in him, and others who are horrified at the comparison.

[…] Viewers on social media point out that both Gotham and Hong Kong are home to groups of discontented people who feel abandoned by their government and a rich elite. In the movie, Gotham citizens and police officers fight in a subway station, an eerie echo of such scuffles in Hong Kong’s own stations. At the end of the film, rioters vandalize parts of the city, with what appears to be smoke or gas drifting through the air — similar to the tear gas, graffiti and smashed glass that have become routine in Hong Kong.

[…] Despite their best efforts, however, these Joker fans are not making headway within the protest movement — rather, many more are trying to distance themselves from the film. Posts that draw these comparisons are often heavily downvoted, with comments urging the community not to aspire towards the Joker.

[…] “Please don’t make the Joker into a leader of the resistance,” the post read. “(The movie) is really good. But at this moment, it is dangerous, and the danger lies in the fact that people may interpret it intentionally or unintentionally into the current situation in Hong Kong.”

(13) TALKING ANIMALS. Chelsea Eckert’s post “On Writing Anthropomorphic Animal Characters (For Adults)” includes this advice:

…Unless you’re specifically looking to write an allegory, you have to actively avoid making your species and characters allegorical or symbols or stand-ins for something. It’s rather patronizing at best and can get offensive at worst. (FYI, we’re not dealing with allegory in this post.)

(14) MILESTONE. Right on schedule…

(15) GETTING READY FOR THE HOLIDAY. Jeff VanderMeer is crowdsourcing costume ideas.

(16) HALLOWEEN DÉCOR. Lots of pictures in BBC’s post “Day of the Dead: Giant skeleton ‘crawls out’ of Mexico street”.

A giant skeleton has “emerged” from a street in the Tlahuac neighbourhood of Mexico City.

Much to the delight of local children, the sculpture has been placed in the city street ahead of the Day of the Dead celebrations on 1 and 2 November.

(17) DO YOU GET THESE REFERENCES? Seventeen has collected “27 Best Harry Potter Costume Ideas That Only True Fans Will Get”.

Now, you’ve probably already dressed as Harry, Ron, and/or Hermione for at least one Halloween celebration, so it’s time to really up your fandom game. As a lifelong Potterhead and Seventeen‘s official HP expert, I am uniquely qualified to help you on this magical Halloween-related journey.  

View this post on Instagram

Riddikulus! #boggart #snape #harrypotterhalloween

A post shared by Matt Roeser (@mattroeser) on

(18) INSIDE AND TRYING TO GET OUT. Buzzfeed invites you to take the quiz: “Everyone Has A Stephen King Character Who Matches Their Personality — Here’s Yours”. Mine is – Carrie.

On the outside, you’re an absolute introvert, but when people get to know you, they realize there’s some ~fire~ in there.

(19) ANCESTRAL HOME. BBC reports “Origin of modern humans ‘traced to Botswana'”.

Scientists have pinpointed the homeland of all humans alive today to a region south of the Zambezi River.

The area is now dominated by salt pans, but was once home to an enormous lake, which may have been our ancestral heartland 200,000 years ago.

Our ancestors settled for 70,000 years, until the local climate changed, researchers have proposed.

They began to move on as fertile green corridors opened up, paving the way for future migrations out of Africa.

“It has been clear for some time that anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago,” said Prof Vanessa Hayes, a geneticist at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia.

“What has been long debated is the exact location of this emergence and subsequent dispersal of our earliest ancestors.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/27/19 We Keep Scrollin’ Most Of Our Lives, Filing In A Pixel’s Paradise

(1) A DRAGON POET. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings contemplates “Ursula K. Le Guin’s Playful and Profound Letter-Poem to Children About the Power of Books and Why We Read”.

…Most dragons don’t know how to read. They hiss and fume and guard their hoard. A tasty knight is what they need
For dinner (they spit out the sword),
Then go to sleep on heaps of treasure. They’ve no use for the written word….

(2) CLOUDY, WITH A CHANCE OF GENRE. Last night on Saturday Night Live there were three sketches with fantasy in them:

  • Spooky Song is about a ghost who really doesn’t want to explain the tasteless way in which he died.
  • Space Mistakes shows what happens when you make mistakes in space.
  • Dance Rehearsal asks, “What happens if you’re taking a dance class and your instructor is a werewolf?”

(3) ‘BOT AND SOULED. The LA Review of Books’ Patrick House considers the writing of robots in “I, Language Robot”.

I was hired to write short fiction at OpenAI, a San Francisco–based artificial intelligence research lab. I would be working alongside an internal version of the so-called ‘language bot’ that produces style-matched prose to any written prompt it’s fed. The loss that I feared was not that the robot would be good at writing — it is, it will be — nor that I would be comparatively less so, but rather that the metabolites of language, which give rise to the incomparable joys of fiction, story, and thought, could be reduced to something merely computable.

(4) PULLMAN’S RETORT. The author’s post appeared atLit Hub on October 8 and the link has made the rounds, but still may be news to some of us: “Philip Pullman on Children’s Literature and the Critics Who Disdain It”.

…The model of growth that seems to lie behind that attitude—the idea that such critics have of what it’s like to grow up—must be  a linear one; they must think that we grow up by moving along a sort of timeline, like a monkey climbing a stick. It makes more sense to me to think of the movement from childhood to adulthood not as a movement along but as a movement outwards, to include more things. C. S. Lewis, who when he wasn’t writing novels had some very sensible things to say about books and reading, made the same point when he said in his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”: “I now like hock, which I am sure I should not have liked as a child. But I still like lemon-squash. I call this growth or development because I have been enriched: where I formerly had only one pleasure, I now have two.”

But the guards on the border won’t have any of that. They are very fierce and stern. They strut up and down with a fine contempt, curling their lips and consulting their clipboards and snapping out orders. They’ve got a lot to do, because at the moment this is an area of great international tension. These days a lot of adults are talking about children’s books. Sometimes they do so in order to deplore the fact that so many other adults are reading them, and are obviously becoming infantilized, because of course children’s books—I quote from a recent article in The Independent—“cannot hope to come close to truths about moral, sexual, social or political” matters. Whereas in even the “flimsiest of science fiction or the nastiest of horror stories . . . there is an understanding of complex human psychologies,” “there is no such psychological understanding in children’s novels,” and furthermore “there are nice clean white lines painted between the good guys and the evil ones” (wrote Jonathan Myerson in The Independent, 14 November 2001).

(5) GOALS AND PURPOSES. Robert J. Sawyer draws the title of his article in the July edition of Galaxy’s Edge, “What SFWA Was Supposed to Be”, from the contrast he perceives between founder Damon Knight’s stated purpose for the organization and the SFWA mission statement of 2018.

…Of course, times change; of course, publishing is different now than it was then. But in the thirty-six years I’ve been a member of SFWA, I’ve seen—and, indeed, foreseen—all the changes that people are talking about now and more (I was writing in 1998 as SFWA president about “the post-publisher economy”).

For instance, it used to be that giant print runs were required to get economical per-copy pricing; that’s no longer true. It used to be there were many thousands of bookstore accounts for publishers to service in North America; sadly, that’s no longer true. It used to be that audiobooks were only made in eviscerated abridgments and only of the biggest print sellers; wonderfully, that’s no longer true. And it used to be that the only effective way to publish a book was on paper. That’s no longer true, either (and I’ve got a bunch of my own older titles out in self-published e-book editions).

Whatever you might think of these changes, every single one of them came with enormous cost savings for publishers, but no portion of that was ever passed on to the authors. I remember at one convention this decade hearing the late David G. Hartwell brag that Tor, the publisher he worked for, had just had its best year ever, while one of his authors—with Hugos galore—confided to me that he didn’t know how he was going to heat his house that coming winter.

Among the most egregious things that have happened during my career: literary agents going from ten-percent commissions to a fifteen percent; publishers locking in a 3:1 split of e-book royalties—three dollars for them to every one for the writer; and publishers using print-on-demand and the mere notional existence of an e-book edition to keep from reverting rights to authors for titles the publisher is no longer promoting or selling in any meaningful quantity. SFWA rolled over on every one of these.

But never let it be said that SFWA is without achievements. They recently—and I’m not making this up—produced an official SFWA secret decoder ring. I didn’t pony up to get one; I doubt Damon Knight would have wanted such a thing, either.

(6) CHAPMAN OBIT. Scholar and regular attendee of the International Conference on the Fantastic Arts Edgar Chapman (1936-2019), a Professor Emeritus in the English Department at Bradley University, died October 11 at the age of 83. He authored numerous articles and books including The Magic Labyrinth of Philip Jose Farmer (1984) and The Road to Castle Mount: The Science Fiction of Robert Silverberg (1999). He also co-edited Classic and Iconoclastic Alternate History Science Fiction (2003).

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Don’t tell Harlan but Ray Bradbury gets credit for Terminator first.  Ray was on the Oscar nominating committee for documentaries, in 1977.  The next screening for the committee was listed as a muscle building movie, Pumping Iron.  Without even screening it the committee basically said NEXT.  Ray spoke up and said they had to screen it because his brother, Skip, was a body builder and worked out on Venice’s Muscle Beach.  After watching the documentary it was nominated.  Making the career for Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Heck, we got Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, too. [Source: John King Tarpinian.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 27, 1967 Star Trek’s “Catspaw” was first aired. Written by Robert Bloch who said it was based on his 1957 story, “Broomstick Ride” published in Super Science Fiction. It was their Halloween episode.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 27, 1922 Ruby Dee. Her first genre role is in Cat People. No name there but she has the wonderful name of Mother Abagail Freemantle in The Stand series. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 27, 1937 Steve Sandor. He made his first genre appearance on Trek playing Lars in the second season episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion”. He also did one-offs on Knight Rider, Fantasy Island and The Six-Million Dollar Man. He did a choice bit of horror in The Ninth Configuration. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1938 Lara Parker, 80. Best known for her role as Angelique on Dark Shadows which aired from 1966 to 1971. She also played Laura Banner in The Incredible Hulk pilot, and Madelaine in the Kolchak: The Night Stalker “The Trevi Collection” episode. And she was on Galactica 1980 in “The Night The Cylons Landed” two-parter. 
  • Born October 27, 1939 John Cleese, 80. Monty Python of course, but also Time BanditsMary Shelley’s Frankenstein, two Bond films as Q and even two Harry Potter films as Nearly Headless Nick. He’s definitely deep into genre film roles. And let’s not forget he shows up as an art lover on the “City of Death” story, a Fourth Doctor story.
  • Born October 27, 1948 Bernie Wrightson. Artist with who with writer Len Wein, he’s known for co-creating Swamp Thing. He did a lot of illustrations from Cemetery Dance magazine to Stephen King graphic novels to DC and Marvel comic. Ell me what you liked about his work. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1953 Robert Picardo, 66. He debuted in genre as Eddie Quist, the serial killer werewolf in The Howling. He’d be in Dante’s Explorers, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Small Soldiers and Innerspace. And then of course he played the role of the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) on Voyager. And even managed to show on on Stargate SG-1. Busy performer! 
  • Born October 27, 1963 Deborah Moore, 56. English actress and the daughter of actor Roger Moore and Italian actress Luisa Mattioli. She’s an Air Hostess in Die Another Day, a Pierce Brosnan Bond film. And she was a secretary in Goldeneye: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. Her very first role was as Princess Sheela in Warriors of the Apocalypse.
  • Born October 27, 1970 Jonathan Stroud, 49. His djinn-centered Bartimaeus series is most excellent. Though considered children’s novels, I think anyone would enjoy them. I’ve also read the first two in his Lockwood & Co. series as well — very well done. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe finds out why a character is not a Tolkien fan.
  • How To Cat hears Zarathustra speaking, if you know what I mean.

(11) PREFERRED HORROR. At IndieWire, “Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro, and 30 More Directors Pick Favorite Horror Movies”.

Quentin Tarantino, on “Audition”

Takashi Miike’s 1999 horror movie “Audition” is often cited as one of the most disturbing films ever made. Ryo Ishibashi stars as a widow named Shigeharu Aoyama who stages auditions for men in hopes of meeting a new husband or life partner. Aoyama falls for Asami (Eihi Shiina), but her dark past has unexpected and brutal consequences. Tarantino called the movie one of his favorites since he’s been a director, referring to it as a “true masterpiece” in a 2009 interview.

 (12) DIRECTOR TO VIDEO. “Fan Video Imagines Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in STAR TREK”Nerdist tell you where to find this micro-epic.

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, a.k.a. “the 9th film from Quentin Tarantino,” made quite the splash upon release when it hit theaters this past summer. It had all of Tarantino’s signature trademarks — a couple of cranky male leads, excessive violence, and a rockin’ retro soundtrack. And it’s left QT fans salivating for whatever his 10th (and possibly final?) movie will be. Rumors abound that it could in fact be a Star Trek film. Leading many fans to ponder just what the heck a “Pulp Fiction-esque Star Trek” movie would even look like.

Well, one fan has combined the well known Quentin Tarantino sensibilities and aesthetics with some old school Star Trek footage, and the result is “Once Upon a Time in Star Trek.”

(13) A TREE GROWS IN ANAHEIM. The Orange County (CA) Register makes sure all the locals know: “History & Heritage: The Legend of the Halloween Tree “.

…Bradbury’s novel “The Halloween Tree” tells the story of a group of trick-or-treaters who learn about the origins of Halloween while on an adventure to find their missing friend. Bradbury dreamed of having a Halloween Tree at Disneyland park, and on the 35th anniversary of the novel, his dream was brought to life.

“I belong here in Disneyland, ever since I came here 50 years ago. I’m glad I’m going to be a permanent part of the spirit of Halloween at Disneyland,” the author said at the tree’s dedication. Bradbury would visit the tree before he passed away in 2012.

Today, the Halloween Tree delights guests of all ages and honors Bradbury’s many contributions to Disney. A plaque at the base of the tree commemorates the night of its dedication: “On the night of Halloween 2007, this stately oak officially became ‘The Halloween Tree,’ realizing famed author Ray Bradbury’s dream of having his symbol for the holiday become a part of Disneyland.”

(14) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. CNN finds the way to Sesame Street: “The entrance to this Pennsylvania house is monstrous. Cookie monstrous”.

In the words of Cookie Monster: “Home is where heart is. Heart where cookie is. Math clear: Home is cookie.”

For a Pennsylvania homeowner, Cookie Monster’s logic sounds just about right.

Lisa Boll from York County turned the entrance of her house into Cookie Monster. Literally.

(15) WATCHMEN. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt profiles Regina King, who plays Sister Night in Watchmen.  Betancourt discusses King’s background with showrunner Damon Lindelof and how she signed on  to the part because of Watchmen’s anti-racist themes. “‘Watchmen’ gives Regina King her first superhero role — and takes a bold look at race relations in 2019”.

Showrunner Damon Lindelof was planning to give the “Watchmen” story quite a twist — so he told King to use her unfamiliarity to her advantage. It’s a different approach compared with many actors who land superhero roles and are immediately handed a stack of comics.

“He didn’t want me to confuse how he saw this world,” said King, who worked with Lindelof on HBO’s “The Leftovers.” “He was right.”

“Because I did watch the film after [filming the pilot], and I would have been confused,” she added. “They stand on their own. They don’t even feel related to me in any way. Which I think is a great thing. I think that’s the beauty of Damon making the choice of using the [comics] as canon instead of trying to duplicate, from my understanding, something that was already great.”

(16) HEAVY LIES THE HEAD. Io9’s James Whitbrook says afterwards he was ready for Jedi chiropractic — “I Wore Hasbro’s Ridiculous New Star Wars Replica Helmet for a Day, and All I Got Was Some Neck Ache”.

One of the more expensive offerings Hasbro had for this year’s Triple Force Friday extravaganza was the latest helmet in its Star Wars: The Black Series line of “roleplay” items. Joining a line that already had everything from Darth Vader’s helmet to more Stormtrooper variants than you can shake an Incinerator Trooper at, the Luke Skywalker X-Wing Battle Simulation Helmet is a 1:1 replica of the same helmet worn by everyone’s favorite Rebel-turned-Jedi-turned-Milk-Swigging-Curmudgeon in both A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

Packed with lights and sounds to replicate Luke’s experiences at the battles of Yavin and Hoth, the main draw is it’s…well, a Star Wars helmet you can put on your head.

(17) NO REMATCH! Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: Simon Pegg on the existential terror of zombies and whether Chris Martin really cameos in ‘Shaun of the Dead'”, has an interview with Simon Pegg on the 15th anniversary of Shaun of the Dead where he reveals that Coldplay’s Chris Martin is not in the film and there will never be a sequel to Shaun of the Dead because “it’s a complete story:  it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.”

1. There’s a reason slow-moving zombies are terrifying.

When Romero was making his pioneering zombie favorites, the walking dead only moved at a slow and steady pace. But by the time that Wright, Pegg and Frost were making Shaun, zombies had acquired frightening busts of speed in films like 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. Previously a zombie originalist, Pegg now says that’s he’s come around on their lightning-quick descendants. “I’m not the purist I used to be — I’ve seen fast-zombie things that I’ve enjoyed,” the actor says, pointing to the 2016 South Korean cult favorite Train to Busan. But there was never a world in which Shaun would have made the switch, and not just because they were trying to remain true to Romero’s vision. Pegg argues that quicker creatures would have undermined the dramatic metaphor of a person — and entire society — caught in the grip of stagnation, which runs beneath the movie’s comedy. “There’s something incredibly creepy about the shambling dead. They’re more of an effective metaphor for death when they just sort of come slowly. That’s what death is — death doesn’t always just run at you.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/19 A Møøse Once Bit My Pixel

(1) MORE MCU DEFENDERS, ER, AVENGERS SPEAK OUT. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “The Avengers Respond To Marvel Movie Critics.”

You’re right, Hulk. The “Godfather” films do glorify violence.

(2) HELP IS ON THE WAY. S.L. Huang’s Ask an Author post “Cancelling Contracts and Norms in Publishing” does a full-spectrum post about contract cancellation – its infrequency, significance, how it can be handled badly, how a publisher ought to handle it, and what an author can do.

What makes cancellations worse:

There are two interrelated problems when a publisher has to suddenly cancel multiple contracts. The first is biting off more than they could chew as a press, which obviously isn’t ideal and can be a worrying comment on the state of their business, but it can happen without ill intent. But the second is how the publisher handles it.

Here are some things that can escalate a cancellation from unfortunate to disturbingly unprofessional: …

What a publisher should do in a situation like this:

Clarity. Communication. Transparency. Exploring any possible avenues before taking a route so extreme. If there are no other options, then: Apology, honest dialogue, taking responsibility, an immediate reversion of rights, an admission of the disservice they’ve done to the authors.

Ideally, a kill fee would be offered.

S&%t happens in publishing. How we treat people when it does is important. And yes, this is a business — but businesses have ethics, and norms, and professionalism. Contracts should be treated as if they mean something.

(3) TRICK OR TRICK. Former Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton clues in the Washington Post about “The frightening history of Halloween haunted houses”.

It is unclear why exactly the pranks got so bad. Irish immigrants had carried over the Halloween tradition of pranking to the United States, but they had been pretty innocent. One of the most popular was to disassemble a neighbor’s front gate and reassemble it on top of a building. That one was so common that some people called Halloween “Gate Night.”But by the 1920s and ?30s, teenage boys had co-opted the pranking tradition, and they were on a Halloween warpath. They broke streetlights. They started fires. They tied wires across sidewalks to trip people….

“They were costing cities millions of dollars even in the early ’30s,” said Lisa Morton, author of “Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween,” in an interview with The Post. “There were a lot of cities that were really considering banning the holiday at that point. It was really, really intense.”

Parents and civil groups needed a solution. A distraction. Or a bribe.

And from this cauldron of parental panic, they pulled out an idea that, to this day, is part of what defines American Halloween.

They thought to throw the kids a party, but “because this was the Great Depression, a lot of people didn’t have the money … so one of the first things they did was called ‘house-to-house parties.’”

And the Guardian’s PD Smith devotes an article to Morton’s book in “Trick or Treat by Lisa Morton review – a history of Halloween”.  

(4) ALL OF HISTORY AND MORE Rudy Rucker’s book review “Two Dimensional Time and Annalee Newitz’s 2nd Novel” incorporates a detailed study of the genre’s different approaches to time travel – a virtual candy store of ideas.

The Newitz Option: Two Dimensional Time

Newitz takes an approach to the time paradoxes that’s kind of strange. She allows time travel and timeline editing. But she insists that there’s only one timeline. No parallel timelines, no branching timelines. Just our one timeline: “Our only timeline, whose natural stability emerged from perpetual revision.”

So, somehow, when you travel back in time, you alter the timeline..for everyone. But you yourself remember how it was before the change. This might be viewed as hopping to a different timestream, but Newitz doesn’t want that. She wants to have just one timestream. But the timestream is changing.

(5) FUTURE TENSE. Slate’s latest Future Tense story is Cory Doctorow’s “Affordances”, about how technical restrictions start with powerless people before coming for us all.

…Ninety-Two’s work in Building 34 was as an exceptions—catcher for a Re-Cog facial recognition product. All around the world, millions of people stepped in front of cameras and made a neutral face and waited: for their office door to unlock, for the lift to be summoned, for the gates at the airport to swing open. When the camera couldn’t figure out their face, it asked them to try again, and again, and again. Then it threw an exception, and 92, or someone else in Building 34, got a live view of the feed and tapped an icon: NO-FACE (for anything that wasn’t a face, like a picture of a face, or a balloon, or, one time, a pigeon); BAD SCENE (poor lighting, dirt on the lens); CRIME (once, a decapitated man’s head; once, an unconscious woman; once, a woman in terror, a hand in her hair); and OTHER (for suspected malfunctions).

Nettrice Gaskins, an artist-educator who collaborates with A.I., wrote the response essay “Not Just a Number”.

In “Affordances,” we see various forms of intelligence agents erase people’s names and identities, particularly those who are held back by and are fighting societal barriers. These people are reduced to numbers, to maps of their faces, to their risk scores. Facial recognition software identifies protesters and otherwise serves as a technological gatekeeper. Online filters flag or block video footage of migrants, and racially biased algorithms determine whether alleged perpetrators are taken into custody or released. In our world, the power of Facebook, Google, and other technology companies is so immense that it can feel futile to push back against them, especially for marginalized groups. But that sense of helplessness can also enable a dangerous complacency. It is exactly because these companies are so powerful that we need people to interrogate their work and challenge it….

(6) A BIG SQUEEZE FOR MAKING LEMONADE. James Davis Nicoll shows Tor.com readers “Five Ways To Benefit If Planet 9 Turns Out To Be a Black Hole”.

Finding a five-Earth-mass, ten-centimetre-diameter, 0.004 Kelvin object somewhere in the outer boroughs of the Solar System should be easy—I’m sure that some grad student or professor angling for tenure is hard at work right now! But what would be the use to the rest of us of a five-Earth-mass, ten-centimetre-diameter, 0.004 Kelvin primordial black hole (PBH) orbiting somewhere in the outer boroughs of the Solar System?

OK, sure: if it’s there, it offers us the chance to do some wonderful science; we’d be able to run experiments in regions of intense gravity. But people in general don’t seem to care all that much about pure science. So, what applied applications are there?

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Ray Bradbury did not like the ending of It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! because the Great Pumpkin did not appear.  Chuck Jones was a friend of Ray’s and he did not like the ending either.  Together they wrote a script about Halloween.  They could not sell it to any studio.  So, Ray turned the script into his book, The Halloween Tree.  The book was successful enough, it has never gone out of print, and it was finally sold as a half-hour animation special, which won an Emmy in 1994.  The lead character was voiced by Leonard Nimoy. [Source: John King Tarpinian.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 26, 1984 — Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron’s The Terminator premiered. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, it was received well by reviewers and audience alike with the notable exception of Ellison who noted successfully that the screenplay was based on a short story and the “Soldier” episode of The Outer Limits he had written. 
  • October 26, 1984  — V finally premiered as a regular weekly series  with “Liberation Day”. There were two previous miniseries.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 26, 1945 Jane Chance, 74.Scholar specializing in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter such as Tolkien’s Art: A “Mythology for EnglandTolkien the MedievalistThe Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 65. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells that tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 59. He’s Redgick, a Squid, a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quellek, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. it’s a wonderful role. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 57. He’s in The Princess Bride as as Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts/The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw film franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things.
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 56. Some of the best Who stories aren’t televised but written. The Hollow Men, his Seventh Doctor novel, is damn good and riffs off a Fifth Doctor story. He’s also written guides to that show plus The Avengers, Trek, Buffy and the X-Files.
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 48. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his Cinder Spires series which sounds intriguing? 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Anthony Rapp, 48. Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets on Discovery. His first role ever was Wes Hansen in Sky High, showed up early in his career as Jeff Glaser in the “Detour” episode of X-Files. He was Seymour Krelbourn in a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 46. Ok, I confess that I tried watching the Orville which he created and is in and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? Having it described as trying to be a better Trek I admit ain’t helping.

(10) GO AWAY OR I SHALL TAUNT YOU SOME MORE. Myke Cole and Sam Sykes got into it again.  Thread starts here (I hope).

And on the sidelines…

(11) THE FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart previews The Full Lid 25th October 2019.

Here’s the opening paragraph from the entry about Clipping.

Clipping are one of the most interesting musical acts on the planet right now. Jonathan Snipes, William Hutson and Daveed Diggs don’t so much embody modern hiphop as surround it. Diggs, best known of course as everybody’s favorite fighting Frenchman, is the crispest MC on Earth, No syllable escapes his sight, no word or metaphor gets free from the specific gravity of his boundless, graceful flow. This is a man who dances with the words, building structures and meaning, narrative and plot out of them and demolishing it just as easily. Snipes and Hutson in the meantime, excel at building audio landscapes for Diggs to bound across and occasionally be pursued through.Vast walls of noise, found audio, field recordings, structural jokes and aural wit. It’s all here and all at the control of these three flat out musical geniuses. And, in There Existed An Addiction to Blood, they’ve produced another genre adjacent work which is both completely in line with their previous work and sees them evolve once again.

(12) GREAT LEAP FORWARD. According to Forbes, “The UK’s First Moon Rover Will Be A Tiny Jumping Spider In 2021”.

Spacebit, a U.K.-based startup, has announced details of its planned lunar mission in 2021 – revealing a spider-shaped rover that will scuttle across the lunar surface.

As we first revealed last month, Spacebit has a contract with U.S. firm Astrobotic to hitch a ride on their Peregrine lunar lander. Originally part of the canceled Google Lunar XPRIZE, this private endeavor will now attempt to reach the Moon after launching on a Vulcan rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida in late 2021.

(13) WORTHY OF A MUSEUM. Behind a paywall In the October 21 Financial Times, Tom Faber profiles Jenova Chen, whose moody and artistic games have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Chen studied computer programming before moving to California to enrol at the University of Southern California.  It was there that he made Cloud, a game inspired by periods he spent hospitalised as an asthmatic child. Players are cast as a boy who daydreams about flying out of his hospital window and manoeuvering clouds to combat pollution.  For Chen it was wish-fulfillment.  In Shanghai there’s a lot of pollution, but during my childhood everyone said it was mist,’ he says.  ‘I think making the game I was subconsciously trying to clean the city and the air.’

It was an unusual game, with no scores, violence or competition. Still, it went viral, crashing the university servers with more than 600,000 downloads.  Chen received messages from fans all over the world.  ‘They told me they cried while playing, I think because of the deep desire to feel free.  People need to know gaming is not just about guns, soccer, and competition,’ he says.  ‘It can be something healing and positive.’

(14) VARIATIONS ON A THEME. The South China Morning Post tells readers “What cosplay is like in China, where home-grown heroes thrive, ‘play’ is emphasised and it’s not all about copying”

…Having characters that look Chinese matters, especially when the cosplay industry is obsessed with exactly replicating fictional characters, but the irony of cosplay in China is that it is less about copying and more about interpretation. According to Wang Kanzhi’s research for a master’s programme in East Asian Studies at Lund University in Sweden, cosplay in China is more open to interpretation because the “Great Firewall” has isolated the community from not only other cosers but also original source materials.

“Due to the different understanding of the original pieces, local cosplayers tend to add their own ideas and points of view into the activity, which obviously changes the original characters,” Wang says. “In other words, the local cosplayers do not only duplicate fictional characters, but add their own creative points to the original form and content.”

(15) LIGHTEN UP. NPR’s Mark Jenkins reports that “‘The Current War: Director’s Cut’ Shines At Low But Steady Wattage”.

Electricity’s domestication is a triumph of American ingenuity. But The Current War, despite depicting the likes of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, doesn’t feel very American at all. That’s probably one of the reasons the movie was received with so little enthusiasm when it debuted at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival. (Another problem is that the film was then a product of the Weinstein Co., which collapsed soon after.)

As its subtitle announces, The Current War: Director’s Cut is the not the same movie that nearly succumbed to critical disdain more than two years ago. For those of us who didn’t see the original, ascertaining any improvement is impossible. But the latest version is not bad at all. It’s just sort of odd.

Of the three central characters, only Westinghouse is played by an American, Michael Shannon. As Edison, Benedict Cumberbatch employs an accent that is, well, not British. Nicholas Hoult’s Nikola Tesla speaks in an indeterminate Eastern European mode that can be heard, symbolically at least, as true to his Austro-Serbian-Croatian origins.

The movie doesn’t mention that Tesla had worked for an Edison-affiliated company in Paris before was he encouraged to move to the U.S. In this telling, he’s hired on a whim by the Wizard of Menlo Park, who’s eager to light American cities with his newly perfected bulbs, powered by direct current.

Edison’s nemesis is Westinghouse, who promotes alternating current — cheaper and more versatile but potentially deadly. The two men are competing for the same prize: a contract to illuminate Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, a full 13 years after the film’s event-packed story begins. Edison wants to win so badly that he’s prepared to electrocute large animals to demonstrate AC’s dangers.

(16) GAMER STRIKES BACK. Not exactly man bites dog: “Gamer buys Fallout 76 add-on domain to criticise Bethesda”.

What would you do if a company did something you didn’t like?

Some people would take to social media to voice their frustrations. Others might consider writing a letter to the business.

But when game developer Bethesda introduced a new subscription to their online game Fallout 76, David Chapman felt he had to do something with more impact.

He made a website.

And not just any website – he pinched the domain from right under the developer’s nose, so anyone looking for information about the subscription would instead be greeted with his critique.

“My motivation stems from a frustration with Bethesda,” he told the BBC. “And in general the current trend of the gaming industry.”

He added: “They said players had been asking for this – players never asked to pay a subscription for features hidden behind a pay wall.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me make this website.”

Wait, what did Bethesda do?

Bethesda Softworks developed and published post-apocalyptic game Fallout 76.

It is an online-only game, meaning that gamers must be connected to the internet to play, and will see other people they don’t know while they’re playing.

There is no monthly cost to play online, but in a sense this is about to change.

Now players will be offered additional features which affect the gameplay, such as the ability to play without strangers or store as many items as they like, for the annual price of £99.99.

The new service, called Fallout 1st, has angered gamers who point out Bethesda promised not to charge for additional features in the past.

(17) THE ADLER SANCTION. “Migrating Russian eagles run up huge data roaming charges”.

Russian scientists tracking migrating eagles ran out of money after some of the birds flew to Iran and Pakistan and their SMS transmitters drew huge data roaming charges.

After learning of the team’s dilemma, Russian mobile phone operator Megafon offered to cancel the debt and put the project on a special, cheaper tariff.

The team had started crowdfunding on social media to pay off the bills.

The birds left from southern Russia and Kazakhstan.

The journey of one steppe eagle, called Min, was particularly expensive, as it flew to Iran from Kazakhstan.

Min accumulated SMS messages to send during the summer in Kazakhstan, but it was out of range of the mobile network. Unexpectedly the eagle flew straight to Iran, where it sent the huge backlog of messages.

The price per SMS in Kazakhstan was about 15 roubles (18p; 30 US cents), but each SMS from Iran cost 49 roubles. Min used up the entire tracking budget meant for all the eagles.

…The SMS messages deliver the birds’ coordinates as they migrate, and the team then use satellite photos to see if the birds have reached safe locations. Power lines are a particular threat for the steppe eagles, which are endangered in Russia and Central Asia.

(18) TASTES LIKE CHICKEN. All That’s Interesting invites you to “Be One Of The First In History To Witness A Supermassive Black Hole Destroy A Star”.

Have you ever wondered what a star looks like as it’s ripped apart by a supermassive black hole? Probably not. But thanks to the diligent eyes at NASA and Ohio State University, you don’t have to wonder, you can see it for yourself.

According to local Ohio radio station WOSU, a NASA satellite and a network of robotic telescopes known as the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae — or ASAS-SN for short — located at the university captured the cosmic battle for the first time on film.

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

Never Enough Bradbury

Four links for those who love Ray Bradbury.

RAY ON THE RADIO. BBC Radio 4 has started replaying “Ray Bradbury’s Tales of the Bizarre”, first aired in 1995. Episode 1 is “Night Call Collect”. Bradbury himself voices the introduction.

Marooned accidentally on Mars, telephone engineer Barton waits for the rescue rocket and goes on putting up the phone lines. Then one morning – on his 80th birthday – the phone rings.

IN MEMORY YET GREEN TOWN. Sean Anderson’s film “Green Town: A Tribute to Ray Bradbury” glides through the town of Waukegan, where Ray spent his formative years, and which inspired several of his novels, including Dandelion Wine.

CONTINUING IMPACT. Bradbury is an influence, she says: “Author Alice Hoffman tells World War II story in fairy tale form” at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Q: Many of your female characters from previous books have intuitive and magical powers. Was there someone in your life who influenced that belief or idea in you, and do you see it in yourself?

A: I think that more comes from my reading, especially my reading as a child because I was a big reader of fairy tales, folk tales and mythology. And my grandmother told me my first story. She was Russian, and everything she told me seemed like a fairy tale, so I think it comes more from my reading than from my real life.

Q: I read that Ray Bradbury was a big influence on you, too. Is that correct?

A: He was a huge influence, as he was on so many writers and so many people. He was such a great writer. And it’s going to be his 100th birthday. It’s going to be celebrated. And he was just a big fan of the library, and I just feel like you can read him at any time of your life — but I feel like if you read him when you’re 12 or 13, you can really change your life.

ROCKET MAN. In this 2002 article, Michael Chabon told the Washington Post how a Bradbury story changed his way of looking at the world: “Eminent writers, editors and critics choose some favorite works of fantasy and science fiction.”

The most important short story in my life as a writer is Ray Bradbury’s “The Rocket Man.” I read it for the first time when I was 10. I was making my way, with pleasure, through a collection of Bradbury’s stories called R Is for Rocket. I had been an avid reader for about five years, and at first the pleasure I felt was the familiar pleasure I derived from the flights of an author’s fancy, and from the anticipation and surprise of plot. Then I came to “The Rocket Man.” It’s the narrative of the young son of a rocket pilot whose father is to him at once an ordinary, ordinarily absent father, puttering around the house on his days off, and a terrible, mysterious demigod whose kingdom is the stars. The danger of the father’s profession, the imminence and immanence of death, lie upon the family like the dust of stars that the narrator lovingly collects from his father’s flightsuit every time the Rocket Man comes home. During one of the father’s leaves, the family travels to Mexico by car. One evening they stop along a rural road to rest, and in the last light of the day the son notices bright butterflies, dozens of them, trapped and dying in the grille of the car.

I think it was when I got to the butterflies — in that brief, beautiful image comprising life, death and technology — that the hair on the back of my neck began to stand on end. All at once, the pleasure I took in reading was altered irrevocably. Before then I had never noticed, somehow, that stories were made not of ideas or exciting twists of plot but of language. And not merely of pretty words and neat turns of phrase, but of systems of imagery, strategies of metaphor. “The Rocket Man” unfolds to its melancholy conclusion in a series of haunting images of light and darkness, of machinery and biology interlocked, of splendor and fragility. The sense of foreboding is powerful; the imagery becomes a kind of plot of its own, a shadow plot. The end, when it comes, is at once an awful surprise and as inevitable as any Rocket Man, or those who mourn him, could expect. I have never since looked quite the same way at fathers, butterflies, science fiction, language, short stories or the sun.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for these stories.]