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

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

Toni Weisskopf posted a concise response on Facebook.

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

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

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

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

David Weber responded on Facebook.

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

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

Bob Eggleton made this comment —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s one of James’ picks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) MEMORY LANE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Priya Sharma

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

  • Justin C. Key


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

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

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

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

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

Star Wars Storm Trooper Toaster

$49.95 

WILLIAMS SONOMA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Novel Characters.

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

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

Correct question: “Who is Captain Ahab?”

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/25/20 You Scroll My Pixel Round Baby Right Round

(1) THE BOOKSELLER FROM UNCLE. Laurie Hertzel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has assembled readers’ “Fond memories of Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s, and hope for the future”.

Elaine K. Murray, Minneapolis: It was my mother’s bookstore. All the years she worked at Sears across the street she could go there and get her beloved vintage mysteries at a price she could afford. After she retired I would drive her there and buy her books for a Christmas or birthday present.

She has been gone more than five years, but I could still go there, find books from some of her favorite authors, and feel like she was still near me.

Now that’s gone forever and I can’t seem to stop crying.

(2) WRITER INDEPENDENCE DAY. Cat Rambo is teaching two online courses on the Fourth of July. Registration and cost information at the links.

The next class date is Saturday, July 4, 2020, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.

The question isn’t how to tell a good idea from a bad one; it’s how to learn to turn any idea into a story. Come with a story idea, no matter how vague. We’ll discuss multiple ways of plotting a story based on its unique inspiration, as well as engaging in class exercises designed to hone your plotting skills. Learn how to build a roadmap for your story that will help you complete it in a class that combines discussion, lecture, and in-class writing exercises.

Next class date is Saturday, July 4, 2020, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time.

Learn how to create interesting, rounded characters that your readers can identify with, whether hero or villain. We’ll cover how to write convincing interesting dialogue as well as how to flesh out a character so they come alive and help you move the story along. A combination of lecture, discussion, and in-class writing exercises will help you apply new technique immediately to your own stories.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is offering plenty more classes in the weeks to come. Here are two examples.

Saturday, July 11

Values are not universal across all cultures, and thus what a satisfying story looks like is not limited to one model either. This course examines East Asian storytelling forms and themes, including the four-act kish?tenketsu structure, which is not based on conflict, tension, and resolution. The course will use case studies from books, films, and other mediums, and in-class exercises and games to demonstrate that elements that we consider staples of European/Western storytelling, such as the Hero’s Journey story structure, the empowerment arc, and individual heroism, are not universal across all cultures. Students will complete the course with tools to analyze the European/Western forms and themes in the stories they have written as well as templates from East Asian storytelling to explore and apply to their work.

Sunday, July 12 

Are you a novelist with a fascinating world? Have you thought about turning your novel into an RPG? In this class, gaming industry veteran will walk you through the ins and outs of adapting your novel to fit a gaming world. This class is customized for authors who have published at least one original novel or novella. It is not designed for adaptations of someone else’s work.

(3) MURDOCH MYSTERIES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] We are on the home stretch of, via Acorn.tv, watching the Murdoch Mysteries [1], and, sans spoilers, I thought I’d drop a brief note on one of the episodes we saw earlier this week, Season 13 Episode 11, “Staring Blindly into the Future”

In addition to the use of (then) new scientific techniques to solve crimes — fingerprinting, blood typing, ultraviolet to reveal bloodstains, surveillance cameras — and various legitimized/finessed tech, like a prototype hyperloop, a (larger) roomba, and more — another of the sf/fan-adjacent aspects of the show is the use of historical figures (e.g., Mark Twain, played by William Shatner).

This episode features a dozen — most of whom (all but 3, IIRC) have appeared on previous episodes throughout the season:

  • Nikola Tesla
  • Svetlana Tsiolkofsky (a fictional daughter of rocketry’s Konstantin T.)
  • Thomas Edison
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Emma Goldman
  • Albert Einstein (previous name-dropped but not shown)
  • Marie Curie
  • Ernest Rutherford
  • Henry Ford
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Harry Houdini
  • H.G. Wells

Fun stuff!

[1] From the CBC URL:  “Set in Toronto at the dawn of the 20th century, Murdoch Mysteries is a one-hour drama series that explores the intriguing world of William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), a methodical and dashing detective who pioneers innovative forensic techniques to solve some of the city’s most gruesome murders.”

(4) JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS BACK COVER. The Guardian reports a practice adopted by some newly reopened UK bookstores to minimize COVID-19 contamination  — “Flipping hell: book designers lament Waterstones’ back-to-front displays”.

It was understandable but slightly “heartbreaking”, designer Anna Morrison said of the news that Waterstones is asking shoppers to judge a book by its back cover.

The retailer has offered its apologies to book designers after some newly reopened branches began displaying books back to front so browsers could read the blurb without picking it up.

…People can pick up a book in Waterstones but if they do not buy, it is quarantined for 72 hours. A branch in Swansea was first to post on Twitter that they were turning books round where possible. 

(5) SOME AMENDS. John Scalzi reacted to news about the misconduct of several sff writers he knows (named in the piece): “When Friends Fuck Up, and So Do I”.

… I have some friends who have fucked up in how they’ve been treating women.

… I’m angry at my friends right now. I’m sad for my friends right now. I’m even more angry about and sad for the women who they have made feel unsafe, and who they have harassed, or groomed, or otherwise harmed, because it is unacceptable. I want to be a friend to my friends and I also want to chuck them off the side of the fucking boat and be done with them. I want to think there’s a way back for some of them, for the same reason there was a way back for me when I’ve fucked up before. That’s on them, and right now I don’t know how much, if any, of my personal time and credibility I want to put into helping them. I’m frustrated and I’m tired that we keep having to do this, and I’m ashamed that some of the reason we keep having to do this rests on me. I understand and accept why I need to write this piece and I also fucking resent having to, and that resentment rests solely on my friends, and me….

(6) GAMING FIGURES ACCUSED. The New York Times covered last weekend’s outpouring: “Dozens of Women in Gaming Speak Out About Sexism and Harassment”. Tagline: “After more than 70 allegations surfaced on Twitter this weekend, gaming companies and streamers responded with action. Some say it’s the beginning of real change in the industry.”

More than 70 people in the gaming industry, most of them women, have come forward with allegations of gender-based discrimination, harassment and sexual assault since Friday. They have shared their stories in statements posted to Twitter, YouTube, Twitch and the blogging platform TwitLonger.

The outpouring of stories from competitive gamers and streamers, who broadcast their gameplay on platforms like Twitch for money, led to the resignation of the C.E.O. of a prominent talent management company for streamers and a moment of reflection for an industry that has often contended with sexism, bullying and allegations of abuse.

Already, the response has been a far cry from Gamergate in 2014, when women faced threats of death and sexual assault for critiquing the industry’s male-dominated, sexist culture. Now, some are optimistic that real change could come.

Gamers began sharing their stories after a Twitter user who posts as Hollowtide tweeted about an unnamed “top” player of the online game Destiny on Friday night, referring to the person as a “scum lord.” Three female streamers, JewelsVerne, SheSnaps and SchviftyFive, saw the post and decided to come forward about their experiences with the gamer in question, who is known online both as Lono and SayNoToRage. The women posted their allegations, including nonconsensual touching, propositioning for sex and harassment, on Twitter using their streamer handles. (The streamers did not provide their legal names to The New York Times. In years past, women gamers who have spoken out against the industry using their legal names have been subjected to further harassment, hacking and doxxing.)

In interviews with The Times, when asked to describe their experiences with Lono, the streamers asked a reporter to refer to their public statements on Twitter, TwitLonger and Twitch.

Lono responded to their Twitter accusations in a YouTube video posted on Saturday. “There is no excuse for my behavior. There is no way to gloss over it. The things I did were unacceptable,” he said in the video. “Being inappropriate with these people robbed them of their sense of safety and security and it broke trust, and I am deeply sorry.” (He declined to speak to a reporter from The Times on Monday, and would not share his last name.)

(7) BRAVE NEW SHOW. “You are an essential part of a perfect social body.” Brave New World  begins streaming July 15 on Peacock. Let SYFY Wire set the frame: “It’s A ‘Brave New World’ In First Full Trailer For Peacock’s Sci-Fi Dystopia Series”.

…Based on the highly-conditioned, controlled, and warped population in Huxley’s 1932 novel, this society is a tragic one in need of resistance. So why not John? And, as the new posters for the series declare, “everybody happy now.” The grammar might be a little strange but the sentiment is clear: this dystopia thinks emotional problems have been solved thanks to some handy pharmaceuticals.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 – George Orwell. His other work is admirable but he compels our attention with Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Naturally people on both the Left and the Right have claimed them and attacked them.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish, Thai.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1935 – Charles Sheffield.  Physicist and SF author. “Georgia on My Mind” won both the Hugo and the Nebula.  Thirty novels, a hundred shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Translated into Croatian, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish.  Toastmaster at BucConeer the 56th Worldcon.  Pro Guest of Honor at Lunacon 44 the year I was Fan Guest of Honor.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1944 – Rick Gellman, age 76.  Art Shows and Dealers’ Rooms at various conventions.  Helped start a Gordy Dickson Memorial Scholarship Fund for sending writers to Clarion.  Founded the Minnesota Munchie Movement.  [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1958 – Pat Sayre McCoy, age 62.  She chaired WindyCon 33 and 34; ran the Green Room at Chicon 2000, the 58th Worldcon; contributed an essay to the wrestling with “SF conventions and Gender Equity” in Journey Planet 13, as did Our Gracious Host. [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1963 – Yann Martel, age 57.  Famous for The Life of Pi, second of three SF novels (besides writing Beatrice and Virgil, which is not about those two historical persons, nor a book-length treatment of The Divine Comedy, but – well, read it for yourself).  A theatrical adaptation of Pi with puppets (no, not hand puppets) was a great success and was scheduled to open in London this month, naturally postponed.  [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1980 – Amanda Arista, age 40.  Third novel about Merci Lenard, who always gets her story but doesn’t always get the truth she wants, just released in January.  Three novels about an urban panther.  AA herself likes bowling, croquet, and the SMU (Southern Methodist University) Creative Writing Program in which she once studied and now teaches.  [JH]

(9) US IN FLUX. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “A Cyber-Cuscuta Manifesto,” a story about big data, emerging life forms, and a plea for coexistence by Regina Kanyu Wang.

 It was a public hearing held online. Billions of people crowded into the meeting room, in suits, in pajamas, on treadmills, on sofas, in groups in front of large screens suspended above busy streets, alone at home with VR headsets on. The host called for silence and their words were translated into myriad languages, in both sound and text. The audience held its collective breath and waited for the special guest to show. A face appeared, vague in detail, like billions of faces merged into one. The face began to talk, in an equally vague voice, in thousands of languages at the same time, alien but also familiar to everyone…

On Monday, June 29 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Regina in conversation with Athena Aktipis, a psychology researcher who studies cooperation across systems, from human sharing to cancer. Registration required.

(10) TONI WEISSKOPF Q&A. Author Robert E. Hampson interviewed Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf for his Wake Forest University class.

(11) BOUNTY PAID. “Rare ‘Star Wars’ Toys Attract Big Money At Auction”Forbes reported some high sales figures in March – but also that one rare item failed to attract its minimum bid.

One of the most sought after Star Wars collectibles has sold for $93,750 at auction.

Bidding on the Rocket-Firing Boba Fett started at $30,000 but had already exceeded the $60,000 lower estimate before the auction began thanks to several absentee bids. The final sale price includes the buyer’s premium.

The unpainted promotional item, made of blue plastic, is a prototype that utilized an L-Slot design named after the shape of the backpack mechanism to allow the rocket to fire. It was created by toymaker Kenner to promote the second film in the franchise, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. It is one of the few prototypes known to exist. The launcher design was amended to a J-Slot mechanism and eventually replaced by a non-firing version. None of the firing toys were ever made available to the general public.

This item is the latest to be available on the market. A similar item sold at auction through Hakes in July 2019 for $112,926. Another, one that had been painted and had a J-Slot design in the backpack, sold for $185,850 in November 2019. Both prices include the buyer’s premium.

(12) LUNAR LOO. “NASA and HeroX Launch Lunar Loo Challenge to Find Way for Astronauts to Poop on the Moon”. So, will this be an outhouse with a crescent Earth on the door?

HeroX, the social network for innovation and the world’s leading platform for crowdsourced solutions, today launched the crowdsourcing competition “Lunar Loo” on behalf of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) and NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) Program. NASA is preparing to return to the Moon by 2024 and needs to develop a new way for astronauts to urinate and defecate in microgravity and lunar gravity. The crowdsourcing challenge calls on the global community of innovators to provide innovative design concepts for fully capable, low mass toilets that can be used both in space and on the moon.

Competitive toilet designs will align with NASA’s overall goals of reduced mass and volume, lower power consumption, and easy maintenance. Selected designs may be modified for integration into Artemis lunar landers. This effort is all part of NASA’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon in 2024.

HeroX says this is the payoff:

This Lunar Toilet Challenge has a total prize purse of $35,000 that will be shared among the teams submitting the top three designs in the Technical category.  The top three participants in the Junior category will each receive public recognition and an item of official NASA-logoed merchandise.

(13) ABOUT THE WEATHER. I’ll bet they were.

(14) FROM HIDDEN FIGURE TO MARQUEE NAME. BBC reports “Nasa to name HQ after first black female engineer”.

Nasa is to name its headquarters in Washington DC after its first black female engineer, Mary Jackson.

Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said Jackson had helped to break down barriers for African Americans and women in engineering and technology.

The story of Mary Jackson was told in the 2016 film Hidden Figures. Born in Hampton, Virginia, she died in 2005.

Last year, Nasa renamed the street outside its headquarters as Hidden Figures Way.

“Hidden no more, we will continue to recognise the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made Nasa’s successful history of exploration possible,” Mr Bridenstine said in a statement.

“Mary W Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped Nasa succeed in getting American astronauts into space,” Mr Bridenstine added.

“Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology.”

(15) LISTEN TO THE RHYTHM OF THE FALLING RAIN. “The Science Behind That Fresh Rain Smell”.

Scientists have known for decades that one of the main causes of the smell of fresh rain is geosmin: a chemical compound produced by soil-dwelling bacteria. But why do the bacteria make it in the first place? It was a bacteria-based mystery… until now! Maddie gets some answers from reporter Emily Vaughn, former Short Wave intern.

Transcript here

(16) FORK OVER. Snippet good! “Google to pay for ‘high quality’ news in three countries”.

Google says it will pay some news outlets for “high-quality” stories that it uses amid pressure from publishers.

Part of the initiative will require Google to pay for its users to access news stories otherwise locked behind a so-called paywall on certain websites.

The first sites to join are in Australia, Brazil, and Germany, with a product launch set for later this year.

It comes as authorities in some countries investigate how tech firms use news content without paying for it.

Australia has put forward plans to force Google and Facebook to pay news publishers under competition rules.

France has already issued Google with an order to do so.

It is the latest development in a long-standing row with news publishers over whether tech giants should pay them to include “snippets” of news articles in search results or on social media.

(17) YOUTH’S A STUFF WILL NOT ENDURE. “Parties — Not Protests — Are Causing Spikes In Coronavirus”, according to NPR.

As the U.S. begins to open back up, coronavirus clusters — where multiple people contract COVID-19 at the same event or location — are popping up all over the country. And despite drawing massive crowds, protests against police violence and racial injustice in Washington state weren’t among those clusters.

“We did have a rally in Bellingham, which is our county seat, and there was also a protest, and we have not been able to connect a single case to that rally or to the protest, and what we’re finding is in large part that’s due to the use of masks,” Erika Lautenbach, the director of the Whatcom County Health Department in Washington State, tells NPR’s All Things Considered. “Almost everyone at the rally was wearing a mask, and it’s really a testament to how effective masks are in preventing the spread of this disease.”

For the clusters that have popped up, Lautenbach says the state has been using contact tracing to learn more about how they’re contributing to the spread of the virus. For instance, it found that 14 cases were associated with a party of 100 to 150 people in early June. Subsequently, 15 more cases were associated with the original 14.

“So that one event spread to 29 people and 31 related employers,” Lautenbach says. “Our challenge is to continue to trace as it moves through families, as it moves through workplaces and as it moves through social events as well.”

But protests just aren’t spreading the disease in the same way, Lautenbach says.

“We’re finding that the social events and gatherings, these parties where people aren’t wearing masks, are our primary source of infection,” Lautenbach says. “And then the secondary source of infection is workplace settings. There were 31 related employers just associated with that one party because of the number of people that brought that to their workplace. So for us, for a community our size, that’s a pretty massive spread.”

And much of that spread, Lautenbach says, is affecting young people.

“We have seen almost a near flip in the cases that we’re experiencing,” Lautenbach says. “So in April of this year, we were really struggling with long-term-care outbreaks. And so about 3 out of 4 people were over the age of 30 and really pretty heavily skewed to 60-plus. And by contrast, in June, we’re seeing that now 2 out of 3 people that have contracted this disease are under 29.”

(18) SPLICING EDGE. NPR reports,“A Year In, 1st Patient To Get Gene Editing For Sickle Cell Disease Is Thriving”.

Like millions of other Americans, Victoria Gray has been sheltering at home with her children as the U.S. struggles through a deadly pandemic, and as protests over police violence have erupted across the country.

But Gray is not like any other American. She’s the first person with a genetic disorder to get treated in the United States with the revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR.

And as the one-year anniversary of her landmark treatment approaches, Gray has just received good news: The billions of genetically modified cells doctors infused into her body clearly appear to be alleviating virtually all the complications of her disorder, sickle cell disease.

(19) DON’T LESNERIZE. Dean Koontz, in the course of telling fans his new book Devoted is available, filled them in about his experience dining out in newly-reopened California.

Wow, after months of having to eat at home every night, we here in Koontzland were excited when our favorite restaurants began to do business again this past week. We went with Ms. Elsa on opening day. The patio tables were ten or twelve feet apart, the waiters wore masks and gloves, the busboys wore full-face plastic shields, and the mood-music guitarist kept alternating between “Eve of Destruction” and “Saint James Infirmary.” It was sooooo romantic!

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