Pixel Scroll 2/19/20 It’s Just A Scroll To The Left, A Little Click To The Right

(1) ANTI-TROLL SPRAY. Mary Robinette Kowal, President, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, issued a “SFWA Statement from the President on Goodreads” at the SFWA Blog.

…As some of you may be aware, over the course of several weeks, trolls created dozens of false accounts as part of a harassment campaign against some writers. We reached out to Goodreads to ask for assistance in stopping those attacks and they were, thankfully, responsive. Goodreads was as committed to solving this as SFWA was. If readers lose their faith with the site because of false reviews, that’s a problem for all of us.

During the course of the conversation, we shared with them some ideas that they might use to block this form of targetting. They are working on implementing some of those, although I hope you’ll understand that we won’t be able to share the details of those particular efforts….

There are also some existing tools on Goodreads that were not immediately apparent. We offered to highlight those to our members while Goodreads puts the other measures into place.

Flagging reviews – Goodreads does not allow Ad Hominem reviews or attacks on an author. They made it clear to us that when reviews become about the author, not about the book, authors are able to flag uses of harmful language or when the intent is to harm the person, not to review the book. If an author is receiving an avalanche of those, they may send a link to support@goodreads.com or send a link via Goodreads’ contact form.

Reporting entire accounts – Sometimes, a single actor will create negative reviews of an author’s entire body of work. In those cases, any author may send a link to support@goodreads.com.

(2) RIPPED BODICE. Since Courtney Milan is one of them, the Scroll will report all the winners of the inaugural Ripped Bodice Awards for Excellence in Romantic Fiction. The award was launched last year by Leah and Bea Koch, co-owners of the Ripped Bodice bookstore in Culver City, Calif., and is sponsored by Sony Pictures Television. Chosen by a panel of industry experts, each honoree receives $1,000 plus a $100 donation to the charity of their choice.

The winning titles are:

  • Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon
  • Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
  • A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole
  • One Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
  • An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole
  • American Love Story by Adriana Herrera
  • Trashed by Mia Hopkins
  • The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

(3) PRACTICE OR MALPRACTICE? The Guardian ponders “The diehards of doom! Why Doctor Who is the show fans love to hate “  

If Doctor Who seems like a show that has been disappointing its devotees for 56 years and counting, perhaps that is to be expected. After all, no other TV series in history has shown such a wilful disregard for anything approaching a house style, happily pressing the re-set button every week and leaping between planets and time zones, comedy and tragedy, psychodrama and space opera.

(4) FREE READ. Tor.com has published one of the stories that will be included in Ken Liu’s upcoming collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories: “Read Ken Liu’s ‘Staying Behind’ From the New Collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories”. It’s not a new story, but it may not have been freely available before.

(5) BOOT TO THE FUTURE. BBC discovers Back To The Future is being rebooted – on stage, not on screen”.

More people want a new Back to the Future film than want a new instalment in any other franchise. But one of its creators says doing another movie would be like “selling your kids into prostitution” – so it’s been rebooted as a stage musical instead.

Walking though the Manchester Opera House foyer a week before the first performance of Back to the Future: The Musical means picking your way through piles of props and kit that are waiting to be slotted into place before opening night.

A skateboard and some of the Doc’s scientific equipment are lying around, and a crew member walks past carrying what look like dancers’ 1950s dresses. The components of the Doc’s nuclear-powered flux capacitor are probably spread around somewhere.

…Thursday’s first performance will mark the end of a 12-year journey to bring one of the best-loved films to the stage. Another journey will start – the show is set to go to the West End after Manchester, and then perhaps Broadway.

“It’s the same story of the movie,” says Bob Gale, who has scripted the stage show and co-wrote the movies. “But there are things that you can do and can’t do on stage that differ from cinema.”

So in the show, Marty plays more music, and new songs take us deeper into the characters’ emotions and back stories. But some of the action (like the skateboard chase and the gun-toting Libyan terrorists) has been changed. And, sadly, there’s no Einstein the dog.

“Lots of people were clamouring, ‘Why don’t you guys do Back to the Future part 4? Why don’t you do a reboot of Back to the Future?'” Gale says.

‘The wrong thing to do’

But he and Robert Zemeckis, director and co-writer of the three films, had it written into their contracts with Universal that no new film could be made without their say so. Studio bosses have tried their best to persuade them.

…”We don’t want to ruin anybody’s childhood, and doing a musical was the perfect way to give the public more Back to the Future without messing up what has gone before.”

(6) DUNCANN OBIT. Geraldine Duncann died February 2 at the age of 82, her daughter Leilehua reported on Facebook. Duncann announced to FB readers in January that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  Astrid Bear described Duncann in these terms:

As Mistress Geraldine of Toad Hall, she was a major force in the Society for Creative Anachronism from its very early days, excelling in all she tried, whether cooking, sewing, embroidery, pottery, singing, writing, or anything else. Her generosity, wit, intelligence, and zest for life were wonderful.

Her memorial/celebration of life will be on her birthdate, May 9, at the Golden Gate Bridge and include a Bridge Walk. Details will be posted on her FaceBook page and her Questing Feast Patreon blog.

(7) SHRAPNEL OBIT. [Item by Steve Green.] John Shrapnel (1942-2020): British actor, died February 14, aged 77. Genre appearances include Space: 1999 (one episode, 1975), Fatherland (1994), Invasion: Earth (three episodes, 1998), Spine Chillers (one episode, 2003), Alien Autopsy (2006), Apparitions (five episodes, 2008), Mirrors (2008), The Awakening (2011), Merlin (one episode, 2012), Macbeth (2013), Hamlet (2015).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 15, 1955  — Captain Midnight aired “Saboteurs Of The Sky”. Captain Midnight began September 9, 1954, on CBS, continuing for thirty-nine episodes until January 21, 1956. This was the twenty-fifth episode of the program’s first season. Captain Midnight itself started as a serial film, became this show, and later was both a syndicated newspaper strip and a radio show. The series starred Richard Webb who was not the actor of the Captain Midnight role , Robert O’Brien, from the film serial. (Two actors, Sid Melton and Olan Soule, were retained from the serial.) When the TV series went into syndication in 1958 via Telescreen Advertising, several changes happened. First a change in advertisers happened as Ovaltine was no longer involved. More importantly Wander Company owned all rights to use of Captain Midnight which meant that Screen Gems had to change Captain Midnight to Jet Jackson, Flying Commando, and all references in the episodes to Captain Midnight to Jet Jackson, Flying Commando, both text and sound wise. You can watch this episode here.
  • February 19, 1978 — The Project U.F.O. pilot: “Sighting 4001: The Washington D.C. Incident” first aired on NBC.  It was created. by that Jack Webb Harold Jack Bloom, was based rather loosely on the real-life Project Blue Book. It starred William Jordan, Caskey Swaim and Edward Winter. Most of the UFOs were by Brick Price Movie Miniatures that were cobbled together from the usual model kits. You can see the pilot here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 19, 1893 Sir Cedric Webster Hardwicke. His first SFF role was a plum one — in 1937‘s Solomon’s Mines as Allan Quatermain. He’s been in a lot of genre films: On Borrowed Time, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Invisible Man Returns, The Ghost of Frankenstein, Invisible Agent, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The War of the Worlds (the voice doing providing commentary). (Died 1964.)
  • Born February 19, 1912 Walter Gillings. UK fan. He edited Scientifiction, a short lived but historic fanzine. Shortly thereafter he edited Tales of Wonder, regarded as the first UK SF zine. Clarke made his pro debut here. He’d edited a number of other genre zines later on, and ISFDB lists him as having two genre stories to his credit whereas Wiki claims he has three. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 19, 1930 John Frankenheimer. Depending on how widely you stretch the definition of genre, you can consider his first SFF film as director to be Seven Days in May. Certainly, The Island of Dr. Moreau is genre as is Prophecy and Seconds. He also directed an episode of Tales from The Crypt, “Maniac at Large”, and directed Startime’s “Turn of The Screw” with Ingrid Bergman in the lead role off the Henry James ghost story of that name. (Died 2002.)
  • Born February 19, 1937 Lee Harding, 83. He was among the founding members of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club along with Bertram Chandler. He won Ditmar Awards for Dancing Gerontius and Fallen Spaceman. In the Oughts, the Australian Science Fiction Foundation would give him the Chandler Award in gratitude for his life’s work. It does not appear that any of his work is available fir the usual digital sources. 
  • 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 to his widow. (Died 1987.)
  • Born February 19, 1944 Donald F. Glut, 76. He’s best known for writing the novelization of the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back. I’m more fascinated that from the early Fifties to the late Sixties, he made a total of forty-one amateur films including a number of unauthorized adaptations of such characters as Superman, The Spirit and Spider-Man. Epoch Cinema released a two-DVD set of all of his amateur films titled I Was A Teenage Moviemaker. 
  • Born February 19, 1963 Laurell K. Hamilton, 57. 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 one or two novels, the other is the Merry Gentry series which held my interest longer but which I lost in somewhere around the sixth or seventh novel when the sex became really repetitive. 
  • Born February 19, 1964 Jonathan Lethem 56. 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 Feral Detective. 
  • Born February 19, 1966 Claude Lalumière, 54. I met him once here in Portland at a used bookstore in the SFF section. Author, book reviewer and editor who has edited numerous anthologies.  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

(10) FIRST NEWBERY WON BY A GRAPHIC NOVEL. Publishers Weekly opines, “Jerry Craft’s Newbery Win Was an Unforeseeable Dream” – but it came true.

…But his reverie was broken by the phone 12 minutes later. “I picked it up and thought, ‘Please don’t let this be a credit card offer.’ Can you imagine? I would have just burst into tears.”

On the other end of the line, Newbery committee chair Krishna Grady told Craft that his graphic novel New Kid (HarperCollins) had been chosen as winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal. “Then the people in the background started screaming and then I started screaming, then I screamed more and they screamed more,” Craft said. “It was pretty amazing.” It is also historic, as New Kid is the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal.

New Kid introduces African-American seventh grader Jordan Banks, an aspiring artist who leaves his home in Washington Heights each morning and takes the bus to his new, private, mostly white school in the Bronx. In his sketchbook, he chronicles what it’s like for him to navigate his two different worlds, the ups and downs of middle school, and the various micro-aggressions he faces each day. The book was inspired by Craft’s own school experiences, as well as those of his two sons, and has been a hit since its release last February. Prior to ALA Midwinter, New Kid had already earned starred reviews in the major review journals, landed on numerous best-of lists for 2019, became a New York Times bestseller, and won the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature.

Craft was still riding high from the Newbery call when his phone rang again at 7:07 a.m. “I thought, ‘OK, that’s weird,’” Craft said. “I saw area code 215, which is Philadelphia [where ALA Midwinter was being held], and I thought, if they’re calling me up to say, ‘Hi, we thought you were Jerry Pinkney when we called earlier. Sorry about that—we hope you didn’t tell anyone,’ that would have made me cry even more.” But, of course, there was no such mix-up. The second call alerted Craft to the fact that he had also won the Coretta Scott King Author Award. “I was stunned,” he recalled, noting that he hadn’t heard any buzz, or seen anything like a mock Coretta Scott King Award poll.

(11) WHEN I’M ‘65. AGalactic Journey understandably covers a lot of space — “[February 18, 1965] OSO Exciting!  (February 1965 Space Roundup)”.

Requiem for a Vanguard

Hands over hearts, folks.  On February 12, NASA announced that Vanguard 1 had gone silent, and the agency was finally turning off its 108 Mhz ground transceivers, set up during the International Geophysical Year.  The grapefruit-sized satellite, launched March 17, 1958, was the fourth satellite to be orbited.  It had been designed as a minimum space probe and, had its rocket worked in December 1957, would have been America’s first satellite rather than its second.  Nevertheless, rugged little Vanguard 1 beat all of its successors for lifespan.  Sputniks and Explorers came and went.  Vanguards 2 and 3 shut off long ago.  Yet the grapefruit that the Naval Research Laboratory made kept going beep-beep, helping scientists on the ground measure the shape of the Earth from the wiggle and decay of Vanguard’s orbit.

(12) THE TINGLE WAY. Now that you’ve explained it, I understand!

(13) POUNDED BY YOUR CREDIT CARD. But wait! There’s all kinds of Chuck Tingle merchandise available. Like this hoodie, or this towel.

(14) FADING SCREAM. “‘The Scream’ Is Fading. New Research Reveals Why.” – the New York Times squints harder.

“The Scream” is fading. And tiny samples of paint from the 1910 version of Edvard Munch’s famous image of angst have been under the X-ray, the laser beam and even a high-powered electron microscope, as scientists have used cutting-edge technology to try to figure out why portions of the canvas that were a brilliant orangeish-yellow are now an ivory white.

Since 2012, scientists based in New York and experts at the Munch Museum in Oslo have been working on this canvas — which was stolen in 2004 and recovered two years later — to tell a story of color. But the research also provides insight into Munch and how he worked, laying out a map for conservators to prevent further change, and helping viewers and art historians understand how one of the world’s most widely recognized paintings might have originally looked….

(15) SPORTS GEEK. Expanding a writer’s horizons: “Taking on Celtics rookie Grant Williams at his favorite board game” in the Boston Globe.

If you’ve never heard of the board game Settlers of Catan, you aren’t alone.

Marcus Smart hadn’t. Neither had Kemba Walker. Nor Brad Stevens.

If you have heard of it, you’re in good company, too.

The game is a favorite of Celtics rookie Grant Williams.

Williams was introduced to Settlers of Catan — Catan, for short — when he was a sophomore on the basketball team at Tennessee. He walked in on Riley Davis, the team’s video coordinator, playing the classic strategy game with players Lucas Campbell, Brad Woodson, and Yves Pons. A self-proclaimed nerd, Williams wanted to learn.

“They’re like, ‘Oh dear, we have to teach Grant now,’ ” Williams recalled. “Next thing you know, we played and I won my first game.”

Williams was hooked. The group kept a board at the training facility, where they would play at least twice a week, as well as one in each of their dorm rooms. There also was a “road-trip board” that would travel with the team.

…The objective of the game sounds simple: Collect resources to build roads, settlements, and cities on the island of Catan. The implementation is a bit more complicated.

Bear with me as I try to explain.

(16) PUCKER UP. SYFY Wire oozes enthusiasm about “Krispy Kreme’s Rick and Morty sweets”.

Krispy Kreme and Adult Swim have teamed up for a limited line of sweet R &M-inspired products, including a donut modeled after Pickle Rick. Don’t worry, though, the green pastry isn’t salty and sour like a brined cucumber. That would be nasty. Instead, it’s filled with “mouth-watering lemon crème, dipped in white choc truffle, with a white choc ‘Pickle Rick.'”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/11/19 Electronic Sheep May Safely Graze, Thanks To Grounding Footware

(1) A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR’S CAST MEMBER. Ed Green, fandom’s working actor, has made another commercial! This time Ed advertises Rebate Key. He’s the fellow in the blue shirt.

(2) BABY YODA GRAFFITI. Reddit says this street art is in the south of France. (Near Remulac?)

(3) MIKE RESNICK GOFUNDME. Mike Resnick, beset by new medical problems, has more bills to pay and his GoFundMe target has been raised to $50,000: “Help Mike Resnick pay off a near-death experience”.

UPDATE on 12/11/2019: Mike is now battling cancer on top of his previous major surgery, for which this fundraiser was created. The doctors are very optimistic and say he is responding to treatment incredibly well, but because of new surgery, radiation and chemo bills, he is in need of this fundraiser more than ever. As you can imagine, he is literally bleeding money at he moment. Every dollar helps. Thank you, again, for all the support you have given Mike! <3

(4) BLUEPRINTS. “How To Structure a Cozy Mystery” by Sarah A. Hoyt at Mad Genius Club – I found her exploration of a popular formula completely fascinating.

3- For some reason your character has special knowledge.

This could be as inside-baseball as knowing it was the wrong tropical fish (I know NOTHING about tropical fish, btw) or how fanatic tropical fish collectors get.  Or it could be as “generic” as she saw something she can’t tell the police, either because it’s not clear or because she wouldn’t want to rope in a person she’s sure is innocent.

So, she’s going to investigate.

BTW by now we should have already seen or heard of the murderer. No, you shouldn’t make it obvious. But it’s important, to avoid the elephant from the ceiling feeling.  If not, we should see her or meet her early in the investigation phase. (Yes, it can be a him too, do I need to tell you that?)

At this point it might become obvious to everyone but your protag that love interest is interested.

(5) GREAT EXPECTATIONS. [Item by Olav Rokne,] Prominent cultural critic Dave Itzkoff writing in The Gray Lady delves into the creative turmoil surrounding Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and J.J. Abrams’ attempts to live up to the mantle of the franchise. “A New Hype” is filled with interesting tidbits and observations about the creative process. It’s an example of why I think so highly of Itzkoff as a journalist. 

As [Abrams] slyly acknowledged, “Any great ending is a new beginning on some level.” But what the future of “Star Wars” might look like without its foundational narrative is something Abrams — who struck a lucrative overall deal with WarnerMedia in September — was in no hurry to envision. “I didn’t design that, so I don’t know,” he said.

(6) PICARD ALREADY IN REAR VIEW MIRROR. “Michael Chabon’s ‘Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’ Series Coming to Showtime”. The Hollywood Reporter says Chabon will exit Picard in 2020 to work with his wife on the series:

…The author, who serves as showrunner on the studio’s forthcoming Star Trek: Picard for CBS All Access, has, alongside his writer wife, Ayelet Waldman, signed an overall deal with the studio. Under the pact, Chabon and Waldman will adapt the former’s 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay as a limited series for CBS TV Studios’ corporate sibling Showtime.

The series, which earned Chabon the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, will be written and exec produced by the husband and wife duo and has received a series commitment from the premium cable network. Chabon and Waldman will serve as showrunners on Kavalier and Clay. Chabon will transition to the new series, an epic tale of love, war and the birth of America’s comic book superhero obsession in big band-era New York, in 2020 and exit Picard. The series is a co-production with Paramount Television, which controlled the rights to the book.

(7) LONG STRING OF SHOWS. Amazingly, after 56 years LA’s Bob Baker Marionette Theater still exists. The New York Times tells how that happened, with lots of pictures, in “Marionettes at Play”.

…But starting back in 2013, a series of calamities almost derailed these time-honored traditions. That was when Baker — a man who bubbled over with creativity, but when it came to business, was a car wreck — was forced to sell the building, and the troupe became tenants in their longtime home. When Baker died the following year at the age of 90, the company members dedicated themselves to preserving his legacy.

“At the end of the day, we’d still be doing shows, and there’d be a hundred happy kids,” said Alex Evans, a scruffy-bearded 34-year-old who arrived at the theater in 2006 from New York after Googling “Los Angeles” and “puppets.” He is now the theater’s executive director and head puppeteer. “So it was easy to look around and highlight this as a beautiful moment.”

After Baker’s death, the group learned the landlord intended to raze the theater and replace it with a mixed-use development, which would include a spot for them to perform. “Then we looked at the plan and it was like, ‘We are essentially going to be squeezed into a space otherwise allocated to a Starbucks,” Evans said. “We were, like, ‘This won’t work. We can’t do that.’ ”

They visited dozens of places before finding the two-story former Pyong Kang First Congregational Church on a bustling, tree-lined street, across from a children’s park. Not only was it bigger than their original home — at 10,000 square feet compared to about 5600 — it was also zoned for assembly. “We could just open the doors and just go,” Evans said.

(8) SHORT TREKS. SYFY Wire points the way as CBS All Access previews two new animated installments in the Short Treks series which will debut this week: “Star Trek shares whimsical peek at two new Short Treks animated tales”.

  • Star Trek: Short Treks | Ephraim & Dot Trailer

Ephraim, a humble tardigrade, is flying through the mycelial network when an unexpected encounter takes her on a bewildering adventure through space.

  • Star Trek: Short Treks | The Girl Who Made the Stars Trailer

When a lightning storm in space scares a young Michael Burnham, her father aims to ease her fears with a mythical story about a brave little girl who faced her own fears head on.

(9) CONSPIRATORS’ TOOLKIT. “‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’: Hivemind & Brian Taylor Conspire On TV Adaptation” says Deadline. If only Sam Konkin III had lived to see this day!

The Illuminatus! Trilogy is coming to television and Hivemind is in on the conspiracy. Hivemind, the production company behind The Expanse and Witcher, is partnering with writer-director Brian Taylor (Crank, Happy!) and the European production company Kallisti to adapt The Illuminatus! Trilogy, the off-kilter bookshelf series by authors Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea.

Originally published in the 1970s, The Illuminatus! Trilogy defies simple descriptions but the surreal and satirical milestone introduced “the Illuminati” lore to a global audience and sparked much of the contemporary American fascination with conspiracy theories and their modern rhythms.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 11, 1929 — The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says that “Fandom begins in New York with the first meeting of the Scienceers, 1929.” Timebinders has a history of that Club here as it appeared in Joe Christoff’s Sphere fanzine.
  • December 11, 1982 Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann. Junk films are a great deal of fun (sometimes). Timerider is certainly junky. It’s directed by William Dear and starring Fred Ward as Lyle Swann, a cross country dirt bike racer. The film was scored, produced and co-written (with Dear) by Michael Nesmith of Monkees fame. There’s rating at Rotten Tomatoes but Amazon reviews really liked it as did some critics.
  • December 11, 1998 Star Trek: Insurrection premiered. Directed by Frakes who was widely praised for doing so, it starred the Next Gen cast. It did very well at the box office and critics mostly liked it. The story was by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It currently has a rating of 44% by viewers over at Rotten Tomatoes where an amazing 62,772 have registered their opinion. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 11, 1922 —  Maila Syrjäniemi. She was Vampira, the first tv horror host as she hosted her own series, The Vampira Show, from 1954–55 in the LA market.  After it was canceled, she showed up on Plan 9 from Outer Space in one of the starring roles. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 11, 1926 Dick Tufeld. His best known role, or at least best recognized, Is as the voice of the Robot on Lost in Space, a role he reprised for the feature film. The first words heard on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are spoken by him: “This is the Seaview, the most extraordinary submarine in all the seven seas.” He’s been the opening announcer on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Spider-Woman, Thundarr the Barbarian, Fantastic Four and the Time Tunnel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 11, 1937 Marshal Tymn, 82. Academic whose books I’ve actually read. (I find most of these sorts of works really boring, errr, too dry.) He’s written two works that I’ve enjoyed, one with Neil Barron, Fantasy and Horror, is a guide to those genres up to mid Nineties, and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines with Mike Ashley as his co-writer is a fascinating read indeed. A Research Guide to Science Fiction Studies: An Annotated Checklist of Primary and Secondary Sources for Fantasy and Science Fiction is the only work by him available in a digital form.
  • Born December 11, 1954 Katherine Lawrence. Short story writer and script writer for a number of animated SF series including Reboot, Stargate Infinity and Conan the Adventurer to which she contributed quite a number of stories. (Died 2004.)
  • Born December 11, 1957 William Joyce, 62. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twelve books and growing. Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned them into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark. Michael Toman in an email says that “I’ve been watching for his books since reading Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo back in 1988.”
  • Born December 11, 1959 M. Rickert, 60. Short story writer par excellence. She’s got three collections to date, Map of Dreams, Holiday and You Have Never Been Here. I’ve not read her novel, The Memory Garden, and would like your opinions on it. The latter and You Have Never Been Here are her only works available digitally. 
  • Born December 11, 1962 Ben Browder, 57. Actor best known, of course, for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1.  One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of  Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1” episode.  He’d have an appearance in Doctor Who in “A town Called Mercy”,  a Weird Western of sorts. 
  • Born December 11, 1979 Rider Strong, 40. Making Birthday Honors for his voice work Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles as Pvt. Carl Jenkins. If you’ve not seen this series, go watch it. He’s done a lot of voice work including for Star vs. the Forces of Evil and his live work is mostly horror. 

(12) END OF MISSION. TMZ, in “William Shatner Files for Divorce, Prenup In The Stars”, reports that Shatner, 88, is divorcing from his fourth wife, Elizabeth, 61.

William Shatner wants Scotty the judge to beam him up and out of his marriage, ’cause he’s calling it quits after 18 years … TMZ has learned.

The ‘Star Trek’ actor just filed for divorce against his wife, Elizabeth, whom he got hitched with back in 2001. Sources familiar with the matter tell us Bill and Liz’s split should move along relatively smoothly, as we’re told the couple has a prenup.

…Elizabeth is Will’s fourth wife — he was previously married to Nerine Kidd, Marcy Lafferty and Gloria Rand … and only had children with Rand. It’s Elizabeth’s second go-around … she was married to Michael Glenn Martin before William. He’s 88 … she’s 61.

… According to William’s divorce docs — obtained by TMZ — he lists their date of separation as Feb. 1, 2019.

(13) LOOSED LIPS. “Vault of the Wordmonger” on The Dark Mountain Project is a short story by Nick Hunt about a future where words have become imprisoned and are only gradually being freed.

Our father bought words once a week. He was a big man in our town and fresh words gave him status. He paid for them in animal parts from the farm our family owned and sometimes in mineral parts from the mine beyond the hill. He did not own the mine but he had interests there. The animal parts and mineral parts he carried there in his hands and the words he carried back in his mouth. That is the way to carry words….

(14) NO FLIES ON THEM. One of the reasons for “The truth behind why zebras have stripes”.

Rudyard Kipling playfully wrote that zebras stripes were due to “the slippery-slidy shadows of the trees” falling on its body but are scientists getting closer to the truth?

In February 2019, at a horse livery yard in the UK, a fascinating experiment took place. A team of evolutionary biologists from the University of California, Davis, and their UK collaborators, investigated why zebras have stripes. In the name of science, they dressed several domestic horses at Hill Livery in zebra-striped coats, and studied them alongside actual zebras.

Owner Terri Hill keeps a herd of zebras which she has acquired from zoos across the UK – a collection which stems from Hill’s passion for the conservation of wild equids. Maintaining the herd, which live on a two acre paddock complete with sand pit and herb garden, is a way of maintaining breeding stock for zoos, and so helping to protect the animals against future extinction.

For Tim Caro, an ecologist from the University of St Andrews who has been studying zebra stripes for almost two decades, the livery yard’s relatively tame zebras provided a rare opportunity to stand within metres of them and observe them. “People have been talking about zebra stripes for over a hundred years, but it’s just a matter of really doing experiments and thinking clearly about the issue to understand it better,” he says.

How and why zebras evolved to sport black and white stripes are questions that have tested scientists for over a century. Scientists have put forward at least 18 reasons why, from camouflage or warning colours, to more creative explanations like unique markers that help to identify individuals like a human fingerprint. But, for a long time new theories were introduced without rigorous tests.

(15) LET US TELL YOU WHERE TO GO. BBC reports “Google: The most searched for questions and phrases of 2019 revealed”.

Game of Thrones, Caitlyn Jenner, the Rugby World Cup, what is Area 51, how to eat a pineapple and what is a dead ting?

These are some of the top phrases and questions you searched for on Google in 2019.

The Rugby World Cup – which South Africa won after beating England in the final – topped the list of overall trending searches in the UK, according to the search engine.

“What is Area 51?” and “How to pronounce psalm” were among the top questions you had this year.

(16) SCARECROW. “Bangalore: Dummies in police uniforms ‘control’ city traffic”.

One of India’s most gridlocked cities has come up with an unconventional solution to rein in errant drivers.

Mannequins dressed up as traffic police have been placed on roads in the southern city of Bangalore.

Dressed in police caps, white shirts and brown trousers, and wearing sunglasses, the mannequins are now on duty at congested junctions.

It’s hoped drivers will mistake them for real police and think twice about breaking the rules of the road.

Home to India’s IT industry, Bangalore has eight million registered vehicles on its streets. This number is expected to grow to more than 10 million by 2022.

At 18.7 km/h (11.61 mph) traffic speeds in the city are the second slowest in the country after Mumbai (18.5 km/h), according to a study by an office commute platform, MovinSync Technology Solutions. Cameras at traffic junctions have recorded more than 20,000 traffic violations every day.

But commuters have mixed feelings on whether mannequins can actually step in to help their real police counterparts.

(17) WORD OF THE YEAR. “Merriam-Webster Singles Out Nonbinary ‘They’ For Word Of The Year Honors”NPR has the story.

There are plenty of flashpoints for controversy littered among the grand pantheon of four-letter words. Plenty of examples probably come to mind immediately — from the relatively tame (“heck,” anyone?) to the kind of graphic profanity that may warrant an uncomfortable call from our ombudsman.

Still, one four-letter word has elicited more heated debate than most among grammarians lately. And it happens to be one that we’re free to print right here: they.

Merriam-Webster announced Tuesday that the personal pronoun was its 2019 Word of the Year, noting that the tiny, unassuming word had undergone a rather radical transformation in usage in recent years — and found itself at the heart of some wide-ranging cultural conversations in the process.

“English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence they has been used for this purpose for over 600 years,” the dictionary publisher explained in a statement.

“More recently, though, they has also been used to refer to one person whose gender identity is nonbinary, a sense that is increasingly common in published, edited text, as well as social media and in daily personal interactions between English speakers.”

(18) THINKING OUTSIDE THE CAN. Delish thinks these will be irresistible — “Pringles Is Making A Pickle Rick Flavor For ‘Rick And Morty’ Fans” – but I’ll give you share!

Do you ever just shove your hand all the way into the bottom of the Pringles can to get the just-out-of-reach last chip? Because same. And now I’ll be doing that even more willingly because Pringles is bringing back its Pickle Rick flavor.

The flavor is obviously an ode to Rick and Morty, the Adult Swim cartoon series with a super cult following. In a now-famous episode of the show, a scientist turns into a pickle to avoid going to family therapy…as one does? Thus, “Pickle Rick” was born.

(19) A BOUNTY FOR YOUR TABLE. N sent the link to Binging with Babish: Bone Broth from The Mandalorian with the recommendation, “Unconventional, but I’m watching this right now and everything he’s making with the broth is just too tasty looking.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/12/18 Pixels’ Red Glare, The Scrolls Bursting In Air

(1) SFPA HANDLES CODE OF CONDUCT ISSUE. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) notified members via Facebook that member Bruce Boston has been suspended for a Code of Conduct violation. SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra wrote:

Following a 7-day review and conferral with the SFPA Executive Committee, SFPA member Bruce Boston has been suspended for six months from commenting on the Facebook Group and Yahoo Groups listserv for violation of the SFPA Code of Conduct, regarding egregious remarks beginning on July 4th, 2018, and a failure to retract those remarks in a timely manner. He remains a member of the SFPA and retains all honors and titles. This suspension remains in effect until December 31st, 2018.

In light of this incident, we wish to share the Code of Conduct, which the Executive Committee created and implemented in July 2017. It was shared on the fora, to which it applies, but was not transmitted to every member and new members may be unaware.

Please click on the blue button below to read the document about our expectations of conduct on our forums, Facebook and Yahoo Groups. The rules as well as the consequences for not following them are detailed therein.

To read the SFPA Code of Conduct, click here. [Dropbox file]

SFPA Grand Master Bruce Boston, in comments on a SFPA Facebook group post about the Rhysling winners, publicly insinuated that 2018 short poem Rhysling winner, Mary Soon Lee, must have been the beneficiary of vote stuffing because in his view her poem was unworthy of the honor. As of this writing, Boston’s and others’ comments are still accessible by nonmembers of the group. Here is a screenshot from near the beginning of the exchange.

(2) W76 BUSINESS MEETING SCHEDULE. On his blog, Kevin Standlee previewed his Worldcon article – “Business Meeting & Site Selection Schedules at Worldcon 76”.

For those of you trying to arrange your schedule for Worldcon 76 around the WSFS Business Meeting and Site Selection (as I am rather forced to do by the nature of running the WSFS division), here’s the current state of our plans. For those of you who are veterans of the process, this may all sound boring, repetitive, and obvious, but based on the questions I’ve fielded, there are members — including people interested in WSFS Business — who do not know this stuff.

Linda Deneroff also has posted the start of the agenda for Worldcon 76. You can find it on the Business Meeting page. Click on the “Agenda” link.

(3) ROBOT HOTEL. Grant Imahara (perhaps best know for his former gig on Mythbusters) visits a robot hotel in this Popular Science article (“Mouser Electronics: Generation Robot”). No, not a hotel for robots, but one staffed by robots. It sounds like Henn Na Hotel is trying to avoid — at least in part — the Uncanny Valley. Quoting the article:

Imagine checking into a hotel and handing your luggage to a bellhop, but not seeing another human besides other guests. That’s the reality at Henn Na Hotel in Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture, where robots have taken over. Robot enthusiast Grant Imaharavisits the hotel to see how the hospitality business can succeed without humans.

During his stay, Grant is surprised by the non-humanoid robot he meets at the check-in desk. Maybe he should have known—Henn Na Hotel loosely translates to “strange hotel” in Japanese. Naomi Tomita, the hotel’s Chief Technology Officer, says that using non-humanoid robots can make the interactions less awkward. The hotel encourages guests to chat with the robots while they work. A robot checks Grant’s coat, and a robotic trolley takes his luggage to his hotel room.

 

(4) MORE FROM BODLEIAN. Nicholas Whyte tweeted an image from the Bodleian’s Tolkien exhibition.

(5) MOVIE POSTER AUCTION. Heritage Auctions told subscribers that sf movie posters will be featured in its forthcoming Movie Posters Auction July 28-29 in Dallas. A Star Trek poster by illustrator Bob Peak is expected to compete for top-lot honors.


Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home by Bob Peak (Paramount, 1987) (est. $40,000-80,000) is the largest and arguably the most detailed of all Star Trek posters designed by Peak. A renowned commercial artist whose greatest acclaim comes from his developments in the design of modern movie posters, Peak’s artwork has appeared on the cover of numerous magazines, including Time, TV Guide and Sports Illustrated . The brilliant color used for the evening sky of San Francisco offers stark contrast to the Klingon Bird of Prey flying just over the Golden Gate Bridge. The 40-by-57-1/2-inch poster is done on illustration board mounted on foamcore, is signed by Peak and comes with a gold frame.

“Bob Peak was a popular and important movie poster artist who produced a number of posters for various Star Trek films, and this is as dramatic as any of them,” Heritage Auctions Vintage Posters Director Grey Smith said. “His subtle portraits of several of the film’s primary characters offer an extraordinary balance to the bold images of the sunset and the Bird of Prey. This poster is a large and striking image that would be a significant addition to any collection.”

Science fiction fans also will be drawn to The War of the Worlds (Paramount, 1953). Half Sheet (22″ X 28″) Style B (est. $20,000-40,000), a rare Style B half sheet that is one of the most iconic and elusive images in the genre. Featuring Martian warship imagery not included in many other posters for the original release of George Pal’s powerful adaptation of H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel.

…Widely considered to be among the greatest film posters of all time, a Things to Come (United Artists, 1936) one sheet (est. $15,000-30,000) was inspired by another science fiction film based on another H.G. Wells-inspired screenplay. The film is based on his 1933 novel The Shape of Things to Come and his 1931 non-fiction The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind. Among the always-rare posters for this early sci-fi epic, this one stands out in part because of the 1930s deco-designed version of the future.

(6) RECORD SETTING. Seattle’s Sub Pop Records is taking preorders on Bandcamp for The Rick And Morty Soundtrack, a 26-track collection of music from the animated series on Cartoon Network. Two vinyl LP packages (“Deluxe” and “Loser”) and a digital version are available.

This release is the first official collection of music from Rick and Morty. All formats feature 26 songs, 24 of which are from the first 3 seasons of the show, and 18 of which were composed by Ryan Elder specifically for the show. The album also includes songs by Mazzy Star, Chaos Chaos, Blonde Redhead, and Belly, all of which have been featured in the show, as well as two new tunes from Chad VanGaalen and Clipping inspired by the show. The box set includes a special bonus track on a 7”.

(7) JOHNSON OBIT. Somebody has to think these things up, you know — “Alan Johnson, 81, ‘Springtime for Hitler’ Choreographer, Dies”. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times:

Alan Johnson, a choreographer renowned for his campy movie collaborations with Mel Brooks on the “Springtime for Hitler” goose-steppers-and-showgirls extravaganza in “The Producers” and the “Puttin’ On the Ritz” tap dance in “Young Frankenstein,” died on Saturday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 81.

Mr. Johnson had danced in the original Broadway production of “West Side Story” and begun his career as a choreographer when he started working with Mr. Brooks, whom he had already met through a friend, the lyricist Martin Charnin. Mr. Brooks, best known at the time for his work with Carl Reiner on the “2000 Year Old Man” records, was developing “The Producers,” about a producer who schemes with his accountant to create a certain Broadway flop and steal the money invested in it by unsuspecting old women.

…In his role as producer, Mr. Brooks gave Mr. Johnson the chance to direct two films. The first, “To Be or Not to Be” (1983), was a remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 comedy with Mr. Brooks and Ms. Bancroft in the roles played in the original by Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. Three years later Mr. Johnson directed “Solarbabies” (1986), a science-fiction story about roller-skating orphans fighting for a solution to a worldwide water shortage. It was widely panned.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • That’s some potion in Bizarro.
  • Frazz asks how a reader can like wildly disparate writers.
  • Bliss contains a space navigation tip.

(10) MOVIE AD ADAPTATIONS. These cat pictures may not display properly here, however, they are certainly worth clicking through to see.

(11) ANCIENT MONUMENT. Science journal Nature covers the “Mystery of buried children at German ‘Stonehenge’”.

Scientists scrutinize monumental complex of ditches and posts built more than 4,000 years ago.

As prehistoric Britons gathered at Stonehenge, people living in what is now Germany were erecting their own grand monument: a complex of nested circular ditches, pits and rows of posts, interspersed with the remains of women and children, who might have been human sacrifices…

(12) GRIST FOR THE MILL. Sean T. Collins argues “The only good online fandom left is Dune” at The Outline.

Beyond that, Dune is not a corporate cash cow, and being a fan doesn’t carry with it that icky feeling you’re doing an unpaid PR internship for Disney or AT&T Time Warner. You’re not being cultivated when you make a Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohaim Appreciation Thread, the way you are when you do something similar for, like, Harley Quinn or Groot. Nor are you helping billionaires whitewash their crimes if you point out politically positive aspects of the series, like its environmentalism or its bone-deep skepticism of leader cults. People who quite reasonably respond favorably to long-overdue representation of non-white-dudes in movies like The Last Jedi and Black Panther have to grapple with stuff like Marvel teaming up with defense contractors Northrop Grumman, or its CEO Ike Perlmutter being a noted Trump supporter.

(13) WHERE ROCKS WERE BANGED TOGETHER. BBC summarizes an item from Nature: “Earliest evidence of humans outside Africa”.

Scientists say they’ve found the earliest known evidence of a human presence outside Africa.

Stone tools discovered in China suggest primitive humans – or a close relative – were in the region as early as 2.12 million years ago.

They are about 270,000 years older than the previous earliest evidence, which consists of bones and tools from Dmanisi in Georgia.

The research, by a Chinese-British team, appears in the journal Nature.

The stone artefacts were discovered at Shangchen on a plateau in northern China.

(14) HOO-RAY. A Gizmodo writer is overwhelmed: “The World’s First Full-Color, 3D X-rays Are Freaking Me Out”.

A New Zealand company called Mars Bioimaging has developed a new type of medical imaging scanner that works in a similar fashion, but borrows technology developed for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to produce far more detailed results. The Medipix3 chip works similar to the sensor in your digital camera, but it detects and counts the particles hitting each pixel when a shutter opens….

It will be years before the new Spectral CT scanner receives all the clearances and approvals it needs so that it can be used in hospitals and clinics. But it’s well past the research stages at this point, and clinical trials are expected to get underway in New Zealand in the coming months.

So (posits Daniel Dern), it’s no longer too dark inside a dog to read?

(15) ACTION FIGURE REVIVAL. SYFY Wire makes note of several new lines of action figures coming soon from a company known for them in the 70’s and 80’s (“Mego toys is staging a comeback with new line of action figures from DC, Star Trek, and more”). The figures will be exclusive to Target and are being debuted at San Diego Comic-Con. They’ll appear in stores a little later this year.

Quoting the SYFY Wire article:

One of the earliest pioneers in the world of action figures is prepping a nostalgic resurrection, promoting a new line of toys at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con […]

Mego Corp., the company that innovated some of the earliest cross-merchandising action figure toys for cartoon, comics, and pop culture fans throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, is launching a new line of figures based on characters from DC, Star Trek, Firefly, Charmed, The Wizard of Oz, and more […]

Quoting the Target website:

Ready for a blast from the past? Toymaker Mego and industry legend Marty Abrams, co-founder and CEO of Mego Corporation, are recreating the company’s famous action figure line, and Target will be the exclusive retailer. The new line of collectibles hits stores and Target.com July 29, but fans will get a first look next week during a panel at San Diego Comic-Con—one of the largest gatherings of comic, movie and science fiction fans in the world….

Target’s exclusive line of Mego collectibles will be available in stores and online July 29 at prices ranging from $14.99 to $29.99. Check out our full assortment of collectibles at Target stores nationwide and Target.com.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 10/10/17 Eric And The Dread Pixel Scroll

(0) TRAINING COMPLETED. Thanks to you who wished me a good trip to New Mexico for my mother’s 91st birthday celebration. I’d say your wishes were effective, not only because we had a fine reception and dinner, but because my Amtrak experience was far superior to that of the folks who left Los Angeles aboard the previous day’s Southwest Chief. The Santa Fe New Mexican has the story

Passengers and crew aboard a Chicago-bound Amtrak train spent the night stopped in Northern New Mexico hill country after the lead engine struck a boulder and partially derailed.

No serious injuries were reported, but the two engineers in the lead engine were taken to a hospital for evaluation, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Friday from Chicago.

The incident occurred Thursday evening on Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks in a rural area near Watrous about 105 miles northeast of Albuquerque.

…The train’s second engine and all the cars remained on the tracks and the train still had power, heating and toilet service while it remained at the derailment site, the Amtrak spokesman said.

Not to overstate things — I would have missed the excitement anyway, since my destination was one of the last stops before they hit the rock, however, it still felt like a narrow escape.

(1) RUH ROH! Last month Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson shared the long history behind “Why Amazing Stories Isn’t Back on NBC”. However, over the weekend the media reported “Steven Spielberg will revive ’80s NBC series ‘Amazing Stories’ for Apple”.

Apple is making a major statement on its television ambitions as it nears an acquisition of an original series from filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

The tech giant is close to a deal to buy a new version of Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories,” the Emmy-winning sci-fi anthology series that ran on NBC from 1985 to 1987.

NBCUniversal, which co-owns the rights to the property, confirmed that an agreement is imminent. Apple declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal Tuesday.

A scripted series with the imprimatur of Spielberg, one of Hollywood’s most-heralded producer-directors thanks to “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Schindler’s List” and the “Jurassic Park” franchise, and his company Amblin Television, will be a demonstration of the tech giant’s clout as it enters the television business…

More as the story develops.

(2) PUPPY LOVE. Yahoo! says get your Kleenex ready — “Carrie Fisher’s dog watching the new ‘Star Wars’ trailer will destroy you”.

Millions of Star Wars fans watched the new trailer for The Last Jedi on Monday night — including one very good boy.

A photo of Gary, Carrie Fisher’s beloved French bulldog, was posted to his official Instagram account on Monday, and, guys, we’re warning you — it’s going to make you whimper….

(3) WHO ARE YOU? Jim C. Hines, in “A Plea to Conventions About Name Badges”, asks conventions to fix a problem that people have been complaining about the entire time I’m been in fandom.

I have a favor to ask of conventions: please design your badges so that names can be easily and clearly read.

I’ve never been good with names. It’s frustrating as hell, and it’s become a bigger problem as I travel to more conventions. I get introduced to so many people, and within 24 hours, a lot of those names escape my brain like Batman villains from Arkham Asylum.

Jim provides illustrations of what works for him, and what doesn’t.

(4) A NEW YORK COMIC CON STATE OF MIND. The Washington Post’s Aaron Gregg, in “Marvel cancels comic book deal with Northrop Grumman after Twitter backlash”, says that Marvel cancelled a proposed partnership with Northrop Grumman (whose “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” superheroes were supposed to team up with The Avengers) after lots of fans objected, noting, among other things, that Tony Stark gave up his defense contracts.

Marvel teased the partnership Friday morning in a tweet that promised more details in a presentation the following day at the New York Comic-Con festival. A retro-style comic book cover temporarily posted on Marvel’s website featured a team of “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” super heroes fighting alongside Marvel’s popular Avengers superheroes. The cover was quickly scrubbed from the company’s website, but not before it went viral on Twitter.

Twitter users ridiculed Marvel, accusing it of partnering with “death merchants.” Some pointed out that the Marvel character Iron Man, alias Tony Stark, had been the billionaire CEO of a company that built advanced weaponry but had turned his back on the weapons business after seeing its effects. Angry fans called out specific Marvel executives, and at least one suggested publicly protesting the issue at Marvel’s Comic-Con booth.….

(5) SZECHUAN LETDOWN. Meanwhile, another corporation was breaking hearts in the culinary arena. Michael Cavna and Maura Judkis, in “McDonald’s botched its ‘Rick and Morty’ Szechuan sauce stunt, and fans are not happy”, report that McDonald’s has disappointed thousands of viewers of the Cartoon Network show Rick and Morty. After 45,000 people signed a Change.org petition inspired by the show calling on the company to bring back Szechuan Sauce (originally created to promote Mulan in 1998), McDonalds promised select locations would have the sauce, but only a few did.

One Washington Post reporter was among those “Rick and Morty” fans who went questing Saturday for the fabled sauce, driving to three Maryland locations — one of them listed as an official “participating” outlet — and none had received a Szechuan shipment. One restaurant tried to pawn off Sriracha sauce. Another tried to sell the tangy Signature sauce. And a third outlet’s shift manager came to the drive-thru window to apologize profusely — clearly this wasn’t her first “Rick and Morty”-related apology of the day.

(6) REMEMBER WHEN? The Atlantic bills this article as “Revisiting Star Trek’s Most Political Episode” – which is saying something about a series that often delivered messages.

“It’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they’ve given up.” This was how Commanding Officer Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks, described early 21st-century Americans in an episode from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When it aired in 1995, “Past Tense” spoke to contemporary concerns about homelessness by telling a story set in 2024—the near future for viewers, but the distant past for characters. In the two-part episode, Sisko and two of his companions from the U.S.S. Defiant find themselves stranded in San Francisco, where they’re reminded that the federal government had once set up a series of so-called “Sanctuary Districts” in a nationwide effort to seal off homeless Americans from the general population. Stuck in 2024, Sisko, who is black—along with his North African crewmate Dr. Julian Bashir and the fair-skinned operations officer Jadzia Dax—must contend with unfamiliar racism, classism, violence, and Americans’ apparent apathy toward human suffering.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Tiaan Jerjerrod was the project manager of the second Death Star, which was destroyed at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. Supervising Jerjerrod was Emperor Palpatine’s right-hand man, Darth Vader. (Source: Death Star II: A Project Management Case Study.)

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day, whose goal is to “… raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths.” (Wikipedia)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 10, 1965 — The Red Baron first appeared in  Peanuts comic strip.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY EXPLORER

  • Born October 10, 1861 — Fridjtof Nansen, whose arctic navigation inspired fellow Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl. His ship, Fram, shares a museum with Kon Tiki and Ra.

(11) COMIC SECTION.

Martin Morse Wooster approves this “old school groaner” in today’s Frank and Ernest.

(12) SCI-FI SWINGS LIKE A PENDULUM DO. In “‘Blade Runner 2049’: Why some science fiction writers are tired of dystopias”, a recent article by the Christian Science Monitor, several sff authors suggest that they are tired of the wave of grim visions of humanity’s future. Is it time to create more works around an optimistic future based on expanding technology and human understanding?

In “Blade Runner 2049,” which opens Friday, post eco-disaster Los Angeles has built a massive coastline wall to fend off rising ocean levels. Few of the overpopulated city’s human or android occupants have ever seen a tree or a real animal. The incessant rain is as dour as Harrison Ford’s facial expressions. Worst of all? One character bemoans the fact that there’s no more cheese in the world.

Recent dystopian blockbusters seem to be jostling in a grim race to be the first to reach the seventh circle of hell in Dante’s “Inferno.” But some science-fiction writers are tired of the sorts of pessimistic futures depicted in movies and TV shows such as “The Hunger Games,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Black Mirror,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

In response, influential authors Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, David Brin, and Kim Stanley Robinson argue that futuristic fiction should, instead, offer an inspiring outlook about mankind’s ability to shape its destiny. But do the kinds of stories we tell ourselves have a cultural impact on shaping a better tomorrow?

“I want to nod at something that Jill Lepore wrote in The New Yorker about the dangers of drowning ourselves in dystopian stories,” says Christopher Robichaud, who teaches a class at Harvard Extension School on Utopia and Dystopia in fiction and philosophy. “The utility dystopian fiction used to serve was to bring problems to our attention and seek solutions. But the danger is that these stories can become a collective act of despair in response to current events.”

(13) SPACE TUTOR. In “Astronaut encourages kids to flip for STEM”, the Washington Post’s Marylou Tousignant says that the Air and Space Museum recently hosted a webcast with astronaut Randy Bresnik on the International Space Station where he had floating candy and showed kids an official NASA barf Bag.

If you could ask an astronaut orbiting in space any question, what would it be?

Students from several Washington-area schools got to do that recently at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as part of its “STEM in 30” program.

Among other things, they wanted to know: Is it hard to move around up there? Can you watch TV? How do you know when it’s time for bed? What if you get sick?

(14) GRIM TIDINGS PODCAST SEEKS SUPPORT. The hosts of the Grim Tidings Podcast have invited fans to support them via Patreon.  Rob Matheny and Philip Overby focus on interviewing authors, editors, and agents working within the Grimdark sub-genre.  They have recorded over 100 episodes including luminaries from the field such as Joe Abercrombie, C.T. Phipps, Anna Smith Spark, Brian Stavely, Michael R. Fletcher, Sebastien De Castell, Laura M. Hughes, and Deborah A. Wolf.

(15) HAIR APPARENT. Is singing songs like this the real reason John Scalzi constantly needs to think up new names for his band?

(Just kidding – I laughed….)

(16) A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. Alex Acks finds more to criticize about fantasy maps in a post for Tor.com — “Tolkien’s Map and the Perplexing River Systems of Middle-earth”.

…So what is it about the mighty Anduin that makes me tilt my head like a dog hearing a high-pitched noise? There are four main factors, in ascending order based on how easily I’m able to mentally excuse each point.

It cuts across two mountain ranges.

There is one fact you really need to understand to grasp the basics of how rivers work. Ready? Water flows downhill. That’s it. That’s the secret. Water flows downhill, and as it flows it tends to erode sediment and transport it downstream, and over long enough periods of time, that gets us our classic V-shaped river valleys and a ton of other morphological features. Which is why, when a river is on a collision course with mountains—normally places where the elevation goes up—you have to stare at it for a minute.

This is the easiest oddity for me to find an excuse for—because it is actually something that happens in reality! For example, the Colorado River cuts pretty much perpendicularly through the entire Basin and Range Province of North America. And the reason this works is because the Colorado was here before all that extensional tectonic silliness happened and the basins started dropping down from the ranges—and that process of down-drop was slow enough, relative to the ability of the Colorado to cut its own channel, that the river didn’t get permanently trapped in one of the basins.

So if we make the assumption that the Anduin existed before the mountains—and assume that the mountains uplifted in a natural way, thank you—it’s very possible for it to have cut down fast enough to maintain its course despite uplift. (Keep this in mind, we’ll be coming back to it later…)

(17) KEEP ON SWIMMING. And over the weekend Camestros Felapton gave us “Even More Plot Elements of Fantasy Maps”.

Big Islands

In Earthsea islands are large and numerous, in Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, islands barely appear and are small. In both cases they are locations and destinations and themselves contain terrain.

In Tolkien’s wider work, Númenor is the most notable island – a version of Atlantis, which itself gives us a classic inspiration for islands in Western literature. Oceanic islands can be countries with their own terrain but cut off from surroundings. Le Guin depicts the islands of Earthsea more like medieval era city-states with a wider common culture but no central authority.

It is interesting to me that Tolkien, who draws on many aspects of Britain and Britishness in building Middle Earth, avoids the island quality of Britain. This despite a tendency to mythologize the insular quality of Britain in English propaganda-history both in high-culture (Shakespeare’s ‘sceptered isle’) and low-culture (‘fog in the channel, continent cut off’). George R.R. Martin’s Westeros does this by having it be an eratz England circa the War of the Roses (with Scotland being another place full of ice zombies). Westeros’s scale seems flexible but it’s primary plot role as an island is to be a container. Events are within Westeros (up to the Wall) or beyond (either over the wall or on another continent).

The point being – oceanic islands are treated as political units rather than as terrain.

(18) JUXTAPOSITION. The title of Max Florschutz’ latest post halted me in my tracks — “Being a Better Writer Delayed” — until I remembered “Being a Better Writer” is a recurring topic at his Unusual Things blog.

(19) HOLY BLEEP. Camestros Felapton subjected his precious bodily fluids to a famous corporation’s bizarre new offering, “Coca-cola with coffee”.

…There is also a weird slimy quality to it. It’s like drinking coke but a bit more unpleasant.

The coffee is “real” and from Brazil. If I was Brazil I might object to the free advertising.

(20) X-FILES SEASON 11 TRAILER. The truth etc. etc.

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