Pixel Scroll 4/17/20 We Go Scrolling Through The Park, Goosing Pixels In The Dark

(1) ON BOARD. Tim Pratt’s space opera The Fractured Void will kick off a new series of books from Aconyte based on the Twilight Imperium strategic boardgame. Pratt does a Q&A here about his novel, coming in November.

Tim Pratt

How do you get into the headspace of a completely alien species… ones who might not even have heads?
 
All the playable aliens in Twilight Imperium have something in common with humanity: they want stuff. Desire is the common language that drives character motivations (and character is what drives plot).
 
Whether you’re a telepathic serpent or an ocean-dwelling scientist with tentacles, the universality of desire makes you comprehensible.
 
Admittedly, there are some factions that are harder to write point-of-view characters for, because their mental process is so alien – the Nekro Virus and the Arborec come to mind – but there are tricks for writing entities that are insane by human standards or possessed of a group consciousness (stream of consciousness, first-person plural viewpoints, and so on). Science fiction is all about imagining alien mindsets, or familiar mindsets confronted by alien circumstances and writing Twilight Imperium will give me the chance to do both.

(2) FULLY PACKED. This week in “The Full Lid 17th April 2020”, Alasdair Stuart leads off with “The Patron Saints of Freelancing,” about the lessons freelancers can take away from the hard-travelling heroes of The Mandalorian and The Witcher.

The Mandalorian and The Witcher have a lot in common. Monosyllabic leads, a bone-dry sense of humor, plots about reluctant dads, tons of cool armor, not quite enough screen time for supporting female characters…

But underneath all that there’s another narrative, one that resonates with me on a deep level. Both shows are about freelancers. And not (just) the biblical ass-kicking you get handed either: the social pressures of the job, the ways you survive it and the people you meet….

He also takes a look at how The Letter for the King almost lands some really brave choices, and the new oceanic horror movie, Sea Fever. Interludes this week are Sam Rockwell, Margaret Qualley and Christopher Walken cutting various degrees of rug in some epic dance routines and, as ever, Signal Boost is crammed full of treasures.

The Full Lid publishes weekly at 5 p.m. GMT on Fridays. Signup is free and the last six months are archived here.

(3) READERCON CANCELLED. The Readercon committee has announced that the event, which was to be held in Boston this July, has been cancelled. The series will resume next year.

Since our initial announcement on March 15, the United States has become an epicenter for COVID-19. The Governor of Massachusetts has prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people through at least May 4, as of this announcement. Experts predict that continued social distancing efforts may be required until such time as there is an effective vaccine, a milestone we are not expected to reach in time for this summer.

Because the safety of all our members—and their families—is our top concern, we have decided to postpone Readercon 31 for a year. It will now be held July 8 to 11, 2021 at the Marriott Boston Quincy, and Jeffrey Ford and Ursula Vernon have graciously agreed to remain our Guests of Honor, with Vonda N. McIntyre as our Memorial Guest of Honor….

(4) LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE ISOLATOR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport interviews astronauts and explorers who have spent a lot of time in isolation for tips about how to survive the age of social distancing.  (Two tips:  don’t count the number of days you are isolated and have as many celebrations as possible.) “Even astronauts get ornery: Coronavirus advice from those who have endured social distancing in the extreme”.

…“I have no idea how many days I’ve been in quarantine. None,” said Scott Kelly, the former NASA astronaut who spent 340 days in space, the record for the longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut. “I don’t think about it. I just think, this is my reality. This is my mission. And it will someday be over.”Today, instead of being confined on the International Space Station with a handful of crewmates, he’s restricted to his 1,200-square-foot, two-bedrooms-with-den apartment in Houston with his wife. But his philosophy is the same, as is his strict adherence to routine, laid out daily on a shared Google calendar. He sets his alarm for 7 a.m., eats breakfast, “then work goes to noon, and then lunch, and then work, and then physical training, then plan for the next day, then dinner, then free time.”

(5) HUGO COVERAGE. “Vermont Author Katherine Arden Nominated for Hugo Award” – Andrew Liptak’s report was published in the Vermont pop culture publication Seven Days.

The conclusion of the trilogy qualified it for this year’s Best Series award, which is the Hugo’s newest addition, established in 2017.

In reaction to the nomination, Arden said, “The first time the Hugos came onto my radar was when I read Ender’s Game over and over as a kid. It had ‘WINNER OF THE HUGO AWARD’ emblazoned on the cover.”

That introduction is common to genre fans: The award can help readers cut through the overwhelming pile of stories and find the best ones. “The possibility that a book of my own will have a similar bit on its cover is thrilling and surreal,” Arden said.

(6) OBJECT LESSON. James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com article, “Shiny Cosmic Objects and the Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe”, is of interest in its own right, and triggered a good conversation about sff history in the comments.

It’s just the sort of object SF authors might find notable enough to namecheck. More importantly, it’s something at which curious, technically advanced species would want a closer look. Call it a Leinster Object.

(7) ROWAND OBIT. LASFS member Ken Rowand (1948-2020) died April 12 of cancer. In years gone by he was a regular at the clubhouse’s Hell’s Bridge games and Magic Tournaments. He lived in Northern California for awhile in the early 1980s and did work for the Star Wars Fan Club, such as conducting the interview with Ralph McQuarrie published in Bantha Tracks #15 (1982). He is survived by his wife Marta Strohl.

(8) DAVIAU OBIT. Five-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Allen Daviau, who collaborated with Steven Spielberg and other film directors, died of COVID-19. NPR paid tribute: “‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’ Cinematographer And Spielberg Collaborator Dies.

…In a statement, Spielberg said his old his friend was, “a wonderful artist, but his warmth and humanity were as powerful as his lens.”

Daviau was born 77 years ago in New Orleans, and started out making music videos long before MTV existed. In 1968, he teamed up with Spielberg for the short film Amblin. They went on to make the memorable 1980’s films Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple, and E.T. the Extra -Terrestrial….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 17, 1956 X Minus One’s “Jaywalker” first aired. Written by Ross Rocklynne who was a regular contributor to Astounding StoriesFantastic Adventures and Planet Stories, and who is a finalist this year for the Retro Hugo for his “Intruders from the Stars” novella. George Lefferts wrote script. The cast included Bob Hastings, R.E. Johnson, Terri Keane  and Connie Leinke. You can hear it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 17, 1923 Lloyd Biggle Jr. He was the founding Secretary-Treasurer of Science Fiction Writers of America and served as Chairman of its trustees for many years. Writing wise, his best known series was about the Jan Darzek and Effie Schlupe troubleshooting team, and the Cultural Survey.  I find it interesting that he wrote his own Sherlock Holmes stories from the perspective of Edward Porter Jones, an assistant who began his association with Holmes as a Baker Street Irregular. There’re are two novels in this series, The Quallsford Inheritance and The Glendower Conspiracy. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 17, 1923 T. Bruce Yerke. Involved in LASFS early on, serving as its secretary for many years, and instrumental in recruiting Ray Bradbury to the club. Forrest J. Ackerman, Morojo and he co-edited the Imagination! zine which won the Best Fanzine 1939 Retro-Hugo Awards at Loncon 3. His unfinished biography though published biography, Memoirs of a Superfluous Fan, is a good look at the early days of LASFS. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 17, 1942 David Bradley, 78. It’s his Doctor Who work that garners him a Birthday honor.  He first showed up during the time of the Eleventh Doctor playing a complete Rat Bastard of a character named Solomon in the “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” episode. But it was his second role on the series as actor who was the First Doctor that makes him really worth noting. He portrayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time and then played the role of the First Doctor again in “The Doctor Falls” and “Twice Upon a Time”, both Twelfth Doctor stories.  He is also known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter film franchise, Walder Frey in Game of Thrones and Abraham Setrakian in The Strain.
  • Born April 17, 1948 Peter Fehervari, 72. Ok, I’ll admit I’m including him because he’s written a number of novels set in the Warhammer Universe and I’ve never read anything set there. Who here has read the fiction set there? Is it worth reading, and if so, is there a good starting point?
  • Born April 17, 1959 Sean Bean, 61. His current role that garners him recognition is his performance as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, but he’s worked in our area interest a long time.  His first genre role was in GoldenEye as the the antagonist of Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Janus).  Next he shows up as Boromir in the first of The Lord of the Rings films. He played Dr. Merrick in the horror SF film The Island and was James in horror flick The Dark high purports to be based off Welsh myth. Following in the horror vein, he’s Chris Da Silva in Silent Hill (which gets a sequel later in Silent Hill: Revelation) and in yet more horror is John Ryder in the remake of the The Hitcher. (Was it so good that it yearned for a remake? I doubt it.)  Black Death — yes more horror — and the character of Ulric ensued next. Finally, something not of a horror nature in playing Zeus in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief happened. I’m going to forgo listing the subsequent horror films he’s in and just finally note that he’s in The Martian playingMitch Henderson. 
  • Born April 17, 1972 Jennifer Garner, 48. Back before there was the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there were Marvel Comic movies. Such was the case with Elektra and its lead character of Elektra Natchios. Don’t remember anything about the film anymore. She also had the same role in Daredevil which was at best an OK film.
  • Born April 17, 1985 Rooney Mara, 35. She first shows up as Mary Lambert in Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, a slasher film, followed by being Nancy Holbrook in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and then Tiger Lily in Pan, a prequel to Peter Pan. Since then, she’s been M in A Ghost Story, and lastly is Molly Cahill in Nightmare Alley.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MAKING HEADLINES. As anticipated Cora Buhlert’s Hugo nomination made the news in her other local paper, too, the Kreiszeitung (County Paper): “Sie ist eine Auserwählte”. The tagline says (according to Google Translate) —

Seckenhausen – “You have been nominated.” These four words were in an email that Cora Buhlert had discovered in her mailbox about three weeks ago. At first she thought it was just a Worldcon newsletter, but then she read the next word

Cora says, “I’m quite stunned about the extensive coverage. I suspect part of the reason is that since sports events, city council sessions, festivals, etc… don’t take place at the moment, local journalists have more time and space to report about other things such as North Germany’s first Hugo finalist. 

“I also got invited to contribute a book recommendation to the World Book Day coverage of one of the two local papers, which again has never happened before, even though I used to hang out on the edges of the local arts scene.”

 (13) NOT SPARING THE ROD. In “Shorefall: Come for the heists and explosions, stay for the debates”, Fantasy Fiction’s Bill Capossere leads into a review of the new Robert Jackson Bennett novel with this exhortation:

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Once upon a time there was a small group of uber-powerful folks who truly messed up the world. Luckily that was ages, sorry, I mean, Ages, ago. But now one of those ancient badass power users is potentially going to return and hoo boy is the world in trouble if he gathers all his power yet again. Thank the gods for the plucky group of scruffy underdogs who are definitely not a fellowship and who have decided to risk their lives to prevent the Dark Power’s rise. Anyone? Bueller?

OK, yes. We’ve all heard it before. So you might be forgiven if, upon learning that Robert Jackson Bennett’s newest title, Shorefall (sequel to the fantastic Foundryside), is about a spirited group of outnumbered and outgunned people trying to prevent the resurrection of an ancient power, you think to yourself, “Oh man, not another one of these!” You might be forgiven. But then again, you might not be. Because that would mean you haven’t been paying attention to Robert Jackson Bennett, because you would know he doesn’t do “another one of those.” And really, nobody should be forgiven for not paying attention to Robert Jackson Bennett, who has proven himself to be one of our best writers. Consider yourself duly chastised….

(14) SPACEX MANNED MISSION “Nasa to launch first manned mission from US in decade” – BBC has the story.

Nasa has announced that next month it will launch its first manned mission from US soil in almost 10 years.

The rocket and the spacecraft it is carrying are due to take off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre on 27 May, taking two astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

Both the rocket and spacecraft were developed by private company SpaceX.

Nasa has been using Russian rockets for manned flights since its space shuttle was retired in 2011.

(15) 1984 BALLET. Available on YouTube as a fundraiser, the UK’s Northern Ballet production of 1984.

Winston Smith lives in a world of absolute conformity, his every action is scrutinized by Big Brother. But when Winston meets Julia, he dares to rebel by falling in love. Based on George Orwell’s masterpiece and choreographed by [former Royal Ballet dancer] Jonathan Watkins, 1984 pushes the boundaries of contemporary ballet and won the dance award at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards in June 2016. If you can, please help us to protect our people and our work during these unprecedented times and make a donation when you watch:

It is now available to watch online until May 2 as part of their “Pay As You Feel Digital Season.”

(16) PHANTOM RETURNS. Also available for a very short time – today and tomorrow – “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary special to be streamed for free on YouTube”.

Musical maker Andrew Lloyd Webber will stream his anniversary production of The Phantom of the Opera on his new YouTube channel from 7pm on Friday (17 April).

The 25th-anniversary concert production, filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011 features Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine. It will be available for 24 hours – so worth planning for a Friday night or Saturday matinee!

The show is the third in a new series of Lloyd Webber’s works that are being streamed for free online while a lockdown of UK households continues, which has seen theatres closed up and down the country. You can tune in here on Friday for more.

(17) IF I HAD A HAMMER. A Late Show with Stephen Colbert excerpt discovered thanks to Gizmodo (“We Could Watch Cate Blanchett Showing Off Her Thor and Hobbit Props Forever”).

The star of “Mrs. America” on FX and Hulu wields some serious hero weaponry in this pajama party interview with Stephen Colbert.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Francis Hamit, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Russell Letson.]

2019 Novellapalooza

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

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

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

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

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

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

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

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 8/10/19 The Square Of The Pixel Is Equal To The Sum Of The Squares Of The File And The Scroll

(1) LISTEN UP. At the Horror Writers Association blog, Matthew W. Quinn cites many examples of “How Podcasting Can Help Writers Learn and Network”.

Firstly, podcasts provide great opportunities to work with other writers. Thanks to The Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast, I learned hostess Lindsay Buroker had opened up her Fallen Empireuniverse to other writers through Amazon’s Kindle Worlds program. From this one podcast episode came my short novellas “Ten Davids, Two Goliaths” and “Discovery and Flight.” I also got the opportunity to help Ms. Buroker further organize the back-story, something that proved helpful for everybody involved in the Kindle Worlds project. Thanks to The Horror Show With Brian Keene, I was able to connect with authors Brian Keene and Wesley Southard, who both blurbed my forthcoming horror-comedy novella Little People, Big Guns. After buying ads on The Horror Show and the related podcast Cosmic Shenanigans, Project Entertainment Network owner Armand Rosamilia agreed to blurb The Atlanta Incursion, the forthcoming sequel to my Lovecraftian novel The Thing in the Woods. I also learned about Dan Wells’ “I Am Not A Serial Killer” series from Writing Excuses. Not only did I find books I enjoyed, but I also reviewed two of the three books in the first trilogy and the movie adaptation of the first novel and blogged about a DragonCon panel featuring Wells in which I got the chance to talk with him about the book and the film. Finally, thanks to regularly listening to the Bizzong podcast, I have an interview with host Frank Edler to promote LPBG slated for this fall.

(2) IN MEMORY YET GREEN. The Irish Times profiles a writer on his way to Dublin 2019: “George RR Martin: ‘Science fiction has conquered the world’”.

…Instead I ask why fantasy and sci-fi writers seem so much more intimately connected to their fans than writers of other genres do.

“Science fiction, for much of its history – and this goes back to before I was born – was not considered reputable,” says Martin. “It was seen as cheap gutter entertainment. I was a bright kid, but even I had teachers say to me, ‘Why do you read that science-fiction stuff? Why don’t you read real literature?’ You got that kind of snobbism.

“So the early science-fiction fans, in the 1930s and 1940s and early 1950s, felt that very much, and they gathered together, and it was sort of an ‘us against the world’ thing. ‘We know this is great stuff, and you on the outside might make fun of us, and mock us, but we’ll band together.’ And the writers started coming to the conventions, and many writers came out of fandom; they started out as fans.”

Where does he think that patronising attitude to genre fiction comes from? “You can go back to the literary quarrel between Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson, ” he says, “and that’s really where you see a split between high literature and popular literature. Before that it was just literature.

…“But essentially, in the opinion of most university lecturers for 100 years, James won that argument, and literature had to be about something serious and real life, and if it was about pirates or space travel or dragons or monsters then it was something for children.” He laughs. “That’s all changed. Now science fiction, far from being this little persecuted genre that it was in the 1950s, has conquered the world.”

(3) TOLKIEN ESTATE SETS LIMITS. According to The Guardian, “Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings ‘cannot use much of Tolkien’s plot'”.

…Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey, who is supervising the show’s development, told German fansite Deutsche Tolkien that the estate has refused to allow the series to be set during any period other than the Second Age of Middle-earth. This means Amazon’s adaptation will not cross over at all with events from the Third Age, which were dramatised in Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning trilogy and sees hobbit Frodo Baggins destroy the One Ring.

Spanning 3,441 years, the Second Age begins after the banishment of the dark lord Morgoth and ends with the first demise of Sauron, Morgoth’s servant and the primary villain in The Lord of the Rings, at the hands of an alliance of elves and men.

Shippey said that Amazon “has a relatively free hand” to add details since Tolkien did not flesh out every detail of the Second Age in his appendices or Unfinished Tales, a collection of stories published posthumously in 1980. But Shippey called it “a bit of a minefield – you have to tread very carefully”, saying that “the Tolkien estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered. Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenórean expedition, is returns to Númenor. There he corrupts the Númenóreans and seduces them to break the ban of the Valar. All this, the course of history, must remain the same…

(4) BENNETT’S VIGILANCE. NPR’s Jason Heller tells us that “‘Vigilance’ Imagines A Chillingly Familiar Future”

Robert Jackson Bennett has a wicked sense of humor. His 2013 novel American Elsewhere trained a satirical eye on small-town America even as it straddled the boundaries of science fiction and horror. Yet with his latest work, a novella called Vigilance, the Austin-based author and two-time winner of the Shirley Jackson Award tackles one of the most deadly serious — and sadly relevant — topics of all: mass shootings. As in American Elsewhere, there’s both science fiction and horror in Vigilance. There’s also that wicked Bennett sense of humor. He spares no disturbing absurdity or twinge of cognitive dissonance in his examination of gun mania and the new normal of everyday massacres in America.

Make no mistake: For all its satire of government, entertainment, society, and violence, Vigilance is a sobering read. It takes place just a few years in our future, in a United States that’s simultaneously unrecognizable and chillingly familiar. Texas is in flames. The governor of Iowa is an open white supremacist. Warfare has become almost entirely remote, done with robots and drones, so that the bloodlust and sense of martial duty fostered in people by American society — as well as the noble, heroic ideal of the valiant solder — has nowhere to be vented or expressed. And the younger, more liberal generation has almost entirely fled the United States for other nations with stricter gun control, leaving the older, more gun-favoring population behind.

What that population has done is blood-curdling. John McDean is a producer for a popular television show called Vigilance, in which mass shootings are broadcast for public consumption to those who wish “to witness violence and fear, but always from safe refuge.” His target demographic is the American pistol-owner. As McDean coldly, cruelly calculates, “Pistols are for killing people. Pistols are for urban environments. Pistols are for defense.” They are the perfect choice of what McDean calls his Ideal Person, “isolated within a huge suburban house, wary and suspicious of the outside world, listening to the beautiful woman on the television warn them of horrors and depravity in the lands beyond the borders, of corruption creeping into our cities.”

(5) KAIJU VACATION. Lorelei Marcus is back from Japan where she saw the latest (in 1964) Godzilla movie: “[Aug. 7, 1964] Rematch! (Mothra vs. Godzilla)”.

In June this year, 1964, my family and I took a three week vacation to the island nation of Japan. Though I have been many times before, this was the first time I felt changed as a person after coming home. Perhaps it was the fact that I was finally old enough to appreciate the world around me; or perhaps it was because we’d chosen to stay in a new place: Hiroshima was still under construction, but I could tell it was going to become a beautiful city, despite the air of tragedy. Regardless, I saw Japan in a new light, and it has brought me to see the world in a new light as well.

I also got to see Mothra vs Godzilla, and it was incredible…

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 10, 1960 Dinosaurus! premiered on this day.
  • August 10, 1962The Brain That Wouldn’t Die had its theatrical debut
  • August 10, 1984 — The Banzai Institute reminds us:

It was 35 years ago today that Dr. B. Banzai, while conducting a supersonic test of his remarkable Jet Car, breached the dimensional barrier with his experimental Oscillation Overthruster and made contact with the 8th dimension. Congratulations to Dr. Banzai, as well as to the filmmaking team that documented this extraordinary event. 

  • August 10, 2004 — Donald Duck received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 10, 1896 John Gloag. His first SF novel, Tomorrow’s Yesterday, depicts a race of cat people from the distant future observing human society. It was one of five SF novels and a double handful of short stories he wrote in the Thirties and Forties. Only A Short Dictionary of Furniture, one of his non-fiction efforts, is available digitally. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in  genre films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter from his own novel. ISFDB notes the latter was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and a very few other works are available in digital form.  (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows and several novels more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes as ISFDB documents four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World. Kidneys anyone? Or tripe anyone?  (Died 1978.)
  • Born August 10, 1931 Alexis A. Gilliland, 88. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1982, edging out Brin and Swanwick for the honor. Gilliland also won four Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist in the early Eighties and won the Tucker Award for Excellence in Partying in the late Eighties. What the Hell is that?  He’s got two series, Rosinante and Wizenbeak, neither of which I’ve read.
  • Born August 10, 1939 Kate O’Mara. Her films included two Hammer Horror films, The Vampire Lovers and The Horror of Frankenstein. She also appeared on Doctor Who as The Rani during the Era of The Seventh Doctor in a recurring role. She reposted that role in the charity special, Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 10, 1952 David C. Smith, 67. He is best known for his fantasy novels, particularly those co-authored with Richard L. Tierney, featuring characters created by Robert E. Howard, most notably the six novels which involved Red Sonja. Those novels are available on iBooks but not on Kindle. 
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 64. Best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), and Bacchus, a series about the few Greek gods who have made to our time. Though not genre, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell. 
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 54. Best known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space Rangers, Highlander, Quantum Leap, Relic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on StarHyke, a six episode SF comic series shot in ‘05 you can see on Amazon Prime. 

(8) HELP PICK THE EXPANSE TOYS. Bonnie McDaniel alerts Filers to Amazon’s page where you can vote on toys and dolls to be included with their upcoming box set of The Expanse. “Needless to say, I voted for the swearing Avasarala doll.” 😀

Some of you wanted a statue of Madam Secretary; others wanted this to be much more “playful.” We’re going to start with the idea of a highly decorated doll. We’ll dress her in her red tunic and include all the proper accessories. We’ll put her in a whimsical toy box for display. And, most importantly, she’ll come with attitude. Press her back and hear her favorite adult-rated sayings. Approx. 12” high.

(9) TUNE INTO SFF. BBC Radio 4’s Stillicide is a futuristic mini-series. Each episode is only 15 minutes and will be on i-player for a month.

Stillicide

Episode 1 of 12

Cynan Jones’ electrifying series set in the very near future – a future a little, but not quite like our own.

Water is commodified and the Water Train that feeds the city is increasingly at risk of sabotage. And now icebergs are set to be towed to a huge ice dock outside the capital city – a huge megalopolis that is draining the country of its resources.

Against this, a lone marksman stands out in the field. His job is to protect the Water Train…

From one of the most celebrated writers of his generation, Stillicide is a moving story of love and loss and the will to survive, and a powerful glimpse of the tangible future.

Available now — “Episode 1: The Water Train”

(10) SHOOTING THE MOON. Let’s also mention Gideon Marcus’ profile of the latest Moon exploration efforts of 55 years ago. This job is not that bleepin’ easy! “[August 1, 1964] On Target (The Successful Flight of Ranger 7)”.

…Never mind them.  Rangers 3-5 were the real lunar probes, even including giant balsawood pimples on the end, which housed seismometers that could survive impact with the Moon.  It was more important than ever that we know what the lunar surface was like now that President Kennedy had announced that we would, as a nation, put a man on the Moon and bring him safely back to Earth before the decade was out.

Easier said than done.  Ranger 3, launched in January 1962, missed the Moon.  Moreover, it sailed past while facing the wrong way.  The probe took no useful pictures, and a failure of the onboard computer prevented the acquisition of sky science data….

(11) THE WATCHERS. On the National Public Radio website, Annalisa Quinn reviews a new novel, The Turn of the Key (Ruth Ware), that updates Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw for the current digital and surveillance age. (“We’re All Haunted In ‘The Turn Of The Key'”)

     In Henry James’s ambiguous, paranoid novella The Turn of the Screw (1898), a governess is left in charge of two children in an isolated Essex country house. Over time, she becomes convinced the children are communing with the ghosts of former servants, who appear to them, at first at a distance and then ever closer, threatening to lead them to damnation. By the end, a child is dead, but we still don’t know: Were the ghosts real, or were they in the governess’s head?

     With The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware (The Woman in Cabin 10) offers a clever and elegant update to James’s story, one with less ambiguity but its own eerie potency. Rowan Caine accepts a nannying job at a gorgeous house in the Scottish Highlands, wired with a smart home app called, horribly, “Happy,” that lets its owners surveil every room in the house from afar, control the lights, heat, and locks — and even talk through speakers in the walls.

(12) EVERYBODY WAVE AT LARRY. Larry Correia tells people he never reads this blog, yet it’s important to him to know what’s being said about him here and to respond to it because he has the thinnest-skin and the biggest ears of anyone in the field. “House of Assassins Is A Finalist For The Dragon Award For Best Fantasy” [Internet Archive link].

(13) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. In July, Greg Bear blogged about his experiences “Meeting Epstein”. He met him at a conference in 2011 to which he was invited at the behest of AI researcher Marvin Minsky. Bloomberg’s article says Virginia Giuffre has named Minsky as someone Jeffrey Epstein sent her to when she was 17, according to an unsealed deposition in Federal court.

…On a couple of occasions, we had face time with Epstein, who seemed, to me, an eccentric and possibly brilliant financier with weird ideas about economics–but hell, he was paying all the bills, so we were polite. One of our observations about his entourage was they consisted mostly of attractive young women in their twenties or early thirties, at most, brought over from his private island near St. John, where it seemed they staffed his house. We had been dangled the possibility of being taken out to that island to see the sights, but most of us did not get that opportunity.

The women, by my instincts, were of a uniform and somewhat inaccessible temper, and I got the impression that Epstein was their lord and master, and they did not range far in their daily lives. But they were all adults.

At one point during the conference, with Epstein in the room, some imp of perverse in me made an analogy (I cannot remember my exact point, or the reason for the analogy) to Dracula coming down out of his castle to ravage the young women of the village. That put an end — though not abruptly — to our face time with Epstein, and the conference ended on schedule. We had a great time with Marvin and his wife, Gloria, loved the islands and towns, and never heard from Epstein or his people again. No further conferences were arranged, at least with me involved….

(14) ON THE CHEAP. Getting up-to-date images is easy when the satellites are cheap enough that you can put up a lot of them: “Iceye satellites return super-sharp radar images”.

Finnish space start-up Iceye has once again given an impressive demonstration of its novel technology’s capabilities.

The company’s radar satellites are now returning sub-1m resolution images of the Earth’s surface.

This level of performance is expected from traditional spacecraft that weigh a tonne or more and cost in excess of one hundred million euros.

But Iceye’s breakthrough satellites are the size of a suitcase and cost only a couple of million to build.

The Helsinki-based outfit is leading a group of “New Space” companies that aim to fly constellations of such radar imagers.

This is something that would have seemed technically very challenging and prohibitively expensive just a few years ago.

(15) STANDING UP. ComicBook.com sees the pursuit of truth and justice: “Superman Joins Twitter, Dives Into Immigration Debate”.

Few things are as debated at the moment in America as Immigration, and while there are a myriad of opinions about how we should handle it, I don’t think anyone expected Superman to jump into the fray. That’s exactly what DC did though when Superman got a Twitter account, and the hero didn’t waste any time establishing who he is and what he’s always been about. DC shared a video featuring a classic Superman PSA from 1960 titled Lend A Friendly Hand, which put a spotlight on two children looking down on another child because he is a refugee, and Superman breaks down what’s wrong with their thinking.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Meow Wolf–Awakening Creativity for the Masses” on Vimeo is an interview with Meow Wolf CEO Vince Kadlubek where he talks about Meow Wolf’s nethods of creating art and how they can inspire creativity ine everyone who experiences a Meow Wolf production.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cliff Ramshaw, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, James Bacon, James Davis Nicoll, Bonnie McDaniel, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Re-Writing The World: Robert Jackson Bennett’s Foundryside

 

By JJ: I’ve been outspoken here in the past about my appreciation for Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy, which was a finalist last year for the Hugo Award for Best Series.

I’ve been looking forward to more work from Bennett, and was delighted to see that he’d published a new novel: Foundryside. This is set in a new universe, and while it’s very different from that of The Divine Cities, it’s a fascinating, fully-realized world which combines fantasy with engineering in what could be called “scriberpunk”.

The engineering in this world, instead of being driven by steam, is driven by inscriptions written on ordinary objects. Linked to, and powered by, “lexicons” – which are essentially databases of definitions of various types of reality – these inscriptions instruct objects to behave in ways contrary to their normal nature.

Imagine the power with which an object could be hurled if you’ve convinced it that it’s falling to the earth from 10,000 feet up. Imagine knowing what is happening right now in a place far away, because you hold an object for which its metaphysical twin is being altered to deliver that news.

The world itself is a complex and contradictory one: wealthy people live in compounds where wonderful food, clothing, shelter, and luxuries are widely available – while poor people beg and steal in the streets outside, trying to survive in their own world of violence and privation.

And this is a world which has risen from the ashes of a much older, more advanced civilization. The scrivings currently being done by the wealthy Founders’ research scientists and by the clever science-inclined denizens of the city’s struggling underclass are merely the comparatively tiny scraps they have desperately managed to reverse-engineer from the relics of that civilization, which fell to an unknown cataclysm.

Sancia is an inhabitant of the poor section of the city of Tevanne, known as Foundryside. She is scrappy and resourceful, a clever thief who hides a frightening secret: she is the lone survivor of the brutal experiments conducted on slave plantations outside the city which attempted to create scrived human beings. Because of the inscriptions which have been placed in her skull, she has abilities of which no one is aware. But she is in danger, because her actions with her special powers have given her away, and there are several powerful people with numerous opposing motives who are all searching for her.

Touching on themes of wealth vs. poverty, the ability of the rich to exploit the poor, slavery, colonialism, and corporations for which the only concern is the accumulation of yet more wealth, Bennett’s novel is a tantalizing view of our own world transferred to a universe where engineers are gods and ordinary people do their best to take care of themselves and each other against seemingly-insurmountable odds.

I found this story utterly engaging and couldn’t put it down until I finished. I can’t wait for the next entry in this world to come out. Shorefall will be released in February 2020.

Read more…

Pixel Scroll 1/29/19 Dill Pixels

(1) TIPTREE ON TV? Jennifer Kent, who directed the exceptional horror film The Babadook, and is currently at Sundance screening her second film, the historical drama The Nightingale, is developing a project based on the life and stories of James Tiptree Jr. / Alice Sheldon: “Sundance 2019 Interview: Babadook Director Jennifer Kent on Her New Film, The Nightingale” at Rogerebert.com.

And Tiptree?

I don’t know where to start. There was this writer of short science fiction stories in ’60s and ’70s who was very feted, and of the level of Philip K. Dick, or Ursula Le Guin. He was really creating the most powerful stories of gender and of being an outsider. But they were so potent, very prescient; because it’s almost the world we’re living in now. So they were written 50 years ago. They’re incredibly relevant still, and then he was sort of well known. His stories were well known, but no one knew who he was for 10 years, and then eventually someone uncovered his identity to be a woman in her 60s, in I think Virginia. This woman’s story is unbelievable. Unbelievable. And she was a genius. So I want to tell her story.

So you’ll make something episodic at a network?

Yeah, but including her short stories within. It’s not a straight biopic; so aliens from her stories inhabit her true world, and then she will be in the world of her stories, and it’s so exciting to me. It’s science fiction, which I love. I came across that because I was being given a lot of science fiction scripts. And I thought, “Where are the female science fiction stories?” So I Googled “female science fiction”, and I came across her! It was so hard to get the rights. And then I got all the rights to these stories, so it’s just meant to be. I could sit for hours and tell you how we got these rights. I’m working with producer Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, who is wonderful. He’s engaged with a company called Imperative, and so that’s the deal at the moment. But Imperative has thrown some money at the development, but we want to keep control of it. So we didn’t want to go to HBO and have it sit on a shelf and not get made, for example. So, we want to come with a pilot and a bible, so I’m working on that at the moment.

(2) STOKERCON UK. In April 2020 the Horror Writers Association’s annual event, StokerCon, will be held in the UK, and A.K. Benedict will be the Mistress of Ceremonies.

Taking place in Scarborough, just down the coast from Whitby – the town that provided so much of the inspiration for Stoker’s iconic Dracula – this is an event not to be missed for writers and readers of horror fiction.

The event is delighted to confirm its Mistress of Ceremonies for the weekend will be author A.K. Benedict, who will be launching the weekend’s proceedings. A.K. Benedict was educated at Cambridge, University of Sussex and Clown School. Described by the Sunday Express as ‘one of the new stars of crime fiction with a supernatural twist’, AK Benedict’s debut novel, The Beauty of Murder, was shortlisted for an eDunnit award and is in development for TV by Company Pictures. Her second novel from Orion, The Evidence of Ghosts, is a love song to London and shows her obsession with all things haunted. Her radio drama includes Doctor Who and Torchwood plays for Big Finish and a modern adaptation of M.R. James’ Lost Hearts for Bafflegab/Audible.

(3) ODYSSEY WORKSHOP SCHOLARSHIPS. Here is an overview of “2019 Odyssey Writing Workshop Scholarship Opportunities”. The Odyssey Writing Workshop is an acclaimed, six-week program for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror held each summer in New Hampshire. Writers apply from all over the world; only fifteen are admitted.

  • George R.R. Martin sponsors the Miskatonic Scholarship, awarded each year to a promising writer of Lovecraftian cosmic horror, a type of fiction Martin loves and wants to encourage. The scholarship covers full tuition, textbook, and housing. Martin says, “It’s my hope that this new scholarship will offer an opportunity to a worthy applicant who might not otherwise have been able to afford the Odyssey experience.” Applicants must demonstrate financial need in a separate application. Full details at the link.
  • Bestselling author and Odyssey graduate Sara King is sponsoring the Parasite Publications Character Awards to provide financial assistance to three character-based writers wishing to attend this summer’s Odyssey. The Parasite Publications Character Awards, three scholarships in the amounts of $2,060 (full tuition), $500, and $300, will be awarded to the three members of the incoming class who are deemed extraordinarily strong character writers, creating powerful, emotional characters that grab the reader and don’t let go. No separate application is required.
  • The new Chris Kelworth Memorial Scholarship will be offered to a Canadian writer admitted to Odyssey. This scholarship, funded by alumni and friends of Chris, will cover $900 of tuition.
  • One work/study position is also available. The work/study student spends about six hours per week performing duties for Odyssey, such as photocopying, sending stories to guests, distributing mail to students, and preparing for guest visits. Odyssey reimburses $800 of the work/study student’s tuition.

(4) FREE READ. Arizona State University has published Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction, Volume II, an anthology featuring 10 short stories from ASU’s 2018 global climate fiction contest, plus a foreword by Kim Stanley Robinson, who also served as the lead judge for the contest.

The stories explore climate chaos, its aftermath, and possible ways forward through a variety of genres and styles, from science fiction and fantasy to literary fiction and prose poetry. It’s free to download in a variety of digital formats (HTML, EPUB, MOBI, and via Apple iBooks).

Table of Contents:

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, Foreword
  • Angie Dell and Joey Eschrich, Editors’ Introduction
  • Monarch Blue, by Barbara Litkowski
  • The Last Grand Tour of Albertine’s Watch, by Sandra K. Barnidge
  • Half-Eaten Cities, by Vajra Chandrasekera
  • Darkness Full of Light, by Tony Dietz
  • Luna, by David Samuel Hudson
  • Tuolumne River Days, by Rebecca Lawton
  • The Most Beautiful Voyage in the World, by Jean McNeil
  • Orphan Bird, by Leah Newsom
  • The Office of Climate Facts, by Mitch Sullivan
  • Losing What We Can’t Live Without, by Jean-Louis Trudel
  • About the Contributors
  • Honorable Mention: 2018 Contest Semifinalists

(5) HUGO VOTER ELIGIBILITY. Dublin 2019 is fixing this –

(6) MY KINGDOM FOR CANON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Retcons are king. Or kinda want to be. The Daily Dot stares into the abyss at the changing look of Klingons over the various Star Trek series and movies—and especially the significant changes between the first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery  (“Here’s Why the Klingons Look Different in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 2”).

In the grand tradition of sci-fi retcons, there’s a canon explanation for the Klingons’ new look. While the humanoid Original Series Klingons were retroactively explained as victims of a genetic diseaseDiscovery’s bald Klingons [in season 1] were apparently making a fashion statement.

According to actress Mary Chieffo (L’Rell), designer Glenn Hetrick decided that the Klingons weren’t “bald” in season one—they just shaved their heads. Speaking at New York Comic Con last year, Chieffo said Hetrick was inspired by the Next Generation episode “Rightful Heir.”

“There is a reference to when [legendary Klingon hero] Kahless is brought back as a clone. The way he proves himself is he tells the story of how he cut off a lock of his hair and dipped it into a volcano and made the first bat’leth, with which he killed Molor, the terrible tyrant who was running Qo’noS at the time. We took that one little beautiful seed… and kind of expanded on that, and we see that in a time of war the Klingons would shave their heads, and in a time of peace, we start to grow it back out. I really love the symbolism of that.”

Meanwhile, ScreenRant.com has a different take on the whole, um, different Klingon thing (“Star Trek Theory: Discovery Is Why The Original Series Klingons Look Different”).

Star Trek: Discovery could finally explain one of the franchise’s biggest discrepancies: why do the Klingons in The Original Series look human? The answer might be the former Starfleet Lieutenant Ash Tyler, who is the surgically altered Klingon named Voq.

[…] It’s possible Star Trek: Discovery season 1’s transformation of Voq into Ash Tyler is the forerunner to why the Klingons Captain Kirk faced in The Original Series didn’t have the ridged brows and wild hair of later Klingons. Voq was the former Torchbearer of T’Kuvma who underwent surgery to become human in a horrifically painful process that damaged his mind. His lover L’Rell oversaw the procedure to turn Voq into Ash Tyler, a Starfleet Lieutenant who was captured during the Battle at the Binary Stars. Voq ended up believing he really was Ash and fell in love with Michael Burnham but his inner Klingon kept fighting his way to the forefront.

[…] By the time Captain Kirk faced the Klingons for the first time in the Star Trek: The Original Series’ episode “Errand of Mercy”, the warrior race looked and behaved human, albeit with darker, exotic skin. Kor, the Klingon Commander, even told Kirk “our races aren’t so different”. He meant that both humans and Klingons are war-like species, but his words could also now have a deeper context: the Klingons have 24 Great Houses and it’s possible this group of Klingons underwent the same (perfected) procedure that turned Voq into Ash Tyler.

(7) CELEBRATORY YEAR. “150 years of the periodic table: Test your knowledge”. I scored 5 for 5 – how unusual!

You’ll find it on the wall of nearly every school chemistry laboratory in the land.

And generations of children have sung the words, “hydrogen and helium, lithium, beryllium…” in an attempt to memorise some of the 118 elements.

This year, the periodic table of chemical elements celebrates its 150th birthday.

…The United Nations has designated 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table to celebrate “one of the most significant achievements in science”.

In March, it will be 150 years since the Russian scientist, Dmitri Mendeleev, took all of the known elements and arranged them into a table.

Most of his ideas have stood the test of time, despite being conceived long before we knew much about the stuff that makes up matter.

On Tuesday, the year will be officially launched in Paris. So, what’s so special about this iconic symbol of science?

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 29, 1923 Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore. (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 29, 1940 Katharine Ross, 79. Yes, you know her as Elaine Robinson in The Graduate but that’s hardly genre, do shall we see what she done in our area of interest? Her first such work was as Joanna Eberhart in The Stepford Wives –scary film that. She shows up next as Helena in The Swarm and plays Margaret Walsh in The Legacy, both horror films. The Final Countdown sees her in the character of Laurel Scott.  And Dr. Lilian Thurman is her character in the cult favorite Donnie Darko. I’m fairly sure that the only genre series she’s done is on The Wild Wild West as Sheila Parnell in “The Night of the Double-Edged Knife” episode. I did debate if the I should could I count Alfred Hitchcock Presents aa genre or not as she did an episode there as well.
  • Born January 29, 1977 Justin Hartley, 42. Performer in the series as Green Arrow and Oliver Queen characters, season six on. Also director of the “Dominion” episode and the writer of the “Sacrifice” episode on that series. He’s also Arthur “A.C.” Curry in the unsold Aquaman television pilot. The latter is up on YouTube here. He’s also lead cast in a web series called Gemini Division.
  • Born January 29, 1978 Catrin Stewart, 31. Jenny Flint in five episodes of Doctor Who. She was friends with Madame Vastra and Strax (informally known as the Paternoster Gang) who appeared first during the Eleventh Doctor and last during the Twelfth Doctor. Big Finish has continued them in their audiobooks. She also played Stella in two episodes of the Misfits series, and was Julia in a performance of Nineteen Eighty-Four done at London Playhouse several years back. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest encounter a superhero with a not very pleasant power.
  • Not everybody gets off the ground at Hogwarts according to Berkeley Mews.
  • A super warning about the cold and flu season at Off the Mark.

(10) ELGIN AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association is taking nominations for the Elgin Award through May 15. Charles Christian will be the 2019 Elgin Awards Chair.

Only SFPA members may nominate; there is no limit to how many they can nominate, but they may not nominate their own work. Send title, author, and publisher of speculative poetry books and chapbooks published in 2017 and 2018 to elgin@sfpoetry.com by mail to the SFPA secretary: Renee Ya, P.O. Box 2074, San Mateo, CA 94401 USA. Books and chapbooks that placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, in last year’s Elgin Awards are not eligible.

(11) FOREVER YOUNG. A young Captain Picard steps up alongside a bunch of  Italian Renaissance turtles and other, um, beloved characters (SYFY Wire: “Exclusive: Young Captain Picard commands the U.S.S. Stargazer in Star Trek: IDW 20/20 one-shot”).

IDW Publishing’s big 20th anniversary celebration rolls on this month as the mini-major refreshes five of their major licensed titles with a time-traveling series of oversized one-shot releases. 

The January party sparkles with some of pop culture’s most treasured properties as GhostbustersJem and the Holograms, My Little Pony, Star Trek, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles uncover characters’ secrets and mysteries shot 20 years into the future or tugged back to the past.

(12) RUN, CAT, RUN! Camestros Felapton has the news — “Shock billionaire spoiler candidate enters presidential race”.

Timothy the Talking Cat, billionaire CEO of publishing multinational “Cattimothy House” entered the 2020 Presidential fray, with a shock announcement on Tuesday. At a book launch in Borstworth Library, the outspoken cat and business guru laid out his vision for a new kind of US President.

(13) NEW BENNETT NOVELLA DISCUSSED. Several star reviewers from Nerds of a Feather participate in “Review Roundtable: Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett”.

CONTENT WARNING: This review discusses gun violence throughout, and includes references to child death. Also, we’re discussing the whole novella, so BEWARE SPOILERS.

Vigilance, the new novella from Robert Jackson Bennett, is out today and it’s a searing look at gun violence in the US. In this near future dystopia, John McDean is tasked with running “Vigilance”, the nation’s favourite reality programme, which releases real shooters are released on unsuspecting locations with military-grade armaments, and the resulting carnage is broadcast as a “lesson” in how to protect oneself. McDean and his crew at ONT station think they have the variables of Vigilance down to a fine art, but in the novella’s ensuing escalation find themselves taken down by one of McDean’s own blindspots, to dramatic effect.

We’ve got a lot of Bennett fans on our team here at Nerds of a Feather and when this novella came to our attention, lots of us were interested in reading it to review. That’s why, instead of taking it on alone, today I, Adri, am joined by Paul Weimer, Brian, and Joe Sherry to unpack Bennett’s highly topical novella and our reactions to it.

(14) MARKET UPDATE. Coming over the air now —

(15) PREY WITHOUT CEASING. We linked to the trailer yesterday, now The Hollywood Reporter explains it all to you: “How ‘Birds of Prey’ Footage Builds on ‘Suicide Squad’ Look”.

Margot Robbie’s next take on Harley Quinn is steeped in ’80s music video sensibilities. Gotham City’s newest protectors have arrived. Tuesday morning, following an Instagram post by Margot Robbie teasing her return as Harley Quinn, Warner Bros. released the first official behind-the scenes look at Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). The first look teases viewers with quick glimpses of the main characters, who, alongside Robbie’s Harley Quinn, are comprised of Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), and Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Birds of Prey follows the events of Suicide Squad and finds Gotham City in a very different place following an apparent disappearance of Batman, and Quinn’s separation from the Joker. Harley finds herself on a continued path of redemption when she seeks to help a young girl, Cassandra Cain, escape the wrath of Black Mask by recruiting a force of Gotham heroines.

(16) OUT OF TIME. Vicky Who Reads makes it sound irresistible: “Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen (DRC): An Amazing Adult Sci-Fi Novel with Strong Family Themes”. Her review begins….

Kin Stewart used to be a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.

Now, stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.

(17) FROG STUFFING. Jon Del Arroz’ Happy Frogs lists are callbacks to what JDA thinks were the good old days of the Sad and Rabid Puppies. How much pull does he actually have? We’ll know if any of these names from “The Happy Frogs Hugo Award list” [Internet Archive link] show up on the 2019 ballot. (Well, it wouldn’t be a complete shock if David Weber got a nod for Best Series on his own – but that still leaves the rest of them.)

(18) WHERE FEW HAVE GONE. After five decades it’s hard to believe, but newly uncovered (or rediscovered) wide-format footage and uncatalogued audio was available as the basis for a new Apollo 11 documentary. Rolling Stone has the story of the doc plus a trailer (“‘Apollo 11’ Trailer: See Never-Before-Seen Footage From NASA’s Moon Mission”).

New footage from the lead-up to NASA’s first manned trip to the moon (and the landing itself) features in the upcoming documentary Apollo 11, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

“Crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings, Apollo 11 takes us straight to the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission—the one that first put men on the moon, and forever made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin into household names,” distribution company Neon said of the film.

“Immersed in the perspectives of the astronauts, the team in Mission Control, and the millions of spectators on the ground, we vividly experience those momentous days and hours in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future.”

(19) LAST THOUGHTS ABOUT BROADWAYCON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] On “Three on The Aisle:  Broadway Cosplay” at Americantheatre.org, Elisabeth Vincentelli gives a BroadwayCon report, which begins at sixteen minutes into the podcast and ends at 34 minutes.  She did see some cosplayers, such as a woman from West Virginia who sat on a bus wearing her costume as the Angel from Angels in America, and she occasionally did see fans wanting to get too close to the stars (which in the theatre world is known as “stagedooring.”)  But she also appreciated the substantive panels, such as one on Oklahoma where cast members sang songs they didn’t sing on stage, and noted that BroadwayCon is important enough that stars like Kristen Chenoweth show up there unannounced. Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout said he wanted to go next year and that “A critic incapable of being a fan is a critic that needs therapy.”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/3/18 If You Tick The Box I’m On You Will Know When Posts Are Done

(1) MARTIAN SAVINGS TIME. If you’re tempted to complain about having to reset your clock, think about these folks at JPL: “When flying to Mars is your day job”.

When the spacecraft is sleeping at night, we work. So we get all the data down, look at it and tell the spacecraft: “Hey InSight, tomorrow these are the tasks I want you to do!”

And then we uplink it, right before it wakes up in the morning. Then we go to bed and the spacecraft does its work.

But because the Mars day shifts every day, we also have to shift our schedule by an hour every day. So the first day we’ll start at 6am, and then [the next] will be 7am… 8am… 9am… and then we take a day off.

(2) THE BIG BUCKS. The Bank of England is taking nominations — “Think science for the new £50 note”.

You can nominate as many people as you like. But anyone who appears on the new £50 note must:

  • have contributed to the field of science
  • be real – so no fictional characters please
  • not be alive – Her Majesty the Queen is the only exception
  • have shaped thought, innovation, leadership or values in the UK
  • inspire people, not divide them

Or write to: Think Science, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AH.

You’ve got until Friday 14 December 2018. We’ll announce the chosen character in 2019.

 

(3) FANTASY CHOW. Atlas Obscura readers filled out their menus with “The Fictional Foods We Wish Were Real”.

What fictional foods make you as excited as a hobbit in a pantry?

Sure, you can buy a Wonka Bar at any candy store. You can drink a sugary Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction in Orlando. And you can find a recipe for Lembas Bread on about a million Lord of the Rings fan sites. But none of these initially fictional foods could ever live up to how we imagined they would taste when we first saw or read about them….

Recently, we asked Atlas Obscura readers to tell us which fictional food had sparked their imaginations more than any other….

We’ve collected our favorite responses below. Next time you encounter a mouth-watering food that doesn’t exist, try and decide for yourself what incredible, impossible flavors it might actually have….

Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

What might it taste like?
“A cataclysm of citrus with an effervescent apocalypse. Anything that would make you simultaneously evolve and devolve seems like an interesting way to not die.” — Ian Maxwell, Denver, Colorado USA

A Shmoo from the Lil’ Abner Comics

What might it taste like?
“It says it can taste like steak, chicken or oysters… They are genial playmates for children and then will jump into your frying pan and become dinner. I’ve always remembered the shmoo.” — Roseann Milano, Tucson, Arizona…

Roast Porg from The Last Jedi

What might it taste like?
“Teriyaki chicken. Chewbacca wanted to cook one in The Last Jedi. Might be succulent and savory.” — Leon Easter, Stockton, California

(4) CORDWAINER SMITH’S ALTER EGO. Paul DiFilippo has reproduced Paul M.A. Linebarger’s 1951 article for Nation’s Business, “Hotfoot for Stalin” at theinferior4.

(5) A HORSE, OF COURSE. William Shatner told a LA Times interviewer his fitness secrets: “How horses and e-bikes help William Shatner stay fit and creative at 87”

Horseback riding? How does that keep you fit?

My business manager once said: “Don’t buy anything that eats while you sleep.” Thankfully, I ignored that advice. My wife, Elizabeth, and I have horses in Kentucky and in Moorpark. I’ll ride two, three hours every morning that I’m not working — two or three days a week. People don’t realize it, but you’re not just passively sitting there on a horse. Riding is a stretching and strengthening exercise. It requires balance, expertise, finesse and strength.

(6) SWOFFORD OBIT. Actor Ken Swofford died November 1. He mostly played authority figures —

… On the big screen, Swofford had roles in Robert Wise’s The Andromeda Strain (1971), Stanley Kramer’s The Domino Killings (1977), Blake Edwards’ S.O.B. (1981), John Huston’s Annie (1982) and Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise (1991).

…Swofford provided the voice of the title character in the 2018 short film Happy the Angry Polar Bear, written and directed by his grandson.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 3, 1925 – Monica Hughes, Writer from England who emigrated to Canada, and became known as known as one of Canada’s best writers for children and young adults, especially science fiction. She is best known for the Isis Trilogy, about the descendants of Earth colonists on a far-flung planet, which won the Phoenix Award from the Children’s Literature Association. Invitation to the Game, a hard science fiction dystopian novel which features robots and has been translated into numerous languages, won the Hal Clement Young Adult Award.
  • November 3, 1928 – Tezuka Osamu, Artist, Animator, and Producer who is often considered the Japanese equivalent to Walt Disney, a major inspiration during his formative years. His manga series, all of which have had English language translations,  include Astro Boy, Black Jack,  Kimba the White Lion, and Phoenix, all of which won several awards including four Eisner Awards.
  • November 3, 1933  – John Barry Prendergast, Oscar-winning Composer who wrote the scores for more than 120 films, including the genre works Moonraker (and 10 other Bond films), Starcrash, Mercury Rising, Howard the Duck, The Black Hole (for which he received a Saturn nomination), the 1976 King Kong, and the 1972 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. However, he is best known for his pièce de résistance: the haunting, emotive soundtrack for Somewhere in Time – the Saturn-winning film adaptation of SFF author Richard Matheson’s novel Bid Time Return – for which he also won a Saturn Award. Rather than taking a set fee upfront, he had presciently agreed to a percentage of sales. The soundtrack became one of the most popular movie soundtracks of all time, eventually selling more than a million copies, and continues to sell well to this day.
  • November 3, 1950 – Massimo Mongai, Writer from Italy who produced Memorie di un Cuoco d’Astronave (Memories Of A Spaceship Cook), an apparent merging of space opera and cooking manual which won Italy’s Urania Award. I’m really, really hoping someone has read this in the original language as I’d love to know what it’s about!
  • November 3, 1952 – Jim Cummings, 66, Voice Actor and Singer who has hundreds of voice credits in animated features and TV shows, including Aladdin, The Lion King, Shrek, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (as a bullet), The Addams Family, Batman: The Animated Series, Duck Dodgers, The Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Gargoyles (one of my favorite shows), at least three of the animated Star Wars series, and dozens of videogames. He has won two Annie Awards, which are given to recognize outstanding work in the animation industry.
  • November 3, 1952 – Eileen Wilks, 66, Writer whose principal genre series is the World of Lupi, a FBI procedural intertwined with shapeshifters, dragons and a multiverse. Highly entertaining, sometimes considered romance novels, though I don’t consider them so. The audiobooks are amazing!
  • November 3, 1963 – Brian Henson, 55, Actor, Puppeteer, Director, and Producer who, as the son of Jim and Jane Henson, now runs the Jim Henson Company along with his sister Lisa. He voiced the character of Hoggle in the original Hugo and Saturn Award-nominated Labyrinth, and is in the process of producing a remake of that movie. He has provided other voice and puppet characters in many films, including Little Shop of Horrors, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Muppets from Space, and The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.. He was a producer for the awesome Farscape series, but the less said about his venture The Happytime Murders, the better.
  • November 3, 1964 – Marjean Holden, 54, Actor who has had recurring roles in the genre TV series Crusade, the short-lived spinoff from Babylon 5, and in the Beastmaster series. She’s also appeared in Philadelphia Experiment II, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Babylon 5: A Call to Arms, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Dr. Caligari, and Nemesis, and had guest parts on episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Tales from the Crypt.
  • November 3, 1964 – Brendan Fraser, 50, Actor and Producer whose genre work includes The Mummy films, which I dearly love, but also Monkeybone, based on Kaja Blackley’s graphic novel Dark Town, the Bedazzled remake, Sinbad: Beyond the Veil of Mists, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Encino Man, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and voicing Robotman on the Titans series that airs on DC Universe.

(8) GET ON BOARD. Advertising for The Grinch movie, which opens November 9, has popped up all over LA — “Essay: The LA Grinch Billboards Are Savage And Spot-On”.

The Grinch is also lobbing localized insults at other cities, like New York and Chicago.

As much as we resent viral marketing schemes, we have to tip our hats when they’re this good.

I mean, are they even a joke? Or are they just extra L.A.?

This one’s my favorite –

(9) FRENCH DELICACIES. Snapped at Utopiales 2018 in Nantes, France (where reported attendance is 90,000.)

  • Jim C. Hines, Robert J. Bennett and Kij Johnson.

  • John Scalzi

(10) STROSS. Camestros Felapton found something to praise — “Review: The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross”.

Good grief, nine books into the Laundry Files and Stross is still creating these weird, tense thrillers without really ever repeating himself. The novels have gradually shifted from clever pastiche to exploring their own premise….

(11) OUTLAWED CANDY. Let Atlas Obscura tell you about “Marabou M Peanut”.

M&M’s are known and enjoyed worldwide as movie snacks or general goodies. However, since 2016, this has not been true for Sweden, where the sweets have been banned due to a trademark dispute with a local candy company’s M Peanut.

Marabou’s M Peanut is very similar in taste and appearance to Peanut M&M’s: Both are chocolate-covered peanuts with lowercase m’s on their packaging. They’re so similar that one might think Marabou is an imitation brand. However, in Sweden, M&M’s are seen as the imitator, as Marabou’s candy had been sold in its native country for 50 years before M&M’s arrived.

(12) XENA PREBOOT SCRIPT. The 2016 attempt to reboot Xena never made it off the ground, but now a draft of the pilot script is available online for anyone to read (io9/Gizmodo: “Check Out the Script For the Pilot of the Canned Xena Reboot”). Now I’m wondering when the first dramatic reading will take place at a con.

Xena, brilliant warrior, princess, hero, and one more cancelled reboot.

But now, thanks to Xena Movie Campaign, a Facebook fan group, with the blessing of Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who wrote it, the unused script for the pilot episode of an attempted 2016 reboot of Xena is now available to read online.

(13) GOT WORMS? BBC discusses “Why some computer viruses refuse to die”.

One of the most active zombie viruses is Conficker, which first struck in November 2008. At its height, the worm is believed to have infected up to 15 million Windows PCs.

The French navy, UK warships, Greater Manchester Police and many others were all caught out by Conficker, which targeted the Windows XP operating system.

The malware caused so much trouble that Microsoft put up a bounty of $250,000 (£193,000) for any information that would lead to the capture of Conficker’s creators.

That bounty was still live and, Microsoft told the BBC, remained unclaimed to this day.

(14) WATCHING THE RADIO. They’re tuning in to the music of the spheres in 1963, and Galactic Journey is there — “[November 3, 1963] Listening To The Stars (the new Arecibo Observatory)”

But what is a radio telescope? How can we observe space through radio? Does Jupiter sing? Are the bodies of the solar system harmonising in a heavenly chorus?

Well, that’s not far off the mark. If you have the right equipment, you can even listen to Jupiter’s emissions yourself! You’ll need a shortwave radio (Jupiter radiates strongest at 22Mhz), and you’ll have to build yourself a large dipole antenna. What you’ll hear is an eerie, aggressive static, a lot like waves crashing on the beach. These are the radio emissions produced by charged particles racing through Jupiter’s magnetic field.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Mr. Death” from Norwegian director Andreas J. Riiser is a short film on Vimeo that imagines what Death would be like if he was a chain-smoking Norwegian who has a buzz cut and loves Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/3/18 In Space, No One Can Hear Your Shirt

(1) SAVING THROW. A replacement pop-up con for Universal Fan Con served vendors and a thousand fans in Baltimore: “How The Creators of Wicomicon Executed A Blerd Convention In A Week”Black Enterprise has the story.

Karama Horne was moved to tears when she entered the room at 1100 Wicomico St. in Baltimore on Saturday morning. She knew people were going to show up but just how many, she wasn’t sure. The week prior, one of the largest, blackest, most diverse fan-organized conventions, Universal FanCon, had indefinitely postponed its 24-hour event leaving fans stranded with hotel bills and plane fares they couldn’t get out of. Knowing the financial hole people were in, but also understanding the longstanding stigma and perhaps the consequences of the cancellation of the convention, prompted Horne and her friends to band together to create and hold WICOMICON on the same day Universal FanCon was supposed to be held.

(2) LET THE AI WIN. Dr. Janelle Shane has been at it again, this time with D&D character names  At lewisandquark: “D&D character names – generated by a neural network”. Some are pretty good. Not these —

Other names made perhaps less sense.

  • The Cart – Kenku Rogue
  • Nine Case – Dark Elf Fighter
  • Rump – Kenku Cleric
  • Gubble Daggers – Tabaxi Monk
  • Bog – halfling wizard
  • Jameless – Dwarf Champion Barbarian
  • Rune Diggler – Halfling Rogue
  • Borsh the Bardlock – Human Paladin
  • Spullbeard – Dwarf Fighter
  • Tovendirgle – Human Ranger
  • Pinderhand The Bugs – Gnome Wizard
  • Rune Wash – Human Wizard
  • Stumbleduckle – Human Paladin

(3) DEADPOOL AND DION. ScienceFiction.com says “Celine Dion And Deadpool Make Beautiful Music In ‘Deadpool 2’ Trailer”.

Deadpool 2’ has brought back the music video in its own weird way by having Celine Dion sing a song for the upcoming film. The music video gives us a glorious shot of Deadpool in heels dancing to the music.

 

(4) THE ROMANCE IS OVER. Digital Reader reports the pushback being given to Dragon Con about a guest: “DragonCon Invites the Infamous Lori James of All Romance eBooks as Author Guest”.

All Romance eBooks was at one time a leading romance ebook retailer, but by the time it shut down in late 2016 it was clouded in scandal…

ARe owner Lori James is being sued by a class of authors, so one would think she would maintain a low profile.

… According to the DragonCon website, Lori James has been invited to attend the con as an author guest. She will be coming under her pen name, Samantha Sommersby, but no matter what you call her this is still the same person who owes authors hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

DragonCon was first made aware of this situation 3 weeks ago by authors who belong to the (closed) FB group Pissed Off former ARe Authors

Dragon Con says they’re looking into it.

(5) PART ROLLER COASTER, PART VIDEO. A VR sci-fi theme park in China:

Looking for an out of this world experience during your next theme park adventure? Well, today we get our first look at China’s massive new Sci-Fi virtual reality theme park, the ‘Oriental Science Fiction Valley.’ This unique part is found in Guizhou, China, spanning over 330 acres while allowing visitors to immerse themselves in a futuristic world. The park features everything from VR attractions and much more, offering 35 rides in all for guests to enjoy.

The highlight of the park is the huge mecha at 174 feet tall that weighs 700 tons. CEO Chen Jianli said in a YouTube interview “There’s fierce competition in the theme park market right now.” He went on to add “We are trying to give customers a new experience by combining modern technologies such as VR and [augmented reality] with traditional recreational facilities.

 

(6) WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA. A “New Film Festival Planned In Beverly Hills” will feature the premiere of a new restoration of 1953 sci-fi classic War of the Worlds.The Hollywood Reporter says —

The City of Beverly Hills will be the home of a newly-created film festival aimed at bridging Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach.

While planning is still underway, the debut The Beverly Hills Infinity Film Festival is slated to take place Nov. 1-4 with The Paley Center for Media as its home base. Additional intended locations include the Writers Guild Theater and various private screening rooms at Beverly Hills-based talent agencies. Organizers also hope to attract Beverly Hills hotels for participation and various retail storefronts to host pop-ups for exhibitions and installations.

The first two days will feature screenings and programming for industry professionals. At press time, organizers confirmed that Paramount Pictures intends to premiere a new restoration of its 1953 classic War of the Worlds, which won an Academy Award for special effects, at the festival….

(7) TRIBUTE TO LE GUIN. Literary Arts announced tickets are now available for the Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin on June 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon. Click here to reserve your free seat. Tickets are for General Admission (open seating). Reservations will be limited to 2 tickets per person.

This event will include tributes from fellow writers and close friends of Le Guin, including Margaret Atwood (by video), Molly Gloss, Walidah Imarisha, Jonathan Lethem, Kelly Link, China Miéville, and Daniel José Older. The tribute will also include rare documentary footage of Le Guin, along with photos and images from her life and work

(8) PROTTER OBIT. Literary agent Susan Protter (1939-2018) died on May 3. Andrew Porter recalls, she was the agent for many SF writers, including Rudy Rucker, Terry Bisson, David Nighbert, Michael D. Weaver, and David Hartwell. More info here.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy and John King Tarpinian saw how the world ends in Non Sequitur.

(10) PREDATORS ON DISPLAY. Visit “Fran Wilde’s Museum of Errant Critters” at Terrible Minds. Exhibit includes her cartoons of each specimen.

Welcome to The Museum of Errant Critters – Established somewhere between 1812 and 2018 to catalog and archive mind-creatures that often behave in creatively destructive ways.

Visit our exhibits to learn tips and tricks for Critter Management… (results not guaranteed). In particular, we’ve found that identification and discussion helps with management of many of these critters. At least, it helps with identifying the gnawing sounds in the dark of night….

Guilt Gorilla

The gravity well near most Guilt Gorillas is extensive and can drag down even a stalwart creative. Feeds on: pre-existing feelings of not doing enough, overwork, and lateness. Distraction devices include planning calendars, reminding yourself to stand up and stretch once in a while, and that yes even you should take a @!%$#@ vacation now and then.

(11) DESPERATELY SEEKING SNORTS. Yes, this is what we’re talking about:

(12) COLLECTIBLES. If only you’d ever owned one of these in the first place, right? Syfy Wire chronicles “Awesome Stuff We Want: The original Star Wars toy vouchers are insanely valuable now”.

There is no shortage of Star Wars toys and paraphernalia these days; the franchise is an industry unto itself, with branded merchandise that spans from action figures to toiletries, and just about anything else you can imagine. But back when the first movie premiered in 1977, Lucasfilm and Fox had no idea how big of a hit it would be and what kind of demand it would create for Star Wars toys. They had to scramble to catch up, and so they issued vouchers that fans could redeem for toys when they were ready.

Up for grabs on eBay is one of those Star Wars Early Bird Certificate packages, which has remarkably never been opened. It’s just an envelope from 1977 that promises a handful of the first Star Wars action figures to arrive in the middle of 1978 — and it is now way more valuable than any of those toys. All it will cost you is $12,950.

(13) OH, NUTS! The Popular Mechanics headline reads: “Screws and Washers Are Falling Off NASA’s Multi-Billion Dollar Space Telescope”.

On anything that moves, from vehicles to rolling office chairs, you need to be wary of bolts rattling loose over time. Thread-locking fluids and tapes are a great way to make sure your suspect bolts stay where they should, and nyloc nuts can also keep components snug and secure.

Northrop Grumman might need to look into something along these lines, because apparently “screws and washers” are falling off the spacecraft and sunshield it is building to carry NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Space News reports that NASA’s JWST program director, Greg Robinson, said that hardware was found underneath the spacecraft element of JWST (everything but the mirror and instruments) after it was moved from an acoustic testing chamber to a vibration testing chamber.

“Right now we believe that all of this hardware—we’re talking screws and washers here—come from the sunshield cover,” Robinson said today at the National Academies’ Space Studies Board in Washington D.C., according to Space News. “We’re looking at what this really means and what is the recovery plan.”

And the Space News story has more details: “JWST suffers new problem during spacecraft testing”

(14) 24 KLEENEX PER SECOND. MeTV asks you to “Pick: What’s your favorite cartoon tearjerker?”.

Who got you to turn on the waterworks: Dumbo or Mufasa?

Some cartoon movies are so good, you could cry. In fact, many of them set out to make you do just that. But which cartoon tearjerker inspired the most waterworks for you?

Log your vote below for your favorite cartoon tearjerker to make your choice between classics like Bambi and those emotional Pixar movies that dependably dampen faces today. See how many others wept along with you!

(15) SCARCE AS HEN’S TEETH. There was a time when they weren’t so rare — “How birds got their beaks – new fossil evidence”.

Scientists have pieced together the skull of a strange ancient bird, revealing a primitive beak lined with teeth.

The “transitional” bird sheds light on a pivotal point in the pathway from dinosaurs to modern birds.

Ichthyornis dispar lived in North America about 86 million years ago.

The seagull-sized bird had a beak and a brain much like modern birds, but the sharp teeth and powerful jaws of dinosaurs like Velociraptor.

“It shows us what the first bird beak looked like,” said Bhart-Anjan Bhullar of Yale University, a study researcher.

“It’s a real mosaic of features, a transitional form.”

(16) ASK THE MAN WHO OWNS ONE. More Solo: A Star Wars Story promo – “Tour The Millennium Falcon with Donald Glover”

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

Pixel Scroll 12/21/17 Look! It’s The Pixel Scroll Repair Man!

(1) FRACTURED EUROPE. Bence Pintér interviewed Dave Hutchinson (in English) for his Hungarian zine Spekulatív Zóna.

The first installment of Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe Sequence, Europe in Autumn will be published soon in Hungary. Years ago I read that one and the two sequels, and now I wanted to know what Mr. Hutchinson think about the future of Europe, and how he came to create a spy, who is in fact a chef.

Europe in Autumn was published only three years ago, but the near-future you imagined with a fractured Europe could be the present soon. Independence movements are booming, Brexit in talks… Do you think the world you created for the books can become reality?

It’s been kind of horrifying to watch world events over the past few years – I started writing Autumn sometime in the very late 1990s and back then the idea of a fractured Europe really was a thing of fiction, although independence movements and micronations are nothing new. Now, it seems a lot more plausible. I’d like to say that I hope the world of the books doesn’t come about; I’m a big fan of the EU ideal and of Schengen. On the other hand, Rudi’s world has always seemed to me to be vibrant and full of possibility. I’ve heard it described as a dystopia, but I don’t think it is – certainly it wasn’t intended that way. I think it would be a very interesting place to live. Whether it will actually happen, I don’t think anyone can predict that. We seem to have gone from the old black-and-white certainties of the Cold War to something a lot more uncertain and fluid, with only a very brief period of hope between them.

(2) THE GOOD STUFF. Ann Leckie returns to tell us about “Some things I’ve read lately”.

Yes, it’s time again for Some Stuff I Have Read and Liked Recently. As always–I am not a reviewer or any sort of critic, and I’m not going to try to be one.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Ever since I heard that Nisi was not only working on a steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo, but that she had gone and sold that novel to Tor, I’ve been eager to read this. I finally got around to it, and I highly recommend it. It’s pretty epic, really, it covers a couple decades in time, from the POVs of a wide variety of characters. Seriously, check this out if you haven’t already….

(3) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Anika Dane of Women At Warp cheers Star Trek: Discovery “I’m an Age-Appropriate Woman In Command: Hear Me Roar!”

It’s no secret Hollywood has a problem with women aging. There are fewer leading roles for women over the age of 40, and the supporting ones tend to be underdeveloped and fall into the category of mother, wife, woman sad because she’s old, or villain (sad because she’s old). …

[Discovery’s Admiral Cornwell] is experienced and she’s accomplished, and she’s Lorca’s peer, and also his superior. She couldn’t be that at twenty-seven, or thirty-six. Moreover, she’s a woman over fifty, whose eye crinkles and grey hairs have not been erased, who is presented on screen as attractive and desirable. Admiral Cornwell is not beautiful despite her age, she’s beautiful and powerful because of it.

(4) CROWDFUNDING SUCCESS. The James Tiptree Jr. Award made their Giving Thursday goal

We made it! The donations raised through our Facebook fundraiser plus the donations through the Tiptree website total more than $2400! The Tiptree Award will receive all the matching funds available to us! With the help of all who have donated and shared our fundraising message and matched the donations, we’ve raised more than $4800, half of our annual budget. Thank you all for your help. This award wouldn’t be possible without you!

Of course, it’s never too late to add your support to this successful effort. With your donations, you make possible our efforts to encourage the creation of speculative fiction that explores and expands our understanding of gender. And since the Tiptree Award is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all donations are tax-deductible. https://tiptree.org/support-us/donate

(5) TIPTREE SYMPOSIUM TRANSCRIPTS. The expanded talks from the 2016 Tiptree Symposium have been published in Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology Issue #12.

(6) LE GUIN FELLOWSHIP. Applications are being taken for the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship, sponsored by the University of Oregon Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS). The deadline to apply is January 5, 2018. Full guidelines here.

Purpose: The intention of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship is to encourage research within collections in the area of feminist science fiction. The UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) houses the papers of authors Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., Kate Wilhelm, Suzette Haden Elgin, Sally Miller Gearhart, Kate Elliot, Molly Gloss, Laurie Marks, and Jessica Salmonson, along with Damon Knight. SCUA is also in the process of acquiring the papers of other key feminist science fiction authors.

Fellowship description: This award supports travel for the purpose of research on, and work with, the papers of feminist science fiction authors housed in SCUA. These short-term research fellowships are open to undergraduates, master’s and doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars, college and university faculty at every rank, and independent scholars working in feminist science fiction. In 2018, $2,000 will be awarded to conduct research within these collections. The fellowship selection committee will include representatives from the UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS).

Past Le Guin Fellows — 2013: Kathryn Allan; 2014: Andrew Ferguson; 2014: Jennifer Rea; 2015: adrienne maree brown; 2016: Roxanne Samer; 2017: Theodora Goss.

(7) NAME THAT TUNE. By George, I think he’s got it.

(8) FEAT IN SEARCH OF AN AWARD. Not sure what category this deserves to win. Since he got it right the first time does that rule out editing?

(9) LAST JEDI. If reading articles about The Last Jedi now leaves me feeling jaded, then you probably started feeling that way two days ago (or fill in your own number). However, a critic for The Hollywood Reporter hooked me with the pop culture insights in “New ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy Is Failing Galactic Politics 101”.  YMMV. Also, BEWARE SPOILERS.

And that’s where we left off before the start of this new trilogy of Star Wars films. After decades of theorizing, fan fiction and “Legacy” stories, The Force Awakens had the exciting task of updating fans of the series about what happened in the decades since we last saw our favorite characters and rooted for the Rebellion. Would we see a New Republic and what would it be like? Who would be the enemy of that Republic and what would our character’s places be in it? The opportunities were endless, with the possibility of giving audiences a brand-new vision for the series, but would also require a deft touch. Yes, the series would have to build on viewers’ knowledge of Star Wars history, but it could also do what A New Hope did: thrust us into a new scenario and slowly give us more information about what transpired to get us here.

As a huge fan of the series, looking back on the new films after the opening weekend of The Last Jedi, I have to admit an incredible frustration and disappointment in the result. While walking through my local Target, I could not help but feel like The Force Awakens had failed what I’m now dubbing the “toy test”: I couldn’t pick up a Star Wars toy and tell you who each character was and their political standings in the newest round of wars, as depicted in the films.

(10) FAUX SHOW. And hey, this is sweet! The absolutely fake Disney/Pixar’s X-Wings Movie Trailer.

(11) ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES. The BBC asks “Is The Last Jedi the most divisive film ever?”

Its audience score of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes (that’s the proportion of users who have rated it 3.5/5 or higher) is the lowest of any Star Wars film, including the much-maligned prequels (The Phantom Menace has 59%).

But something else is going on too – while fans are divided, film critics were largely in agreement.

The LA Times called it the “first flat-out terrific” Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. Time Out said it “dazzles like the sci-fi saga hasn’t in decades”. The Daily Telegraph said it is “Star Wars as you’ve never felt it”.

The Last Jedi has a critics’ score of 93% – that’s the proportion of writers who gave it a positive review – putting it level with A New Hope and The Force Awakens, and just 1% behind The Empire Strikes Back.

That puts The Last Jedi at number 49 on Rotten Tomatoes’ all-time list. And of the all-time top 100 films, The Last Jedi has by far the biggest gap between the critics’ score and the audience score.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 21, 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood, California
  • December 21, 1968 — Apollo 8, the first manned mission to visit the moon, is launched from Cape Canaveral.
  • December 21, 1979 C.H.O.M.P.S. and The Black Hole both premiered on this day.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY JEDI

  • Born December 21, 1948 — Jedi Master Samuel L. Jackson

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) DREAM STREAM. Nerds of a Feather contributor “English Scribbler” can say it out loud: “Television review of 2017 – the year it beat cinema”.

…Sure, I went to see The Last Jedi  this week like everyone else with the inclination and ability to do so, and it was wonderful. But it felt like, well, a box of popcorn in nutritional terms compared to the hearty vegetable stew of series below. So in no particular order, here is a very personal, haphazard list of series I have been amazed by. Whilst they don’t all quite fit into the classic Nerds Of A Feather, Flock Together genre areas, all share a spirit and flavour with the incredible works highlighted on these pages…

(1) Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

Originally feeling like a compelling yet shallow computer nerd version of Mad Men (all mysterious arrogant male protagonist dipped in retro nostalgia), this series became, long before this astonishing forth and final season, one of the most accomplished and daring dramas of this decade, and culminated in the best conclusion to a series I’ve seen since possibly Six Feet Under (a work to which this owes much debt). Nothing else this year matched the emotional impact of seeing these five colleagues and friends arrive at a finish line that for once was allowed to be set with purpose and patience by the creators. The setting and subject became less and less relevant (though no less enjoyable) as the masterplan of the writers emerged – that this, like all the greatest tales, was about emotional connections and the rewards that they bring, and the tolls they take. The last three episodes made my smile and cry more than any film, book or other show this year. Exemplary acting, music, sound, cinematography, dialogue to wallow in… superb.

(16) HEERE’S RAY. A wise friend of mine hinted that there hasn’t been enough Bradbury in these pages lately. Let’s drop in Ray’s appearance with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show on March 1, 1978:

(17) TWO RAYS. And Episode 17 of the Ray Harryhausen Podcast “Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury”.

A very special episode of the Ray Harryhausen podcast, as we explore the Ray’s lifelong friendship with legendary author Ray Bradbury.

Phil Nichols from The Centre for Ray Bradbury Studies joins us for an in depth discussion on a relationship which was to span 8 decades. After meeting in the mid-1930s, the two became best friends, and would speak on at least a monthly basis for the rest of their lives. We explore the circumstances that would lead both men to become legends within their own fields of interest, and the early influences which inspired them both to greatness. Both Rays left an incredible archive of their own, and so we examine the parallels between the collection of the Centre for Ray Bradbury Studies, and the Foundation’s own archive.

The show also contains a never-heard-before interview with Ray Bradbury’s daughter Susan, recorded at Ray Harryhausen’s memorial in 2013, where she shares her memories of ‘Uncle Ray’ and their enduring friendship.

(18) HORTON ON SHORT SFF. One of the field’s grandmasters has added a prime story to his resume: “Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction’ at Locus Online. (Covers F&SF 9-10/17, Analog 9-10/17, Beneath Ceaseless Skies 8/17/17, Lightspeed 10/17, Tor.com 9/6/17.)

The most exciting short fiction news this month is surely the appearance in the September/October F&SF of a new story by Samuel R. Delany. Even better, “The Hermit of Houston” is exceptional work! It’s set some time in a strange future and is hard to get a grip on (the best kind). From one angle it seems a sort of pastoral utopia, from other angles utterly horrifying. It’s mostly about the narrator’s long-time lover, an older man named Cellibrex (sometimes), and about the hints he lets drop of some of the true nature of this future. There is extremely interesting treatment of gender, politics, law, custom, and memory – and I don’t get everything that’s going on in the story, in a good way. One of the stories of the year, I think.

(19) DEVELOPING FIELD. The Washington Posts’s Rachel Rackza, in “In young-adult novels, queer love stories have begun to feel mainstream”, discusses how teenage LGBT readers have read novels by Cassandra Clare, Audrey Coulthurst, and Anna-Marie McLemore and found comfort in reading YA fantasy with gay characters.

For Mackenzi Lee’s whip-smart “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue,” the author wanted to showcase an authentically positive representation of queer identity in centuries past. “I wanted so badly with this book to say to queer teenagers: ‘You have always existed even before there were words or vocabulary or acceptance,’ ” she said. “I wanted them to know they have not only existed, but they thrived and had fulfilled romantic and sexual lives with people they love.”

(20) SUN-DAY DRIVERS. See: “What Happens When 2 Neutron Stars Collide” — text, and very short video.

An international team of astronomers has concluded that when it comes to theories about colliding neutron stars, Einstein got it right. Everybody else, not so much.

A neutron star is what’s left when a star burns out and collapses in on itself, leaving a small, incredibly dense ball.

Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicted that when two neutron stars collide, they would generate a gravitational wave, a ripple in space time.

That’s exactly what physicists saw for the first time last summer with LIGO, the new gravitational wave observatory.

(21) YOU’VE GOT MAIL. You could send wild game (dead) or people (living) once upon a time — “The strangest things sent in the UK post”

“There was nothing in the rules to say you couldn’t send people”, Mr Taft said.

In 1909 two suffragettes, Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan, used the Royal Mail’s same-day courier service to post themselves to 10 Downing Street so they could deliver their message personally to Prime Minister Herbert Asquith.

But a Downing Street official refused to sign for them and the delivery boy had to return the women and explain to his bosses why he had failed to make the delivery.

Yet Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan were not the UK’s first “human letters”.

W Reginald Bray, an accountant from Forest Hill in south-east London, claimed to hold that honour having posted himself successfully in 1900, then again in 1903 and for a last time in 1932

(22) THE NEXT GENERATION. Funny but not exactly sensitive — Robert Jackson Bennett’s post at Tor.com: “My Terrible Children Are Both Fake Geeks”.

This is way different than when I grew up, when we kept renting a wobbly VHS of A New Hope from the library, and then my dad brought home The Empire Strikes Back and suddenly we realized that they had made more of these movies, oh my God.

So the Large Son is absolutely drowning in genre exposure. He lives in an age of abundance that I was utterly denied. But does he take advantage of it? Does he religiously memorize all of the various planets, as well as the types of ships?

No. He does not. For a whole damned year he called Darth Vader “Star Vader,” and he still calls Boba Fett “Bobo Fett,” and he calls every kind of land transport an “AT-AT,” which is just abysmally fucking wrong in every kind of way. I created a spreadsheet for him but I am fairly sure he only gave it a cursory glance. Perhaps the most galling thing about it all is that, incredibly, despite having never actually watched a Star Wars movie in the six years of his life (he says they are “too loud,” which, okay, sure), he somehow already knows that Vader is Luke’s father, and he’s just utterly fucking blasé about it, too.

(23) GHOST NOUN. An annual tradition continues — Larry Correa’s “CHRISTMAS NOUN X: THE GHOSTS OF DIE HARDS PAST”. (Thoughtfully linked here to a Wayback Machine page.)

Santa gestured for one of his elves to start the PowerPoint slide show.

“As you can see, this reality is much like ours, but their timeline diverged in the 1980s. Because of the misguided actions of their less militant Christmas Ghosts, they were deprived of the greatest Christmas movie ever made.”

“The Firefly Christmas Special?” asked the elf running the computer.

“Oh no, very few lucky universes got that.” Santa chuckled, as he thought about the heartwarming scene where Jayne’s mom had knitted him a Santa hat, which he’d later used to strangle a reaver. “Besides, that was a two hour TV special that aired during Firefly’s fifth season. I’m talking about how this world was deprived of the greatest Christmas movie ever made… Die Hard.

There were gasps around the conference table. That was inconceivable. And only boring losers and communists didn’t think of Die Hard as a Christmas movie.

“I know, right? Christmas there is dull and lame now. So we’re going to use the Christmas Noun to send Tim back to 1988, so he can make sure Die Hard actually happens like it’s supposed to.”

“I don’t know, Santa… Since this crosses into another alternate universe’s jurisdiction, isn’t this a job for Tom Stranger?”

Santa shook his head sadly. “Unfortunately, since Larry Correia first started writing the Christmas Noun stories, Audible.com came along and offered him large sums of money to write Tom Stranger stories exclusively for them, so I doubt Tom will show up here. This is up to us and Tim and any other characters who we still own the rights for!”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Olav Rokne, John King Tarpinian, Bence Pinter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 10/19/17 Don’t Know Much About Psycho-History, Don’t Know What A Slide Rule Is

(1) THESE ARE THEY. More core from James Davis Nicoll: “Twenty Core Alternate Histories Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. Here are three – are they on your shelves?

  • Lion’s Blood by Steven Barnes
  • On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard
  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

(2) THE WU CANDIDACY. Her Glamour interview is now online — “Brianna Wu Faced Down the Alt-Right and Now She’s Running for Congress”

Now the 40-year-old video game developer is launching herself into a different kind of firestorm: She’s running for Congress in Massachusetts’ Eighth District on a platform crafted, in part, from her experience facing off against white-supremacist groups, which, she notes, have been against not only women gamers but also public policies that benefit anyone not white, heterosexual, and male. Her goal is economic and political parity for women, LGBTQ Americans, people of color, and the working poor. “All these forces are tied together,” Wu told ­Glamour from her headquarters in Walpole, Massachusetts. “The system is not working for any of them.”

The idea that the system is broken has motivated thousands of women to launch political campaigns; eleven thousand have told She Should Run, a nonpartisan group that offers resources to women interested in seeking office, that they are actively planning to run for office. Founder and CEO Erin Loos Cutraro says this new crop of political talent is “sick of not having their voices and perspectives represented” and recognizes “the impact they can make at all levels of government.”

(3) TOP 40. Nicholas Whyte told Facebook readers:

According to scientific calculation, I am #37 in the list of the top 40 EU digital influencers as calculated by EurActiv, and revealed at a ceremony today.

It’s for what he writes about the EU and Brussels, rather than what the rest of us know him for — his work as the 2017 Hugo Administrator. Whyte’s only wish is that they’d gotten his photo right.

The full list of digital influencers is posted here. If you want to know how the list was compiled, the formula is here.

(4) ROMANTIC POTENTIAL. M.C.A. Hogarth’s Kickstarter for Thief of Songs, “Lush and lyrical high fantasy romances set in a world with four human sexes!”, hit 400% of its funding target in the first 24 hours.

I have loved romance novels all my life, and love has always threaded itself, like incense, into every fantasy and science fiction story I’ve written. But for the longest time I didn’t allow myself to consider writing a romance novel of my own. Until I did.

The result was Thief of Songs, a novel that ended up on the Tiptree Award’s Long list. Set in a secondary fantasy world with four human sexes (male, female, hermaphrodite, and neuter), it’s the story of an imperial composer and the music en inadvertently stole while touring the highlands conquered hundreds of years ago by ens birth country. Dancer’s kingdom is unfairly privileged: all the magic in the world runs into the bowl of its lowest point and collects there, and using that magic its armies annexed the entire continent. So you can imagine the issues that arise when one of those conquered sons comes to the capital… and finds himself in love, irrevocably and inexorably, with a foreigner, a hermaphrodite… and God help him, a musician of such genius he couldn’t help but adore en.

Those issues were not solvable in a single book. Last year I took them forward into a new book, Cantor for Pearls, where Amet–our highland man–continues to struggle with his ambivalence while navigating the wholly unfamiliar relationship to him possible between man and neuter. This is an unabashed asexual romance, with sea serpents. (This book also made the Tiptree Long List!)

With the funding in hand, Hogarth will soon go to press.

My goal is to have both these books ready this week! So that when the Kickstarter ends on November 1st, I’ll be shipping within a few days. I’ve also already set up the e-book download pages. One less thing to do when the project wraps up! I like turning things around quickly… you all are trusting me with your hard-earned money, and I like to honor that trust. 🙂

(5) BUTLER. Gabrielle Bellot delivers a triumphal retrospective profile in “Octavia Butler: The Brutalities of the Past Are All Around This” at Literary Hub.

As a preteen, Octavia Butler decided she’d had enough of second-rate science fiction. “Geez,” she said after watching Devil Girl from Mars, a 1954 B-movie. “I can write a better story than that.” Anybody could, really, she mused. “Somebody got paid for writing that awful story,” she concluded in high dudgeon. A year later, she was submitting stories to magazines.

They were “terrible pieces of fiction,” she admitted jocularly in a 1998 talk at MIT, but she had embarked on her journey to write something epochal, a story that could forever reshape a genre’s landscape. A dream architect, she wished to be, whose fabulous and frightening creations would remain after we woke up. One of those transformative stories appeared in her 1979 novel, Kindred, which strikingly reimagined the neo-slave narrative genre by making a 20th-century black woman (and, once, her white husband) slip back into 19th-century Maryland through unceremonious, frightening time-travel. (Though time travel is often associated with science fiction, thanks largely to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Butler instead describes Kindred as fantasy because its temporal traversing is never explained scientifically.) Kindred, a novel explicitly designed to make its readers uncomfortable, has a special, if controversial, resonance for America today: how we teach and talk about texts that contain depictions of bigotry and violence.

Butler was accustomed to the weight of others’ bigotries; she grew up with insecurities about her body, some of which stayed with her into adulthood. Her body was large—she was six feet tall by the time she was a teen—and her voice was deeper than that of the girls around her, its gentle rumbling tone and pitch varying from androgynous to masculine, and students teased her mercilessly. Some of them called her a boy, others a lesbian. Butler did not identify as gay, as she told Larry McCaffery and Jim McMenamin in 1998, but she ruminated about her sexuality and sense of gender, at times musing that she might indeed be what others called her and even going twice to a “Gay and Lesbian Services Center” to “talk about such things… at which point I realized, Nope, this ain’t it… I’m a hermit.” Already socially awkward and lonely, the schoolyard taunts and jeers pushed her into a cavernous isolation. An outsider, she retreated inward, carving out a deep inner space, a lamplit palace of the self.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The “Plan 9” in the title of Plan 9 from Outer Space refers to an alien scheme to create chaos by resurrecting the Earth’s dead as shambling ghouls.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 19, 1952Fahrenheit 451 was first published.  Trivial trivia:  The paperback is the true first, as it came out a week before the hardback.

(8) HISTORIC FIGURES. The Women of NASA LEGO set goes on sale November 1. The collectible was produced after winning fan approval through the LEGO Ideas website.

Four trailblazing figures from NASA’s history are set to launch as new LEGO minifigures on Nov. 1. NASA astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, astronomer Nancy Grace Roman and computer scientist Margaret Hamilton are celebrated for their contributions to space exploration and astronomy in the new LEGO Ideas set, “Women of NASA.” Based on a fan-proposed and supported design, the set includes representations of the four female space pioneers, as well as three LEGO builds that recreate the spacecraft and settings where the women made their mark on space history. “Great for role playing space exploration missions,” LEGO said in a press release announcing the set on Wednesday (Oct. 18). “Explore the professions of some of the groundbreaking women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with the LEGO Ideas Women of NASA set,” The 231-piece building toy is recommended for ages 10 and older. It will retail for $24.99.

(9) THE ENVIRONMENT. No, this isn’t The Onion.

(10) PULPHOUSE IS COMING. The Pulphouse Kickstarter has fully funded, and then some, bringing in $35,215.

(11) COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS. BBC film critic Mark Kermode discusses why it’s box office disappointed, and he doesn’t care.

(12) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. A place to live underground on the moon? “Huge cave found on moon, could house astronauts: Japan scientists”. (Does this sound familiar, and are you also wondering if the orbiter’s first name is “Adam”?)

Data taken from Japan’s SELENE lunar orbiter has confirmed the existence of the 31-mile-long and 328-foot-wide wide cavern that is believed to be lava tube created by volcanic activity about 3.5 billion years ago.

The major finding was published this week in U.S. science magazine Geophysical Research Letters.

“We’ve known about these locations that were thought to be lava tubes … but their existence has not been confirmed until now,” Junichi Haruyama, a researcher at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, told AFP on Thursday.

The underground tunnel, located under an area called the Marius Hills, would help protect astronauts from huge swings in temperature and damaging radiation that they would be exposed to on the moon’s surface, he added.

“We haven’t actually seen the inside of the cave itself so there are high hopes that exploring it will offer more details,” Haruyama said.

(13) CITIES. Camestros Felapton brings us his “Review: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett”.

City of Miracles is a shining example of a brilliant use of the trilogy format to tell fantastical stories. The third book in a series that follows City of Stairs and City of Blades, Bennett again shifts point-of-view character, this time to Sigurd – the almost impossibly bad-ass fighting machine side-kick of spy/politician Shara Komayd (whose career is traced through all three books but who was the specific focus of the first).

Each of the novels has leaped forward several years in the post-fantastical history of the Saypuri Republic and the formerly magical and imperialistic Continent. In doing so Bennett gets to show a world that is undergoing its own version of industrialization and 19th-century European-colonial hegemony without using a cookie-cutter. The political divides are rich enough to feel real and complex and the bad is given at least equal prominence with the bad.

(14) REPEATED HAUNTINGS. The second annual “Ghost Stories at Keele Hall” will be held Monday, November 6, 7:30-9:30 p.m. in the atmospheric surroundings of the Senior Common Room, Keele University.

Join us for the second Ghost Stories at Keele Hall. This will feature unsettling readings from Robert Shearman (writer for Dr. Who, and author of Remember Why You Fear Me, the World Fantasy Award-winning Tiny Deaths, and the Shirley Jackson Award-, the British Fantasy Award-, and the Edge Hill Short Story Reader’s Prize-winning Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical), V.H. Leslie (author of World Fantasy Award-, and the British Fantasy Award-nominated Skein and Bone, and Bodies of Water), and D.P. Watt (author of Almost Insentient, Almost Divine, and The Phantasmagorical Imperative: and Other Fabrications). There will then be a panel discussion and audience Q&A. Free admission. For further details contact the Box Office.

(15) WHERE POKEMON DON’T GO. The Washington Post’s Peter Hermann reports that Curtis Combs, of Somerset, Kentucky, was arrested after he jumped over the White House fence in a Pikachu outfit because he wanted to post a video on YouTube and become famous.

But the man, identified as Curtis Combs, of Somerset, Ky., told arresting officers that the Secret Service closed in too quickly, interrupting his recording of a “pre-jump” ritual.

With police nearing, Combs told police he decided to try getting over the fence anyway, and he made it into a restricted area where he was caught and handcuffed….

The court document does not indicate a reason for the Pokémon costume. Combs reportedly told police that he had researched others who had attempted or successfully gotten onto White House grounds and knew the type of criminal sentences they received. He said he knew he would be arrested. A man in 2014 was caught on the White House lawn dressed in a Pikachu hat and carrying a Pokémon doll.

(16) ALT COMICS.  As might be expected, PJ Media planted a big smooch on Vox Day and his crowdfunded AltHero comics project in “Vox Day’s AltHero Comic Book Challenges SJW Marvel, DC Comics”, uncritically passing on every claim he’s ever made about himself.

“I was astonished, actually. I knew that people were angry about the way social justice warriors have destroyed traditional superheroes, but I didn’t realize just how eager they were for an alternative,” he said. “Of course, the way the SJWs on Twitter completely freaked out over Rebel and the existence of the project didn’t exactly hurt.”

Rebel has become the stand-out hero of the upcoming series and she seems to resonate the most with fans. She is beautifully drawn in the classic superhero style but seems to always be losing part of her costume.

… “The idea that there can be politics-free comics when everything from going to the ladies room to playing video games has been politicized is utterly absurd,” he quipped. “It would be like ignoring the existence of Nazis during World War II or of Soviets during the Cold War,” he argued. “The problem with Marvel and DC is not so much that they have injected politics into comics, but that they ruthlessly sacrifice the stories and even the traditional superheroes on the altar of their social justice agenda.”

Day is one of the godfathers of the much-maligned Alt-Right. But those who try to call him a white nationalist or supremacist fail miserably because he is only part white, claiming Native American and Mexican heritage and speaking out vocally against any form of racial supremacism.

(17) VALUES REVEALED. Earlier this month, LGBTQ Nation’s Jeff Taylor lit into the new comics line in “‘Alt-Right’ comic book meant to ‘trigger’ progressives is as awful as you’d expect”.

Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, said in a Periscope video that he “intended to challenge and eventually replace the SJW (short for “social justice warrior) converged comics of DC and Marvel.”

“They believe that comics is their turf, and SJWs have been moving forward, advancing for decades,” he added. “They have been methodically eradicating traditional values, they have been methodically eradicating Western civilization.”

He has said that “they know they are the true villains and the enemy in the cultural war.”

At time of writing, Beale’s fundraiser has raised over $66,000 dollars.

What, exactly, are these sacred values being erased from comic books that must be saved? Advertising smoking, pushing the concept of undocumented immigrants as dangerous criminals worthy of vigilante justice, and the promotion of the traitorous Confederate flag.

(18) TRAILER PARK. Marvel’s Punisher, official trailer #2:

[Thanks to IanP, James Bacon, John King Tarpinian, David K.M.Klaus, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Exploring Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities

Broadway Books (US) 2014

By JJ: It’s been more than a year and a half since I first read Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs. Like a lot of other Filers, I was absolutely blown away by that book when it came out – and I’m still pretty unhappy about it having been bumped off the Hugo ballot by the slating nonsense; otherwise, according to the nominating stats, it would have been a Hugo Finalist in 2015.

And Worldcon voters weren’t the only ones who liked it: City of Stairs was a Finalist for the World Fantasy Award and the British Fantasy Society’s Robert Holdstock Award, and it came in second on the annual Locus Magazine Readers’ Poll for Best Fantasy Novel.

I hadn’t got around to reading its 2016 sequel City of Blades yet, but was definitely going to do so before the 2017 Hugo nomination deadline – so when I recently had the opportunity through NetGalley to get an advance eARC of the third book in the series*, City of Miracles, I decided to do a re-read of the first book before diving into the sequels.

The Divine Cities are the legacy of a previous age, when six Divines – entities with godlike powers, each with distinctive personality attributes and their own dedicated followers – reigned over segments of The Continent: “Olvos, the light-bearer. Kolkan, the judge. Voortya, the warrior. Ahanas, the seed-sower. Jukov, the trickster, the starling shepherd. And Taalhavras, the builder.”

Broadway Books (US) 2016

During the many centuries of their reign – a sort of Golden Age – the Divines manifested numerous miraculous acts – some of which their followers were able to subsequently perform themselves. They created many objects and living entities in which were embodied miraculous properties and capabilities.

But there was a dark side to this Golden Age: the Divines, and the Continentals, had subjugated the inhabitants of Saypur, a land across the ocean. Saypuris were servants and laborers who provided much of the bounty of food, natural resources, and technology from which the Continentals benefited. Despite this, the slaves of Saypur were denied access to miracles.

And as oppression always does, this injustice inevitably resulted in the rising of a mighty Saypuri adversary, who studied the Divines for years and eventually determined a way of defeating them.

One of the Divines had disappeared many years before the battle with the Kaj, their fate unknown. The rest of the Divines are believed to be dead, killed by the Kaj’s secret weapon – and most of the miraculous acts and objects tied to the Divines have lost their special powers.

What’s more, the Continent’s majestic capital city of Bulikov underwent a massive transformation at the moment of the Divine deaths. In an occurrence now known as The Blink, huge portions of the city, its skyscrapers, other buildings, and residents, simply ceased to exist; other buildings are now warped and twisted versions of their original forms, and there are now-useless stairways, arches, and bridges which trail off into the air.

Broadway Books (US) 2017

It’s been a few hundred years since the death of the Divines, and the Continent is now “administered” by representatives of the Saypuri government who live in the conquered land.

This is the setting where we first encounter one of the most intriguing protagonists I’ve encountered in a while: Shara Thivani. Supposedly a low-level consular official, she is actually a secret intelligence operative attempting to discover the truth about the death of her former teacher and mentor.

In turns arrogant and humble, harsh and kind, foolish and exceedingly clever, Shara is a contradictorily appealing character. In conjunction with her unlikely allies – the huge, indestructible warrior Sigrud, and the astute but taciturn Governor Turyin Mulaghesh, she stubbornly unravels the mysteries and the conspiracies to uncover a world-changing revelation.

Mystery, spies, magic, and an elaborate, fascinating world: I found it an irresistible combination – one that kept me up at night when I should have been getting sleep for work the next day.

City of Blades is on my 2016 Hugo Nomination list for Best Novel, and next year this series will be on my list for Best Series.

* in exchange for an honest review — as if they were likely to get anything but an honest opinion from me, the more fools they  😉


Jo Fletcher Books (UK) 2014

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett [Divine Cities #1]

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions – until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself – first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it – stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem – and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.


Jo Fletcher Books (UK) 2016

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett [Divine Cities #2]

A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.

Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.

So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh – foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister – has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.

At least, it makes the perfect cover story.

The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world – or destroy it.

The trouble is that this old soldier isn’t sure she’s still got what it takes to be the hero.


Jo Fletcher Books (UK) 2017

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett [Divine Cities #3]

Revenge. It’s something Sigrud je Harkvaldsson is very, very good at. Maybe the only thing.

So when he learns that his oldest friend and ally, former Prime Minister Shara Komayd, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what to do – and that no mortal force can stop him from meting out the suffering Shara’s killers deserve.

Yet as Sigrud pursues his quarry with his customary terrifying efficiency, he begins to fear that this battle is an unwinnable one. Because discovering the truth behind Shara’s death will require him to take up arms in a secret, decades-long war, face down an angry young god, and unravel the last mysteries of Bulikov, the city of miracles itself. And – perhaps most daunting of all – finally face the truth about his own cursed existence.


Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett

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

Other works by Robert Jackson Bennett:

The year is 1919. The McNaughton Corporation is the pinnacle of American industry. They built the guns that won the Great War before it even began. They built the airships that tie the world together. And, above all, they built Evesden – a shining metropolis, the best that the world has to offer. But something is rotten at the heart of the city. Deep underground, a trolley car pulls into a station with eleven dead bodies inside. Four minutes before, the victims were seen boarding at the previous station. Eleven men butchered by hand in the blink of an eye. All are dead. And all are union. Now, one man, Cyril Hayes, must fix this. There is a dark secret behind the inventions of McNaughton and with a war brewing between the executives and the workers, the truth must be discovered before the whole city burns. Caught between the union and the company, between the police and the victims, Hayes must uncover the mystery before it kills him.

It is the time of the Great Depression. Thousands have left their homes looking for a better life, a new life. But Marcus Connelly is not one of them. He searches for one thing, and one thing only: Revenge. Because out there, riding the rails, stalking the camps, is the scarred vagrant who murdered Connelly’s daughter. One man must face a dark truth and answer the question – how much is he willing to sacrifice for his satisfaction?

Vaudeville: mad, mercenary, dreamy, and absurd, a world of clashing cultures and ferocious showmanship and wickedly delightful deceptions. But sixteen-year-old pianist George Carole has joined vaudeville for one reason only: to find the man he suspects to be his father, the great Heironomo Silenus. Yet as he chases down his father’s troupe, he begins to understand that their performances are strange even for vaudeville: for wherever they happen to tour, the very nature of the world seems to change. Because there is a secret within Silenus’s show so ancient and dangerous that it has won him many powerful enemies. And it’s not until after he joins them that George realizes the troupe is not simply touring: they are running for their lives. And soon… he is as well.

Some places are too good to be true. Under a pink moon, there is a perfect little town not found on any map. In that town, there are quiet streets lined with pretty houses, houses that conceal the strangest things. After a couple years of hard traveling, ex-cop Mona Bright inherits her long-dead mother’s home in Wink, New Mexico. And the closer Mona gets to her mother’s past, the more she understands that the people of Wink are very, very different…


Robert Jackson Bennett was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He moved to Austin, Texas, and studied at the University of Texas. Bennett is a two-time award winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, an Edgar Award winner for Best Paperback Original, and is also the 2010 recipient of the Sydney J Bounds Award for Best Newcomer, and a Philip K Dick Award Citation of Excellence. City of Stairs was shortlisted for the Locus Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Robert Holdstock Award. His seventh novel, City of Miracles, will be released on May 2, 2017 in both the US and the UK. Bennett lives in Austin with his wife and sons.