Writing Against the Grain: T. Kingfisher’s Feminist Mythopoeic Fantasy

By Robin Anne Reid. Presented at MythCon 2021:

Writing Against the Grain: T. Kingfisher’s Feminist Mythopoeic Fantasy

WARNING: Spoilers for Clockwork Boys, Paladin, and White Rat series

The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes.

In “On Fairy Stories,” J. R. R. Tolkien defines and defends a sub-genre of fantasy by explicating his poem, “Mythopoeia.” Necessary characteristics for a mythopoeic text include structural, or textual, elements but also reception, or reader response. At heart, a mythopoeic fantasy is set in a secondary world that is internally consistent; the “magic” must “be taken seriously,” and the best in the genre involves “the Consolation of the Happy Ending” (32-33;75). Readers who appreciate the genre experience recovery, escape, and consolation.

Tolkien’s theory has been applied to his own fiction, but, increasingly, scholars are also applying it to films and contemporary fantasy fiction (Croft, Holdier, MacLachlan). However, I have found minimal scholarship on feminist mythopoeic fiction: in a 1989 essay published in Mythlore, Patrick Murphy argues that feminist poets incorporate “high and low fantasy” elements to create what he calls a “(re) mythopoeia, “or ” an alternative heritage” drawing on theories of a “pre-patriarchal goddess” (26). Murphy does not mention the sub-genre of women’s fantasy which draws on the traditions of a goddess worship aligned with strong ecological themes and explorations of psychic and spiritual powers. Scholarship on those writers, such as Janice C. Crosby’s Cauldron of Changes: Feminist Spirituality in Fantastic Fiction, is not concerned with Tolkien’s theory.

In order to think about the question of feminist mythopoeic fantasy, I draw on Faye Ringel’s essay, “Women Fantasists: In the Shadow of the Ring.” Ringel adapts the concept of what Harold Bloom calls the “swerve” in his Anxiety of Influence which he defines as how male poets deal with the influences of earlier male writers on their work through a process of “poetic misreading or misprison proper.” Performing her own feminist swerve on Bloom’s theory, Ringel argues that while “women fantasists accept some of Tolkien’s premises, they differ strongly with him on the subject of women’s roles” (165) which is, of course, one of the purposes of the feminist movement.

In this presentation, I focus on five novels, in three series, published under the pen name that Ursula Vernon uses for her adult fantasy, T. Kingfisher: the completed Clockwork Boys duology, and two ongoing series: the Saint of Steel planned trilogy with one novel in print; and the Temple of the White Rat trilogy with two completed novels. And yes, I am waiting very very VERY impatiently for the next books to be published although luckily for me, she is currently publishing new fantasies fairly quickly.

Three disclaimers. First, I am not able to do justice to the scope, complexity, and sheer wonderfulness of Kingfisher’s work in this short presentation. If you have not read her work, I strongly recommend you do. Second, by identifying these novels as feminist mythopoeic fiction, I am not excluding Kingfisher’s other work from this genre. She has already won two Mythopoeic awards–the first for her graphic novel, Digger, in 2013, and the second for her YA novel, Castle Hangnail, in 2016. I focus on these series because they are set in the same world, as opposed to her stand-alone fantasy and horror novels, and show more of what Liz Bourke calls Kingfisher’s “energetic and atmospherically weird approach to world-building” (Review, Strength). The world of the novels is Archenhold which has different cities: Archen’s Glory, Anuket City, and Rutger’s Howe. In addition, several supporting characters appear in two of the series.

Third, my argument does not require evidence of direct influence by Tolkien. I do not know whether or not Kingfisher has read Tolkien although I strongly suspect she has. Her fiction and essays show a long and deep engagement with fairy tales, fantasy fiction, and games based on medievalist sources. For instance, in her epilogue to Swordheart, Kingfisher describes ranting to her husband about how annoying she finds Michael Moorcock’s Elric because he is constantly whining, and that “the real victim was his sword Stormbringer” who could not escape him. Swordheart was thus written to explore what happens when a “beleaguered magic sword [is] saddled with an inept wielder.” In another self-described rant on Twitter titled “Ursula’s Paladin Rant, or ‘Crapsack Jedi With Guilt Issues,’ she posts about her dislike for the D&D the rules for Paladins which have influenced fantasy fiction and games. Identifying the Paladin class as “broken,” she argues that how the “rules” too often play out leads to a convention of characters who “[screw] up royally [and then] collapse into a wreckage of NOW I MUST EMBRACE EVIL” which “is really counter-productive” and also lacks awareness of how religions include “mechanisms for forgiveness and repentance because if it’s one strike and you’re out, pretty soon everybody’s out.” In both cases, Vernon is clear in this epitextual and paratextual material that one purpose of writing at least some of her novels is to critique not only genre conventions generally but specific authors’ and creators’ use of them. When it comes to the paladins (who are not limited to male characters), other characters who have to deal with them most often are not shy about expressing their opinions as Bishop Beartongue does at the end of Paladin’s Grace: “‘ Yes, yes, you’re a paladin, wallowing in guilt over how you are the very worst person ever is part of the job'” (329).

So, a quick recap: Tolkien’s mythopoeic elements are an internally consistent secondary world; magic that is taken seriously; and eucatastrophe, with readers responding by feeling recovery, escape, and consolation (32-33;75), Ringel’s feminist elements are accepting Tolkien’s sense of the importance of ‘ordinary’ rather than traditional epic characters (including Paladins!) while rejecting both his “medieval ideals of kingship and class structure” (165-166), and his portrayal of women’s roles. Kingfisher emphasizes ordinary people rather than kings and nobles in all her work: minimal narrative time, if any, is given to the rulers, and when they are mentioned, in at least two cases, they are women, holding the title of Dowager. In a third case, a man holds the elected office of Archon.

In two of the three series, a Kingfisherian version of Faërie, called the Vagrant Hills, plays a significant role, and in all three series, her system of magic, called “wonderworking” exists alongside a polytheistic belief system without major conflicts. The gods who have been identified in the series so far are: The Dreaming God, The Four-Faced God, The Forge God, The Hanged Mother, The Lady of Grass, The Many-Armed God, The Saint of Steel (who, despite the name is definitely a god) and the White Rat. More information about The Dreaming God and the White Rat has been given so far, but each God has their own church or temple system with priests, nuns, and paladins as well as support staff. Each God seems to have their own specialization–the Dreaming God empowers paladins to identify and destroy demons while the White Rat’s hierarchy provides legal and material support for people who need help. According to Zale in Swordheart, these different and autonomous churches exist without major conflict except for the Hanged Mother’s priesthood, called the Motherhood, which attempt to control or destroy all other groups. In the Paladin series, the churches in Archon’s Glory cooperate to make sure that the Motherhood, who are favored by the Archon, are restrained from gaining too much secular power.

The churches play a larger narrative role in the Paladin’s and White Rat series than in Clocktaur Boys, especially the Temple of the White Rat, and some of those called to the gods’ service are granted powers (becoming, in most cases, paladins). But the powers of the church have failed to suppress or control Kingfisher’s Faërie, the Vagrant Hills: according to Zale and Halla, the various churches’ attempts to “burn out bits of the Hills ages ago” led to a number of unhappy songs (Swordheart).

The Hills, which feature significantly in the Clockwork Boys and Swordheart series, have not so far played any part in White Rat series. They are an area of unknown/unknowable dimensions that seem to move or are able to pull characters who are nowhere near the Hills into them without warning. The descriptions of how characters enter the Hills are similar to traditional folktale images of the way to Faerie. In Swordheart, the major characters find themselves in a “hollow way” in the middle of an acorn wood: “Trees leaned over the road, their bare branches laced tightly across the sky. ‘It’s a hollow way,’ said Zale. ‘One of the old, old roads.’. . . .They reached the end of the hollow way and emerged, blinking, into the sunlight. They were no longer in the acorn wood. They were halfway up a hillside, near a drop-off.”

In The Clockwork Boys, characters find themselves on “a narrow path, barely a lane, and badly overgrown. It did not look like the hard-packed smugglers’ road. Between patches of grass and horsetail rushes, the mud and packed pebbles glittered like the reticulated hide of a lizard. ‘This isn’t our road,’ said Caliban (197).

The Vagrant Hills are home to a number of magical non-humanoid species such as rune (speculated to be the descendants of “stag men and dryads”), but also to talking rabbits, aggressive mandrake roots, a large stone fish swimming upstream to spawn, and parasitic predators that are described as translucent “sky-swimmers,” beautiful but deadly. Various characters make it clear that nobody knows enough about the Hills to be sure of what exists in them, nor is it possible to study them. Travelers caught by the Hills have no more control over when or how they leave than they did in how the entered, and not all travelers survive to leave. The reason that characters are drawn into the Hills seems to be that they have a strong connection to magic or other types of supernatural power–Caliban in the Clockwork Boys carries the remnants of the dead demon that possessed him and could not be fully exorcised, and Sarkis in Swordheart exists within a magical sword and belongs to whoever owns it.

The other strange nearly unexplored country in Kingfisher’s mythopoeic fiction is the relationships between her female protagonists and the broken warrior. Ringel pointed out that the fantasy writers she interviewed rejected Tolkien’s marriage plots to show female protagonists living as witches, wizards, or warriors, not wives (167). Kingfisher goes a step further in writing mature romance plots that do not always involve marriage. At the start of the novels, her female protagonists are older and sexually experienced but have left unhappy or abusive relationships (sometimes but not always marriage) to support themselves. During the course of the story, they enter into sexual (and sometimes marital) relationships with male characters that swerve from the typical warrior-hero protagonist of fantasy through a process of feminist deconstruction.

The female protagonists are Slate, a forger (Clockwork); Grace, a perfumer (Paladin’s Grace); Clara (a nun of the convent of St. Ursa and a werebear); and Halla (a housekeeper). The male characters are three paladins and one magicked mercenary. Caliban (Clockwork Boys) was a paladin of the Dreaming God who was possessed by a demon and murdered eleven novices and nuns. Stephen and Istvahn were holy berserkers for the Saint of Steel and were among the few survivors of their God’s death which nearly destroyed the order. Although they have survived, the death of the Saint of Steel means that they are at risk for entering the berserker state without the God ensuring that they do not harm the innocent. Sarkis was a mercenary punished for betraying the city he and his troop were hired to protect by being killed and trapped in an enchanted sword five centuries earlier. All the male characters consider themselves, to varying degrees, to have failed, but in Kingfisher’s world, such failures do not lead to the simplistic result that Vernon describes as “Crapsack Jedi with Guilt Issues,” that is immediately turning to the dark side. Instead, the world of the series through the social support systems provided primarily by the Temple of the White Rat and their relationships with the female protagonists offers a range of “mechanisms for forgiveness and repentance” including Kingfisher’s own version of quests which are another example of swerving from the conventions of fantasy established by Tolkien. I should note that the female characters are not presented simplistically as saviors: they also consider themselves failed in many ways, often blaming themselves for the failure of their past relationships.

These swerves from Tolkien’s definition strengthen my experience of recovery, escape, and consolation as a reader, responses that grew stronger during my re-reading of her work during the first year of the pandemic. A number of the readers who review her work report similar experiences, including multiple readings of favorite books in the series. Thinking about her work in the context of Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fantasy raises questions about what a “feminist mythopoeic” work might be that I’ll be thinking more about in the future.


Working Bibliography

Bourke, Liz. Liz Bourke Reviews Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher. Locus, April 21, 2021.

Croft, Janet Brennan. “Tolkien’s Faërian Drama: Origins and Valedictions.” Mythlore, 32.2, Spring/Summer 2014, pp. 31-44.

Crosby, Janice C. Cauldron of Changes: Feminist Spirituality in Fantastic Fiction. McFarland, 2000.

Holdier, A. G. “On Superhero Stories: The Marvel Cinematic Universe as Tolkienesque Fantasy.” Mythlore, vol. 36, iss. 2, Spring-Summer 2018, pp. 73-88.

Kane, Douglas Charles. “A Modern Fairy-story: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Seen Through the Prism of Tolkien’s Classic Essay.” Mythlore, vol. 37, no. 1, Fall-Winter 2018, pp. 133-45.

Kingfisher, T. Clockwork Boys. Clocktaur War: Book One. Argyll, 2018.
—. The Wonder Engine. Clocktaur War: Book Two. Argyll, 2018.
—. Paladin’s Grace. The Saint of Steel: Book One. Argyll, 2020.
—. Paladin’s Strength. The Saint of Steel: Book Two. Argyll, 2021.
—. Swordheart. Argyll, 2020.

MacLachlin, Christopher. Chapter 8 “‘On Fairy Stories’ and Tolkien’s Elvish Tales.” New Fairy Tales: Essays & Stories. John Patrick Pazdziora and Defne Cizakca, eds. Unlocking Press, 2013. pp: 147-66.

Murphy, Patrick D. (1989) “The High and Low Fantasies of Feminist (Re)Mythopoeia.” Mythlore, vol. 16, no. 2, article 5. Available at: https://dc.swosu.edu/mythlore/vol16/iss2/5

Ringel, Faye. “Women Fantasists: In the Shadow of the Ring.” J. R. R. Tolkien and his Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth. George Clark and Daniel Timmons, eds. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, no. 89. C. W. Sullivan III, Series Adviser. Greenwood Press, 2000. Pp. 159-71.

Tolkien, J. R. R. “On Fairy-Stories.”Tolkien On Fairy-stories. Expanded edition. Verlyn Flieger and Douglas Anderson, eds. Harper Collins, 2014.

Vernon, Ursula. “Ursula’s Paladin Rant, or ‘Crapsack Jedi With Guilt Issues.'” Twitter. Oct. 13, 2017.

Cats Sleep on SFF:
Biology and Manners

Robin Anne Reid’s cat is taking in the lessons of a new book:

I think I’ve probably talked about this project on File 770, and some filers might be interested (though pre-emptive apologies for cost of it, alas)! Hild sleeping on the just released Biology and Manners collection of essays on Lois McMaster Bujold’s science fiction and fantasy!  


Photos of your felines resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 3/27/20 The Software Responsible For The Captions Has Been Sacked

(1) GRANTS AND EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE FOR CREATIVES. Jason Sanford’s updated “COVID-19 resources, info, and assistance for the science fiction, fantasy, & horror communities” includes a number of emergency funds open to writers and artists, along with info on genre conventions, freelancing and more.

(2) RESEARCHERS WANT MORE INTERVIEWS WITH TOLKIEN FANS. Robin Reid is asking for help to spread the word:

The link below leads to my Digital Tolkien class discussion about the Marquette Tolkien Oral History Project created and curated by Bill Fliss. This project is incredible effort to create an online accessible archive of interviews with Tolkien fans that consists of podcasts and transcriptions of the interviews for fan and academic meta. You can read all about the process at the link, but I’m asking for your help circulating the project information in fan spaces to generate more interviews. My sense is that Tumblr would be a great space to advertise it, along with some others, but I’m not in the least literate or comfortable in Tumblr (I tried it. I failed it). But if you all were willing to spread the information, it would be great!

(3) BEFORE THE TUCKER HOTEL. Now on the First Fandom Experience blog: “A Visit To Science Fiction House” (1939-40), from the papers of Donald A. Wollheim.

…The notion of a “Science Fiction House” emerged in New York fandom in the late 1930s and became real with the establishment of a residence in Brooklyn known as Futurian House. The story of that fabled abode is told in detail in the October 1939 and January 1940 issues of the Jim Avery’s M.S.A. Bulletin, the club organ of the Maine Scientifiction Association.

But Wollheim had already formed a vision of an idyllic communal living space for fans. This fictional history, sadly incomplete, is dated December 3 1937.  The post contains scans of his original three-page document.  Enjoy!

(4) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. [Item by Olav Rokne.] NME reports that Anna Taylor-Joy has auditioned (via skype due to Coronavirus) for a role in the Mad Max spin off Furiosa. The movie, which is set to film in 2021 is one of the productions that seems to have recently escaped development hell, as studios are gearing up for accelerated production schedules post-Coronavirus. “‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ spin-off ‘Furiosa’ reportedly in production”.  

Director George Miller is ready to return to the iconic post-apocalyptic world after the green light was given for shooting to take place in Australia this autumn, according to Geeks WorldWide.

(5) HALEGUA OBIT. Veteran pulp collector Mark Halegua died March 18 at the age 66. Murania Press’ Ed Hulse has an obituary for Mark on his blog: “Mark Halegua (1953-2020), R.I.P.” One of the highlights —

At the 1997 Pulpcon in Bowling Green, Ohio, I recognized Mark from the comic-book conventions and introduced myself. During our first brief conversation I learned he was a fan and collector of the “Thrilling Group” pulps edited by Leo Margulies and published by Ned Pines. He was compiling complete sets of The Phantom DetectiveBlack Book Detective (with his favorite character, the Black Bat), and Captain Future, among others. He liked hero pulps in general and also had a fondness for science fiction.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 27, 1957 X Minus One’s  “A Pail of Air”  aired. . A family are together in their nest. Everything is calm for the moment, but at any moment the mother could wake and start to ramble on about things that don’t exist anymore. Things such as the sun and grass. Or are things as they believe they are? Written by Fritz Leiber for Galaxy in December 1952, the radio script was by Pamela Fitzmaurice, with the cast being Ronald Liss and Eleanor Phelps. Daniel Sutter was the director. You can download it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 27, 1892 Thorne Smith. A writer of humorous supernatural fantasy. He is best remembered for the two Topper novels — a comic fantasy fiction mix of plentiful drink, many ghosts and sex. Not necessarily in that order.  The original editions of the Topper novels complete with their erotic illustrations are available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1934.)
  • Born March 27, 1901 Carl Barks. Cartoonist, writer, and illustrator. He is best known for his work in Disney comic books, as the writer and artist of the first Donald Duck stories and as the creator of Scrooge McDuck. He wrote The Fine Art of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck and Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge McDuck. He was one of the three inaugural inductees of the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. (Died 2000.)
  • Born March 27, 1942 Michael York, 78. I remember him in the Babylon 5  “A Late Delivery from Avalon” episode as a man who believed himself to be King Arthur returned. Very chilling. I also enjoyed him as D’Artagnan in the Musketeers films and remember him as Logan 5 in Logan’s Run. So what is on his genre list that really impresses you?
  • Born March 27, 1949 John Hertz, 71. Winner of the Big Heart Award at the 2003 Torcon. He’s quite active in the fanzine world publishing the Vanamonde fanzine. Four collections of his fanwriting have been published, West of the MoonDancing and Joking, On My Sleeve, and Neither Complete nor Conclusive. He‘s been  nominated for the Hugo for Best Fan Writer three times.
  • Born March 27, 1952 Dana Stabenow, 68. Though better known for her superb Kate Shugak detective series, she does have genre work to her credit in the excellent Star Svensdotter space series. The latter is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born March 27, 1962 Kevin J. Anderson, 58. Ok, I’ll admit that I love first two Dune books and have only read the first four of them, so I’m puzzled what the market is for eighteen novels and counting that he and his co-writer have written that have expanded that universe. I mean he’s really, really prolific — he even co-wrote Clockwork Angels with Neil Peart, a novelization of Rush’s 20th studio album of the same name! 
  • Born March 27, 1971 Nathan Fillion, 49. Certainly best known for being Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds in Firefly verse. An interesting case of just how much of a character comes from the actor. In his case, I’d say most of it. He voiced Green Lantern/Hal Jordan in Justice League: DoomJustice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. Oh, and he appeared in a recurring role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Caleb.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio begins Tolkien-inspired gardening.

(9) NOTORIOUS F.I.L.E.

(10) A HIGHER TECH PRACTICAL JOKE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Be sure to follow the link to the Facebook post. It will take you to the page where the Chain Chomp is being sold. Anchor one to the floor just inside the bathroom door after everyone else has gone to bed…

(11) CLARION’S ONLINE OFFERINGS. Clarion West is offering a series of free online workshops.

Our amazing community of alumni, instructors, and friends has come together to create a robust and diverse offering. We have everything from one-hour presentations on specific areas of craft to week-long interactive workshops. There are also writing sprints to help you get words down on paper.

The workshop class list is here, and it can be found under Workshops -> Online Workshops.

We’re particularly excited to offer several teen workshops with the help of the Bureau of Fearless Ideas.

Registration opens at 12pm PST Friday, March 27th. It is first-come, first-served and most workshops are capped at 20 participants.

(12) YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. Vox kicks off its list of “The 10 best movies you can now watch at home” with Bacurau, a film which some fans are seeking an eligibility extension for the 2021 Hugos:

Virtual theater listings for Bacurau are available on the Kino Lorber website. (You’ll receive a rental link, and the profits will help support the independent theater you select on the page.)

And here’s the Kino Lorber link — Bacurauwith description of the film.

(13) EATING THE FANTASTIC TIME CAPSULE. Scott Edelman invites listeners to time travel to 1995 as Geoffrey A. Landis and Yoji Kondo ponder the age of the universe in a flashback episode of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

When I launched Science Fiction Age in 1992, one of the things I decided to do to deliver a different experience than other science fiction publications of the time was to have our science column be — not an essay by a single author — but a Science Forum. There was an occasional exception, but for the most part, from the very beginning, until the magazine shut down in 2000, I’d take science fiction writers who were also scientists out for a meal, we’d eat, we’d chat, and I’d record the results for publication.

A couple of years back, I realized that since I’d been eating in restaurants talking about the fantastic with science fiction writers, it made sense to repurpose what conversations survived for this podcast. And now, with the coronavirus making meals in restaurants either risky or impossible depending on your location, I thought it would be fun to share yet another time travel episode.

At the time of this conversation 25 years ago, Geoffrey A. Landis worked for Sverdrup Technology at the NASA Lewis Research Center and was named by Ad Astra magazine as a “cutting edge” theorist in the special issue on the “stars” of space. As an SF writer, Geoffrey Landis had won the Hugo Award for “A Walk in the Sun” and a Nebula Award for “Ripples in the Dirac Sea.” In the quarter century since, he’s won 2003 Hugo Award for best short story “Falling Onto Mars,” the 2011 Theodore Sturgeon Award for best short science fiction for “The Sultan of the Clouds,” and the 2014 Robert A. Heinlein Award.

A quarter of a century ago, Yoji Kondo, an astrophysicist, was the director of the geosynchronous satellite observatory IUE. The previous year, he co-organized and co-chaired the International Astronomical Union Symposium on “Examining the Big Bang” in The Hague. Under the pseudonym Eric Kotani, he had written five SF books, four with John Maddox Roberts and one with Roger MacBride Allen. Since that time, he published an additional novel with Roberts, as well as the Star Trek Voyager novel Death of A Neutron Star. In 2003, the Lunarians awarded him its Isaac Asimov Memorial Award. Sadly, Kondo passed away October 9, 2017.

We discussed how the idea of the universe even having a beginning is a relatively new concept, the way we choose between the many competing theories of its age, how the phrase “Big Bang” was a joke which stuck, the paradox of some stars appearing to be older than the universe itself, how a science fiction writer’s imagination might solve unanswered questions, whether knowing when the universe was born will help us calculate when it will end, and more.

(14) US SPACE FORCE. “US Space Force launches satellite after short delay”.

The US military’s newest branch has launched its first satellite, despite a short delay in the countdown.

A rocket carrying a US Space Force communications satellite lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday.

An inaccurate reading on hydraulic equipment stopped the clock for 80 minutes before the issue was resolved.

US President Donald Trump established the Space Force, which is focused on warfare in space, in December 2019.

Lieutenant General John F Thompson, Commander of the Space and Missiles Systems Centre in California, explained why the launch was proceeding despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is a really, really important launch,” he said. “It’s the very first launch for the US Space Force.

“There are critical things, or mission essential things, that the US Department of Defence does every day. Even in the face of a global pandemic we must continue to perform mission essential tasks.

“[The satellite] supports the president and other world leaders with critical communications around the planet. This launch extends that communication into a timeframe beyond 2030.”

“US Space Force launches first national security mission”  [video].

The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The launch was delayed by an hour due to a ground hydraulics issue.

The public viewing area was closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.

(15) DIRECT ACTION. “Tesla donates hundreds of ventilators to New York”.

Elon Musk has promised to provide New York with hundreds of ventilators to help meet demand from the growing coronavirus outbreak.

The Tesla chief executive said the first batch of donated machines would be delivered later on Friday.

The ventilators were purchased from US government-approved manufacturers in China.

The mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio thanked Mr Musk on Twitter writing “We’re deeply grateful.”

“We need every ventilator we can get our hands on these next few weeks to save lives,” he tweeted.

The ventilators will be donated to hospitals in New York City and across New York state.

(16) FEAR ITSELF. Following up on a mention of him the other day, “Max Brooks Has Been Called The ‘Zombie Laureate’” is a clip of his appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2017.

‘Minecraft: The Island’ author Max Brooks explains the paranoid upbringing that led him to write about the undead.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/19 Pix-El: The Man of Scroll

(1) TOLKIEN RESEARCH SURVEY. Robin Anne Reid of the Department of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce is continuing to collect surveys for the project mentioned in the January 11 Scroll (item 2) – “I have 42 but more would be nice.”

The link leads to Reid’s academic Dreamwidth page for the informed consent information. The link from there goes to SurveyMonkey. Reid’s cover letter says: 

Hello: I am a professor of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMUC) who is doing a research project. The project asks how readers of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium who are at least eighteen years old and who are atheists, agnostics, animists, or part of New Age movements interpret his work in the context of the common assumption that Tolkien’s Catholic beliefs must play a part in what readers see as the meaning of his fiction.

I have created a short survey which consists of ten open-ended questions about your religious and/or spiritual background, your experiences of Tolkien’s work, and your ideas about the relationship between religious beliefs and interpreting his work. It would take anywhere from thirty minutes to several hours to complete the survey, depending on how much you write in response to the questions.  The survey is uploaded to my personal account at Survey Monkey: only I will have access to the responses. My research proposal has been reviewed by the TAMUC Institutional Review Board.

If you are eighteen years or older, and are an atheist, agnostic, animist, or part of a New Age movement that emphasizes spirituality but not a creator figure, you are invited to go to my academic blog to see more information about the survey. The survey will be open from December 1, 2018-January 31, 2019, closing at 11:30 PM GMT-0500 Central Daylight Time.

Complete information about the project and how your anonymity and privacy will be protected can be found at by clicking on the link:

https://robin-anne-reid.dreamwidth.org/50424.html

(2) RETRO READING. The Hugo Award Book Club‘s Olav Rokne recalls: “The Retro-Hugo for Best Graphic Story was overlooked by enough nominators that it failed to be awarded last year. That’s a real shame, because I can tell you that there was a lot of work that’s worth celebrating. It’s actually quite sad that it was forgotten last year, and I’m sincerely hoping that people don’t neglect the category this year.” That’s the reason for his recommended reading post  “Retro Hugo – Best Graphic Story 1944”.  

(3) A FEMINIST SFF ROUNDUP. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview of 2018 in “A Year In Feminist Speculative Fiction” at the British Science Fiction Association’s Vector blog. Morgan’s first recommendation —

Top of the list for anyone’s feminist reading from 2018 must be Maria Dahvana Headley’s amazing re-telling of Beowulf, The Mere Wife. Set in contemporary America, with a gated community taking the place of Heorot Hall, and a policeman called Ben Wolfe in the title role, it uses the poem’s story to tackle a variety of issues. Chief among them is one of translation. Why is it that Beowulf is always described as a hero, whereas Grendel’s Mother is a hag or a wretch? In the original Anglo-Saxon, the same word is used to describe both of them. And why do white women vote for Trump? The book tackles both of those questions, and more. I expect to see it scooping awards.

(4) HONEY, YOU GOT TO GET THE SCIENCE RIGHT. Where have I heard that before? Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is netting all kinds of awards, but writing for CNN, physicist Don Lincoln opines that, “‘Spider-verse’ gets the science right — and wrong.” Of course, this is an animated movie and maybe Don is a bit of a grump.

CNN—(Warning: Contains mild spoilers) 

As a scientist who has written about colliding black holes and alien space probes, I was already convinced I was pretty cool. But it wasn’t until I sat down to watch “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” that I understood the extent of my own coolness. There on the screen was fictional scientific equipment that was clearly inspired by the actual apparatus that my colleagues and I use to try to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Amid the action, the coming-of-age story, a little romance and a few twists and turns, the movie shows a fictional gadget located in New York City called a collider, which connects parallel universes and brings many different versions of Spider-Man into a single universe.

(5) SFF TV EDITOR. CreativeCOW.net features a rising star in “Editing SYFY”.

When talking about her career path, you get the immediate sense that rejection isn’t a “no” for Shiran Amir. There’s never been an obstacle that’s kept her from living her dream. Shattering ceiling after glass ceiling, she makes her rise up through the ranks look like a piece of cake. However, her story is equal parts strategy and risk – and none of it was easy.

After taking countless chances in her career, of which some aspiring editors don’t see the other side, she has continually pushed herself to move onward and upward. She’s been an assistant editor on Fear the Walking Dead, The OA, and Outcast to name a few, before becoming a full-fledged editor of Z Nation for SyFy, editing the 4th and 9th episodes of the zombie apocalypse show’s final season, with its final episode airing December 28, 2018. She’s currently on the Editors Guild Board of Directors and is involved in the post-production community in Los Angeles.

And she’s only 30 years old.

(6) ARISIA. Bjo Trimble poses with fans in Star Trek uniforms.

The con also overcame horrible weather and other challenges:

And here’s a further example of the Arisia’s antiharassment measures:

(7) EXTRA CREDITS. The Extra Credits Sci Fi series on YouTube began Season 3 with “Tolkien and Herbert – The World Builder”

Mythic worldbuilding and intentionality just weren’t staples of science fiction until the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert were published. We’ll be doing an analysis of The Lord of the Rings and Dune, respectively–works that still stand out today because they are meticulously crafted.

Here are links to playlists for the first two seasons:

  • The first season covered the origins of SF up to John Campbell.
  • The second season covered the Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke era up to the start of the New Wave.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. Early pulp writer whose career consisted of eight complete novels and a number of short stories. Gutenberg has all of all his novels and most of his stories available online.  H. P. Lovecraft notes in a letter that he was a major influence upon his writings, and a number of authors including Michael Moorcock and Robert Bloch list him as being among their favorite authors. 
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” being his only ones as he didn’t do SF Really preferring Westerners. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 20, 1926 Patricia Neal. Best known to genre buffs for her film role as World War II widow Helen Benson in The Day the Earth Stood Still. She also appeared in Stranger from Venus, your usual British made flying saucer film. She shows up in the Eighties in Ghost Story based off a Peter Straub novel, and she did an episode of The Ghost Story series which was later retitled Circle Of Fear in hopes of getting better ratings (it didn’t, it was cancelled).  If Kung Fu counts as genre, she did an appearance there. (Died 2010)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 85. The Fourth Doctor and my introduction to Doctor Who. My favorite story? The Talons of Weng Chiang with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worse of the stories, and there were truly shitty stories, were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. He did have a turn before being the Fourth Doctor as Sherlock Holmes In The Hound of the Baskervilles, and though not genre, he turns up as Rasputin early in his career in Nicholas and Alexandra! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of SinbadThe MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech made  Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • Born January 20, 1946 David Lynch, 73. Director of possibly the worst SF film ever made from a really great novel in the form of Dune. Went on to make Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me which is possibly one of the weirdest films ever made. (Well with Blue Velvet being a horror film also vying for top honors as well.) Oh and I know that I didn’t mention Eraserhead. You can talk about that film.
  • Born January 20, 1948Nancy Kress, 71. Best known for her Hugo and Nebula Award winning Beggars in Spain and its sequels. Her latest novel is If Tomorrow Comes: Book 2 in the Yesterday’s Kin trilogy.
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 61. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing indeed. She’s also worked for Tor, TSR and Dark Horse. Wow. Where was I? Oh about to mention her writings… if you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories
  • Born January 20, 1964 Francesca Buller, 55. Performer and wife of Ben Browder, yes that’s relevant as she’s been four different characters on Farscape, to wit she played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee. Minister Ahkn is likely the one you remember her as being. Farscape is her entire genre acting career.  

(9) IS BRAM STOKER SPINNING? It’s all about Scott Edelman:

(10) MAGICON. Fanac.org has added another historic video to its YouTube channel: “MagiCon (1992) Worldcon – Rusty Hevelin interviews Frank Robinson.”

MagiCon, the 50th Worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. In this video, Rusty Hevelin interviews fan, editor and author Frank Robinson on his career, both fannish and professional and on the early days of science fiction. Frank talks about the war years, the fanzines he published, the Ray Palmer era in magazines, his time at Rogue Magazine and lots more. Highlights include: working with Ray Palmer, discussion on the line between fan and pro writing, the story of George Pal’s production of ‘The Power’ from Frank’s story of that name, and Frank’s views on the impact of science fiction and of fantasy. Frank Robinson was a true devotee of the field – “Science fiction can change the world.”

(11) MUONS VS. MEGS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Those cheering for the stupid-large shark in last year’s The Meg, may now know what to blame for the lack of megalodons in the current age. A story in Quanta Magazine (“How Nearby Stellar Explosions Could Have Killed Off Large Animals”) explains a preprint paper (“Hypothesis: Muon Radiation Dose and Marine Megafaunal Extinction at the End-Pliocene Supernova”). Using iron-60 as a tracer, supernovae have been tracked to a time of mass extinction at the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary 2.6 million years ago. The paper’s authors make the leap from that to a hypothesis that a huge spike in muons that would have occurred when supernova radiation slammed into Earth’s atmosphere could have contributed to that extinction.

Even though Earth is floating in the void, it does not exist in a vacuum. The planet is constantly bombarded by stuff from space, including a daily deluge of micrometeorites and a shower of radiation from the sun and more-distant stars. Sometimes, things from space can maim or kill us, like the gargantuan asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. More often, stellar smithereens make their way to Earth and the moon and then peacefully settle, remaining for eternity, or at least until scientists dig them up.

[…] But the search for cosmic debris on Earth has a long history. Other researchers have demonstrated that it’s possible to find fossil evidence of astrophysical particles in Earth’s crust. Some researchers are pondering how these cosmic events affect Earth — even whether they have altered the course of evolution. A new study suggests that energetic particles from an exploding star may have contributed to the extinction of a number of megafauna, including the prehistoric monster shark megalodon, which went extinct at around the same time.

“It’s an interesting coincidence,” said Adrian Melott, an astrophysicist at the University of Kansas and the author of a new paper.

(12) STEPPING UP. “Girl Scouts of America offers badge in cybersecurity” – a BBC video report.

Girl Scouts of America is now offering girls as young as five a badge in cybersecurity.

It’s part of a drive to get more girls involved in science, technology engineering and mathematics from a young age.

An event in Silicon Valley gave scouts an opportunity to earn the first patch in the activity, with the help of some eggs.

(13) A LITTLE GETAWAY. The BBC asks “Is this the least romantic weekend ever?”

The road runs straight and black into the gloom of the snowy birch forest. It is -5C (23F), the sky is slate-grey and we’re in a steamy minibus full of strangers. Not very romantic you’re thinking, and I haven’t yet told you where we’re going.

My wife, Bee, had suggested a cheeky New Year break. Just the two of us, no kids. “Surprise me,” she’d said.

Then I met a bloke at a friend’s 50th. He told me how much he and his girlfriend had enjoyed a trip to Chernobyl – that’s right, the nuclear power station that blew up in the 1980s, causing the worst civilian nuclear disaster in history.

“Don’t worry,” my new friend declared, a large glass of wine in his hand. “It’s safe now.”

Well, she’d said she’d like something memorable…

(14) HARRIMAN REDUX. BBC considers the question — “Chang’e-4: Can anyone ‘own’ the Moon?”

Companies are looking at mining the surface of the Moon for precious materials. So what rules are there on humans exploiting and claiming ownership?

It’s almost 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. “That’s one small step for a man,” the US astronaut famously said, “one giant leap for mankind.”

Shortly afterwards, his colleague Buzz Aldrin joined him in bounding across the Sea of Tranquility. After descending from the steps of the Eagle lunar module, he gazed at the empty landscape and said: “Magnificent desolation.”

Since the Apollo 11 mission of July 1969, the Moon has remained largely untouched – no human has been there since 1972. But this could change soon, with several companies expressing an interest in exploring and, possibly, mining its surface for resources including gold, platinum and the rare earth minerals widely used in electronics.

(15) UNIDENTIFIED FEDERAL OUTLAYS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Piggybacking on a Washington Post article (paywalled here) and a Vice article (freely available here), SYFY Wire says, “The government’s secret UFO program has just been revealed, and it’s something out of a sci-fi movie.”

We didn’t know much about the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program until now, but apparently, the Department of Defense has been focusing its efforts far beyond potential threats on Earth.

The Defense Intelligence Agency has finally let the public in on at least some of what it’s been up to by recently releasing a list of 38 research titles that range from the weird to the downright bizarre. It would have never revealed these titles—on topics like invisibility cloaking, wormholes and extradimensional manipulation—if it wasn’t for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request put in by the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Society, Steven Aftergood.

(16) STANDING TALL. BBC traces “How Japan’s skyscrapers are built to survive earthquakes” in a photo gallery with some interesting tech info. “Japan is home to some of the most resilient buildings in the world – and their secret lies in their capacity to dance as the ground moves beneath them.”

The bar is set by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. This was a large earthquake – of magnitude 7.9 – that devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, and killed more than 140,000 people.

For earthquakes of a greater magnitude than this benchmark, preserving buildings perfectly is no longer the goal. Any damage that does not cause a human casualty is acceptable.

“You design buildings to protect people’s lives,” says Ziggy Lubkowski, a seismic specialist at University College London. “That’s the minimum requirement.”

(17) ORDER IN THE TINY BRICK COURT. SYFY Wire reports “Ruth Bader Ginsburg will uphold the Constitution in Lego Movie 2: The Second Part cameo”.

If nothing else, the upcoming sequel to The Lego Movie will adhere strictly to the legal confines of the U.S. Constitution.

That’s because 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will have a cameo as a black-robed, law-defining minifigure in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, according to the film’s director, Mike Mitchell.

“These movies are so full of surprises. And we were thinking, ‘Who’s the last person you would think to see in a Lego film as a minifig?’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg!” Mitchell told USA Today. “And we’re all huge fans. It made us laugh to think of having her enter this world.”

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, 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 1/11/19 Scroll Around The Clock, Mix And A-Mingle In The Pixeling Feet

(1) MORE ON NYC TOLKIEN EXHIBIT. The Tolkien Collector’s Guide site has shared a summary of all the announced scheduled events associated with the “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth” exhibit opening in New York on January 25, including what will (and won’t) be on display: “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth at the Morgan Library – schedule and preliminary items”.

(2) NYC TOLKIEN CONFERENCE. Filers who are in NYC on March 16-17 could attend some Tolkien talks by Tolkienists, including John Garth and Robin Anne Reid, offered in partnership with The Morgan Library and Museum: Tolkien Weekend.

Sunday, March 17 The New York Tolkien Conference Presenters include: Megan B. Abrahamson, Nicholas Birns, David Bratman, Janet Brennan Croft, John DiBartolo and the Lonely Mountain Band, Leslie Donovan, David Emerson, Jason Fisher, Peter Grybauskas, Yvette Kisor, Kristine Larsen, Ryder Miller, Robin Anne Reid, Ph.D., Chris Tuthill, and Christopher Vaccaro.

There’s a rundown of the conference programs here. And at the top of the list is —  

Atheists, Agnostics, and Animists, Oh, My!: Secular Readings of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium
Robin Reid

This project considers the question of how fans of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium who are atheists, agnostics, or animists, that is, readers who do not, to varying degrees, profess belief in the Christian God or in any other religion’s Supreme Being, make meaning of his work in their lives. Using a mixed methodology approach, I will administer an online free-form survey asking for minimal demographic information and answers to open-ended questions allowing respondents to describe their experiences with religion, if any; their personal history of belief; their reading history and interpretations of Tolkien’s work, and their responses to the tendency in popular and academic thought to assume that Tolkien’s Christian beliefs must shape reader’s interpretation of his work.

(3) A RARE SIMILARITY. Brian Murphy compares “Tolkien and Howard: Two Roads Diverged in Haggard’s Kor” at DMR.

…Their life work is typically arrayed on opposite ends of the fantasy spectrum: Tolkien is considered the Don of high fantasy, often characterized as possessing detailed secondary worlds of magic populated by casts of characters focused on matters of ponderous, world-shaking importance. Howard is recognized as the progenitor of sword and sorcery, associated with muscular heroes engaged in mercenary pursuits.

Yet the pair on occasion demonstrated striking similarities of thought, particularly regarding the harsh realities of material existence and the concomitant desire for escape. Both for example employed the same metaphor as life as a prison or cage, from which escape was a natural reaction by the feeling man….

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you will eavesdrop on my Thai dinner with the immersive (and totally science fictional) theatrical troupe Submersive Productions in the latest installment of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

…The most recent theatrical event I attended presented by Submersive was A Horse By The Tail In The Night, part of a series called The Institute of Visionary History and the Archives of the Deep Now. The company claims that during work on H. T. Darling, they uncovered experiments performed decades earlier by a secret society making use of the fact the museum in which they staged their happenings was a “thin place” — that is, a place where our world can bleed through to other times, other dimensions, other realities.

And so I found myself in a small room for eight hours with two seemingly immortal aristocrats who were apparently trapped there, and who struggled to cope with and understand their plight, repeating interactions — games, the telling of tales, the preparation of potions — with variations. I was sometimes fed by them, sometimes ignored, sometimes interrogated, and in those hours they, too, were creating something fantastic, something science fictional, something worth exploring on this podcast.

Science fiction takes many forms, the theater being one of them, and when it’s theater as otherworldly as this, I feel it’s an aspect of science fiction which deserves a place here. So I shared take-out from MayureeThai Tavern on the penultimate day of 2018 with the two actors who brought those doomed, immortal aristocrats to life, Lisi Stoessel and Francisco Benavides, as well the co-artistic directors of Submersive Productions, Glenn Ricci and Ursula Marcum.

We discussed the ways everything from Dragon Ball Z to Myst to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil stoked their love of the fantastic, how the funding came together for their first mesmeric show about the women in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the dare that made their recent durational play grow to eight hours and the half-scripted/half-improvised way they were able to keep their performance going that long, how the actors found their voices by channeling Katherine Hepburn and Roberto Benigni, the multiple meanings of the most transcendent pie-eating scene I’ve ever witnessed in the theater, how they deal with introverted (as well as overly extroverted) audience members during immersive performances, the differences between improv comedy and improvisational theater, and much more.

(5) TRILOGY COMPLETE. It took awhile to wrap this story —  “‘Glass’: Film Review” at The Hollywood Reporter.

…M. Night Shyamalan’s career-reviving 2017 picture Split was a two-fer boon. On one hand, it gave thriller fans a lurid, pop-psychology-based captivity film that pushed all their buttons; on the other, its final scene linked it to 2000’s Unbreakable, seen by many of the director’s one-time fans as his last strong offering before a slide into increasingly laughable projects.

In Glass, the writer-director aims to complete an opus much more ambitious than his breakthrough ghost story The Sixth Sense — still his only film that nearly everyone agrees works. As a trilogy-closer, it’s a mixed bag, tying earlier narrative strands together pleasingly while working too hard (and failing) to convince viewers Shyamalan has something uniquely brainy to offer in the overpopulated arena of comics-inspired stories….

(6) EXCELSIOR! LAist says ticket packages for this celebration start at $150: “Stan Lee Gets A Public Celebration At The Chinese Theatre Later This Month”.

The co-creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, and many more died in November — but a newly announced tribute event gives fans a chance to celebrate Stan Lee’s life. “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible & Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” is set for Wednesday, Jan. 30 at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

The event starts with a public appreciation for Lee outside the theater featuring what organizers describe as “fan-favorite speakers,” along with an art exhibit celebrating his legacy, costumes and props from both his movie cameos and the characters he created, and a musical performance. There’s also a moment of remembrance planned, with the crowd gathering around his Chinese Theatre hand and foot imprint.

The event continues with a private tribute inside the theater hosted by writer/director/host Kevin Smith. He’ll be moderating conversations with people sharing their favorite memories of Stan. The event closes with video tributes to Lee, along with live performances of his favorite music and poetry.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 11, 1906 John Myers Myers. Ahhh, Silverlock. I read the NESFA Edition which has the Silverlock Companion in it which is very useful as you know the novel’s very meta indeed. If you don’t have this, it was reprinted separately later. Thirty years after Silverlock was published, The Moon’s Fire-Eating Daughter novella came out. Myers claims it’s a sequel to the novel. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Jerome Bixby. His “It’s a Good Life” story became  the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone episode under the same name and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also wrote four episodes for the original Star Trek series: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”. With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which Fantastic Voyage series, and Isaac Asimov novel were based. Bixby’s final produced or published work so far was the screenplay for  The Man from Earth film. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 11, 1930 Rod Taylor. First genre role would be as Israel Hands in Long John Silver. He would follow that up with SF film World Without End (which you probably heard of), The Time Machine (which I suspect you’ve heard of), Colossus and the Amazon Queen (Taylor claims to have rewritten the script), The Birds (I don’t like it), Gulliver’s Travels and last, and certainly least, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born January 11, 1952 Diana Gabaldon, 67. I must confess that I’ve not even considered reading her. I’ve friends who read her and enjoy immensely her Outlander series. They also avidly look forward to every new episode of the Outlander television series. Any of y’all fans of either? 
  • Born January 11, 1955 Rockne S. O’Bannon, 64. Creator of five genre series in Alien NationCult, DefianceFarscape and seaQuest. He also help write the Warehouse 13 pilot. He has also written and produced for Constantine, Revolution and V, among many other projects. (I loved Farscape and seaQuest butthought Defiance wentbad fast.) 
  • Born January 11, 1961 Jasper Fforde, 58. I read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of his Thursday Next novels with their delightfully twisted word play as I did his Nursery Crimes series. I’ve not, though I may be wrong, read his Shades of Grey books and I know I’ve not read the Dragonslayer series though I’ve heard Good Things about them. 
  • Born January 11, 1963 Jason Connery, 56. Son of Sir Sean Connery. He’s best known for appearing in the third series of Robin of Sherwood, a series I loved. He also played Jondar in the Vengeance on Varosstory on Doctor Who during the Sixth Doctor era (not one of my favorite Doctors. He was Ian Fleming in Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. And he was a young Merlin in Merlin: The Quest Begins

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) VINTAGE PAPERBACK COLLECTORS SHOW. Happening in Glendale, CA on March 24.

(10) ASIMOVIAN ANNIVERSARY: At Featured Futures Jason has posted some hints for tackling a landmark of science fiction on the eightieth anniversary of Isaac Asimov’s first publication with “A Guide to Reading Asimov’s Robots, Empire, and Foundation Series”.

When Isaac Asimov died, among the hundreds of works he left behind   were the numerous stories and novels which made up his galaxy- and   millennia-spanning super-series of Robots, Empire, and Foundation.  This universe can often seem confusing and daunting to new readers,   leaving them unsure of what to read and when. There’s no one way to   read the series, so I hope to discuss the works in a way that will help readers decide for themselves.

(11) FURY. Chris Smith, in “‘Captain Marvel’ will also be the origin story of a different Marvel character” on bgr.com, says that Captain Marvel, set in the 1990s, is also an origin story for Nick Fury, and will explain why Fury lost an eye, what happened to his family, and how be rose to be the boss of S.H.I.E.L.D.

If that’s not enough, Captain Marvel will also tell us the story of an already established Marvel character: Nick Fury. Played by Samuel L. Jackson, Fury is the ruthless chief of S.H.I.E.L.D. — well, of an organization that follows S.H.I.E.L.D. — that would do anything to defend the planet. He’s not a superhero himself, but he’s the one who recruited the Avengers, providing the support they needed to perform whatever tasks necessary to keep evil in check. He also has just one working eye, further proof that he’s not afraid to get into the action.

(12) NO ALIEN MOVIE. Are you reassured? Are you disappointed? “Fox Confirms A New Alien Movie Definitely Isn’t In The Works” – however, to compensate ScreenRant says there’s plenty of other Alien fare being released this year.

Fox has clarified there’s currently no movement on a new Alien movie or a sequel to video game Alien: Isolation. The Alien franchise will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2019, and Fox is preparing a number of projects to mark the event. They recently announced mobile title Alien: Blackout, which will continue the stressful adventures of Ripley’s daughter Amanda. Amanda was the main character in acclaimed 2014 video game Alien: Isolation, where she was stranded on a decaying space station with a nasty xenomorph. The game’s unrelenting challenge and tension made it a fan favorite.

Amanda Ripley will have a busy year in 2019 because, in addition to appearing in Blackout, she’ll also return for comic book series Alien: Resistance and a novelization of Isolation. This year will also see the release of a new documentary dubbed Memory – The Origins Of Alien, which will explore the development of the original movie, and Fox will unveil a series of six short fan films set in the universe too. There are also unconfirmed reports an Alien TV series is in development at a streaming service.

(13) IS IT WORTH THE BUZZ? BuzzFeed’s list of “27 Things That Are, Uh, A Little Bit Weird” seems mostly to be a way for them to link to Amazon and reap a little cash when their readers fall in love with some of those Weird things and buy them. Nonetheless, there are a few things some genre fans might fall in love with, so here they are:

1. A Godzilla lawn ornament for people who don’t trust gnomes.
8. A Star Wars book of battle stages for your biggest thumb war throw downs.
13. A set of brain slice coasters for doctors, nurses, scientists, and…serial killers?
15. Or [a mousepad] featuring a cat riding a unicorn over a rainbow, because sure why not?
17. A raygun nose trimmer, because it’s 2019 and time to start living in the future.
18. A slimy Gudetama so soothing to play with, you might become more relaxed than the famously lazy egg.
26. A reverse merperson enamel pin for a cheeky new look.

(14) FLASH PARADISE: BBC tells about “The plan to make artificial meteor showers”.

If you ever find yourself sitting back in wonder as super-bright artificial meteors flash across the sky, you will be able to thank the credit crunch – at least in part. After the crisis of 2008 that Lena Okajima decided to leave her job at a financial company for a radical new venture: a firm that aimed to put satellites in orbit capable of launching artificial meteor showers.

“I had to change my job because the financial situation was very bad at the time,” she explains now, nearly 10 years later.

It was even earlier, way back in 2001, while watching the natural Leonid meteor shower that she first had the idea of trying to recreate such a display artificially.

“These meteor showers occurred from very small particles from outer space so we thought we could recreate the same situation using little satellites,” Okajima says.

(15) SELFIES. “Chang’e-4: China Moon probes take snaps of each other” — many pictures here.

A Chinese rover and lander have taken images of each other on the Moon’s surface.

The Chinese space agency says the spacecraft are in good working order after touching down on the lunar far side on 3 January.

Also released are new panoramic images of the landing site, along with video of the vehicles touching down.

(16) DEEP BEEP TWO. “Signals from space: Five theories on what they are”. The list begins with —

…1. A rapidly spinning neutron star

When stars explode and die they can end up as rapidly spinning neutron stars. Astronomers think those found in a region with a high magnetic field might produce the strange signals.

(17) PUNISHER TRAILER. Back on the job. Back in the fight. Season 2 of Marvel’s The Punisher debuts on Netflix January 18.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/9/19 The Scrolls of Our Teeth

(1) YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION. Deadline says a TV series based on a Hugo-winning novel is in development: “‘Yiddish Policemen’s Union’ Alt-History Drama Set From Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman, PatMa, Keshet & CBS Studios”.

What if Alaska is home of a big Jewish settlement and the fledgling state of Israel was destroyed? That is the setup of a TV series project based on Michael Chabon’s acclaimed 2007 alternative history book Yiddish Policemen’s Union. CBS TV Studios, Nina Tassler and Denise DiNovi’s PatMa Productions and Keshet Studios have acquired a spec drama script by husband-and-wife writing duo Chabon and Ayelet Waldman. The project will be taken out shortly to premium cable and streaming networks….

Yiddish Policemen’s Union, published in 2007 by HarperCollins, has received the Hugo, Sidewise, Nebula and Ignotus awards. Chabon’s other notable books include Wonder Boys (1995), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), Telegraph Avenue (2012), and Moonglow: A Novel (2016). He received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001.

(2) TOLKIEN COMES TO AMERICA. The Morgan Library & Museum in New York will host the “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth” exhibit from January 25-May 12.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth celebrates the man and his creation. The exhibition will be the most extensive public display of original Tolkien material for several generations. Drawn from the collections of the Tolkien Archive at the Bodleian Library (Oxford), Marquette University Libraries (Milwaukee), the Morgan, and private lenders, the exhibition will include family photographs and memorabilia, Tolkien’s original illustrations, maps, draft manuscripts, and designs related to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

[It is] an exhibition organized by the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford in collaboration with the Morgan Library & Museum, New York with the support of The Tolkien Trust.

(Robin Anne Reid, who toured the exhibit when was at The Bodleian in Oxford, wrote an overview, ”Visiting Middle-Earth”. Reid predicts the Morgan version will not be as large.)

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Each month in 2018 Future Tense Fiction — a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives— published a story on a theme. A new story came out December 29: “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis” by Annalee Newitz.

It was time to start the weekly circuit. Robot leapt vertically into the air from its perch atop the History Museum in Forest Park, rotors humming and limbs withdrawn into the smooth oval of its chassis. From a distance, it was a pale blue flying egg, slightly scuffed, with a propeller beanie on top. Two animated eyes glowed from the front end of its smooth carapace like emotive headlights. When it landed, all four legs and head extended from portals in its protective shell, the drone was more like a strangely symmetrical poodle or a cartoon turtle. Mounted on an actuator, its full face was revealed, headlight eyes situated above a short, soft snout whose purple mouth was built for smiling, grimacing, and a range of other, more subtle expressions.

It was published along with a response essay by AI programmer Janelle Shane, “No Robot Like Robot”

In 2018 the A.I. robot CIMON was sent to the International Space Station—and that’s when the awkwardness began. A floating sphere with a digital face displaying a few simple expressions, CIMON was supposed to help astronauts through many-step procedures by displaying information and answering questions. When astronaut Alexander Gerst tested it, he found CIMON’s maneuverability impressive but its social awareness perhaps less so. It had been programmed to know Gerst’s favorite song, but had to be ordered multiple times to stop playing it. “Let’s sing along with those favorite hits,” it interrupted, as Gerst tried to get it to record video. Moments later it seemed to take exception to Gerst’s mild comments on its flying ability. “Don’t be so mean, please,” it told him. “Don’t you like it here with me?” Soon it seemed CIMON’s mood detection system had a “hangry” category and had confusedly placed Gerst in it. “Oh, dear, I feel you. I can already hear your stomach roaring. Should we take a look for when it is time for food?” CIMON was soon stowed away.

(4) BIO COMICS. Print recommends the “3 Best Biographical Comics of 2018”. First on the list —  

Femme Magnifique: 50 Magnificent Women Who Changed The World

editor: Shelly Bond (Black Crown)

In Femme Magnifique, Michelle Obama is quoted as saying, “We’ve got a responsibility to live up to the legacy of those who come before us by doing all that we can to help those who come after us.” And that, in a nutshell, is what this book is helping to accomplish. Appropriately subtitled 50 Magnificent Women Who Changed The World, it includes biographies of Michelle and of Hillary Clinton, Harriet Tubman and Margaret Sanger, Disney’s Mary Blair and Brenda Starr’s Dale Messick, Björk and Laurie Anderson, Ursula K. Le Guin and Elizabeth Cady Stanton… you get the idea.

(5) DC GOES MORE UNLIMITED. According to a press release from DC —

DC, comiXology, and Amazon have announced that select DC and DC Vertigo titles are now available through multiple subscription services at no additional cost: comiXology Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited, and Prime Reading. Expanding availability to these three services makes it easier than ever for Amazon customers to enjoy DC’s Super Heroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Justice League, as well as DC Vertigo’s high concept series like Sandman, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Transmetropolitan, Preacher, 100 Bullets, Fables, and more.

With the addition of thousands of select DC single issues, collections and graphic novels – including exclusive fan-favorites from the DC Vertigo imprint –  comiXology Unlimited remains $5.99 a month with a 30-day free trial for new members. Kindle Unlimited members will also enjoy a selection of single issues, collections and graphic novels, while subscribers of Prime Reading will have access to a curated and rotating list of highly regarded DC and DC Vertigo graphic novels, for no additional cost. This expansion across the three services provides the perfect entry points for those new to DC and DC Vertigo.

(6) EXTRA TREKS. More Trek animation and “Short Treks” are on the way says The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Star Trek’: Second Animated Series, More ‘Short Treks’ Coming to CBS All Access”.

Alex Kurtzman tells The Hollywood Reporter that there will be a “minimum of two” animated series as he continues to build out the franchise.

Alex Kurtzman isn’t done building out the Star Trek franchise for CBS All Access.

The franchise captain has plans for at least one more animated series to join the previously announced Star Trek: Lower Decks, the half-hour animated comedy from Mike McMahan (Rick and Morty). Additionally, CBS All Access has ordered two more installments of shortform series Star Trek: Short Treks — both of which will be animated. Both installments will debut in the spring, after Star Trek: Discovery wraps its second season on CBS All Access. 

(7) PICARD. And another Hollywood Reporter article, “‘Star Trek’ Boss: Picard Leads “Radically Altered” Life in CBS All Access Series”, hints at the answer to the other big Trek question —

What is the next chapter in the life of Jean-Luc Picard?

That’s the question Star Trek diehards have been asking since August, when Patrick Stewart officially boarded an untitled CBS All Access series that will see him play Picard for the first time since 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis. Little is known about the plot of the show, which has been described as an exploration of the next chapter of Picard’s life. Fans have speculated that it will find him serving as an ambassador, just as Leonard Nimoy’s Spock did in the later years of his life.

Now, Trek captain Alex Kurtzman is pulling back the curtain on the upcoming project, revealing that a cataclysmic event depicted in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek movie impacted Picard in a big way. In that film, written by Kurtzman and former producing partner Roberto Orci, it was revealed that Nimoy’s Spock failed to save the Romulan homeworld Romulus from a supernova several years after the events of Nemesis.

(8) SPACE COMMAND. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicrees, discusses his Space Command pilot.

A hopeful vision of the future spanning the galaxy! Starring Ethan McDowell, Doug Jones, Robert Picardo, Bruce Boxleitner, Mira Furlan.

(9) SAMUEL L. JACKSON. The coolest ever: “120 Movies, $13 Billion in Box Office: How Samuel L. Jackson Became Hollywood’s Most Bankable Star “.

He arrives exactly on schedule, not a minute early, not a minute late, and comes dressed in character: Armani cashmere shirt, translucent Alain Mikli eyeglasses and, of course, a Kangol cap. There are no formalities, no handshakes, no, “Hi, nice to meet you, I’m Samuel L. Jackson.” He simply strolls into the restaurant in midtown Manhattan — a short walk from the $13 million condo he shares with his wife of 38 years, LaTanya Richardson, who’s currently starring as Calpurnia in Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird — slips into a corner booth and buries his face behind a menu.

“Go ahead,” he says. “I’m listening.”

This is how the world’s most successful actor begins an interview.

(10) IO TRAILER. Io is a new sff series coming to Netflix on January 18:

Sam, one of the last survivors on a post-cataclysmic Earth, is a young scientist dedicated to finding a way for humans to adapt and survive, rather than abandon their world. But with the final shuttle scheduled to leave the planet for a distant colony, her determination to stay is rocked by the arrival of another survivor, Micah. She must decide whether to journey with him to join the rest of humanity and begin life anew, or stay to fight for Earth’s survival.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 9, 1890  — Karel Capek. Author of the his 1936 novel War with the Newts and 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which introduced the word robot. R.U.R.was a dystopian work about a really bad day at a factory populated with sentient androids. ISFDB shows two additional works by him, Krakatit: An Atomic Fantasy and The Absolute at Large which I’ve not heard of. (Died 1938.)
  • Born January 9, 1931 Algis Budrys. I trying to remember what I read by him him and I think it was Some Will Not Die which I remember because of the 1979 Starblaze edition cover. I’ve also read and enjoyed his Rogue Moon. Setting aside his work as a writer which was exemplary, he was considered one of our best genre reviewers ever reviewing for Galaxy, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and  genre reviews even in the more mainstream Playboy. He edited a number of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthologies which I’ll admit I’ve not read any of. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 9, 1950 David Johansen, 69. He’s the wisecracking Ghost of Christmas Past in Scrooged, he played Halston in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie in “The Cat from Hell” episode, and he appeared as a character named Brad in Freejack
  • Born January 9, 1955 J.K. Simmons, 64. You may know him as J. Jonah Jameson in the various Spider-Man films but I find his more interesting genre role to be as Howard Silk in the Counterpart series where he plays two versions of himself in two versions of parallel Berlins in a spy service that may or may not exist. He also portrayed Commissioner James Gordon in Justice League.
  • Born January 9, 1956 Imelda Staunton, 63. Voice of the Snow Queen in The Snow Queen’s Revenge, A Nurse in Shakespeare in Love, Polly in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dolores Jane Umbridge In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (which I thought was a so-so film at best) and in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as well and Knotgrass In Maleficent and the sequel. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville shows some people look farther ahead than others.

(13) RICHARD & WENDY PINI. SYFY Wire’s “Behind the Panel” interviews “Elfquest Creators On How They Met & Jack Kirby Stories You Never Knew.”

Richard & Wendy Pini have been the creative force behind Elquest for 40 years. And now it’s ending. They tell us what the future holds, how they met (it’s AWESOME), Jack Kirby stories & more. These two are just the best – and this interview will show you.

(14) PRE-THRONES CASTING. “‘Game of Thrones’ Prequel Casts 8 Rising Stars “The Hollywood Reporter tells who they are:

The cast of HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel is coming together.

The premium cable network has cast eight rising stars to join Naomi Watts and Josh Whitehouse in the pilot from writers Jane Goldman and franchise mastermind George R.R. Martin. Additionally, SJ Clarkson (Jessica Jones, Succession and the upcoming Star Trek feature) has been tapped to direct the pilot.

Cast as series regulars are Naomi Ackie (next appearing in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars), Denise Gough (Guerrilla, Tony-nominated for Angels in America), Jamie Campbell Bower (Sweeney Todd, Twilight, Mortal Instruments), Sheila Atim (Harlots), Ivanno Jeremiah (Black Mirror, Humans), Georgie Henley (The Chronicles of Narnia), Alex Sharp (To the Bone) and Toby Regbo (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald).

As with all things Game of Thrones, details about their characters are being kept under wraps. The only character detail that has been revealed is that Watts is taking on the role of a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.

(15) AND PRE-GRRM. The PBS series Finding Your Roots kicked off its fifth season with “Grandparents and Other Strangers”, which includes a session with George R.R. Martin.  

Host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps actor Andy Samberg and author George R. R. Martin answer some family mysteries when DNA detective work uncovers new branches of their family trees. The DNA analysis upends family history and reveals new relatives.

(16) IN FLUX. The Washington Post’s John Kelly tracks down the “big nerd” and ’80s sci-fi movie fan who put an ad in the Post asking for a “flux capacitor” like that in Back to the Future: “Who placed a classified ad in The Washington Post looking for a flux capacitor?”

A mysterious ad appeared over the weekend in The Washington Post Classifieds, under the Electronics category, sandwiched between Collectibles and Furniture. It took up three lines and it read: “WANTED — Flux Capacitor — Needed to complete an important project. Must be in good condition. 571-444-5995.”

Because, after all, what use is a busted flux capacitor? You’d never get your DeLorean to achieve time travel, as explained in “Back to the Future,” that documentary movie released in 1985.

I called the number and got a recording. It was of a harried-sounding man saying, “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, we’re gonna see some serious [stuff].”

I left a message and my cellphone number….

…He collects replicas of movie props, including the hoverboard that Marty McFly rode and the self-lacing Nikes he wore. Doc even owns a DeLorean. (“I’m in one right now, waiting to go to lunch,” he said.)

Doc’s stunt — placing “Back to the Future”-inspired ads — reminded me of the 2014 movie “Safety Not Guaranteed,” based on a joke ad a writer placed inviting people to travel back in time with him.

(17) A TRANS-FJORD TUNNEL, HUZZAH! “Norway Embarks On Its Most Ambitious Transport Project Yet” and NPR is there:

Driving the nearly 700 miles along the coastal route from the city of Kristiansand in the south to the city of Trondheim now takes about 21 hours and requires seven ferry crossings. To cut travel time in half, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration has launched a nearly $40 billion transportation project that will include the world’s longest floating bridge and — perhaps — a first-of-its-kind floating underwater traffic tunnel.

Daniel Dern sent the link with a note that “This article has what could easily become my favorite proverb for the new year: ‘It’s a saying that there’s nothing in the world that is in a bigger rush than a dead fish,’ Kleppe says.”

(18) SEXISM AT CES. BBC reports “‘Award-winning’ sex toy for women withdrawn from show”.

A sex toy designed for women has been banned from the technology show CES.

Lorna DiCarlo said it had been invited to display its robotic Ose vibrator at CES, after winning an innovation award.

CES organiser the Consumer Technology Association, which granted the award, said it had included the device by mistake and could withdraw any immoral or obscene entry at any time.

Lorna DiCarlo chief executive Lora Haddock said the CES and CTA had a history of gender bias.

In a statement to The Next Web, the CTA said: “The product does not fit into any of our existing product categories and should not have been accepted.

“We have apologised to the company for our mistake.”

But, in a statement on the Lora DiCarlo website, Ms Haddock cites several examples of other female-oriented products included in the award category the vibrator was in.

“Two robotic vacuum cleaners, one robotic skateboard, four children’s toys, one shopping companion robot – looks like all of women’s interests are covered, right?” she said.

…Ms Haddock said there was a double-standard at CES when it came to sexual health products targeted at men versus women.

“Men’s sexuality is allowed to be explicit, with a literal sex robot in the shape of an unrealistically proportioned woman and VR porn in point of pride along the aisle,” she said.

(19) CLEANUP ON VEIN SIX. A kind of advance in fighting cancer: “Sponge offers hope of ‘less toxic’ chemotherapy”.

Scientists believe they may have found a way to make cancer chemotherapy treatment less toxic to the body.

They have begun testing a tiny sponge that sits inside a vein and removes excess chemo drugs from the blood once they have attacked the target tumour.

Experts say the early work, in the journal ACS Central Science, offers hope of avoiding treatment side-effects, such as hair loss and nausea.

So far, it has been tried in pigs, but researchers want to test it in people.

If all goes well, those trials could happen within a couple of years, says scientist Dr Nitash Balsara, from the University of California.

(20) YOU BOUGHT IT, YOU UN-BREAK IT. “Climate change: ‘Right to repair’ gathers force” – BBC has the story.

It is frustrating: you buy a new appliance then just after the warranty runs out, it gives up the ghost.

You can’t repair it and can’t find anyone else to at a decent price, so it joins the global mountain of junk.

You’re forced to buy a replacement, which fuels climate change from the greenhouse gases released in the manufacturing process.

But help is at hand, because citizens in the EU and parts of the USA will soon get a “right to repair” – of sorts.

This consists of a series of proposals from European environment ministers to force manufacturers to make goods that last longer and are easier to mend.

The European proposals refer to lighting, televisions and large home appliances.

At least 18 US states are considering similar laws in a growing backlash against products which can’t be prised apart because they’re glued together, or which don’t have a supply of spare parts, or repair instructions

(21) EQUAL TIME. Cthulu’s response to President Trump’s speech last night:

(22) MAGNOLIA PARK. Help save John King Tarpinian’s favorite Burbank neighborhood:

The retro charm of Burbank’s unique shops is what makes Magnolia Boulevard a must-visit destination for all. Beloved by the community and visited by people worldwide, we are now in danger of losing everything that makes this strip unique.

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

Visiting Middle-earth

Robin Reid at the Bodleian

By Robin Anne Reid:

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth

This exhibition will run from June 1-October 28, 2018. The tickets are free although booking ahead is probably a good idea! If possible, I’d encourage booking two times because I wish we had so that I could have visited it once, then gone back to a second more leisurely viewing!

The exhibition will be moved to the Morgan Library, New York, from January 25-May 12, 2019. This exhibition will not be free, and will probably be a smaller version of the Bodleian one. Then in late 2019 (specific dates not yet announced), the Bodleian Libraries and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF), Paris will collaborate on the “largest Tolkien exhibition ever to be held in France. The linked article has a good description of the exhibition and the highlights of the 200 plus items featured—half of which have never been on public display before—and other information.

A significant percentage of the items are on loan from the J. R. R. Tolkien Collection at the Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University, Tolkien Archive at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where they have an excellent secondary collection of works relating to Tolkien (including fanzines).

When I saw this exhibition first announced a year ago, I was flabbergasted. To say that the Bodleian and Oxford University had never been particularly prone to acknowledge Tolkien the Phenomenally Popular novelist (as opposed to Particularly Prominent Anglo-Saxons!) is an understatement. The PR materials say it is a once in a lifetime exhibit, and, well, yeah, I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime. So we knew we had to go.

Since Dr. Dimitra Fimi has been organizing a track of Tolkien programming at Leeds for some years, we planned to attend the exhibition then go on to Leeds. Our proposals were accepted, and we started planning (including hiring out wonderful cat sitter to come in to take care of the feline Credentials and scheduling the canine Credentials at a lovely boarding place).

Reader, it was incredible!

What follows is a cleaned-up version of notes I scribbled as I went through the exhibit. I spent about two hours there though it felt like no time at all (elven time)! No photography is allowed inside of course, but note-taking was allowed though I think I left nose prints on just about every pane of glass in the exhibit! I was not the only one…

After turning our tickets in, we went into an entrance hall. The lights were low, soft music played in the background (credited to an original composer, David Harper (not quite sure of that last letter because my handwriting got increasingly cramped over time), and images were projected on the walls and floor: a map of Middle-earth on the floor, some of the images that were licensed to be used in this exhibition (on prints, mugs, etc.): Smaug and Bilbo in the mountain, Bilbo on the barrel, the Hobbit book cover map. On the wall at the end of the entrance areas was an image of the Doors of Durin from the walls of Moria.

The exhibit is in one large room with a number of free-standing cases arranged throughout to give the impression of a sort of labrynth (especially given the fairly low light in the room—the lights in free-standing cases and the cases along the walls are quite good). Images were projected on the wall above the cases along the walls.

I did not have the sense of a clearly marked path that one had to follow though I may have missed more subtle cues. I’ve been in some exhibitions where they had a roped off path throughout which was lacking here: that was good in that one could wander but it also meant that there was a lot of eddying around in the room. The exhibit has been up for over a month, but we were there on a Saturday and it was pretty solidly crowded, crowded enough that my housemate lost track of me and could not find me inside and left thinking I was outside.

The information cards on each case/grouping was good, including both background information on the items in the group and bibliographic credit when items were from another collection (like Marquette). The cards included appropriate Tolkien quotes for each topic and, especially in the case of the paintings and drawings, some evaluative commentary. I didn’t see any indication that there was an audio tour available.

I’ve arranged the sections below not in the way I wandered through the exhibit but from a basic chronological sense though given Tolkien’s recursive approach to writing there is no linear chronology of his process, i.e. he began working on the languages before/during World War I (see John Garth’s Tolkien and the Great War and was working on and off on his Silmarillion (the huge body of work that came to include The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and from which Christopher ‘edited’ the 1977 Silmarillion) throughout his life, with the earlier material in what look like school notebooks.

The first thing inside the door is a large framed version of Pauline Baynes’ poster map of Bilbo’s journey which includes inset images: I’m glad they included Baynes’ work since her art was on the earliest editions of Tolkien’s work.

The notes follow the jump.

Continue reading

Cats Sleep on SFF: Doctor’s Orders by Diane Duane

Robin Reid brings us —

The second of our three SJW credentials on sf! (Same bed, different cat).

We won’t be able to get the third who is semi-feral because the only image we’d be likely to get of her would be that of a chubby calico departing the room hurriedly!


Photos of other felines resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 5/14/18 They Took Some Pixels, And Plenty Of Scrolls, Wrapped Up In A Five Pound Note

(1) SUDDENLY THERE CAME A TAPPING. Seattle Times headline: “Ripples in space-time or 3-pound bird? Ravens at Hanford foul test of Einstein’s theory”. Ravens are interfering with measurements at LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) which helped find the first confirmed gravitational waves.

For the LIGO observatory on Washington’s Hanford site, noise is a real buzz killer.

Any earthly sound — a truck rumbling past, the humming of a refrigerator in a nearby building, or the distant flutter of a plane’s propellers — can drown out the faint whispers from the cosmos that the Nobel Prize-winning project was designed to detect.

So when strange blips in the data started cropping up on summer afternoons, researchers were anxious to find the source and eliminate it.

“Any other noise makes it harder to hear the thing you’re listening for,” said University of Oregon physicist Robert Schofield, whose job is to ferret out racket from the environment and reduce its impact on some of the most sensitive instruments ever built.

…The glitches at Hanford corresponded to sounds recorded by a microphone installed by Schofield and his colleagues as part of their endless quest to detect and stamp out noise.

…It didn’t take long for Schofield to identify the prime suspect once he listened to the recordings. “It sounded like pecks to me,” he said. “I immediately thought it must be ravens.”

(2) DOCTOR NEW. What she told Radio Times: “Jodie Whittaker on filming Doctor Who: ‘I smile every single morning going to work’”.

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before, it’s absolutely incredible,” she said. “I must smile every single morning knowing I’m going to work to do it, I’m very lucky – it’s brilliant.”

We’re still in the dark as to what form the new series will take following Chris Chibnall taking over from Steven Moffat as showrunner, but the star assures us that it’s likely to be even bigger and bolder than what has come before it. Whittaker and Walsh will also be joined by new stars Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill. The ten-episode series is expected to air this autumn on the BBC.

“It feels incredibly epic,” Whittaker said. “The ambition is wonderful, and something we’re fighting every day to have the energy to back it up with.”

(3) FUTURE IS ON THE WAY. Alex Shvartsman will launch a new sf magazine tomorrow: “Announcing Future Science Fiction Digest”. It will be free to read online.

This bit of news has been six months in the making, but I can finally announce that I will be editing a science fiction magazine, to be published in collaboration by UFO Publishing and the Future Affairs Administration. The magazine will focus on various science fiction sub-genres (hard SF, space opera, cli-fi) but will not include fantasy or horror. There will be a strong focus on international fiction. I’ll be looking to fill about half of each issue with translations and stories written by authors from non-anglophone countries.

Although the magazine will feature original (to anglophone readers, anyway) fiction, I’ve put together a sample “issue zero,” to be released in time for the Nebulas and the Asia Pacific SF Con organized by the FAA. This issue features all-reprint stories with different takes/visions of the future, which also happen to be representative of the sort of material I hope to acquire and publish in the future.

The magazine’s website goes live Tuesday, May 15 at www.future-sf.com.

(4) MEET HENRY LIEN. Juliette Wade hosted a video hangout with Henry Lien about his new fantasy novel: “Henry Lien and Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword. You can read a summary on her blog, and/or watch the conversation on YouTube. (I was excited to hear more about his writing, having already become a fan through his composition “Radio SFWA.”)

…Henry explained that he loves rules. School is an environment girdled all around with rules to keep people from misbehaving, so it’s a setting he loves to work in. Students at the wu liu school are not allowed to do any moves outside of class, or they will forfeit their next examination. This is a key element of the plot of Peasprout Chen.

In particular, he says he wanted a fantasy world with no magic. George R. R. Martin consulted with him on aspects of it. Everything is grounded in real world experience, including the constant threat of injury that has grave consequences for the students. Even a bad wrist can knock you out. Henry himself got injured at one point during his training because he had become frustrated when another student did a kick the first time. Henry tried the same jump and tore his hamstring; he said it looked like someone had cut him.

Danger creates good stories. Ambition is a characteristic required by the sport.

Henry quoted a line from Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell: “Don’t talk to me about magic. It’s like everything else: full of setbacks and disappointments.” If this is the way your work seems, then whenever you achieve something, it feels like a huge accomplishment! Peasprout Chen’s life is full of cultural landmines and danger, but when she does something cool, we cheer….

(5) BEYOND BECHDEL. IndieWire covered this story in December: “Lena Waithe, Kimberly Peirce, and More Women Introduce 12 New Bechdel Tests to Measure Gender Imbalance”.

FiveThirtyEight recently asked 12 women to come up with new gender imbalance tests, including actress and Emmy-winning writer Lena Waithe, filmmaker Kimberly Peirce, cinematographer Jen White, and actress Naomi Ko. The new tests demand more gender equality from film and television, both in front the camera and behind the scenes.

In order to pass the Waithe Test, for instance, a movie or show must feature a black woman who’s in a position of power and is in a healthy relationship with her partner. Only five of the top 50 films of 2016 pass the Waithe Test: “Bad Moms,” “Central Intelligence,” “Hidden Figures,” “Boo! A Madea Halloween,” and “Independence Day: Resurgence.”

Here’s more direct from FiveThirtyEight: “The Next Bechdel Test” – “We pitted 50 movies against 12 new ways of measuring Hollywood’s gender imbalance.”

Another example: The Feldman Test

Rachel Feldman: director; former chair of the Directors Guild of America’s Women’s Steering Committee

A movie passes with a score of five or higher:

  • 2 points for a female writer or director
  • 1 point for a female composer or director of photography
  • 1 point for three female producers or three female department heads
  • 1 point for a crew that’s 50 percent women
  • 2 points if there’s a female protagonist who determines story outcomes
  • 2 points if no female characters were victimized, stereotyped or sexualized
  • And 1 point if a sex scene shows foreplay before consummation, or if the female characters initiate or reciprocate sexual advances

(6) NICHELLE NICHOLS. A TMZ story about Nichelle Nichols reports “Judge Grants Conservatorship After Dementia Claims”

‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols will have a new team handling her financial affairs in response to her son’s claims she’s battling dementia … TMZ has learned.

According to court docs, an L.A. County judge signed off on Kyle Johnson’s request to have 4 fiduciaries be his mom’s conservators until mid-August, when there will be a court hearing. The hope is Nichelle will be able to attend that hearing.

As we first reported … Kyle says his mother, who famously played Lt. Uhura, suffers from severe short-term memory loss, and needs court-ordered protection to block people from taking advantage of her.

In the docs, obtained by TMZ, the judge said Nichelle consents to the appointment of her conservators. The judge also noted Nichelle is currently out of state.

(7) KIDDER OBIT. CNN reports “Margot Kidder, ‘Superman’ actress, dead at 69”:

Kidder starred opposite Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent and his alter ego Superman in the original [1978] film as well as the three sequels: “Superman II” in 1980, “Superman III” in 1983 and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” in 1987.

She also starred in “The Amityville Horror” in 1979 and worked steadily in television and on stage.

After three marriages and thousands of dollars in medical bills, Kidder found herself homeless in 1996 as she struggled with bipolar disorder.

Her story grabbed the hearts of fans and Hollywood with many reaching out to help Kidder, who eventually got back on her feet and went on to become a mental health advocate.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MOGULS

  • Born May 14, 1944 – George Lucas
  • Born May 14, 1951 – Robert Zemeckis

(9) REMEDIAL CLASSWORK. Alexandra Erin is refreshing the recollection of some Twitter users who proved unfamiliar with the Sad Puppies events as they really occurred in this timeline. Jump on the thread here:

(10) SPACE SPRITZ. Analysts are catching up with the data collected by space probe Galileo: “Icy Moon Of Jupiter Spews Water Plumes Into Space”.

Scientists have new evidence that there are plumes of water erupting from the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa — plumes that could, maybe, possibly contain signs of life.

The evidence comes from data collected by the now-defunct Galileo spacecraft. Although the data has been available since it was collected in 1997, it’s only now that an analysis confirms the existence of water plumes.

For more than two decades, scientists have been convinced Europa has a liquid water ocean sloshing around beneath its icy outer crust. In the past six years, two teams of researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope reported the possible existence of plumes. But as powerful as Hubble is, seeing something as small as a plume on a moon more than 380-million miles away is difficult.

(11) DROP BY ANYTIME. NPR has the story: “Tardis Optional: Time Travelers Invited To Stephen Hawking Service” — repeat of an old Hawking test/gag?

Stephen Hawking’s ashes will be interred at Westminster Abbey this June. He’ll take his place among giants — between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. Applications to attend a Service of Thanksgiving are open to the public, and anyone — including people born in 2038, can apply. A thousand spaces are available.

…The time warp in the memorial service application was first spotted by London blogger IanVisits. He writes on his blog that Hawking had once thrown a party for time travelers, sending out invitations after the fete, to see if anyone would show up. Spoiler: no one did, yet.

CATCHING UP WITH SOME EXCELLENT BLACK PANTHER THEMED LINKS COURTESY OF ROBIN A. REID:

(12) AWESOME TECHNOLOGY. In May 2016, Popular Science did an “Entertainment” feature on the technology of Black Panther. Xavier Harding interviewed artist Brian Stelfreeze in “‘Black Panther’ Has The Coolest Tech In The Marvel Universe”.

Popular Science: There’s a lot of great tech in the world of Wakanda. Where does your inspiration for it come from?

Brian Stelfreeze: I think when you’re being creative, you still attach it to reality somehow. I grew up in a small town in coastal South Carolina. Where I’m from, the people are known as Gullah people. They’re some of the first freed slaves that lived on their own, without being attached to the rest of the U.S.

They kind of developed their own culture, so they do things a little bit different. Growing up in that area and going to the rest of the world, I noticed things were just slightly different. Seeing my first pile driver in real life I thought, “Oh, that’s like what my uncle built out of tree stumps to dig wells.” So I thought, “what if that happened over thousands of years? How could technology evolve?”

Popular Science: So how does that compare to T’Challa and the people of Wakanda?

Brian Stelfreeze: I think of Wakandan technology as organic technology. Most of their tech mimics nature because it comes from nature. Wakanda was a tremendously warring nation, with a very feudal time early on. But after a while proper borders were established, which ushered in a time of peace. Peace time shifted concerns from war to agriculture, from agriculture to early days of knife and spear-building to developing exotic materials. Rather than coming from industry, Wakandan tech came from agricultural needs—using organic tech to build machines.

But a lot of this stuff is in the background. Like the flying vehicles you see in Wakanda designed like a flying animal. And even when readers may not directly see it, I want them to feel it.

(13) SIX GOOD REASONS Cherokee Washington explains “Why The Black Panther is So Important To The Black Community”  for Odyssey in June 2016.

In 2002, Marvel studios graced the world with the first superhero blockbuster film; “Spiderman.” Following suit with “Spiderman 2,” “Spiderman 3,” and two spin-offs of the series, Marvel went on to create one of the largest Hollywood franchises in the world, telling the stories of a hand full of the comic book company’s most popular heroes. Today, amongst the many Iron Man and Avenger films, one hero in particular has recently been added to the mix; the Black Panther. It may not sound that exciting or important to the general public, but the introduction of the Black Panther is a momentous event for the Black (and comic-lover) community. Not only is he a bad ass superhero, but he’s one of 10 or so major Marvel characters who identifies as Black, something that would’ve been unheard of back in the day. Making his first appearance in the 52nd issue of the Fantastic Four comic books, Black Panther has shifted back and forth in the limelight, falling behind other heroes such as Captain America and the X-Men. Fortunately, Marvel has decided to push Black Panther more into the centerfold with the rest of his comrades by giving him a cameo in the newest “Avengers: Civil War” film and announcing the “Black Panther” film’s release in 2018. With that said, I thought it appropriate to list a few reasons as to why the Black Panther character is so important not only to me, but to my community. He’s a symbol of more than justice; he’s a symbol of pride, hope, and so much more. Here it goes…

(14) BREAKDOWN! You’ve seen the trailers, but have you seen the trailer breakdown by Jacob Hall: “Black Panther Trailer Breakdown: Welcome to Wakanda”. Posted in June 2017 on Slashfilm.

The Black Panther trailer feels like a breath of fresh air in an environment crowded with superhero movies – no comic book adaptation has ever looked like this. Heck, no movie has ever looked like this. Even with a few familiar Marvel Studios trappings on display, Ryan Coogler’s movie looks to blend superheroes and afrofuturism and all kinds of intrigue into something…well, new.

And if you’re new to this corner of the Marvel universe (or just want to take a closer look), we went through the trailer frame-by-frame for an extended breakdown. Join us, won’t you?

Frame by lovely frame!

And, if you want to look at the trailer again after the breakdown, here you go:

(15) CRYING EYES. Alan Jenkins gets geeky and weepy and happy about Wonder Woman and Black Panther in this piece published in Ebony in July 2017: “Black Panther, Wonder Woman and the Power of Representation”.

My theory is that audiences are being moved by the overwhelming power of symbolism.  We are not used to seeing people of color and women on the big screen who are powerful, triumphant, and heroes of their own story.  The most emotionally powerful moments in each film are those that use the power of symbols to break away from social stereotypes.

As in the Black Panther comic book, the film’s characters are everything that a century of cinematic Black and African characters have not been.  They are regal.  They are brilliant.  They are gorgeous.  They are the future as well as the past.

(16)  REVOLUTIONARY!  “Black Superheroes Matter: Why a ‘Black Panther’ Movie Is Revolutionary”, by Tre Johnson, in Rolling Stone, October 2017, puts the upcoming film in the historical context of American film and comics representations of heroes.

The novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about “the danger of a single story” – about Africa, about black brilliance, our humanity and the black experience for too long. There would never be a time when this movie’s creation wouldn’t mean something to black people in particular, and the inevitable backlash that this movie will receive for its celebration, existence and confidence in blackness will be a reminder that there are no new conversations, merely new opportunities to remind us of who we collectively are. Yet that won’t matter because the people this movie will speak most deeply to – a rainbow-coalition cross-section of black comic book readers, African-American movie audiences, Boseman/ Jordan/ Bassett/ Nyong’o fans, black-culture connoisseurs and pop-culture nerds – will see something of themselves in this movie. They will also likely be both familiar and resistant to the disdain it will receive for merely existing. Like anything black in America, Black Panther will be politicized for being black, which is to say for being and for announcing itself as a having a right to be here and to be heard.

(17) AFROFUTURISM. Mic, a digital news media site, discussed the revolutionary Afrofuturistic elements of Black Panther in December 2017 in  “‘Black Panther’ isn’t just another Marvel movie–it’s a vision of a future led by blackness”.

Wakanda is more than just a fun spectacle; it represents something much more magnificent and powerful — a version of Africa unaffected by the external world, one that was allowed to pursue its own march toward spectacular progress.

When the most recent trailer for the movie was released in October, people weren’t just excited, they were jubilant. Now, it’s an event pretty much every time there’s a new Marvel movie but — no disrespect to Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, etc. — those blockbusters don’t normally have an entire culture of people impatiently awaiting their release. So what makes Black Panther especially noteworthy?

The secret sauce of Marvel’s Black Panther is Afrofuturism — an arts form that combines science fiction with black culture to create a future informed by blackness. On its face, Black Panther masquerades as Marvel’s latest superhero flick. Dig deeper and you’ll find the movie’s true identity: an Africa-set, Afrofuturist film — made for black people, by black people — powered by a Disney budget.

(18)  WRIGHT AND NYONG’O INTERVIEW. TeenVogue‘s Lynette Nylander interviewed Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong’o on film diversity and superheroes in December 2017: “Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong’o on “Black Panther” Film and Diversity in Hollywood”.

When he debuted in 1966 as the first black superhero in mainstream American comics, Black Panther broke boundaries. Naturally, next year’s silver-screen rendition of his story, featuring a nearly all-black cast, isn’t going to be just a box-office blockbuster — it’s going to be history in the making. The film is set in the fictional African country of Wakanda, where Black Panther (also known as T’Challa) serves as a leader at a time when the nation’s safety is under threat. And at the core of the story: Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and ingénue Letitia Wright as Nakia and Shuri, who play two of the strongest women in Wakanda. Their characters do away with the usual damsel-in-distress narrative associated with many classic superhero movies and create a new normal. Here, they discuss what making Black Panther meant to them and what the movie will hopefully mean for others.

(19) THE WOMEN OF WAKANDA. Cameron Glover looks at the women heroes in “Here’s What Black Panther Is Doing Differently For Its Female Heroes” posted in January 2018 at Refinery29.

The expansion of what a woman’s role in film looks like speaks directly to how the female action heroes of Black Panther are able to balance their fight scenes with embodying these expansive personal themes. Giving women, especially Black women, such public roles in the film not only speaks volumes to how women are regarded within Wakanda, but also shows the shifting attitudes of women’s roles in action films. The way that female action stars are celebrated and centered within the film is just another reason to snag a ticket to see Black Panther once it’s released next month.

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

Mythcon 49 Guests of Honor

Conference theme: On the Shoulders of Giants

Mythcon 49 will be held in Atlanta, Georgia, July 20-23. Congratulations to Filer Dr. Reid for being named one of the headliners —

Our Scholar Guest of Honor for 2018 is Dr. Robin Anne Reid. She is a Professor in the Department of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Her teaching areas are creative writing, critical theory, and marginalized literatures. Please see her full bio on the Mythcon 49 site for publishing credits. Perhaps most notably for Mythies, she wrote an outstanding bibliographic essay on the history of scholarship surrounding female characters in Tolkien’s legendarium in Perilous and Fair, published by the Mythopoeic Press.

Our Artist Guest of Honor is Donato Giancola. He balances modern concepts with realism in his paintings to bridge the worlds of contemporary and historical figurative arts. He also teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, the Illustration Master Class in Amherst, Massachusetts and online through the SmArt School, and appears at various institutions, seminars, and conventions, from San Diego to Rome to Moscow, where he performs demonstrations in oil paint and lectures on his aesthetics. Please see his full bio on his donatoart.com for influences, awards, and credits.

Visit www.mythcon.org for more information and to register for the con.

[Thanks to Lynn Maudlin for the story.]