Pixel Scroll 3/8/19 Happy As The Day When The Pixels Scroll Away

(1) STRAHAN’S NEXT PROJECT. The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog caught everyone’s attention by “Announcing Year’s Best Science Fiction, a New Annual Anthology from Saga Press”:

In 2020, Jonathan Strahan and Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press will launch Year’s Best Science Fiction: The Saga Annual Anthology of SF.

That will fill the gap left when Strahan’s current annual from Solaris ends with The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Vol. 13.

(2) LE GUIN DOCUMENTARY. Screenings are happening all over the world in the next few weeks. See the schedule in Arwen Curry’s Kickstarter update “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin premieres in China!”

I wanted to let you know about upcoming March and April screenings of Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin.

February was a busy month for the film. We’re honored to have been awarded Best of Fest at the Boston SciFi Film Festival and made the cover story of the National Endowment for the Humanities magazine, written by Ursula’s biographer Julie Phillips. As always, we are grateful for the support of the NEH.

The list includes showings all over the West Coast.

(3) ENDEAVORING TO IMPROVE ON STAR TREK. [Item by Dann.] It has taken 10 year’s worth of effort, but Ron “AAlgar” Watt and Matt Rowbotham have created the most comprehensive Star Trek-focused podcast in history.  They have watched and reviewed every episode of every professional Star Trek franchise on their Post Atomic Horror podcast.

Along the way, they have invited friends to the party to broaden the number of perspectives on Star Trek.And along the way, they have pointed out episodes that they could have written better.

It is one thing to say you can do something better than the professionals.  It is quite another thing to put your money and/or ego where your mouth is.

To that end, the duo has created the Endeavor podcast.  This is the story of the Endeavor; a Federation starship exploring the Andromeda galaxy with crew members ranging from Klingons to Romulans to Cardassians to an assortment of people from the United Federation of Planets.  The first episode of fanfiction dropped on March 1 on iTunes and Stitcher.  Matt and Al hope to create radio theater that compares favorably with more professional efforts.  They have assembled an outstanding stable of vocal performers to aid them in their attempt.

Their efforts can also be followed via Facebook.

(4) THE LONG CON. Scott Edelman urges you to binge on brisket benedict with Michael J. Walsh in episode 90 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

It’s time to join me at the table with someone who’s been part of the community of the fantastic even longer than I have — Michael J. Walsh. Over the past half century, he’s been a fan, a book dealer, a convention chair, and a publisher. He’s attended every World Fantasy Convention since the first in 1975, including the last one, where he and I were two of the Guests of Honor. Through his small press, Old Earth Books, he’s published Avram Davidson, Christopher Priest, Allen Steele and many others, plus two Howard Waldrop collections, which won him a special award from the World Fantasy Convention in 2009. 

We got together for lunch last month the same day I attended the Midwinter Midway fundraising function put on at the Peale Museum by Submersive Productions, the immersive theatrical troupe I adore, four of whose members were my guests in Episode 86 of the podcast, where we discussed the science fictional nature of their diverse happenings.

Michael and I met at Ida B’s Table on the same block in Baltmore as the Peale. Ida B’s is perhaps my favorite recent restaurant discovery, one I try to visit whenever I’m in that city for great fried chicken, or shrimp and grits, or in this case, brisket benedict.

We discussed what it is about the annual World Fantasy Conventions that drew him to attend all 44 of them, how a generous teacher’s gift of an Ace Double led to his first exposure to true science fiction, the big score which induced him to become a book dealer, the way Ted White was able to do so much with so little when he edited Amazing Stories in the ’70s, what witnessing Anne McCaffrey and Isaac Asimov singing Gilbert and Sullivan tunes made him realize about writers, what his time in fandom taught him which made him realize he could make it as a publisher, the time he was left speechless by Robert Heinlein offering him a drink, why it would have been wrong for a certain book he published to have won a Hugo, what con-goers most misunderstand about con runners, and much more.

(5) DESCRIBING DISABILITIES. Ben Mattlin in the Washington Post, who has spinal muscular atrophy, was hired to be a sensitivity reader for a book on the subject and wants people to know he is disabled, and does not “have a disease” — “Disability and disease aren’t interchangeable”.

Disability is the more inclusive choice.  A disability can result from illness, injury, accident, genetics and more.  That broad base gives it power.  If ‘my disease’ refers to a specific condition within my body, ‘my disability’ connects me with a diverse array of other people, a common cause….

To my ears, though, “disease” will always be troubling. I’m okay with “disorder,” “impairment” and other neutral, science-y sounding terms. I’m not a stickler for politically correct language either. Call me a “disabled man” (#SayTheWord) or a “man with a disability” (#PersonFirstLanguage) — I honestly don’t care which. Growing up, I was called handicapped, and that’s still fine with me in most contexts (especially because it doesn’t come from a begging reference, contrary to popular belief, but from an advantage that’s forfeited to make a game fair). I was also taught that “cripple” is a dirty word, yet many of us have reclaimed it with pride.

(6) THE RIGHT MENTOR. Sandra M. Odell found a connection made through SFWA’s mentorship program helped her to cope with the effects of mental illness on her productivity: “More Writerly Than Thou” at the SFWA Blog.

I have struggled with the titanic highs and crushing lows of severe mental illness and PTSD most of my life, yet nothing quite prepared me for the psyche shitstorm that followed the release of my second collection, Godfall & Other Stories

The collection got a good response; however, Odell experienced a months-long period of being unable to resume writing, and when she was finally brave enough to reach out to other authors, rather than getting understanding and support, she was frequently reminded that she should just be thankful for the success of her collection:

…The after book blahs had become tangled in the web of my mental illness.  So many writers, some my closest friends, sought to help by applying the panacea of one-word-then-the-next that I nearly suffocated beneath the weight of my own failure and self-loathing because I couldn’t keep up.  I would never write again, the success of my collection was a fluke, I’d failed my agent and my friends, the stories were worthless, and no one would miss me when I was gone.  I almost missed the voices I needed to hear most.  “Are you okay?  How can I help?”

Almost.

Help came from an unexpected source.  I applied for the SFWA mentorship program, certain I was too broken to find a match.  To my surprise, I was paired with a mentor familiar with the bitter trials of writing and mental illness.  My mentor allowed me to lead the conversation, asked gentle, non-judgemental questions, and shared their own struggles with post-publication depression and tips on what had worked for them to set priorities and reclaim their words.  The idea that more experienced writers could be paired with those seeking to learn more about how to manage their craft had proven itself.  After our first email exchange, I cried for an hour.  I was no longer alone….

(7) MESSAGE FICTION? A BBC writer delves into “The surprisingly radical politics of Dr. Seuss”.

“Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.”
– Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (1960)

There’s a healthy dollop of wisdom percolating through the slapstick silliness and anarchic absurdity of Dr Seuss. More perhaps than any other children’s author, the musings of US writer and illustrator Theodor Seuss Geisel – who adopted the pen name Dr Seuss while at college – amount to a kind of philosophy. It’s one that has entered popular consciousness, contributing to pop song lyrics and even being cited by a Supreme Court judge. Yet there’s also a political edge to Dr Seuss that is often overlooked.

… “Dr Seuss, beloved purveyor of genial rhyming nonsense for beginning readers, stuff about cats in hats and foxes in socks, started as a feisty political cartoonist who exhorted America to do battle with Hitler? Yeah, right!” exclaims Art Spiegelman, the graphic novelist who created Maus, in the foreword to a 1999 book. Historian Richard Minear’s Dr Seuss Goes to War features nearly 200 cartoons that were left unseen for half a century –  cartoons that help redraw the beloved king of the kooky.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 8, 1994 — Wheeled suitcase with collapsible towing handle patented…and every CON goer is forever grateful.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 8, 1859 Kenneth Grahame. The Wind in the Willows  of course which to my surprise has but only two film adaptations, one animated and one live. Did you know A.A. Milne dramatized it for BBC Radio 4 back in the Seventies? Oh, and he did write one other fantasy, The Reluctant Dragon. (Died 1932.)
  • Born March 8, 1921 Alan Hale Jr. The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island which most likely isn’t genre but he did show up in such films as Captain Kidd and the Slave GirlThe Fifth Musketeer and The Giant Spider Invasion which is most decidedly SF if of a pulpish variety. Series wise, I see he was on The Wild Wild West and Fantasy Island. (Died 1990.)
  • Born March 8, 1934 Kurt Mahr. One of the first writers of the Perry Rhodan series, considered the largest SF series of the world. He also edited a Perry Rhodan magazine, wrote Perry Rhodan chapbooks and yes wrote many, many short stories about Perry Rhodan.  He did write several other SF series. Ok what’s the appeal of Perry Rhodan? He runs through SF as a genre but I’ve not read anything concerning him. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 8, 1939 Peter Nicholls. Writer and editor. Creator and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction with John Clute. His other publications were Science Fiction at LargeThe Science in Science Fiction edited by Nicholls and written by him and David Langford, and Fantastic Cinema. (Died 2018.) He became the first Administrator of the United Kingdom-based Science Fiction Foundation. He was editor of its journal, Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction, from 1974 to 1978.
  • Born March 8, 1945 Micky Dolenz, 74. Voiced the Min Max character in the two part “Two Face” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Voiced Ralph on The Secret Files of the SpyDogs, an animated where Adam West voiced the Dog Zero character and Robert Culp provided additional voices. He also voiced, and I kid you not, Wendell the Love Grub on Mighty Magiswords. [Editor’s note: Maybe Cat can keep himself from mentioning Circus Boy and The Monkees, but I can’t!]
  • Born March 8, 1950 Peter McCauley, 69. Best known I’d say for being on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World in which he played Professor George Challenger. Lovely show which I’ll really like. Running for three three seasons, it’s his only major genre role to date though he’s shown up on The Ray Bradbury TheaterMysterious Island (a New-Zealand television series based on Jules Verne’s novel L’Île mystérieuse), Xena: Warrior PrincessTales of the South Seas and Legend of the Seeker
  • Born March 8, 1959 Aidan Quinn, 60. Ok, I really l liked him in Practical Magic, but will admit that I’ve not seen nor plan on seeing The Handmaid’s Tale which he was in. Yes, he was in Jonah Hex but let’s not hold that against him. He also had the title role in Crusoe, and was Cpt. Robert Walton in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He was in The Eclipse as Nicholas Holden, and showed up in The Last Keepers playing John Carver. He was in a production of Scheherazade produced in Chicago, and played in Prince Hamlet in a Promenade Theatre, NYC production of that play.  Series wise, he’s currently in the Elementary series as Captain Thomas ‘Tommy’ Gregson. 
  • Born March 8, 1976 Freddie Prinze Jr., 43. I’m fairly sure his genre role was in Wing Commander as Lt. Christopher Blair followed by the animated Mass Effect: Paragon Lost in which he voiced Lieutenant James Vega. Speaking of animated endeavours, I’ve got him in Kim Possible: A Sitch In Time voicing Future Jim / Future Tim followed by being in all in all four seasons of the animated Star Wars Rebels as Kanan Jarrus. And that series I highly recommend. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest shows when walking while looking at your phone is actually safer!

(11) MORE TO BE SAID. The Humanist posted a tribute to the late author and nontheist: “In Memoriam: Janet Jeppson Asimov, 1926 – 2019”.

Janet Opal Jeppson Asimov died on Monday, February 25, 2019. She was ninety-two years old. Janet is remembered for her significant contributions to psychiatry, psychoanalysis, science fiction, and her dedication to humanism. AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt, who was in regular communication with her for years, recalled, “Janet was a whirlwind well into her eighties, racing from place to place but taking time to engage in lifelong learning, to write in her unique and compelling style, and to appreciate the arts and culture. Her direct approach, generous demeanor, and clever humor will be sorely missed.”

(12) WALLS GO UP IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR. Escape Artists’ Alasdair Stuart has dropped The Full Lid for March (I really need a better action verb there), which features a look inside the business, “Podcasting Does A Thing II: Welcome to the Montage.”

Podcasting is doing a thing again. Last time it did a thing that thing was ‘Be partially absorbed by Hard Drive Galactus’. This time round it’s Luminary, a major new podcast developer, announcing their launch line up. 40 shows, including Cameron Mitchell’s follow-up to legendary musical Hedwig and The Angry Inch, podcasts from Conan O’Brien, Malcolm Gladwell, Trevor Noah and the sequel to beloved superhuman audio drama The Bright Sessions.

All of them behind an $8 a month paywall, apparently intended as the ‘Netflix of podcasting’.

…That paywall though and what it means is much more interesting not to mention complex. Whether we like it or not, and that’s a nuanced answer that we’re all working on, paywalls are going to be a thing in podcasting for a while. As my partner in all things pointed out, this is the exact same thinking behind the plethora of streaming platforms we’re all about to be expected to pay for. Everyone’s seen Netflix’s money. Everyone wants some of it and the attempt to replicate that model is already spilling into other media with podcasting. Witness the Disney streaming platform, the conclusion of the Netflix/Marvel relationship, the Spotify assimilation of Anchor and Gimlet Media and the astonishing amount of money Himalaya just threw at their podcasting slate. That’s not cash anyone spends lightly.

(13) LEST DARKNESS FALL. Did social media cause this neighborhood to be overrun? “Paris street to ‘shut out Instagrammers'”. Chip Hitchcock adds, “One is reminded that in the Niven story there were, deliberately, no teleport booths on Rapa Nui — a choice that wouldn’t help this site.”

A pretty cobbled street in Paris has become a huge hit on Instagram, with thousands of pictures and “likes”.

But residents of Rue Cremieux have now had enough and are calling on the city council to restrict access at certain times.

One has even launched an Instagram account logging all the unwanted activity on the street.

It illustrated how the search for the perfect picture could become a problem, said travel blogger Kris Morton.

Residents have asked the city council to provide a gate that can be closed at peak times – evenings, weekends and at sunrise and sunset, when good light attracts people searching for a perfect Instagram picture.

(14) HE’S SEEN THE CAPTAIN. Camestros Felapton provides a spoiler-free review of Captain Marvel:

…Three years ago, I’d have said this was a particularly good entry in the Marvel film series but Captain Marvel has the tough act of following up Thor Ragnarok, Infinity War and the frankly deliciously good Black Panther. There’s certainly enough feminism in the film to wind up the worst sections of society but I sometimes feel they pulled some of those punches and maybe dialled things back a notch when turning it up to 11 might have been smarter.

(15) WHAT EFFECT DOES TROLLING HAVE? In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik says that while trolls “can have a highly scarring effect on individual targets” such as Leslie Jones, the success of targeted films shows that “there’s actually little evidence that trolling accomplishes its primary objective” of depressing movie attendance. “Captain Marvel: How the trolls always win — until they don’t”.

In fact, if one looks at previous movies with significant trolling campaigns — the 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Black Panther” — it’s clear how ineffective they can be. “Ghostbusters” performed somewhat underwhelmingly with $128 million domestically. But “Last Jedi” was the highest-grossing movie of 2017, with $620 million in the United States. And “Black Panther” is the third-highest-grossing domestic film in history.

(16) ROTTEN TROLLMATOE. Meantime, Rotten Tomatoes is taking steps of its own to control the trollbot population. There’s an article in The Hollywood Reporter but this is more succinct —

(17) NOT A BOT. Ever seen a 1-star review by a genuine human? Here’s one by Bonnie McDaniel, “Review: How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler”, at the Red Headed Femme.

This is basically a gimmick book, and for me, the gimmick wore thin real fast….

(18) FREE ON EARTH. Almost 50 years after a comparable achievement: “Watch: SpaceX Crew Dragon Splashes Down In Atlantic Ocean”.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon hit its splashdown time of 8:45 a.m. ET right on target Friday, landing in the Atlantic Ocean after undocking from the International Space Station and re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

The successful test and splashdown is “an amazing achievement in American history,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who called the SpaceX flight the “dawning of a new era in American human space flight.”

The Atlantic Ocean landing is the first in nearly 50 years for a capsule that was designed for humans, NASA says. The last such incident: the Apollo 9 splashdown on March 13, 1969.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Dann, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/26/19 Two Pixels Were Approaching, And The File Began To Scroll

(1) KELLEY OBIT. An acknowledged leader of Doctor Who fandom in the U.S., Jennifer Adams Kelley, died today. LA’s Gallifrey One con committee paid tribute on Facebook:

All of us at Gallifrey One today are mourning the loss of our dear friend, and our long-time Masquerade director, Jennifer Adams Kelley, who passed away early this morning at home after a short but fierce battle with cancer.

Jennifer was a titan of American Doctor Who fandom, both locally in the Chicago area and across the country: as former program director & stage manager of our sister events Visions and ChicagoTARDIS; her decades-long involvement in Chicago area Doctor Who fandom, including her participation in the local fan group The Federation since the 1980s (where they created many well-known fan videos such as “Doctor Who and Holy Grail” and “S-A-V-E-W-H-O”); co-author of ATB Publishing’s landmark tome “Red White and Who: The Story of Doctor Who in America”; staff member of the Outpost Gallifrey and Gallifrey Base fan forums (the latter of which she co-founded); and countless contributions to fan communities and publications across America. She was also very active in costuming fandom, participating in and running masquerades and convention events nationwide. She was unable to join us to run our Masquerade this year due to her illness, leading to a last-minute group effort she actively contributed to, to make certain the show would go on.

Our entire fan community has been enriched by Jennifer, and her loss is devastating to so many of us who have called her friend for so long. We will be dedicating next year’s Gallifrey One convention to her memory. Our thoughts and sympathies are with her husband Philip, her daughter Valerie, and their family today.

(2) AMAZONIAN CRITIQUES. Authors continue raising issues about Amazon’s business practices and those who abuse its revenue model.

  • Courtney Milan. Thread starts here.
  • Courtney Milan again. Thread starts here.
  • Tessa Dare. Some interesting data from her, and from the additions and corrections in responding tweets. Thread starts here.

(3) BOMBS AWAY. The Verge, in “Rotten Tomatoes tackles review-bombing by eliminating pre-release comments”, tells about site changes being made in response to the negative campaign against Captain Marvel.

The film-rating aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes has announced it will no longer allow users to comment on or register early anticipation for movies, following a series of coordinated attempts to sabotage the ratings on a few select upcoming films.

The Rotten Tomatoes blog details those changes:  

Starting this week, Rotten Tomatoes will launch the first of several phases of updates that will refresh and modernize our Audience Rating System. We’re doing it to more accurately and authentically represent the voice of fans, while protecting our data and public forums from bad actors.

As of February 25, we will no longer show the ‘Want to See’ percentage score for a movie during its pre-release period. Why you might ask?  We’ve found that the ‘Want to See’ percentage score is often times confused with the ‘Audience Score’ percentage number. (The ‘Audience Score’ percentage, for those who haven’t been following, is the percentage of all users who have rated the movie or TV show positively – that is, given it a star rating of 3.5 or higher – and is only shown once the movie or TV show is released.)

… What else are we doing? We are disabling the comment function prior to a movie’s release date. Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership. We have decided that turning off this feature for now is the best course of action. Don’t worry though, fans will still get to have their say: Once a movie is released, audiences can leave a user rating and comments as they always have.

(4) SAYING NO. Emma Thompson quit a movie she wanted to do with a director she loves to work with – the LA Times has the reasons: “Emma Thompson’s letter to Skydance: Why I can’t work for John Lasseter”. Skydance had hired Lasseter just months after he left Pixar and parent company Disney in the face of multiple allegations of inappropriate behavior.

In mid-February, it was reported that the two-time Oscar winner had pulled out of Skydance’s highly touted animation feature “Luck,” citing her concerns about Lasseter’s hiring. According to her representatives, from the moment the hire was announced, Thompson began conversations about extricating herself from the project; she officially withdrew Jan. 20.

In a letter she sent to Skydance management three days later, she acknowledged the complications caused by a star withdrawing from a project, including the effect her decision would have on the director, the rest of the cast and the crew. But in the end, she wrote, the questions raised by the Lasseter hire made it impossible for her to remain in the film.

The full text of the letter is at the linked article. It ends:

I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.

(5) MELON. Hong Kong’s Melon Sci-Fi event, to be held March 23, describes itself as —

An international gathering of leading science fiction writers, acclaimed scientists, media industry experts and fans to discuss what’s next in science fiction, entrepreneurship and the most compelling trends facing our future.

The program boasts a stellar list of talents from East and West, including Jo Walton, Bao Shu, Jeanette Ng, Aliette de Bodard, Rebecca Kuang, Tade Thompson, Regina Wang, Lisa (SL) Huang, and many others.

(6) NOT FAR AT ALL. C.E. Murphy, who lives in Ireland, gives a kindly warning in “A note about Irish distances”

This is especially for people coming to Dublin 2019:

If an Irish person (or website, for that matter) tells you something is a 10 minute walk, they are almost certainly lying to you.

It’s a well-intentioned lie. They reckon anybody can walk for ten minutes, I think, so if they say it’s ten minutes, well, that sounds grand and not a bother and you can manage that. But if it is actually a ten minute walk, that is a matter of sheer coincidence and should not be used as a measuring stick for other times you’re told something is a ten minute walk.

Usually a ten minute walk is really about 20 minutes. Sometimes it’s 85.

Everything in Dublin is, according to rental ads, no more than a 15 minute walk from city centre or St Stephen’s Green. Everything in Ireland is no more than a comfortable 10 minute walk from a train station.

Honestly, we’d been here for years, trying to figure this and other similar phenomenon out, when it finally dawned on us that broadly speaking, the Irish people, who love a good story, would rather lie to you than disappoint you….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. Damn, I hadn’t realised that he’d only written six novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long for fiction but it was short form where excelled with more than two hundred stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — he was quite good at it.  (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 74. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Oh, and she’s still damn sexy. 
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 71. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements.  If you like mysteries, highly recommended.  Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile.
  • Born February 26, 1957 John Jude Palencar, 62. Illustrator whose artwork graces over a hundred covers. In my personal collection, he’s on the covers of de lint’s The Onion Girl and Forests of the Heart, Priest’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds and le Guin’s Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea.
  • Born February 26, 1963 Chase Masterson, 56. Fans are fond of saying that spent five years portraying the Bajoran Dabo entertainer Leeta on Deep Space Nine which means she was in the background of Quark’s bar a lot. Her post-DS9 genre career is pretty much non-existent save one-off appearances on Sliders, the current incarnation of The Flash and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, a very unofficial Tim Russ project. She has done some voice work for Big Finish Productions as of late. 
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 54. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic Chinese city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read.
  • Born February 26, 1977 James Wan, 42. He’s known originally for directing the Saw horror film franchise, but more recently for Aquaman. He’s been picked to develop the Swamp Thing series on the DC Universe streaming service. He also rebooted the MacGyver franchise. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range thinks it will cost plenty to commute in outer space.
  • AI loosely defined, in Brewster Rockit.
  • Arriving aliens famously make this request. Over the Hedge offers a good example of when the right answer is “No.”
  • Please, Monty, do not use the eggplant emoji to ask for baba ghanoush.

(9) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. BBC asks “Is Japan losing its umami?” (gallery and video; not viewable on small screens.)

Soy sauce is one of the most important ingredients in Japanese cooking, but chances are you’ve never tasted the real thing.

Yasuo Yamamoto has a secret – or more precisely, 68 of them. On a recent morning on the Japanese island of Shodoshima, the fifth-generation soy sauce brewer slid open the door to his family’s wooden storehouse to reveal 68 massive cedar barrels caked in a fungus-filled crust. As he climbed up a creaky staircase into his dark, cobwebbed loft, every inch of the planked walkway, beams and ceiling was covered in centuries’ worth of black bacteria, causing the thick brown goo inside the barrels to bubble. The entire building was alive.

“This is what gives our soy sauce its unique taste,” Yamamoto said, pointing to a 150-year-old wooden barrel. “Today, less than 1% of soy sauce in Japan is still made this way.”

Until 70 years ago, all Japanese soy sauce was made this way, and it tasted completely different to what the world knows today. But despite a government ordinance to modernise production after World War Two, a few traditional brewers continue to make soy sauce the old-fashioned way, and Yamamoto is the most important of them all. Not only has he made it his mission to show the world how real soy sauce is supposed to taste, but he’s leading a nationwide effort to preserve the secret ingredient in a 750-year-old recipe before it disappears.

(10) IF YOU CAN MAKE IT THERE. Joseph Hurtgen reviews Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess” at Rapid Transmission.

Reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s metafictional The Grasshopper Lies Heavy within The Man in the High Castle, Chess’s Vikram holds his copy of Pyronauts dear. It is the one item of cultural significance that grounds him to his former identity. What are pyronauts? They are those that set fire to things, that destroy the archive. So, then, it is ironic that the item Vikram holds dear is a story about those that destroy artifacts. The immigrants from a different New York City experience a complete cultural dislocation. The entire archive, the background to their lives, is gone as if incinerated in a fire. Though their New York City appears the same as the new one they find at the other side of the trans-dimensional gate, in the new city, they have no history, and with no history, no future.

(11) ARE YOU THAT AUDIENCE? Adri Joy says this flawed book is still a good choice for the right audience: “Microreview [Book]: Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh” at Nerds of a Feather.

By opening the action around the Terra-Two mission, and the tiny complement of students who get onto it from the academic pressure cooker of Dalton academy, Oh sets up an interesting moment to start the story. By this point, all of the characters have spent years in each others’ company to some extent, and while some clearly know each other better than others – there’s a notable divide between Jesse and the crew who were originally selected – we are still reading about relationships that have a great deal of baggage behind them, and the whole that’s handled quite well. At the same time, setting the action at the start of the crew’s 23-year journey makes the distance to the planet insurmountable. I suspect it’s no accident that the title frames Terra-two as a “dream”: a planet that will somehow provide all the answers to an overcrowded, dying earth, packed with natural beauty and already habitable for humans, somehow becoming more and more unreal with every detail we learn that conforms to the way things are on Earth. The fact that this mission seems so dreamlike, and the protagonists feel so underequipped, may be frustrating for readers seeking a more Seveneves-esque tale of human ingenuity in the face of interstellar adversity, but that’s sort of the point: there’s a subtle but increasingly clear message that we are supposed to question the design and realism of this mission, even while the teenagers themselves are fixated on their own destinies and, more practically, surviving long enough to arrive with them.

(12) BRANCHING OUT. This time around Vicky Who Reads connects young readers to works aimed at adults: “If You Liked… #13: Adult Science-Fiction & Fantasy by Women!”

…I picked this specific subset because oftentimes, these books are miscategorized as YA, for numerous reasons. A lot of it is definitely misogyny in both the YA and adult SFF communities, believing that women writing SFF are YA because in these people’s minds, YA is also “lesser” and “less intense” (Which is not true. YA is very valid, and includes a different writing style.)

So anyways, I wanted to both boost some adult fiction work (that have crossover appeal, but are still not YA) by women, and also to maybe provide suggestions for readers who want to transition from YA SFF to adult, but don’t know where to start!

The first comparison is:

If you liked The Wrath and The Dawn, you’ll love Uprooted!

Uprooted honestly feels very 1001 Nights to me–women needing to be handed over to an overlord of sorts as payment, and then something interesting happens!

(13) MOONWALKERS. There’s a day left to bid on a “Rare Apollo Reunion Poster Signed by 18 Apollo Astronauts, Including 8 Moonwalkers” at the Nate D. Sanders Auctions site.

Apollo astronauts signed poster, from their 6 July 1986 reunion in Washington, DC. Poster of three children gazing upward at the moon is commemorated by the autographs of 18 Apollo astronauts including 8 moonwalkers: Charles Conrad, Ron Evans, Stu Roosa, Dick Gordon, Charlie Duke, Michael Collins, Walt Cunningham, Jim Lovell, Buzz Aldrin, Don Eisele, Bill Anders, Alan Bean, Jim Irwin, Al Worden, Rusty Schweickart, Alan Shepard, Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt.

(14) OGH WISHES HE LOOKED THIS GOOD. The Chibify site is fun, and I can hardly complain that the results aren’t too close to reality when they are as flattering as this.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Xylophone by Jennifer Levonian on Vimeo explains what happens when a pregnant woman steals a goat from a petting zoo.

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

Golden Tomato Awards 2018

Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregation site, has announced the 20th Annual Golden Tomato Awards which honor the best-reviewed movies and TV shows of 2018.

Best Movies/TV

Wide Release: Black Panther
Limited Release: Roma
Directorial Debut: A Star Is Born
Spanish-Language: Roma
Australia: Sweet Country
United KingdomPaddington 2
Best New TV Show: Homecoming
Best Returning TV Show: Atlanta

Movies by Genre

Best Action/Adventure Movie 2018: Mission: Impossible -Fallout
Best Animated Movie 2018: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Comedy 2018Eighth Grade
Best Comic Book/Graphic Novel Movie 2018: Black Panther
Best Documentary 2018: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Best Drama 2018: BlacKkKlansman
Best Foreign-Language Movie 2018: Roma
Best Horror Movie 2018: A Quiet Place
Best Kids & Family Movie 2018: Paddington 2
Best Musical/Music Movie 2018A Star Is Born
Best Romance Movie 2018: Crazy Rich Asians
Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Movie 2018: Sorry to Bother You
Best Thriller 2018Widows
Best Western 2018: The Rider

TV by Genre

Best TV Comedy 2018: Barry
Best Comedy Special 2018: Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
Best Docuseries 2018: America to Me
Best TV Drama 2018: Cobra Kai
Best TV Horror 2018: The Terror
Best Miniseries, Limited Series & Anthology TV Show 2018: Sharp Objects
Best TV Sci-Fi/Fantasy 2018: Doctor Who
Best Superhero TV Show 2018: Daredevil
Best TV Thriller, Mystery & Suspense 2018: Homecoming
Best TV Movie 2018: The Tale