Pixel Scroll 2/28/20 Speak To Geeky People, Get Geeky Answers

(1) PLAY IT AGAIN, JEAN-LUC. At Amazing Stories, Kimberly Unger tells how Picard is doing in checking off “The Required Plots of Star Trek”. She has an infographic with 13 of them.

A few years ago, I had the privilege to work on a game being built for Star Trek: Discovery (I will remain salty about the cancellation of this game until the day I die).  While that game ultimately never made it to market, it gave me a chance to do a number of deep dives into one of my favorite properties.  While we were in the early days of building the game design bible to give to the writers, I came up with a list of recurring broad plotlines that seemed to show up in every variation of Star Trek (and many other SF shows including Dr. Who, Stargate, etc.).

Now that Star Trek: Picard is on the air, I’m working my way down the list, watching to see which of these thirteen recurring plots show up. 

(2) CORONAVIRUS AND FANDOM. Chuck Wendig, in “Running A Con, Conference “Or Festival In The Age Of A Burgeoning Pandemic!”, wants upcoming conventions to address five points (see them at the link).

Am I an expert in any of this? Hardly. I just try to keep up to date on what’s up while simultaneously not fall for conspiracy theories or mis/disinformation. (Harder than you’d think in this age, sadly.)

So, now we circle back around to say —

Hey, there are a lot of conventions, conferences and festivals coming up.

For me, these are writing- or book-related, but again, I see a lot on the horizon and some that just recently passed: toys, electronics, food service, etc.

It’s convention season.

And, apparently, coronavirus season.

So, if you’re running just such a conference, lemme give you some advice:

Get ahead of this now.

Do not make us e-mail you to ask you what’s up.

This isn’t about causing panic — it’s about undercutting it. It’s about reassuring us that you have this in your mind, with plans forming….

Regina Kanyu Wang, a council member of World Chinese Science Fiction Association (WCSFA) and who lives in Shanghai, commented today on Facebook about the situation.

Talking about the coronavirus (COVID-19), now the situation in China is OK, with doctors and nurses really fighting in the frontier as well as normal citizens sacrificing their convenience of daily life (Especially those who live in Wuhan and Hubei in general! They’ve endured so much.) I am in Shanghai and my life is as normal, but I have friends and friends’ families living in Hubei, who are really trading their normal life to win more time for the world to take control of the plague. Recently, there have been an increase in numbers of cases in Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran and the US, and also first cases confirmed in more countries.

I realize that local governments may not tell the people how dangerous the virus is because they are afraid of panics and influences on economics. Wuhan and Hubei government did the same, and look what it’s like now….

(3) A PLAGUE OF STORIES. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar suggest “Coronavirus feels like something out of a sci-fi novel. Here’s how writers have imagined similar scenarios” in the Washington Post.

… Pandemic novels, like pandemics, come and go in waves. The 60s had Michael Crichton’s “The Andromeda Strain.” The 70s saw the mega-success of Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Robin Cook gave us “Outbreak” in the 80s. By the 2000s, Max Brooks’s “World War Z” and related “The Zombie Survival Guide” were deemed so plausible for emergency scenarios that Brooks now consults for the military. And in 2014, Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven,” about a deadly plague called the “Georgia Flu,” dominated award lists and won widespread recognition.

With the coronavirus on everyone’s minds, reading books about epidemics can either be a frightening turnoff or a fascinating “what if” thought experiment. For readers in the latter category, let’s talk about books you might dare to consider.

(4) DELANY IN PARIS REVIEW. “Sex in the Theater: Jeremy O. Harris and Samuel Delany in Conversation” in The Paris Review. Not unexpectedly, includes frank conversation about sexual matters.

Though the two had never met before, Delany has been hugely influential on Harris, and served as the basis for a character in the latter’s 2019 Black Exhibition, at the Bushwick Starr. And Delany was very aware of Harris. The superstar playwright made an indelible mark on the culture, and it was fitting that the two should meet on Broadway, in Times Square, Delany’s former epicenter of activity, which he detailed at length in his landmark Times Square Red, Times Square Blue and The Mad Man. …

Over turkey club sandwiches and oysters, Harris and Delany discussed identity, fantasy, kink, and getting turned on in the theater.

HARRIS

Can I ask you about the play? How are you processing it?

DELANY

I was confused in the beginning, but then I realized, Aha! This is therapy. And then, Aha! The therapists are nuts! Then I traveled around having sympathy for all the characters, especially the stupid good-looking guy. He was sweet, I’ve had a lot of those. The character that I identified with most is the one who insists that he’s not white. I used to get that all the time, I mean, the number of times I was told by my friends at Dalton, Well, I would never know that you were black. As if I had asked them.

One of the best things that ever happened to me happened when I was about ten, which was a long time ago. I was born in 1942, so this is 1952, and I’m sitting in Central Park doing my math homework. This kid, he could have been about nineteen or twenty, and I think he was homeless, he walks up to me, and he says to me with his Southern accent, You a n****, ain’t you? I can tell. You ain’t gonna get away with nothin’ with me.

And I looked up at him, I didn’t say anything, and he looked at me and said, That’s all right. You ain’t gonna get away with nothing from me.

And I was so thankful for it. I realized, first of all, he was right. He was being much more honest with me than any of my school friends.

It was also my first exposure to white privilege. There were a lot of white people from the South who felt obliged to walk up and say, You’re black, aren’t you? They thought it was their duty. In case I thought, for a moment, that they didn’t know. This was part of my childhood: people telling me that I was black….

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll introduces the panel to “’Step IV’ by Rosel George Brown”.

Rosel George Brown is a classic SF author of whom I have long been aware without managing to track down much of her work. Step IV was in fact the third Brown piece I ever read, after 1959’s ?“Car Pool”, and Earthblood, her 1966 collaboration with Keith Laumer. In large part this is because her career was cut tragically short. Aged just 41, she died of lymphoma in 1967. Most of her work is very much out of print.

Still, this particular story is available. What did my Young People make of it?

(6) DYSON OBIT. Freeman Dyson, acclaimed physicist whose ideas inspired Larry Niven’s Ringworld, died today: “Physicist And Iconoclastic Thinker Freeman Dyson Dies At 96” at NPR. The New York Times eulogy is here.

…During World War II, he was a civilian scientist with the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command.

After the war, he came to the U.S. to study physics. Together with physicist Richard Feynman, he was able to reconcile two competing theories of quantum electrodynamics, the study of how sub-atomic particles and light interact. “He was able to show that all these different points of view were one and the same thing,” Dijkgraaf says. “He was a great unifier of physics.”

… Dyson permanently joined the Institute for Advanced Study in 1953. From his perch there, he pursued many other topics of interest. He helped to design an inherently safe nuclear reactor that could be operated “even in the hands of an idiot.” In 1958, he joined Project Orion, a plan to power a spacecraft with controlled nuclear explosions.

The spaceship was never built, but Dyson later described it as “the most exciting and in many ways happiest of my scientific life.” Dijkgraaf says Dyson was probably one of the few people on Earth that felt let down by the 1969 moon landings: “This all looked very disappointing in Freeman’s eyes,” he says. Dyson wanted to go to Saturn with nuclear-fueled rockets. “[He] was kind of envisioning jet planes, and in the end we took a bicycle.”

I heard him speak at the Starship Century Symposium in 2013 — “Freeman Dyson, ‘Noah’s Ark Eggs and Warm-Blooded Plants’”.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 28, 1956 — The “A Pail of Air” episode of X-One first aired. A boy narrates tale of a lifeless Earth. The Earth has been pulled away from its orbit by a comet when he was a baby, and his family live in a nest. The script’s by George Lefferts from a story by Fritz Leiber. Two more episodes would be based on stories by him, “Appointment in Tomorrow” and “The Moon is Green”. The cast includes Ronnie Liss, Pamela Hamilton and Joe De Santis. You can hear it here.
  • February 28, 1989 Journey To The Center Of The Earth premiered. It was written by Debra Ricci, Regina Davis, Kitty Chalmers, and Rusty Lemorande, as directed by Lemorande and Albert Pyun. It starred Emo Philips, Paul Carafotes, Jaclyn Bernstein and Kathy Ireland,. It was based on an uncompleted version for a different studio that Lemorande wrote and directed which was much more more faithful to Verne’s text. It was a sort of sequel to the film Alien from L.A. which has been noted here before. Critics usually used one word to describe it — “a mess”. Though it actually has a middling rating among the audiences Rotten Tomatoes at 42%. 
  • February 28, 2011  — Tyrannosaurus Azteca  premiered on Sci-fi. (Also known as Rex Aztec.) It was directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith as written by Richard Manning. It starred Starring: Ian Ziering, Shawn Lathrop, Milan Tresnak, Marc Antonio, Dichen Lachman and Jack McGee. It was made on he cheap, less than a million in total and critics noted that the CGI at times is much less than believable. You can see it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 28, 1913 John Coleman Burroughs. Artist known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, The Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of his father’s books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations.  He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 28, 1928 Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth which became the basis of the film of the same name starring David Bowie. There’s apparently a series planned of it. He also two other SF novels, The Steps of The Sun and Mockingbird. All off his work is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 28, 1942 Terry Jones. Member of Monty Python who is considered largely responsible for the program’s structure, in which sketches flowed from one to the next without the use of punchlines. He made his directorial debut with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which he co-directed with Gilliam, and also directed Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. He also wrote an early draft of Jim Henson’s 1986 film Labyrinth, though little of that draft remains in the final version. (Died 2020.)
  • Born February 28, 1946 Leanne Frahm, 74. Australian writer whose “Deus Ex Corporus” won the Ditmar Award for best Australian short fiction. She won a Ditmar again in for “Catalyst”. Her story “Borderline” won an Aurealis Award for best science fiction short story. She’s won the Ditmar Award for best fan writer twice.
  • Born February 28, 1947 Stephen Goldin, 73. Author of the Family d’Alembert series which is based on a novella by E.E. “Doc” Smith. I think the novella is “Imperial Stars” but that’s unclear from the way the series is referred to. Has anyone read this series? How does it match up to the source material?
  • Born February 28, 1960 Dorothy Stratten. She played the title role in Galaxina. She also showed up on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as Miss Cosmos in the “Cruise Hip to the Stars” episode. And she was Mickey on the Fantasy Island episode of “The Victim/The Mermaid”. (Died 1980.)
  • Born February 28, 1968 John Barnes, 62. I read and really liked the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like? He’s decently stocked by the usual digital suspects.
  • Born February 28, 1970 Lemony Snicket, 50. He’s the author of several children’s books, also serving as the narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Though I’ve not read the books, they’re very popular I’m told at my local bookstore. It has been turned into a film, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and into a Netflix series as well which is named, oh you guess. 

(9) CONVERSATION WITH DECANDIDO. Scott Edelman says now’s your chance to brunch on biscuits and gravy with Keith R.A. DeCandido in Episode 116 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

My guest this time around was Keith R.A. DeCandido, who has written novels and short stories in so many franchises — more than 30, including Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Stargate SG-1, Farscape, and on and on — that a decade ago he was named Grandmaster by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

He writes fiction in his own worlds as well, including multiple novels and short stories in the Dragon Precinct series, a police procedural set in a high fantasy universe. He also writes reviews and essays for tor.com, including his popular rewatches of multiple Star Treks, Stargate SG-1, and other series. And those are just a few of his facets, which include music, martial arts, and more.

(10) ORIGIN STORIES. Back from hosting a fan table at Boskone, Daniel Ritter of First Fandom Experience considers the question: “Are Young People Interested in Early Fan History?”.

…Young fans are interesting to us because the audience of people who have been most interested in our work so far is relatively small and skews to an older demographic. We cherish this community of long-time fans with some existing connection to the history we study, but we are also interested in reaching a younger audience who have little to no connection to early fan history.

This begs the question… 

Are Young People Interested in Early Fan History?

This is a question we ask ourselves often..

Although almost none of the First Fans of the 1930s are still with us, we fortunately can learn something of their stories through the people that knew them. This is the core community of collaborators and readers that we have interacted with through the course of this project so far, and is one primary audience for our work. 

But what about, for lack of a better phrase, young people? Do Millennials and Gen Z, born into the chaotic fullness of modern fandom, have any interest in the origin story of the SFF fan community?

(11) BALANCING THE SCALES. James Davis Nicoll is determined justice will be done! “Five SFF Novels Set in the Much-Maligned City of Toronto” at Tor.com.

Above by Leah Bobet

Far below Toronto’s streets, Safe provides a refuge to beings living with marvelous gifts and onerous curses—people who, if caught by the authorities, would be subjected to unpleasant experiments. Some of the refugees have been so subjected before they escaped to Safe.

Matthew is able to pass for a regular human. He can venture above to buy necessary supplies without letting any normal know that Safe exists….

(12) THE DOCTOR. THE MASTER. THE CYBERMEN. “Set course… for Gallifrey” The Doctor Who season 12 finale airs March 1 on BBC One.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/12/20 Mongo Only Pawn In Scroll Of Pixels

(1) AVOIDING CALENDRICAL ROT. Odyssey Writing Workshop presents “Interview: Guest Lecturer Yoon Ha Lee”.

You recently completed the Hugo Award-nominated Machineries of Empire trilogy. Did you know how the trilogy would end when you began writing the first book? Are you more of a planner, or more of a pantser?

I didn’t know it was going to be a trilogy! I originally intended Ninefox Gambit to be a standalone. But after I finished drafting it, I had an idea for a sequel. And after I committed to Raven Stratagem, I had another idea, and that became Revenant Gun. I plan individual novels because I’m not smart enough to figure out the plots on the fly. But on the series level…well, I didn’t plan to write a trilogy. It just happened.

(2) SOMTOW IN THE NEWS. Forward’s Benjamin Ivry interviews Somtow Sucharitkul: “A new Holocaust opera premieres — in Thailand”.

Thailand might not seem the most probable point of origin for a new opera about the Holocaust, but on January 16, the world premiere of “Helena Citrónová” by the composer Somtow Sucharitkul, 67, will be staged in Bangkok.

It is about a real-life Auschwitz survivor of Slovak Jewish origin who at a trial in 1972, testified that a Nazi officer had fallen in love with her and thereafter, saved her and her sister. Despite testimony from others attesting to his crimes, the Nazi was allowed to go free due to a statute of limitations.

Citrónová’s story gained further currency in a 2005 BBC-TV documentary, “Auschwitz: The Nazis and the ‘Final Solution’” in which she was interviewed.

It inspired a controversial romance novel about a Jewish prisoner at a Nazi concentration camp whose love for a Nazi commandant redeems him. As The Forward reported in August 2015, this book sparked objections, notably from Katherine Locke, a Jewish writer based in Philadelphia.

Far from Auschwitz and Philadelphia, Somtow Sucharitkul, who writes and composes under the name S.P. Somtow, published his libretto for Helena Citrónová in 2018….

Last October, you tweeted a response to those who wonder why you chose the subject of Helena Citrónová by citing lines from Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “Babi Yar,” about Nazi atrocities in the USSR: “Today, I am as old/ As the entire Jewish race itself,” adding “This story belongs to all of us.” What did you mean by that?

Somtow Sucharitkul: People ask me all the time why should I talk about these things as if I were somehow schnorring in on someone else’s life. I was born in Thailand, but left when I was six months old and lived in Europe for most of my childhood, so it feels like more of my past than what happened in Asian countries. The reason I started getting involved in Jewish issues in Thailand were that none of my students here knew whether Thailand had won or lost the Second World War. I was in the Terminal 21 Shopping Mall [in Bangkok] and saw a statue of Hitler dressed as Ronald McDonald. No one meant anything by it, but it was a terrible moment of disjunction, and I felt that I should explain to young people around me and those in a wider range.

You posted on Facebook in October that in the opera’s final scene, when you set the heroine’s words, “My father told me once, never forget you’re a Jew,” you chose to rework a melody from Wagner’s “Die Walküre.” You add that this was done “unconsciously,” but using the notorious anti-Semite Wagner’s music in this context was an “allusion so cogent and so trenchant that my unconscious must have intended it.” So was it intentional or unconscious?

I imagine it was unconsciously intentional. At the time I wrote those notes, I thought to myself, this is Wagner, but I couldn’t place it. That was an odd moment, I have to admit….

(3) A COMPLETE TRIUMPH. Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson” is Library of America’s “Story of the Week.” It’s preceded by a long and interesting note about its reception.

Since returning from Europe in 1832, Irving had done much to help younger American writers, and he responded without hesitation as soon as the letter reached him at his home in Tarrytown. “I have read your little tale of ‘William Wilson’ with much pleasure,” Irving wrote. “It is managed in a highly picturesque style, and the singular and mysterious interest is well sustained throughout. . . . I cannot but think a series of articles of like style and merit would be extremely well received by the public.” Irving added that he much preferred this new work over Poe’s previous story in the magazine, which suffered from “too much coloring.” (That tale, incidentally, was “The Fall of the House of Usher.”) While the endorsement might seem somewhat equivocal, Poe boasted to one editor that Irving’s support represented “a complete triumph over those little critics who would endeavor to put me down by raising hue and cry of exaggeration in style, of Germanism & such twaddle.” The quote from Irving was featured prominently in publicity for Poe’s new book, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.

(4) NISI SHAWL CLASS. Cat Rambo tweeted “Highlights from Nisi Shawl’s A Taste of Writing the Other”

(5) AN ALLUSION, In The Village Voice, Thulani Davis recounts how “Black Women Writers Reclaim Their Past”. Tagline: “Like a number of other black women writers, I have made it a point to speak of our ‘tradition,’ yet I know that no such tradition is assumed by the rest of the world, primarily because our books have not been read or taught”

…Imagine a John Coltrane who had only heard one 78 by Charlie Parker, one LP by Billie Holiday. Imagine a Cecil Taylor who did not grow up with the sounds of Art Tatum and Duke Ellington, and you have some idea how amazing it is that we have writers like Lorraine Hansberry and Toni Morrison.

Each generation of black women has cer­tainly taken ideas from known forms, yet in the matter of content — the telling of black women’s stories — the same impulses appear time and again, with little revision over the decades. Only lately have we seen work that makes conscious nods to the past. And no wonder: Morrison, Alice Walker, Gayl Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, Gloria Naylor, Sherley Anne Williams, Ntozake Shange, and others are the first generation to have a body of work on the black woman’s condi­tion readily at hand.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 12, 1932 – In Mexico, Doctor X premiered. A pre-Code film, it was directed by Michael Curtiz and was headlined by Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray. Because it was pre-Code, murder, rape, cannibalism, and prostitution were part of the story. It’s based on the play titled “The Terror (New York, February 9, 1931) by Howard W. Comstock and Allen C. Miller. It was well received both by critics and at did very well at the box office. Warner Bros. followed up with Mystery of the Wax Museum, another pre-Code film.  Critics at Rotten Tomatoes rate it considerably higher (75%) than reviewers do (48%). 
  • January 12, 1940The Invisible Man Returns, the sequel to The Invisible Man, premiered. Directed by John May and produced by Ken Goldsmith, it starred Vincent Price in the title role. The screenplay was written by Lester Cole and Curt Siodmak (as Kurt Siodmak). Its success led to a third film, The Invisible Woman, a comedy billed as a sequel. Critics at Rotten Tomatoes love it giving a 82% rating while reviewers give a not so bad 58% rating.
  • January 12, 1966 Batman made its television debut.
  • January 12, 1967 Star Trek’s “The Squire of Gothos” first aired on CBS. Starring William Campbell as Trelane, it was written by Paul Schneider, and directed by Don McDougall. Trelane Is considered by many Trekkies to be a possible Q. Critics loved it giving such comments as “one of TOS’s most deservedly iconic hours” and voting the William Campbell performance as Trelane, as the fifth best guest star of the Trek series. 
  • January 12, 2018 — Amazon dropped Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams unto the public for viewing.  The first episode of the first season was titled “The Hood Maker”.  It was originally published in the June 1955 issue of Imagination hich was born in the Fifties and ceased publishing in the the Fifties as well.The screenplay was by Matthew Graham. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 12, 1916 House Peters Jr. Though he’s best remembered as Mr. Clean in the Procter and Gamble commercials of the Fifties and Sixties, he did appear in a fair amount of SFF including Flash Gordon, Batman and Robin, King of the Rocket Men, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Red Planet Mars, Target Earth and The Twilight Zone. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 12, 1937 Shirley Eaton, 83. Bond Girl Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, and yes, she got painted gold in it. She also shows up as the title character in The Million Eyes of Sumuru, the Sax Rohmer based film we just discussed. Her other significant role would be as Dr. Margaret E. ‘Maggie’ Hanford in Around the World Under the Sea. She retired from acting in 1969. 
  • Born January 12, 1948 Tim Underwood, 72. Bibliographer with such works as Fantasy and Science Fiction by Jack Vance (done with Jack Miller), Shameless Art: Paintings of Dames, Dolls, Pin-ups, and Bad Girls (genre adjacent at the very least) and Stephen King Spills the Beans: Career-Spanning Interviews with America’s Bestselling Author.  
  • Born January 12, 1951 Kirstie Alley, 69. She’s here for being Saavik on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It was, errr, interesting reading the various rumors why this was her only Trek film. Her SFF experience otherwise was brief limited to being an uncredited handmaiden on Quark, and being in the Village of the Damned as Dr. Susan Verner.
  • Born January 12, 1952 Walter Mosley, 68. An odd one as I  have read his most excellent Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue Light, Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent Future, The Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four that was conceived of and orchestrated by him.  Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB.
  • Born January 12, 1952 Rockne S. O’Bannon, 68. He’s The genius behind  Farscape, SeaQuest 2032, the Alien Nation series and Defiance. Only the latter couldn’t I get interested in. 

(7) TAKE A RIDE ON THE READING. “For William Gibson, Seeing the Future Is Easy. But the Past?” – a New York Times interview.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

The ideal reading experience, for me, is wholly induced by the text, with a complete lack of interruption. My most memorable adult experience of this remains my initial reading of Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian,” which I began in the cab, in Vancouver, on my way to the airport, in 1991 or so, for my first visit to Berlin. I remember nothing of the journey, between my door in Vancouver and the hotel room in which I finished the book. Just the Judge and I, here to there. Leaving him (as much as any receptive reader ever can) I stepped to the window, blinking out at this city, whenever and wherever it was. I was late getting to the Kunsthalle, to greet Samuel Delany and Wim Wenders, though I was able to later.

(8) FARSIGHT. “Everybody talks about the weather,” begins a Mark Twain quote. Now they’ll have even more to talk about: “Aeolus: Weather forecasts start using space laser data”.

Europe’s novel wind-measuring satellite, Aeolus, has reached a key milestone in its mission.

The space laser’s data is now being used in operational weather forecasts.

Aeolus monitors the wind by firing an ultraviolet beam down into the atmosphere and catching the light’s reflection as it scatters off molecules and particles carried along in the air

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts says the information is now robust enough for routine use.

The Reading, UK-based organisation is ingesting the data into its numerical models that look from one to several days ahead.

Forecast improvements are most apparent for the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere.

…The European Space Agency’s Aeolus satellite is regarded as a breakthrough concept.

Wind measurements have traditionally been very patchy.

You can get data from anemometers, weather balloons and aeroplanes – and even from satellites that infer air movements from the way clouds track across the sky or from how rough the sea surface appears at different locations.

But these are all limited indications that tell us what is happening in particular places or at particular heights.

Aeolus on the other hand gathers its wind data across the entire Earth, from the ground to the stratosphere (30km) above thick clouds.

(9) IF YOU’VE GOT IT… BBC reports that “The woman who paid $250,000 to go into space” may get there yet.

Ketty Maisonrouge has waited 15 years for a trip that she knows will be out of this world.

The 61-year-old business school professor signed up back in 2005 for the promise of five minutes in zero-gravity, paying $250,000 (£190,500) to travel beyond the earth’s atmosphere.

Now the company that sold her the ticket, Virgin Galactic, says it will finally begin flights this year. Its founder, Sir Richard Branson, will be on the first trip, and Mrs Maisonrouge won’t be far behind.

“Hopefully it will be as amazing as I think,” says Mrs Maisonrouge.

If all goes to plan, Virgin Galactic will be the first private company to take tourists into space. The company says 600 people have already purchased tickets, including celebrities like Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio.

But rival firms are close behind. Blue Origin, started by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has also starting speaking to possible passengers for trips it hopes to start this year, while SpaceX, founded by Tesla’s Elon Musk, announced in 2019 that a Japanese billionaire would be its first passenger for a trip around the moon.

(10) ANOTHER HITCHHIKER. Martin Plimmer lets us share a ride “In Roald Dahl’s Car” in his essay for the New York Times.

…I told him I was a reporter on the local paper, The Bucks Herald. I needed to get back for work the next day. My first task every Monday morning, as the most junior reporter on the paper, was to call on the town’s undertakers and compile a list of people who had died over the weekend. Then I had to phone or visit the next of kin. It was my job to populate the newspaper’s obituary column.

He chuckled. “Sounds grim,” he said.

“It’s not really,” I said. “Well, the undertakers are grim, but people are actually very happy to be approached for an obituary. And they’re good stories too. Obituaries celebrate whole lives. It would be hard not to find a couple hundred interesting words to write about someone’s whole life.”

“I can see that,” he said. “I also do a bit of writing.”

I’d had a feeling this was coming. In my experience of conversations with people who stopped to give me lifts, it was quite common to be told that they were also “writers.” Sometimes it would be a couple of articles in the parish magazine, or a half-finished novel in a bedroom drawer, or, more commonly, they would claim to have easily a book’s worth of fascinating ideas in their heads, just itching to become a best seller. This man had the look of a gentleman tinkerer, someone who might do a bit of scribbling in his spare time. “What sort of writing?” I asked.

“Oh, plays, film screenplays, some TV. Children’s novels seem to be taking up a lot of my time just lately. I suppose, though, that I’m best known for short stories. Stories with a macabre element — I’ve written quite a lot of them.”

His answer surprised me. I asked him his name.

“Roald Dahl,” he said.

It meant nothing to me. “I haven’t come across your work,” I said. “So … ‘a macabre element’ — are these horror stories?”

“Not exactly,” he said, “though, unlike your jolly obituaries, they can be pretty horrible. They don’t always end well; there’s often a twist in the tail. Actually, I think I’m writing funny stories, because they can be very comical. There’s such a narrow line between the macabre and laughter.” I could sense him smiling as he said it….

(11) LONG REMEMBERED THUNDER. In “Samuel R. Delany: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Super-Nova, Jeet Heer rediscovers that the field’s reception of this new author had its bright spots, too, despite the resistance of editors John W. Campbell and Michael Moorcock.

…It was only after his appearance at the 24th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Cleveland in 1966, that Delany’s existence was recognized, which led to the quick consensus that he was a leading figure in the field. In 1967, the contentious editor Harlan Ellison wrote that Delany gave “an indefinable but commanding impression that this was a young man with great work in him.” The following year, Algis Budrys, a respected novelist and at the time the sharpest critic in science fiction, hailed Nova by saying the novel proved that “right now, as of this book” Delany is “the best science-fiction writer in the world, at a time when competition for that status is intense.” Delany was all of twenty-six years old when he earned that accolade.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/23/19 Pixels Of Lily Help Me Scroll At Night

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share subcontinental cuisine with Lucy A. Snyder in episode 103 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Lucy A. Snyder

Lucy A. Snyder’s a seven-time Bram Stoker Award finalist and a five-time winner, including for her first novel Spellbent in 2009, and most recently for her collection While the Black Stars Burn in 2016. She has published more than 80 short stories in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Strange Horizons, Weird Tales, and more. Her nonfiction book Shooting Yourself in the Head for Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide. was published in 2014. She was a Bram Stoker Award nominee at this year’s StokerCon for her collection Garden of Eldritch Delights.

We took off for lunch one afternoon to Punjab Cafe, which has been operating in Quincy since 2000, and is by all accounts the best Indian restaurant in the area. They had a tasty looking buffet option available, but we ordered a la carte instead, because a buffet is definitely not the way you want to go when you’re trying to maintain the flow of a conversation and are both wired to a recorder.

We discussed how Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time made her want to become a writer, the rare bad advice she got from one of her Clarion instructors, the way Hunter S. Thompson and Truman Capote taught her about consensual truth, how she learned to embrace her uneasy relationship with horror, the time Tim Powers said of one of her early stories that “this is an example of everything that’s wrong with modern science fiction,” why if you want to write flash fiction you should learn to write poetry, what you should consider if you’re starting a new writing workshop, how best to prepare for public readings of emotionally difficult stories, the way she used Kickstarter to continue her Jessie Shimmer series (plus everything you need to know to start your own campaign), what it was like writing in the Doctor Who and X-Files universes, and much, much more.

(2) CAT’S GOT HIS TONGUE. Another work of feline genius! “On Writing by Timothy the Talking Cat” at Camestros Felapton.

…Being a writer is a lot like being on a roller coaster. For a start, if you are a small child or a cat some spotty gatekeeper won’t let you be a writer. “You have to be this tall to be a writer!” they say. “Keep you arms inside the carriage while writing is in motion” they say. Ignore these self-appointed petty tyrants in the fairground of publishing! You only need TWO things to be a writer 1. the willpower 2. the determination and 3. a valid ticket from the ticket booth….

(3) KEEPS ON BURNIN’. Slate’s Evan Urquhart brings history up to date in “Gamergate Never Died”.

… Last but not least there’s Gamergate itself, which has survived not just as an influence on current events and a template for subsequent harassment campaigns, but in something close to its initial form: The Gamergate subreddit is still very active. Its participants still mob journalists who report critically on them and games. So “gamers” didn’t die, and neither did socially conscious games journalism, nor efforts to increase diversity in games. Even individual Gamergate targets like Quinn, Sarkeesian, and others continue to work in their respective fields. But neither, it seems, did Gamergate.

Recent topics on the Gamergate subreddit—in 2019!—include lists of video games and game development studios to avoid because they pander to “social justice warriors” and complaints about Kotaku’s coverage of diversity in games and the industry. There are posts in the past month continuing to detail, and criticize, everything Quinn does. The lesson for all of us is that reactionary ideas and movements and cults of personality—ones that oppose progress and equality—won’t simply disappear even if they “lose,” even with the passage of time. Reporters who write about Gamergate—or any of the topics it reacted against—can still expect a brigade of hundreds of negative replies on social media. It hasn’t died. It never ends….

(4) SF DISTINCTIVES. John Plotz interviews “Samuel Delany on Capitalism, Racism, and Science Fiction” at Public Books.

JP: This focus on the technical aspects of writing reminds me of what you’ve said before about the sentence: that the sentence is the most important unit of writing for you.

SD: For me, yes. I do go along with Gertrude Stein, in that the paragraph is the emotional unit of the English language. It’s also a point about the sentence instead of the word.

JP: Is that how you think of your own writing? Do you think of it as sentence-making?

SD: Basically, yes.

JP: And is that different for science fiction, versus fantasy and other kinds of genres?

SD: No, that’s not where the difference lies; I think all writing requires that. But I do think science fiction allows some unique combinations of words. It’s a genre that is distinguished, because certain things can happen in the language of science fiction that don’t happen anywhere else. Science fiction tends to take the literal meaning. If it has a choice between a figurative meaning and a literal meaning, the literal meaning is always available. Her world exploded. In science fiction, it’s not an emotionally fuzzy metaphor. Instead, it can literally mean a planet belonging to a woman blew up. As in, Princess Leia: Her world exploded.

(5) TREND INTERRUPTED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says that  “In The Brisk Horror-Comedy ‘Ready Or Not,’ Bluebloods Are Out For Blood”.

Call it The Film About Rich People Hunting Poor People … That Lived.

But that’s a mouthful. Maybe The Hunt Strikes Back; it’s pithier.

Just two weeks ago, Ready or Not seemed poised to represent a second data point in 2019’s “Murderous, Mansion-Dwelling One-Percenters In Film” trend graph, preceded by Craig Zobel’s “blue bloods vs. red staters” thriller The Hunt and followed in November by Rian Johnson’s latter-day Clue riff, Knives Out.

But with The Hunt withdrawn from release, Ready or Not assumes pride of place … albeit in the doggiest of days of the dead of August. And what should have blossomed into a delicate arc describing an emerging cinematic trend (and launching a thousand thinkpieces in the process) instead reverts to a flat line connecting two 2019 movies that both feature 1. rich jerks wielding bladed weapons in elegantly appointed rooms and 2. dumbwaiters, probably. One assumes.

(6) CUTTING THE WEB. The Hollywood Reporter chronicles “How ‘Spider-Man’ Divorce Shows Ugly Side of Fandom”.

…While both studios should be enjoying a victory lap after a successful summer, with Disney, hot off of their Marvel Studios Comic-Con announcements, set to make D23 this weekend’s event, and Sony releasing an extended cut of Far From Home over labor day weekend. Instead, Spider-Man has become victim of a messy custody battle that has dominated social media and shown just how ugly Disney fandom can get with #SaveSpiderMan and #BoycottSony hashtags trending this week.

Battle lines have been drawn on social media, and by way of willful ignorance on the parts of adults online behaving like children, Sony has been made the bad guy for refusing to give up its asset. While details surrounding Disney and Sony’s split have varied, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the breakup comes down to money. Disney, already possessing the merchandizing rights for Spider-Man and benefiting from the use of the character in the MCU, sought at least a 30 percent stake in future Spider-Man grosses. Others have reported figures as high as 50 percent. However you cut it, those numbers are a significant uptick from Disney’s previous 5 percent stake. It’s also worth noting that while Sony’s Spider-Man films may receive an uptick in box office grosses for their MCU connection, the studio doesn’t receive a share of the grosses for the Marvel Studios films in which Holland’s Spider-Man appears.

(7) ALL IN THE FAMILEE. TMZ, in “Stan Lee’s Daughter Sides W/Sony Over Disney in SPIDER-MAN/MCU SPLIT,” says that Stan Lee’s daughter, J.C. Lee, approves of Sony withdrawing Spider-Man because “Marvel and Disney seeking total control of my father’s creations must be checked and balanced by others.”

…She goes on … “Whether it’s Sony or someone else’s, the continued evolution of Stan’s characters and his legacy deserves multiple points of view.”“When my father died, no one from Marvel or Disney reached out to me. From day one, they have commoditized my father’s work and never shown him or his legacy any respect or decency.” JC’s parting words … “In the end, no one could have treated my father worse than Marvel and Disney’s executives.” Ouch!!!

(8) AVENGERSLAND. Cnet took notes: “Disneyland’s ‘Avengers Campus’ theme park unveiled at D23: Here’s everything we know” Tagline: “At least Spider-Man will definitely be involved with this one.” Disney’s Paris and Hong Kong parks also have MCU attractions on the way.

Disney finally unveiled new details about its new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)-themed area arriving at Disneyland at its D23 expo on Thursday. Disney had originally announced the new superhero areas coming to three Disney parks in March last year, dreamed up in partnership with Marvel Studios.

Here’s what we know so far.

Disneyland, California

“We’re building an immersive super hero-themed land at Disney California Adventure to enable our guests to join the Avengers to save the world,” Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said at D23 Expo, ComicBook reported.

The Avengers Campus will open in summer, 2020.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 23, 1965  — In the United Kingdom, Dr. Who And The Daleks was released which starred Peter Cushing as Doctor Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 23, 1869 Edgar Lee Masters. Author of the Spoon River Anthology which, since each poem is by someone who’s dead, should count as genre, shouldn’t it?  (Died 1950.)
  • Born August 23, 1927 Peter Wyngarde. Not a lead actor in any genre series but interesting none-the-less. For instance, he shows up in the two Sherlock Holmes series, one with Peter Cushing and one with Jeremy Brett. He’s one in a series of Doctor Who with the Fifth Doctor and he faces off against the classic Avenger pairing of Steed and Peel. He shows up as Number Two in The Prisoner as well. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 23, 1929 Vera Miles, 90. Lila Crane in Psycho which she reprised in Psycho II. On a much more family friendly note, she’s Silly Hardy in Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle, the very last of the twelve Tarzan pictures released by RKO. She has done one-offs on Buck Rogers in Twentieth Century, Fantasy Island, The Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock Presents, I Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 
  • Born August 23, 1939 Barbara Eden, 80. Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie. Her first genre role however was on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Lt. Cathy Connors though she’d show up a few years later as Greta Heinrich on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Some thirty-five years after I Dream of Jeannie went off the air, she had a recurring as Aunt Irma on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch
  • Born August 23, 1944 Karl Alexander, 75. Author of Time after Time, which was filmed directed and written by Nicholas Meyer. Cast includes Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen and David Warner. Sequel of Jaclyn the Ripper is not as well known. 
  • Born August 23, 1963 Ed Gale, 56. Ok I now introduce you to the man inside of Howard the Duck. (Sorry JJ.) Well someone has to play that crappy role. And did you know that it’s been retooled to be called by the studio, and I kid you not, Howard: A New Breed of Hero? Did you know Seth Green voices Howard the Duck in Guardians of The Galaxy?
  • Born August 23, 1965 Chris Bachalo, 54. Illustrator well known for his work on DC Comics’ Shade, the Changing Man and Gaiman’s two Death series, Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life
  • Born August 23, 1970 River Phoenix. The Young Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was his best known genre role. He was also Wolfgang Müller in Explorers, and he’s Talbot Roe in Silent Tongue, a horror film most likely you’ve never heard of. (Died 1993.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John A Arkansawyer sent the link to Wondermark with a note, “I’m surprised this technology was never used during the glory days of the APA era.”

(12) WILSON LEAVES WW. ComicBook.com is there when “Wonder Woman Writer Announces She’s Leaving the Title”.

Today marks the end of an era for DC’s Wonder Woman, as G. Willow Wilson is set to exit the title in the coming months. On Thursday, Wilson took to Twitter to confirm the news, citing that the exit will be so she can schedule out time for a “bucket-list-dream-project”.

Wilson also confirmed that Steve Orlando will be taking over the title, something that had previously been hinted at in DC’s solicitations….

(13) SHIRLEY JACKSON. LitHub does a post of clippings of quotes from “11 Famous Writers on the Genius and Influence of Shirley Jackson”.

Victor LaValle:

I’ve probably reread The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson more than any other book. It’s not her greatest, that would be We Have Always Lived at the Castle, but I got to it when I was a teenager and so it entered my bloodstream early. I read it three or four times in high school alone.

There are lots of reasons why I love it, Jackson is an underrated literary stylist, and I love the way she loathes human beings. It’s cruel, but it’s almost always funny, too. Misanthropy always goes down better with a sense of humor. But maybe the reason I most love that book is for the house itself. Jackson does a wondrous job of animating Hill House without ever really answering the question of whether its truly haunted or merely haunted by the imagination of a lonely young woman.

(14) HISTORY. “Life of Brian: The most blasphemous film ever?” What are the other contenders?

Forty years after Life of Brian was first released, Nicholas Barber looks at why the Monty Python film was banned – and went on to become a box office hit.

It may not be true that all publicity is good publicity, but in the case of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which was released 40 years ago, some of the bad publicity was heaven-sent. The comedy team’s irreverent Biblical romp had been due to open on 200 screens across the US, but after various religious groups protested against it, the number of screens was tripled. “They actually made me rich,” said John Cleese of the protesters on one American talk show. “I feel we should send them a crate of champagne or something.”

The idea for Life of Brian came about when the team was promoting its previous film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Eric Idle joked that their next project would be called “Jesus Christ: Lust For Glory”, and his team-mates realised that no one had ever made a comedy about the Messiah. Initially, they planned to lampoon Jesus himself, but the more they read up on him, the less keen they were. “It was quite obvious that there was very little to ridicule in Jesus’s life, and therefore we were onto a loser,” said Michael Palin in 1979. “Jesus was a very straight, direct man making good sense, so we decided it would be a very shallow film if it was just about.”

They moved onto the character of Brian, a 13th disciple who never made it into the Bible because he always arrived five minutes late and missed the miracles. But they eventually settled on the premise that the hapless Brian (Graham Chapman) wouldn’t have any connection with Jesus at all; he would be someone who happened to live in Roman-occupied Judea at the same time, and who was mistaken for a Messiah by the fanatical masses.

The Pythons’ satire wouldn’t target Jesus or his teachings, instead caricaturing political militants, credulous crowds, the appeal of throwing stones at people, the complexities of Latin grammar, and the difficulties of being a tyrant when you’ve got a speech impediment. “I thought we’d been quite good,” said Idle in Robert Sellers’ behind-the-scenes book, Very Naughty Boys. “We’d avoided being specifically rude to specific groups.”

(15) PRESENT. “Hail Satan?: The Satanists battling for religious freedom” – BBC has the story.

Everything you know about Satanism is wrong.

At least that’s what a new documentary about the Satanic Temple could be about to prove.

Despite the similarity of the name, the Temple is different to The Church of Satan, established in 1966 by chat show circuit celebrity Anton LaVey in San Francisco, California.

Human sacrifice? Wrong. Blood drinking? Wrong. Black Mass? Well, sort of right.

The Temple was founded in 2013 with a mission statement “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will”.

Hail Satan? directed by US film-maker Penny Lane, follows the Temple’s attempts to curtail what they see as the encroachment of Christianity on US life through its growing political influence….

(16) UNDERWORLDS. Alix Nathan looks beneath the surface in “The Art of Subterranean Fiction” at CrimeReads.

…Perhaps the most famous novel of the subterranean genre is Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, in which Verne’s hero, Professor Lidenbrock, and his nephew, Axel, believe that there are volcanic tubes leading to the earth’s centre. Verne is a great story-teller and the adventures of these two very different characters and their guide Hans, involve natural dangers like running out of water and deadly storms as well as encounters with creatures from a far distant past.

Although there’s no actual time travel, Verne’s underworld seems located in prehistory, where everything is gigantic, whether it be insects, mushrooms or petrified trees; where an Icthyosaurus wins a battle with a Plesioraurus. The travellers’ most terrifying experience is an encounter with an enormous prehistoric man, all of 12 feet tall, watching over a herd of huge mastodons….

(17) D23 NEWS. SYFY Wire shares some of the exhibits from D23: “Disney unveils first look at Monsters at Work, Forky shorts, and new Phineas & Ferb film at D23”.

…The monsters aren’t the only Pixar creations headed to Disney+ for new adventures. Toy Story 4‘s Forky, the fan-favorite piece of trash who became a toy, will return in a new series of short films called Forky Asks a Question, starring Tony Hale reprising his role from the film. Fans in attendance at the presentation got a sneak peek of the first short, which features Forky talking to Hamm the Piggy Bank about the concept of money. That clip hasn’t landed online yet, but we’ve got the poster for the shorts right here:

(18) MARVEL STUDIOS UNVEILINGS. The Hollywood Reporter also picked up some news at D23: “Marvel Unveils 3 New Disney+ Shows Including ‘She-Hulk’ and ‘Moon Knight'”.

Kevin Feige also revealed new details for ‘WandaVision’ and ‘Falcon & The Winter Soldier.’ Marvel Studios confirmed three new series in the works for Disney+ at D23: She Hulk, Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel.

She-Hulk — AKA attorney Jennifer Walters, cousin to Bruce Banner, whose blood transfusion was responsible for her powers — first appeared in 1980’s The Savage She-Hulk No. 1, and was the last major Marvel character co-created by Stan Lee. After her original series ended after two years, she became a member of both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four as the character developed more of a distinct personality from her male counterpart, gaining a stronger sense of humor and intelligence and deciding that she preferred being super-strong and green permanently — or, at least, as much as possible. (Unlike the male Hulk, She-Hulk traditionally maintains her smarts and personality when Hulked out.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Alan Baumler, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lee Whiteside.]

Pixel Scroll 8/9/19 Jonathan Scrollaston Pixel

(1) ON THEIR WATCH. In The Guardian, Amal El-Mohtar answers the question “Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?” Tagline: At a time when historical amnesia is making itself widely felt, these stories show how readily the past can be rewritten.

…Mascarenhas has said of her novel that time travel “[makes] you constantly think of what stories people leave behind”. Every time we recover a female author, scientist, doctor, activist, every time we affirm that black people lived in medieval Europe, that queer people have always existed and often led happy lives, we change history – not the past, crucially, but history, our story about the past, our narratives and paradigms. And as we change history, we change the future. I’d worried that our book wouldn’t be relevant – it turns out all of us were right on time.

(2) WORLDCON DINING. Now is when this massive project pays off – Dublin 2019 Eats – compiled by Guest of Honour Diane Duane and Peter Morwood.

…For a lot of years now, SFF conventions have often had local restaurant guides to help their attendees find out what the local food options were. With this concept in mind, and as a way of assisting our thousands of convention visitors in finding their way around the Dublin food scene, in 2018 we came up with the concept of this casual online guide to food that’s either in the immediate area of the Dublin Convention Centre, the Worldcon’s main venue, or accessible from that area via public transport. Your two site managers — locally-based science fiction and fantasy novelists and screenwriters Peter Morwood and Diane Duane — have between them some seventy years of experience at the fine art of tracking down and enjoying great Dublin food.

For the purposes of this guide, our attention is focused mostly on food located near the city’s fabulous Luas tram system — mainly the Red Line that serves the DCC, but also the Luas Green Line that connects to it.

We have a focus on affordable food — because we, like a lot of our Worldcon guests, have often had to spend enough just getting to the venue to make the cost of eating an issue.

(3) INTERESTING TIMES. Abigail Nussbaum returns to the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog with a commentary on Russell T. Davies’s recent miniseries about the times to come: “A Political History of the Future: Years and Years”.

…The result is a show suffused with anxiety. When discussing Years and Years, I’ve found that people tend to reference its big dramatic moments, such as the ending of episode 1, in which an air raid siren alerts the gathered family to the fact that the US has dropped an atomic bomb on a Chinese military base (Davies doesn’t try too hard to ground his predictions in carefully-reasoned reality, but his speculation that Donald Trump would do something like this on his final day in office is scarily plausible). Or that of episode 4, in which Daniel and Viktor board an overloaded inflatable raft in a desperate attempt to cross the handful of miles separating Calais from England. But I think the scene that will hit a lot of viewers where they live is actually the end of episode 2, in which Stephen and Celeste race to their bank to try to retrieve even some of their money, and find themselves in a crowd of people hoping to do the same, all equally doomed. The first two are things that you can imagine happening, but maybe not to you. The second feels like exactly the sort of calamity that the comfortably middle class people the show has been aimed at are most likely to experience in the coming decades….

(4) SENDAK FOR THE STAGE. A major exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s work runs until October 6 at The Morgan Library in New York City: “Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet”.

Renowned for his beloved and acclaimed children’s books, Maurice Sendak (1928–2012) was also an avid music and opera lover. In the late 1970s, he embarked on a successful second career as a designer of sets and costumes for the stage. Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet will be the first museum exhibition dedicated to this aspect of his career. It will include storyboards, preparatory sketches, costume studies, luminous watercolors, and meticulous dioramas from Mozart’s Magic Flute, Janá?ek’s Cunning Little Vixen, Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and an opera based on Sendak’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are.

The exhibition will include nearly 150 objects drawn primarily from the artist’s bequest to the Morgan of over 900 drawings. Sendak borrowed gleefully from a personal pantheon of artists, some of whom he encountered firsthand at the Morgan. Several such works, by William Blake, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Domenico and Giambattista Tiepolo, will be displayed alongside his designs. Although less well known than his book illustrations, Sendak’s drawings for the stage embody his singular hand, fantastical mode of storytelling, keen—sometimes bawdy—sense of humor, and profound love of music and art history.

(5) “VERTIGINOUS TASK.” Jordy Rosenberg writes “In Praise of Samuel R. Delany” for the New York Times.

…The emotional dynamism of Delany’s sentences has been perhaps less acknowledged than his world-building, or the sweep of his vision. But when asked to speak about writing as a practice, Delany himself often turns to the art of sentences, and of how to imbue words with such “ekphrastic force” that they summon the material presence of an imagined world. When Korga and Marq return to themselves they are awe-struck, struggling to narrate the intensity of their own transformative experience. It is impossible not to hear in that a metatextual echo of the obsession of Delany’s practice: that of creating the most immersive possible aesthetic experience for us, his readers and devoted enthusiasts….

(6) COMMON SCENTS. James P. Blaylock shares “My Life in Books: A Meditation on the Writer’s Library” at Poets & Writers.

…Not long ago I was reading a collection of essays by Hilaire Belloc titled One Thing and Another, and, as is sometimes the case when I read other people’s essays, I got the idea of writing this one. The “idea,” such as it was, had nothing to do with the subject matter of any of the forty essays contained in Belloc’s book; what struck me was that the pages smelled as if they had been soaked in gasoline. I remembered abruptly that it had smelled that way when I’d bought it, and although it has sat on the shelf in my study for twenty years, waiting to be read, the odor hasn’t diminished. It could be fatal to light a match anywhere near it.

This olfactory discovery sent me off in a nostalgic search for my copy of Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney, which Phil gave to me in 1975. My wife, Viki, and I took off on a road trip a few days later in our old Volkswagen Bug, and I brought the book along. It mysteriously disappeared early one rainy morning in central Canada, and I didn’t find it again until a year later, after the car’s battery died. The VW’s battery was under the back seat, and when I pulled out the seat to get at the battery, there was Dr. Bloodmoney, its cover partly eaten by battery acid. I was monumentally happy to find it. The book is inscribed to “Jim Blaylock, a hell of a neat dude,” the only existing written evidence of that allegation….

(7) IN THE SPIRIT. The Tonopah Westercon committee (2021) hurried to tell Facebook followers that “Our headquarters hotel for Westercon 74 is in the running for ‘Best Haunted Hotel’” as part of USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

Built in 1907, the Mizpah Hotel in haunted Tonopah has many spirits supposedly roaming its halls, including Rose, a prostitute murdered by a jealous gambler. Guests report items that mysteriously move and an old elevator whose doors randomly open and close.

(8) EVEN WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT’S COMING. GQ’s Tom Philip argues that “Horror Movies Can Be Great, Even When They’re Not ‘Scary’”.

…Also, I’ve only ever seen one scene from the entire movie, when a hooded figure wielding a hook stabs a dude in the stomach and blood starts coming out of that man’s mouth. I have watched hundreds of horror films since, but stop me in the street and ask me: What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? and I will unwaveringly answer “I Know What You Did Last Summer, because I was a seven-year-old wuss who had never seen a grown man run through with a sheep hook in a gas station lot before.”

What I’m saying is, “scary” is a silly metric by which to measure a horror movie’s quality, especially if it’s the only one you use. Not to get all “I own a thesaurus” on you, but there are distinct differences between something that’s scary, spooky, threatening, shocking, dreadful, et cetera. The new big horror release, Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark, for example, writes a check the movie needs to cash. It’s right there in the title…

(9) TODAY’S DAY. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] Moomin Day today:

But not everyone is happy. Here are demonstrators from last weeks manifestation against the placement of a new Moomin theme park in the Swedish city of Karlstad. Anti-Moonin feelings are running high. The picture says it all: “Flera hinder för Mumin”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop debuted in the animated film Dizzy Dishes.
  • August 9, 1989 — James Cameron’s The Abyss premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 9, 1899 P.L. Travers. Yes, she’s genre. A flying nanny is certainly fantasy. Did you know there are total of eight books? I’m sure I’ve seen the film but it’s been so long that I remember ‘nought about it. Anyone here seen the new film? (Died 1996.)
  • Born August 9, 1920 Jack Speer. He is without doubt was one of the founders of fandom and perhaps the first true fan historian having Up to Now: A History of Science Fiction Fandom covering up to 1939 as well as the first Fancyclopedia in 1944. Fannish song-writing (before the term “filk” was coined) and costume parties are also widely credited to him as well.  Mike has a proper remembrance here. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 9, 1927 Daniel Keyes. Flowers for Algernon was a novel that I read in my teens. Two of the teachers decided that SF was to be the assigned texts for that school year and that was one of them. I don’t now remember if I liked it or not (A Clockwork Orange was another text they assigned and that I remember) nor have I ever seen Charly. I see he has three other genre novels, none that I’ve heard of. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 75. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Duke in Westworld followed by being Luke Peck in Time Bandits,  Flik Whistler in The Thing and Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot as The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 72. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? 
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 70. Author of two novels in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you. 
  • Born August 9, 1968 Gillian Anderson, 51. The ever-skeptical, well most of the time, Special Agent Dana Scully on X-Files. Currently playing Media on American Gods. And she played Kate Flynn in Robot Overlords. Did you know she’s co-authored a X-File-ish trilogy, The EarthEnd Saga, with Jeff Rovin? 

(12) A DIFFERENT KIND OF COMIC. “Clevelander Joe Shuster’s Story Takes Flight in Graphic Novel” at IdeaStream — I missed this when it came out last year.

Without two Cleveland kids from Glenville High School, Superman never would’ve taken flight. 

Those two kids, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, fought for decades to get the recognition they deserved for creating the Man of Steel, which became a huge moneymaker for DC Comics- but not for them. 

Now their story of financial hardship is the subject of a graphic novel, told specifically from the point of view of the artist in “The Joe Shuster Story” by writer Julian Voloj and illustrator Thomas Campi…. 

(13) POSSIBLE SAINT. Paul Weimer tells how the fight against tyranny is progressing in “Microreview [book]: The Queen of Crows, by Myke Cole” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In Queen of Crows, author Myke Cole explores the burning question: Now what? A blow for freedom has been struck, yes, but the Sacred Throne, and in particular, the Inquisition-like Order is not going to take this lying down. Heloise may well be a saintly figure, possibly even a holy  Palatinate, but her actions are not an unalloyed good. The Empire will, indeed, Strike Back, and it is only a question of time before overwhelming force is brought to bear on Heloise and the people she has sworn to protect. This leads to Heloise and her people going on the road, meeting others who have not done well under the Empire’s tyranny, and asking hard questions about oppression, revolt, tyranny, resistance, prejudice, and at the same time providing solid medieval fantastic action….

(14) SILENCE OF THE TWEETS. Jon Del Arroz is in Twitter jail again.

JDA’s version: “Suspended On Twitter For Defending A Woman From Harassment” [Internet Archive link].

(15) AT GEN CON. Brian’s “Pop Up Gen Con!” report for Nerds of a Feather begins with an intriguing summary of “We’re Doomed, a game where the world is ending and the governments of the world (each government is a player) need to jointly construct a rocket ship.”

(16) CHOW QUEST. In “Military Logistics for Fantasy Writers” at the SFWA Blog, Mollie M. Madden, holder of a Ph.D. in medieval history, challenges authors to explain how the big armies of their imaginations avoid starving to death.

We all know ‘an army marches on its stomach,’ but it’s not like Napoleon discovered something new. Vegetius (De re militari) and Sun Tzu (The Art of War) were well aware of this concept, as was Alexander the Great (Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army, 1980). And it wasn’t news to them, either. Pre-modern military commanders knew this; they planned for this. They paid attention to logistics.

Fantasy writers should, too.

(17) FACE THE MUSIC. NPR reports “Users Can Sue Facebook Over Facial Recognition Software, Court Rules”. The ruling was handed down by a three-judge panel, and Facebook plans to contest the result by asking for an en banc hearing by the full court.

A U.S. court has ruled that Facebook users in Illinois can sue the company over face recognition technology, meaning a class action can move forward.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued its ruling on Thursday. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, it’s the first decision by a U.S. appellate court to directly address privacy concerns posed by facial recognition technology.

“This decision is a strong recognition of the dangers of unfettered use of face surveillance technology,” Nathan Freed Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said in a statement. “The capability to instantaneously identify and track people based on their faces raises chilling potential for privacy violations at an unprecedented scale.”

Facebook told NPR that the company plans to ask the full circuit court to review the decision of the three-judge panel. “We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman. Information about its facial recognition technology is available in the company policy online.

The case concerns Facebook users in Illinois who accused the social media giant of violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Facebook argued that the users had experienced no concrete harm. But the 9th Circuit panel noted that intangible injuries can still be concrete, and it noted the Supreme Court has said advances in technology can lead to more personal privacy intrusions.

The appeals panel decided that Facebook’s technology “invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests.”

(18) THE NEW ZARDOZ? “Mark Hamill: Darth Vader balloon makes Luke Skywalker’s week” – BBC has the story

Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill has hailed the uplifting impact of a Darth Vader hot air balloon.

Hamill, who plays Vader’s son in Star Wars, posted on social media after spotting a video from the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

He said the giant balloon of Vader’s mask had “raised his spirits” after a “horrible, no good, terrible week”, adding “thanks dad”.

(19) SWEATSHOP. “Amazon Echo devices made by Chinese teens ‘working through night’ – reports” – at BBC.

Amazon has pledged to investigate allegations that hundreds of teenagers are working illegal hours at a Chinese factory producing its Echo devices.

A new report by China Labor Watch claims more than 1,500 “interns” were manufacturing the smart assistants at a factory run by supplier Foxconn.

The teenagers, aged between 16 and 18, were reportedly pressured into work 60 hours a week and night shifts.

Foxconn has blamed local managers and vowed to improve monitoring of staff.

The company, which makes products for a number of technology giants, has allegedly fired two senior staff members at the site in Hengyang, Bloomberg reports.

It is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding working conditions at the manufacturer, which is headquartered in Taiwan.

(20) RADICAL COMFORT FICTION. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy finds something lacking in the latest Becky Chambers novel: “Microreview [book]: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers”.

…On one level, this constant release of tension from individual incidents is quite nice – no need to worry about Chekov’s gun on the mantlepiece, in this universe it’s going to stay right where it is. However, it also means that the link between individual incidents and the emotional arc of the novella – as the characters grapple with their place in the universe, without a link to Earth calling them back – is either subtle or non-existent, depending on how generous one feels….

(21) WALK INTO LEGEND. “Controversial and late, Tintagel footbridge in Cornwall to open”: The Guardian says, “After 650 years – and four months – visitors can follow in Uther Pendragon’s footsteps.”

A £5m footbridge to a dramatic, wind-battered headland that is at the heart of Arthurian legend will this weekend finally open to the public.

The bridge, one of the most ambitious, complicated and at times controversial heritage projects seen in the UK in recent years, will, says English Heritage, restore the lost crossing of Tintagel Castle in north Cornwall.

(22) LE GUIN NEWS. Paul Di Filippo asks whether he’s found a unique item: “ISFDB does not record the existence of this Le Guin essay from TV Guide, making me think it’s never been reprinted.” Read it at the Internet Archive: “’The Lathe of Heaven’ When facts look crazyyou’re your imagination shivers, — that’s science fiction at its best” (Jan. 5, 1980). 

(23) THE EATIN’ OF THE GREEN. Delish experienced a sugar rush just thinking about it: “FunkO Is Making Oogie Boogie Cereal Just In Time For Halloween”.

Sugary cereal, toys inside the box, Disney characters—does it get any more nostalgic than this? FunkO has announced the latest additions to its cereal portfolio, and my inner child is pumped.

Disney fanatics will want to get their hands on the Ursula (from The Little Mermaid) cereal, a purple version of the FunkO multigrain O’s. Tim Burton devotees and former mall goths will obviously need to try the Oogie Boogie—of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame—version, a green take on the breakfast treat. Insider reports that both cereals will come with Pocket Pop! versions of the characters’ figurines. Considering that FunkO’s Pop! figures are established as cool collectibles, these cute minis are a pretty great prize to get in your cereal box.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Top Elf, PhilRM, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 7/6/19 Pixel First, Fix It In The Scroll

(1) DELANY ABOUT STONEWALL. Much about the country’s sexual history and his own informs “Stonewall, Before and After: An Interview with Samuel R. Delany” in the LA Review of Books.

…Years later, my mother and the downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Horn, whose kids had also gone to Camp Woodland, were talking about “The Jewel Box Revue,” which had returned to the Apollo Theater at 125th Street in New York. And my mother said, “You know, that’s Mary, that was Mary Davies, who was a counselor up at the summer camp.” And I realized I knew Stormé DeLarverie. And I suddenly realized this is not a person who is far away from me, this is somebody I sat next to on the piano bench, who helped me write a cantata and sat beside me at chorus rehearsal at Woodland — someone who had been very close to me.

Cut to Stonewall.

Stonewall happened when I was 27, so a decade later. And who was the person who was supposed to have thrown the first punch at Stonewall? Stormé DeLarverie!

(2) STAN LEE COMMEMORATIVE. Marvel Toy News doesn’t want you to miss this chance to spend your money: “Hot Toys Stan Lee GOTG Cameo Figure Up for Order!”

Just when it seemed as though the Toy Fair Exclusive Scarlet Spider sixth scale figure was a lock for “Fastest Hot Toys Sell-Out of 2019” after going to Wait List in under 12 hours, Hot Toys dropped a bombshell this week when they revealed an MMS that’s likely to blow poor Scarlet Spider’s sales out of the water! It’s so “out there” that many collectors never even considered it could happen, but the EXCLUSIVE Hot Toys Stan Lee in Spacesuit 1/6 figure is now up for order!

(3) WHERE THE FUR FLIES. Ursula Vernon reporting from the scene at Anthrocon. Thread starts here.

(4) THE GREAT FUR MIGRATION. “The origin of how Pittsburgh and furries fell in love with each other” is a fascinating article in the Pittsburgh City Paper.

…So, Anthrocon left Philadelphia and migrated to Pittsburgh in 2006. If there were any thoughts that the furries made the wrong choice, those were quickly assuaged the first day of the convention that year. People from Downtown restaurants, bars, and hotels all ascended to meet the furries at the convention center. [Sam Conway, the CEO of nonprofit Anthrocon] says they were there to welcome, greet, take pictures with, and even hug some of the furries.

“The city literally and figuratively ran out and gave us a hug,” says Conway.

Conway says Anthrocon and the furries have been in love with Pittsburgh ever since. He has been apologizing to Visit Pittsburgh for the last 14 years, saying he unfairly stereotyped the city of Pittsburgh. But he says that might have actually resonated stronger with furries, who have faced their own damaging stereotypes.

“Maybe that is why it resonated it,” says Conway. “We came here and realized, ‘Look at how wrong we were.’”

The TV coverage of this year’s con includes –

(5) ABOUT FANTASY. Well, when you put it that way —

(6) BERRY HARVEST TIME. John Scalzi probably doesn’t find these experiences funny, yet he is perfectly capable of treating them as the inspiration for amusing posts: “Endgames, Tinkerbell and Happily Ever After”.

In the wake of a recent mild uptick in people being angry at me for existing, a question in email, which I am paraphrasing for brevity:

What do you think these people are hoping for with these posts? What’s their endgame, and how do they think it will affect you?

…In the case of the alt-right dingleberry actively hoping for the collapse of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), which will presumably take me down with it: I think the plan there was reassuring the other dingleberries with whom he corresponds on social media that, yes, indeed, one day my virtue-signaling self will get mine, along with all of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), and what a glorious day that will be for them. As this particular alt-right dingleberry self-publishes on Amazon, there’s also the implication that upon the smoking ruins of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), and the dessicated bones of all the SJWs that toiled there, will come a new age where these alt-right dingleberries and their work will finally take their rightful place at the top of the science fictional heap, while I and my sort, I don’t know, maybe suck quarters out of vending machines to survive.

In case anybody cares which dingleberry is being discussed, in the Twitter thread version of this post, a redacted tweet could be traced to Brian Niemeier.

(7) SFF DISQUALIFIED AS LITERATURE? A long and interesting study of Ted Chiang’s fiction in the New York Review of Books: “Idea Man”. (Online version is behind a paywall.)

What fiction is made out of is a bit of a mystery, but an old bromide has it that ideas should not be a major component. T.S. Eliot praised Henry James for not having any in his fiction, which seems to accord with James’s own understanding of his work. “Nothing is my last word about anything,” he once wrote to a critic who had upset him by construing a particular portrait in one of his tales as a general statement. Along similar lines, George Orwell praised Charles Dickens for being “a free intelligence” who, in Orwell’s estimation, “has no constructive suggestions, not even a clear grasp of the nature of the society he is attacking, only an emotional perception that something is wrong.” Ideas, by virtue of their abstractness, are deprecated as too smooth and clean, deficient in the loam of contradictory specifics from which rich fiction grows, and the wish to demonstrate an idea is seen as dangerous because it might lead a writer to neaten her picture of the world, and thereby falsify it.

Some kinds of ideas probably should be kept out of literature. It’s understandable, for example, that Orwell dismissed political dogmas as “smelly little orthodoxies,” and that he celebrated Dickens for writing novels that were innocent of them. But does it make sense to exclude ideas drawn from science or math?

The challenge of science fiction is in its embrace of them….

(8) PILGRIMAGE. NPR reminds us that Slaughterhouse-Five  was published 50 years ago.

When it was published 50 years ago, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” was an instant hit, an anti-war novel that was searing, satirical, strange and darkly funny. It revolves around a controversial moment in World War II, the firebombing of Nazi Germany’s loveliest city.

(9) PONSOT OBIT. The late Marie Ponsot is celebrated by Samuel R. Delany:

Marie Ponsot, one of my early mentors, has passed away, well into her 90s. She was 98. She was the dedicatee of my book ABOUT WRITING, and when I was sixteen, she gave me my first hardcover copy of NIGHTWOOD, a book I read more times than any other single novel and taught again and again. 

She was a kind, generous, and wonderful poet. Her first book was True Minds, and her second was Admit Impediment. She was the pocket poet who lived on this side of the country and had known Ferlinghetti in France. Her French was excellent. Her daughter Monique remains my face book friend, and her son Antoine was the dedicatee of my third novel, The Towers of Toron. Sometime later she was the traveling companions of my wife, Marilyn Hacker.

Learn more in the Wikipedia article about her: Marie Ponsot

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 6, 1990Jetsons: The Movie premiered in theatres.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • July 6, 1916 Donald R. Christensen. Animator, cartoonist, illustrator, writer. He worked briefly at Warner Bros. studio, primarily as a storyboard artist for Bob Clampett’s animation unit.  After that, he worked for Dell, Gold Key and Western Publishing comic books, as well as Hanna Barbera, Walter Lantz Productions and other cartoon studios. He wrote and provided illustrations for such comic book titles as Magnus, Robot Fighter, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge. (Died 2006.)
  • July 6, 1927 Janet Leigh. Certainly best remembered as doomed Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. She would also be in with her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, The Fog and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. She’s also in the Night of the Lepus, a very odd 70s SF film. (Died 2004.)
  • July 6, 1945 Rodney Matthews, 74. British illustrator and conceptual designer. Among his many endeavors was one with Michael Moorcock creating a series of 12 large posters that showed scenes from Moorcock’s ‘Eternal Champion’ series. This is turned became the Wizardry and Wild Romance calendar. He also worked work with Gerry Anderson on the Lavender Castle series. 
  • July 6, 1945 Burt Ward, 74. Robin in that Batman series. He reprised the role in voicing the character in The New Adventures of Batman and Legends of the Superheroes , and two recent films, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face. The latter have the last work done by Adam West before his death. 
  • July 6, 1946 Sylvester Stallone, 73. Although I think Stallone made a far less than perfect Dredd, I think the look and feel of the first film was spot on for the film which was something the second film, which had a perfect Dredd in Keith Urban, utterly lacked. And Demolition Man and him as Sergeant John Spartan were just perfect. 
  • July 6, 1950 John Byrne, 69. A stellar comic book artist and writer. He’s done far too much to detail here so I’ll just single out that he scripted the first four issues of Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, was the writer and artist on the excellent Blood of the Demon from 1-17 and responsible for Spider-Man: Chapter One which took a great deal of flak. 
  • July 6, 1980 Eva Green,39. First crosses our paths in Casino Royale asVesper Lynd followed by Serafina Pekkala in The Golden Compass, and then Angelique Bouchard Collins in Dark Shadows. Ava Lord in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (weird films are those) with a decided move sideways  into being Miss Alma Peregrine for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And she was Colette Marchant in Dumbo. She’s got two series roles to her credit, Morgan Pendragon in Camelot and Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful.

(12) MY ULTIMATE PURPOSE. Seeing this tweet, I’m reminded of Sirens of Titan and how the Tralfamadorians directed the development of humanity simply to produce a needed spare part for a spaceship.

(13) BLIND BARD. Get a head start celebrating Heinlein’s birthday tomorrow by listening to the X-Minus One radio broadcast of “The Green Hills of Earth”:

“The Green Hills Of Earth”. The story of Rhysling, the blind folksinger of the spaceways! Great radio. The script was previously used on “Dimension X” on June 10, 1950 and December 24, 1950. + This is the story of Riesling, the singer of the space ways. Future generations of school children have sung his songs in English, French or German, the language doesn’t matter, but it was an Earth tongue. But the real story of Rhysling is not found in the footnotes of a scholars critique or a publishers biography. It is in the memories of the old time space men the pioneers who pushed the thundering old fashioned rockets to the far strange ports that are our common place heritage – these men know the true story of Rhysling.

(14) AWARD KERFUFFLE. Amanda Marcotte points to Slate’s coverage of the Staunch Book Prize, “Why an Award for Books Without Violence Against Women Is So Controversial”. Thread starts here.

The Slate article begins –

An award exclusively for novels that do not depict violence against women has come under fire for the second year in a row. British author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless launched the Staunch Book Prize in 2018 specifically to recognize thrillers “in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.” The prize drew controversy almost as soon as it was announced, with crime writers such as Val McDermid arguing that “not to write about [violence against women] is to pretend it’s not happening,” and CrimeFest, the Bristol-based festival for crime novelists, ultimately withdrawing its support.

Sophie Hannah, who writes psychological thrillers as well as the continuation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries, publicly announced that she would ask her publishers not to submit her books for the award. She also made the case in a lengthy Facebook post that the Staunch Book Prize muddies its message by taking an overt stand against one type of violence but not others: “If the Staunch Prize were to be awarded to a book in which a man is murdered, on the other hand, how could we avoid the conclusion that the prize, at worst, approves of this, or, at best, doesn’t disapprove of it all that much?”

(15) YOUR PLASTIC PAL. A BBC video reports “My date with a robot”:

In a place, like Japan, where workers are desperately needed, the government is hoping that robots could be the answer.

Some developers believe that instead of replacing us, robots could help get more people into work. But would you let a robot read you the news, look after your children, or even, take you on a date?

BBC’s Population Reporter Stephanie Hegarty went to Tokyo to meet them.

(16) A THOUSAND EYES. Funny bit about a peacock:

(17) NOT COMPETITION – ENVIRONMENT. “Amazon at 25: The story of a giant”

“There’s no guarantee that Amazon.com can be a successful company. What we’re trying to do is very complicated,” said Jeff Bezos in 1999, just five years after launching the online firm.

That the firm’s founder was so uncertain of its future seems surprising.

Today, 25 years on from when it started, Amazon is one of the most valuable public companies in the world, with Mr Bezos now the world’s richest man, thanks to his invention.

What started as an online book retailer has become a global giant, with membership subscriptions, physical stores, groceries for sale, its own smart devices and a delivery system which can get things to customers in just an hour.

So how has the Amazon empire been built?

(18) COUNTDOWN. BBC takes a look at “Apollo in 50 numbers: the technology”.

The Apollo programme pushed space and computing technology to its limit. Cutting edge at the time, some of the tech used seems alarmingly simple today.

74: Memory (ROM) of Apollo guidance computer, in kilobytes

Computer technology was one of the greatest – and long lasting – achievements of Apollo. From the solid-state microcomputer fitted to the lunar lander, to mighty IBM mainframes, with their flashing lights and banks of magnetic tape.

To navigate the Apollo spacecraft the quarter of a million or so miles to the Moon and then descend to a precise spot on the surface, astronauts used the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC).

Housed in a box around the size of a small suitcase, with a separate display and input panel fitted to the main spacecraft console, it was a masterpiece of miniaturisation.

Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the AGC was filled with thousands of integrated circuits, or silicon chips. Nasa’s order of this new technology led to the rapid expansion of Silicon Valley and accelerated the development of today’s computers.

(19) ON THE MOVE. In “Fairytales of Motion” on Vimeo, Alan Warburton explains how animators, with an emphasis on classic Disney films, use motion in their animation.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/15/19 You Put Your Right File In, And You Scroll It All About

(1) NOTRE DAME. Notre Dame cathedral suffered extensive fire damage today.

A massive blaze…devastated large parts of the 850-year-old church. While the fire is now under control, the cathedral’s iconic spire fell during the hours it took to battle the blaze.

Many sff fans and writers who’ve been there reminisced about their visits in social media, including Samuel Delany

Like many folks, I climbed to the top of Notra Dame myself on my first trip to Paris with Ron Helstrom and Bill Balousiac. As well, we were staying on the Ilse St.-Louis in the hotel next to the Hotel Olinda, which was rumoured (in Arthur and Hope Fromers Europe on Five Dollars a Day) to be the cheapest hotel in Paris. It was a trip and a half! Some of it was reflected in my novel NOVA.

(2) WOLFE. The SFWA Blog posted a tribute to the late author: “In Memoriam – Gene Wolfe”.

…SFWA President Cat Rambo said, “When we talk about fantasy and science fiction writers who were true virtuosos, Wolfe is one of the foremost among them, and I was honored to be at the 2013 Nebula Conference where he was made a SFWA Grand Master. His Book of the New Sun is a revelation to me every time I go back to reread it and his clear, thoughtful, ever-incisive voice will be sorely missed. This year has claimed several giants in the field, and Gene is most assuredly one whose loss will hit hard across the F&SF community.”

(3) APEX REORGANIZES. In “Sleep now, Apex Magazine, you’ve earned it”, Editor Jason Sizemore says Apex Magazine is going on hiatus, but the Apex Book business will continue.

After much consideration, I’ve decided that Apex Magazine will go on an indefinite hiatus. Our last new issue will be 120–the Afrofuturism issue guest edited by Maurice Broaddus. It’s filled with incredible, diverse work and a fitting sendoff for our zine.

Why stop now?

The last few months have been difficult for me both mentally and physically. This leads to soul searching. And that leads to life decisions. One thing that became obvious to me is that I was neglecting both myself and the book side of Apex. I need to take time to exercise, take some time for my health, do more things for fun, enjoy having my kids around before they leave for college in a few years. I need time to read more books! And on the book side of Apex, I had been failing to do the minimum for success because so much of my time was being poured into Apex Magazine. The magazine flourished, while the books languished.

A flourishing magazine is a great thing, but the profit ceiling for an online zine is disturbingly low. One small press book that does really well (like, for example, Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt) will make 25 times the profit of the zine in a year.

It comes down to health and economics and family. Like most decisions in life.

… And a reminder … this is an extended hiatus, not a permanent closure. I’m a man of whims, unfortunately. After I ended Apex Digest, it was two years later that I decided I wanted to do Apex Magazine. In two years, if Apex Book Company is going strong, don’t be surprised if I have the itch to reopen the zine.

… Lesley Conner and I have not turned our backs on genre short fiction. We plan to do an open call anthology each year that will contain nearly as many words of short fiction as a whole year’s worth of zines. Keep your eyes open for our next project….

(4) A BRAND SEMI-NEW IDEA. On a day that could use some comic relief, Ian McEwan did his best, making absurd statements about sff in an interview with The Guardian: “Ian McEwan: ‘Who’s going to write the algorithm for the little white lie?”.

McEwan has an abiding faith that novels are the best place to examine such ethical dilemmas, though he has little time for conventional science fiction. “There could be an opening of a mental space for novelists to explore this future, not in terms of travelling at 10 times the speed of light in anti-gravity boots, but in actually looking at the human dilemmas of being close up to something that you know to be artificial but which thinks like you. If a machine seems like a human or you can’t tell the difference, then you’d jolly well better start thinking about whether it has responsibilities and rights and all the rest.”

However, as the humor was unintentional, it took D Franklin’s help for it to fully register–

(5) PANDA EXPRESS. Any other day this would seem a bigger loss, but I’ll miss them: “San Diego Zoo to say farewell to giant pandas”.

Whether born here or abroad, all pandas belong to China. The zoo said successful breeding and an increased awareness of conservation helped boost the wild population of pandas in China to around 2,000, downgrading the panda from “endangered” status to “vulnerable” in 2016.

Building bonds of trust with the pandas has allowed zookeepers to perform some medical tests without having to subject the animals to anesthesia. It’s also helping them crate-train the pandas for their journey back to China. Their new home will be the Chinese Conservation and Research Center, where other former San Diego pandas now live.  

(6) DUBLIN 2019 ADDRESSES AIRBNB CONCERN. James Bacon, Dublin 2019 chair, explains the issues with “Short Term Rentals (AirBnB) in Ireland” and shares the available information.

We’ve noted that some of our members have reported issues with AirBnB cancellations. We are sorry that is happening. Many of our own team are booked into AirBnB and it is an affordable option in most cases.

Unfortunately, on the 1st of June this year new legislation is supposed to come into effect that will severely limit the ability for Dublin houses and apartments to be rented out for short-term lets if they were not specifically built for the short-term market (i.e. the Key Collection and StayCity apartments that are part of the convention block are permitted).

The exception to this will probably be if the house/apartment is a person’s primary residence and then only if either let out for a maximum of 90 days per annum, and for a 14-day maximum period, or if the entire property is not rented out (i.e homeshare accommodation).

As of yet we do not know the full legislation, as it is still with the Dáil (the Irish legislature) so we cannot even be sure if the new legislation will grandfather in existing bookings.

More details at the link.

(7) AVENGERS ATTENTION DEFICIT. Daniel Dern says, “This isn’t a spoiler if you’ve seen the Avengers: Endgame. It makes more sense if you have seen the recent Captain Marvel movie, all the way to the very end (final ‘Easter egg.’)”

Dern continues

I was (re)watching The Avengers: Infinity War movie over the weekend, and the last few seconds of the final E. Egg had Nick Fury reach for something from a pocket, and dropped it as he went all Thanos-finger-crumbling-black-dusties. The camera view pans down, showing [ROT-13][ n oyvaxvat qbbuvpxrl jvgu gur Pncgnva Zneiry ybtb ba vg.”

A picture of what Dern saw is here.

Like I said, not a spoiler if you’re up-to-date in trailer and prior movie watching. But wouldn’t have been as noticeable a point, when Avengers: Infinity War first came out, other than ‘if that’s the last few seconds of the movie, it probably is significant.’

(8) FRID OBIT. Dark Shadows’s actor Jonathan Frid died April 13, 2012. (Never mind….) The Los Angeles Times reported at the time

Jonathan Frid, whose portrayal of charismatic vampire Barnabas Collins in the supernatural soap opera “Dark Shadows” turned the classically trained actor into a pop-culture star in the late 1960s, has died. He was 87.

… The campy daytime soap was a year old and struggling in the ratings in 1967 when series creator Dan Curtis took his daughter’s advice to “make it scarier.” He introduced Barnabas Collins, and the ratings took off.

Curtis intended Barnabas to be a short-term villain but soon realized that the Shakespearean actor “brought a very gothic, romantic quality” to the role, Curtis later said. Frid remained on the ABC show until it left the air in 1971.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 15, 1906 Erroll Collins. British writer whose early Forties Mariners of Space is reminiscent of early Heinlein in its plot and solar system wide setting.  Serialised in Boy’s Own Paper, it would come out later in hardback. Other genre novels include Submarine CityThe Black Dwarf of MongoliaPirates in Space and A Spot on the Sun. (Died 1991.)
  • Born April 15, 1908 Howard Browne. I’m going to call him a pulp writer for lack of a better term.  Some of his work appeared over the pseudonyms John Evans, Alexander Blade, Lawrence Chandler, Ivar Jorgensen, and Lee Francis which makes it difficult to say just what he wrote. I’m reasonably sure that under various names that these are his genre novels:  Return to LiliputForgotten Worlds and The Return of Tharn. He also was a prolific scriptwriter, mostly westerns and cop shows, but he did several Mission Impossible scripts. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 15, 1926 Homer Nearing. He is best known for his Professor Cleanth Penn Ransom series published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the early Fifties. One story, “The Neurotic Rose”, ran in the April 1956 issue of Fantastic Universe. Some of the stories formed a fix-up novel called The Sinister Researches of C.P. Ransom. (Died 2004.)
  • Born April 15, 1940 Robert Walker, 79. Ahhh, the Charlie Evan character in the first season “Charlie X” Star Trek episode in which yet another child gets to be a badly behaving godling. I really don’t know what I think of this episode but do know the actor was rather good in his ability to wring sense out of Fontana’s script. Walker didn’t do much else for genre work, showing up on The Time Tunnel as Billy the Kid,  Bobby Hartford in Beware! The Blob, the sequel to The Blob, and in The Devonsville Terror as Matthew Pendleton.
  • Born April 15, 1947 Deborah J. Ross, 72. A friend of Marion Zimmer Bradley, she’d edited and contributed a story to the first of Sword and Sorceress series which lasted thirty volumes. Much of her fiction is set in the Darkover universe with an original series,The Seven-Petaled Shield, underway as well. She’s also edited two Lace and Blade anthologies which have such contributors as Tanith Lee and Diana Paxton.
  • Born April 15, 1952 Glenn Shadix. He shows up in two of my favorite genre films, Beetlejuice and Demolition Man. His other genre films were SleepwalkersMultiplicity and Planet of the Apes. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 15, 1959 Emma Thompson, 60. Professor Sybill Trelawney, Harry Potter franchise. Men in Black 3 and Men in Black: International as Agent O, The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle as Polynesia, Beauty and the Beast as Mrs. Potts and Treasure Planet voicing Captain Amelia. 
  • Born April 15, 1974 Jim C. Hines, 45. [Entry by Paul Weimer.] Writer, and blogger. Jim C. Hines’ first published novel was Goblin Quest, the tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Jim went on to write the Princess series, four books often described as a blend of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Charlie’s Angels. He’s also the author of the Magic ex Libris books, my personal favorite, which follow the adventures of a magic-wielding librarian from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, who happens to have the same pet fire-spider lifted from the Goblin novels as his best friend. He’s currently writing his first foray into science fiction novels, the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series. Jim’s novels usually have the fun and humor dials set on medium to high. Jim is also an active blogger on a variety of topics and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012.
  • Born April 15, 1990 Emma Watson, 29. Hermione Grangerin the Harry Potter film franchise. Belle in the live-action Beauty and the Beast. And the voice of Prince Pea in The Tale of Despereaux. 
  • Born April 15, 1997 Maisie Williams, 22. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She is Ashildr, a Viking woman of unique skills, the principal character of a story line, during the time of Twelfth Doctor. She is set to star as Wolfsbane in the forthcoming Marvel film New Mutants.

(10) TODAY’S CLICKBAIT. Food & Wine sounds deeply concerned that the answer was almost never Peeps: “The Most Popular Easter Candy in Every State, According to RetailMeNot”.

If you’re also on team Peeps, know that the candy company has released several new flavors this year, including Pancakes & Syrup and Root Beer Float, which you can learn more about here. As for the rest of America’s candy preferences, check out the full state-by-state breakdown below:

(11) PICARESQUE PUSSYCAT. While Camestros Felapton is in the Himalayas, Timothy the Talking Cat is favoring us with his autobiography: “Beyond the Bounds of Genius: Chapter 1”.

…This was a dark time for England. Specifically it was around 10 pm in November. I needed more light so I filled the bath full of kerosene and set light to it. And for the simple crime of wanting enough light to read by I was thrown upon the mercy of England’s archaic criminal justice system…

(12) AI MEDIC. NPR considers the question: “How Can We Be Sure Artificial Intelligence Is Safe For Medical Use?”

When Merdis Wells visited the diabetes clinic at the University Medical Center in New Orleans about a year ago, a nurse practitioner checked her eyes to look for signs of diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of blindness.

At her next visit, in February of this year, artificial intelligence software made the call.

The clinic had just installed a system that’s designed to identify patients who need follow-up attention.

The Food and Drug Administration cleared the system — called IDx-DR — for use in 2018. The agency said it was the first time it had authorized the marketing of a device that makes a screening decision without a clinician having to get involved in the interpretation.

It’s a harbinger of things to come. Companies are rapidly developing software to supplement or even replace doctors for certain tasks. And the FDA, accustomed to approving drugs and clearing medical devices, is now figuring out how to make sure computer algorithms are safe and effective.

(13) BIG BROTHER REALLY IS. “How does it feel to be watched at work all the time?” BBC reports on the consequences.

Is workplace surveillance about improving productivity or simply a way to control staff and weed out poor performers?

Courtney Hagen Ford, 34, left her job working as a bank teller because she found the surveillance she was under was “dehumanising”.

Her employer logged her keystrokes and used software to monitor how many of the customers she helped went on to take out loans and fee-paying accounts.

“The sales pressure was relentless,” she recalls. “The totality was horrible.”

She decided selling fast food would be better, but ironically, left the bank to do a doctorate in surveillance technology.

Courtney is not alone in her dislike of this kind of surveillance, but it’s on the rise around the world as firms look to squeeze more productivity from their workers and become more efficient.

(14) JEDI GAME. There’s a new trailer out for the video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Cal Kestis—one of the last surviving members of the Jedi Order after the purge of Order 66—is now a Padawan on the run. Experience this all-new single-player Star Wars™ story from Respawn Entertainment and EA Star Wars on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC this holiday season, 15 November 2019.

(15) REY PARADE. Holy cats – there’s no end of them! Is this some kind of Escher thing? No, it’s the Rey Meetup at last week’s Star Wars Celebration in Chicago.

(16) BOXING DAY. I love work. I could watch other people do it for hours. (Or robots.) “Handle Robot Reimagined for Logistics” is a new video from Boston Dynamics in which a bird-like robot picks up and stacks boxes.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/14/18 Good King Pixelslas Looked Out On The File Of Seven

(1) WRITING SPACE. In “Why I Write in Cafes”, Rachel Swirsky unpacks all of her reasons.

I’ve been writing a lot in cafes recently. Well, mostly one cafe, but I’ve dallied with others…

I always accomplish something, or prove I can’t.

Because I’m at the cafe with someone else, and we are there with a purpose, I always spend at least some time trying to write. Some days, nothing comes. More often, even if I feel creatively dry, I can scrape up something, whether it’s a bit of editing, a paragraph or two, or the beginning of a story (which I may never finish). On my own I can get depressed over those days when the writing doesn’twork, and it makes me avoidant for a while afterward. With a writing partner, there’s a set time to try again.

(2) BRING PLENTY OF NAPKINS. Scott Edelman will be at the microphone while you slurp down Thai Beef Noodle Soup with Stephen Kozeniewski in Episode 84 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This time around you’ll sit in on my meal at Noodle Charm with horror writer Stephen Kozeniewski.

At least I think we ate at Noodle Charm. I’m not really sure. (Give a listen to the episode to find out the reason for my uncertainty.)

Kozeniewski is the author of such gonzo novels as Braineater Jones, Billy and the Cloneasaurus, and The Ghoul Archipelago. He’s also been part of the writers room for Silverwood: The Door, a 10-episode prose follow-up to Tony Valenzuela’s Black Box TV series Silverwood, which was released in weekly installments in both prose and audiobook formats.

We discussed how it took nearly 500 submissions before his first novel was finally accepted, why he has no interest in writing sequels, his advice for winning a Turkey Award for the worst possible opening to the worst possible science fiction or fantasy novel, why his output is split between horror and science fiction (but not mysteries), the reason Brian Keene was who he wanted to be when he grew up, why almost any story would be more interesting with zombies, when you should follow and when you should break the accepted rules of writing, where he falls on the fast vs. slow zombies debate, and much more.

(3) BROKE-DOWN ENGINE. NPR’s Mark Jenkins is frank: “‘Mortal Engines’ Internally Combusts”.

…That’s just a cursory account of Mortal Engines, which would have benefited from losing a few supporting characters, several flashbacks and at least one subplot. Yet the movie’s major weakness is not story, but characterization.

The only actor who holds the screen is Weaving, and even he suffers from a cardboard role and plywood dialogue. Hilmar, Natsworthy and Jihae are all as bland as their parts, lacking charm, swagger and humor. The disastrous absence of the last quality can partly be blamed on the script, which hazards a joke about every 45 minutes.

(4) CAUGHT UP INTHE WEB. Meanwhile, Chris Klimek writes at NPR that “‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ Is A Fun, Warm-Hearted Treat”.

It’s hard to fathom that the same Sony Pictures that, in 2012, decided the best way to expand the appeal of its live-action Spider-Man franchise was to start over with lesser movies, has now become smart enough to put its resources into a superb new — really new — Spider-Man cartoon. Maybe someone in a Culver City boardroom got bit by a radioactive MacArthur Fellow.

Whatever the reason, for a powerful corporation to relax its grip on an ancient specimen of blue-chip IP enough to let the creatives have some fun is a rare thing, and one that should not go unheralded. Marvel Comics weathered the ire of reactionary fandom back in 2011 when it introduced Miles Morales, a Spider-Man no less Amazing than that nerdy orphan Peter Parker, but for the fact he was the son of a Puerto Rican ER nurse and an African-American beat cop. Miles became the Spider-Man of the publisher’s “Ultimate” line, a spiral arm of the Marvel Universe that…

…you know what? Don’t worry about it. To cite the refrain of this graphically dazzling, generously imaginative, nakedly optimistic, mercilessly funny and inclusive-without-being-all-pious-about-it animated oydssey called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, “Anyone can wear the mask.”

(5) STELLAR POPPINS.The BBC’s Nicholas Barber finds many defects compared to the original, but gives 4 stars to Mary Poppins Returns.

Sensibly, Blunt doesn’t impersonate Andrews. Less sensibly, she impersonates Maggie Smith: her haughty, upper-crust Mary would be right at home in Downtown Abbey. But otherwise, Mary Poppins Returns is so similar to its predecessor as to be almost identical. There are no revelations, no unexpected locations, no hints at what Mary gets up to when she isn’t looking after the Banks children – although we’ll probably get a prequel set in nanny-training college in a few years’ time. The only significant difference is that the story has been moved on from 1910 to the 1930s, so it’s Mary Poppins: The Next Generation.

(6) BORDER TOWN DROPPED. “DC Cancels Hit Comic Book Series ‘Border Town’ After Abuse Claims”says The Hollywood Reporter.

The publisher is immediately ending the critically acclaimed series, amid accusations of sexual abuse by writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel.

DC Entertainmentimprint DC Vertigo has canceled comic book series Border Town effective immediately, with all orders for the unreleased issues 5 and 6 being canceled, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. Those issues will not be published, and all issues already released are also being made returnable, according to the publisher.

The publisher has not commented on the reasons for the title’s cancellation, but it coincides with the release of a statement by toy designer Cynthia Naugle in which she wrote about being “sexually, mentally, and emotionally abused” by an unnamed figure later identified on social media — and seemingly confirmed by Naugle via retweets — as Border Town writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel.

Since Naugle’s statement went live, both Border Town artist Ramon Villalobos and color artist Tamra Bonvillain released statements via Twitter on the subject, distancing themselves from the project.

(7) HUGO VOTING STRATEGY TRUE OR FALSE. Karl-Johan Norén warns, “The meme that one should not ‘dilute’ ones Hugo nomination power under EPH is going around again, and I wrote a quick refutation.”

…As a voter and nominator for the Hugos, it is in your best interest to nominate as many works as you find worthy as you can.

I will illustrate it using two cases. The first is that if every single nominator in a Hugo category nominates only a single work, EPH will default back to a simple first past the post selection with six finalists — exactly the system that we had before EPH, but with much less input! …

(8) THE POINTY THRONE. This cover for the March issue of Amazing Spider-Man resonates with a certain TV show you may have seen….

(9) BLACK SCI-FI DOCUMENTARY. Three excerpts from Terrence Francis’ 1992 documentary Black Sci-Fi, originally broadcast on BBC2 as part of the Birthrights series.

The documentary focuses on Black science fiction in literature, film and television and features interviews with Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Mike Sargent, Steven Barnes and Nichelle Nichols.

In this extract, Octavia Butler discusses how her interest in science fiction developed and the genre’s potential for exploring new ideas and ways of being.

In this section Samuel R. Delany, Mike Sargent and Steven Barnes discuss the stereotypical portrayal of black characters in science fiction literature and cinema, including the predictable fate of Paul Winfield in films like Damnation Alley, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Terminator.

In this section, Nichelle Nichols discusses the significance of her character, Uhura, in Star Trek; Steven Barnes and Mike Sargent consider how attitudes towards race and skin colour might develop in the (far) future.

(10) VAULT OF THE BEAST. Robert Weinberg interviewed A.E. Van Vogt in 1980 – now posted at Sevagram.

Weinberg: How did you first get interested in science fiction, and in particular, how did you come to write a science fiction story?

Van Vogt: I first read science fiction in the old British Chum annual when I was about 12 years old. Chum was a British boy’s weekly which, at the end of the year was bound into a single huge book; and the following Christmas parents bought it as Christmas presents for male children. The science fiction in these stories was simple. Somebody built a spaceship in his tool shop (in his backyard) and when he left earth he took along all the neighborhood twelve-year-olds without the parents seeming to object.

Later, at age 14, I saw the November 1926 Amazing and promptly purchased it, read it avidly until Hugo Gernsbach lost control and it got awful under the next editor, T. O’Connor Sloane. So I had my background when I picked up the July, 1938 issue of Astounding and read “Who Goes There?” It was one of the great SF stories; and it stimulated me to send Campbell, the editor, a one paragraph outline of what later became “Vault of the Beast. “If he hadn’t answered, that would probably have been the end of my SF career. But I learned later he answered all query letters either favorably or with helpful advice. The helpful advice he gave me was to suggest that I write with a lot of atmosphere. To me that meant a lot of imagery, and verbs other than “to be” or “to have.”

(11) ANDERSON OBIT. Author Paul Dale Anderson (1944-2018) has died, the president of the Horror Writers Association Is reporting. Biographical details from hiswebsite —

Paul Dale Anderson has written more than 27 novels and hundreds of short stories, mostly in the horror, fantasy, science fiction, and suspense-thriller genres. Paul has also written contemporary romances, mysteries, and westerns. Paul is an Active Member of SFWA and HWA, and he was elected a Vice President and Trustee of Horror Writers Association in 1987.  Paul is also a member of International Thriller Writers, the Authors Guild, and MWA.

His wife, Gretta, predeceased him in 2012.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 14, 1984 – John Carpenter’s Starman premiered on this day.
  • December 14, 1984 – For better or worse – Dune debuted in theaters.
  • December 14, 2007 – Will Smith’s I Am Legend opened.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 14, 1916 Shirley Jackson. First gained public attention for her short story “The Lottery, or, The Adventures of James Harris” but it was her The Haunting of Hill House novel which has been made her legendary as a horror novelist as it’s truly a chilling ghost story.  I see that’s she wrote quite a bit of genre short fiction —has anyone here read it? (Died 1965.)
  • Born December 14, 1920 Rosemary Sutcliff. English novelist whose best known for children’s books particularly her historical fiction which  involved retellings of myths and legends, Arthurian and otherwise. Digging into my memory, I remember reading The Chronicles of Robin Hood which was her first published novel and rather good; The Eagle of the Ninth is set in Roman Britain and was an equally fine read. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 14, 1949 David A. Cherry, 69. Illustrator working mostly in the genre. Amazingly he has been nominated eleven times for Hugo Awards, and eighteen times for Chesley Awards with an astonishing eight wins! He is a past president of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists.
  • Oh and he’s is the brother of the science fiction writer C. J. Cherryh (“Cherry” is the original spelling of the last name of the family) so you won’t be surprised that he’s painted cover art for some of her books as well as books for Robert Asprin, Andre Norton, Diane Duane, Lynn Abbey and Piers Anthony to name but a few of his contracts.
  • Born December 14, 1966Sarah Zettel, 52. Her first novel, Reclamation, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award in 1996, and in 1997 tied for the Locus Award for the Best First Novel. Writing under the alias of C. L. Anderson, her novel Bitter Angels won the 2010 Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original novel. If you’ve not read her, I’d recommend her YA American Fairy Trilogy as a good place to start. 
  • Born December 14, 1968 Kelley Armstrong, 50. Canadian writer, primarily of fantasy novels since the early party of the century. She has published thirty-one fantasy novels to date, thirteen in her Women of the Otherworld series, another five in her Cainsville series. I’m wracking my brain to think what I’ve read of hers as I know I’ve read something. Ahhhh I’m reasonably sure I listened to the Cainsville series and would recommend it wholeheartedly.

(14) SAVE THE PICKLE! Has your deli warned of a shortage? Chip Hitchcock says, “Famous fan stop Rein’s, near Hartford, had a problem a few years ago.” From NPR : “Scientists Are Fighting For The Stricken Pickle Against This Tricky Disease”.

With failed harvests, fewer growers are taking a chance on cucumbers. According to USDA records, pickling cucumber acreage declined nearly 25 percent between 2004 and 2015. Globally, downy mildew threatens fields as far flung as India, Israel, Mexico and China.

“This is the number one threat to the pickle industry,” says vegetable pathologist Lina Quesada-Ocampo of North Carolina State University. The growers, she says, lose money on failed crops and pricey fungicides. “It is a really bad double whammy.”

Fortunately for pickle lovers, vegetable breeder Michael Mazourek of Cornell University is close to releasing varieties that resist downy mildew. “It’s been one of our proudest David and Goliath stories,” he says. But his success hinges on funding at a time when public support of agricultural research is declining.

(15) HEVELIN PHOTOS SOUGHT. Bruce Hevelin is looking for photos of his father, James “Rusty” Hevelin. If you have any scanned in or in digital form, please send them to him at: <bruce911@sonic.net>

(16) WOODEN FRIED CHICKEN. Forget about making this one of your last-minute gift purchases – The Takeout says “KFC fried chicken-scented firelog sold out in hours ¯\_(?)_/’”:

Update, December 14: Oh, you actually were interested in that chicken-scented log, eh? Sorry for those who didn’t snatch theirs up early, as the logs reportedly sold out within hours yesterday.

Original story, December 13:

“Back in my day,” your grandpa begins wheezily, “If we wanted fried chicken-smellin’ fires, we had to throw the chicken on the flames ourselves.”

He’s right, friends, but that hardship ends today, as KFC introduces a firelog that smells like the Colonel’s 11-herbs-and-spices fried chicken, made in partnership with Enviro-Log.

(17) NOT SOLD OUT.This is still available. No wonder! It will cost a heck of a lot more than a log! The Houdini Seance at LA’s Magic Castle.

The séance is held for a private group of ten to twelve guests in our historic Houdini Séance Chamber. Decorated in the High Victorian style, it is now the home of many priceless pieces of Houdini memorabilia, including the only set of cuffs Houdini was unable to open.

…You will experience remarkable things you might not fully understand. Don’t feel alone. It’s that way for all of us.

Your party begins its experience with a four-course gourmet meal at 6:30 p.m. with bottomless red and white house wine during the dining portion of your evening — all created by your own private chef and served by your own private butler.

A medium will then join you who will open the veil between this world and the next. Your medium will begin with fascinating experiments in the power of the unseen and then, forming a magic circle, will summon the spirits and allow them to demonstrate their awesome ability to manifest in our physical world.

(18) THE SECRET IS NOT TO BANG THE ROCKS TOGETHER. BBC asks “What chance has Nasa of finding life on Mars?”

It could be easier to detect the signs of ancient life on Mars than it is on Earth, say scientists connected with Nasa’s next rover mission.

The six-wheeled robot is due to touch down on the Red Planet in 2021 with the specific aim of trying to identify evidence of past biology.

It will be searching for clues in rocks that are perhaps 3.9 billion years old.

Confirming life on Earth at that age is tough enough, but Mars may have better preservation, say the researchers.

It comes down to the dynamic processes on our home world that constantly churn and recycle rocks – processes that can erase life’s traces but which shut down on the Red Planet early in its history.

“We don’t believe, for example, that Mars had plate tectonics in the way Earth has had for most of its history,” said Ken Williford from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

“Most of Earth’s rock record has been destroyed by subduction under the ocean crust. But even the rock left at the surface is heated and squeezed in ways it might not have been on Mars.”

(19) BEFORE THE STORY WAS TRAPPED IN AMBER. BBC tells about “The Jurassic Park film that was never made”.

The structure is so ancient that it feels almost prehistoric. Some people take a trip to a remote island, they see some dinosaurs, and then the dinosaurs try to have them for lunch. It’s what happened in Jurassic Park in 1993, and by the time the first sequel came out in 1997, the screenplay was already poking fun at how formulaic it was. “‘Ooh, aah’, that’s how it always starts,” says Jeff Goldblum’s Dr Ian Malcolm in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. “Then later there’s running and screaming.” How right he was. But this self-knowledge didn’t stop the makers of Jurassic Park III (2001) and Jurassic World (2015) sticking to the formula, and it wasn’t until the second half of this year’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that the series found somewhere else to go.

How different things might have been. Back in 2004, John Sayles (the writer-director of Passion Fish and Lone Star) wrote a half-crazy half-brilliant screenplay for Jurassic Park 4 that took the story all over the planet, and which pioneered several radical ideas that are only just being incorporated into the franchise now. Steven Spielberg, the series’ producer and its original director was keen at first, and it’s easy to see why: Sayles’ rollicking script is sprinkled with quintessentially Spielberg-y moments. On the other hand, it’s also easy to see why Spielberg cooled off on the project. A movie about a globe-trotting A-Team of genetically modified, crime-busting Deinonychuses might have strayed just a little too far from the Jurassic Park films that audiences knew and loved.

(20) TITANS. The season-ending episode:

Titans 1×11 “Dick Grayson” Season 1 Episode 11 Promo (Season Finale) – Robin faces off against Batman when Dick takes a dark journey back to Gotham in the first season finale of Titans.

(21) YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD BAGGAGE PROBLEMS. “Southwest Airlines flight turns back after human heart discovery” – BBC has the story.

A US passenger plane travelling from Seattle to Dallas was forced to turn back hours into its flight because a human heart had been left on board.

Southwest Airlines says the organ was flown to Seattle from California, where it was to be processed at a hospital to have a valve recovered for future use.

But it was never unloaded and its absence was not noticed until the plane was almost half-way to Dallas.

The heart itself had not been intended for a specific patient.

(22) WHERE TO FIND YOUR DOOM, AND WHAT TO DRINK ON THE WAY. Another thing for Worldcon travelers to check out: “In Ireland, a taste of the underworld”

Oweynagat cave is a placeof both birth and death. An unimposing gash in the ancient misty hills of north-western Ireland, it is said to be the entrance to the underworld where fairies and demons lure mortals to their doom, and the sacred birthplace of a warrior queen. For thousands of years, the Irish have regarded Oweynagat as a site of awe-inspiring magic, weaving a rich tapestry of mythology around it.

…For millennia, Queen Medb has remained the most intoxicating thing to come out of the cave. However, just this year that changed with the creation of a beer made from wild yeast cultivated from the walls of Oweynagat. Called Underworld Savage Ale for the mythic place that it was conceived, this beer is the first of its kind, with a backstory strange enough to fit within the cave’s fantastic mythology

(23) FROM THE HISTORIC RECORDS. Rachel Swirsky discovered a reference to File 770 in a 1981 copy of Fandom Directory.  The zine was only three years old at the time.

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mother of All Demos Hosted by Douglas Englebart” on YouTube is a video (recorded by Stewart Brand) of the December 1968 demonstration where Douglas Englebart introduced the world to videoconferencing, hypertext, and the computer mouse.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Rachel Swirsky, and Andrew Porter for some oft hese stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John Winkleman.]

Pixel Scroll 12/8/18 Science Fiction Is What I Yell “ZAP!” For When I Throw At People

(1) WHITTAKER SHALL RETURN.The Hollywood Reporter quashes rumors to the contrary: “Jodie Whittaker Confirms Return for ‘Doctor Who’ Season 12”. Shame on rumor-spreading clickbait sites that got fans all stirred up about this, like, uh — let’s go right to the story, shall we?

The first female Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker, will be returning for another season. 

While it was largely presumed that Whittaker wouldn’t be handing over her sonic screwdriver anytime soon, the typically tight-tipped BBC hadn’t yet confirmed who would be playing Doctor Who for season 12 of the cult sci-fi series, and there was always the chance that she could go the way of Christopher Eccleston, who managed just one stint as the Time Lord. 

“I really can’t wait to step back in and get to work again,” Whittaker told The Hollywood Reporter.”It’s such an incredible role. It’s been an extraordinary journey so far and I’m not quite ready to hand it over yet.”

(2) NEW SFF ZINE DEBUTES NEXT WEEKEND. Future Science Fiction Digest, a new quarterly publication with a strong focus on translation and international fiction, will be available December 15, with the stories to be posted on the web over the next several months

It is a collaboration between Future Affairs Administration (a media and technology brand in China) and UFO Publishing (a small press from Brooklyn, NY) and is edited by Alex Shvartsman.

Our first issue features fiction from the United States, China, Nigeria, Italy, and the Ukraine, as well as several articles, totaling 65,000 words. It will be published on December 15, with stories posted on the web over the course of several months. The next issue will be published on March 15.

(3) TODAY’S BRADBURY REFERENCE. Dennis Howard got permission to share this image with File 770 readers:

My ex emailed me this photo she took at Walmart and asked if I remembered Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Jar”. Of course, I remembered that creepy episode based on a Ray Bradbury story. I wonder if the manufacturer of this thing remembers.

(4) KGB. The hosts of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, present Maria Dahvana Headley & Nicole Kornher-Stace on December 19.

Maria Dahvana Headley

Maria Dahvana Headley is a New York Times-bestselling author of seven books, most recently The Mere Wife,a contemporary retelling of Beowulf for the McD imprint at Farrar, Straus& Giroux, which will be followed in 2019 by a new translation of Beowulf, for the same publisher. She’s also the author of the young adult novels Magonia and Aerie. With Neil Gaiman, she edited Unnatural Creatures, and with Kat Howard, she wrote The End of the Sentence. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson Awards, and included in many Year’s Bests, including Best American Fantasy & Science Fiction, in which, this year, she has two stories. @MariaDahvana on Twitter, or www.mariadahvanaheadley.com

Nicole Kornher-Stace

Nicole Kornher-Stace is the author of Desideria, The Winter Triptych, the Norton Award finalist Archivist Wasp, and its sequel, LatchkeyHer short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Apex, and Fantasy, as well as many anthologiesShe lives in New Paltz, NY with her family. She can be found online at www.nicolekornherstace.com, on Facebook, or onTwitter @wirewalking.

Things begin Wednesday, December 19, 2018, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York, NY.

(5) PRATCHETT REFERENCE. Quoting an article by Simon Ings in the December 1 Financial Times about artists who have residencies at the CERN particle physics laboratory —

In The Science of Discworld 4: Judgment Day, mathematician Ian Stewart and reproductive biologist Jack Cohen have fun at the expense of the particle physics community.  Imagine, they say, a group of blind sages at a hotel, poking at a foyer piano.  After some hours, they arrive at an elegant theory about what a piano is–one that involves sound, frequency, harmony, and the material properties of piano strings.

Then one of their number, still not satisfied, suggests that they carry the piano upstairs and drop it from the roof. This they do–and spend the rest of the day dreaming up and knocking over countless ugly hypotheses  involving hypothetical ‘trangons’ and ‘thudons’ and, oh I don’t know, ‘crash bosons.’

(6) BUTLER. Samuel Delany encourages sff readers to get familiar with this Octavia Butler story and a parallel case of injustice.

Three years before she died, Octavia E. Butler wrote her last two science fiction stories: One of them, “Amnesty,” was published in 2003. Though it received no awards, it is arguably the most important SF story written in this the last quarter of a century. It is the penultimate story in the revised and expanded edition of this book (2005). You should have read it but if, for some reason, you haven’t; then you should learn who the models for the alien “Communities” were and the story’s general political inspiration. It is one of the last two story in the second edition of this book.
Wikipedia is a good start. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wen_Ho_Lee> After you familiarize yourself with this frightening case of injustice, probably you should read the story again.

(7) IMAGINING TECH. Brian Merchant covers the sci-fi/industrial complex for Medium: “Nike and Boeing Are Paying Sci-Fi Writers to Predict Their Futures”.

One of the most influential product prototypes of the 21st century wasn’t dreamed up in Cupertino or Mountain View. Its development began around a half-century ago, in the pages of a monthly pulp fiction mag.

In 1956, Philip K. Dick published a short story that follows the tribulations of a police chief in a future marked by predictive computers, humans wired to machines, and screen-based video communications. Dick’s work inspired a generation of scientists and engineers to think deeply about that kind of future. To adapt that same story into a $100 million Hollywood film 50 years later, Steven Spielberg sent his production designer, Alex McDowell, to MIT. There, a pioneering researcher?—?and lifelong Dickfan?—?named John Underkoffler was experimenting with ways to let people manipulate data with gloved hands. In 2002, a version of his prototype was featured in the film, where it quickly became one of the most important fictional user interfaces since the heyday of Star Trek. Bas Ording, one of the chief UI designers of the original iPhone, told me his work was inspired directly by the gesture-based system showcased in Minority Report.

For the past century, this messy, looping process?—?in which science fiction writers imagine the fabric of various futures, then the generation reared on those visions sets about bringing them into being?—?has yielded some of our most enduring technologies and products. The late sci-fi author Thomas Disch called it “creative visualization” and noted there was no more persuasive example of its power “than the way the rocket-ship daydreams of the early twentieth century evolved into NASA’s hardware.” Submarines, cellphones, and e-readers all evolved along these lines.

Minority Report produced a hundred patents and helped rapidly mainstream the concept of gesture-based computing?—?not just the iPhone but all touchscreen tablets, the Kinect, the Wii?—?and became cultural shorthand for anyone looking to point their ventures toward the future.

(8) SEIDEL OBIT. Myla Seidel, who more fans would have known as Anne Cox, died December 7 reports her son Kevin. Ed and Anne Cox were among the first fans I met in person in the Seventies. They later divorced. Ed died in 1997, and the last time I saw Anne was at a memorial gathering for him.

Ed Cox and Anne Cox (Myla Seidel).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 8, 1954 Atomic Kid, starring Mickey Rooney, was released on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Director of A Trip To The Moon which I know was one of Kage Baker’s most-liked films. It surely must be one of the earliest genre films and also one of the most visually iconic with the rocket ship stuck in the face of the moon. He did some other other genre shorts such as Baron Munchausen’s Dream and The Legend of Rip Van Winkle. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1894 E.C.Segar. Creator of Popeye who of course is genre.Who could not watch Altman’s film and not know that? Segar created the character who first appeared in 1929 in Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre. Fantagraphics has published a six-volume book set reprinting all Thimble Theatre daily and Sunday strips from 1928–38. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker,68. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London. So what else is he know for? Oh I’m not listing everything but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The Exorcist, Star Wars, The Howling which I love, Starman for the Starman transformation, Beast design on the Beauty and the Beast series and Hellboy. 
  • Born December 8, 1951Brian Attebery, 67. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and his Parabolas of Science Fiction recently published with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. 
  • Born December 8, 1965David Harewood, 53. First genre appearance is the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North (Billie Piper plays the lead). He played Tuck in the BBC’s Robin Hood series and showed up as Joshua Naismith in Doctor Who’s ‘The End of Time ‘ episode. Currently he plays two separate characters on Supergirl, J’onnJ’onzz/Martian Manhunter / Hank Henshaw and Cyborg Superman. 
  • Born December 8, 1976 Dominic Monaghan, 42. He  played Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck in Peter Jackson’s version of the Lord of the Rings.He’s also the narrator of Ringers: Lord of the Fans, a look at the early days of the Tolkien fandom when it was part of the hippie culture. He has a role as Maverick in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and will be appearing in the forthcoming Star Wars: Episode IX.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe questions the constant recycling of familiar movie franchises. Sort of.
  • Incidental Comics has a book lover’s holiday wish list.

(12) KEY INGREDIENTS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Have you ever felt the need to spend $250 on a set of replacement keycaps for your computer keyboard? If so, Novel Keys has you covered with this set captioned in Aurebesh characters. SYFY Wire has the full story (“Star Wars keyboard senses a great disturbance in your command of Aurebesh”). The keycaps are expected to ship“late April 2019” for preorders through 5 January. Two models are available,with only Aurebesh or with English legends added.

Alright, C-3PO, it’s time to break out those awesome translating skills you’re always humblebragging about — and while you’re at it, break out your wallet, too. Star Wars has just licensed its first-ever official computer keyboard replacement set, coded in Aurebesh, the written version of the official language spoken throughout the Galactic Empire.

This new key replacement set is color-themed to appeal more to the Death Star crowd than to supporters of the gauzy-hued Rebellion. That means don’t even bother looking for X-Wing symbols and Yoda silhouettes here; rather, the Galactic Empire DSA Set sports the cool iconography of the galactic alphabet, plus some killer stand-in Dark Side symbols (like TIE Fighters, AT-ATs, and Darth Vader helmets) for commonly used commands. A red lightsaber in place of an enter/return key? Swish, swish.

(13) THOSE WERE THE DAYS. An article in the December 1 Financial Times by David McWilliams about the possibility that Brexit would lead to the unification of Northern Ireland with Ireland includes this ST:TNGreference:

In 2990 an episode in the third series of Star Trek:  The Next Generation was deemed so incendiary that it was censored in Britain and Ireland.  In that Episode, “The High Ground,’the Starship Enterprise’s android officer data, musing on terrorism, noted from the vantage point of the year 2364 that Ireland had been unified in 2024. The episode was pulled for fear it might encourage more political violence; 1990 was the year the IRA bombed the London Stock Exchange, assassinated Conservative political Ian Gow and when 81 people on both sides of the conflict were murdered in Northern Ireland.

(14) EVEN OLDER DAYS. At theinferor4, Paul Di Filippo shared an antique poem he rediscovered: “Lament for 1999 from the Year 1911”.

…Think of the thrill to him who first took flight,

When all the vast familiar continent

Of air was unexplored….

(15) PLASTIC RAPS. A character who debuted in 1941 might be getting his own movie. The Hollywood Reporter thinks “‘Plastic Man’ Could Be DC’s Answer to ‘Deadpool'”.

And not just because both characters are dressed in red, have criminal backgrounds and smart mouths that don’t know when to shut up. That Warner Bros. is developing a Plastic Man movie perhaps shouldn’t come as quite the surprise that it does; after all, not only did the DC superhero headline his own ABC animated series for a couple of years, but he’s also the perfect choice to give Warners something that it never even knew it needed: A comedic foil to the rest of the DC cinematic universe.

This wouldn’t be a new role for Plas, as the character’s often called for short. Unusually for a superhero — and especially one whose origin involves having been a criminal who was left for dead by his gang after being exposed to some mysterious chemicals— Plastic Man has traditionally been a comedy character throughout his 75-plus year career. Indeed, his 1970s animated series underscored this appeal by being called The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show. (The series ran from 1979 through 1981; he’s also appeared in other DC animated shows, including Batman:The Brave and the Bold and Justice League Action.)

(16) HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL HAGGIS. NPR interviews the star of “‘Anna And The Apocalypse’: The Scottish Zombie Christmas High School Musical”.

Anna and the Apocalypse is a [checks notes] Scottish zombie Christmas high school musical.

It drew raves in Great Britain, and has now been released in the United States. It’s based on a short film by the writer-director Ryan McHenry, who died of bone cancer at age 27, and did not get to complete this feature-length production.

Anna and the Apocalypse is directed by John McPhail. Ella Hunt (who is English) stars as the young Scottish teen who’s about to graduate from school, but first has to contend with the zombie takeover of her village and perhaps the world — with a little help from her friends.

“I love that this film glorifies teenage friendship and not teenage romance,” Hunt says in an interview. “To me, it’s a much truer thing to glorify.”

(17) BONDING. In the Weekly Standard, Tony Mecia visits the James Bond museum in Murren, Switzerland, which was built to be Blofeld’s lair in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and which gives visitors the chance to pick up a red phone to hear instructions from M and “graft a photo of your face onto (George) Lazenby’s face as he aims a pistol.” —“High-Altitude Hideout”

In real life, the filming location called Piz Gloria was not destroyed. For decades, it was merely an observation point and restaurant. In 2013, its owners decided it needed more. They added a small museum, known as“Bond World 007,” and have been adding Bond-related features ever since.

Among serious Bond fans, the site “is the Holy Grail of Bond film locations,” says Martijn Mulder, a Dutch journalist who leads occasional Bond tours and coauthored On the Tracks of 007: A Field Guide to the Exotic James Bond Filming Locations Around the World. That’s because filmmakers bankrolled construction of Piz Gloria, which looks just as it did in the late 1960s.

Bond enthusiasts list other prime destinations, too, such as a site near Phuket, Thailand, that has come to be called “James Bond Island” after appearing in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun. Last year, Mulder led 40 people on a two-week tour of Japan to visit locations used in 1967’s You Only Live Twice. He was forced to scrap a two-hour hike to a volcano crater that was an earlier Blofeld hideout because the volcano showed signs of erupting.

(18) MAN’S BEST FIEND. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett begins “Bad Mad Vlad” with this unusual comparison —

Vampires are a lot like dogs, you know.

No. Don’t scoff. They really are if you think about it in just the wrong way (that’s always been the Doctor Strangemind way of course).

Here, let me explain.

So what is the single most noticeable feature of the animal known as dog? That’s right, the seemingly endless plasticity of the species.The fact is humanity has been able to twist and turn and breed dogs into a startling wide array of forms from poodles to corgis to dobermans. If the average Martian visited our planet what are the chances that this visitor from space would guess right off that all dogs are of the same species? Not likely is it? Instead the average Martian would probably decide that dogs make no sense to them. Which is probably why they don’t visit Earth all that often,they find this planet too weird and confusing to be a satisfactory holiday destination.

So what has this to do with vampires I’ve no doubt you’re wondering. Well, the answer to that is to point out how humanity has been able to twist and turn and write vampires into a startling wide array of types and situations, far more than any other supernatural creature….

(19) FIGHT TO THE FINNISH. NPR hopes “World’s First Insect Vaccine Could Help Bees Fight Off Deadly Disease”.

Bees may soon get an ally in their fight against bacterial disease — one of the most serious threats the pollinators face — in the form of an edible vaccine. That’s the promise held out by researchers in Finland, who say they’ve made the first-ever vaccine for insects, aimed at helping struggling honeybee populations.

The scientists are targeting one of bees’ most deadly enemies:American foulbrood, or AFB, an infectious disease that devastates hives and can spread at a calamitous rate. Often introduced by nurse bees, the disease works by bacteria feeding on larvae — and then generating more spores, to spread further.

(20) BREAKING MARTIAN WIND. BBC shares a sound clip: “Nasa’s InSight probe listens to Martian winds”.

The British seismometer package carried on Nasa’s InSight lander detected the vibrations from Martian air as it rushed over the probe’s solar panels.

“The solar panels on the lander’s sides are perfect acoustic receivers,” said Prof Tom Pike, who leads the seismometer experiment from Imperial College London.

“It’s like InSight is cupping its ears.”

Prof Pike compares the effect to a flag in the wind.As a flag breaks up the wind, it creates oscillations in frequency that the human ear perceives as flapping.

(21) DRAGONS HAVE GAS. Space flatulence is a real problem closer to home. Wired lays out the story: “A SpaceX Delivery Capsule May Be Contaminating the ISS”. Evidence is accumulating that the Dragon capsule is outgassing and the contaminants are, well, accumulating on the outside of the International Space Station.

In February 2017, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted through low clouds, pushing a Dragon capsule toward orbit. Among the spare parts and food, an important piece of scientific cargo, called SAGE III  rumbled upward. Once installed on the International Space Station, SAGE would peer back and measure ozone molecules and aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere. Its older siblings (SAGEs I and II) had revealed both the growth of the gaping ozone hole and,after humans decided to stop spraying Freon everywhere, its subsequent recovery.

This third kid, then, had a lot to live up to. Like its environmentally conscious predecessors, SAGE III is super sensitive. Because it needs unpolluted conditions to operate optimally, it includes contamination sensors that keep an eye on whether and how its environment might be messing up its measurements. Those sensors soon came in handy: When the next three Dragons docked at the Space Station, over the following months, SAGE experienced unexplained spikes in contamination. Something on these Dragons was outgassing—releasing molecules beyond the expected, and perhaps the acceptable, levels. And those molecules were sticking to SAGE.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Artificial Intelligence That Deleted a Century” on YouTube, Tom Scott shows what happened when a program released in 2028 to hunt down copyright violators on YouTube achieves artificial general intelligence.

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

Readercon 29 Photos

Daniel Dern shares his pictures of guests, panelists and vendors who participated in Readercon 29 over the July 12-15 weekend.

GoH Nisi Shawl


More photos follow the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 7/7/18 It’s My Pixel, And I’ll Scroll If I Want To

(1) MODEL RAILROADING. A hobbyist told readers of the ModelTrainForum this layout accessory will be available this fall from Menard’s Model Train Company —

(2) ALIEN RETURNS? Website Omega Underground is reporting on a rumor that a series set in the Alien universe may be on its way to a cable network or streaming service. The story notes that the franchise will celebrate it’s 40th anniversary in 2019. Article writer Christopher Marc claims to have multiple sources for at least parts of a rumor that a TV series may be in the offing to mark that occasion.

With the Alien films possibly in limbo could there be other platforms for stories outside of video games and comics?

Well, take the following as a rumor.

Back in April, a reliable source revealed to us that a series set within the “Alien universe” was being considered behind the scenes. I was able to reaffirm the rumbling with another source located in another country that was able to support some of the basic info.

What they couldn’t connect on is where it could land be it FX or a streaming platform, Hulu and Netflix were ruled out at the time.

I didn’t think much of the series rumor at the time as I had assumed it would be a big announcement for Alien Day [26 April] and would just wait, which obviously didn’t happen.

However, the rumbling resurfaced yesterday [2 July] and that something could be announced “soon”. If they plan on announcing their intentions or are aiming to release it next year to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Alien franchise remains to be seen.

(3) SMALL WORLD. NPR’s Bob Mondello looks at Ant Man and the Wasp — audio with soundbites, and transcription.

MONDELLO: Super-confidence – not his strong suit. But give him a good enough reason, and he’ll shrink to the occasion. What gets him going this time is multiple bad guys or gals and a mission to head for the Quantum Realm, which is subatomic. And, well, there’s a lot of plot virtually unspoilable because it makes so little sense. So why don’t we let Ant-Man’s pal Luis handle it?

(4) EPIC OF THE LUCAS MUSEUM. Paul Goldberger tells Vanity Fair readers how the twice-spurned project landed in L.A. — “George Lucas Strikes Back: Inside the Fight to Build the Lucas Museum”.

There are a number of reasons why movie directors do not generally go around establishing museums. It is not only because most of them do not own enough artworks to put into them or have enough money to start new careers as philanthropists. If you direct movies for a living, you are accustomed to controlling just about everything that comes across your field of vision. But if you decide to build a museum, you can control very little, as George Lucas—who has plenty of art, and plenty of money—has discovered over the past several years. His quest to donate more than a billion dollars’ worth of art and architecture in the form of a brand-new public museum containing the bulk of his collection of paintings, drawings, and film memorabilia was turned down in San Francisco, driven away by opponents in Chicago, proposed again for a different location in San Francisco, and finally, last year, approved for a site in Los Angeles.

The project, which is now officially named the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art but, given its history, might just as well be called the Flying Dutchman, will take the form of a dramatic, swooping, cloud-like structure designed by the Chinese architect Ma Yansong, in Exposition Park, adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

What Lucas is now building—ground was broken on March 14, and there is already an excavation so large that it looks like a massive earthwork if you view it from an airliner approaching Los Angeles International Airport—could not be more different from where he started out. The museum’s original incarnation, proposed for waterfront land within the Presidio national park, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, was a grandiose, heavy-handed Beaux-Arts building that Lucas, who prides himself on his love of both art and architecture, insisted was the only thing appropriate for that site. That first version was called the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, a title as awkward semantically as the building was architecturally. Its unveiling, in 2013, marked the beginning of a multi-year saga that would come to have nearly as many dramatic clashes as you’ll encounter in Lucas’s Star Wars, and almost none of the amiability of his American Graffiti.

No one back then had the slightest idea that the proposed museum would provoke a major backlash in not one but two American cities, or that it would finally come to rest in Los Angeles, a location that carries no small degree of irony, since it is a city that Lucas built much of his identity as a filmmaker on spurning. Although he studied film at the University of Southern California and has been a major supporter of its film school, he has lived and worked in Northern California for most of his life, and for years he made something of a fetish of avoiding Los Angeles as much as possible. Although Lucas bought a $33.9 million estate in Bel Air last year, which will allow him to be close to the museum as it rises, he still spends most of his time either in Marin County, north of San Francisco, or in Chicago, where his wife, Mellody Hobson, a Chicago native who is the president of a financial firm, Ariel Investments, is based. Chicago, of course, would become the second city to find itself the recipient of what Lucas felt to be his unrequited love.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 7, 1955 — The sf radio program X-Minus One aired Robert Heinlein’s “The Green Hills Of Earth” for his birthday.

(6) TODAY’S OTHER BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 7 – Shelley Duvall, 69. Executive Producer of Faerie Tale Theatre, performer in Popeye as Olive Oyl, also Twilight Zone, Time Bandits, The Shining, and Ray Bradbury Theater to name some of her genre work.
  • Born July 7 – Billy Campbell, 59. The Rocketeer of course, but also series work in STNG, Dead Man’s Gun, The 4400, and Helix, plus a role in the Bram Stoker’s Dracula film.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock found out how monsters cosplay in Bizarro.

(8) PERSONAL SFF HISTORIES. Fanac.org has posted an interview recorded at Philcon 2017 — Samuel R. Delany & Tom Purdom on the Science Fiction community.

Chip Delany and Tom Purdom talk informally about their experiences in science fiction in this audio tape with images. You’ll hear some startling stories about the Nebulas, and about writers such as Judy Merril, Walter Miller, and Fred Pohl. Tom talks about his introduction to science fiction and fandom in the 50s, and the fannish equivalent of the internet. This is a low key, entertaining session, held in the Philcon con suite. It’s an interesting take on how different fandom is for these two authors. Note: there is some choppiness in the audio during the last 15 minutes. Introduction by Gene Olmstead, and questions by Joe Siclari.

 

(9) DOOMED. Ansonia smeago, named for resemblance to Gollum, is in deep trouble – the BBC has the story: “Lord of the Rings toad on brink of extinction”.

A toad named after the character Gollum in the fantasy novel Lord of the Rings has joined the latest list of animals deemed at risk of extinction.

The amphibian lives not in the Misty Mountains, but on a Malaysian mountain.

The toad got its name from Gollum, also known as Sméagol, in Tolkien’s trilogy because scientists saw similarities between the two….

(10) CLARKE. David Doering discovered Arthur C. Clarke prophesying about developments in tech in a letter of comment from the August 1941 issue of Voice of the Imagi-nation.

2 July:    “Many thanks for the April and May VoM’s which arrived this morning. For the last couple of months I have been in London learning all about radio. This is the sort of work that suits me down to the ground so I am having a fine time with vector diagrams, resonant circuits, valve [tube] characteristics, and the intriguing complexities of A.C. theory. I am hoping that I shall be able to learn about radiolocation eventually – the dear old ‘detector screen’ of science fiction at last! Another scoop for sf, when you think about it.

I’m thinking that the rocket will be the next thing that will hit the war (in more ways than one!) as it is a well-known fact that the Italians have had a jet propelled plane flying for some time [the Caproni Campini N.1], and the Nazis have been using rockets to assist take-off of heavily loaded bombers. After that (or perhaps before) will be atomic power, I fear. Then the fat will be in the fire…..

Arthur “Ego” Clarke

(11) BETTER LATE. Hey, I’m liking this. From 2010, Robin Sloan’s “The Wrong Plane”.

…I showed up at the old gate, handed over my boarding pass—printed at home on an aging Epson inkjet that will no longer produce the color red—and the little scanner beeped in protest, but it was lost in the din of the boarding process, and I kept shuffling, half-asleep, and the gate agent kept shuffling, half-asleep, and everything just shuffled along.

Or maybe, through some strange printer error, my Epson smudged the bar-code in such a way as to produce an encoded string that passed muster. Maybe my boarding pass was defective and yet, presented at precisely the right wrong gate, effective. I realize this explanation is totally implausible, but I found myself drawn to it—because of what I saw out the window.

First, the ocean. Nothing out of the ordinary, except that it was the ocean, and we weren’t supposed to be flying over the ocean.

Second, the sky. An electric globe, ramping from pink at the horizon to indigo high above us, speckled generously with white curlicues, little cloudlets shaped like commas and tildes. They were distributed evenly across my entire field of vision. Not an impossible sky, but an extraordinary sky.

Third, the plane. I was sitting on the wing. It curved away from the fuselage like a giant sickle, and it had a mirror finish like a blade, too, reflecting the pink and blue of the sky. Its length was physics-defying (and I know wing physics); it tapered to a sharp point that looked about a mile away. This was not the United shuttle….

(12) ONCE MORE INTO DINOSAUR KINGDOM II. In the Washington City Paper, Pablo Maurer profiles Dinosaur Kingdom II and reveals that one of Mark Cline’s inspirations for mashing together the Civil War and dinosaurs was Ray Harryhausen — “In Central Virginia, Dinosaurs Still Walk the Earth”.

…Cline’s latest creation is difficult to describe. Just up the highway from his studio, it’s part nature trail, part haunted house, part art gallery.

The story goes something like this: It’s 1864. The Union army is shelling Lexington, and one of their cannon rounds inadvertently disturbs some sleeping dinosaurs in the caverns below. The Yanks, determined to harness the power of their new ancient friends, weaponize them and turn them loose on Confederate troops. That plan, though, backfires. What ensues is a massacre of prehistoric proportions.

Also involved: a pterodactyl flying off with the Gettysburg Address, a re-incarnated Stonewall Jackson fitted with a mechanical arm, slime-colored creatures plucked straight from a low-budget horror flick. There is all of this, and more, at Dinosaur Kingdom II….

Cline says some of the inspiration for Dinosaur Kingdom II comes from the 1969 fantasy flick The Valley of the Gwangi, which tells the story of a wild-west stunt show that stumbles upon and corrals a herd of dinosaurs. He melded that inspiration together with a bit of history. “I started thinking—60 percent of the battles in the Civil War were fought in Virginia. And Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are buried right here around Lexington. So I blended the two ideas together. Like chocolate and peanut butter.”

(13) CAN’T LOOK AWAY. It’s not just the moon that’s made of this stuff… GeekTyrant invites you to “Watch The Fantastically Cheesy Trailer For Indie Sci-Fi Film ALIEN EXPEDITION”.

If you loved the indie film Turbo Kid, you’re absolutely going to love this. Alien Expedition takes the genre of intentional sci-fi camp and does it some real justice in its two-minute trailer. I for one am really hoping one of the streaming services snags this film up so I can watch it without having to do a lot of searching months from now. …Watch the film’s website for information on a potential release date….

 

(14) BLUE MOON, NOW I’M NO LONGER ALONE. [Scroll item compiled by Mike Kennedy.] Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space flight company has announced a program named Blue Moon [GeekWire link] [Business Insider link] to land a spaceship on the Moon no later than 2023. Speaking for Blue Origin, business development director A.C. Charania said the program is “our first step to developing a lunar landing capability for the country, for other customers internationally, to be able to land multi metric tons on the lunar surface.” He continued, “Any permanent human presence on the lunar surface will require such a capability.” He also said, “Blue Moon is on our roadmap, and because of our scale, because of what we see from the government, we brought it a little bit forward in time. I think we are very excited to now implement this long-term commercial solution with NASA partnership.”

This is only one of Blue Origin’s ongoing goals, albeit the most recently announced. They’ve already missed an earlier goal to have human suborbital test fights by 2017  something that’s now hoped before the end of 2018. Tickets for paying sub-orbital passengers may be available in 2019. Meanwhile, they’re developing a new rocket engine (the BE-4) to be used for an geostationary-orbital-class rocket, the New Glenn. Some launches for the New Glenn are already booked for the early 2020’s.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. WernAcular on Vimeo answers this question: wouldn’t your film sound MUCH classier if Werner Herzog narrated it?  Well, with WernAcular, everyone can be Werner Herzog!

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