Pixel Scroll 4/28/20 A Scroll As Small As A Footnote Is Rising From The Pixels

(1) WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY? “Majority of authors ‘hear’ their characters speak, finds study”. Details in The Guardian.

Some writers have always claimed they can hear their characters speaking, with Enid Blyton suggesting she could “watch and hear everything” and Alice Walker describing how her characters would “come for a visit … and talk”. But a new study has shown this uncanny experience is very widespread, with almost two-thirds of authors reporting that they hear their characters’ voices while they work.

Researchers at Durham University teamed up with the Guardian and the Edinburgh international book festival to survey 181 authors appearing at the 2014 and 2018 festivals. Sixty-three per cent said they heard their characters speak while writing, with 61% reporting characters were capable of acting independently….

(2) DISCOVERING ANIME. Mark Merlino, co-founder of the first furry con, has written “A brief history of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, America’s first anime fan club” at Dogpatch Press.

… At some point (in 1977), we had managed to add material to our screenings, thanks to Marc Kausler, an animator and film collector. People with contacts in Japan began trading tapes with other fans. By that time I had my own VCR (a Sanyo V-Cord II, because it had still frame and slow-motion features, which no other consumer VCR had), and I began making copies for our (my) own video library. In May (I believe) Wendall, Judy, Robin, Fred and I met in a park near Judy’s house and decided to become the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization. I remember the weird name was Fred’s idea (but he later denied it). The reason it was called “cartoon-fantasy” is because they (not me) believed that the term “animation” was too “insider” for typical fans, though everyone knew about “cartoons”. The “fantasy” part was because we were also getting live-action adventure shows from Japan (like Ultraman, Spiderman (Jp), Tiger Mask and many 5 member “transforming ninja” team shows), which were also popular at our screenings. 

(3) BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE. The April 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Daffodil’s Baby,” by Alyssa Virker. Tagline: “What if you could have a baby using an egg from your favorite celebrity?”

It was published along with a response essay, “What’s Missing From Conversations About Designer Babies” by David Plotz, former CEO of Atlas Obscura and author of the book The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank.  

The modern eugenics movement was born when Francis Galton mapped the close genetic connections between the most “eminent” men of England for his 1869 book Hereditary Genius. Ever since then, eugenicists have been scheming up ways to save society by getting the “best” among us to have more children.

And ever since then, those same eugenicists have been fretting that the rest of us—the pig-brained masses—have the wrong idea of who the “best” people are. In the 1930s, one Nobel laureate was certain that mass artificial insemination could ensure that every baby would be a Newton or Leonardo, but worried that, left to their own whims, women would pick celebrities as their sperm donors, leaving us with a trivial society of “Valentinos, Jack Dempseys, Babe Ruths, and even Al Capones.” Hello, Daffodil and Breadbowl!

(4) THE MOUSE THAT ROARED. “Disney sparks backlash with #MayThe4th tweet” – the greedy rats!

Disney has been accused of trying to claim media ownership of popular hashtag “MayThe4th” on Twitter.

The company’s streaming service, Disney Plus, encouraged fans to share their favourite Star Wars memories using the hashtag on Monday.

It followed up with a legal warning suggesting any user who tweeted the hashtag was agreeing to Disney’s terms and letting it use their content.

It backtracked after a huge protest by fans and widespread mockery.

The hashtag – a play on the franchise’s phrase, “May the force be with you,” has been used for years to coincide with the made-up fan holiday.

“Reply with your favourite #Star Wars memory and you may see it somewhere special #MayThe4th,” the company said in a tweet.

“By sharing your message with us during #MayThe4th, you agree to our use of the message and your account name in all media and our terms of use.”

Many fans rushed to share their confusion over Disney’s tweet.

“You can’t just scream a terms of service agreement into the void and then assume anyone who does something falling in line has seen it and agreed,” replied one user.

(5) BOMBS AWAY. DoItYourselfRV takes you on a photo tour of the “Rocket Inspired Atomic Camper For The Astronaut In All Of Us”.

When you just have to get “back to the future” this retro inspired, steampunk-esque “Rocket Camper” may be just the inspiration you’re looking for. Exquisitely handcrafted by instructables user longwinters, this fine piece of machinery is built almost entirely of wood.

Here are two of the photos:

(6) LAST TIME. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 7, premieres May 27.

In the seventh and final season of the Marvel hit, Coulson and the Agents of SHIELD are thrust backward in time and stranded in 1931 New York City. With the all-new Zephyr set to time-jump at any moment, the team must hurry to find out exactly what happened. If they fail, it would mean disaster for the past, present and future of the world.

(7) SHAWL ON DIALECT AND REPRESENTATION. “Odyssey Podcast #128: Nisi Shawl on Dialect & Representation (Part 2)” from Odyssey Writing Workshop.

Nisi Shawl, the Jeff Pert Memorial Lecturer at Odyssey 2019, lectured on dialect and representation. In this excerpt, the second of two parts, Nisi explains techniques to reveal that a character speaks in dialect without using phoneticization. Word omission and word order (syntax) can show non-standard speech patterns and evoke the feeling of dialect while using standard spellings. Nisi discusses examples from her story “Black Betty.” Word choice is another technique that can reveal a person’s experience, cultural background, and expectations. It can also undercut stereotypes and reveal power differentials between characters. The rhythm of a word, sentence, or passage can also show non-standard speech patterns. Copying a poem or transcribing speech from someone native to the pattern you want to mimic can reveal rhythmic patterns. Cultural references can also help reveal a character’s non-standard speech. Nisi discusses several examples. But she wants writers to remember that difference is not monolithic.

(8) SEND ME IN COACH. Shannon Liao, in the CNN story “They lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Now they’re full-time video game coaches” profiles people who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus but have picked up additional income teaching video gamers how to improve their skills.

Trevor Andrews is a concert violist and music teacher who found his symphony performances canceled in late March as Covid-19 decimated the US economy. The private lessons he gave dried up as his clients cut back on their spending.

The 30-year-old resident of South Portland, Maine, is an avid gamer who considers himself an expert at the shooter game “Apex Legends,” in which squads of three battle to be the last team standing. So he decided to pivot from classical music to teaching online customers how to survive the virtual shoot-outs that have made the game an online hit.

“I’m good at explaining things,” he said. “Just like when I’m practicing the viola…You’re always self critiquing, and you’re always figuring out what you’re doing wrong and how to get better.”

Tech-savvy game enthusiasts are becoming full-time video game coaches as the ongoing pandemic has eradicated millions of jobs. While it may sound unusual, the job of teaching others how to improve their video game skills has been around for years and is now growing more popular as people shelter in place and spend more time online.

Like coaches in any endeavor, video game coaches teach players how to be more strategic and how to interact in team-based games like “League of Legends” and “Overwatch.” Some have their own awards for past gaming competitions and others simply have positive reputations bolstered by word of mouth….

(9) IF YOU’VE ACQUIRED THE TASTE. Grimdark Magazine’s CT Phipps provides “Ten Indie Grimdark Novel Recommendations”.

6. Seraphina’s Lament by Sarah Chorn

Mini-Review: Seraphina’s Lament is a truly dark and terrifying story based on the famines during the reign of Joseph Stalin. Taking place in a fantasy world where the old monarchy has been overthrown only to be replaced by something worse, starvation ravages the land. However, the population have more to deal with than their tyrannical overlord and his incompetence, the gods have decided to punish the land by unleashing a plague of hungry dead that will wipe the living from the face of the globe. The tight connections between the various characters sometimes stretches credulity but this is a solid piece of dark fantasy.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 28, 1946 The Shadow’s “Dreams of Death” episode first aired. It starred Lloyd Lamble (Quatermass 2) as Lamont Cranston and The Shadow with Lyndall Barbour as Margot Lane and Lloyd Berrill as The Announcer. The Shadow in the radio series was quite different from the printed version as he was given the power to “cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him”. This was at odds with the pulp novel character who relied solely on stealth and his guns to get the job done. Likewise Margo Lane was a radio creation that would later be added to the pulps. You can hear this episode here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 28, 1840 Palmer Cox. He was known for The Brownies, his series of humorous books and comic strips about the troublesome but generally well-meaning sprites. The cartoons were published in several books, such as The Brownies, Their Book for some forty years starting in the 1870s. Due to the immense popularity of his Brownies, one of the first popular handheld cameras was named after them, the Eastman Kodak Brownie camera. (Died 1924.)
  • Born April 28, 1910 Sam Merwin Jr. He was most influential in the Forties  and Fifties as the editor of Startling Stories,  Fantastic Story QuarterlyWonder Stories AnnualThrilling Wonder Stories and Fantastic Universe. He wrote a few stories for DC’s Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space but otherwise wasn’t known as a genre writer. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 28, 1911 Lee Falk. He’s best remembered for creating and scripting both Mandrake the Magician (first published June 11th, 1934) and The Phantom (first published February 17, 1936). He would be inducted into Will Eisner Hall of Fame for his work on these strips. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 28, 1917 Robert Cornthwaite. Actor in such Fifties films as The Thing From Another WorldThe War of the WorldsMen Into Space and Destination Space. He would be active throughout the late Twentieth Century in such productions as The Twilight ZoneVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaColossus: The Forbin Project The Six Million Dollar ManBuck Rogers in the 25th Century and White Dwarf. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 28, 1930 Carolyn Jones. She played the role of Morticia Addams (as well as her sister Ophelia and the feminine counterpart of Thing, Lady Fingers) in The Addams Family. She had an uncredited role in the original The War of the Worlds, her first genre role, as a Blonde Party Guest, and she was Theodora ‘Teddy’ Belicec in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. She had a recurring role as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds on Batman. (Died 1983.)
  • Born April 28, 1948 Terry Pratchett. Did you know that Steeleye Span did a superb job of turning his Wintersmith novel into a recording? You can read the Green Man review here as reviewed by Kage’s sister Kathleen. My favorite Pratchett? Well pretty much any of the Watch novels will do for a read for a night when I want something English and really fantastic. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 28, 1953 William Murray, 67. He’s been the literary executor for the estate of Lester Dent for the past forty years, and has written fifteen Doc Savage novels from Dent’s outlines using Dent’s pseudonym, Kenneth Robeson. His Doc Savage: Skull Island, teams him up with King Kong, and, I kid you not, he recently wrote Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars in which John Carter oF Mars was revived.
  • Born April 28, 1971 Chris Young, 49. Bryce Lynch in the Max Headroom series which I still hold is the best SF series ever done. The only other genre I think he’s in are two horror films, The Runestone and Warlock: The Armageddon. Unless you call voice roles in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue genre…
  • Born April 28, 1982 Samantha Lockwood, 38. Daughter of Gary Lockwood of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame. And she apparently was in yet another video Trek fanfic though this may not have ever gotten done before Paramount squashed them, Star Trek Equinox: The Night Of Time. There’s a trailer but no actual episode that I can find, so her role in Sci-Fighters which as Girlfriend that it is is her only genre role.

(12) TRUE VALUE. Emmett Asher-Perrin proclaims “The Character of the Doctor Is More Important to Me Than Doctor Who Will Ever Be” in an essay at Tor.com.

…But what I’m really trying to say is, it doesn’t matter if Doctor Who is good. It has never mattered if Doctor Who is good because the only thing that matters about Doctor Who is that it gave us the Doctor. If a piece of fiction is the beholden to what it leaves behind, then that is what the show bequeaths to us.

And what a beautiful inheritance that has become over the decades.

(13) NEW WORLDS, AT THE TIME ANYWAY. Galactic Journey’s Mark Yon reviews the latest issues – in 1965 – of British prozines: “[APRIL 28, 1965] Mermaids, Persian Gods And Time Travel New Worlds And Science Fantasy, April/May 1965″.

This month’s ‘arty’ cover is by the prolific Keith Roberts, who seems to be everywhere at the moment. His colour artwork was last seen on the cover of the January issue, this one to my mind is just as odd. Are British magazine covers meant to look like they are painted by a child? I despair, especially when I see the covers for the US magazines, which by comparison are so much more than what we get here. The best that can be said here though is that they reflect the changes in the magazines at the moment. They are determined to be different.

The Editorial this month mentions the up-coming British Worldcon later this year – now less than four months away! – and how to apply to attend. It also enquires about letters on the idea of genre and also mentions that there will be a letters page – soon! However, before readers get their hopes up that Science Fantasy will take on other New Worlds staples like the Ratings list – it’s not going to happen.

To the stories themselves….

(14) CURRENT EVENTS. Nicola Alter at Thoughts on Fantasy changes pace with a look back at the many people influenced by a 19th century scientist — “Idols, Friends and Mentors: Alexander von Humboldt’s Influence on Writing and Science”.

…First I should probably explain who Humboldt himself was: a scientist, explorer, mountaineer, nature writer and science writer who invented isobars and was the first to propose the idea of climate zones. He published the popular book series Cosmos along with many other volumes on science, nature and politics, and was at one point the most famous scientists of his time.

He also expressed very progressive ideas for a European in the early 1800s – he pointed out that human activity could damage the environment and change the climate; was vehemently anti-slavery, anti-colonialism and pro-democracy; and held positive views of indigenous people, even referring to the European colonists as the real “savages”. If you want to know more about him you can read my review on Goodreads… or better yet, read the book!

(15) FAVORITES OF FORTY-FOUR. Cora Buhlert continues working her way through the Retro Hugo finalists: “Retro Review: ‘Far Centaurus’ by A.E. van Vogt”. BEWARE SPOILERS beyond this introduction:

… “Far Centaurus”, a science fiction short story by A.E. van Vogt that was published in the January 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is a finalist for the 1945 Retro Hugo Award. The story may be read online here

(16) TIME SINK. In Vice’s opinion “This 51,300-Piece Puzzle Will Either Chill You Out or Ruin Your Quarantine”.

The first wave of stimulus checks from the federal government’s coronavirus relief package have started to appear in some Americans’ bank accounts and, unsurprisingly, a not-insignificant percentage of that money has already been spent on groceries, gas, utility bills and video games, because eventually Tom Nook comes for all of us.

But if you happen to have an extra $599.95 that you aren’t blowing on black market sourdough starter, then Kodak would like you to buy its 51,300 piece jigsaw puzzle. The company says that this is the “world’s largest commercially available puzzle,” and it will arrive at your doorstep in one 40-pound box that contains 27 individually wrapped bags of anxiety….

Here’s a video of someone assembling a slightly smaller puzzle.

(17) LOST WORLD OF THE 21ST CENTURY. “Guillermo del Toro: What Allowed ‘Hellboy’ Films to Be Made No Longer Exists” – as he explains to Yahoo! Entertainment.

“What allowed the two films to exist, it’s gone,” del Toro wrote. “The Blu-ray DVD performance of the first ‘Hellboy’ was massive. So big that Ben Feingold, at Columbia, went full-on on the sequel development. Ben was so impressed by those numbers that he made ‘Hellboy’ one of the very first Blu-rays from Columbia Pictures. Far as I can recall, the number for home video surpassed theatrical.”

Del Toro had plans to direct a third “Hellboy,” but the box office performance of “The Golden Army” killed the franchise. The director pitched “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola on an idea to turn the third movie into a comic book, but the plan was rejected as to not mixup the different mediums and confuse fans.

(18) A LOST SATELLITE OF THE 20TH CENTURY. “Long-Lost U.S. Military Satellite Found By Amateur Radio Operator”NPR talked to him.

…In 2018, he found a signal from a NASA probe called IMAGE that the space agency had lost track of in 2005. With Tilley’s help, NASA was able to reestablish contact.

But he has tracked down zombies even older than IMAGE.

“The oldest one I’ve seen is Transit 5B-5. And it launched in 1965,” he says, referring to a nuclear-powered U.S. Navy navigation satellite that still circles the Earth in a polar orbit, long forgotten by all but a few amateurs interested in hearing it “sing” as it passes overhead.

Recently, Tilley got interested in a communications satellite he thought might still be alive — or at least among the living dead. LES-5, built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, was launched in 1967.

Tilley was inspired by another amateur who in 2016 had found LES-1, an earlier satellite built by the same lab. What was intriguing to him about LES-5 was that if it was still working, it might be the oldest functioning satellite still in geostationary orbit.

(19) THE SOOT(LER) DID IT. Smithsonian reports that “After the Dinosaur-Killing Impact, Soot Played a Remarkable Role in Extinction”. No shit, Sherlock.

The famous impact 66 million years ago kicked up soot into the atmosphere that played an even bigger role in blocking sunlight than experts had realized

…When the impactor plowed into the Earth and created the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, it vaporized the crust and created a planet-wide plume of debris that emitted radiation at a rate about 20 times stronger than the sun. It ignited plants and animals in its path. Later, lightning from impact-generated storms ignited more fires, maintaining an atmosphere rich in soot.

“Soot is very good at absorbing sunlight,” Tabor says. “As soot gets into the stratosphere, some of it heats the atmosphere and self-lofts higher, increasing its atmospheric residence time.”

…”Soot blocked sunlight, greatly reducing if not shutting down photosynthesis on both the land and in the sea,” says Chicxulub expert David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Texas. “Without photosynthesis, the base of the food chain would have collapsed. While fires may have demolished vegetation on land in large areas of the world, globally distributed soot may have ravaged vegetation elsewhere.”

…Tabor and his colleagues hoped to sort out the soot by modeling its impact separate from that of sulfates and dust. The new study started by modeling the topography, vegetation and greenhouse gases of the Cretaceous Period. The team also simulated the thermosphere and allowed the sizes of impact aerosols to change over time. Previous models had struggled to quantify these effects. “The impact and fire-generated pollutants were so voluminous that they caused previous computer models to crash,” Kring says. “The current study seems to have succeeded where past attempts failed.”

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “2001: A Space Odyssey: A Look Behind The Future” on YouTube is a 1967 promotional video, prepared by Look magazine for potential advertisers, for 2001: A Space Odyssey, that includes interviews with actor Keir Dullea, the film’s principal science advisor, Frederic I. Ordway III, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke visiting the lunar excursion module under construction at the time by Grumman in Long Island.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/19/19 Bleary-Eyed Pixeling, Bah

(1) KING OF FUNKO. Entertainment Weekly rejoices: “Bloody Hell! Stephen King (finally) gets his own Funko figure”. In fact, two of them.

Countless characters from Stephen King‘s lexicon of horror works have shrunk down to Funko Pop! vinyl form, from The Shining‘s “Here’s Johnny” Jack Torrance to It‘s Pennywise the shape-shifting clown. Now, King himself joins the list of auteurs immortalized in plastic.

Funko unveiled the acclaimed author in toy form on Monday through two new figures. One is a more standard King, dressed in black and holding a book. The other pays homage to two of his literary creations.

…King joins the likes of fellow author-to-Funko figures George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire), Dr. Seuss, and Edgar Allen Poe (“The Raven”).

(2) THE SUM OF ITS PARTS. Adam Roberts thinks “The Fix-Up” novel’s importance to sff as been underestimated.

…But my suggestion, which, come the Greek kalends, I’ll write up into a proper academic paper, is this: the ‘fix-up’ has had a much larger, perhaps even a shaping, effect on the entire later development of SF than is realised. I don’t just mean those occasional SF novels today that are made up of discrete elements tessellated: Simmons’s Hyperion say, or Jennifer Egan’s Visit From the Goon Squad—it’s also in the way TV shows like Doctor Who or Star Trek assemble mega-texts out of lots of short-story-ish discrete elements, something (as per the MCU) increasingly mimicked by cinema. Only die-hard fans read new SF short stories today, but the form of the short story feeds directly into contemporary SF in several key ways. Speaking for myself, I find these formal possibilities really interesting: the jolting dislocation of it, the quasi-modernist experimentation; textual tessellation but in a pulp, populist idiom. That’s entirely my bag.

(3) LECKIE REMODELS. Ann Leckie has unveiled her new website and blog — https://annleckie.com/

(4) CHEATER WHO PROSPERED. Jesse Pasternack argues that Psycho Invented the Spoiler Alert as We Know It”. And used the one Hitchcock revealed in pre-release publicity to trick audiences into falling for the rest.

This is how Psycho operates—by outlining rules beforehand, it seems to promise to play by them. All of Psycho’s advance press materials were designed to manipulate audiences. The rules that Hitchcock set for watching it acted as extra-cinematic devices that would help further jolt audiences. Psycho breaks every rule it sets up. It doesn’t stick to a single genre (it goes from realistic crime story to psychological thriller to murder mystery). It kills its main character. Its main villain turns out not to exist. The character who takes over the plot is revealed to have been taken over by another force, a long time ago.

(5) WARTIME SERVICE. Rob Hansen has added a photo gallery to his fanhistory site THEN that shows British fans in uniform from WWII. Arthur C. Clarke and Terry Jeeves are in the mix: “WWII: BRITISH FANS IN THE FORCES”.

(6) THE FUR FLIES. The second trailer for CATS has dropped. USA Today provides the intro: “You have to see Taylor Swift (and Judi Dench’s fur coat) in the new ‘Cats’ trailer”.

Are you ready to see Judi Dench as a cat wearing a gangster-sized fur coat?

The new “Cats” trailer released Tuesday delivers such epic Dench moments, more Taylor Swift shimmying as Bombalurina and plenty of new jokes, thanks to the internet.

“Tonight is a magical night where I choose the cat that deserves a new life,” Dench’s Old Deuteronomy ominously intones.

“Judi Dench giving us @JLo in Hustlers,” tweeted Marc Malkin of The Hollywood Reporter, sharing an image of Dench in a full fur (on fur) coat.

(7) MANDALORIAN RECAP. Dean E.S. Richard warns you before the spoilers begin in his column “Mondays on Mandalore: A New New Hope” at Nerds of a Feather. Before he gets that far, Richard says —

…Going back to its roots, back in the actual New Hope days, that is what Star Wars is. Even amidst galactic conflict and high stakes, there is silliness and, well, life.

All of this is to say that The Mandalorian is Star Wars. There are tons of moments that make you laugh – even at its most tense. The stakes don’t seem high, at least until the end of the first episode, even for our helmeted protagonist. In my semi-humble opinion, that is where stories are the best – we know the Mandalorian himself will survive, but what will that cost?

(8) RESOURCES AND GOALS. Amanda S. Green has some advice about covers for indie authors in “What happens when you are avoiding NaNoWriMo” at Mad Genius Club.

Each of these images comes from Adobe Stock. If I broke down the monthly fee for a subscription, we’re talking about my having spent approximately $5 per image. When you consider how much a lot of authors pay for covers, that’s nothing. The fonts are all open source or free to use. Yes, the font work and text placement needs work. These are mock-ups to see if I liked what I was doing. That means there will be changes before the books go live.

Here’s the thing. Over the last couple of years, I’ve discovered a couple of things where book covers are concerned. First, it is important to review your covers every year or two. You need to see if they are still cuing genre and sub-genre properly. In other words, are they in line with what newer books are doing?

(9) AU REVOIR. Adri Joy covers the end of a trilogy in “Microreview [Book]: The Forbidden Stars by Tim Pratt”.

With so many action sequences to pack in, an entire system to liberate, and the overall arc with the Axiom to tie up, it’s almost inevitable that the ending of The Forbidden Stars gets a bit rushed. There’s nothing particularly unsatisfying about the events that transpire, but once things kicked off for the finale I found myself looking sceptically at the number of pages I had left to go, and one character in particular gets the short end of the stick when it comes to revealing their ending.

(10) LEND ME YOUR EARS. BGR’s Mike Wehner wonders why so few people – including him – ever heard of this station, which is definitely better than its ad: “NASA has a rock radio station, and the promo video is hilariously cringey”.

As the name implies, Third Rock Radio is a radio station that plays rock music. The “third rock” thing is a nod to Earth being the third planet from the Sun. The station plays a variety of rock tunes that often have some casual link to science or space. Basically, if a rock song has “Moon,” “Sky,” or “Rocket” in the title, it’s going to get played.

… NASA’s promotion of the station, on the other hand, has obviously been lacking. Even the promo video for the station has a mere 50k views despite being published over four years ago.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 19, 1919 Alan Young. He was David Filby and James Filby in The Time Machine. He was Stanley Beamish, the original lead in the unaired pilot of the 1967 Mr. Terrific series. It’s not the DCU character as the latter will not be created until 1997. And he was the voice of Scrooge McDuck for over thirty years, first in the Mickey’s Christmas Carol short (1983) and in various other films, series and even video games up to his death. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 19, 1924 William Russell, 94. He played the role of companion Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who, from the show’s first episode in the end until the next to the last of the second season when the Companions change. Yes, I know the “Unearthly Child” was the unused original pilot.  He’s continued the role to the present at Big Finish. And yes, he’s in An Adventure in Space and Time.
  • Born November 19, 1936 Suzette Haden Elgin. She founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association and is considered an important figure in the field of SFF constructed languages. Both her Coyote Jones and Ozark Trilogy are most excellent. Wiki lists songs by her that seem to indicate she might’ve been a filker as well. Mike, of course, has a post on her passing and life here. (Died 2015)
  • Born November 19, 1953 Robert Beltran, 66. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually, only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation.
  • Born November 19, 1955 Sam Hamm, 64. He’s best known for the original screenplay (note the emphasis) with Warren Skaaren for Burton’s Batman and a story for Batman Returns that was very much not used. He also wrote the script for Monkeybone. Sources, without any attribution, say he also wrote unused drafts for the Fantastic FourPlanet of the Apes and Watchmen films. And he co-wrote and executive produced the M.A.N.T.I.S.series with Sam Raimi. 
  • Born November 19, 1961 Meg Ryan, 58. I won’t say she’s been in a lot of SFF films but overall she’s been in some really great ones. There’s Amityville 3-D which we’ll ignore but that was followed by the terrific Innerspace and that segued into Joe Versus the VolcanoCity of Angels I’ve not seen but it sounds intriguing. Kate & Leopold is just plain charming. Oh, and she was the voice of the villain Dr. Blight for several seasons on Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
  • Born November 19, 1963 Terry Farrell, 56. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She too shows up as cast on Renegades that Beltran is listed in. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MAY NOT RISE AGAIN. “Is UK Based Phoenix Conventions Out of Business?”Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn wants to know if this outfit is really and sincerely dead.

So it really looks like UK based Phoenix Conventions (and their parent company KJ Events) may truly be dead. We think. We’d be shocked if they aren’t at this point. Probably. Let me explain.

Yesterday we were forwarded a tweet from twitter user QuickInSilvr which declared that the company was filing for bankruptcy. While we haven’t been able to independently verify that claim, the company has entirely blanked out both their Phoenix Conventions and KJ Events websites. While the Facebook pages are still up, the Phoenix Conventions and KJ Events Twitter accounts have also been deleted.

(14) THE BLOB. This one’s a bit bigger than Steve McQueen’s adversary: “Supernova 1987A: ‘Blob’ hides long-sought remnant from star blast”.

Scientists believe they’ve finally tracked down the dead remnant from Supernova 1987A – one of their favourite star explosions.

Astronomers knew the object must exist but had always struggled to identify its location because of a shroud of obscuring dust.

Now, a UK-led team thinks the remnant’s hiding place can be pinpointed from the way it’s been heating up that dust.

The researchers refer to the area of interest as “the blob”.

“It’s so much hotter than its surroundings, the blob needs some explanation. It really stands out from its neighbouring dust clumps,” Prof Haley Gomez from Cardiff University told BBC News.

“We think it’s being heated by the hot neutron star created in the supernova.”

(15) A MULLIGAN. At Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer reconsiders his first Hugo ballot, beginning with The Big One (as GRRM calls it): “The Hugo Initiative: The Novels of 1999: A Retrospective: A Preview of My Genre Future (2000, Best Novel)”.

At the time that Hugo voting had ended, I had read four of them, and voted on that basis. (I had not yet read any Harry Potter and did not feel inclined to read through the series, I would feel different several years later) 2000 was about the first time I started to dip my toes into getting review copies, but it would be many more years before I got my “break” in that regard. I fondly remember getting an ARC of Darwin’s Radio, it was quite the surprise and delight.

(16) SPACEPORT FAIL. Space exploration is supposed to fill the skies, not the jails: “Putin’s pet space project Vostochny tainted by massive theft”.

Russia’s new Vostochny space centre has lost at least 11bn roubles (£133m; $172m) through theft and top officials have been jailed.

So what went wrong with President Vladimir Putin’s pet project?

Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee (SK) says it is handling 12 more criminal cases linked to theft in this mega-project, which Mr Putin sees as a strategic priority for Russia, because of its huge commercial potential.

The longest jail term handed down so far was 11-and-a-half years for Yuri Khrizman, former head of state construction firm Dalspetsstroy.

Prof Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), told the BBC the Vostochny scandal highlighted the scale of corruption in Mr Putin’s huge state bureaucracy.

“How can you deal with it without declaring war on your own elite? He’s not prepared to do that. This dependency on mega-projects almost invariably creates massive opportunities for embezzlement,” Mr Galeotti said.

(17) SOME PEOPLE. BBC wants to know “Why some people are impossibly talented”.

Polymaths excel in multiple fields. But what makes a polymath – and can their cross-discipline expertise help tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges?

If it weren’t for an actress and a pianist, GPS and WiFi might not exist.

In the late 1930s and early 40s, Hedy Lamarr was the already the toast of Hollywood, famed for her portrayals of femme fatales. Few of her contemporaries knew that her other great passion was inventing. (She had previously designed more streamlined aeroplanes for a lover, the aviation tycoon Howard Hughes.)

Lamarr met a kindred spirit in George Antheil, however – an avant-garde pianist, composer and novelist who also had an interest in engineering. And when the pair realised that enemy forces were jamming the Allied radio signals, they set about looking for a solution. The result was a method of signal transmission called ‘frequency-hopping spread spectrum’ (patented under Lamarr’s married name, Markey) that is still used in much of today’s wireless technology.

It may seem a surprising origin for ground-breaking technology, but the story of Lamarr and Antheil fits perfectly with a growing understanding of the polymathic mind.

Besides helping to outline the specific traits that allow some people to juggle different fields of expertise so successfully, new research shows that there are many benefits of pursuing multiple interests, including increased life satisfaction, work productivity and creativity.

Most of us may never reach the kind of success of people like Lamarr or Antheil, of course – but the research suggests we could all gain from spending a bit more time outside our chosen specialism.

…As David Epstein has also reported in his recent book Range, influential scientists are much more likely to have diverse interests outside their primary area of research than the average scientist, for instance. Studies have found that Nobel Prize-winning scientists are about 25 times more likely to sing, dance or act than the average scientist. They are also 17 times more likely to create visual art, 12 times more likely to write poetry and four times more likely to be a musician.

(18) THE FLAGON WITH THE DRAGON. Bookworm Blues’ “Ten Mini-Reviews of some Great Nonfiction Books” includes Sarah Chorn’s rave for The Poisoner’s Handbook.

I have to admit, if you tell me to go read a book about forensics, I am not going to be excited. I don’t know why, but while that sort of thing may interest others, it does almost nothing for me. So, going into this, I read this book because of the poison, not because of the forensics.

That being said, holy crap was it interesting. The chapters are broken up by poisons, and the author tells readers how the poisons were used, some specific cases of said poisoning/incidents, and how this incident transpired and impacted the evolution of NYC’s forensic medicine, and all of this happened during prohibition.

So, selling points: prohibition, poisonings, forensics.

(19) FIRST CONTACT. [Item by Carl Slaughter.] When dealing with little green men, sending and receiving signals involves a relatively simple technological achievement — harnessing radio waves.  Making first contact with an extraterrestrial, or them making first contact with us, initiates what will prove to be a very challenging conversation.  “Language is all based on culture and requires a common frame of reference.  If you told an alien, ‘I’m taking an Uber to buy some coffee at Starbucks,’ you’d have to explain what Uber is, then explain what a car is, then explain what the Internet is, what a phone is, an app, coffee, Starbucks, stores, the monetary system.  All stuff that is intuitive to modern humans.  Translating the words of an extra terrestrial civilization is just the first step.  Understanding what they’re saying is the more challenging task.”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/23/18 Have Fun Scrolling The Pixel!

(1) REAL LIFE RULES. Aliette de Bodard has come forward with her own rules for writing. Thread starts here.

(2) TOM BAKER WRITES DOCTOR WHO NOVEL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] RadioTimes.com tells us that “Tom Baker has written a brand-new Doctor Who novel” based on a script idea he and Ian Marter had during the Fourth Doctor era. The book will be published by BBC Books (in the Penguin Random House family) with a publication date of January 24, 2019. It is already available for pre-order.

Just over a year after he made an unexpected comeback as the Fourth Doctor in a Doctor Who DVD project, iconic star Tom Baker has made another surprise return to the world of the BBC sci-fi series by penning a new novel starring the Time Lord.

Called Scratchman, the book began life in the 1970s during Baker’s tenure as the beloved Fourth Doctor, when between scenes he kicked around ideas for a new story for the series alongside Ian Marter (who played Harry Sullivan in Doctor Who), later writing them up into a script.

Gizmodo/io9 also chimes in on the book (“Tom Baker Is Turning His Wild Idea For a Doctor Who Movie Into a Novel”):

Back in the ‘70s, Tom Baker and Ian Marter—who played the Fourth Doctor’s companion Harry Sullivan—had a truly bonkers idea for a Doctor Who movie. They even wrote a script for it, but it never got made. Now, Baker himself is taking what could’ve been and turning it into a new novel.

The official synopsis of the novel has been made available:

What are you afraid of?

The Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane Smith arrive at a remote Scottish island, when their holiday is cut short by the appearance of strange creatures – hideous scarecrows, preying on the local population. The islanders are living in fear, and the Doctor vows to save them all. But it doesn’t go to plan – the time travellers have fallen into a trap, and Scratchman is coming for them.

With the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, the Doctor must battle an ancient force from another dimension, one who claims to be the Devil.

Scratchman wants to know what the Doctor is most afraid of. And the Doctor’s worst nightmares are coming out to play…

(3) GOT TO READ. It’s time for “6 Books with Sarah Chorn” at Nerds of a Feather.

  1. Is there a book you’re currently itching to re-read?I’ve had a bit of a hankering to re-read K.J. Parker’s Engineer Trilogy recently. Parker is one of my all-time favorite authors. I love his prose, how he plays with words, and how smart his books are. The Engineer Trilogy were my first Parker books I came across, and I fell in love with them. I haven’t read them for some time, but I’ve got an itch for some smart, morally gray characters and he seems to fit the bill.

(4) STRAIGHT FROM WALTER CRONKITE. Yesterday Galactic Journey, which follows the history of the field day-by-day 55 years in the past, reached November 22, 1963 and the assassination of President Kennedy. Its contributors did a series of reaction posts, beginning with “[November 22, 1963] President Kennedy has been assassinated]”.

(5) THE GAME OF SOCIAL LIFE. “The Black Mirror Episode ‘Nosedive’ Has Become A Board Game” and ScienceFiction.com explains how it works.

Fans of ‘Black Mirror‘ now have a new way to enjoy the show with their friends in the form of a board game! The social media nightmare is known as “Nosedive” is now something you can experience first hand with your friends! If you don’t remember the episode off the top of your head it was a satire of social media which had Bryce Dallas Howard as Lacie in the third season premiere episode. The goal of the board game is just like that of the episode, to “get the highest Social Score possible” but here you’ll be competing with 3-6 players.

In the game, you’ll be collecting Lifestyle cards to try and create a perfect life. It isn’t all going to be luck though as your competitors will be rating their experiences in a way that can have an impact on your social score. You’ll also all need to have your smartphones handy in a gameplay element that requires you to download the app to play.

(6) A HUNK OF BURNING. Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant, after reading about fire-devastated Paradise, California, outlines “A lesson re-learned from disaster”.

I’ve been taking the time to read reports of how computer and document backups were, or were not, adequate to safeguard important records during and after the fire.  Most of the reports are dismal, to say the least.  From online conversations and other sources, here are just some of the incidents that have been discussed:

  • Computer data backed up on thumb drives, stored in a “fireproof” box, were indeed protected from the flames;  but the heat inside the box rose so high that the drives simply melted, becoming unusable.
  • Documents in a similarly “fireproof” file container were charred into unrecognizable black ash, even though the container remained nominally intact.
  • In many cases, fireproof safes and filing cabinets were badly warped by the heat, rendering them incapable of opening.  Many people have not yet been able to return home to see what survived the flames, but some who have claim that they had to use angle grinders with cutting wheels, the “jaws of life“, or other heavy-duty equipment to open them….

(7) THIS LAND IS HERLAND. Adri Joy’s commentary is a very good survey of the topic, though members of the patriarchy should be sure to fasten their seatbelts — “Feminist Futures: Feminist Separatism in Science Fiction” at Nerds of a Feather

Content Warning: This essay tackles multiple texts which conflate sex and gender, and erase trans and intersex people.

Men, eh. What a mess they make. What a bother it is, to have this whole category of people on the planet who march around like they own the place yet mess it up at every opportunity, can’t change a baby, can’t do their own laundry, can’t even get in touch with their own emotions unless it involves some form of anger or violence. What trouble they cause for the rest of us – especially if you fit into that other big category of “women”. Why, wouldn’t it just be better if they weren’t around us any more? Wouldn’t it make our lives, those of us in that other big category of “women”, just so much easier and safer and nicer if we could put that category of “men” to one side, to do whatever it is they are compelled to do without getting in our way. Wouldn’t that be lovely. If only it were possible.

Fear not, beleaguered sufferer of the patriarchy: feminist speculative fiction has got your back. As long as you are from the category of “women”. And were recognised as such when you were born….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 23, 1963 Doctor Who first aired on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 23, 1887 – Boris Karloff, Actor famous for horror movies, whose real name was William Henry Pratt. His first genre role was when he portrayed Frankenstein’s monster in the 1931 Frankenstein, a part which he played twice more, in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). Without listing all of his genre roles, I will single out his superb work as Dr. Fu Manchu in The Mask of Fu Manchu, which benefited from being pre-Hayes-code, and as Baron Victor von Frankenstein in the 1970 Frankenstein, which is terribly campy. His greatest role is no doubt as The Narrator in How the Grinch Stole Christmas – indeed, he received a Grammy Award in the Spoken Word category for the album, which Is the only major performing award of his career! (Died 1969.)
  • November 23, 1908 – Nelson S. Bond, Writer, Editor, Critic, and Member of First Fandom who also wrote for radio, television, and the stage, but whose published fiction work was mainly in the pulp magazines in the 1930s and 1940s. He’s remembered today mainly for his Lancelot Biggs series and for his Meg the Priestess tales, which introduced one of the first strong female characters in SF back in 1939. As a fan, he attended the very first Worldcon, and he famously advised Isaac Asimov, who kept arguing with fans about his works in the letter columns of magazines, “You’re a writer now, Isaac. Let the readers have their opinions.” He was named a Nebula Author Emeritus by SFWA in 1998. (Died 2006.)
  • November 23, 1914 – Wilson “Bob” Tucker, Movie Projectionist and Theater Technician, Writer, and Member of First Fandom. He became involved in fandom in 1932, publishing two fanzines: The Planetoid, and, from 1938 to 2001, Le Zombie, which lasted for more than 60 issues over the course of 60+ years, and was later revived as a webzine, and won a Retro Hugo in 2018. (The title came from the fact that, on several occasions, false reports of his death were made). He also won a Hugo and a Retro Hugo as Best Fan Writer. In 1941, Tucker’s first professional short story, “Interstellar Way Station”, was published by Frederik Pohl in the May issue of Super Science Stories. His most productive period for fiction was in the early 1940s and early 1950s, when he published around 20 short works; during the latter part of that period, he also produced several novels. His most well-known novel is considered to be be The Year of the Quiet Sun; it was a finalist for the Hugo and the Nebula Awards, and later received a special retrospective Campbell Memorial Award. From 1955 to 1996, he was responsible for eight separate editions of The Neo-Fan’s Guide To Science Fiction Fandom, which covered the first five decades of fandom and the evolution of fan slang; the eighth and final edition remains in print under the auspices of the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society. He was honored with the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, two Phoenix Awards, and a special Nebula Author Emeritus Award. He is credited with creating the term “space opera”, and his custom of using the names of friends for minor characters in his fiction led to the term ”Tuckerization”. (And yes, I’ve been been tuckerized: you’ll find a Cat Eldridge, an ethnomusicologist, in Jane Yolen’s The One-Armed Queen, which is the conclusion to her Great Alta Trilogy. I found her a folklore book she wanted, and that was my reward.) (Died 2006.)
  • November 23, 1916 – Michael Gough, Actor from England who is best known for his roles in Hammer Horror Films from the late 1950s, and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series from 1989 to 1997. Hammer usually cast him as the evil villain, and I mean EVIL! Not to mention SLIMY, in such films as Horrors of the Black Museum, The Phantom of the Opera, The Corpse, Horror Hospital, and Satan’s Slave. Gough appeared on Doctor Who as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” in 1966, and again as Councillor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” in 1983. In the mid 1960s, he also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers, returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. A favorite of Burton’s, his last roles were in Sleepy Hollow and as character voices in Corpse Bride and Alice in Wonderland. (Died 2011.)
  • November 23, 1955 – Steven Brust, 63, Writer of Hungarian descent, something that figures into his fiction, which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his series of novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. All are great reads. His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? The Dragearan prequel Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing – scathing! – review of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille; he told us at Green Man Review that he might be the only person who liked the novel. Freedom & Necessity, with Emma Bull, is decidedly different but good nonetheless, and his unofficial Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, stays true to the characters in that series. He’s quite the musician too, with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics), and others. The band, in turn, shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album, and he says “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, “A Rose For Ecclesiastes,” which you should read if you haven’t yet.” Quoting him again, “Songs From The Gypsy is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing!
  • November 23, 1951 – David Rappaport, Actor from England. I remember him best as Randall, the leader of the gang of comically-inept dwarves in Time Bandits who steal the map to Universe. I’m reasonably sure that it’s the only thing of a genre nature for which he’ll be remembered, having looked up his other works and found them to be decidedly minor in nature. Most of them, such as The Bride, a low-budget horror film, were artistic and commercial disasters. It is said that his death by suicide in 1990 is one of the reasons cited by Gilliam for there not being a sequel to Time Bandits.
  • November 23, 1966 – Michelle Gomez, 52, Actor from Scotland who is best known to genre fans as Missy, a female version of The Master, on Doctor Who from 2014 to 2017, for which she was nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. I admit, having grown up with Roger Delgado as The Master, that later performers playing this role took a bit of getting used to, but she made a fine one. Other guest roles were in episodes of Gotham and the short-lived spinoff Highlander: The Raven. She is currently playing a main role as Mary Wardwell in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
  • November 23, 1967 – Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 51, Actor, Director, and Producer whose best-known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka (which is apparently in syndication now as A Town Called Eureka… H’h?). Her first genre roles were in the fantasy film Prelude to a Kiss and in the “Second Sight” episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but she also charmingly voiced the main human character on the animated Gargoyles series! Other appearances included parts in episodes of Stargate SG-1, The Pretender, and the short-lived Secret Agent Man. She had a main role as Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that, against all odds, lasted through three seasons. Her most recent work has included directing episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Luke Cage, and Black Lightning.
  • November 23, 1970 – Oded Fehr, 48, Actor from Israel whose most well-known genre roles are as the mysterious warrior Ardeth Bay in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, and as Carlos Oliveira (or his clone) in three of the Resident Evil films: Apocalypse, Extinction, and Retribution. (His Mummy roles no doubt led to his casting in voice roles in Scooby-Doo in Where’s My Mummy? and as The Living Mummy in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) On Charmed, he played the demon Zankou, the main villain of the show’s seventh season. He’s had an impressively long list of appearances on TV series, including recurring roles on Once Upon A Time, Stitchers, V, and The First, a series about the first mission to Mars, which just premiered in September. He has also voiced characters on numerous other animated features and series.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) LAST NIGHT ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter had his eye on the tube:

  • Answer: Roger Ebert: This film “works as science fiction, it’s sometimes as scary as a monster movie & at the end…not a dry eye in the house.”
  • Wrong questions: “What is “2001”? What is “Alien”?
  • Correct response: What is “E.T.”?

(13) #NOTME. New research says “Humans ‘off the hook’ for African mammal extinction”, contradicting theories that we ate them…

Today, only elephants, hippos, giraffes and white and black rhinos fall into this category.

But the three-million-year-old human relative “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis) shared her East African habitat with three species of giraffe, two species of rhino, a hippo and four elephant-like species.

The results of the analysis showed that over the last seven million years, some 28 lineages of large mammal went extinct in Africa.

Furthermore, the onset of the herbivore decline began roughly 4.6 million years ago, and the rate of decline did not change following the appearance of Homo erectus, one of the earliest human ancestors that could have contributed to the extinctions.

(14) THE MARS SHOW. Here’s your reminder that the next Mars lander is scheduled to touch down Monday and you can watch it “live” (Vox: “NASA is landing InSight, a robot geologist, on Mars”). The current time delay for radio communications from Mars to Earth is about 8 minutes, so “live” will be delayed by at least that long.

A major feat of interplanetary space travel is about to take place on Monday, November 26. That’s when NASA’s InSight lander is expected to land on Mars and begin its two-year study of our neighboring planet’s core. It will be the first NASA Mars landing since the Curiosity rover touched down in 2012.

The lander is expected to touch Mars around 3 pm Eastern time, and you can watch the live stream in the NASA link below. But because it’s so far away, NASA’s mission scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California won’t get to pilot it. Their radio transitions to the lander are delayed by several minutes. Like the Curiosity rover, InSight will have to land itself in only 6.5 minutes.

The live programming from NASA TV will begin at 2 pm Eastern Monday.

(15) VESS AND GAIMAN. Titan Comics has issued Charles Vess’ Book of Ballads and Sagas

Beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess and featuring adaptations by Neil Gaiman – Vess’ collaborator on the hugely successful Stardust – and a host of famous fantasy writers, this new edition also boasts never-before-seen art and an amazing gallery of sketches!

(16) VIEW FROM THE ISS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The European Space Agency has posted a time-lapse video—taken from the ISS—showing a Russian Progress capsule loaded with supplies for the ISS rising above the limb of the Earth as background stars arc behind it. You can even see what appears to be the blazing reentry of one of the rocket stages. (Motherboard: “Watch a Spaceship Leave Earth in Stunning ISS Video”)

This is an especially significant launch since it uses essential the same rocket stack as the crewed Soyuz launch that aborted earlier this year and the Progress launch took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome, also the same as the Soyuz. This, then, would appear to represent concrete progress toward getting a new Soyuz launch off in time to relieve the current ISS crew.

We’re so used to seeing perfectly-rendered CGI depictions of outer space in movies and video games that seeing the real thing can sometimes feel underwhelming. This is not one of those times.

On Thursday, the European Space Agency (ESA) published a video taken from the International Space Station (ISS) by astronaut Alexander Gerst. The video shows time-lapse footage of the Russian Progress MS-10 cargo spacecraft that launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 16. The footage is almost unbelievable as it shows the spacecraft, on a resupply mission to the ISS, arcing into orbit. The camera pans slowly and follows the unmanned Russian craft, revealing Earth’s curvature in epic scale.

 

(17) SATANIC SETTLEMENT. The New York Times reports the infringement suit is over: “Satanic Temple Settles Lawsuit Over Goat-Headed Statue in ‘Sabrina’”.

The Satanic Temple said on Wednesday that it had settled its lawsuit accusing Warner Bros. and Netflix of copying the temple’s goat-headed statue in their new “Sabrina” series.

The lawsuit was “amicably settled,” Lucien Greaves, a co-founder of the temple, wrote in a blog post on the Patheos religion-themed website.

The temple will be acknowledged in the credits for episodes of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” that have already been filmed, Mr. Greaves wrote. The rest of the settlement, including details on what will happen in future episodes of the show, is confidential, according to Bruce Lederman, the temple’s lawyer.

(18) TIME MARCHES BACKWARDS. As a trufannish site we try not to discuss science fiction here but sometimes it creeps in. Like when Camestros Felapton explains that “I thought of a different form of time travel”. It started when he was reading Gregory Benford’s Timescape.

… That message from the future got me thinking. Practically there’s obviously no way to send an electrical signal down a wire into the past (i.e. this I’m engaging with fiction here not an actual proposal). I suppose that information arriving at a destination before it left its starting point violates the speed of light but looked at just in terms of distance traveled over elapsed time it doesn’t….

(19) USE CASE. Nothing could possibly go wrong with an AI being developed to run planetary outposts and assist astronauts, right? (Space.com: “This HAL 9000-Inspired AI Simulation Kept Its Virtual Astronauts Alive”; paywalled source material at Science Robotics: “CASE: A HAL 9000 for 2021“) CASE (“cognitive architecture for space agents”)—developed by Pete Bonasso, et al., at TRACLabs Inc.—has already run a simulated planetary base and is moving along to testing on analogs.

“Our colleagues and NASA counterparts are not concerned that our HAL might get out of control,” Bonasso told Space.com. “That’s because it can’t do anything it’s not programmed to do.”

In experiments, CASE managed a simulated planetary base for about 4 hours. However, the researchers stressed more work is needed before it can run an actual base.

Moreover, “though CASE is impressive, it’s not the fully realized HAL from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ nor is it Lt. Commander Data from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,'” Bonasso said. “Its capability is very narrow, focused on events occurring on a planetary base. While it can keep the life support systems running, it has no idea who won the last presidential election.”

The scientists are now working with what NASA calls analogs — places where volunteers pretend they are living on a distant world. In the long term, the aim is to incorporate CASE into the analogs to see how the software can help improve future space expeditions.

(20) TWO GUYS IN THE CAST. Patrick Stewart makes a great anecdote from the gaffes he committed the first time he met Sting.

Patrick Stewart explains how he really had no idea who Sting was when meeting him on set on David Lynch’s Dune.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/13/16 Stop, Drop, And Scroll

(1) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Ann Leckie’s train delivered her to Chicago on time for Nebula Weekend, unlike last year when she was delayed by a bacon-related catastrophe.

(2) FREE ALLEGED BOOK. Timothy the Talking Cat’s amanuensis Camestros Felapton reports:

Now available from Smashwords, until they decide it is too embarrassing even for them, There Will Be Walrus First Volume V.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/636378

There Will Be WALRUS final

Crafted from the finest pixels and using exquisite fonts and typographical metadata, There Will Be Walrus is the ground breaking anthology series from Cattimothy House – the world’s leading publisher of feline edited military science fiction anthologies.

The book comes with additional bonus content and includes features such as:

  • clauses
  • sentences
  • paragraphs
  • chapters

Spelling and punctuation are used throughout and in many cases radical new and exciting approaches have been taken. Copy-editing has been applied at industry standards as found in top flight Hugo nominated publishers such as Castalia House or Baen Books.

(3) ZINES ONLINE. The University of New Brunswick Library has posted complete scans of a number of classic old fanzines from their collection, Algol, Luna, Amra, Mimosa, four  issues of Tom Reamy’s Trumpet, the earliest issues of Locus, and others. Click here.

(4) BETTY OR VERONICA? CW has given series orders to Greg Berlanti’s live-action Archie Comics series Riverdale. Entertainment Weekly says it will look like this:

Set in present-day and based on the iconic Archie Comics characters, Riverdale is a surprising and subversive take on Archie (KJ Apa), Betty (Lili Reinhart), Veronica (Camila Mendes), and their friends, exploring the surrealism of small town life — the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa will write and executive-produce with Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Jon Goldwater. Cole Sprouse, Ashleigh Murray, Luke Perry, Madelaine Petsch, Marisol Nichols, and Mädchen Amick will also star.

(5) I COME NOT TO PRAISE THEM. ABC has axed The Muppets. Entertainment Weekly ran its obituary.

The comedy series lasted one 16-episode season on the network after launching to tremendous buzz last fall.

The beloved franchise was given a modern-day, adult-themed makeover by producers Bob Kushell (Anger Management) and Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory). The show also some criticism for trying to make the classic family characters more contemporary, including focusing on their love lives. Midway through the season run, falling ratings prompted ABC to make a major change behind the scenes, replacing showrunner Kushell with Kristin Newman (Galavant), who pledged to bring “joy” to the series. Yet the changes didn’t alter the show’s fate.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman has posted Episode 8 of his podcast Eating the Fantastic, in which he dines and dialogs with dual guests, Lynne Hansen, and Jeff Strand.

Jeff Strand and Lynne Hansen

Jeff Strand and Lynne Hansen

Lynne is a horror novelist turned filmmaker whose recent short, Chomp, received 21 nominations at a variety of film festivals, winning 7 times, including the Fright Meter Awards Best Short Horror Film of 2015, and Jeff Strand is not only the author of the wonderfully titled horror novels I Have a Bad Feeling About This and The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever (and many others)—he’ll also be the emcee Saturday for the Stoker Awards banquet.

Next episode of Eating the Fantastic, which will go live in approximately two weeks, will feature Maria Alexander, whose debut novel, Mr. Wicker, won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel

(7) WOMEN FEATURED AT GENCON. Anna Kreider points out “GenCon’s Featured Presenters are 52% female, and that’s a huge deal”.

[Before I start – full disclosure, I am one of the Industry Insider Featured Presenters for this year’s GenCon. So I’m sure that there are those who will say that me writing this post is self-serving arrogance and/or egomania, but whatever.]

The GenCon Industry Insider Featured Presenters for 2016 have been announced, and holy shit is this year’s lineup amazing! Seriously, take a look:

That’s right, folks. There are 13 female IIFPs and only 12 men. This means there are MORE WOMEN THAN MEN, and that is a HUGE FUCKING DEAL, because that is a HUGE amount of change in a really short period of time. To prove it, let’s look at the numbers:

(8) MEDICAL UPDATE. It was announced on his blog that Darwyn Cooke is being treated for cancer.

It is with tremendous sadness that we announce Darwyn is now receiving palliative care following a bout with aggressive cancer. His brother Dennis and I, along with our families appreciate the outpouring of support we have received. We ask for privacy as we go through this very difficult time

(9) BLOG LAUNCH KEEPS UP MOMENTUM. Our Words’ rollout includes Sarah Chorn’s list of future plans

Anyway, things I envision for this website, so you know what to expect in the near future-ish:

1. I am continuing the guest posts. I love them. I think they are interesting, and I love getting diverse perspectives about many, many facets of disabilities in the genre.

2. I have a few interviews out. Yay! And I really want to keep interviews going.

3. I have a few giveaways in the works.

4. I have launched the book club, which I really, really want to take off.

5. I am currently working on doing a series of questions and answers. The idea behind this actually came from a few convention panels I was on, focusing on the topic of disabilities in the genre. After each panel, a host of authors would stand up and ask a ton of very good, very important questions about writing disabilities. So I figured maybe I can try to bring something like that to my website. I’m not exactly sure the format yet, but the idea is that I will get questions about writing disabilities from people who wish to ask said questions, and then I will send those questions to a few disabled genre authors to answer in a panel sort of format. That will take time to figure out, but it will happen eventually.

6. I have received a handful of books this week to review for this website, so start expecting book reviews.

7. I am trying to drum up a bunch of people willing to write about accessibility issues at conventions. There was some noise about this topic last year, but con season is upon us, and I’d like to get some people over here who are willing to write about it. We need to make some more noise about this. It is so important. 8. I am working on getting some people who are willing to write/do regular features over here.

(10) DAN WELLS. Our Words reposted “Dan Wells on Writing Mental Illness”, which originally appeared on SF Signal in 2015.

One in five people in America has a mental illness. One in twenty has a mental illness so serious it inhibits their ability to function. Look around the room you’re in: do you know who they are? Do you know how to help them? Maybe that one in five is you: do you know how to help yourself? The most depressing statistic of all is that no, none of us do. In 2015, Americans with mental illness are more likely to be in prison than in therapy. As a nation and as a culture we are absolutely terrible at recognizing, treating, and coping with mental illness. This needs to change.

(11) JAY LAKE. Our Words has also republished “Jay Lake on Writing With Cancer”, which the late author wrote for Bookworm Blues in 2012.

Cancer is not a disability in the usual sense of that term. It’s not even really a chronic disease, like lupus or MS. Rather, it’s an acute disease which can recur on an overlapping basis until one is cured or killed. Some cancers, such as indolent forms of prostate cancer or lymphoma, can be lived with until one dies of other causes. Other cancers such as pancreatic cancer can move like wildfire, with a patient lifespan measured in weeks or months from diagnosis to death.

My cancer falls somewhere in the mid range between the two. And though I wouldn’t think to claim it as a disability in either the social or legal senses of that term, it has a lot in common with disabilities.

Cancer has affected my writing in two basic ways. First, the disruptions of treatment. Second, the shifts in my own thoughts and inner life as I respond to the distorting presence of the disease in my life.

The treatments are brutal. Surgeries are rough, but they’re fairly time constrained. I’ve had four, a major resection of my sigmoid colon, a minor resection of my left lung, and two major resections of my liver. In each case, I spent three to six days in the hospital, followed by several weeks at home in a fairly serious recovery mode. I was back to writing within a month every time. These days, when I contemplate future surgery (far more likely than not, given the odds of recurrence for my cancer cohort), I budget a month of time lost and all it good.

(12) FIND YOUR OWN INKLINGS. Rachel Motte tells “Why C.S. Lewis Would Want You to Join a Writing Group” at Catholic Stand.

When J.R.R. Tolkien retired from his post at the University of Oxford in 1959, he intended to spend his new-found free time finishing The Silmarillion. Though this book is less well-known than his Lord of the Rings, Tolkien considered it his real work—the work he’d spent decades trying to get back to.

One can easily imagine the newly retired professor, still in his tweeds, bent over his desk, glad to at last avoid the professional obligations that had long kept him from the literary project he loved best. Instead, writes Inklings scholar Diana Pavlac Glyer, he found that the increased solitude hampered his ability to move forward with his favorite project. Glyer explains,

He quickly became overwhelmed by the task. He found himself easily distracted, and he spent his days writing letters or playing solitaire… Tolkien had become increasingly isolated, and as a result, he found himself unable to write. (Diana Pavlac Glyer, Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings, p. 117)

You probably think of writing as a solitary activity—and, to some extent, you are right. “Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world,” notes Annie Dillard in The Writing Life. “One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.”

In the best of circumstances, however, that’s not where the story ends. Although we’re right to think of writing as partly a solitary activity, it’s also true that writers—like other artists—benefit from meeting regularly with other creative people.

(13) CRITICAL THEORY. “Russell Letson reviews Judith Merril” at Locus Online.

The Merril Theory of Lit’ry Criticism: Judith Merril’s Nonfiction, Judith Merril (Aqueduct Press 978-1-61976-093-6, $22.00, 348pp, tp) March 2016.

…Her critical work was more practical than theoretical, but nonetheless systematic and precise. She was a commentator who was also a practitioner, an analyst who was also a fan, with a broad-church sensibility that could not disentangle SF from the cultures that surrounded it.

In The Merril Theory of Lit’ry Criticism, editor Ritch Calvin has gathered and condensed thirteen years’ worth of material into a single vol­ume that includes the introductions and ‘‘sum­mation’’ essays from her long-running series of annual ‘‘Best SF’’ anthologies; book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; and a single long, reflective essay written for the Science Fiction Research Association’s journal Extrapolation. The chronological arrangement allows us to follow Merril as she explores the shape and extent of the modern fantastic, locates particular writers and works in that geography, and develops an aesthetic and historical-social framework for making judgments. (The full texts of all the items are available as an e-book, which is nearly twice as long as the print version. Omitted material consists mainly of individual story introductions from the annual anthologies.) …

(14) LAST YEAR, WHEN WE WERE YOUNG. Matt interviews Andrew J. McKiernan  at Smash Dragons.

The title story for your collection is a fascinating tale about survival amidst a strange and very disturbing apocalypse. I’m curious, how did this particular story come about? Where did you draw your inspiration from? 

Like pretty much every story I write, it starts with a title. That’s where I thought Last Year, When We Were Young came from. Just a title that popped into my head that I ran with and a story emerged from it. It is always my wife who points out the real life inspirations for my stories, when here I am thinking they’re just stories, fictions. In this case, my father-in-law had just been diagnosed with a brain tumour and the operation to remove it didn’t go too spectacularly for him. At the same time, my own father had a heart attack and I’d just entered my 40s and my eldest son had turned 18. So, the title story is me trying to deal with the fact that we all age, and that it happens so goddamn quickly. We get older, and yet a lot of the time we still feel like we’re kids and teenagers. The first 20 years of our life seem so long and so important and our mind dwells on those times. I’m 45 now, and yet a part of me still feels like I’m 18 and should be out there playing in a band and getting drunk and enjoying myself. Age creeps up on us so quickly. We’re adults before we know it. Mid-life crisis, I guess, the realisation that I had aged and that I really would die one day, and this story was my subconscious way of examining that.

(15) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. George Donnelly will be having a sale a week from today.

Today’s top libertarian fiction authors bring you 99-cent fiction books May 18-20 only. Some are even free. Read on your phone, tablet, browser or kindle

(16) PLANETARIUM PANEL FEATURES CLARKE FINALIST. Spaceships: Above and Beyond at the Royal Observatory Planetarium”, Greenwich, Thursday, May 26 (18.30-20.30). Click the link for full details and tickets. Here’s the line up:

  • Libby Jackson, Former ESA Flight Director now working for the UK Space Agency
  • Dr. Adam Baker, Senior Lecturer in Astronautics at Kingston University
  • Dr. Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich
  • James Smythe, Science Fiction author – shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2016
  • The panel discussion will be hosted by Tom Hunter, Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

(17) PANAMA GOLD. At The Toast, Mallory Ortberg has posted “Every Fan Fiction I Have Started Writing Once I Found out Emma Watson Was Named In The Panama Papers”.

“Mustn’t complain, though,” Harry said after an odd silence. “That’s what our taxes are for, after all.”

“We don’t pay taxes,” Hermione said. “Taxes are for Muggles.” She extinguished her cigarette in the last slice of cake.

“But you’re –” Harry started.

“I used to be a lot of things,” Hermione said decisively. “I have money now instead.”

Harry stopped at every bar on the way home, until he could no longer remember the look that had entered her eyes as she said it.

(18) PIXAR PRAISE. Kristian Williams’s YouTube video “Pixar–What Makes a Story Relatable” explains why Pixar films work — because at their core, they’re great stories.

(19) ADDRESSEE KNOWN. Not everybody Andrew Liptak outs was very far undercover to begin with: “Guess Who? 15 Sci-Fi Authors Who Used Pseudonyms—and Why” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

U.K. Le Guin, Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the most famous living science fiction authors, but when she sold her story “Nine Lives” to Playboy, her editors asked her to change her name to U.K. Le Guin, fearing that a female author would make their readers “nervous.” Le Guin remembered it as the only time, “I met with anything I understood as sexual prejudice, prejudice against me as a woman writer.” She’s never used a pseudonym again, and “Nine Lives” appears under her own name in The Wind’s Twelve Quarters.

(20) THE NEBULA ON CHAOS HORIZON. Brandon Kempner calls his shot in “2016 Nebula Prediction”.

I’ve spun my creaky model around and around, and here is my prediction for the Nebulas Best Novel category, taking place this weekend:

N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season: 22.5%
Ann Leckie, Ancillary Mercy:22%
Naomi Novik, Uprooted: 14.7%
Ken Liu, The Grace of Kings: 13.3%
Lawrence Schoen, Barsk: 10.7%
Charles Gannon, Trial by Fire: 9.5%
Fran Wilde, Updraft: 7.3%

Remember, Chaos Horizon is a grand (and perhaps failed!) experiment to see if we can predict the Nebulas and Hugos using publicly available data.

(21) A PICTURE AND A THOUSAND WORDS. Defenestration, for reasons that will become obvious, made sure we didn’t miss this Hugo humor.

Andrew Kaye (known in some circles as AK) is the creator of Ben & Winslow and other questionable comics, many of which can be found in his deviantART gallery and his Tumblr. He’s also the editor-in-chief of this magazine. Duh.

I realize a lot of the folks who read Ben & Winslow might not be familiar with the drama that’s surrounded the Hugos lately–you can find plenty of articles and blogs discussing it in more detail than I can spare here. Basically, unlike other major awards, the Hugos are chosen by science-fiction and fantasy fandom. Last year a subset of that fandom got angry with the growing diversity among the award nominees and the subject matter they wrote about (or in other words, the nominees weren’t all straight white men writing adventure stories). They took advantage of the Hugos’ fan-based voting  and hijacked the list of nominees with their own choices. The 2015 Hugo ballot was a shambles–many nominees dropped out, and most Hugo voters chose to vote for “No Award” rather than vote for what actually made it to the ballot.

Well, the same thing has happened this year. The same people are trying to control the award. Trying to destroy the award. And if they’re allowed to continue, they’ll succeed. Needless to say, a lot of people are upset about this. To someone unfamiliar with the award, the whole thing looks like a big joke.

http://www.defenestrationmag.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/04292016-Hugo-Boss.jpg

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Matthew Davis, and Tom Hunter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 11/18 Count Hero

(1) John Picacio’s thoughts about “The New World Fantasy Award: What’s Next”.

  1. THE FIRST QUESTION NEEDS TO BE THE RIGHT ONE. In this case, I would offer that the first question should not be, “Hey, World: what do you think this award should look like?” The first question should be, “Who are the best sculptors and who is the sculptor that can best elevate this award toward a new timeless icon? Who can carry this responsibility? Who can take us to a place we could not have imagined on our own?” The same respect that is given to a great novelist should be given to a great sculptor here.

The sculptor of this award needs to be an artist, first and foremost — someone who solves problems, conceives original thoughts, has unique insights, and visually communicates those thoughts, insights, emotions and intangibles into tangible form. If the plan is to take a straw poll of the most popular and familiar symbols and word pictures, or to concoct a preordained vision and then hire some poor sap to carefully sculpt to that prescription, then please hire a pharmacist, not a professional artist. However, the World Fantasy Award can do better than that, and I’m hoping it will. If I were a decision maker in this process, I would be sky-high excited about the amazing creative (and branding) opportunity ahead, and I would be vigorously searching for the right sculptor to cast a new icon, rather than casting a fishing line praying to hook an idea.

(2) Many others continue to discuss what it should look like, including Charles Vess on Facebook (in a public post).

Ari Berk (friend & folklorist) suggested this idea. Going back to the original story that it seems all cultures around the world share: the hand print on the cave wall. “I am here and this is my story”.

vess wfa idea

(3) Frequent commenter Lis Carey is looking for financial help. Her GoFundMe appeal asks for $3,000, of which $400 has been donated so far.

I’m in a major fix. I don’t have an income right now, but I do have some major expenses. The tenant’s apartment has no heat, and a leaky kitchen sink, and needs a plumber. I have outstanding gas,and electric bills, and water bills for both apartments. I’m looking for work and trying to hold things together, but I’m desperate and need some breathing space. Help!

(4) Sarah Avery delves into some reasons for the success of multi-volume fantasy in “The Series Series: Why Do We Do This To Ourselves? I Can Explain!” at Black Gate. It’s a really good article but not easy to excerpt because it is (unsurprisingly!) long. This will give you a taste, anyway:

I love an ensemble cast. Reading, writing, watching, whatever. In my imaginative life as in my personal life, I’m an extrovert. The struggles of a main character connect with me best when that main character is part of a community. The solution to the existential horror Lovecraft’s protagonists face had always seemed so obvious to me that I’d never articulated it fully, even to myself. The cosmos as a whole doesn’t prefer you over its other components? Of course not. Unimaginably vast forces that would crack your mind open if you let yourself understand them are destroying your world, and you are entirely beneath their notice? Well, that would explain a lot. So what do you do?

You take comfort in the people you love, you go down swinging in their defense, and you live your mammalian values of compassion and connection intensely, as long as it does any good — and then longer, to the last breath, if only in reproof of whatever in the universe stands opposed to them.

Or maybe that isn’t obvious. But I’m pretty sure it’s not just me.

For whatever reason, Lovecraft was not a person, or an author, who could go there.

But the man could write a shorter story than I could. I’ll go to school on anyone who knows something I don’t, including authors who stretch me beyond the bounds of easy sympathy. What could the thing that appeared to me to be a malady in Lovecraft teach me about the gap in my craftsmanship?

First, I tried sharpening the distinction between the main character and the secondary characters. Simplifying the supporting cast, making my protagonist the only one who got to be as vivid and three-dimensional as I prefer for every significant character to be, got me out of novella territory. I could get my stories down to about 10,000 words and still feel that my work hit my own sweet spots.

What about getting the count lower? Magazine editors tend to set their cutoffs at 4,000 words or 7,000 words. What kind of cast size can you fit into that length, and what can you do with it?

I really don’t think you can squeeze in much of a supporting cast, unless those secondary characters are functioning more as props than as people. At most, you can have two realized characters, but that second can only be squeezed in if you’ve got serious writing chops. More characters than that, and you’re down to tricks that, as Elizabeth Bear likes to put it, hack the reader’s neurology: one telling detail that leads the reader to do all the work filling in a character around it. Okay, that’s a cool skill, one worth having, especially if you can do it so that the reader forgets s/he did all the work and remembers the story as if you’d written the character s/he filled in for you. I think I’ve pulled that trick off exactly once. Man, that was strenuous, and not in the ways I find exhilarating.

Avery’s subtopics include “Is It Enough to Call a Novel Community-Driven When It Sprawls across Two Continents, Seven Kingdoms, Three Collapsed Empires, a Passel of Free Cities, and Two Migrating Anarchic Proto-Nations?” Her short answer is, “Nope.”

(5) Mary Robinette Kowal seeks to lock in real progress to keep pace with conversation since the World Fantasy Con with the “SF/F Convention Accessibility Pledge”.

Over the last few years, there have been numerous instances of SF/F conventions failing to provide an accessible experience for their members with disabilities. Though accessibility is the right thing to do, and there are legal reasons for providing it in the US thanks to the 25-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act, many conventions continue to have no trained accessibility staff, policies, contact information, or procedures for accommodating their members with disabilities. As Congress said in the opening of the ADA, these “forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem.”

…We the undersigned are making a pledge. Starting in 2017, to give conventions time to fit this into their planning, the following will be required for us to be participants, panelists, or Guests of Honor at a convention:

  1. The convention has an accessibility statement posted on the website and in the written programs offering specifics about the convention’s disability access.
  2. The convention has at least one trained accessibility staff member with easy to find contact information. (There are numerous local and national organizations that will help with training.)
  3. The convention is willing and able to make accommodations for its members as it tries to be as accessible as possible. (We recommend that the convention uses the Accessibility Checklist for SFWA Spaces as a beginning guideline. Other resources include Fans for Accessible Cons, A Guide for Accessible Conferences, and the ADA rules for places of public accommodation, which apply to US conventions.)

Many people have co-signed.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden also observed, “…When you put in the work on these issues, you find out how many people out there have been staying home.”

(6) Michael Kurland’s autobiographical essay “My Life as a Pejorative” is featured on Shots Crime & Thriller Ezine.

At fourteen I discovered mystery stories and couldn’t decide whether I was Rex Stout, Dorothy Sayers or Dashiel Hammett. Or maybe Simon Templar. Not Leslie Charteris, but Simon Templar. How debonaire, how quick-witted, how good looking.

I was 21 when I got out of the Army, enrolled at Columbia University and began hanging out in Greenwich Village. There I fell into bad company: Randall Garrett, Phil Klass (William Tenn), Don Westlake, Harlan Ellison, Bob Silverberg, and assorted other sf and mystery writers. This was my downfall, the start of my slide into genre fiction. I wrote a science fiction novel, Ten Years to Doomsday, with Chester Anderson, a brilliant poet and prose stylist who taught me much of what I know about writing, and followed that up with The Unicorn Girl, a sequel to Chester’s The Butterfly Kid, a pair of fantasy novels in which the two main characters were ourselves, Chester Anderson and Michael Kurland. These books, and The Probability Pad, a continuation written by my buddy Tom Waters, have become cult classics, known collectively as the Greenwich Village Trilogy, or sometimes The Buttercorn Pad.

(7) Today In History

  • November 18, 1963 – Push-button telephones made their debut.

(8) Today’s Birthday Boys and Girls

  • Born November 18, 1928: Mickey Mouse
  • Born November 18, 1939: Margaret Atwood
  • Born November 18, 1962: Sarah A. Hoyt

(9) John Scalzi makes “An Announcement Regarding Award Consideration for 2015 Work of Mine”. He asks people not to nominate him, and in comments indicates he will decline nominations that come his way.

But this year, when it comes to awards, I want to take a break and celebrate the excellent work that other people are doing, and who deserve attention for that work. My year’s already been, well, pretty good, hasn’t it. I’ve had more than enough good fortune from 2015 and I don’t feel like I need right now to ask for another helping…

But for work that was put out in 2015, please look past me. Find the other writers whose work deserves the spotlight you can put on them with your attention, nomination and vote. Find the works that move your heart and your mind. Find the writers whose work you love and who you feel a nomination can help in their careers and their lives. Look past your usual suspects — including me! — and find someone new to you whose stories and effort you can champion to others. Put those people and works on your ballots. 2015 has been genuinely great year for science fiction and fantasy; it won’t be difficult to find deserving work and people for your consideration.

(10) Bigger than your average bomb shelter. “Czech out the Oppidum, the ultimate apocalypse hideaway” at Treehugger.

We do go on about the importance of resilient design, the ability of our buildings to survive in changing times and climates. We are big on repurposing, finding new uses for old buildings. And if the greenest brick is the one already in the wall, then surely the greenest bomb shelter is the one that’s already in the ground. That’s why the Oppidum is such an exciting opportunity; it’s a conversion of a classified secret facility built in 1984 by what were then the governments of Czechoslovakia and The Soviet Union. Now, it is available for use as the ultimate getaway, deep in a valley in the Czech Republic. The developer notes that they don’t make’em like they used to:…

It has a lovely above-grade modestly sized 30,000 square foot residence, which is connected via secret corridor to the two-storey, 77,000 square foot bunker below, which has been stylishly subdivided into one large apartment and six smaller ones for friends, family and staff, all stocked with ten years of supplies.

(11) Former child actor Charles Herbert died October 31 at the age of 66. The New York Times obit lists his well-known roles in movies like The Fly and 13 Ghosts.

Mr. Herbert was supporting his parents by the time he was 5. He appeared in more than 20 films and 50 television episodes, in which he fended off all kinds of adversaries, from a robot to a human fly.

He shared the limelight with Cary Grant, Sophia Loren and James Cagney. He played a blind boy in a memorable episode of “Science Fiction Theater” in 1956, and appeared in a 1962 “Twilight Zone” episode in which a widowed father takes his children to choose an android grandmother.

(12) SF Signal’s latest Mind Meld, curated by Rob H. Bedford, asks Andrew Leon Hudson, Stephenie Sheung (The BiblioSanctum), Richard Shealy, Michael R. Fletcher, Mark Yon, and Erin Lindsey

Q: Who is your favorite animal companion (pet, familiar, etc) in SFF?

A significant number of genre stories features character’s pets or animal companions. From Loiosh of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos books to Snuff from Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October to Hedwig from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, animals can be companions, pets, or near equals to their “owners.” Who is/are your favorite(s)?

(13) Bruce Gillespie invites fans to download SF Commentary 90, November 2015 — over 100 contributors and 70,000 words.

(14) A Christopher Reeve-worn Superman costume is available for bid until November 19 at 5 p.m. Pacific in a Nate D. Sanders auction.

Superman lot COMP

(15) Heritage Auctions reports a menu from the Titanic fetched a high price in a recently closed auction.

Ironically, the top two lots related to a major disaster and a national tragedy. The first was a first class dinner menu from the last supper on the R.M.S. Titanic, the evening of April 14, 1912. Five salesmen and retailers shared a meal, each signing a menu with their place of residence. Of the five, all but one managed to survive the sinking which occurred in the wee morning hours. We believe this to be the only signed example and the only one from the “last supper”. It sold for $118,750.

The second lot was the license plates from the limo President Kennedy was in when he was shot — which went for $100,000.

(16) And this weekend, Heritage Auctions will take bids on Neal Adams’ original cover art for Green Lantern #76, “one of the most important and influential comic books ever published,” as part of the company’s Nov. 19-21 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction where it is expected to bring $300,000+.

Adams’ iconic cover is striking and symbolic. This issue broke more than just the lantern on the cover! Adding Arrow’s name to the title and logo of the book was genius. It created the first “buddy book” in the comic industry… the equivalent to the “buddy movie” genre. It also allowed writer Denny O’Neil to launch into a 13 issue run that dove into political and sociological themes like no comic had before.

 

Green lanter green arrow

(17) Lovecraft’s mug has already been saved from awards obscurity (or permanently guaranteed it, depending on your view) by the administrators of the Counter Currents and the administrators of its H. P. Lovecraft Prize for Literature. (Which can also be reached using this handy Donotlink link.)

Last year, we at Counter-Currents saw this coming. Thus we have created the Counter-Currents H. P. Lovecraft Prize for Literature, to be awarded to literary artists of the highest caliber who transgress the boundaries of political correctness. Our first laureate is novelist Tito Perdue, who received the award at a banquet in Atlanta on March 7, 2015.

The prize bust is by world-famous porcelain artist Charles Krafft, whose own defiance of political correctness has just led to the cancellation of an exhibition in London.

Wikipedia has an entry on Tito Perdue.

More details about Krafft’s exhibit being pulled by a Whitechapel art gallery from Jewish News:

A fashionable Whitechapel art gallery has pulled the plug on an exhibition by an artist who has been described as a “Holocaust denier” and a “white supremacist,” after complaints and threats were made.

Charles Krafft, who denies both charges, was due to show his work at StolenSpace for the second time, but gallery bosses said they pulled out after receiving “both physical and verbal threats”.

Krafft’s controversial ceramics include busts of Hitler, swastika perfume bottles with the word “forgiveness” emblazoned upon them and plates covered in drawings of Nazi bombings. His work and attributed comments has led to him being labelled a white supremacist, a Nazi sympathiser and a Holocaust denier.

(18) Triple-threat interview with Ken Liu, Lauren Beukes and Tobias S. Buckell at SFFWorld.

Ecotones are the points of transition that occur when two different environments come into contact, and almost inevitably conflict. Can you describe for us an ecotone that has had personal significance for you?

Ken Liu: We’re at a point in our technological evolution where the role played by machines in our cognition is about to change qualitatively. Rather than just acting as “bicycles for the mind,” computers, transformed by ubiquitous networking and presence, will replace important cognitive functions for us at an ever accelerating pace. Much of our memory has already been outsourced to our phones and other devices—and I already see indications that machines will be doing more of our thinking for us. Not since the invention of writing has technology promised to change how we learn and think to such an extent.

The transition between the environment we used to live in and the environment we’re about to live in is going to be exciting as well as threatening, and we’re witnessing one of the greatest transformations in human history.

Tobias Buckell: Last year a deer walked on down through Main Street and then jumped through the window of the local downtown bar. They got it on security camera.

Lauren Beukes: The shared reality of overlapping worlds I live through every day – the schism in experience between rich and poor where everything works differently, from criminal justice to the food you eat, how you get to work, schooling, the day-to-day you have to navigate.

I saw this most clearly and devastatingly when I tried to help my cleaning lady get justice for the scumbag who fatally assaulted her daughter. The cops didn’t care. The hospital put it down as “natural causes”. The prosecutor had to throw the case out because there was so little evidence. This compared to an incident when a friend’s motorbike was stolen at night in the nice suburbs and five cops ended up on his balcony drinking tea, having recovered the vehicle.

(19) Sarah Chorn at Bookworm Blues wonders if her conflict of interest should bar her from reviewing two books.

I feel pretty weird about doing this, but I also think it has to be done. This year I was a beta reader for two books that are currently published (a few more that have upcoming publication dates). I have struggled a little bit with how to approach these novels. While I feel obligated to review them (and I want to review them), I feel like being a beta reader for them takes my objectivity out of it, which is a problem for me. Is it really a review if I can’t objectively judge it?

Am I pondering my navel?

I’m surprised her desire to ask the question didn’t lead to a built-in answer.

(20) The Ant-Man Gag Reel has a few bloopers, though it’s not all that funny.

(21) Marvel’s Agent Carter Season 2 premieres January 5 on ABC.

[Thanks to Kate Savage, Will R., Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 11/9 My Heart Says “Bang!”

(1) “It appears there’s a Northwesteros football team,” reports Tom Galloway. “Personally, I find this amusing given that when he was at Northwestern, George R.R. Martin was a mainstay of, not the football team, but the chess team (he’s written a story where the starting point is a real life match against the arch-rival UChicago team).”

GRRM at Northwestern COMP

(Photo posted by Northwestern Athletics.)

(2) The decision to stop using Lovecraft’s image on the World Fantasy Award was, needless to say, unpopular with many commenters on H.P. Lovecraft’s Facebook page.

(3) Nick Mamatas is running a poll asking “What should the New World Fantasy Award be?” – where participants get to choose among his own satirical answers.

(4) Sam Kriss explains, in “The Englishman and the Octopus”, why Spectre is really a Lovecraft story, not a Bond movie.

This film doesn’t exactly hide its place within Lovecraftian mythology. You really think that creature on the ring is just an octopus? Uniquely for a Bond film, it starts with an epigraph of sorts, the words ‘the dead are alive’ printed over a black screen – a not particularly subtle allusion to the famous lines from the Necronomicon: ‘That is not dead which can eternal lie/ And with strange aeons even death may die.’

(5) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will launch a new SF/F book line edited by John Joseph Adams reports Locus Online.

The new list, called John Joseph Adams Books, will begin in February 2016 with print editions of three backlist Hugh Howey titles. Adams will serve as editor at large for the line. He began his association with HMH when he became series editor for the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy series, launched this year.

(6) Buddy’s Antique Auction in Arab, Alabama might not be the first place you’d look to buy a genuine Lunar Rover — but it should be! That salvaged LRV recently in the news will be there for sale to the highest bidder on November 21 at Noon.

LRV_7We are proud to announce that we have been commissioned to sell at public auction this very special piece of historical value. This Lunar Rover or “Moon Buggy” as it is comonly called is a prototype from the mid 1960s. NASA engineers were studying ways for the astronauts to be mobile while on the moon. This buggy never went to the moon but has been authenticated by a retired NASA scientist and he believes Wernher Von Braun was photographed on this buggy. “Moon Buggies” were used on the moon and three are still there. This is definitely a piece of history some space enthusiast could lovingly bring back to its original glory….

This is a special auction and will be for the Moon Buggy. This will be the only item in this auction and will be held at 12:00 Noon at the Worley Brothers Antiques building.

More photos here.

(7) Sarah Chorn writes frequently about accessibility, and her latest post at Bookworm Blues is a status report in general about conventions’ support for special needs.

I saw a lot of praise this year about conventions that had sign language interpreters in attendance, and I thought, “Good. I’m glad that conventions are finally getting this accommodation, but what does it say about us that this is something to be praised rather than part of our normal convention going experience?”

That’s the thing that really irks me about this issue. Accommodation is still something to be praised rather than a normal thing. It’s an event rather than an occurrence. Furthermore, there are still times when there are problems and people get excluded or edged out due to these problems. The dialogue about this is still minimal in the genre. There is still almost no discussion about these problems until something happens and there is a small outcry.

(8) Roger Tener gave permission to reprint his account of Nancy Nutt’s memorial service from Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol.

Saturday [November 7] was the Memorial Service for Nancy Nutt.

David and Sherrie Moreno, Cathy, and I drove up to Kansas City It was an opportunity to spend time with friends to comfort each other and remember Nancy.

There was a couple of tables set up in a small room with pictures that Nancy had taken over the years. Nancy’s family told us to take any of the pictures we wanted.  There were several pictures of Fans and airplanes. More specifically airplanes that I had flown Fan gatherings.

During the service many us fans told various stories of Nancy that brought a smile. (Like Mickey Mouse committing suicide in the back 52 Tango while flying over Walt Disney World.)

After the service many of us gathered at Genghis Kahn for supper. After we ate we stood outside the restaurant and talked and talked and talked in the finest Fannish tradition.

We will miss you Nancy.

(9) Kameron Hurley, asked “Do Goodreads Ratings Correlate to Sales?”, answered affirmatively. (Her post is inspired by Mark Lawrence’s earlier “What do Goodreads ratings say about sales?”)

(10) Misty Massey says there are reasons for not “Breaking the Rules” at Magical Words.

And one more that’s happened recently (and been done by more than one person)  “If you’re new to us, send us a writing sample of the first five pages of your published work.” And instead, you send us a link to your website. Sure, that website may have oodles of your work on it, but you just showed us that you can’t follow simple instructions. Why would I believe I should work with you?

The point of all this is to make sure you guys who DO follow the rules and who DO read the guidelines carefully know that we on the other end of those guidelines appreciate the effort you take. We may not open our next letter to you with the words “I see that you followed our guidelines” but you can just bet that you’re even hearing from us because you did. And one other thing to remember…publishing is a tightly-knit business. If you behave in a jerkish manner, breaking rules and skipping guidelines for one editor, don’t be surprised when another editor seems uninterested in working with you.  Word gets around.

(11) Rachael Acks’ contribution to SF Signal’s MIND MELD: Must hear audio fiction, accidentally left out of the main article, appeared today.

I listen to a lot of audio books, because I’ll have them playing while I’m describing core, processing data, or driving. (And I tend to listen to them over and over again, since I will miss things sometimes.) The two authors whose audiobooks I own the most of are Lois McMaster Bujold and NK Jemisin. I’m not sure if that’s because their work lends itself particularly well to the format, or just because I love everything they write anyway. I actually didn’t own a written copy of any of Bujold’s books until this year, and reading it normally felt weird—so many things weren’t spelled the way I thought they would be. This also made reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms after I’d listened to it first a slightly odd experience.

(12) Jim C. Hines says it’s time for a “NaNoWriMo Pep Talk” about hitting the wall.

This is the time in Jim’s writing process where, like Charlie Brown kicking at that elusive football, I lose my footing and end up flat on my back, staring into the sky and wondering what the heck just happened.

My shiny new idea isn’t quite so shiny anymore. I’ve gotten lots of words down, but they don’t exactly match what I was imagining. And this next part of the outline doesn’t make any sense at all, now that I think about it more closely. Good grief, the Jim who was outlining this thing last month is an idiot. And now I have to fix his mess….

(13) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born November 9, 1934 – Carl Sagan

(14) Today In History

  • November 9, 1984Silent Night, Deadly Night premieres. To protest the film, critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel read the credits out loud on their television show saying, “Shame, shame, shame” after each name.

(15) Contrary to what some people may believe, John Scalzi’s cat Zeus does not require any more attention from the internet than he’s already getting.

One, he’s perfectly fine, merely not at the center of my public discussion of cats in the last week as he neither a) a kitten, b) a newly-passed on senior cat. You should be aware that Zeus has been perfectly fine not being the center of media attention in the last several days, as he is a cat and has not the slightest idea either that I write about my cats here, or that any of you have any idea who he is. But he is alive and well and doing what he does.

(16) “A Death Star Filled With Plastic Stormtroopers Is a Better Bucket of Army Men” opines Andrew Lizsewski at Toyland.

If there’s one toy that defines cheap and mass-produced, it’s those buckets full of tiny green plastic army men. They really stop being desirable once you turn six, except when those plastic soldiers are replaced with tiny white stormtroopers led by an equally tiny Darth Vader.

Star Wars army men

(17) Alastair Reynolds tells what it was like to be a huge fan of the original Star Wars at Approaching Pavonis Mons by balloon.

Through that summer, I collected complete sets of both the blue and red-bordered bubble-gum cards. In that autumn, as I started at The Big School (Pencoed Comprehensive, where I still help out with creative writing workshops) I got hold of George Lucas’s novel of the film. Yes, it was amazing, wasn’t it, that George Lucas had not only found time to make this film, but also scribble down a novelisation of it? It was only later that Alan Dean Foster was credited, but not on my edition. It was a shiny paperback with a yellow cover and a set of colour photos stitched into the middle. It was a holy relic, as far as I was concerned, and when I accidentally dented one of the corners, I felt as if my world had ended. I also got the 7″ disco-funk version of the Star Wars music:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meco

Which was only the third record I’d ever bought, after the Jaws theme and Queen’s We Are The Champions.

(18) If Reynolds doesn’t know these 12 facts about Yoda already, he soon will.

When Stuart Freeborn, the make-up artist who was tasked with creating Yoda, looked into a mirror, he saw Yoda. No, it wasn’t a Disney magic mirror, but rather it was Freeborn’s own reflection that inspired Yoda’s final look.

When Freeborn modeled himself and started sculpting Yoda, he emphasized his bald scalp, wrinkles, and pointed chin in order to bring Yoda into the world. According to Freeborn, the only part of Yoda that wasn’t based on himself was the upper lip, in which he removed the famous mustache of Albert Einstein and ported it onto Yoda’s face. This move was meant by Freeborn to trigger a subconscious association in the audience with Einstein’s intelligence and wisdom, thus making Yoda appear intelligent before he even spoke a word of advice in his lovable, fractured English.

(19) Even before the internet you couldn’t believe everything you read as Matt Staggs proves in “Four Times Science Almost Flew Off The Rails: Bat Men On The Moon, Phantom Planets, Ghosts, and The Hollow Earth” at Suvudu.

2) When We Thought Bat People Lived On The Moon Ah, 19th century New York City: a place where the lanterns burned all night, Bill the Butcher and his gang of Know-Nothings spattered the streets with blood, and four-foot tall bat people looked down upon it all from their home on the moon. What, you don’t know about the flying lunar bat people? That’s because they were the invention of a master troll named Matthew Goodman, editor of the Sun newspaper.

(20) “Mariah Carey To Run LEGO Gotham City” says SciFi4Me:

Singer and actress Mariah Carey has joined the cast of The LEGO Batman Movie.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, she’ll voice the mayor of Gotham City. This report is contrary to a Deadline report that she would be playing Commissioner Gordon — which only works if she’s playing Commissioner Barbara Gordon from the animated Batman Beyond. Of course, that’s completely possible, too, given how the first LEGO Movie mashed up characters from all over the story multiverse….

The LEGO Batman Movie is scheduled for release on February 10, 2017,

(21) This just in – eight years ago.

Alrugo Entertainment, bring you: ITALIAN SPIDERMAN Unearthed for the first time in 40 years and lovingly restored at Alrugo Studios Milan, this rare theatrical trailer for the 1968 Italian classic ‘Italian Spiderman’ is a real treat. Featuring Franco Franchetti of ‘Mondo Sexo’ fame in his last ever role before being killed in a spear fishing accident in 1969. Alrugo entertainment will be releasing the FULL, remastered ITALIAN SPIDERMAN film on the web starting MAY 22. STAY TUNED

Italian Spiderman has its own Wikipedia article!

Italian Spiderman is an Australian film parody of Italian action–adventure films of the 60s and 70s, first released on YouTube in 2007. The parody purports to be a “lost Italian film” by Alrugo Entertainment, an Australian film-making collective formed by Dario Russo, Tait Wilson, David Ashby, Will Spartalis and Boris Repasky.

Ostensibly an Italian take on the comic book superhero Spider-Man, the film is a reference to foreign movies that misappropriate popular American superheroes such as the Turkish film “3 Dev Adam”, and licensed series such as the Japanese TV series “Spider-Man”, both of which alter the character of Spider-Man for foreign audiences. Other notable entries include the Indian version of Superman (1987), I fantastici tre supermen (3 Fantastic Supermen) (1967) and La Mujer Murcielago (The Batwoman) (1968).

(22) A Robot Chicken video, “The Nerd on The CW,” parodies Arrow and The Flash.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, DMS, Tom Galloway, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peter J.]