Pixel Scroll 11/20/20 Trapped In A Pixel He Never Scrolled

(1) “THE FUTURE WAS SO BAD.” “HOW BAD WAS IT?” The Library of Congress’ National Book Festival Blog introduces “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Dystopian Worlds”.

Why is it that some of us love dystopian novels, the kind of fiction that takes a dim, bleak view of the future? Is it because writers of this genre show us how bad things can become if we aren’t careful? Or that we can feel better about the current state of affairs because they aren’t nearly as bad as the book’s scenario?

The “Dystopian Worlds” conversation at the 2020 National Book Festival featured Dark Star trilogy novelist Marlon James, who spoke with sci-fi/fantasy writer Jeff VanderMeer. James’s most recent novel is “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” (Riverhead), and VanderMeer’s is “A Peculiar Peril” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Everdeen Mason, senior audience editor of The Washington Post, moderated and, in her words, is an “occasional book critic.”

(2) BLOOM’S FINAL LE GUIN APPRECIATION. “The Strange Friendships of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’” in The New Yorker is an essay was drawn from The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread by Harold Bloom (d. 2019), out this month.

…Though I have written about “The Left Hand of Darkness” before, in 1987 and again in 2000, I have forgotten what I said and do not want to consult it now, but, rather, make a fresh start on this marvellous romance. In one of her letters, Ursula remarked that writing “The Dispossessed” was liberating for her, and she seemed to prefer it to “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Rereading both, I find myself torn between the two. The protagonist, Shevek, in “The Dispossessed,” is far more interesting than anyone in the earlier book, and yet he and his story manifest something of the ambivalence of Le Guin’s subtitle: “An Ambiguous Utopia.”

In a fierce introduction to “The Left Hand of Darkness,” Le Guin charmingly remarks, “A novelist’s business is lying.” She adumbrates:

“I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.

“The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie. Psychologically defined, a symbol. Aesthetically defined, a metaphor.”

Always in Le Guin we hear reverberations of Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching,” which she translated, with J. P. Seaton, as “A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way” (1997). We corresponded about her understanding of the Tao, yet I had to confess my permanent difficulty in absorbing this way that is not a way. I myself always keep to hand a copy of “The Bhagavad-Gita” as rendered by Barbara Stoler Miller, which I purchased in the autumn of 1986, the year of its publication. After hundreds of readings, I think I know what Krishna means by “dark inertia,” “passion,” and “lucidity,” but a dozen readings of the Le Guin-Seaton “Tao Te Ching” have left me muttering that I do not apprehend the water and stone of the Way. Is it that I am not enough open to my own female component? That seems not right. I am more my late mother than my late father. What moves me most in Ursula is the serenity. I lack it utterly….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to loaf around with A.C. Wise in Episode 132 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast as they nibble — she on chocolate zucchini bread and he on cherry pecan bread.

A.C. Wise

Wise is a two-time finalist for the Nebula Award, two-time finalist for the Sunburst Award, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Plus she’s won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her fiction has appeared in UncannyTor.comShimmer, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies. Her work can also be found in two collections, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, both published with Lethe Press. Her debut novel, Wendy, Darling, will be out from Titan Books in June 2021, and a new short story collection, The Ghost Sequences, will be published by Undertow Books next August.

We discussed how her first professionally published fiction ended up printed on a coffee can, the 24-hour challenge which led to the creation of her Lambda Award-nominated collection, which comic book character obsesses her the most, how individual stories can act as commentary on all stories, why she enjoys wielding the power of ambiguity, how workshopping with other writers can help make stories better, what The Queen’s Gambit can teach us about dealing with reader expectations, the unexpected way a flash fiction piece turned into her first novel, and much more

(4) SLF WANTS ENTRIES FOR ILLUSTRATION OF THE YEAR. The Speculative Literature Foundation is making an open call for original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustrationof the Year or Artwork) for 2021.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats.

The winning artist will receive $500.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s second international open call for Illustration of the Year, and the fourth consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

Criteria: Each artist (Artist) may submit one (1) artwork for consideration. The artwork may be created digitally or by hand (no photography). The subject matter must combine fantasy and science fiction elements as well as incorporate SLF’s literary focus. All artwork must be submitted in both jpeg and pdf formats. Aspect ratio must work for the website banner, being at least 1500 points wide, and 400-500 points high. Final resolution for print must be at least 11 inches wide and 300 dpi. Files are limited to 10MB.

Submit artwork to development@speculativeliterature.org, including your name, email address, phone number and short bio.

(5) DON’T INVITEMS. LitHub’s Chris Gosden explains “Why Harry Houdini DID NOT Like Arthur Conan Doyle”.

… Later in 1924 Houdini wrote a book exposing mediums and their activities at séances—A Magician among the Spirits.

Houdini’s position was complex and interesting. The greatest illusionist of the last century became the great debunker of illusions. Conversely, Houdini was keen to stress the physical skill and strength that formed the basis for his act and to reveal the tricks employed by others, many of whom claimed not to be tricksters. Houdini himself became the subject of myth-making, seen by some as having shamanistic powers; and Conan Doyle was not alone in considering Houdini to be a magician, a view expressed in his book The Edge of the Unknown (1930).

Conan Doyle’s two-volume work The History of Spiritualism (1926) was an argument for the veracity and validity of the spiritualist movement, citing, among many other cases, the Davenport brothers and the Spirit Cabinet as an instance when people were able to summon spirits.

Important issues were contained in the disagreements between Houdini and Doyle that resonated elsewhere. First was the issue of evidence and how different people were either convinced by, or skeptical of, exactly the same set of events, such as the activities within the Davenports’ Spirit Cabinet. The creator of the arch-empiricist and logician, Sherlock Holmes, was famously credulous. Houdini took a lot to be convinced of other-worldly phenomena.

Deeper issues were also involved, concerning the nature of the person and of reality more broadly. Were people divided into body and spirit, with the latter surviving the death of the body? As skepticism concerning religious belief grew, so did doubts about life after death, which in turn threw notions of the composition of the person into doubt—perhaps people did not have souls or some form of immaterial reality?…

(6) THE G.O.A.T. In “An Oral History of ‘Marge vs The Monorail’, the Episode That Changed ‘The Simpsons'” on Vice, Sean Cole interviews the people involved in “Marge vs. The Monorail,” which many think is the greatest episode of The Simpsons.  The episode was written by Conan O’Brien, directed by Rich Moore (who won an Oscar for Zootopia) and had guest spots by Phil Hartman and Leonard Nimoy.

Jeff Martin: Mindless groupthink is a recurrent theme on The Simpsons, and I think the monorail episode is the best – and certainly my favourite – example of Springfield mob mentality. Watching the episode, I decided to go ahead and time it. From Lanley whistling in the back of the auditorium to the entire town marching on the town hall steps singing “Monorail!” is a little less than two minutes. I think it took Harold Hill at least four minutes to whip up River City.

Rich Moore: That musical number was almost harder to pull off than the whole third act climax. I’d done “A Streetcar Named Marge” before. That was a big musical spectacular, so it felt like, ‘Okay, we’re going to have to pull off what we did on that episode.’ That’s hard to do when you’re not working under the same roof as the animators. We would send a very complete blueprint, with all the key posing and animation timing, to Korea [where the bulk of animation is done by a studio called AKOM], but there was a bit of crossing your fingers and hoping, since you’re not there in the room to direct them. Everything is being communicated through instructions on exposure sheets, which have been translated from English to Korean.

Jeff Martin: Every single word of the monorail song was unchanged from Conan’s first draft, which is impressive. My niche on the show in those days was to actually write the tunes to the songs. I wrote a bunch of songs, so I was assigned to set the monorail song to music. It’s sort of like, “Bum, bum, bum, bum. I think I’m done!” It’s barely a song. It’s just sort of a rhythm and “Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!” The notion that Conan and I co-wrote that song is laughable. I’ve told Conan over the years that he had his part in that song. Elton John, meaning me, needs Bernie Taupin, meaning him.

(7) VOSS OBIT. Actor Philip Voss has died of COVID-19 at the age of 84. The Guardian ran anoverview of his career.

…His television career had begun in the first (1963) season of Doctor Who, with William Hartnell, as Acomat, the leader of Mongolian bandits, in the Marco Polo story, and as a young Dulcian, Wahed, a humanoid pacifist killed by Quarks, a few years later, with Patrick Troughton as the second doctor. His last television role was as Ian McKellen’s acid-tongued brother, Mason, in the sitcom Vicious (2013-16).

In the late 1970s he was also a member of the BBC Radio Drama Company, working with the directors Jane Morgan and Celia De Wolff, in subsequent years, on The Lord of the Rings (he was Lord of the Nazgûl)… On film, he popped up in Octopussy (1983) with Roger Moore as James Bond, Trevor Nunn’s Lady Jane (1986), Bob Rafelson’s Mountains of the Moon (1990) and as Laura’s father in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago, Roger Zelazny would win the Balrog Award for “The Last Defenders of Camelot”. It was originally published in Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine, Summer 1979. The Balrog Award were a set of awards given annually from 1979 to 1985 for the best works and achievements of genre fiction in the previous year. You knew what they were named after. The awards were originally announced by editor Jonathan Bacon in Issue #15 of Fantasy Crossroads and presented at the Fool-Con II convention on April Fool’s Day, 1979. Bacon says that they were not to considered serious awards. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 20, 1964 The First Men in the Moon premiered. It’s an adaptation by screenwriter Nigel Kneale of H. G. Wells novel of the same name. It was produced by Charles H. Schneer, and directed by Nathan Juran. It  starred Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries. Ray Harryhausen of course did the special effects with sculptor Bryan Kneale constructing the Selenites from Harryhausen’s designs. With the exception of the grinch critic at the New York Times, critics loved it, though it was a box-office bomb which Harryhausen thought was the fault of too much comedy in the script. It holds a respectable sixty-seven percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 20, 1858 – Selma Lagerlöf.  Nine novels, a score of shorter stories for us, many others of each outside our field.  First woman to win Nobel Prize in Literature; given “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination, and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1923 – Len Moffatt.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 25.  Forry Award (for life contribution to SF; given to pros and fans, some people are both).  With wife June, Fan GoH at Loscon 8; TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates, publishing The Moffatt House Abroad; Evans-Freehafer Award (for service to L.A. Science Fantasy Society); fanzine Moonshine; L & J and I published Button-Tack (memorial zine for Rick Sneary – rhymes with “sherry”); L & J posthumously in First Fandom Hall of Fame.  My appreciation of Len here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1926 John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin, 91. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum Leap, StarmanBrimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voiceLong John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies as well. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1936 – Don DeLillo, 84.  A dozen novels, half as many shorter stories, for us; four other novels, a score of other shorter stories, plays, a screenplay.  Nat’l Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), PEN / Saul Bellow Award, Lib’y of Congress Award.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 76. She received the Otherwise Award for her Wild Life novel, and nominated for another one for The Dazzle of Day novel.  Much of her excellent short stories are collected in the recently released Unforeseen which along with her two genre novels are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1950 – Donita Paul, 70.  A dozen novels.  Romances and juveniles under another name.  Why shouldn’t a Christian author write of dragons – what about St. George? [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 64. She makes the Birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as wellas the two Sharknado films she just did. (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1959 Sean Young, 61. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in Dune. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1972 – Cerece Rennie Murphy, 48.  Seven novels, one shorter story.  Ardent fan of John Donne, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut, and Alexander Pope from an early age.  A 2nd Grade teacher applauds a CRM book for children, “I have struggled to find books with African-American characters who are not stereotyped or set in a time period of racial struggle.”  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1980 – Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, 40.  Illustrator and conceptual artist.  Here is Beneath Ceaseless Skies 101.  Here is The Fall of Io.  Here is Welcome.  Here is an astronaut.  Here is a robot bartender.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton says this Rhymes With Orange reminded him of Howard Waldrop’s first sale (to Analog! Possibly even to Campbell!) — “Lunchbox”.

(12) GREAT DAYS OF ANIMATION. Join legendary animator Glen Keane, director of Over The Moon, for a virtual retrospective conversation with filmmaker and animator Sergio Pablos. Free event on Saturday, December 5 at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

A 38-year veteran of Walt Disney Feature Animation, Glen Keane trained under Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. Keane went on to create many beloved Disney characters such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Beast, Tarzan, and Rapunzel. In 2012, Keane departed Disney to begin Glen Keane Productions as a way to further his artistic explorations in animation, design, and film. He has since gone on to collaborate with Google, the Paris Ballet, and Kobe Bryant. In 2017, he animated and directed the Academy Award-winning animated film “Dear Basketball” in collaboration with legends Kobe Bryant and John Williams. Most recently, he directed OVER THE MOON, now available on Netflix.

(13) A STARCHY PARABLE. [Item by rcade.] The AmITheAsshole subreddit is a place for people to find out whether they’ve done something to someone else that makes them an asshole.

A woman asked: “AITA for “ruining” the rice that my boyfriend cooks with by consolidating the multiple bags of rice which he claims are “different” into a single container?”

Here’s where it becomes fodder for File 770. Commenter SelectNetwork1 has responded in the form of a fairy tale in this thread. [There are now over 4K comments, and it took OGH 10 minutes to find it again, so we’re just going to quote it in full.]

Once there was a princess who always wanted things her way. There were three bags of rice in the kitchen and every day she asked, why can’t all the rice be in the same bag? They are all the same.” And every day her boyfriend replied, “They look the same to you because you only look at them from a distance, but they are not the same. They won’t cook right if they’re mixed together.”

One day, the princess’s boyfriend went away for the weekend, leaving the princess home alone. The three bags of rice sitting were all she could think about. They are the same! she thought, over and over. Why are they not in the same bag together! At last she could stand it no more. She went to the kitchen, found a single, big container, and dumped all three bags of rice into it. Then she shook it very hard so the grains would mix. There, now all the rice is together, she thought. At last, she was at peace.

A few hours later, there was a knock at the door. The princess went to answer it, and on the front step was a mysterious woman. “Did you mix three bags of rice all together?” asked the mysterious woman. “They were all the same, they belonged in one bag,” said the princess. The mysterious woman seemed to grow to a hundred feet tall! The princess cowered, and let out a squeak. She covered her eyes with her hands, and realized her hands were paws! She had been turned into a mouse.

The mysterious woman picked her up and put the mouse princess on her shoulder. The mouse princess clung to her shirt as the mysterious woman went into the house and walked straight to the kitchen. She took the big bag of rice and dumped it out on the kitchen table, then gently lifted the mouse princess off her shoulder and set her down beside the rice, which towered above her mouse head like a mountain. “Do you wish to become a human princess again?” the mysterious woman asked, and the mouse princess nodded and squeaked. “Then you must separate these grains of rice that you have mixed together. Only then will you return to your true form.”

The mouse princess stared up at the mountain of rice: it was too large to contemplate, and the rice was all the same! It seemed like an impossible task. She turned back to the mysterious woman, but she had vanished: the kitchen was empty.

For a while, the mouse princess sulked. Eventually, she got bored, and picked up a grain of rice between her paws. “It’s just rice, it’s all the same,” she tried to say, but it came out as “squeak.” She put it aside, and picked up another grain of rice. “See, just rice?” she tried to say, but that, too, came out as “squeak.” This grain was heavier than the first one, and she looked more closely at it. The first grain was long and thin, and this one was a little shorter, and fatter at the middle. She pawed through the pile and came up with another: this grain was shorter and fatter still. “They are not the same!” she tried to exclaim, but it came out as “Squeak!”

The mouse princess contemplated the mountain of rice, and for the first time since she had been turned into a mouse by the mysterious stranger, she felt a little hope. She took the three grains of rice and set them down in three corners of the table, then went back to the mountain of rice and began to take it apart, one grain at a time.

The longer she worked, the easier it became. After a while, she didn’t have to examine the grains to tell them apart, she could see the difference as soon as she as much as glanced at them. She worked until she was exhausted, then she fell asleep on a pile of rice, and woke up again a few hours later to begin working again. She worked and slept, worked and slept, and worked again.

After three days and three nights, the mouse princess was finished. As soon as she pushed the last grain of rice into its pile, she felt as if the room were shrinking around her! She leapt off the table before she could spill the rice, and landed on the floor on her human feet.

Just as she was getting her bearings, she heard the front door open. Her boyfriend was home! She swiftly found the original bags and swept the three piles of rice into their three separate containers. Just as she set the last bag of rice on the table, her boyfriend walked into the room. When he saw the bags of rice, he sighed. “I’ve told you before, they are not the same just because they look the same to you,” he said. The princess smiled. “I know,” she said. “All the rice looked the same to me when I looked at them only from a distance; now I have looked closer, and I understand that each rice is unique.”

The human princess’s boyfriend looked surprised, but happy. “I’ll start making dinner,” he said. “What kind of rice would you like to eat?”

“The medium-length one,” the princess said. “But rinse it carefully… I think I saw a mouse around here somewhere.”

(14) STAY FROSTY. Variety peeks behind the curtain as “George Clooney Navigates Two Worlds in Sci-Fi Drama ‘The Midnight Sky’”.

Netflix’s sci-fi drama “The Midnight Sky,” set for release next month, will see George Clooney as a scientist in the Arctic trying to protect a little girl, and prevent a group of astronauts from coming back home after a global catastrophe.

“It’s two different worlds; we were basically saying we were going to shoot ‘The Revenant’ and stop, and then shoot ‘Gravity,’” said Clooney about his seventh feature as a director during an online seminar at EnergaCamerimage Film Festival dedicated to “The Midnight Sky,” an adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton novel “Good Morning, Midnight.” He was accompanied by the film’s cinematographer Martin Ruhe.

“Usually, when space movies are shot, up is up and down is down, and that’s not exactly how it works. In ‘Gravity,’ the camera was constantly rotating. We wanted to keep the idea of the horizon being different, without making everyone throw up along the way. But our first conversation was: ‘How do we shoot winter’?,” said Clooney, mentioning that while two-thirds of Earthbound sequences were shot in Iceland, one-third was completed on the sound stage, “which was as cold as Iceland for some reason!,” he said.

(15) A LITTLE GAFFE. “Star Wars: The Mandalorian Has Its Own Game of Thrones Coffee Cup Blunder” in “Chapter 12: The Seige.”

…For the second time on The Mandalorian, an on-set mistake has been noticed, reminding fans of the infamous coffee cup on Game of Thrones. Photo at the link.

Without giving too much away, this episode sees Mando and Baby Yoda return to Nevarro, where Din Djarrin reunites with Greef Carga and Cara Dune to shut down an old Imperial base on the planet. While they’re working through the base, getting into a shootout with a few stormtroopers, a pretty obvious mistake can be noticed in the background….

In the back-left corner of the frame, a man can be seen that clearly isn’t a part of the Star Wars universe. He’s wearing a t-shirt, blue jeans, and a watch. You can only see the left side of his body, and his head is thankfully out of the frame, but it’s still very noticeable.

(16) LAST LIGHTNING. People reports “The CW’s Black Lightning to End with Season 4”.

Black Lightning is coming to an end, the CW announced Friday.

The superhero drama will conclude with its upcoming fourth season, set to premiere in February 2021. Though the network did not give a reason for the series’ end, showrunner Salim Akil released a statement thanking the cast, crew and fans.

“When we first started the Black Lighting journey, I knew that Jefferson Pierce and his family of powerful Black women would be a unique addition to the superhero genre,” the statement said, according to Entertainment Weekly.

He continued, “The love that Blerds and all comic book fans around the globe have shown this series over the past three seasons proved what we imagined: Black people want to see themselves in all their complexities.”

(17) NIGHT OF THE GAS GIANTS, Mental Floss urges everyone, “Don’t Miss Saturn And Jupiter’s Great Conjunction on the Winter Solstice” on December 21.

In 2020, skygazers were treated to meteor showers, a new comet, and a Halloween blue moon. One of the last major astronomical events of the year is set to fall on the night of the winter solstice. On December 21, look up to catch Saturn in conjunction with Jupiter.

WHAT IS THE CONJUNCTION OF SATURN AND JUPITER?

In astronomy, a conjunction occurs when two planets appear exceptionally close in the night sky. Two of our solar system’s gas giants will share a celestial “kiss” on the longest night of the year. The rare meeting of Saturn and Jupiter is known as the “great conjunction” by astronomers.

(18) A MODEST DESIGN PROPOSAL. The election coverage is winding down, so here’s what Fox News has moved on to: “Grow-your-own human steaks meal kit is not ‘technically’ cannibalism, makers say”.

…A “DIY meal kit” for growing steaks made from human cells was recently nominated for “design of the year” by the London-based Design Museum.

Named the Ouroboros Steak after the circular symbol of a snake eating itself tail-first, the hypothetical kit would come with everything one needs to use their own cells to grow miniature human meat steaks.

“People think that eating oneself is cannibalism, which technically this is not,” Grace Knight, one of the designers, told Dezeen magazine.

(19) THAT’S NO MOON! The Planetary Society pointed readers to NASA’s story “Earth May Have Captured a 1960s-Era Rocket Booster”. This one’s not a conjunction – it’s just regular junk.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were puzzled over Earth’s newest moon: an object in orbit around the Earth, temporarily captured by our planet’s gravity. Tracing the object’s trajectory back through time, they discovered it came from Earth itself in 1966, when NASA launched Surveyor 2 to the Moon. The object is likely the rocket’s upper stage.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Rich Horton, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, rcade, Contrarius, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 10/8/19 Clop, Clop, Clop Went The Pixel. Zing, Zing, Zing Went The Scroll

(1) ROBOTECH. Titan Comics launches its new Robotech comics on October 16.

A new Robotech saga starts now with Robotech: Remix, a gripping series that will take beloved characters and iconic mecha to places fans have never seen before! Featuring new writer Brenden Fletcher (Motorcrush, Isola) and anime ace Elmer Damaso (Robotech/Voltron).

(2) HOUR OF THE WOLF. Has Jim Freund’s legendary radio program clocked out for the last time? Andrew Liptak explains the crisis in “Science Fiction Talk Show ‘Hour of the Wolf’ Goes Offline Amidst Studio Dispute” at Tor.com.

Jim Freund’s radio talk show Hour of the Wolf has been a fixture within the New York science fiction community on WBAI 99.5 FM for nearly half a century. On Monday, the station’s parent company, Pacifica Across America, abruptly shut down the station and replaced its local programming with shows from its other holdings, citing “financial losses,” according to Gothamist and The New York Times. The move leaves the future of the long-running program in question.

…The turmoil is a blow to the show, which began in 1971, and has been continually hosted by Freund since 1974. “Hour of the Wolf” was an early-morning talk show that aired between 5AM and 7AM, Freund explained, telling Tor.com that the live, call-in show was a way for the general public to learn about the science fiction and fantasy community….

Here’s the New York Times article: “Layoffs and Canceled Shows at WBAI-FM, a New York Radio Original”. A left-leaning station can’t stay afloat in New York? Amazing.

…In an interview, Mr. Vernile said WBAI — which, like the network’s other stations, is listener supported — had fallen short of its fund-raising goals in recent years. He added that the station was unable to make payroll and other expenses, forcing the larger Pacifica Foundation network to bail it out.

“Listeners in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Washington, D.C., have been supporting the efforts in New York,” Mr. Vernile said. “It has gotten to a point where we can no longer do that.”

Liptak’s post also includes the information reflected by this update from The Indypendent:

N.Y. State Supreme Court Justice Frank Nervo has granted an injunction against the Pacifica Foundation’s attempt to close WBAI. Regular programming should resume today. Both parties are currently due to appear before Justice Nervo on Friday, Oct. 18. Just after 10:30 p.m. on Monday, the following statement was issued by Berthold Reimers, WBAI General Manager, to all producers and staff at the station:

WBAI managed to get an injunction to stay the takeover of the station. This means the station is legally back in the hands of WBAI’s personnel. All programs are back on and there is much to be done and we have no time to waste. The producers of WBAI have organized a meeting tomorrow night [Tuesday, Oct. 8] at 6:30 PM at 325 Hudson Street near Van Dam.

(3) NOBEL PRIZE. The LA Times has the story: “Nobel Prize in physics goes to three scientists for their work in understanding the cosmos “.

A Canadian American cosmologist and two Swiss scientists won this year’s Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for their work in understanding how the universe has evolved from the Big Bang and the blockbuster discovery of the first known planet outside our solar system.

Canadian-born James Peebles, 84, of Princeton University, was credited for “theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology” and Switzerland’s Michel Mayor, 77, and Didier Queloz, 53, both from the University of Geneva, were honored for discovering “an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star,” said Prof. Goran Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Peebles, hailed as one of the most influential cosmologists of his time, will collect half of the $918,000 cash award, and the Swiss men will share the other half.

The Nobel committee said Peebles’ theoretical framework about the cosmos — and its billions of galaxies and galaxy clusters — amounted to “the foundation of our modern understanding of the universe’s history, from the Big Bang to the present day.”

The BBC adds this quote from one of the winners:

Reacting to the news, Prof Queloz told BBC News: “It’s unbelievable,” adding: “Since the discovery [of the first extrasolar planet] 25 years ago, everyone kept telling me: ‘It’s a Nobel Prize discovery’. And I say: ‘Oh yeah, yeah, maybe, whatever.'”

But in the intervening years, he more-or-less “forgot” about the discovery: “I don’t even think about it,” he said. “So frankly, yes, it came as a surprise to me. I understand the impact of the discovery, but there’s such great physics being done in the world, I thought, it’s not for us, we will never have it.

(4) DEFYING DOOMSDAY. The winners of the 2018 D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award were announced October 6. This award is for media that deserves recognition for work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

  • R.B. Lemberg for “Sergeant Bothari and Disability Representation in the Early Vorkosiverse,” in Strange Horizons
  • Ace Ratcliff for “Staircases In Space: Why Are Places In Science Fiction Not Wheelchair-Accessible?” in io9.

The judges felt that R.B. Lemberg’s article was important because it noted how easy it is to veer away from criticising the representations that we do see throughout the Vorkosigan series because honestly, we’re just glad there’s something focusing on disability at all. But ignoring these issues means we risk having these continue, now and in the future. R.B acknowledges the importance and value of these books, but also encourages us to question them. In fact, the article encourages everyone to question books and the representations in them; this shouldn’t be something readers wish to avoid, simply because we have been desperate for visibility for so long.

(5) TOP HORROR. Rocket Stack Rank has posted itsannual “Outstanding SF/F Horror of 2018”, with 30 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 8, 1993 Demolition Man starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes premiered.  Two years ago, Stallone’s filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. over the disbursement of profits from the film. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 66% score. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 8, 1920 Frank Herbert. I’ll confess that I enjoyed Dune and Dune Messiah that’s as far as I got in the series. The other Herbert novel I really liked was Under Pressure. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 8, 1927 Dallas Mitchell. He played Lieutenant Tom Nellis on Star Trek in the “Charlie X” episode. He one-offs on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Six Million Dollar Man, The Invaders, Voyage to The Bottom of the Sea and Mission: Impossible. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 8, 1943 R.L.Stine, 75. He’s been called the “Stephen King of children’s literature” and is the author of hundreds of horror novels including works in the Goosebumps, Fear Street Mostly  Ghostly, and The Nightmare Room series. Library of Congress lists four hundred and twenty-three separate entries for him.
  • Born October 8, 1949 Sigourney Weaver, 70. I’m picking her greatest genre role as being the dual roles of Gwen DeMarco and  lieutenant Tawny Madison in Galaxy Quest. Chicon 2000 did give the film the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo after all and it is a loving homage to all that is good in the genre. 
  • Born October 8, 1949 Richard Hescox, 70. An illustrator who between the Seventies and early Nineties painted over one hundred and thirty covers for genre books,and is now working exclusively in the games industry and private commissions. His website is here. Here’s one of his covers. 
  • Born October 8, 1963 David Yates, 56. Director of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows (both films), The Legend Of Tarzan, and Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, and its sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. So who’s seen the latter films? 
  • Born October 8, 1979 Kristanna Loken, 40. She’s best known for her roles in the films Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleBloodRayne and the Painkiller Jane series.
  • Born October 8, 1993 Molly Quinn, 25. I first heard her voicing the dual role of Kara and Supergirl most excellently on Superman Unbound (John Noble voices Brainiac) and I see ventured in the MCU as well as Howard’s Date in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. She was also Jenny on the Avalon High film, and she’s contributing to the Welcome to Nightvale story podcast.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows how you can improve any tabletop game by adding Godzilla.
  • Frank and Ernest find that the Earth has a sense of wonder.
  • Bizarro shows how a candy bar got its name.

(9) WHAT GREAT EARS YOU HAVE. Kate Pacculia’s “A Gothic Education:  Or, How I Learned To Love The Dark” on CrimeReads is worth reading if only because of its description of “Bunnicula” which sounds like a classic kids’ book.  Most of the books she picks are supernatural.

The gateway text. The classic tale of a vegetable-draining vampire bunny adopted by the unwitting Monroe family and actively dealt with by their housepets, genial dog Harold and megalomaniacal cat Chester—the best feline in literature (fight me)—isn’t very scary, and isn’t trying to be. Harold’s first person narration is an outrageously clever and charming feat of point-of-view that generates real sympathy for the titular monster bun. This was something I absorbed rather than realized at the time: that the beats of a genre are made to be remixed.

(10) TAKING A READING. Paul Weimer hosts the Q&A feature “6 Books With K V Johansen” at Nerds of a Feather.

3. Is there a book you’re currently itching to re-read?

Re-reading is interesting. Sometimes it’s just a quiet impulse, or you pick up something because you’d like to enjoy that again or remind yourself of it in some way, but sometimes it’s an intense craving. When it’s the latter, it can be a need to escape into something familiar from some stress or worry or heavy weight on you, but often I find that the thing I felt such an urgent desire to re-read turns out to have something in it that resolves some quandary that I’ve been wrestling with in my current work — it’ll be something to do with the narrative approach, or how difficulties in a character are set up, or a way of touching the story, that reminds me of what I need to be doing or sparks off something that solves my problem, shines a bit of moonlight on the path I’ve been stumbling in the dark to find. It’s like some underlayer of my brain knows what’s missing or where I’ve gone wrong in the WiP but doesn’t have any words of its own, so it points me at something that will show it to me. I’ve had that experience with LeCarré and Bujold, though most often it will be Diana Wynne Jones or Cherryh. The thing I most recently had an intense desire to reread was McKillip’s Kingfisher, which I’ve read a couple of times, but this time I bought the audiobook because I felt like I needed to have it read to me. Aside from the sheer enjoyment of the work, which is one of her best, what I’m taking from it on this re-read is a reminder of her lightness of touch, something I’m trying to achieve in my current project.

(11) AO3. Archana Apte sets out reasons “Why This Fanfiction Site’s Prestigious Literary Honor Is a Win for LGBTQ Representation” at Newnownext. Tagline: “Archive of Our Own, a volunteer-run, queer-inclusive fanfiction repository, scored a Hugo Award earlier this year.”

When I was barely in fifth grade, I felt too nerdy, too disabled, too brown, and secretly too queer to be accepted by my white, homophobic town. I escaped this alienation by turning to books. But as much as I loved Harry Potter, The Lightning Thief, and the other novels I flicked through at my town library, I never saw myself in the protagonists, who were mostly white, heterosexual men.

I didn’t realize how deeply this affected me until I got an iPod Touch and stumbled upon fanfiction. Across the internet, fans of particular works were rewriting popular stories however they liked: coffeeshop romances between Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, time travel re-do’s of Disney movies, what-if’s about the protagonist from Wicked having twins. I couldn’t be openly queer, but I could read about Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasley falling in love.

I soon created accounts on fanfiction sites and talked to authors—many of whom were themselves queer—about the same-sex relationships they wrote about. I slowly accepted the parts of myself that made me feel alienated from my peers, and I carried that newfound self-acceptance throughout my high school years….

(12) RECORD ECLIPSED. “Saturn overtakes Jupiter as planet with most moons” – BBC has the count.

Saturn has overtaken Jupiter as the planet with the most moons, according to US researchers.

A team discovered a haul of 20 new moons orbiting the ringed planet, bringing its total to 82; Jupiter, by contrast, has 79 natural satellites.

The moons were discovered using the Subaru telescope on Maunakea, Hawaii.

(13) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE BRINE. Yahoo! News tells how “NASA’s Curiosity rover found a weirdly salty ‘ancient oasis’ on Mars”.

“We went to Gale Crater because it preserves this unique record of a changing Mars,” William Rapin, of Caltech, the lead author of a study of their findings, published Monday in Nature Geoscience paper said in a statement.

(14) BEYOND POKEMON. “University of Northampton ‘virtual sculptures’ a UK first” – with photos — unfortunately no before/after comparisons.

A “virtual sculpture trail” at a university’s £330m campus is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Visitors to the University of Northampton can use a mobile phone to view 3D sculptures created by students.

The six augmented reality pieces of art around the Waterside campus are visible through an app made by a media agency.

Iain Douglas, from the university, said: “This was a valuable opportunity to bring a real-life collaborative project to the students.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “James Bond Theme For Boomwhackers (Fall 2014)” was done at Harvard five years ago but it’s still fannish!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/10/19 There Have Always Been Starpixelers At Scrolled Comfort Farm

(1) EUROVISION. In “Eurovision 2019 Is Here: Science Fiction Fans, Rejoice!”, Tor.com’s James Davis Nicoll supplies plenty of examples to show that “Although Eurovision itself may not be exactly SF, some of the pieces are definitely science fiction-adjacent. The visuals are often glorious, and the show as a whole is well worth viewing.”

(2) THEY’RE BACK. The Bounding Into Comics Facebook group was restored on May 9. Supposedly they still don’t know why it was shuttered, apart from a notice that they had violated “the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.”

…As you can see the last post was our Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer article, which was posted on May 6th.

When we asked for further clarification on why the page was taken down. We did not receive a response.

While it’s still unclear exactly why Facebook took down our page, we are glad that it has been restored. And we are extremely grateful and truly humbled by the fan support we received after the page was taken down.

While we are happy to continue publishing to our Facebook audience. We do plan on continuing to grow our presence on other social media platforms including MeWe and Gab.

(3) LOCUS COLLECTION PRESERVED. Duke University Libraries announced a prized acquisition — “Locus Collection Tracks the Stars and Universe of Sci-Fi”.

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has acquired the archives of the Locus Science Fiction Foundation, publisher of Locus, the preeminent trade magazine for the science fiction and fantasy publishing field.

The massive collection—which arrived in almost a thousand boxes—includes first editions of numerous landmarks of science fiction and fantasy, along with correspondence from some of the genre’s best-known practitioners, including Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Octavia E. Butler, James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), Dean Koontz, Robert A. Heinlein, and hundreds more.

…A tireless advocate for speculative fiction, [founder Charles N.] Brown was also a voluminous correspondent and friend to many of the writers featured in the magazine. Many of them wrote to him over the years to share personal and professional news, or to quibble about inaccuracies and suggest corrections. The letters are often friendly, personal, humorous, and occasionally sassy.

Reacting to a recent issue of Locus that featured one of her short stories, the science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler wrote, “I am Octavia E. Butler in all my stories, novels, and letters. How is it that I’ve lost my E in three places in Locus #292? Three places! You owe me three E’s. That’s a scream, isn’t it?”…

(4) ANOTHER COUNTY HEARD FROM. The New York Times’ Glenn Kenny works hard to resist the movie’s charms in “‘Tolkien’ Review: A Fellowship That Rings Obvious”.

Directed by Dome Karukoski from a script by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford, this picture about the pre-fame days of the author of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” teems with many on-the-nose moments. And it does so while hewing so strongly to the Distinguished British Biopic ethos (including the “England: Land of Magnificent Sunsets” trope) that it teeters on the edge of genuine obnoxiousness. Surprisingly, the emphatic score by the customarily more nuanced Thomas Newman is one of the prime offenders.

Nevertheless, “Tolkien” manages several scenes of credible emotional delicacy. And it doesn’t shy away from the conspicuously literary, treating the writer’s explorations of Wagner (sparked by his love interest and future wife Edith, played by Lily Collins) and passion for philology (sparked by chats with the intimidating professor Joseph Wright, played by Derek Jacobi) with a commendable amount of detail.

(5) SOMETHING FOR YOUR BRAIN’S POKÉMON CENTER. NPR’s Vincent Acovino calls “‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’ — Go!”

Have you ever questioned the moral fabric of the Pokémon universe?

Sure you have. For starters: In what kind of world would “Pokémon battles” — in which two humans force two excessively cute creatures to a fight until one of the beasts faints — constitute an acceptable social convention? And isn’t the whole Trainer/Pokémon relationship more than a little … problematic? Who decided that wild Pokémon, who demonstrate a level of intelligence several degrees above that of other animals, should live out their lives under the constant fear of capture and exploitation by humans?

Your enjoyment of Pokémon Detective Pikachu will likely depend on your degree of investment in these sorts of existential questions.The strength of the film lies in the way it playfully undermines the Poké-verse, poking holes in a thing that, when reduced to its essentials, seems just real silly. Much like last year’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, Pokémon Detective Pikachu looks itself in the mirror and remarks on what it sees there. And while it doesn’t pull off the trick nearly as well, there’s something admirable about a film that isn’t afraid to have some fun with a property so established — and beloved — by its core audience.

(6) ALL THE BEST: Following Paula Guran’s announcement of the contents of The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2019, Jason has completed his “Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2018 Stories, Links)” over at Featured Futures.

Welcome to the third annual linked collation of annuals or “year’s bests.” As the contents of the Afsharirad, Clarke, Datlow, Guran, Horton, and Strahan science fiction, fantasy, and horror annuals have been announced, they have been combined into one master list with links to the stories which are available online. (The only one not yet integrated is the BASFF, which will likely be announced late in the year.) Hopefully, you’ll enjoy some of them and that will help you decide which annual or annuals, if any, to purchase.

(7) VAMPIRELLA’S PRIEST. Christopher Priest is writing Vampirella comics now. ComicsBeat questioned him about it — “Why Priest Added Vampirella to His Iconic List”

Deanna Destito: Before jumping into this, were you a Vampirella fan? What appealed to you about this project?

Christopher Priest: No, I wouldn’t call myself a Vampirella fan (which is sure to annoy Vampirella fans!), although I was certainly aware of the character. But I’d guess I viewed the property nostalgically. Fondly, for sure, but if I thought of Vampirella at all I thought of her in a kindly past-tense, as an artifact of the 1970s and my misspent youth….

(8) BEHIND THE SCENARIOS. I learned from this interview there’s a book of notes, too! “Getting Transreal: An Interview with Rudy Rucker” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Your companion book, Notes for Million Mile Road Trip, is actually longer than the novel! The idea of following up reading a novel with that kind of metadata is fascinating; can you tell us more about it?

It’s hard to write a novel. It takes a year or maybe two years of tickling the keyboard at your desk or using a laptop in a cafe, and doing that pretty much every day, even on the days when you don’t know what comes next. This is where writing a volume of notes comes in. When I don’t have anything to put into the novel, I write something in the notes. I might analyze the possibilities for the next few scenes. Or craft journal entries about things I saw [that day]. Or describe some the people sitting around me, being careful not to stare at them too hard. Or think about how hopeless it is to try to write another novel, and how I’ve been faking it all along anyhow. The more I complain in my notes, the better I feel. I publish the finished Notes in parallel with with the novel, not that I sell many copies of the notes. Long-term, the notes will be fodder for the locust swarm of devoted Rucker scholars who are due to emerge any time now from their curiously long gestation in the soil.

(9) LORD WINSTON OBIT. Zombie Squad, an international network of dogs and other pets dedicated to protecting society from the walking dead, paid its respects on Saturday to Lord Winston, the indefatigable West Highland terrier who inspired the group’s creation in 2013 and had served as its official leader until his death on 21 April, aged nearly 15. Despite losing the use of his back legs following a series of operations, Lord Winston – via his British owner – posted daily messages and regular videos on Twitter, where prospective new members continue to be welcomed at @ZombieSquadHQ.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As the authors of SFE put it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ‘mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive. 
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. Star Maker contains the first known description of what are now called Dyson spheres. (Neal Asher currently is making the best use of these in his Polity series.) He wrote about a baker’s dozen novels of which iBooks has pretty much everything available at quite reasonable prices. I know I read and enjoyed Star Maker many years ago but don’t recall what else I read. (Died 1950.)
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film where the SJW credential was the defendant in a Perry Mason murder case, The Case of Black Cat. (Died 1940)
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles he did. (Died 1987.)
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks, 84. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelisation of more than 60 of the Doctor Who shows. Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. 
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 56. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. Might be stretching the definition of genre (or possibly not), but he did the animation for “Spy vs. Spy” for MADtv. You can see the first one here:
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 50. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokey.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MARVEL 1000. Marvel’s celebration of its 80th Anniversary will include a new epic comic book issue to celebrate the legacy of the Marvel Universe: Marvel Comics #1000.

Featuring 80 creative teams with luminaries from both classic and current comic books (and beyond!), this oversized one-shot will be packed with pages spanning across generations of Marvel’s iconic Super Heroes – with cover art from legendary artist Alex Ross!

Among those individuals, some of whom teased the project on social media this week, are long-time Marvel veterans — including Roy Thomas, Peter David, Gerry Conway, and Adam Kubert — and current creators — including Saladin Ahmed, Gail Simone, Chip Zdarsky, and Kris Anka — as well as talents outside of comics, like filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

(13) THE WORD FROM PORTALES. Locus Online’s “2019 Williamson Lectureship Report” quotes GoH Alex Rivera, criminalist Cordelia Willis (daughter of Connie) and others —

“We’re living in a time of walls,” said filmmaker Alex Rivera when introducing Sleep Dealer at the start of the 43rd Williamson Lectureship April 4-6, 2019 in Portales NM. “It’s a global obsession. How do we tell stories in such a world? In my film, I try to cross the consciousness of walls by looking at them, through them, and beyond them.”

(14) 124C41. Hephzibah Anderson’s profile of John Brunner focuses on his novel Stand on Zanzibar (taking the typical “sci-fi predicted it, gosh!” angle) in today’s BBC Culture post “The 1969 sci-fi that spookily predicted today”.

…Though it divided critics on publication, Zanzibar has come to be regarded as a classic of New Wave sci-fi, better known for its style than its content. This seems a pity. When an excerpt appeared in New Worlds magazine in November 1967, an editorial claimed that it was the first novel in its field to create, in every detail, “a possible society of the future”.

There’s irony in some of what Brunner got wrong. He assumed, for instance, that the US would have at last figured out how to provide adequate, inexpensive medical care for all by 2010. Other inaccuracies are sci-fi staples – guns that fire lightning bolts; deep-sea mining camps; a Moon base. And yet, in ways minor and major, that ‘future society’ nevertheless seems rather familiar today. For example, it features an organisation very similar to the European Union; it casts China as America’s greatest rival; its phones have connections to a Wikipedia-style encyclopaedia; people casually pop Xanax-style ‘tranks’; documents are run off on laser printers; and Detroit has become a shuttered ghost town and incubator of a new kind of music oddly similar to the actual Detroit techno movement of the 1990s.

(15) NEBULA REVIEWS. A full rundown of all the nominees for “The 2018 Nebula Awards” is preceded by an analysis of this year’s kerfuffle at Ohio Needs A Train.

The accusations of slate-building, especially as it’s so close to the Hugos being basically completely turned aside for a couple of years there by slating antics 4, led to tensions running fairly high and people running fairly hot on the issue. The SFWA, for its part, says that it wants to take this sort of thing seriously and is looking into ways to try to keep stuff like this from taking over, without (as of the time of this writing) mentioning what steps it may be taking. I suppose that’s fine, but it’ll be interesting to see if anything is different about the nomination process next year.

(16) LODESTAR REVIEWS. Lodestar Award Finalist Reviews by Sarah Waites at The Illustrated Page.

(17) FANTASY LITERATURE’S NOVELLA HUGO REVIEWS. Despite the name, the Fantasy Literature site reviews science fiction, fantasy, and speculative horror, as well as comics and graphic novels.

Best Novella

(18) WRIGHT OF WAY. Steve J. Wright has completed his Best Novelette Hugo Finalist reviews

Novelette

(19) SPACE PASTA. SYFY Wire reveals “Saturn’s rings are hiding moons shaped like frozen ravioli. Here’s why.”

Even from beyond its cosmic grave, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft continues to amaze us with the things it unearthed during its Saturn flybys — like the moons that have been lurking in its rings for billions of years.

When Cassini ventured as close as it would ever get to Saturn, it imaged the moons (which look like space ravioli) in enough detail to reveal that they were covered in the same stuff as its iconic rings. Some of them were even blasted with icy particles from nearby Enceladus. The posthumous images from Cassini’s flyby have given scientists unprecedented close-ups of these really weird satellites.

(20) CRIMESTOPPER. Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Great Superhero Movie Rewatch reaches the films inspired by Chester Gould’s iconic cop — “’Contact Dick Tracy at once’ — RKO’s Dick Tracy Features” at Tor.com.

While he’s pretty much a pop-culture footnote in the 21st century, Dick Tracy was a household name in the 20th. Created by Chester Gould for the eponymous comic strip in 1931, Dick Tracy saw the hard-boiled detective stop a bunch of over-the-top criminals with cutting-edge technology. Gould foresaw the advent of smart-watches with Tracy’s “two-way wrist radio,” and the character was hugely popular.

It wasn’t long before Tracy was adapted to the big screen, first with movie serials in the 1930s and then four one-hour feature films in the 1940s….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/18/19 Learn To Scroll The Pixelphone, I File Just What I Feel, Drink Straight Tully All Night Long, And Filk Behind The Wheel

(1) AMAZON SAYS THEY’RE NOT TO BLAME. “Amazon hits back at claims it is to blame for falling author earnings”The Guardian has the story.

Amazon has called the conclusions of a recent report into US author earnings flawed, after the Authors Guild suggested that the retail giant’s dominance could be partly responsible for the “a crisis of epic proportions” affecting writers in the US.

The report from the writers’ body, published last week, highlighted the statistic that median income from writing-related work fell to $6,080 (£4,730) in 2017, down 42% from 2009, with literary authors particularly affected. Raising “serious concerns about the future of American literature”, the writers’ body singled out the growing dominance of Amazon for particular blame. “Amazon (which now controls 72% of the online book market in the US) puts pressure on [publishers] to keep costs down and takes a large percentage, plus marketing fees, forcing publishers to pass on their losses to authors,” said the report.

But on Wednesday, Amazon took issue with the report’s conclusions. “The Authors Guild has acknowledged that there are significant differences between the data it compared in its recent survey and years prior, noting that ‘the data does not line up’,” said an Amazon statement. “As a result, many of the survey’s conclusions are flawed or contradictory. For instance, the survey also shows that earnings increased almost 17% for traditionally published authors and 89% for independent [self-published] authors, and that full-time authors saw their median income rise 13% since 2013.”

(2) OVERSAUCED. Cora Buhlert wrote an emphatic dissent from Lee Konstantinou’s Slate article “Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction” (linked in the Scroll a few days ago). Buhlert’s post is titled “Science Fiction Is Dying Again – The Hopepunk Edition”

…And now science fiction is dying again. Or rather, it already died in the 1980s and has been shambling along like a mirroshaded cyberpunk zombie ever since. For inspired by the hopepunk debate that broke out in late December (chronicled here), Lee Konstantinou weighs in on cyberpunk, hopepunk, solarpunk and the state of science fiction in general as part of Slate‘s future tense project (found via File 770). And this is one case where I wish I could use the German phrase “seinen Senf dazugeben” (literally “add their mustard”) instead of the more neutral English “weigh in”. Because Lee Konstantinou absolutely adds his* mustard, regardless whether anybody actually wants mustard or whether mustard even fits the dish….

(3) THE NEXT SFWA PRESIDENT. He’s not a SFWA member but he believes that could change — Jon Del Arroz declares “My Endorsement Of Mary Robinette Kowal For SFWA President” [Internet Archive link]

…Outreach to underserved and underrepresented writers in the SFF community

Again, the most important aspect of this, as the most underserved and underrepresented writers in the SF/F community are conservatives and Christians. These groups feel like they’re not welcome anywhere within the sphere of publishing, and it needs to change.

I’m confident Ms. Kowal will enact change here, which is the primary reason for my endorsement. I also volunteer to act as an ambassador to the conservative/Christian writing communities on her behalf, as many writers feel they can safely speak with me in confidence, when their concerns might get them ostracized or their businesses hurt if they voice their issues elsewhere. With me in such a role, we can repair the bridge in fandom so we can make it about books again, and selling for authors, and not about petty political squabbles.

Ms. Kowal has demonstrated to me personally that she is sincere in this effort by attempting to assist me with Worldcon 2018 when they horribly discriminated against me last year because of my outspoken beliefs, and because I was under threat of physical harm being done to me at their convention by extreme left-wing agitators.  The cycle of victim blaming must stop, and Kowal has assured me SFWA will not be an organization that will treat conservative authors as 2nd class citizens. This is a human rights issue and very big for me!

But Kowal also puts her money where her mouth is. When I was coming up and needed promotion as a writer, Kowal featured me on her blog not just once—but twice, and the second after I’d already become a prominent outspoken conservative within the community. She cares about books FIRST – and this is what sets her apart from others.

I’m excited for her tenure so I can finally join the professional guild (as is my due) without being shut down and held to standards others within SFWA are not.

(4) SPOCK BACKSTORY. Showrunner Alex Kurtzman discusses the launch of Star Trek: Discovery season 2 with The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Star Trek’ Showrunner: ‘Discovery’ Season 2 Is About Spock’s ‘Unwritten Chapter’”.

Discovery season one seemed like a declarative end of a chapter with the Federation-Klingon war coming to its conclusion. Why did you choose to start the second chapter by bringing in the Enterprise, considering its notoriety?

We discover in season one that Michael has a relationship with Spock. The mystery of why Spock, who we’ve known for over 50 years, has never mentioned his sister, is huge. It felt like there was no way we were going to be able to answer that question in one or two episodes. It was easily going to be the substance of a whole season. This season is a deep-dive into that relationship and what went wrong, their history and where they’re headed. That excited me. It’s the unwritten chapter of how Spock became the character that we meet in the original series. We’ll come to understand that were it not for his relationship with Michael, many of the things we know and love about Spock may not have flowered in the way that they did.

(5) LOOKING GOOD. Camestros Felapton reviews the premiere in “Star Trek Discovery: Brother (S2E1)”.

…Launching into this first episode reminded me that I do actually like these characters. I felt happy to see Michael, Tilly, Saru and Stamets again. Also, Discovery remains visually impressive, it’s easily the best looking Star Trek. The promised story arc appears to be a mysterious simultaneous signal from five points across the galaxy — a signal that Spock knows something about and which (apparently coincidentally) Captain Pike has been tasked with investigating….

(6) COSTA BOOK AWARDS. The 2018 Costa Book Awards, a general literary prize in the UK, have a winner of genre interest — Stuart Turton won the First Novel award for The Seven (or 7 1/2) Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

At a party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed – again.  She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day Aidan Bishop is too late to save her.  The only way to break this cycle is to identify Evelyn’s killer.  But every time the day begins again, Aidan wakes in the body of a different guest.  And someone is desperate to stop him ever escaping Blackheath……   

Stuart Turton is a freelance travel journalist who’s previously worked in Shanghai and Dubai.  He’s the winner of the Brighton and Hove Short Story Prize and was longlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition.  TV rights for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle have been optioned by House Productions.  He lives in West London with his wife and daughter.     

Judges: ‘Impossibly clever, genre-busting murder mystery that feels like a mash-up of Cluedo, Sherlock and Groundhog Day.’

(7) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “WCFF-Dream” on Vimeo is an animated version of “I Dreamed a Dream” with many cute animals that was shown at the World Conservation Film Festival in October.

(8) PEARLMAN OBIT. Alan R. Pearlman (1925-2019) has died at the age of 93. The New York Times notes he was —

Founder of ARP Instruments and designer of its early synthesizers, which were used in Star Wars: A New Hope (R2-D2’s beeps), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (that infamous 5-note sequence, shown being played on an ARP 2500), and the 1980’s version of the Dr. Who theme.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Oh Pooh has to count as genre, doesn’t he? Certainly that an exhibition entitled “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” appeared at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London shows his place in our culture. There’s also Once on a Time, a rather charming fairy tale by him. And though it isn’t remotely genre, i wholeheartedly recommend The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 86. I will admit that he does not at all have a lengthy genre resume though it’s quirky one nonetheless as it manages to encompass one howlingly horrible film being Zardoz featuring Sean Connery in diapers and Excalibur giving us a bare breasted Helen Mirren as Morgana. Did you know by the way that Robert Holdstock wrote the novelisation of The Emerald Forest which he directed? He also directed Exorcist II: The Heretic which frankly the less said about, the better.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and  “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. (Died 2009)
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean, 66. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is a great deal of fun reading. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of these are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug.
  • Born January 18, 1955 Kevin Costner, 64. Some of his films are his genre films are really atrocious, to wit Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesWaterworldThe Postman and the recent Dragonfly but I really like  his Field of Dreams and his acting in it as Ray Kinsella is quite excellent. Not quite as superb as he was as  “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham but damned good. I forgot until just reminded that he was Jonathan Kent in both Man of Steel and  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I know that’s two more horrid films he’s been in. 
  • Born January 18, 1960 Mark Rylance, 59. Prospero’s Books, an adaption of The Tempest which I really want to see, The BFG and Ready Player One are the films he’s been in. An active thespian, he’s been in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Royal Opera House, Hamlet at American Repertory Theater and Macbeth at Greenwich Theatre to show but a few of his appearances.
  • Born January 18, 1968David Ayer, 51. Film director, producer and screenwriter. Recent genre film from him were Suicide Squad and Bright, both of which have Will Smith in them and both of which, errr, were utter crap. He’ll be directing Gotham City Sirens which will not presumably have Will Smith in it. Yes I’m being snarky. 

(10) SIGNS OF SPRING. Jonathan Cowie announced that the Spring edition of SF2 Concatenation is now online, with its rich mix of con reports, articles, seasonal giant news page and loads of book reviews.

(11) BRICKS OF MONEY. Bloomberg says “The Hot New Asset Class Is Lego Sets”.

In a paper titled “Lego — The Toy of Smart Investors,” Dobrynskaya analyzed 2,300 sets sold from 1987 to 2015 to measure their price-return over time. She found that collections used for Hogwarts Castles and Jedi star fighters beat U.S. large-cap stocks and bonds, yielding 11 percent a year. Smaller kits rose more than medium-sized ones, similar to the size effect in the Fama-French model (though the relation isn’t exact).

Lego sets that focus on superheroes, Batman and Indiana Jones are among the ones that do best over time. The Simpsons is the only Lego theme that has lost value, falling by 3.5 percent on average.

(12) DANISH CRIME FICTION AWARDS. The winners of the 2018 Danish Criminal Academy Awards for the best Danish crime fiction have been announced.

The Harald Mogensen Prisen for the best thriller went to Jesper Stein for his novel Solo.

The Danish Criminal Academy’s debut award was won by Søren Sveistrup for the thriller novel “Kastanjemanden” (The Chestnut Man).

 The Palle Rosenkrantz Award for this year’s best foreign thriller novel has been awarded to Michael Connelly for Two Kinds of Truth. The award recognizes the best crime fiction novel published in Danish. It is named in honour of Palle Rosenkrantz (1867-1941), who is considered the first Danish crime fiction author; his novel Mordet i Vestermarie (Murder in Vestermarie) was published in 1902.

(13) J FOR JANUARY AND JOY. Cora Buhlert’s guest post “Space Opera and Me” is part of the Month of Joy project of the Skiffy and Fanty Show:  

At the time, a friend asked me why I always watched Star Trek, even though I’d seen much of it before and it was all the same anyway. “You watch soap operas, don’t you?” I asked her. She nodded and said, “Yes, to relax.” – “Well, Star Trek is my soap opera,” I told her.

I was on to something there, because there are similarities between space operas and soap operas beyond the fact that both started out as derogatory terms including the word “opera”. Both soap operas and space operas (and actual operas for that matter) offer larger-than-life drama with a huge cast of characters. Both offer the grand spectrum of emotion, love and hate, birth and death, weddings and funerals. However, space opera has aliens, ray guns, starships and space battles to go with the melodrama.

Another thing that unites space operas and soap operas is that no matter how fascinating the settings, how shocking the twists, how grand the melodrama, what makes us come back for more are the characters. The best space and soap operas feature people (in the loosest sense of the term) we want to spend time with, whether it’s in the mundane surroundings of Coronation Street or Lindenstraße or on the deck of a starship or the surface of an alien planet.

(14) FLOCKS OF HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Nerds of a Feather makes its collective picks in several Hugo categories at each post. Examples are included below.   

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 2: Visual Work Categories”

Graphic Story

  • Destroyer, Victor LaValle and Dietrich Smith
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Volume 7: Synthesis, by Tom Sidell
  • Lumberjanes, Volume 8: Stone Cold, by Shannon Waters and Kat Leyh
  • Monstress: Volume 3: Haven, by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
  • Saga: Volume 9, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 29: The Lines We Cross, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
  • White Sand: Volume 2, by Brandon Sanderon, Rik Hoskin, and Julius Gopez
  • X-Men: Grand Design, by Ed Piskor

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 3: Individual Categories”

Fan Writer

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 4: Institutional Categories”

Semiprozine

(15) HOW WE GOT HERE. An article in this week’s Nature reminds me of the old t-shirt design pointing out “You are here” — “The Once and Future Milky Way” [PDF file].

Data from the Gaia spacecraft are radically transforming how we see the evolution of our Galaxy.

There was a a smashup between the young Galaxy and a colossal companion . That beast once circled the Milky Way like a planet around a star, but some 8 billion to 11 billion years ago, the two collided, massively altering the Galactic disk and scattering stars far and wide. It is the last-known major crash the Galaxy experienced before it assumed the familiar spiral shape seen today. Although the signal of that ancient crash had been hiding in plain sight for billions of years, it was only through the Gaia space probe’s data set that astronomers were finally able to detect it.

(16) CITY CHESS. Maybe nothing to do with Brunner’s The Squares of the City, but designers can plot their moves with this — “Virtual cities: Designing the metropolises of the future”.

Simulation software that can create accurate “digital twins” of entire cities is enabling planners, designers and engineers to improve their designs and measure the effect changes will have on the lives of citizens.

Cities are hugely complex and dynamic creations. They live and breathe.

Think about all the parts: millions of people, schools, offices, shops, parks, utilities, hospitals, homes and transport systems.

Changing one aspect affects many others. Which is why planning is such a hard job.

So imagine having a tool at your disposal that could answer questions such as “What will happen to pedestrian and traffic flow if we put the new metro station here?” or “How can we persuade more people to leave their cars at home when they go to work?”

This is where 3D simulation software is coming into its own.

Architects, engineers, construction companies and city planners have long used computer-aided design and building information modelling software to help them create, plan and construct their projects.

But with the addition of internet of things (IoT) sensors, big data and cloud computing, they can now create “digital twins” of entire cities and simulate how things will look and behave in a wide range of scenarios.

(17) YOUNGER THAN RINGTIME. BBC says “Saturn’s spectacular rings are ‘very young'” — thought likely for a while, but now it’s locked down.

We’re looking at Saturn at a very special time in the history of the Solar System, according to scientists.

They’ve confirmed the planet’s iconic rings are very young – no more than 100 million years old, when dinosaurs still walked the Earth.

The insight comes from the final measurements acquired by the American Cassini probe.

The satellite sent back its last data just before diving to destruction in the giant world’s atmosphere in 2017.

“Previous estimates of the age of Saturn’s rings required a lot of modelling and were far more uncertain. But we now have direct measurements that allows us to constrain the age very well,” Luciano Iess from Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, told BBC News.

(18) BOX SCORE. The sff/horror drama Bird Box was very good for Netflix’s business:

Shows including Bird Box helped Netflix end 2018 with more than 139 million subscribers, adding 8.8 million members in the last three months of the year.

Bird Box was watched by 80 million households in its first four weeks after release

The firm reported quarterly revenue of $4.2bn (£3.2bn), up 27% from the same period in 2017.

(19) WALK THIS WAY. Cnet explains how “Scientists built a lizard-like robot based on a 280-million-year-old fossil”.

You can tell a lot about an animal from the way it moves, which is why scientists have been recreating the movements of an extinct crocodile-like creature called Orobates pabsti. Orobates lived well before the time of the dinosaurs and is what’s called a ‘stem amniote’ – an early offshoot of the lineage which led to birds, reptiles and mammals. Using 3D scans of an exquisitely preserved Orobates fossil – and an associated set of fossilised footprints – researchers were able to build a dynamic computer simulation of the creature’s movement. The simulation incorporates data from extant animals such as lizards and salamanders to create more realistic motion as it walks along. And the simulation didn’t just stay on a computer; the researchers tested the models in the real world using a Orobates robot, helping bring this ancient creature to life.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 9/11/17 Can He Bake A Pixel Pie, Charming Mikey?

(1) AFTER THE STORM. Yahoo! Lifestyle has collected tweets with photos of hurricane damage at DisneyWorld – and while there is some, it’s not too heavy.

(2) BABYSITTING ORION. Let NPR tell you what it’s like “Riding Out Irma On Florida’s Space Coast — And Keeping An Eye On The Spacecraft”.

Every time a major storm hits the Space Coast, the ride-out crew members pack their toothbrushes and nonperishable food and settle in to spend the duration of the storm inside the Launch Control Center. Helms is riding out his second hurricane at the center, along with firefighters, security officers, building experts and contractors responsible for the hardware itself.

The most sensitive equipment is secured in climate-controlled spaces. The challenge is to make sure that no matter what happens outside, nothing changes inside.

“Humidity and temperature — those are the big two that affect the spacecraft,” Helms says. For most people, if you rode out a hurricane and just lost air conditioning for a few days, it’d be a victory. For the Space Center, that’s the worst-case scenario, Helms says.

(3) TOP COMICS ARTISTS SINCE 1992. SfFy presents, in no order, “The 25 greatest comic book artists from the last 25 years”.

To celebrate the last 25 years in comics, we’re looking back at the greatest comic book artists from the last quarter-century. Before anyone cries outrage on why George Perez or Walt Simonson are not on this list, please remember that we’re just talking about the last 25 years, and the legendary works we are highlighting only go back to 1992. Our criteria is based on a balance of unique creativity, distinct and influential style, longevity, and impact, as opposed to quantity or how big the profile was of said project(s). Their interior artwork had to be their biggest contribution (even though their cover art may be depicted below) during this era, and it must inspire, evoke emotion and/or transport the reader to a far off vivid world and keep the reader dreaming when they close the book. Now, without further ado…

1. Mike Allred

Notable works: Madman, Red Rocket, The Atomics, Sandman, X-Force/X-Statix, Silver Surfer, Wednesday Comics, iZOMBIE, Fantastic Four, Batman ’66

(4) CROWDSOURCED SCHEDULE. James Davis Nicoll calls on you to help decide “What 12 Dianne Wynne Jones books should I review in 2018?”

This is a work in progress. Open to suggestions. In 2015 and 2016, I devoted Fridays to Norton and Lee, respectively. That led to a certain level of fatigue towards the end of the projects. In 2017, I focused on authors from Waterloo Region, which side-stepped the fatigue issue at the cost of causing problems with the gender ratio of authors reviewed1. In 2018, my idea is to

Focus on four primary authors, three women and one man: Dianna Wynne Jones, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Carrie Vaughn. A rotating roster avoids fatigue and with women outnumbering men three to one, I shouldn’t have the same problem maintaining my desired women to men ratio.

(5) EIGHTIES REBOOT. According to Deadline, “‘The Greatest American Hero’ Reboot With Female Lead Gets Big ABC Commitment”.

A re-imagining of Steven J. Cannell’s 1981 cult classic The Greatest American Hero is flying back to development with a new creative team, a big new commitment and a big twist.

ABC has given a put pilot commitment to the half-hour single-camera project. In it, the unlikely (super)hero at the center — Ralph Hinkley (played by William Katt) in the original series — is Meera, an Indian-American woman. The Greatest American Hero comes from Fresh Off  the Boat writer-producer Rachna Fruchbom and Nahnatchka Khan’s Fierce Baby. 20th Century Fox TV, where Fierce Baby is based and Fruchbom recently signed an overall deal, will co-produce with ABC Studios.

(6) MANIC MONDAY. And another manic Chuck Wendig / John Scalzi thread.

(7) DISCOVERY CREW. In a Cnet video, cast members of the upcoming series discuss their characters and how they each fit into the Trek universe

(8) MONSTERS FROM THE ID. How much can you say about Forbidden Planet before you’ve said it all? A lot! In “Creating Our Own Final Frontier: Forbidden Planet”, Centauri Dreams’ guest blogger, Larry Klaes, discusses the film in great detail (19,383 words). Greg Hullender sent the link with a comment explaining, “Centauri Dreams is usually about science, not SF, so this is a little unusual for them, but Klaes does a pretty good job of tying the movie to our modern understanding of reality.”

While the makers of FP no doubt knew better than to outright criticize their government and country’s agenda against its Cold War adversaries, they did find in Dr. Morbius (just say his name out loud for the proper effect) a symbol for representing their fears of a field and its practitioners who were increasingly being seen as amoral if not directly malevolent as well as appointing themselves as the single-point arbiters of what was best for the rest of humanity. This is exactly what Morbius did with the incredibly powerful and deadly Krell technology he encountered and subsequently obsessed upon as he cut himself off from the rest of his species over the next twenty years, the very same technology that had wiped out an entire civilization in one swift blow many centuries before. The captain of the C-57D was not just following protocol when he attempted to radio home for further orders once he began to realize the full extent of what he was dealing with on Altair 4: Adams was hoping to get a wider consensus on the alien power he had come upon beyond the words and actions of a single self-appointed authority figure in the guise of the scientist Morbius.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 11, 1976 Ark II made its television premiere.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

If you know Wonder Woman, you’ll laugh at today’s Off the Mark.

(11) SATISFIED CUSTOMER. Code Blue. Code Blue…..

(12) THEATER IN THE GROUND. Unbound Productions presents Wicked Lit 2017 between September 29-November 11:

Wicked Lit has been staged at Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery in Altadena where audiences walk through the hallways of the mausoleum and among the headstones in the cemetery as our plays are staged all around.

Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery, 2300 N. Marengo Ave. Altadena.

(13) TRANSLATION: WHY HE THINKS YOU SHOULD BUY HIS BOOK. At Slate, Lawrence Krauss answers the rhetorical question: “Why Science-Fiction Writers Couldn’t Imagine the Internet”.

What I find most remarkable of all is that the imagination of nature far exceeds that of human imagination. If you had locked a group of theoretical physicists in a room 50 years ago and asked them to predict what we now know about the universe, they would have missed almost all the key discoveries we have made since, from the discovery of dark energy and dark matter to the ability to detect gravitational waves. That is because we need the guidance of experiment to move forward in science. How we hope nature will behave or how we think it should behave is irrelevant. Experiment determines what we must build our theories on, not a priori prejudice about elegance or beauty, or even what seems like common sense. Quantum mechanics defies common sense—so much so that Einstein never really accepted it. But as experiments today, from entanglement to quantum teleportation, demonstrate, quantum mechanics does describe the universe at fundamental scales.

That’s why science fiction—though it can inspire human imagination, as Stephen Hawking said in the preface of my book The Physics of Star Trek—is fundamentally limited. It is based on human imagination and past experience. That is a great thing. But it doesn’t mean the science-fiction future will resemble our own.

(14) JUST PUCKER UP AND BLOW. “Dr. Rufus Henry Gilbert’s Plan for an NYC Transit System Powered By Air”The Daily Beast remembers.

In fact, he was beat over a century and a half ago by a former Civil War surgeon named Dr. Rufus Henry Gilbert who came up with the idea for a public transportation system for New York City that would have established an elevated pneumatic tube system in place of the underground subway that New Yorkers love to hate today.

Gilbert may have seemed like an unlikely candidate to invent such an innovative solution for New York City’s transportation woes, but his idea was rooted in his original profession.

It all started before the Civil War when the doctor went on a tour of Europe following the death of his wife. There, a grieving Gilbert was gripped by the terrible conditions in the slums, and he became convinced that the overcrowded and dirty environment was to blame for the high rates of disease and death among the poor. If only they could escape the cramped conditions of the inner city and live out in the fresh air, he thought, all their health problems would be solved….

His technological ideas were impressive and cutting-edge for his day—and even for our day—but he also conceived of a look for the system that was downright beautiful. Elaborate, Gothic metal arches would top the streets of New York, extending out of sleek columns secured to the sidewalk at regular intervals. Plenty of scrolls, flourishes, and metal detailing decorated each arch, and they were all capped by two large tubes that would serve as the conduit for passengers to get around the city.

(15) KEEPING THE CAN’T IN REPLICANT. How the actor prepared — “Blade Runner 2049: Jared Leto made himself ‘partially blind’ for role”

Preparing for Blade Runner 2049, Leto went full method actor again, apparently partially blinding himself by wearing sight-limiting contact lenses.

“He entered the room, and he could not see at all,” director Denis Villeneuve told the SWJ magazine in a profile piece about Leto.

“He was walking with an assistant, very slowly. It was like seeing Jesus walking into a temple. Everybody became super silent, and there was a kind of sacred moment. Everyone was in awe. It was so beautiful and powerful — I was moved to tears. And that was just a camera test!”

(16) THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK. Thanks to people who have sent me links to Jon Del Arroz, or to posts reacting to Jon Del Arroz.

(17) THIS SPACE UNINTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK. Camestros Felapton, in “Just One Last Note on ex-Kerfuffles”, says the dog park of the internet has allowed its domain to expire.

As I already have one whateverhappenedtoo post up about those unhappy hounds of Hugo hostility, I’ll leave one more snippet: the domain name ownership of “sadpuppies4.org” has expired. The website that hosted the fourth iteration of distempered doggedness…

(18) TIPPING POINT? The BBC’s report “Offshore wind power cheaper than new nuclear” may be specific to the UK, but might also be a signpost to changes elsewhere.

Energy from offshore wind in the UK will be cheaper than electricity from new nuclear power for the first time.

The cost of subsidies for new offshore wind farms has halved since the last 2015 auction for clean energy projects

Two firms said they were willing to build offshore wind farms for a guaranteed price of £57.50 per megawatt hour for 2022-23.

This compares with the new Hinkley Point C nuclear plant securing subsidies of £92.50 per megawatt hour.

(19) MISSION ENDS FRIDAY. Cassini: Saturn probe to set up death plunge: “Cassini: Saturn probe turns towards its death plunge”.

The international Cassini spacecraft at Saturn has executed the course correction that will send it to destruction at the end of the week.

The probe flew within 120,000km of the giant moon Titan on Monday – an encounter that bent its trajectory just enough to put it on a collision path with the ringed planet.

Nothing can now stop the death plunge in Saturn’s atmosphere on Friday.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/30/17 Two Little Pixels Sitting In A Tree, S-C-R-O-L-L-I-N-G…

(1) GONE IN 60 SECONDS. They did the Monster Mash on Terry Pratchett’s hard drive, fulfilling his request that his unfinished work be destroyed: “Terry Pratchett’s unfinished novels destroyed by steamroller”.

The unfinished books of Sir Terry Pratchett have been destroyed by a steamroller, following the late fantasy novelist’s wishes.

Pratchett’s hard drive was crushed by a vintage John Fowler & Co steamroller named Lord Jericho at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, ahead of the opening of a new exhibition about the author’s life and work.

…The hard drive will go on display as part of a major exhibition about the author’s life and work, Terry Pratchett: HisWorld, which opens at the Salisbury museum in September.

(2) FIFTH HUNDREDTH. StarShipSofa posted its 500th show today, a reading of Harlan Ellison’s Nebula-winning story “How Interesting: A Tiny Man” by George Hrab.

10 years young, StarShipSofa features the best of speculative fiction and fact articles, delivered weekly by host and editor Tony C. Smith, fiction editor Jeremy Szal, and authors, narrators, and contributors from all over the world. Born from the most humble beginnings, StarShipSofa has gone on to present works by legends and rising stars in the field, as well as showcasing new or lesser known voices, diverse authors and stories, and works in translation. Among many highlights over the last decade, StarShipSofa has presented exclusive interviews including Pat Cadigan, Ted Chiang, Ursula K. LeGuin, Samuel R. Delany, and the late Ray Bradbury.

Last week, Show 499 featured Joe Haldeman (Aug 23), and next week Show 501 will air a story by Robert Silverberg (Sept 6).

(3) SERRIED RANKS. Vox Day, in a post otherwise spent cutting down the Game of Thrones TV show and the writing of George R.R. Martin, “Compression and decompression”, includes an irresistible list that ranks the top epic fantasy authors. Does your mileage vary?

Here is how I rank the writers of epic fantasy:

  1. JRR Tolkien
  2. Stephen Donaldson (Covenant)
  3. Margaret Weis & Terry Hickman (Dragonlance)
  4. David Eddings (Belgariad)
  5. Glen Cook
  6. Steven Erikson
  7. Raymond Feist
  8. George RR Martin
  9. Joe Abercrombie
  10. CS Friedman
  11. Tad Williams
  12. Daniel Abraham
  13. Brandon Sanderson
  14. R. Scott Bakker
  15. Mark Lawrence
  16. Terry Brooks
  17. Robert Jordan
  18. Terry Goodkind

Obviously, your mileage may vary, as may what you consider to be “epic fantasy”. I would have Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, Tanith Lee, and Anne McCaffrey all ranked above Dragonlance, but their work is better categorized in other categories.

(4) IT’S A THEORY. Dragon Con advocates make their case: “5 Reasons You Should Attend Dragon*Con This Year”.

After 31 years, it’s safe to say that Dragon*Con is not a fad. Last Labor Day weekend saw a record 77,000+ attendees roar into the streets of Atlanta, which beat the previous high from 2015. 2017 is on track to break the record yet again, with 82,000+ people expected to attend. By comparison, the Chick-Fil-A kickoff game between Georgia and North Carolina, which was at the Georgia Dome the same weekend last year, drew 75,000 people. It’s no secret that college football in the south is like a religion. Dragon*Con has officially become the go-to place for gamers, sci-fi, fantasy and pop culture fans to convene in the Southeast. Here are 5 reasons why you should attend this year.

  1. Fan-Centric

Unlike other big conventions around the nation (Comic Con, Wonder Con, etc), Dragon*Con remains the last big “fan-driven” con. Usually corporations sense the success of any event and put their grubby little hands all over it. Then, instead of enjoying yourself, it begins to feel like you’re walking in an ad. Dragon*Con’s popularity has done nothing but balloon over the last few years, but it still feels as fan-centric as when it started. It says a lot when you’re surrounded by 70,000+ other people and yet you still feel the intimacy and care put into each detail of the entire weekend. This factor is crucial for the first time con-goer, because it keeps everything from feeling as overwhelming as it could get.

(5) TESTING, TESTING. Coast-to-coast in half-an-hour? That’s the goal: “Anyone for the Hyperloop? Testing high-speed pods in a vacuum tube”.

“Guys, this is getting awkward,” billionaire Elon Musk told a group of students from Switzerland as they struggled to control their Hyperloop pod.

If all goes well, their pod would eventually travel at more than 700mph (1,120km/h), propelling people between Los Angeles and San Francisco in half an hour, instead of six hours in a car or an hour-long flight.

But this is early days and the students are testing their pod for the first time on a nearly mile-long vacuum tube track outside Mr Musk’s office in Hawthorne near Los Angeles.

They’d lost connectivity. The vacuum needs to be unsealed and the pod fiddled with. Then the vacuum must be resealed and all the air inside pumped out. Revolutionising transport takes time

… None went even close to 700mph, but the winners, German’s Warr team from the Technical University of Munich, blew away the competition.

“Congratulations to the Warr team,” Mr Musk said as the crowd of students applauded. “That was an amazing job. That pod just went 324km/h, over 200mph.”

(6) SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW. The BBC says “Cassini hints at young age for Saturn’s rings”.

The spectacular rings of Saturn may be relatively young, perhaps just 100 million years or so old.

This is the early interpretation of data gathered by the Cassini spacecraft on its final orbits of the giant world.

The same article includes the precise time the probe is expected to break up. A little over two weeks from now.

Cassini is scheduled to make only two more close-in passes before driving itself to destruction in Saturn’s atmosphere on 15 September.

The probe is being disposed of in this way because it will soon run out of fuel. That would render it uncontrollable, and mission managers at the US space agency Nasa do not want it crashing into – and contaminating – moons that could conceivably host microbial lifeforms.

Cassini will melt and be torn apart as it dives into the planet’s gases at over 120,000km/h. Controllers will know the probe has been destroyed when Earth antennas lose radio contact, which is expected to occur at 11:54 GMT (12:54 BST; 07:54 EDT; 04:54 PDT) on Friday 15 September.

(7) TODAY’S DAYS

Frankenstein Day

The crackle of electricity, and the patter of rain drops on the stone walls and terracotta roof give an eerie feeling when combined with the dank laboratory that houses various experiments. Give yourself a bit of liquid courage, and step forward to embrace a little bit of darkness in Frankenstein Day.

Slinky Day

The Slinky was originally designed and sold in the 1940s. The inventor had accidentally knocked a spring off the shelf, and watched it ‘walk’ down a series of books, to a tabletop, and then to the floor where it neatly coiled itself. The creator, Richard James, had gone home to his wife Betty and said “I think if I got the right property of steel and the right tension, I could make it walk. ” It took the better part of a year, but he had done it. Making 400 Slinky units with a five hundred dollar loan, James and his wife had founded a company to make, and sell, this unique toy to the masses.

(8) TIPTREE FELLOWSHIPS. Applications are being taken for this year’s Tiptree Fellowships until September 15. The $500 grants are given to emerging creators “who are changing the way we think about gender through speculative narrative.”

Tiptree Fellows can be writers, artists, scholars, media makers, remix artists, performers, musicians, or something else entirely; so far our Fellows have been creators of visual art, poetry, fiction, and games.

The Tiptree Fellowship is designed to provide support and recognition for the new voices who are making visible the forces that are changing our view of gender today. The Fellowship Committee particularly encourages applications from members of communities that have been historically underrepresented in the science fiction and fantasy genre and from creators who are creating speculative narratives in media other than traditional fiction

Applicants will need to write short responses to two questions and to share a sample of their work. The guidelines are at this link.

The 2017 Tiptree Fellowships selection committee is Gretchen Treu (chair), Mia Sereno, Porpentine Charity Heartscape, and Pat Schmatz.

(9) OTHER COVENANTS. ChiZine Publications has opened a call for submissions for Other Covenants: Alternate Histories of the Jewish People, by award-winning writers and editors Andrea D. Lobel and Mark Shainblum. Contributors already confirmed include science fiction grand masters Harry Turtledove and Jack Dann.

Boy Eating

Other Covenants is now open to submissions of short fiction, through Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, at 11:59 PM Eastern Time. Submissions must be between 1,000 and 10,000 words in length, and may be in English or French (the book will be published in English and authors will be responsible for translations). Original stories are preferred, but the editors will consider reprints of significant works on a case-by-case basis. Payment will be 8 cents (Canadian funds) per word. Authors may be from anywhere in the world and do not need to be Jewish.

Full submission guidelines and the online submission system are here.

(10) TEQUILA! He knows how to set up the perfect shot – whether in the studio or at the bar:  “Film Director Guillermo del Toro’s Exclusive Tequila Project”.

Patrón Tequila just released a special edition that you helped create. Can you tell me about the project?

“The idea was to create a centerpiece and make the tequila the centerpiece of the centerpiece. It’s a shrine. And I think it looks beautiful as the centerpiece of any bar.”

How long did it take you to design the intricate bottle and case?

“You know we went through many permutations. In total, the whole adventure took three and a half years. First the idea was a reliquary but reliquary for me is too European and I thought altar. And we started thinking of a journey narratively for the box. First and foremost, the box is covered in a black suede with a silver skull. You start with black and then you open it and you see the box, which depicts all the stages of the processing of tequila, which is being done by skeletons to signal the ancestral tradition. Then all of a sudden you go from black to that beautiful two-dimensional box and then you open the wings and you reveal huge color and three-dimensions. You end up having a journey. You have votive candles that you can light. It’s a very beautiful piece.”

The maker’s website has a photo-filled display about how Del Toro came up with the design, and how all the components look, both in and out of the box.

 

(11) FANDOM AT THE GALLOP. The 18th issue of Rich Lynch’s personal fanthology My Back Pages is now online at the efanzines.com website.

Issue #18 notes my absence from both this year’s Worldcon and NASFiC, and has essays involving colonial debates, rescued conventions, curated fanzine collections, golden domes, long escalators, large aquariums, famous domiciles, notable science fiction fans, extinct stadiums, lingering controversies, divine ideas, memorable encounters, autographed books, enigmatic composers, 50-year reunions, fuel-efficient vehicles, personal records, motorcycle rallies, art museums, scenic sunsets, medieval cathedrals, and lots of snow-covered mountainous terrain.

(12) WHAT GOES UP. Another theory to explain dinosaur extinction: a “reverse gravitational event.” Proposed by James Propp at BAHFest East 2017.

(13) MUST COME DOWN. The Hollywood Reporter remembers “That Time on ‘Batman’ When Alfred Fought the Joker”.

And with it being made clear in the new Justice League trailer (which already has more than 23 million views on YouTube) that Jeremy Irons’ incarnation will once again take a more hands-on role with Batman’s adventures, it is time to look back at the heroics of the first live-action Alfred, played by Alan Napier.

Napier, who died in 1988 at the age 85, appeared as Alfred in all 120 episodes of the 1960s Batman television series.

And of all that character’s most memorable moments, the top one has to be when he fought The Joker (Cesar Romero), who forced his way into Wayne Manor with a hostage in the season two episode, “Flop Goes The Joker.” The best part of the three-minute clip is when Alfred and The Joker sword fight with fire[place] pokers.

 

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Mark-kitteh, IanP, Rich Lynch, and Alan Baumler for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 4/27/17 The Pixel You Scroll, The Filer You Get

(1) MORE CORE. This time James Davis Nicoll lists “Twenty Core Military Speculative Fiction Books Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

Is there any overlap between your list and James’s?

(2) ENVELOPE PLEASE. Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off has a winner — The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French. The results were based on scores given by the reviewers at 10 different blogs.

All in all The Grey Bastards is a runaway winner and I must commend it to your attention.

2nd placed Path of Flames by Phil Tucker was favourite with three blogs and I’ve read it and can see why!

3rd placed Paternus by Dyrk Ashton was favourite with one blog.

All of these books were someone’s choice for finalist and they all scored 7+ with two or more bloggers, so check them out. You never know what will hit a chord with you.

Huge thanks to all ten bloggers/teams for their very considerable efforts and to Katharine of Ventureadlaxre for stepping in to fill a gap. The bloggers are the stars of this show so be sure to keep checking them out now we’re done.

Our most generous scorer this year was Fantasy-Faction, taking the crown from Bibliotropic last year. The Elitist Book Reviews remain the harshest scorer, though they were slightly kinder this year.

(3) FILE 770 TODAY, PBS TOMORROW! Masterpiece Theatre is broadcasting King Charles III  on May 14 with Tim Pigott-Smith as Charles. (Martin Morse Wooster reviewed the stage play here last month.)

(4) WORLD MAKER. Larry Correia provides a very interesting and expansive answer to a fan favorite question in “Ask Correia 18: World Building”.

Always Be Asking

Since I usually start with a basic plot idea, the first thing I do is think about what does my world need to have/allow for me to write this? Some are pretty obvious. Monster Hunter is our world but supernatural stuff exists in secret. Others ideas require something more complicated. For Son of the Black Sword I needed to figure out a world with brutal caste systems, where the low born are basically property.

Take those must haves, and then ask yourself if that’s how things have to work here, what else would change? Always be asking yourself how are those required things going to affect other things?  This doesn’t just make your setting stronger, but it supplies you with tons of great new story ideas.

Besides creative questioning, his other subtopics are: The Rule of Cool, Using Cultural Analogs, Nuts and Bolts, You Need To Know Everything but the Reader Doesn’t, How Much is too Much? and Have Fun.

(5) SCIENCE FICTION IS NEVER ABOUT THE FUTURE. That’s why Trump’s election wrecked an author’s plans — ‘Sci-Fi Writer William Gibson Reimagines the World After the 2016 Election”.

But last fall, Mr. Gibson’s predictive abilities failed him. Like so many others, he never imagined that Donald J. Trump would prevail in the 2016 election. On Nov. 9, he woke up feeling as if he were living in an alternate reality. “It was a really weird and powerful sensation,” he said.

Most people who were stunned by the outcome managed to shake off the surreal feeling. But being a science fiction writer, Mr. Gibson, 69, decided to explore it.

The result is “Agency,” Mr. Gibson’s next novel, which Berkley will publish in January. The story unfolds in two timelines: San Francisco in 2017, in an alternate time track where Hillary Clinton won the election and Mr. Trump’s political ambitions were thwarted, and London in the 22nd century, after decades of cataclysmic events have killed 80 percent of humanity. In the present-day San Francisco setting, a shadowy start-up hires a young woman named Verity to test a new product: a “cross-platform personal avatar” that was developed by the military as a form of artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, characters in the distant future are interfering with the events unfolding in 2017, through technological time travel that allows them to send digital communications to the past….

… “Every imaginary future ever written is about the time it was written in,” he said. “People talk about science fiction’s predictive possibilities, but that’s a byproduct. It’s all really about now.”

(6) REASONS TO BELIEVE. The Vulture interviews the evangelist of American Gods – the author: “The Gospel According to Neil Gaiman”.

Pony sushi?

Pony. Because Iceland, what it actually has a lot of, is ponies. And then I walk into the downtown tourist office, now closed, and they had a fantastic tabletop diorama basically showing the voyages of Leif Erikson. You start out in Iceland, you nip over to Greenland, you go down the coast in Newfoundland and have a little thing where you build your huts, and so forth. I looked at it and I thought, Y’know, I wonder if they brought their gods with them. And then I thought, I wonder if they left their gods behind when they came home. And it was like, all of a sudden, all of the things that I’d been thinking about, all of the things that had been circling my head about immigration, about America, about the House on the Rock, and this weird American thing where … In other places in the world, they might look at a fantastic cliff and go, “Ah, here we are in touch with the numinous! We will build a temple or we will build a shrine!” In America, you get a replica of the second-largest block of cheese in the world circa 1963. And people still go to visit it! As if it were a shrine! I wanted to put that in. And it was all there. I wrote an email to my agent and my editor saying, “This is the book,” and ending with, “The working title is going to be American Gods, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something better.”

(7) WHATEVER IT IS, IT’S EXPENSIVE. Carl Slaughter asks, “OK, one of you science geeks explain to me, what exactly is laser based energy transmission?” — “LaserMotive raises $1.5 million to boost innovations in laser power transmission”.

LaserMotive, a stealthy pioneer in laser-based power transmission that’s based in Kent, Wash., has raised more than $1.5 million in an equity offering.  LaserMotive focuses on laser applications for transmitting power. In 2009, the company won a $900,000 NASA prize in a competition for laser-powered robot climbers. In 2012, it kept a drone flying for 48 hours straight during a beamed-power demonstration for Lockheed Martin. And in 2013, it unveiled a commercial product to transmit electrical power over fiber-optic cables.

(8) LORD OF THE (SATURNIAN) RINGS. NPR and BBC on Cassini’s successful pass (“shields up!”) inside the rings:

“Cassini Spacecraft Re-Establishes Contact After ‘Dive’ Between Saturn And Its Rings”.

NASA said Cassini came within about 1,900 miles of Saturn’s cloud tops and about 200 miles from the innermost edge of Saturn’s rings. Project scientists believe ring particles in the gap are no bigger than smoke particles and were confident they would not pose a threat to the spacecraft.

“Cassini radio signal from Saturn picked up after dive”

The probe executed the daredevil manoeuvre on Wednesday – the first of 22 plunges planned over the next five months – while out of radio contact.

And the day before, a Google doodle showed Saturn “ready for its closeup”: “Cassini Spacecraft Dives Between Saturn and its Rings!”

By plunging into this fascinating frontier, Cassini will help scientists learn more about the origins, mass, and age of Saturn’s rings, as well as the mysteries of the gas giant’s interior. And of course there will be breathtaking additions to Cassini’s already stunning photo gallery. Cassini recently revealed some secrets of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus — including conditions friendly to life!  Who knows what marvels this hardy explorer will uncover in the final chapter of its mission?

(9) I HEARD THE NEWS TODAY. Two long-time sff editors and SFWAns have become editors of an Eastern Maryland publication — “Peter Heck and Jane Jewell Named Chestertown Spy Co-Managing Editors”.

The Community Newspaper Project, the parent nonprofit organization of the Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy, has announced the appointment of Peter Heck and Jane Jewell as co-managing editors of the Chestertown Spy, effective immediately.

While Peter has been best known locally for his many years as a reporter for the Kent County News, he has also written over 100 book reviews for such publications as the Kirkus Review and Newsday, as well as spending two years as editor at Berkley Publications. A native of Chestertown, with degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins, Heck also has written ten novels, two of which were genre best sellers.  He is also an accomplished musician, playing guitar and banjo.

Jane, Peter’s wife, also comes to the Spy with a distinguished background in writing, editing, and photography. Since moving to Chestertown, Jane worked at Washington College in the computer department, then as the executive director of the Science Fiction Writers of America. She also has contributed photos to the Kent County News. Jane currently serves on the board of the National Music Festival and has been active as a coach with the Character Counts! program in the Kent County Public Schools.

(10) BIG DATA IS WATCHING. Tracking whether a driver was texting: “‘Textalyzer’ Aims To Curb Distracted Driving, But What About Privacy?”

If you’re one of the many who text, read email or view Facebook on your phone while driving, be warned: Police in your community may soon have a tool for catching you red-handed.

The new “textalyzer” technology is modeled after the Breathalyzer, and would determine if you had been using your phone illegally on the road.

Lawmakers in New York and a handful of other cities and states are considering allowing police to use the device to crack into phones because, they say, too many people get away with texting and driving and causing crashes.

(11) A FACE IN THE CROWD. Using face-recognition software at a soccer match: “Police to use facial recognition at Champions League final”.

Police in Wales plan to use facial recognition on fans during the Champions League final in Cardiff on 3 June, according to a government contract posted online.

Faces will be scanned at the Principality Stadium and Cardiff’s central railway station.

They can then be matched against 500,000 “custody images” stored by local police forces.

South Wales Police confirmed the pilot and said it was a “unique opportunity”.

Chip Hitchcock sent this comment with the link: “It will be interesting to see how many false positives they fess up to and how many known troublemakers they miss; I have the impression that FR software is not ready for prime time.”

(12) ANOTHER COMMENT ON ODYSSEY CON. Bill Bodden also dropped off Odyssey Con programming, as he notes in “Timing Is Everything”.

Monica’s resignation as a guest went down on Monday. By the end of the week, all three Guests of Honor had withdrawn from the convention, and the harasser was no longer part of the convention committee. I myself tendered my withdrawal as attendee and panelist on Tuesday April 11, when it became clear that vocal members and friends of the Odyssey Con committee had taken it upon themselves, in a campaign of damage control, to try to spin the discussion to make Monica look bad. To my mind, Monica pulled out from an untenable situation, and while I’m deeply sorry it had to happen at all, I absolutely support her decision. I apologize in the unlikely event that anyone was coming to Odyssey Con specifically to see me.

Just the week before he’d gone 15 rounds with misogynistic trolls in “What the Hell Is Wrong With Gamers?”

Green Ronin Publishing recently put out an open call for female game designers for a specific project. I used to be one of the Ronin, and I was proud to see them doing something that everyone should have been doing years ago: forcing the issue to give women more of a chance to be game designers. Here’s the LINK so you can read it.

The outcry was immediate and vitriolic. I refuse to link to any of the trolls involved, but cries of discrimination against white men were on all the major gaming discussion boards, some gamers even suggesting that Green Ronin was destroying their company, alienating their fan base by committing such a heinous act against men….

Maybe those men who say they don’t behave that way really don’t, but I’ll bet they also don’t stand up — or even notice it — when other men do. Know how I know that? Because I had an experience over the last few years that proved to me how blind I was to this sort of thing. An individual was labeled harasser by a number of women, and I had a difficult time believing it was true because this person was a friend of mine in one of the circles with which I sometime engage, and I’d never seen him behaving that way. However, now being aware that it was an issue, the next time I saw him interacting with others, the harassment of women was clear, and obvious. It opened my eyes.

(13) FLYING FINISH. With the official Clarke Award shortlist coming out next week, the Shadow Clarke jury is pouring on the speed. Perhaps that explains their reluctance to break for a new paragraph?

Just over a third of the way through Christopher Priest’s The Gradual, the modernist composer, Alessandro Sussken, is told by Generalissima Flauuran, the dictator of the totalitarian Glaund Republic, that she wants him to compose a full orchestral piece celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Republic but ‘we do not want irony, subversion, subtlety, cryptic statements, cross references, allusions, knowing asides, quotations, hidden meanings.’ Instead, the stipulated requirements include a minimum of four movements, three major instrumental soloists, four operatic soloists, a mixed chorus of over three hundred voices, a sequence of peasant celebration, a triumphal march and ‘cannon effects in the climax’. It’s difficult not to see this – especially in the context of shadow Clarke discussions concerning the relationship between SF and the ambiguity of the modern condition – as a commentary on the ironies of being a writer torn between desiring the possibilities that the genre opens up for interrogating the limits of consensus reality while hating the conformist demand to meet certain expectations that it also embodies. It is as though Gollancz had said to Priest, ‘We’ll leave you alone to write your weird stories of alienation and separation, as long as you knock out a mass-market, three-act space opera with a world-weary hero, feisty heroine and cynical robot as the three main characters, and include alien sex, a heist sequence and a climactic space battle.’ Would Priest indignantly decline or take the money and run as Sussken does? The answer, based on the evidence of The Gradual, is not as obvious as one might think.

Time travel TV shows can be broadly divided into two categories based on whether they’re about conserving history or changing it. On the one hand, Legends of Tomorrow or Timeless are about characters from our present preserving the status quo of our past, no matter how many historical atrocities must be committed to make that happen. On the other hand, 12 Monkeys or Travelers are (generally better) shows about characters from our future attempting to change the status quo of their past: our present is the error they’re setting out to change. The first category is big on costumes and cliché historical settings. The second is usually about future dystopias that must be prevented by taking action in our present: depending on budget, we may see more or less of the future dystopia itself, which features its own set of clichés….

All historical fiction is alternate historical fiction, to a greater or lesser extent.

The setting is always other than it was; necessarily so, because we can only access the past through the imperfect lens of the present.   Our 21st century way of knowing the world may be intimately connected to the experiences of human beings one hundred, five hundred, even two thousand years ago, but it is also paradigmatically alien.  When we imagine, interpret and co-opt those experiences to tell stories we do so in the spirit of conjecture.  Which is not to say that historical fiction cannot strive for factual veracity, only that it can never be completely achieved. Speculation creeps in – in some cases more than others – and because of that historical fiction shares some essential qualities with science fiction: the will to imagine otherwise; the displacement of human experience in time; and the estrangement of the reader from the contemporary familiar.  The great historical fiction writers of the last century – Mary Renault, Dorothy Dunnett, Patrick O’Brian, Hilary Mantel – wrote (and write, in the last case, we hope and pray) with the ferocious enquiry that I also associate with great SF.  For which reason I have few qualms about the eligibility of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad – a book that harvests and reaps influences from both genres – for a science fiction award. I would have equally few about its eligibility for a historical fiction prize….

Before I get on with the review – feel free to skip ahead to the subheading at any point in what follows – I should note that my participation in this Clarke Award shadow jury has not progressed in the manner I anticipated. First an industry-standard biannual workplace restructuring took an unexpected detour into poorly-executed dystopian satire during March and, second, an unexpected family bereavement has wiped out the first half of April. I had anticipated being pretty much through reviewing my six titles by this stage and to be on the verge of subjecting unwitting readers to my own idiosyncratic analysis considering the wider issues of contemporary SF and the state of the novel today. However, as I still have four novels to write about, I have no choice but to try and weave any hot takes I might have gathered from the process in with the narrative analysis and close reading of the text in question. The time-honoured way of doing this for academics is to riff off the work of other academics and, therefore, I am going to consider a couple of points from fellow jurors.

(14) EMOTION PICTURES. In her latest column for Amazing Stories, Petréa Mitchell reviews installments of eight animé series: “Anime roundup 4/27/2017: The Strong Survive”.

The Eccentric Family 2 #2-3 – The magician Temmaya was a friend of the people who ate Yasabur?’s father, until he fell out of favor with Benten and/or her colleague Jur?jin. He’s also stolen something that belongs to the Nidaime. And to complicate things further, Benten’s back and doesn’t seem to be getting along with the Nidaime either. The old bit of tanuki wisdom about not getting involved in the affairs of tengu is sounding very wise about now; although none of them is strictly a tengu, three humans with serious magical powers having an argument looks bad enough for the supernatural society of Kyoto. Unfortunately, Yasabur? is already too entangled to extricate himself….

Everything about this show is still top-notch. Kyoto feels like a living, complicated city, practically a character itself among the complicated individuals populating it, from Temmaya to Yasabur?’s grandmother the venerated sage. This is going to be a real treat.

(15) STREET ARTISTS. It’s a paradox — “In Hollywood, superheroes and villains delight crowds – and sleep on the streets”. The Guardian tells why.

In a parking lot off Hollywood Boulevard, Christopher Dennis recently changed into a Superman outfit, complete with a muscle suit and calf-high red boots. He headed out through the crowds, a habit he was resuming after a forced absence.

“You look like you’ve come out of the movie screen, man!” said a parking attendant.

“Man, you’re back!” said a street vendor selling imitation flowers.

Many people who frequent the boulevard – not least the other superhero impersonators, who pose for tourists for tips – know the reason Dennis was gone. For about seven months he was homeless, and lived in a tent and under tarps in different places in the city.

Among the characters showboating in front of the Chinese Theater and parading in their regalia along the Walk of Fame, his situation is not unprecedented. There is a Darth Vader who has spent nights sleeping on the sidewalk with a costume in a backpack, and a Joker whose survival strategy sometimes involved trying to stay awake when it was dark out….

(16) E-TICKET RIDE. A little bonus for the tourists on Tuesday – not an imitator, but the real guy — “Johnny Depp Appears as Captain Jack Sparrow on Pirates of the Caribbean Ride in Disneyland”

It’s not the rum, Disneyland visitors — that was Johnny Depp in the flesh!

Riders on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, got a special surprise on Wednesday night: Depp transformed back into Captain Jack Sparrow and greeted those who visited the inspiration behind the film franchise.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Mark-kitteh, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Pixel Scroll 4/7/17 The Pixel Out of Scrolls (by M.G. Filecraft)

(1) LOOK OUT BELOW. To avoid the chance that the Cassini probe might crash into and contaminate a moon of Saturn, NASA plans to crash it into the planet.

“Cassini’s own discoveries were its demise,” said Earl Maize, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who manages the Cassini mission.

Maize was referring to a warm, saltwater ocean that Cassini found hiding beneath the icy crust of Enceladus, a large moon of Saturn that spews water into space. NASA’s probe flew through these curtain-like jets of vapor and ice in October 2015, “tasted” the material, and indirectly discovered the subsurface ocean’s composition — and it’s one that may support alien life.

“We cannot risk an inadvertent contact with that pristine body,” Maize said. “Cassini has got to be put safely away. And since we wanted to stay at Saturn, the only choice was to destroy it in some controlled fashion.”

(2) ON THE AIR. Hear Hugo nominees Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone on Ottawa radio program All in a Day.

(3) MUSICAL HUGOS. Pitchfork makes its case for “Why clipping.’s Hugo Nomination Matters for Music in Science Fiction”.

Earlier this week, Splendor & Misery—the sophomore album by experimental L.A. rap group clipping.—was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. The Hugo is the highest prize in science fiction/fantasy, granted annually to the genres’ best literature, cinema, television, comics, and visual art. But the awards have never been particularly receptive to music. The last time a musical album was recognized by the Hugos was 1971, when Paul Kantner’s Blows Against the Empire was nominated. The Jefferson Airplane guitarist’s solo debut grandly envisioned a countercultural exodus to outer space, helping set the stage for many more sci-fi concept albums to come, starting with prog-rock’s explosion.

The storyline that winds through Splendor & Misery is just as political as Kantner’s. Set in a dystopian future, the LP revolves around a mutineer among a starship’s slave population, who falls in love with the ship’s computer. This Afrofuturist narrative, as rapped by Daveed Diggs, is matched by a dissonant yet sympathetic soundscape from producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes—one that evokes the isolation and complicated passion of the premise. Visually, this arc is represented in Hutson’s cover art: a spaceman with his pressure suit in tatters, revealing bare feet. “It’s a reference to how runaway slaves have been depicted in the U.S. in newspaper announcements and paintings like Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series,” Hutson says.

Diggs is no stranger to awards, having snagged both a Grammy and a Tony for his role in Hamilton, but clipping.’s Hugo nomination is just as profound….

(4) THE ROAD TO HELSINKI. Camestros Felapton begins his review of the nominees with “Hugo 2017: Fanwriter”.

Chunk one: established fan writers: Mike Glyer, Natalie Luhrs, Foz Meadows and Abigail Nussbaum. Chunk two: Jeffro Johnson, the Rabid nominee but one with a track record of informed fan writing on genre issues. Chunk three: the inimitable Dr Tingle. The discussion below is in no particular order.

(5) SF INFILTRATES LIT AWARD. China Miéville’s This Census-Taker is one of eight finalists for the Rathbones Folio Prize, given “to celebrate the best literature of our time, regardless of form.” All books considered for the prize are nominated by the Folio Academy, an international group of esteemed writers and critics. The three judges for the 2017 prize are Ahdaf Soueif (chair), Lucy Hughes-Hallett and Rachel Holmes. The winner will be announced on May 24 at a ceremony at the British Library.

(6) CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD. Filer and board game designer Peer Sylvester has been interviewed by Multiverse.

Q:  THE LOST EXPEDITION comes out this year. What can you tell our readers about this board game (without giving too much away?)

PS: Percy Fawcett was arguably the most famous adventurer of his time. In 1925 he set into the Brazilian rainforest with his son and a friend to find El Dorado (which he called “Z”), never to return again. Speculations of his fate were printed in newspapers for years with a movie coming out this year as well.

The players follow his footsteps into the jungle. It’s a cooperative game (you can play two-players head-to-head as well) where you have to manage all the dangers of the jungle and hopefully come back alive. It has a quite unique mechanism that prevents “quarterbacking”, i.e. players dominating everyone else. The game features beautiful art by Garen Ewing.  It will be, without doubt, my prettiest game so far. It has a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Book vibe. But, unlike those books, different dangers come out at different times, so every decision is unique.

(7) GET YOUR KITSCH ON. Submissions for The Kitschies awards have opened and will continue until November 1. File 770 wrote a summary piece about the awards last month.

(8) CHUCK TINGLE’S NEW SITE. Time to troll the pups again!

Like last year, the DEVILS were so excited about being DEVILS that they forgot to register important website names of their scoundrel ways. This year they are playing scoundrel pranks again, but now instead of learning about common devilman topics like having a lonesome way or crying about ethics in basement dwelling, this site can be used to PROVE LOVE by helping all with identification of a REVERSE TWIN! …

THE POWER IS YOURS

Never forget, the most powerful way to stop devils and scoundrels in this timeline is to PROVE LOVE EVERY DAY. Use this as a reminder and prove love in some small way in your daily life. Pick up the phone and call your family or friends just to tell them you care about them and that they mean so much to you. Help pick up some trash around your neighborhood. Let someone go ahead of you in line. As REVERSE TWINS pour in from other timelines, we can do our part to make this timeline FULL OF LOVE FOR ALL, and the power to do that is in your hands with every choice that you make! YOU ARE SO POWERFUL AND IMPORTANT, AND YOU ARE THE BEST IN THE WHOLE WORLD AT BEING YOU! USE THIS POWER TO MAKE LOVE REAL!

(9) THIS YEAR’S PUPPY PORN NOMINEE. Meanwhile, io9 discovered Stix Hiscox is a woman: “Meet the Hugo-Nominated Author of Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By the T-Rex”.

So, who is Stix Hiscock? Is he some Chuck Tingle copycat riding on the coattails of scifi porn parody? Some right-wing heterosexual man’s answer to Tingle’s gay erotica, making science fiction great again (with boobs)? Or, better yet, is he Chuck Tingle himself? Turns out, none of the above.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 7, 1989:  Dystopian brawler Cyborg opens in theaters.
  • April 7, 1933: The Eighth Wonder of the World appears to audiences nationwide

(11) CELEBRITY VISITS JIMMY OLSEN. Don Rickles,who passed away yesterday, and his doppelganger once appeared in comics with Superman’s Pal.

(12) CRAM SESSION. There are always 15 things we don’t know. ScreenRant works hard to fill those gaps, as in the case of  “15 Things You Didn’t Know About Captain Picard”.

  1. Captain Picard Loved To Swear

Patrick Stewart is a great actor, but foreign accents are not his strong suit. Captain Picard hails from La Barre, France, yet Patrick Stewart chose to use an English accent for his portrayal of the character. He also used an English accent for Charles Xavier in the X-Men movies (who is American) and Seti in The Prince of Egypt (who is Egyptian). You cannot argue with results, however, and the Star Trek expanded universe has offered a few handwave solutions to why Picard speaks with an English accent. These range from everyone in France adopting the accent when English became a universal language, to him actually speaking in a French accent the whole time, but we hear it as English due to his universal translator.

There were a few instances of Picard’s Frenchness that Patrick Stewart snuck into the dialogue. Captain Picard would occasionally say “merde” when facing a nasty situation. This is the French equivalent to saying “shit” when it is being said in exasperation.

(13) ELEMENTARY. The names of four new elements have been officially approved.

The periodic table just got some new members, as the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry has officially accepted new names for four elements. Element numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118 will no longer be known by their placeholder names, and instead have all-new monikers decided upon by their discoverers.

The discoveries were first recognized about a year ago, and the proposed names for them were decided upon this past June. Now, chemistry’s highest group has decided they are valid and will move forward with the all-new labels.

  • Nihonium (Nh), is element 113, and is named for the Japanese word for Japan, which is Nihon.
  • Moscovium (Mc), element 115, is named for Moscow.
  • Tennessine (Tn), element 117, is named for Tennessee.
  • Oganesson (Og), element 118, is named after Yuri Oganessian, honoring the 83-year-old physicist whose team is credited with being the top element hunters in the field.

(14) NOT TED COBBLER. Pratchett fans will remember Jason Ogg, who once shod an ant just to prove he could in fact shoe anything (for which the price was he would shoe anything, including Death’s horse). A Russian artisan actually made a life-size flea with shoes.

In a supersized world, Prague’s Museum of Miniatures thinks small. Very small. In millimetres, in fact.

A short walk from Prague Castle, this odd museum houses wonders invisible to the naked eye. After entering the room filled with microscopes, I found a desert scene of camels and palms inside the eye of a needle, an animal menagerie perched on a mosquito leg and the Lord’s Prayer written on a hair.

(15) DON’T FORGET. Contrary to widely-held theories used in various SF stories, short-term and long-term memories are formed separately.

The US and Japanese team found that the brain “doubles up” by simultaneously making two memories of events.

One is for the here-and-now and the other for a lifetime, they found.

It had been thought that all memories start as a short-term memory and are then slowly converted into a long-term one.

Experts said the findings were surprising, but also beautiful and convincing….

(16) NOTHING BUT HOT AIR. Atmosphere is confirmed on an exoplanet.

Scientists say they have detected an atmosphere around an Earth-like planet for the first time.

They have studied a world known as GJ 1132b, which is 1.4-times the size of our planet and lies 39 light years away.

Their observations suggest that the “super-Earth” is cloaked in a thick layer of gases that are either water or methane or a mixture of both.

The study is published in the Astronomical Journal.

Discovering an atmosphere, and characterising it, is an important step forward in the hunt for life beyond our Solar System.

But it is highly unlikely that this world is habitable: it has a surface temperature of 370C.

(17) QUANTUM BLEEP. If you’re going to be taking part in one of history’s iconic moments, you’d better prepare a speech.

(18) ANIME PRAISED. NPR likes Your Name — not a Studio Ghibli production, but animation direction is by a longtime Ghibli artist: “’Your Name’ Goes There”.

In the charming and soulful Japanese anime Your Name, two teenagers who have never met wake up rattled to discover that they have switched bodies in their sleep, or more precisely their dreams. And it’s not just their anatomies they’ve exchanged, or even the identities-in-progress each has managed to cobble together at such a tender age. Mitsuha, a spirited but restless small-town girl of Miyazaki-type vintage, and Taki, a Tokyo high school boy, have also swapped the country for the city, with all the psychic and cultural adjustments that will entail.

(19) CARTOON OF THE DAY. “Are You Lost in the World Like Me?” is a Max-Fleischer-style cartoon on Vimeo, with music by Moby, which explains what happens to the few people who AREN’T staring at their smartphones all day.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Stephen Burridge, Peer Sylvester, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rev. Bob.]

Pixel Scroll 12/7/16 While Pixels Watched Their Scrolls By Night

(1) DAMN THE SPOILERS, FULL SPEED AHEAD. Scott Timberg writes for Salon on “The art of ‘Archer’: ‘The arc of the character of Archer is really interesting’”. I’m told there are spoilers – but I rarely watch Archer so I read the profile anyway….

Oh, yeah, Archer’s favorite movie is what again?

He loves “Gator” and also “Smokey and the Bandit.” And there are references to “Deliverance” and “Hooper,” all of them.

I took this show originally as a kind of guilty pleasure for other retro straight guys who like single-malt scotch and ’50s Playboy and “Man Men.” But I’ve found gay men and left-leaning feminist women who love “Archer,” too.

It makes me wonder: Is this a show that heroizes Sterling Archer as the coolest cat ever or is it somehow a critique of toxic masculinity? Is he a sleek, Bond-like hero or a cross between a frat boy, a hedge fund asshole and a lacrosse bro?

I think it’s all of that. But I also think it’s up to each individual viewer; I would never tell anybody what to think about it. What I personally love about it is that it shows all sides of Archer, this character. On one hand, he definitely fits the image of the lacrosse bro. And then he has a moment where he says, “Pam, I think you’re my best friend.” There’s a real heart to this person.

He’s not a flat character at all. He definitely has blind spots, you know? And he definitely pretends to have blind spots. There’s a description of him as “willfully obtuse,” which I think is quite apt.

(2) PARALLAX VIEWS OF THE NEWS. “Cassini sends back intriguing pictures of Saturn from new ring-grazing orbit” says the Los Angeles Times.

Cassini’s cameras captured the latest images of the giant hexagon on Dec. 2 and 3, a few days after the spacecraft first began its new orbit on Nov. 30. Each side of that six-sided figure is about as wide as Earth. At the center, a giant storm swirls on the north pole. It’s a surprising structure, surrounded by Saturn’s smoother rings, and scientists have long wondered how it maintains its shape. (Saturn’s larger cousin, Jupiter, has no such shape at its northern pole.)

“Forget the Great Red Spot – Saturn has a hexagonal storm” reports the BBC. (Both articles have the same newly-released photos.)

The destructive ending being planned for Cassini is a result of the spacecraft having nearly exhausted its fuel.

But Nasa is also concerned about the small, yet important possibility that the probe will crash into one of Saturn’s moons at some point in the future.

Given that some of these bodies, such as Enceladus, are potential targets in the search for extra-terrestrial life, it has the potential to contaminate these bodies with terrestrial microbes borne on Cassini.

Starting from April, Cassini will begin its grand finale, in which it will make the first of 22 dives through the 2,400km gap between the planet and its innermost ring.

The spacecraft will make its final plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn on 15 September.

(3) FUND APPEAL. Katherine Kerr needs to rebuild her career so she can afford her husband’s care. More details on her Patreon site.

Yes, my author photo there looks a little grim. Here’s why. Six years ago, my much-loved husband developed early-onset Alzheimer’s dementia.  As you can probably guess, this turned our lives upside-down.  My writing career first faltered, then ground to a halt while I desperately tried to take care of him myself.  Didn’t work — we now have a full-time live-in caregiver while I try to get my writing back on track.  Our primary caregiver, VJ, is wonderful but he isn’t cheap, just worth every penny….

What I want to do is get my writing career back on track. I have a contract for a new book in the Deverry universe.  I also want to write more short fiction. In the meantime, however, those bills make it hard to concentrate.  I spend about $300 a week on food, basics, and utilities, plus even more on medical expenses. My current income falls short.  Any help I can get is very very welcome. And thank you all very much.

(4) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #11. The eleventh of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for a flash fiction story from Stephanie Burgis, written specifically for the auction winner.

Today’s auction is for a brand new flash-fiction story written for you. That’s right, author Stephanie Burgis will write a story for the winner of the auction about any of the characters from her published novels – the winner gets to choose! You’ll let her know which character should be the protagonist, and Burgis will write it within a month of getting the commission. You can find all of her published works on her website.

Burgis reserves the right to share it with other readers later, but it will belong to the winner alone for the first month after she sends it to you.

(5) SWEDISH SF ARTIST LAUNCHES KICKSTARTER. There’s a new Kickstarter campaign for an RPG based on Simon Stålenhag’s art, Tales from the Loop: Roleplaying in the 80s that never was”.

In 1954, the Swedish government ordered the construction of the world’s largest particle accelerator. The facility was complete in 1969, located deep below the pastoral countryside of Mälaröarna. The local population called this marvel of technology The Loop.

Acclaimed scifi artist Simon Stålenhag’s paintings of Swedish 1980s suburbia, populated by fantastic machines and strange beasts, have spread like wildfire on the Internet. Stålenhag’s portrayal of a childhood against a backdrop of old Volvo cars and coveralls, combined with strange and mystical machines, creates a unique atmosphere that is both instantly recognizable and utterly alien.

Now, for the first time, YOU will get the chance to step into the amazing world of the Loop. With your help, we will be able to create a beautiful printed RPG book about the Tales from the Loop.

This game is our third international RPG, after the critically acclaimed Mutant: Year Zero and Coriolis – The Third Horizon. The lead writer is the seasoned Swedish game writer Nils Hintze, backed up by the entire Free League team who handle project management, editing, and graphic design.

(6) REPURPOSED HISTORY. The election of Donald Trump has made some people revise the history of the Puppy Wars of 2015 – can no one accurately remember what happened only last year? – to furnish a heroic example for the current resistance narrative. See — “Patrick S. Tomlinson Wants YOU To Fight The Power”.

Eventually, the intractable nature of the invaders became clear and a new strategy of opposition and containment emerged. To countermand the exploitation of the nomination rules slate voting represented, the equally devious, yet totally legitimate under the same rules, voting for “No Award” became the marching orders for the faithful.

And it worked. With a clear plan in place, our superior numbers and organizational skills kicked in and slapped the puppies’ poisoned pills out of five categories, doubling the number of times No Award had been given in the Hugo’s entire seventy-three-year history up to that point. I was sitting in the audience for the ceremony. It was electric.

And despite their whining in the aftermath about “burning down our own awards” the attack had been largely turned back. The very next year, puppy influence over the nominations had already begun to ebb, with fewer categories subject to full slating takeovers and fewer No Awards handed out as a result. More women and POC won major awards. And by next year, changes to the rules will see the threat recede even further in the future.

That is how in two short years we beat back the puppies, and that is the model we have to use now that the same sickness has metastasized onto our society, indeed all of Western Civilization. It’s easy to forget now, but the facts are the forces of fascism and intolerance are exactly like the hordes of GamerGate and the Puppies. They are loud, angry, aggressive, shameless, and without scruples.

But they are also a clear minority. As of this writing, more than two point three million more Americans had voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. More Americans voted for Democratic Senators. More Americans voted for Democratic Representatives in the House. It is only through exploitation of the rules in violation of the spirit of American democratic ideals that the forces of intolerance and bigotry maintain their majorities. This has been true for more than a decade. This makes them vulnerable to our superior numbers should we have the foresight and resolve to set aside our petty bickering and unify in an organized fashion and agree to a coherent plan of counterattack.

(7) POLISH FANZINE. For Eurocon this year the publishers of the Polish fanzine Smokopolitan produced an English-language edition, which includes two articles about fandom. You can download a .mobi or .pdf version here.

We proudly present our special English issue, created for Eurocon 2016 in Barcelona. Inside you will find short stories by, among others, Pawe? Majka, Andrzej Pilipiuk and Micha? Cholewa, as well as essays about many branches of speculative fiction in Poland

(8) GLENN IN HOSPITAL. Former astronaut and U.S. senator John Glenn reportedly has been hospitalized for the past week.

Hank Wilson with Ohio State University’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs said Wednesday that the 95-year-old Glenn is at the James Cancer Hospital, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has cancer.

Wilson said he didn’t have other information about Glenn’s condition, illness or prognosis.

Glenn apologized for his poor eyesight this year at the renaming of Columbus’ airport after him. He said then he’d lost some of his eyesight because of macular degeneration and a small stroke. Glenn had a heart valve replacement in 2014.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 7, 1925 – Future five-time Olympic gold medalist and movie Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller set a world record in 150-yard free-style swimming.
  • December 7, 1945 House of Dracula shown for the first time. The film features four different actors in the role of Frankenstein’s Monster: Glenn Strange, Boris Karloff (via footage from The Bride of Frankenstein), Lon Chaney Jr. and his stunt double, Eddie Parker (via footage from The Ghost of Frankenstein).

house-of-dracula

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

(11) ANOTHER BEST OF THE YEAR LIST. The list of 44 books in “NPR’s Best SFF of 2016” has “Something to outrage (or at least annoy) almost everyone, I expect….,” promises Chip Hitchcock.

(12) AMAZING STORIES, THE MAGAZINE. Today Amazing Stories highlights “’The Great Milo’ by David Gerrold”, one of the stories by established pros included in its issue along with winning stories from its Gernsback Writing Contest. The tag from Gerrold’s story is —

Never piss off a man who buys ink by the barrel.

(13) COMING TO A TBR PILE NEAR YOU. Nancy Palmer and Bertie MacAvoy agree – they loved Craig Russell’s Fragment.

Nancy Palmer reviewed it at her website.

…I ended up reading the whole thing, compulsively. It’s a slender volume. The story, however, is a big one.

Sometimes what’s scary about a thriller is its plausibility. One of the things speculative fiction writers do best is tell the truth sideways.  And there’s a lot of truth here. Craig Russell’s near future ecological and political world are a little too easy to imagine as reality. It was a compelling, but uncomfortable read: I found myself reading faster as the story progressed, hoping there might be some way to avert disaster. Maybe something in the way of hope, that might be carried past the pages of the book and into the outer world. The hubris and political manipulation in Fragment: yes, there are real-world analogs. Seeing the potential outcome as spelled out in this novel? Dread inducing. But I couldn’t look away.

And Bertie MacAvoy praises it, too:

I just loved Craig Russell’s first novel, Black Bottle Man, and told him so, although I didn’t know the man at all.  It was an old-fashioned sort of novel, very much in control, and I found it fantastically well written.  May others have agreed, if you look at the number of awards it received for a debut novelist.  I awaited his second novel eagerly.

Not only  is it just as good, or better, but it is wildly unconventional, even for these most unconventional S.F. days, and it caught me so firmly I wasn’t even aware of the tricks he was playing on the reader until the book was 65% read. I love being tricked, when it is done well.  (Done poorly, however, of course, I just feel let down.)

It strides the border between intricate Science Fiction and an almost Kafka-esque style.  And doesn’t break the rules of either.  That is the ultimate trick.

So I advise all and sundry to read ‘fragment’.  You will be the better for it.  And, it’s quite a thrill-ride.

(14) CLIPPING SERVICE. “How The Internet Unleashed a Burst of Cartooning Creativity” is a piece on Medium.com that was originally published in The Economist in 2012 (so it’s not behind the Economist paywall).  Randall Munroe is prominently featured, but Kate Beaton and Zach Weiner are also interviewed. Also of interest is the section on Arab cartoonists who would be censored if they were restricted to newspapers but are freer to express themselves on the Net.

Triumph of the nerds

The decline of newspapers and the rise of the internet have broken that system. Newspapers no longer have the money to pay big bucks to cartoonists, and the web means anybody can get published. Cartoonists who want to make their name no longer send sketches to syndicates or approach newspapers: they simply set up websites and spread the word on Twitter and Facebook. Randall Munroe, the creator of “XKCD”, left a job at NASA to write his stick men strip, full of science and technology jokes (see above and below). Kate Beaton, a Canadian artist who draws “Hark, A Vagrant”, sketched her cartoons between shifts while working in a museum. Matthew Inman created his comic “The Oatmeal” by accident while trying to promote a dating website he built to escape his job as a computer coder.

The typical format for a web comic was established a decade or more ago, says Zach Weiner, the writer of “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal”, or “SMBC” (below). It has not changed much since. Most cartoonists update on a regular basis?—?daily, or every other day?—?and run in sequence. “I think that’s purely because that’s what the old newspapers used to do,” says Mr Weiner. But whereas many newspaper comics tried to appeal to as many people as possible, often with lame, fairly universal jokes, online cartoonists are free to be experimental, in both content and form.

(15) SFFSFF. The annual Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival (SFFSFF) at Seattle’s MoPOP has announced its program selections for the January 28, 2017 event. From Seattle Seahawks battling giant monsters through the city’s streets to a mind-altering cell phone app with unintended consequences, this year’s lineup of 23 films is presented in two packages with a 30-minute intermission between sessions and concludes with an awards ceremony. Ticket information and further details at the linked site.

(16) SCOUTING REPORT. This Inverse article – “11 Science Fiction Books That Will Define 2017” includes the official title and cover for book #3 in Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy.

Science fiction books have always looked toward the future through both creative speculation and adventurous escapism. After the 2016 Presidential Election, science fiction authors are poised to be more influential than ever before.

Luckily for readers, sci-fi authors are known to churn out their books like rabbits, creating a never-ending stream of great works. In 2017, we’ll see the continuation of several acclaimed book series, but will also have plenty of impressive standalone science fiction, too. Below is a list of eleven books that are slated for release in 2017 that will define science fiction in the upcoming year. Keep in mind these dates can be finicky, and that they can change at warp speed. But, otherwise, happy reading to your future self!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, John King Tarpinian, Dawn “No Middle Name” Incognito, J(“No Middle Initial”)J, Hampus Eckerman, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anthony.]

Planet Stamps – And Pluto Too

Pluto Explored

The first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the Pluto—Explored! and Views of Our Planets Forever stamps took place on May 31 before a crowd of 500 at the World Stamp Show-NY 2016.

The Pluto—Explored! souvenir sheet contains two stamp designs, an artist’s rendering of the New Horizons spacecraft, and the spacecraft’s image of Pluto taken at its closest approach.

Honoring Pluto with its own stamp helps skate around sentimental attachments to the former ninth planet, now reclassified, which might have prevented some fans from enjoying the Views of Our Planets stamp set, with just eight planets…. *sniff*

Views of Our Planets