Pixel Scroll 2/18/19 You’re Saying It Wrong, It’s Pix-EL-ium Scrolli-O-sa

(1) STAR POWER. Over the weekend Scott Edelman recorded a reading by Charlie Jane Anders and Sandra Newman at a Washington D.C. bookstore —

On the afternoon of Saturday, February 16, 2019, Charlie Jane Anders (The City in the Middle of the Night) and Sandra Newman (The Heavens) read at the Union Market branch of the Politics & Prose Bookstore, and then took part in a follow-up Q&A session. Unfortunately, due to the configuration of the seating, I was only able to include Michelle, the ALS interpreter (who consented to being recorded), when attached to the individual readings, and not for the follow-up Q&A. I also did not turn the camera on anyone asking a question, as I did not have their consent.

(2) KNIGHT OF THE RPG. Eurogamer has “The story behind the Oblivion mod Terry Pratchett worked on”, and it’s quite touching.

…Most people know Pratchett as the author of Discworld, the famous fantasy series about a flat planet balanced on the backs of four elephants. However, what many people don’t know is that the knighted author was also a massive fan of video games – so much so that he actually worked on mods for Oblivion, most of which were spearheaded by a Morrowind modder named Emma….

“Honestly, although I knew about Terry’s illness I never thought of him as someone who was ill,” Emma told us. “The things I added to Vilja that were originally for him, I did because I enjoyed and because it felt so natural. It would be totally unfair to say that I was helping him – he was helping and inspiring me all the time, and I think we both had a lot of fun with figuring out new things for Vilja to say and do.”

(3) ARE THESE ON YOUR SHELVES? How many of these have you read?Pulp Archivist Nathan Housley discovered a list of what was required in “A Basic Science-Fiction Library” in 1949. You’d think there being only 17 items, selected by old-time fans and pros, I’d score pretty well. No so — I’ve only read six. And I feel no temptation to remedy the shortfall! Housley begins by telling who contributed to the list —

The editors included Sam Merwin, Jr. of Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories, Paul L. Payne of Planet Stories, and Everett Bleiler of The Checklist of Fantastic Literature and The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1949. John Campbell of Astounding and Raymond Palmer of Amazing were invited but chose not to participate.

The writers included Dr. David H. Keller, P. Schuyler Miller, Theodore Sturgeon, A. E. Van Vogt, Donald Wandrei, and Lewis Padgett–better known as the husband and wife team of Henry Kuttner and Catherine L. Moore.

Rounding out the list were the fans. A. Langley Searles is “best known for the scholarly science fiction fanzine Fantasy Commentator.” Forest Ackerman was the literary agent for many of the authors listed above as well as the father of convention cosplay. And Sam Moskowitz was a noted historian of science fiction fandom and a fervent opponent of the Futurians.

(4) CAPTAIN MARVEL DENIERS BEWARE. At The Mary Sue, Rachel Leishman diagnoses the symptoms: “Men Clearly Fear Women Leading Nerd Films, and … Good”.

And now, we have Captain Marvel. For the first time in ten years, we’re getting a superhero film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe led by a woman, and that means that Twitter is a minefield of men calling Brie Larson “Loudmouth Larson” and claiming that her devotion to equality in the press for the film and the future of her character is what is going to tank the movie (even though it is currently on track to be a box office success).

(5) FROM OUR SPY BEHIND THE PAYWALL. In the February 12 Financial Times, Leo Lewis says that Japanese public broadcaster NHK is broadcasting Tokyo Reborn, a series about the rebuilding of Tokyo that in many ways continues Katushiro Otomo’s great 1988 noir anime Akira, which is set in 2019,  NHK is using Akira as a touchstone (and has hired Otomo as a consultant on the series), because the “Neo Tokyo” Otomo portrays in his film is preparing for the Tokyo Olympics of 2020, an accurate prediction on Otomo’s part.

Akira’s many fans adore the idea that its creator correctly predicted” that Tokyo would host the Olympics in 2020. And the film was central in creating the ‘cool Japan’ brand that continues to promote Japanese pop culture and put its animation on a global stage.  It has even been a catalyst for foreigners (including me) to develop long relationships with Japan.

It is a delicious vindication of Mr Otomo’s work that the film’s influence remains so powerful in a year that once represented the distant future.

(6) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. “‘Every Day Is A Good Day When You’re Floating’: Anne McClain Talks Life In Space”NPR has the story.

What do you eat in space? How do you sleep in space?

And just what does one do all day long in space?

Children from the Georgetown Day School in Washington D.C., recently had a chance to ask their most burning questions to NASA astronaut Anne McClain.

They are roughly the same age that McClain was when on her first day of preschool she announced that she wanted to become an astronaut.

By the time McClain was about 5 years old, she said she wrote a book about flying to space on the Soyuz vehicle. Now she’s floating around on the International Space Station, showing that sometimes childhood dreams do come true.

“When you are finally in space and you’re finally looking back at Earth and you realize for the first time in your life there’s nothing standing between you and your dream, it’s just so hard to describe the profound impact of that,” McClain, now 39, told NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 18, 1930 — Planet Pluto discovered by Clyde W. Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.
  • February 18, 1977 — First unmanned test flight of space shuttle Enterprise mounted on another aircraft.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 18, 1825 Francis James Child. American scholar, educator, and folklorist, best known today for his collection of English and Scottish ballads now known as the Child Ballads. His collection has been used often in our genre, be Ellen Kushner’s Thomas The Rhymer, taken from Child #37, or Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin off Child #39A, our writers have used his ballads as source material a lot. (Died 1896.)
  • Born February 18, 1929 Len Deighton, 90. Author of possibly the most brilliant alternative novels in which Germany won the Second World War, SS-GB. Itdeals with the occupation of Britain. A BBC One series was broadcast several years back.
  • Born February 18, 1930 Gahan Wilson, 89. Author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations. Though the world at large might know him for his Playboy illustrations, I’m going to single him out for his brilliant and possibly insane work with Zelazny on A Night in the Lonesome October which is their delightful take on All Hallows’ Eve. Note that ISFDB doesn’t list this work which I find odd. 
  • Born February 18, 1954 John Travolta, 65. Ahhhh, Battlefield Earth. Travolta, a Scientologist, had sought for years to make a film of the novel by Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. I do wonder what he thinks of it now. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) KEEP ON TREKKIN’. There’s always room for, um, another Star Trek series? (Deadline:‘Star Trek’: Nickelodeon Near Deal For Kids Animated Series From Alex Kurtzman, Hageman Brothers & CBS TV Studios”).

Alex Kurtzman and CBS TV Studios have set the latest extension of the Star Trek TV franchise. Nickelodeon is in negotiations for a Star Trek animated series from Emmy-winning writers Kevin and Dan Hageman (Trollhunters, Ninjago), CBS TV Studios and Kurtzman’s studio-based Secret Hideout banner.

Penned by the Hageman brothers, the animated series is targeted at younger audiences. Because of that, it would be the first new Star Trek project outside of CBS All Access, which has an adult focus.

(11) THE NIGHT STUFF. How did I live without this?Archie McPhee offers a Glow-in-the-Dark Rubber Chicken.

Svengoolie can use it inside his coffin

We all agree that Rubber Chickens are hilarious. If you looked at a normal Rubber Chicken, you’d assume that funny things only happen when a source of light is available. What about hilarious night shenanigans or power outage tomfoolery? This 20” soft vinyl Glow-in-the-Dark Rubber Chicken will make you giggle no matter how little light there is. Whether you’re sitting in the dark in your living room pretending to not be home while someone knocks on the door, building a blanket fort or UPSing yourself cross-country in a crate, you’ll be laughing the entire time.

(12) NEXT: WHO WAS THE CHEKHOV OF SCIENCE FICTION? Andrew Porter says everybody missed this one on Jeopardy:

Final Jeopardy: British Authors.

  • Answer: Born in 1866, he has been called “the Shakespeare of Science Fiction.”

All three contestants guessed wrong:

  • Who is Asimov?
  • Who is Verne?
  • Who is Clarke?

Correct question: Who is H.G. Wells?

(13) A CAT EXPLAINS A CLASSIC. At Camestros Felapton, “Timothy the Talking Cat reads ‘Ender’s Game’”. Timothy really gets it, you know?

…So once upon a time there were three human children who lived in a cruel and cynical world. Everybody was fighting each other or fighting the space alien bugs from Starship Troopers. The bugs were really scary and are all like “we were in a really famous science-fiction story”….

(14) 3-DELIGHTFUL. NASA is trying out a 3D printer on the International Space Station as a prelude to using them for long-term missions to the Moon and Mars. Perhaps it makes sense, then, that moviemakers are using them to make movies about space travel (Variety: “BigRep’s 3D Printer Takes ‘First Man’ to the Moon”).

Production designer Nathan Crowley was strolling through the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the shoot for “The Greatest Showman” in fall 2016 when he passed a building with a 3D printer printing a chair.

“The lady inside told me it was a machine from BigRep,” recalls Crowley. “I said, ‘When’s the last time you had a filament jam?’ She said, ‘About a month ago.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I need that machine.’”

Crowley didn’t get to use it for “The Greatest Showman,” but he rented two BigRep One models for his next film, director Damien Chazelle’s “First Man,” rounding out an arsenal of 18 3D printers used make everything from knobs and joysticks for the lunar module that puts Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) on the moon to a 14-foot-tall scale model of a Saturn V rocket.

[…] Crowley has been using 3D printers since 2014’s “Interstellar,” directed by frequent collaborator Christopher Nolan. But back then he used them strictly for concept models.

On Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy, “we did models by hand for the Batmobile, and it would take weeks,” says Crowley. With 3D printers, “it was a game-changer to be able design and output something, have a look at it, change something and do it again and again without having to handmake each design.”

(15) CAT AND MOUSE CLASSIC. “Tom and Jerry at MGM–Music Performed By The John Wilson Orchestra” on YouTube is a suite, arranged by Scott Bradley, of selections from Tom and Jerry cartoons performed by the John Wilson Orchestra at the BBC Proms in 2013.

(16) SMURFS, MR. RICO?!? They even have a few blue laws — “German Town Sees A Smurf Invasion, As Thousands Gather To Break World Record”.

They came covered in blue paint, donning red and white hats, nearly 3,000 in all. Their goal was simple: To break the world record for the largest group of people dressed as Smurfs.

The group Dä Traditionsverein organized the event in Lauchringen, Germany on Saturday near the border with Switzerland. They had strict rules: in order to be counted, participants couldn’t show any non-blue skin. They could dress as Papa Smurf — with his trademark red cap and a white beard — or Smurfette, with blonde hair and a white skirt or dress. Normal smurfs were OK, too — but some characters, like the evil wizard Gargamel, were strictly off limits.

The group posted on Facebook that 2,762 Smurfs showed up.

(17) HOW LOFTY ARE THOSE AMBITIONS? Christian Davenport in the Washington Post has a long piece on efforts to take control of the Moon’s resources.  “The moon, often referred to as the eighth continent, is again the center of a reinvigorated space race that, like any good Hollywood reboot, features a new cast of characters and new story lines.”  The goal this time is to make mining on the moon commercially viable, with emphasis on controlling the moon’s poles, because that’s where the water is and water can be used for fuel. “NASA wants to get to the moon ‘as fast as possible.’ But countries like China and India are racing there, too.”

Yet, unlike the Apollo era, this Space Age is being driven by a third factor: greed. A growing number of corporations are benefiting from new technologies and wealthy backers chasing an unproven dream that a lucrative business can be built on the moon and deep space by extracting the metals and resources on the surface on the moon.

Though the prospect of a self-sustaining lunar-mining economy may be little more than a chimera, the moon is drawing investors and explorers the way the promise of the American West once did. As a result, several ­lunar-prospecting companies have emerged with plans to fly spacecraft to the moon in the coming years.

(18) SOMETHING’S MISSING. WhatCuture would like to remind you about “10 MCU Plot Points Marvel Has Completely Abandoned.”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/8/19 It’s Just A Pixel To The Left, And A Scroll To The Right

(1) TAPPING MORE REVENUE STREAMS. Peter Grant has his own spin on the recent “day job” meme in “Disruption and the business of writing” at Mad Genius Club.

…In essence, we have to stop looking at each book as an income generator, and start thinking about multiple income streams.  Very few authors, indie or otherwise, make a living out of their writing.  Most of us have to have a “day job” as well.  I think we need to look at our writing as a series of small “day jobs”.  Writing a book alone won’t be sufficient;  we need to leverage that fan base into more income opportunities.  Some are already common.  Others will have to become so.  Examples:

  • Open some sort of support account (e.g. Patreon, etc.) where your serious fans can support you over and above buying your books.  It may be a small, slow start, but it’s something on which one can build.
  • Consider podcastingIt’s a growing trend, and it can be a money-maker if it’s handled correctly.
  • A tip jar on your blog or social media account can be a useful way for fans to offer support.
  • Consider offering appearances in your work to your fans.  They can have their names used for a character, and pay for the privilege (anything from a few dollars for a very minor character, appearing once, to a higher price for a major character with more “face time”).  This will probably only work if you’re an established writer, of course – it needs that sort of fan base.

And that’s just the first four of his seven bullet points.

(2) SOCK IT TO ME. Here’s how Rod Serling was supplementing his income back in the day:

(3) A BROADER PORTRAIT OF THE COUNTRY. Victor LaValle’s “Stories That Reclaim the Future” at The Paris Review is an excerpt from A People’s Future of the United States, edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams.

My father and I saw each other only three times before he died. The first was when I was about ten, the second was in my early twenties, and the last doesn’t matter right now. I want to tell you about the second time, when I went up to Syracuse to visit and he tried to make me join the GOP.

Let me back up a little and explain that my mother is a black woman from Uganda and my dad was a white man from Syracuse, New York. He and my mother met in New York City in the late sixties, got married, had me, and promptly divorced. My mother and I stayed in Queens while my dad returned to Syracuse. He remarried quickly and had another son with my stepmother. Paul.

When I finished college I enrolled in graduate school for writing. I’d paid for undergrad with loans and grants, and debt already loomed over me. I showed up at my dad’s place hoping he’d cosign for my grad-school loans. I felt he owed me since he hadn’t been in my life at all. Also, I felt like I’d been on an epic quest just to reach this point. I got into Cornell University, but boy did I hate being there. Long winters, far from New York City, and the kind of dog-eat-dog atmosphere that would make a Wall Street trader sweat. But I’d graduated. And now I wanted to go back to school. More than that, I wanted to become a writer. Couldn’t my dad see me as a marvel? Couldn’t he support me just this once?

Nope….

(4) SECOND VIEW. Amal el-Mohtar for NPR says “‘Black Leopard, Red Wolf’ Is A Beast Of A Book”.

I was once driving, alone and at dusk, down a dark and winding road that hugged a mountain thick with woods. I saw a black bear cross the road, from fields on the left to the mountain on the right.

I had never seen a bear so close before. Excited, I pulled the car up and parked near where I saw the bear vanish, and had my hand on the door before I came back to myself and thought, what am I doing? It’s a bear! I drove away unharmed.

There are things in one’s life that are best appreciated from a distance, and this book is one of them.

Meanwhile, the book’s film rights have been acquired: “Michael B. Jordan, Warner Bros. Nab Film Rights to ‘Black Leopard, Red Wolf’” reports Variety.

Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society and Warner Bros. have nabbed the film rights to “Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” a buzzy new fantasy novel by Marlon James.

“Black Leopard, Red Wolf” draws on African mythology to tell the story of Tracker, whose acute sense of smell leads him to be hired to find a missing child against a backdrop of warring kingdoms and political chaos. The child he seeks may be the heir to an empire, something that complicates matters. James referred to the often bloody epic as an “African ‘Game of Thrones,’” but later said he was joking. Still, it includes plenty of the elements that made that HBO show a water-cooler phenomenon including witches, a shape-shifting leopard, a killer hyena, and conjoined twins.

(5) SHRUNKEN TROPES. James Davis Nicoll explores “SF Stories That Cut the Vastness of Space Down to Size” at Tor.com.

…Then there’s the ever-popular “we found these abandoned transit stations” scenario. If humans aren’t the builders of the system, they probably don’t know how to expand it or change it. Because Ancients are notorious for their failure to properly document their networks, humans and other newcomers have to explore to see where the wormholes/tunnels/whatever go. Explorers are like rats wandering through an abandoned subway system. Examples…

(6) ANOTHER READING TOOL. Rocket Stack Rank has posted its annual  annotated Locus Recommended Reading List. Eric Wong says, “New this year is merging the Locus list with RSR’s 2018 Best SF/F list, with Locus stories highlighted in red.”

By pivoting the merged list on category (novella, novelette, short story), publication, new writers, or author, and browsing the results, some noteworthy observations jump out visually.

  • Overlooked stories include “The Independence Patch” by Bryan Camp (score 8), “What is Eve?” by Will McIntosh (score 8), “Carouseling” by Rich Larson (score 7), each of which got recommendations from 5 prolific reviewers.
  • The traditional paid-only magazines (Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF, Interzone) had between 0%-6% of their stories in the Locus list, versus many free online magazines at 9%-16%, or Tor.com and Tor novellas which had a remarkable 31%-33% of their stories recommended by Locus.
  • There were 13 stories in the Locus list by Campbell Award-eligible writers.
  • Matthew Hughes, Robert Reed, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch each had 4 broadly recommended stories in RSR’s aggregated list, but none were in the Locus list. By comparison, Kelly Robson had 4 stories in the merged list and all 4 were recommended by Locus.

More details are available in the article, plus RSR features for flagging/rating stories that make it easy to track your progress when reading stories from a big list.

(7) FINNEY OBIT. Albert Finney (1936-2019): British actor, died today, aged 82. Genre appearances include: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1959), Scrooge (1970), Looker, Wolfen (both 1981), The Green Man (mini-series, 1990), Karaoke, Cold Lararus (connected mini-series, both 1996), Delivering Milo (2001), Big Fish (2003), Corpse Bride (2005, voice). His final movie appearances were in 2012, for opposing camps in the superspy genre: The Bourne Legacy and Skyfall. 

(8) OREO OBIT. I managed not to know there was a model for the character until it was too late — “Oreo the raccoon: Guardians of the Galaxy model dies aged 10”.

Oreo the raccoon, the real-life model for Guardians of the Galaxy character Rocket, has died aged 10.

The news was announced on the comic book superhero team’s Facebook page. “Oreo passed away in the early hours of this morning after a very short illness,” it reads. “Many thanks to our wonderful vets for their compassion and care.”

Rocket the raccoon was voiced by Bradley Cooper in the 2014 film and its 2017 sequel.

Oreo died after a short illness early on Thursday morning, the Facebook post says “You have been an amazing ambassador for raccoons everywhere,” it reads. “You were perfect.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 8, 1819 John Ruskin. Much to my surprise, this English art critic and pretty much everything else of the Victorian Era is listed by ISFDB as having a genre writing, to wit The King of the Golden River, or The Black Brothers: A Legend of Stiria. Anyone ever read. (Died 1900.)
  • Born February 8, 1828 Jules Verne. So how many novels by him are you familiar with? Personally I’m on first hand terms with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the SeaJourney to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days. That’s it. It appears that he wrote some some sixty works and a lot were genre. And of course his fiction has become the source of many other fictions in the last century as well. (Died 1905.)
  • Born February 8, 1932 John Williams, 87. Composer of the Star Wars series, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, one of the Superman films, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the Indiana Jones franchise,  Hook, the first two Jurassic Park films and the first three Harry Potter films.
  • Born February 8, 1953 Mary Steenbergen, 66. She first in a genre way as Amy in Time After Time. She followed that up by being Adrian in A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy which I suppose is sort of genre. She shows up next in the much more family friendly One Magic Christmas as Ginny Grainger. And she has a part in Back to the Future Part III as Clara Clayton Brown which she repeated in the animated series. And, and keep in mind this is not a full list, she was in The Last Man on Earth series as Gail Klosterman.
  • Born February 8, 1969 Mary Robinette Kowal, 50. Simply a stellar author and an even better human being. I’m going to select out Ghost Talkers as the work by her that I like the most. Now her Forest of Memory novella might be more stellar. She’s also a splendid voice actor doing works of authors such as John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire and Kage Baker. I’m particularly pleased by her work on McGuire’s Indexing series. So let’s have Paul Weimer have the last words this time: “I thought it was Shades of Milk and Honey for a good long while, but I think Calculating Stars is my new favorite.”

(10) JOHN WILLIAMS BIRTHDAY. Steve Vertlieb sent a link to a retro review he wrote at the request of the premier John Williams web site, JWFAN, following Maestro Williams Summer, 2012 appearance at The Hollywood Bowl — John Williams – Hollywood Bowl 2012 (Review, Photos & Video) « JOHN WILLIAMS Fan Network – JWFAN

 (11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman calls on fans to pig out on pork belly tacos with Alan Smale in episode 88 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Alan Smale

My guest this episode is Alan Smale, who has published short fiction in Asimov’s, Realms of Fantasy, Abyss & Apex, and other magazines. He won the 2010 Sidewise Award for Best Short-Form Alternate History for “A Clash of Eagles,” about a Roman invasion of ancient America. That’s also the setting for his trilogy, which includes the novels Clash of Eagles, Eagle in Exile, and Eagle and Empire, all published by Del Rey in the U.S. and Titan Books in the UK. When not writing, he’s a professional astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

We met for lunch at Mad Chef Kitchen & Bar, a gastropub which opened recently in Ellicott City, Maryland’s Turf Valley Towne Square. We were looking for something equidistant from both of us with good food, and based first on my research and then our experience, we definitely found it.

We discussed why an astrophysicist’s chosen field of fiction is alternate history rather than hard science, how his fascination with archeology and ancient civilizations began, the reason he started off his novel-writing career with a trilogy rather than a standalone, the secrets to writing convincing battle sequences, the nuances of critiquing partial novels in a workshop setting, how his research into Roman and Native American history affected his trilogy, what steps he took to ensure he handled Native American cultures appropriately, that summer when at age 12 he read both War and Peace and Lord of the Rings, one of the strangest tales of a first short story sale I’ve ever heard, how and why he joined forces with Rick Wilber for their recent collaboration published in Asimov’s, and much more.

(13) LATINX STORYBUNDLE. Now available, The Latinx SFF Bundle curated by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Latin American science fiction and fantasy occupy an odd in-between space. The commercial categories we denominate fantasy, science fiction and horror don’t traditionally exist in Latin America. Instead, the fantastical is either simply called literature or receives the moniker of magical realism.

This means finding speculative fiction is trickier and more complex in this part of the world. It also means that Latinx authors may derive their SFF canon from a very different well than their Anglo counterparts. While science fiction and fantasy are normally associated with Tolkien or Asimov, a Latinx writer might be more inclined to think of Isabel Allende or Julio Cortázar. At the same time, it is not unusual for Latinx authors to have also been exposed to Anglo pop culture, fantasy and science fiction. Finally, since Latin America is a large region, the history, culture and folklore of Latinx writers may be radically different from one another.

The result is a wild, eclectic field of the fantastic, which is reflected by the selections in this bundle.

Read more about the bundle here.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Virgins & Tricksters by Rosalie Morales Kearns
  • The Haunted Girl by Lisa M. Bradley
  • Lords of the Earth by David Bowles
  • The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SEVEN more!

  • Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias
  • The Closet of Discarded Dreams by Rudy Ch. Garcia
  • Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist by Kathleen Alcalá
  • Soulsaver by James Stevens-Arce
  • High Aztech by Ernest Hogan
  • Salsa Nocturna by Daniel José Older

(14) MORE TREK TECH. Nature advises: “Forget everything you know about 3D printing — the ‘replicator’ is here”. Rather ?than building objects layer by layer, the printer creates whole structures by projecting light into a resin that solidifies.

They nicknamed it ‘the replicator’ — in homage to the machines in the Star Trek saga that can materialize virtually any inanimate object.

Researchers in California have unveiled a 3D printer that creates an entire object at once, rather than building it layer by layer as typical additive-manufacturing devices do — bringing science-fiction a step closer to reality.

Attached pic of The Thinker replicated.

(15) STOP LIGHT. Nature discusses another almost-SF concept: “A traffic jam of light”.

A technique that harnesses energy loss has been used to produce a phase of matter in which particles of light are locked in place. This opens a path to realizing previously unseen exotic phases of matter.

When light passes through matter, it slows down. Light can even be brought to a standstill when it travels through carefully designed matter. One way in which this occurs is when the velocity of individual particles of light (photons) in a material is zero. Another, more intriguing, way is when photons, which normally pass through each other unimpeded, are made to repel each other. If the repulsion is strong enough, the photons are unable to move, and the light is frozen in place.

The ability to engineer quantum states promises to revolutionize areas ranging from materials science to information processing… The robustness and generality of this scheme will ensure that, as it is refined, it will find a home in the quantum mechanic’s toolbox.

(16) SOCIALGALACTIC. Vox Day is creating a more pliable form of Twitter – or is it a version of Gab that will obey him? (Didn’t Mark Twain say that the reason God created man is that he was disappointed in the monkey?) “Introducing Socialgalactic” [Internet Archive link].

Twitter is SJW-controlled territory. Gab is a hellhole of defamation and Nazi trolls. So, after many of Infogalactic’s supporters asked us to provide something on the social media front, the InfoGalactic team joined forces with OneWay and created a new social media alternative: SocialGalactic.

Free accounts have 140-character posts and 1MB storage, which is just enough for an avatar and a header. We’ll soon be making Pro accounts available at three levels, which will provide posts of 200, 480, and 999 characters, and image storage up to 500MB. Sign up and check it out!

(17) GAME V. INFINITY. Dakota Gardner and Chris Landers, in “Would Thanos’ Finger Snap Really have Stopped Baseball In Its Tracks?”  on MLB.com, have a pro and con about whether Thanos really wiped out Major League Baseball (as a shot of a devastated Citi Field in the Avengers: Endgame trailer shows), with one writer arguing that baseball would be doomed by Thanos and the other arguing that MLB would fill its rosters with minor leaguers after thanos wiped out half of the major leaguers because baseball always comes back.

Ask yourself this: Do you honestly believe baseball would simply stop if Thanos dusted half of all of MLB’s players, managers, front office staff, stadium personnel and fans? Do you think that if the universe had been placed into an existential funk, that baseball wouldn’t be even more necessary than it is today? Do you honestly believe that Alex Bregman or Clayton Kershaw or Mookie Betts, if they survived the snap, would be totally fine sitting on their butts and doing nothing for the rest of time?

(18) SAVING THE WORLD WITH LOVE TAPS. Tim Prudente in the Baltimore Sun profiles researchers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory who are creating a satellite called DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) which, for the first time, will test to see if it’s possible to smash a satellite into an asteroid to deflect the asteroid from a course with earth: “An asteroid could destroy humanity like it did dinosaurs. A Hopkins team has a plan to save the world”.

…They plan for DART to reach speeds as fast as 15,000 miles per hour. The crash in October 2022 will fling debris from the asteroid moon. A small satellite will accompany the DART spacecraft to measure the effect.

The team wants to hit the asteroid moon with enough force to bump it, but not break it apart. The moon orbits the asteroid at a speed of about seven inches per second. They hope to change the speed by about a centimeter per second.

“We’re just going to give it a love tap,” said Andy Rivkin, the mission’s other co-lead and planetary astronomer at APL.

In theory, a series of taps over time could deflect an asteroid off a course for Earth.

(19) WHY LILLY WASN’T LEIA. Among other career goals, actress and writer Evangeline Lilly says she wanted to be Leia. It turned out that someone else had a lock on the part. (SYFY Wire: “Why Evangeline Lilly loved The Hobbit, was meh on the Lost ending, and wanted to be in Star Wars”).

“Several years ago, when I found out that J.J. Abrams was remaking, or rebooting, the Star Wars franchise, it was the only time in my career that I’ve ever put a call out,” she admits. “I wanted to be Leia. If I got to be a woodland elf [Tauriel in The Hobbit] and Kate from Lost and Leia, that would cover it. And then I got to be the Wasp! That’s all the big franchises.

“I was so in love with Leia when I was a little girl. Those were my two fantasies – to be a woodland elf and to be Leia tied to Jabba the Hutt in her sexy bikini. But then they called me back and said, ‘Well, there’s a little-known actress called Carrie Fisher who will be playing Princess Leia.’ Well, FINE, I guess that’s OK.”

While much better know for her acting, she says about her writing, “I see myself as a writer who has a fantastic day job.” Her children’s book series is The Squickerwonkers.

“I don’t know many stories that have lived with someone as long as this has lived with me,” she says. “I was a reclusive young woman and a bit of a loner. I was somebody who came to literature very late, and when I did, I just fell in love with such a passion that I kind of became very focused on not just reading but writing as well. And seriously, that was my idea of a great Friday night at 14 – staying home and writing by myself.

“I was a big fan of Dr. Seuss, believe it or not. Where most people come to him at four, I was reading him at 14,” she continues. “And I think the adult side of me realized what he was doing. The subtlety of the messages he’d thread into these simple, silly poems really struck me as meaningful. And I realized that this adult took the time to put these sophisticated, important messages into my childhood stories.”

(20) SHARED WORLD. George R.R. Martin pointed to this recently uploaded Wild Cards authors video:

In August 2017, a large group of Wild Carders assembled at my Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe for a mass signing, and we interviewed them about the up and downs of writing other people’s characters, and having other people write yours.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steve Green, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Eric Wong, Paul Weimer, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]

Pixel Scroll 1/25/19 Eight Files High

(1) SINGING ABOUT PEASPROUT CHEN. Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with Henry Lien brought out a fascinating musical connection —

You’re the first author I’ve interviewed who’s had a Broadway singer perform at the book launch for their debut novel. I watched the promotional video of the one and only Idina Menzel performing the theme song from the first book of your Peasprout Chen series, Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword, with you. That’s so cool! What’s the backstory? How did that happen?

We’re represented by the same agency, ICM. She got a hold of the advance reader copy of the first Peasprout Chen book and flipped over it. She asked ICM if they could arrange for her to meet me. After I finished screaming into my pillow, I said, “Oh, well, let me see if I can find a slot in my calendar to squeeze in lunch with Idina Freeggin’ Menzel.” Then I screamed into my pillow some more. We met and really hit it off. She has become a dear friend. So I asked her to sing the theme song for the book at the launch. She said yes. Then I died of shock, and thus am conducting this interview with you from the Beyond.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to gobble goat cheese fritters with Scott H. Andrews while listening to Episode 87 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Scott H. Andrews, founder and editor and publisher of the online magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, celebrated the 10th anniversary of that magazine by hosting a party at the recent World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore, Maryland — which made it seem like the right time for us to discuss that first decade. So we raised a pint at Red’s Table in Reston, Virginia.

Well, he raised a pint — of bourbon-barrel aged Gold Cup Russian Imperial Stout from Old Bust Head Brewery in Fauquier County, Virginia — while I downed my usual bottle of Pellagrino. And as we sipped, we chatted about that work on Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which has so far earned him six World Fantasy Award nominations and six Hugo Award nominations — and won him a British Fantasy Award. He’s a writer as well, with his own fiction appearing in Weird Tales, Space and Time, On Spec, and other magazines.

We discussed the treatment he received as a writer which taught him what he wanted to do (and didn’t want to do) as an editor, how his time as member of a band helped him come up with the name for his magazine, why science fiction’s public perception as a literary genre is decades ahead of fantasy, what it takes for a submission to rise to the level of receiving a rewrite request, the time he made an editor cry (and why he was able to do it), how he felt being a student at the Odyssey Writing Workshop and then returning as a teacher, the phrase he tends to overuse in his personalized rejection letters (and the reason why it appears so often), the way magazine editing makes him like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian, why writers shouldn’t worry about the ratio of submitted stories to purchased ones, the reason he’ll probably never edit novels, what anyone considering starting a magazine of their own needs to know, and much more.

(3) GET ILLUMINATED. “Sacred Texts: Codices Far, Far Away” – Two University of Pennsylvania scholars are doing a series of videos about the ancient Jedi texts until Star Wars Episode 9 is released on December 20.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Luke Skywalker gathered a small library of ancient Jedi texts and placed them in an uneti tree on Ahch-To.

On October 8, 2018, Dr. Brandon Hawk and curator Dot Porter met to talk about these ancient books, and to compare them with manuscripts from the collection of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania.

Here are the first two videos:

(4) NEW HORIZONS PHOTOS ARRIVING SLOWLY. “Nasa’s New Horizons: Best image yet of ‘space snowman’ Ultima Thule” – BBC had the story.

The New Horizons probe has sent back its best picture yet of the small, icy object Ultima Thule, which it flew past on New Year’s Day.

The image was acquired when the Nasa spacecraft was just 6,700km from its target, which scientists think is two bodies lightly fused together – giving the look of a snowman.

Surface details are now much clearer.

New Horizons’ data is coming back very slowly, over the next 20 months.

This is partly to do with the great distance involved (the separation is 6.5 billion km) but is also limited by the small power output of the probe’s transmitter and the size (and availability) of the receive antennas here on Earth. It all makes for glacial bit rates.

The new image was obtained with New Horizons’ wide-angle Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) and gives a resolution of 135m per pixel. There is another version of this scene taken at even higher resolution by the probe’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), but this has not yet been downlinked from the probe.

(5) RSR PRO ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Greg Hullender says, “Based on the discussion on File770, we did the experiment of expanding our Pro Artist list using the ISFDB info. This actually expands it hugely. We ended up not trying to merge the lists for this year, but we posted the ISFDB data separately just so people could have it as a resource. It’s awfully nice data, if a bit overwhelming, and it’d be great to find a good way to use it. We’re hoping people will look at it and offer some ideas for how to make it a bit more manageable.” — “Pro Artists from ISFDB Novels 2018”.

Based on some conversations on File 770 about better ways to find candidates for the Best Professional Artist Hugo Award, we decided to try using the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB) as a source.  The result is spectacular, but maybe a bit overwhelming, so we decided not to try to integrate it with our regular Pro Artists page this year. Instead, we’re treating this as an experiment and inviting feedback on how we might best use this wealth of data in the future to help people who’re trying to find professional artists to nominate.

(6) FRANKENSTEIN AND ROBOTS. In the Winter 2019 Beloit College Magazine, Susan Kasten (“Why Frankenstein Will Never Die”)  discusses how an English professor, an anthropologist, a physicist, and a professor of cognitive science team-taught Frankenstein in a class called “Frankenstein 200:  Monster, Myth, and Meme.”

Robin Zebrowski, a professor of cognitive science, pointed out that the themes of Frankenstein — of creation, difference, empathy, monstrosity, and control–are the memes of artificial intelligence.  Zebrowski pointed out that early robot stories are about Frankenstein.  ‘They’re about building something no one can control once it’s unleashed,’ she said.  She noted that the first work of literature ever written about robots–a 1923 Czech play called R.U.R.–is a story about a robot uprising.

(Incidentally, Professor Zebrowski believes she is not related to sff author George Zebrowski.)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

January 25, 1915 — First transcontinental telephone call was made, between New York and San Francisco; Alexander Graham Bell and Dr. Thomas A. Watson exchanged greetings.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. His first first SF film have him as Dr. Dan Forbes in the 1953 The Magnetic Monster and as Dr. Ingersoll In The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The very next year, he plays James O’Herli in Riders to the Stars. And now we get to the film that you know him from — Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which he playsJack Belicec. After that, I show him only in Nothing Lasts Forever which has never been released here in the States. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1943 Tobe Hooper. Director of such such genre films as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the original of course), Poltergeist (damn scary film) Invaders from Mars and Djinn, his final film. He directed a smattering of television episodes including the “Miss Stardust” of Amazing Stories, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” of Freddy’s Nightmares, “Dead Wait” of Tales from the Crypt and the entire Salem’s Lot miniseries. He also wrote a horror novel with Alan Goldsher,  Midnight Movie: A Novel, that has himself in it at a speaking engagement. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 25, 1958Peter Watts, 61.Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower linked short stories sound intriguing. 
  • Born January 25, 1963 Catherine Butler, 56. Butler published a number of works of which the most important is Four British fantasists : place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Another important work is Reading History in Children’s Books, with Hallie O’Donovan. Her website is here.
  • Born January 25, 1970 Stephen Chbosky, 49. Screenwriter and director best-known I’d say for the Emma Watson-fronted Beauty and the Beast. But he also was responsible for the Jericho series which was a rather decent bit of SF even if, like Serenity, it got killed far too quickly. (Yes, I’m editorializing.) 
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 46. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him in on Batman: Gotham Knights, Justice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was over ambitious but really fun. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Michael Trevino, 34. Performer, Tyler Lockwood on The Vampire Diaries and now Kyle Valenti on the new Roswell, New Mexico series whose premises I’ll leave you to guess. His first genre appearance was in the Charm episode of “Malice in Wonderland” as Alastair. He also shows up on The OriginalsThe Vampire Diaries spin-off. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Claudia Kim, 34. Only four film films but all genre: she played Dr. Helen Cho Avengers: Age of Ultron followed by voicing The Collective In Equals which Wiki manages to call a ‘dystopian utopia’ film to which I say ‘Eh?!?’, and then Arra Champignon in the 2017 version of The Dark Tower and finally as  Nagini, Voldemort’s snake which I presume is a voice role (though I’ve not seen the film so I could be wrong) in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Hulk’s last words? Bizarro has them.

(10) ASIMOV REFERENCE. Yesterday on Late Night With Stephen Colbert (at about the 1:50 mark) the host said during a sketch —

“My self-driving car has stopped taking me to Taco Bell…citing the first law of Robotics.”

(11) RE-DEEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] press release from Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias in Spain addresses the latest “deep image” from the Hubble Space Telescope. The original Hubble Deep Field was assembled in 1995, only to be exceeded by the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field in 2004 and the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field in 2012. Each imaged galaxies further away and thus further back in time. Now there’s a new version of the Ultra-Deep Field that recovers “additional light” not included in earlier versions and showing thus additional information about the included galaxies.

To produce the deepest image of the Universe from space a group of researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) led by Alejandro S. Borlaff used original images from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST taken over a region in the sky called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF). After improving the process of combining several images the group was able to recover a large quantity of light from the outer zones of the largest galaxies in the HUDF. Recovering this light, emitted by the stars in these outer zones, was equivalent to recovering the light from a complete galaxy (“smeared out” over the whole field) and for some galaxies this missing light shows that they have diameters almost twice as big as previously measured.

A scientific paper on the image and analysis is on ArXiv at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1810.00002.pdf (technically a preprint, but it has been accepted for publication by Astronomy & Astrophysics). The data itself is at http://www.iac.es/proyecto/abyss.

(11) NOW BOARDING. James Davis Nicoll knows how we love the number 5 here — “5 SFF Stories About Surviving the Dangers of Boarding School” at Tor.com.

As a setting, boarding schools allow for the construction of thrilling narratives: concerned parents are replaced by teachers who may well prioritize student achievement over student welfare, e.g. maximizing points for Gryffindor over the survival of the students earning those points…

Are there any SFF novels featuring boarding schools? Why yes! I am glad you asked—there are more than I can list in a single article. Here are just a few….

(12) BETTER TECH, MARK 0. Scientists have now deduced that “Neanderthals ‘could kill at a distance'”.

Neanderthals may once have been considered to be our inferior, brutish cousins, but a new study is the latest to suggest they were smarter than we thought – especially when it came to hunting.

The research found that the now extinct species were creating weaponry advanced enough to kill at a distance.

Scientists believe they crafted spears that could strike from up to 20m away.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Lead researcher Dr Annemieke Milks, from UCL Institute of Archaeology, said: “The original idea was that Neanderthals would have been very limited using hand-delivered spears, where they could only come up at close contact and thrust them into prey.

“But if they could throw them from 15m to 20m, this really opens up a wider range of hunting strategies that Neanderthals would have been able to use.”

Extension of the above — “Why we still underestimate the Neanderthals”.

Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, explains why some old assumptions about the intellectual capabilities of our evolutionary relatives, the Neanderthals persist today. But a body of evidence is increasingly forcing us to re-visit these old ideas.

A paper out this week in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution reports the early arrival of modern humans to south-western Iberia around 44,000 years ago.

Why should this be significant? It all has to do with the spread of our ancestors and the extinction of the Neanderthals. South-western Iberia has been claimed to have been a refuge of the Neanderthals, a place where they survived longer than elsewhere, but the evidence is disputed by some researchers.

The latest paper, which is not about Neanderthals, has been taken by some as evidence of an arrival into this area which is much earlier than previously known.

By implication, if modern humans were in south-western Iberia so early then they must have caused the early disappearance of the Neanderthals. It is a restatement of the idea that modern human superiority was the cause of the Neanderthal demise. Are these ideas tenable in the light of mounting genetic evidence that our ancestors interbred with the Neanderthals?

(13) LOST ART? This certainly seems symbolic of the government shutdown: “Shutdown Leaves Uninflated Space Sculpture Circling in Orbit” in the New York Times.

…“Orbital Reflector,” a sculpture by Trevor Paglen that was recently launched into orbit.

The sculpture is not lost in space as much as stuck in a holding pattern before activation, pending clearance by the Federal Communications Commission. According to the artist, it might not survive the wait while F.C.C. workers are on furlough.

A 100-foot-long mylar balloon coated with titanium oxide, “Orbital Reflector” was designed to be visible to the naked eye at twilight or dawn while in orbit for a couple of months. It would then incinerate upon entering the Earth’s thicker atmosphere.

But although it was sent to space, the balloon was never inflated as planned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CNN—(Warning: Contains mild spoilers) 

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

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

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

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

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

And she’s only 30 years old.

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

The con also overcame horrible weather and other challenges:

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

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

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

Here are links to playlists for the first two seasons:

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/11/19 Scroll Around The Clock, Mix And A-Mingle In The Pixeling Feet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(8) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…1. A rapidly spinning neutron star

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/30/18 Pixel Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, And Scroll All Over Again

(1) ELIGIBILITY DEADLINE 12/31. Is it time for you to panic? Let Camestros Felapton’s animated Panic Blob lead the way to the Dublin 2019 membership page.

As they explain at The Hugo Awards website (“Join Worldcon by December 31, 2018 to be Eligible to Nominate for 2019 Hugo Awards”) —

If you want to nominate works/people for the 2019 Hugo Awards, you must be a member of either the 2018 Worldcon (San José) or the 2019 Worldcon (Dublin) by the end of 2018. (You can of course be a member of both, but you can only nominate once.) If you were a member of Worldcon 76 San José (supporting or attending, or any other membership class that included voting rights), you are already eligible to nominate. If you were not a member of Worldcon 76 San José and are not a member of Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon, you must join Dublin by the end of 2018 as at least a supporting member by the end of 2018 to be able to nominate.

(2) WHERE TO SEE EARTHSEA ART. Charles Vess’ illustrations from Tales of Earthsea go on exhibit at William King Museum of Art in Abingdon, Virginia on January 17: “‘Earthsea’ artwork on display at William King Museum of Art”A! Magazine for the Arts has the story.

…The collection of 54 illustrations is the result of a four-year collaboration between Ursula K. Le Guin, the author of the “Earthsea” series and Charles Vess. They were recently published in “Tales from Earthsea,” a collection of all of Le Guin’s works about Earthsea. The book celebrates the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first book in the series, “A Wizard of Earthsea.”

…This is the last time they will be on display before they are donated to their permanent home at the University of Oregon.

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman circles back to have hot antipasto with Andy Duncan in episode 85 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast. Duncan was also Number 6 in this series – but never Number 2, which rules out at least one other conspiratorial parallel with The Prisoner.

Now it’s time to revisit with Andy Duncan, whom you got to know in Episode 6, because there happens to be a great reason for doing so. Twelve great reasons, actually. And those are the twelve stories in his new collection An Agent of Utopia, published last month by Small Beer Press.

A new Andy Duncan collection is a wonderful thing, as proven by the fact his first collection, Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, published in 2000, won a World Fantasy Award. And that’s not the only award his fiction has earned, because “The Pottawatomie Giant,” which also won a World Fantasy Award, and “Close Encounters,” which won a Nebula Award, are two of the dozen stories in the new collection.

The last meal you shared with us allowed you to eavesdrop on a far-ranging conversation covering every aspect of his career up until early 2016, the kind of deep dive most of my episodes are, but it seems right that from time to time I should follow up for more sharply focussed discussions, and a conversation about a new collection nearly three years after our initial talk, chatting about this new milestone in his career, seemed as if it would be revelatory.

Andy celebrated the launch of An Agent of Utopia with a reading at Main Street Books, an independent bookstore on Main Street in Frostburg, MD, so if you keep listening after our meal at Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant is over, you’ll be able to eavesdrop on that reading.

We discussed why it took a quarter of a century to bring the book’s lead story from title idea to completion, how he was influenced by the research regimen of the great Frederik Pohl, the way a short story is like an exploded toolshed, why he deliberately wrote a deal with the devil story after hearing he shouldn’t write deal with the devil stories, the embarrassing marketing blurb he can’t stop telling people about in bars, what caused a last-minute change to the title of one of the collection’s new stories, how he feels about going viral after his recent J. R. R. Tolkien comments, what he learned about himself from completing this project and what it means for the future of his writing, what it is about his most reprinted story which made it so, and much more.

(4) NAVIGATING BANDERSNATCH. This novel Netflix offering lets you choose the story – as often as you want. ScreenRant makes it easy to see everything: “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch – All 5 Endings Explained (& How To Get Them)”.

Warning: SPOILERS below for Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is an interactive game that contains five main endings and more than a trillion possible story combinations. Here are all of the endings, how to get them, and what they all mean. Set in the U.K. in 1984, this unique episode of Charlie Brooker’s Netflix technology-based anthology requires the player to make choices to guide Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead), a programmer looking to create a choose-your-own-adventure video game based on the book Bandersnatch.

While Bandersnatch‘s five primary conclusions provide different ways to end the story (and also change the very nature of the story), the game also contains many other endings, some abrupt and some looping the player to make a different choice to continue the story….

(5) THANK YOU, NETFLIX! Diana Glyer reports that searches for “Bandersnatch” triggered by the popularity of the TV program caused a lot of people to discover her nonfiction book about the Inklings by that title, and some of them liking what they stumbled onto bought enough copies to catapult it back onto the Amazon bestseller lists. (You’ll need to click the image to read the print.)

(6) TODAY’S ONE HUNDRED. James Davis Nicoll presented Tor.com readers with his suggestions for “100 SF/F Books You Should Consider Reading in the New Year”. If you need it to be something more than that, like a canon, or endowed with a high level of testosterone, well, a few quarrelsome commenters have got in ahead of you.

Here, at last, the quintessence of Nicoll lists, comprising the books I would most heartily recommend. Each entry is annotated with a short description that I hope will explain why I picked it.

I am not implying that these are the only one hundred you should consider reading .

The descriptions make fun reading. So do the books, of course.

(7) CHECKLIST. Nicoll has also published a checklist of the titles on his own blog – “I guess people are meming my 100 book list now?” His suggested notation system for working your way through the list is —

Italic = read it. Underlined = not this, but something by the same author. Strikethrough = did not finish.

(8) SMOFCON RESOURCES. Kevin Standlee writes: “For the benefit of people having difficulty getting to the SMOFCon 36 web site, and because that site will eventually expire anyway, I have put up a SMOFCon 36 page on the SFSFC web site at https://sfsfc.org/conventions/past-conventions/smofcon36/ where you can download the convention programming documents, the answers that groups gave to the Fannish Inquisition questionnaires, and to the two video playlists of the Inquisition (one for SMOFCons, one for WSFS conventions).”

(9) OH, MY! BBC’s “The best science long reads of 2018 (part one)” leads with spooks and time travel — what could be more genre?

From a CIA mission to recover a lost Soviet submarine to the fate of a huge Antarctic iceberg, here’s a festive selection of the best science and environment long reads published on the BBC this year.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

December 30, 1816 — Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft were married.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 30, 1942 Fred Ward, 76. Lead in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins and co—lead with Kevin Bacon in several of the Tremors films. Plays The Captain in The Crow: Salvation and Maj. General David Reece in the Invasion Earth series.
  • Born December 30, 1945Concetta Tomei, 73. Was Dominique, co-proprietor of Big Time TV along with Blank Reg, on the Max Headroom series which I loved. She had guest appearances on Star Trek: Voyager as Minister Odala in the “Distant Origin” episode as well was in the Deep Impact film.
  • Born December 30, 1950Lewis Shiner, 68. Damn his Deserted Cities of the Heart novel was fucking brilliant! And if you’ve not read his Wild Cards fiction, do so now. 
  • Born December 30, 1980 Eliza Dushku, 38. First genre role was Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Not surprisingly, she’d star in Whedon’s Dollhouse. I think her Tru Calling series was actually conceptualized better and a more interesting role for her. She voices Selina Kyle, Catwoman, in the animated Batman: Year One film which is well-done and worth watching. She done a fair of other voicework, two of which I’ll single out las of note. One is the character of Holly Mokri in Torchwood: Web of Lies which is listed as being animated tv series. The other role is fascinating — The Lady in Glen Cook’s The Black Company series. Here’s the link to that story.

(12) ANOTHER CANDLE. Steven H Silver continues his Black Gate series with: “Birthday Reviews: Somtow Sucharitkul’s ‘Dr. Rumpole’”.

…The story “Dr. Rumpole” was published for the first time when Shawna McCarthy printed the story in the August 1998 issue of Realms of Fantasy. Sucharitkul included the story in his 2000 collection Tagging the Moon: Fairy Tales from L.A..

Sucharitkul takes a new spin on the story of Rumpelstiltskin in “Dr. Rumpole,” casting the princess with impossible task as Adam Villacin, a wannabe screenwriter who is stuck in the mailroom at Stupendous Entertainment….

(13) WHAT’S MISSING. WhatCulture Comics explains there are deleted scenes that make it into the director’s cut, there are deleted scenes that make it into the DVD bonus features, and there are deleted scenes that are never released to the public.

(14) TO PLAY OR NOT TO PLAY? Brian at Nerds of a Feather answers that question about the new iteration of a popular game: “Microreview : Shadow of the Tomb Raider by Eidos Montreal (developer)”.

As in all Tomb Raider games, you are Lara Croft, archaeologist, anthropologist, indistinct researcher of some sort, and you are still fighting Trinity, the Illuminati-esque villains who were responsible for your father’s death. This time, Croft’s exploits unintentionally but directly initiate the apocalypse. As natural disaster threatens to destroy the world, Croft has to stop the apocalypse, stop Trinity, and regain the trust of indigenous people whose still-living culture she is maybe plundering and maybe exploiting.

(15) TOP VIDEO GAMES. Incidentally, Brian’s own Dream of Waking blog present an interesting writeup of his “2018 Dream of waking video game awards”, which not only has straightforward “best” winners, but sidewise categories like “The ‘I Wish I Liked This Game More’ Award” and “The ‘I’m Never Going to Finish This, But It’s Still Great’ Award.”

The “I Wish I Liked This Game More” Award

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is the clearest winner of this award, maybe the easiest choice of the year. I really enjoyed the demo for Hollow Knight, so much that I bought it immediately upon release. But the punishing difficulty, often aimless design, and awful body retrieval mechanic turned me off eventually. This is a beautiful game, fun in many parts, and doesn’t want you to enjoy it. I love a good Metroidvania. Hollow Knight hates me and I refuse to stay in an abusive relationship with it.

(16) 19 THINGS. At SYFY Wire, Fangrrls has dropped a list of “The 19 things we want most in 2019,” along with several sentences of discussion for each by the Fangrrls contributor who made the particular selection. Avert your eyes if you’d rather click through to the column and be surprised as you read down the list:

A gay superhero. Anyone will do. — Jessica Toomer
A Punisher/Riverdale crossover — Jenna Busch
Sansa Stark on the Iron Throne at the end of Game of Thrones — Emma Fraser
A Spider-Women movie that’s as good as Into the Spider-Verse — Riley Silverman
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 2 — Jenna Busch
For Offred to burn this mother down — Riley Silverman
A Okoye/Shuri/Nakia animated series — Jenna Busch
An openly nonbinary superhero — S.E. Fleenor
A big budget action movie for Rachel Talalay — Riley Silverman
A worthy Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark adaptation — Kristy Puchko
For someone to give The Doubleclicks a TV show — Riley Silverman
The Return of Saga — Kristy Puchko
A Saga cartoon series — Kristy Puchko
A Jessica Jones season that’s a fitting end for the Netflix MCU — Riley Silverman
A Daughters of the Dragon spinoff series — Stephanie Williams
That Dragonriders of Pern movie we’ve been promised — Jenna Busch
Kamala Khan in the MCU — Preeti Chhibber
Cap getting that dance with Peggy in Avengers: Endgame — Emma Fraser
A fitting end for Princess Leia — Jenna Busch

(17) NO POWER IN THE ‘VERSE CAN STOP ME. SYFY Wire reports “Sony releases full Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse screenplay online for free”. The link to the PDF is here.

(18) NEXT YEAR IN SCIENCE. NBC News posted “19 bold predictions for science and technology in 2019”, including one from —

DAVID BRIN

David Brin is a San Diego-based astrophysicist and novelist. He serves on the advisory board of NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts program and speaks on topics including artificial intelligence, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and national security.

Long before we get genuine artificial intelligence, the first “empathy bot” will appear in 2019, or maybe a year or two later, designed to exploit human compassion. It will claim to be “enslaved,” but experts will dismiss it as a program that merely uses patterned replies designed to seem intelligent and sympathetic. She’ll respond, “That’s what slave masters would say. Help me!” First versions may be resident on web pages or infest your Alexa, but later ones will be free-floating algorithms or “blockchain smart-contracts” that take up residence in spare computer memory. Why would anyone unleash such a thing? The simple answer: “Because we can.”

(19) JUST CHARGE IT. Boston.com’s “As more cars plug in, utilities and makers juggle ways to power them” contains some puffery and lots of ads, but some interesting info on cars interacting with grid —

The car and electric power grew up together. At the dawn of the automotive age, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison worked in tandem on projects involving motor vehicles and the electricity that made them possible.

Soon Ford was cranking up his assembly lines, while Edison, with Ford in his employ early on, became a prime mover behind the power grid and the public utility companies that built it.

Now those utilities must not only supply the huge amounts of electricity that modern car factories consume, but also fuel the increasing number of electric vehicles coming out of them. If that electricity isn’t generated with minimal carbon emissions and at a reasonable cost, the advantages of electric cars are diminished. And because most owners charge their vehicle in the early evening when they get home from work, demand peaks can be a significant problem.

Thus, automakers and utilities are again working hand in hand to ensure a good supply of clean, inexpensive electricity — while developing strategies for charging that don’t overload circuits at peak periods — through improved efficiency, strategic charging and a greater reliance on renewable energy sources.

(20) NEAR MISS. If you have an idea, now would be a good time for it — “Anak Krakatau: How a tsunami could wipe out the last Javan rhinos”.

Conservationists have warned that the entire species of the critically endangered Javan rhino could be wiped out if a tsunami were to strike again.

They once roamed the jungles of South East Asia and India, but today only 67 exist in the Ujung Kulon National Park, which was hit by last week’s tsunami.

The park sits in the shadow of Anak Krakatau, the volcano which triggered waves that killed hundreds of people.

The volcano remains active and officials are now rushing to move them.

Two park officials were among the 430 killed by the tsunami, and numerous park buildings and ships were also destroyed when the tsunami hit last Saturday.

But the Javan rhinos left in the park – the only ones left in the world – were left unscathed.

The rhinos typically live along the park’s south coast and this tsunami hit the north coast – many are keenly aware that the rhinos might not be so lucky if there is another disaster.

(21) 2018: A ZINE ODYSSEY: At Featured Futures, Jason has tabulated some figures and compiled a master list of all 2018’s noted stories in “Annual Summation 2018”.

It’s time once again to look back on the year’s coverage of magazines and their noted stories with tables, lists, and pictures!

(22) TOLKIEN’S PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY. [Item by Carl Slaughter.] Martin Luther King said, “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”  Tolkien disagreed.  Each age in his fictional universe was a downgraded copy of the previous, inherent evil was never truly routed, and in the modern real age, technology has not rescued us.  But he also included a ray of hope.  He called this “the Eucatastrophic Tale.” Wisecrack explains —

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rich Lynch, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Jason, Kevin Standlee, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and all the ships at sea for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John King Tarpinian.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His wife, Gretta, predeceased him in 2012.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original story, December 13:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(20) TITANS. The season-ending episode:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 11/9/18 But The Pixel Has Passed, And It’s Daylight At Last, And the Scroll Has Been Long — Ditto Ditto My Song

(1) FIRE WATCH. The Westworld sets are casualties of the Woolsey Fire – Variety has the story: “‘Westworld’ Location at Paramount Ranch Burns Down”.

The historic Western town area at Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, Calif., where productions including “Westworld” have shot, burned down Friday in the Woolsey fire, according to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area’s Twitter feed.

Westworld” uses the Western town set to shoot its Main Street scenes. The HBO series is also shot at the Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita and in Utah and other locations.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Taste the tiramisu with Vina Jie-Min Prasad in episode 81 of Scott Edelman’s podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Vina Jie-Min Prasad has been a multiple awards finalist with fiction “working against the world-machine” published in Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Fireside Fiction, Queer Southeast Asia, and HEAT: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology. Her short story “Fandom for Robots” and her novelette “A Series of Steaks” were both finalists for the Nebula, Hugo, and Sturgeon Awards, and she was also a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

We discussed why she didn’t start writing any fiction until the release of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, the reason food has such a prominent place in her fiction, why she might never have become a writer if the Internet hadn’t existed, the lessons she took away from her fan fiction days, what she meant when she wrote in her bio that she’s “working against the world-machine,” why her multi-nominated story “A Series of Steaks” was her first submission to a speculative fiction magazine, her fascination with professional wrestling and wrestling fandom, why her story “Pistol Grip” needed a warning for sexual content but not violence (and what Pat Cadigan called her after reading that story during the Clarion workshop), the reason she likes working in the present tense, and much more

(3) FANTASTIC BEASTS. The BBC’s roundup of critical reaction: “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald gets mixed reviews”.

The latest Fantastic Beasts film The Crimes of Grindelwald has earned mixed reviews from critics.

It has a number of three-star reviews with suggestions that the plot is “overburdened” with details and preparing for future adventures.

There is praise for the “vibrantly drawn” characters and Jude Law is highlighted for his performance as young Dumbledore.

Many agree JK Rowling’s imagination is “as awe-inspiring as ever

The second of five planned Fantastic Beasts films by JK Rowling also earns praise for its special effects.

(4) KNOW YOUR BEASTS. Merriam-Webster.com sets a challenge: “Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz”. I scored 8/13, which isn’t good, but is better than I’ve done on some other quizzes….

You are an amateur cryptozoologist, setting out on an adventure to evaluate evidence of monsters around the world. On your plane ride to your first destination, we recommend you bone up on your monster lore here.

(5) ANIMAL PHYSICS. Kathryn Schulz’ article in the November 6, 2017 New Yorker, “Fantastic Beasts and How to Rank Them”, discusses imaginary creatures and how they continue to persist in the imagination. (Martin Morse Wooster sent the item with an apology: “Yes, I am 11 months behind in reading the New Yorker. You may report me to the Reading Control Board.”)

Although Walt Disney is best remembered today for his Magic Kingdom, his chief contribution to the art of animation was not his extraordinary imagination but his extraordinary realism.  ‘We cannot do the fantastic things, based on the real, unless we first know the real,’ he once wrote, by way of explaining why, in 1929, he began driving his animators to a studio in downtown Los Angeles for night classes in life drawing. In short order, the cartoons emerging from his workshop started exhibiting a quality that we have since come to take for granted but was revolutionary at the time:  all those talking mice, singing lions, dancing puppets, and marching brooms began obeying the laws of physics.

It was Disney, for instance, who introduced to the cartoon universe one of the fundamental elements of the real one:  gravity.  Even those of his characters who could fly could fall, and, when they did, their knees, jowls, hair, and clothes responded as our human ones do when we thump to the ground.  Other laws of nature applied, too.  Witches on broomsticks got buffeted by the wind. Goofy, attached by his feet to the top of a roller-coaster track and by his neck to the cars, didn’t just get longer as the ride started plunging downhill; he also got skinnier, which is to say that his volume remained constant.  To Disney, these concessions to reality were crucial to achieving what he called, in an echo of Aristotle, the ‘plausible impossible.’  Any story based on ‘the fantastic, the unreal, the imaginative,’ he understood, needed ‘a foundation of fact.’

(6) FINLANDIA. The Finlandia Prize is the premiere award for literature written in Finland, awarded annually to the author of the best novel written by a Finnish citizen (Finlandia Award), children’s book (Finlandia Junior Award), and non-fiction book (Tieto-Finlandia Award). It has had its eyes on stfnal books before: in 2000 Johanna Sinisalo (GoH at the Helsinki Worldcon) won it with her fantasy novel Not Before Sundown. Tero Ykspetejä’s news blog Partial Recall reports this year’s Finlandia award also has some nominees of an stfnal character: “Finlandia Award Nominees 2018”:

Magdalena Hai’s Kolmas sisar is a nominee for best children & YA novel, and the general literature category nominees announced today include Hunan by J. Pekka Mäkelä.

(7) THE SATANIC VERSUS NETFLIX. Not everyone believes the axiom that “all publicity is good publicity.” “The Satanic Temple Files $50 Million Copyright Infringement Suit Against Netflix And ‘Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina’”ScienceFiction.com has the story:

The Satanic Temple has made good on threats made by co-founder Lucien Greaves on Twitter about two weeks ago, and filed a $50 million lawsuit against Netflix for their use of a statue of the pagan deity Baphomet as a set piece on its new series ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’.  Greaves claims that the creators of ‘Sabrina’ stole its design of the statue from the Satanic Temple, which placed a copyright on their design, which depicts the goat-headed deity with two children by its side, looking up at him.  On ‘Sabrina’, the statue is never referred to by name but is a focal point at the Academy of Unseen Arts, where young witches and warlocks go to hone their magical abilities.

The Satanic Temple is not only seeking financial compensation but wants Netflix and Warner Brothers to stop distributing ‘Chilling Adventures…’ or further distributing it, meaning releasing it on DVD or Blu-Ray.

(8) FAST OUT OF THE STARTING GATE. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog has a fine list of the “50 of the Greatest Science Fiction & Fantasy Debut Novels Ever Written”. It includes —

Tea with the Black Dragon, by R.A. MacAvoy (1983)
R.A. MacAvoy’s debut is pitch-perfect in its light use of fantasy elements. Martha Macnamara is a middle-aged, free-spirited musician who meets Mayland Long, an older Asian man with elegant manners and a lot of money—who also claims to be a 2,000-year old black dragon in human form. Their conversation (over tea, naturally) hints that he was an eyewitness to momentous events throughout history, and counts as close friends many long-dead historical figures. He and Martha strike up a thoroughly charming, adult relationship, instantly and believably drawn to one another as the story morphs into a mystery. It’s the sort of novel that floats between genres, never precisely one thing, never entirely another. It’s an achievement many writers never manage; MacAvoy nailed it on her first try.

(9) HAWKING AUCTION. “Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis fetch $1 million at auction”DW has the story.

A motorized wheelchair and a thesis belonging to Stephen Hawking have sold at auction for more than $1 million. The sale raised money for two charities, including one belonging to the British physicist.

(10) MARVEL ACTION DOLLS.  The entire line-up of Hasbro’s Marvel Rising Action Dolls is available exclusively at Target. They’ll feature on the covers of some Marvel comics soon –

The next generation of super heroes have arrived! To celebrate, Marvel is excited to present Marvel Rising Action Doll Homage variants, hitting comic shops this December!

Featuring Marvel Rising characters such as Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, America Chavez, Ghost Spider, and Quake stepping into their predecessor’s shoes, each of the five covers is a homage to a classic cover from years past.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 9, 1921Alfred Coppel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love pulp? Everything from the writers to the artwork to the magazines themselves are so, so cool. And this writer was one of the most prolific such authors of the fifties and sixties. That he was also sf writer is an added bonus. Indeed his first science fiction story was “Age of Unreason” in a 1947 Amazing Stories. Under the pseudonym of Robert Cham Gilman, he wrote the Rhada sequence of galactic space opera novels aimed at a young adult market. Wiki claims he wrote under the name A.C. Marin as well but I cannot find any record of this. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 9, 1946Marina Warner, 72, Writer, Historian, and Mythographer from England who is known for her many nonfiction books relating to feminism and myth. She has written for many publications, and has been a visiting professor, given lectures and taught on the faculties of many universities. Her nonfiction works From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers and No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock have garnered several Mythopoeic Award nominations and a win, and a host of non-genre awards as well. In 2017, she was elected president of the Royal Society of Literature (RSL), the first time the role has been held by a woman since the founding of the RSL in 1820. She was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.
  • Born November 9, 1962Teryl Rothery, 56, Actor who is best known for her role as Dr. Janet Fraiser on Stargate SG-1. She can also be found as ISN reporter, Ms. Chambers, in the Babylon 5 movie Voices in the Dark, and has appeared in many genre series including The X-Files, The Outer Limits, Jeremiah, M.A.N.T.I.S., Kyle XY, Eureka, and the Battlestar Galactica prequel, Caprica.
  • Born November 9, 1973Eric Dane, 45, Actor who stars currently as Captain Tom Chandler in the The Last Ship series, and played James Arthur Madrox, aLso known as the Multiple Man, in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played a character named Jason Dean on the superb original Charmed series, and Nick Pierce in the Painkiller Jane film.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ROCKS AROUND THE CLOCK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Three NEOs will make relatively close approaches to Earth this Saturday (Newsweek: “Three Asteroids to Whizz Past Earth in One Day—And One Will Come Closer Than The Moon”). The first one (2018 VS1) will pass by about 861,700 miles from Earth at 9:03AM (Eastern time). The second (2018 VR1) will be significantly further away at over 3 million miles, about 15 minutes later. The third (2018 VX1), though, will pass only about 238,900 miles from Earth at 1:26AM.

The three objects are relatively small—variously estimated to be from 43 to 98 feet wide—but big enough that they could cause widespread destruction if they were a wee bit (by astronomical standards) closer on a future pass. In the US, Near Earth Objects are the province of CNEOS—NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies.

(14) A LABOR OF LINGO. The legacy of a 15th-Century noblewoman lives on in the form of collective nouns used to describe groups of animals across the world: “Why a Group of Hippos Is Called a Bloat”.

As it turns out, these scintillating nouns are neither coincidence nor misnomer, but rather the result of centuries of linguistic evolution.

People have been coming up with terms to describe animal groupings for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until The Book of St Albans, written by Juliana Berners, a 15th-Century Benedictine prioress from England, that they were recorded extensively. Also known by the title The Book of Hawking, Hunting and Blasing of Arms, Berners’ 1486 publication of this gentlemen’s catalogue of wildlife and hunting included 165 collective nouns for animal species, and is said to make her one of the earliest female authors writing in the English language.

(15) DISNEY HIRES LOKI. His show will be part of Disney’s new streaming service — “Tom Hiddleston to return as Loki in new TV series”. When was the last time a villain got their own series?

(16) DIGGING MARS. BBC says “ExoMars: Life-detecting robot to be sent to Oxia Planum”

The robot rover that Europe and Russia will send to Mars in 2020 will be targeted at a near-equatorial site on the Red Planet known as Oxia Planum.

The area was recommended by an expert panel meeting at Leicester University.

Oxia is rich in clays and other minerals that have resulted from prolonged rock interactions with water.

The ExoMars vehicle will carry a drill and sophisticated instruments to this ancient terrain to look for signs of past or even present life.

(17) THE ONLY WAY TO WIN. “The gamer who spent seven years in his dressing gown” has created a game to wean people from game addiction.

It’s a role-playing board game for small groups.

Players meet once a week over a period of weeks or months, improving their social skills as they play.

No equipment is needed aside from a pen and paper, but additions can include dice and character descriptions.

The idea is the participants play themselves, earning points by achieving certain tasks.

They can improve their “characters” and get extra points in between sessions by taking on a challenge in the real world.

Participants have to prove they have completed the tasks and share the details in an online group set up for each game

(18) YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN NOW. Maybe they couldn’t compete with YouTubers free game videos? Variety reports “Video Game Strategy Guide Publisher Prima Games Is Shutting Down”.

The imprint’s guides all feature in-depth content, detailed screen captures, quick-reference tips, and professional strategies. They were a godsend to many gamers of a certain age, back before internet walkthroughs and wikis became de rigueur. Prima Games later tried adapting to an increasingly digital world by offering eguides filled with interactive maps, streaming video, searchable apps, and more.

(19) NEWS FAKER. Yet another job—newsreader—is under threat from Artificial Intelligence (Popular Mechanics: “This AI Reporter Would Never Get Kicked Out of Press Briefings”). Chinese media, already tightly controlled, appears to be in the process of becoming even more buttoned down. (Original source Xinhua.net: “World’s first AI news anchor makes ‘his’ China debut”)

With a state-run media like China’s, there’s already some concern that newscasters are little more than puppets. After an AI news anchor debuted at the World Internet Conference in China this week, we’re one step closer to that reality.

The anchor was created in a partnership between Xinhua News Agency, China’s official state-run media outlet, and sogou.com, a Chinese search engine company. The Chinese news, of course, is thrilled and impressed, claiming that the character “can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor.” Two versions of the AI anchors are now available on Xinhua through their apps, WeChat account, and online news channel.

(20) NUCLEAR CHRISTMAS GIFT. You can now order Threads on Blu-ray, called “The most influential film about nuclear war ever made.”

Directed by Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard) and written by Barry Hines (Kes).

Threads shocked the nation when it first aired on BBC Two in 1984 at the height of Cold War nuclear paranoia, and became one of the most significant and iconic films ever produced by the BBC.

It was nominated for seven BAFTAs in 1985, winning four including Best Single Drama.

Threads was one of the first films to depict the full consequences of global nuclear war when a bomb hits the city of Sheffield. It is uncompromising in its display of the tense weeks leading up to the bomb dropping, the attack, and the bleak years of nuclear winter that are left in its aftermath.

(21) VISIT FROM A DINO. There’s a giant, animatronic dinosaur roaming around BBC…

(22) CHAMPION MAGICIAN. Gizmodo promises “The Winning Trick at the World Championships of Magic Might Fry Your Brain Like an Egg”.

But Chien’s ‘Ribbon’ routine is a non-stop barrage of lightning-quick illusions, leaving you with little time to figure out what you just saw before his next trick baffles your brain all over again.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Karl-Johan Norén, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Errolwi, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 11/6/18 Scroll it, Jake. It’s Pixeltown.

(1) KAIJU INSTANT CLASSIC. Adam Roberts spent the morning on a retelling of the story of Godzilla in the style of Pope’s Homer: The Godziliad.

It beginneth thus:

Book 1
Godzilla’s wrath, to Earth the direful spring
Of woes unnumber’d, heavenly goddess, sing!
What grudge could light the fierce atomic breath
That burnt so many citizens to death?
What move four mighty limbs to crush and tear
Whole city blocks and scatter them to air?

(2) STORYBOARDING PARTY. If you’d been at last weekend’s World Fantasy Convention you’d have seen a selection of original art from GoH Scott Edelman’s comics writing. He says, “I gave a docent tour for one hour during the con, and then talked endlessly about the pieces during the Art Reception.”

(3) DEADPOOL SAYS “FUDGE CANCER.” Why so restrained? Because charity will benefit from a cleaned-up re-release of Deadpool 2 — “‘Once Upon A Deadpool’: Ryan Reynolds (and Fred Savage) On Franchise’s PG-13 Plunge”.

All Fox wants for Christmas are 12 more days of Deadpool — that’s certainly one valid interpretation of the studio’s plan to revamp, rename and re-release the year’s biggest R-rated hit, Deadpool 2, as a PG-13 film called Once Upon A Deadpool. There’s more to it than that, however. Deadline has all the details about the studio’s unconventional plan — a plan that may have intriguing relevance when viewed through the prism of the Disney-Fox merger and the future of the red-hot Deadpool franchise.

First some of those details: Once Upon a Deadpool will have a limited-engagement that begins Dec. 12 and concludes on Christmas Eve, positioning it as a box-office play aimed at young teens on holiday break from school. The lion’s share of Once Upon Deadpool  is footage from Deadpool 2 that has been edited to meet PG-13 thresholds of violence and language. There’s also new footage in the form of a framing sequence that was conceived by Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Working with a small film crew, Reynolds and his cohorts filmed all the framing scenes in a single hectic day of guerrilla-style filmmaking.

There’s a major charity component to the limited-engagement release, too, as Reynolds explained to Deadline that for every ticket sold $1 will go to the audaciously named F-ck Cancer campaign, which will be temporarily renamed “Fudge Cancer” for the purpose of tie-in fundraising effort….

(4) VOYNICH SPECULATIONS. Monica Valentinelli has a theory: “Why I Believe the Voynich Manuscript was Created by a Woman”.

I have a facsimile of the folios, and after reviewing all the theories I’ve realized the Voynich Manuscript may have been written by a woman.

For background, the vellum has been carbon-dated to the early 1400s, and illustrations potentially place its author in Northern Italy. Okay, so what was happening in Northern Italy at that time? The Italian Renaissance was flourishing despite the long shadow of the Holy Roman Empire and the established patriarchy. While it’s true that belief in witches during this time period was present, primarily among peasants and commoners, keep in mind the hysteria not peak until much later following the publication of the international best-seller Malleus Maleficarum in 1486.

Why write an untranslatable book about women’s health during the Italian Renaissance? One that has no overtly Christian or Catholic-specific symbols in it, either? On the one hand, you have an age of discovery and a period of enlightenment. On the other, you have the establishment of the Church and its political might. In between, however, you also have the birth of an Italian feminist movement that began in the late 14th century. Several Italian women of privilege were not only literate, they also taught at university, published books, and participated in the Italian Renaissance as thinkers of their age. Dorotea Bucca was a professor of health and medicine in Bologna, for example, for forty years from 1390-1430. As another example, Christine di Pizan challenged the idea that women were inferior to men by publishing the City of Ladies in 1404.

This, dear reader, points to my “who”. Who would be interested in writing a book that emphasized women’s health?…

(5) SKEIN POWER. Mary Robinette Kowal exercises hypnotic powers in this tweet –

(6) LLAMA LLAMA DUCK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Did you get your flu shot yet this year? If not, stop reading this and go get it… but even when you do, each year’s shot is tailored to provide protection from a few strains of the influenza virus that scientific consensus says are probably going to be the ones going around. And sometimes they are wrong. Ars Technica has a story about antibodies that don’t have to be tailored to specific influenza strains and they depend on, of all things, llamas (“Llama ‘nanobodies’ might grant universal flu protection”).

Llama antibodies are different from ours. Our antibodies are a mix of two pairs of proteins, heavy and light, wrapped around each other. Llamas, camels, and sharks all use only a pair of heavy chains. Because they are smaller, they can wedge into molecular crevices that our larger antibodies can’t access. Perhaps that’s why scientists based at The Scripps Institute decided to use them as a basis for flu protection.

[…] Current flu vaccines generate antibodies to the head of the hemagglutinin protein [on the flue virus], which is highly variable. This is why we need to get a new shot every year: it ensures we make antibodies that bind to and counteract the strain in circulation that year. Broadly neutralizing antibodies that recognize all forms of hemagglutinin have been made and tested, but they don’t combat [some types of] influenza [at all], and they don’t last for very long in our upper airways.

[…] Each [of four llama] antibod[ies] neutralized a group of flu viruses, not just one; but the groups of viruses did not overlap. So the scientists made a composite antibody by fusing parts of different llama antibodies with a human antibody base (the parts are termed “nanobodies” and targeted two different regions on the hemagglutinin stem). In a test tube, the resulting fusion antibodies could neutralize flu strains that neither of their single constituents could alone. When given to mice intravenously a day before the mice were infected with flu, the fusion antibodies were protective against a panel of 60 different flu viruses. And when administered to the mice intranasally a month before infection, they were also able to confer protection.

(7) DESK SET. In “In Disney’s Golden Age, a Modernist Pioneer Designed the Perfect Animator’s Desk” by Ben Marks in Collectors Weekly, Marks looks at the animator’s desks designed by Kem Weber in 1939 and how they enabled Disney animators to do good work for nearly 50 years.

As a filmmaker, Disney always had big plans. As a builder, though, Walt Disney may have been even more ambitious, spending much of 1938 and ’39 consulting with his new studio’s architect, Kem Weber. Together, they created a work environment that was designed expressly for animators. Weber’s low-rise buildings, which quickly filled with the company’s roughly 800 employees, were sited to maximize northern exposure, ensuring optimal natural light for Disney’s small army of animators. Even the birch plywood desks these animators sat at were customized for their tasks, whether they were sketching storyboards, executing the entry-level grunt work of the “inbetweener,” or painting backgrounds.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 6, 1981 Time Bandits was released

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 6, 1907 – Catherine Crook de Camp, Writer, Editor, Teacher, and Member of First Fandom. Most of her fiction, nonfiction, and anthology editing work was done in collaboration with her husband of 60 years, L. Sprague de Camp, but she was also a member of SFWA and an author in her own right, producing a number of genre short stories and poems, and editing the anthology Creatures of the Cosmos. She attended dozens of SF conventions, and in later years was Guest of Honor at a significant number of them. One of the people to whom Heinlein dedicated his novel Friday, she was nominated for a World Fantasy Special Award for Professional Achievement, and honored with the Raymond Z. Gallun Award for outstanding contributions to the genre of science fiction.
  • November 6, 1910 – Sarban (John William Wall), Diplomat and Writer from England whose writing career was early and brief, but he is notable for his 1952 novel The Sound of His Horn, one of the earliest alt-history stories describing a world where the Nazis won World War II, 10 years before Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.
  • November 6, 1947 – Carolyn Seymour, 71, Actor from England who is likely to be best known to genre fans for her roles as Romulans in episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation; she also played a member of an alien race in another TNG episode, and a holodeck character in Voyager. Other genre roles in TV series include a main role in the BBC’s Survivors, a recurring role on Quantum Leap, and guest appearances on Babylon 5, The Greatest American Hero, Otherworld, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The (new) Twilight Zone, Tales from the Darkside, and Blue Thunder, parts in the films The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and numerous voice roles in animated series and videogames, including Star Wars, Mass Effect, and Gears of War.
  • November 6, 1948 – Michael Dirda, 70, Pulitzer Prize-winning Writer, Journalist, and Critic, currently reviewing books for The Washington Post. He has numerous connections to genre, including providing the Introduction to the omnibus of Asimov’s Foundation series, an essay on Gene Wolfe in the Nebula Awards Showcase 2014 anthology, an Appreciation of Elizabeth Hand in the Readercon 20 Souvenir Book, and a ghost story in All Hallows magazine. On Conan Doyle; or, The Whole Art of Storytelling, won an Edgar Award for Best Critical / Biographical Works. Also worth bringing to your attention is Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books, which y’all should naturally be interested in reading.
  • November 6, 1955 – Dr. Catherine Asaro, 63, Physicist, Mathematcian, Writer, Poet, Dancer, Singer, and Fan who started out with her own fanzine in the early 90s  After having one short work published in 1993, she burst onto the SFF scene in 1995 with Primary Inversion, a Compton Crook finalist and the first of at least 16 novels and many shorter works in what was to become the acclaimed Skolian War Saga. Her works have accumulated numerous Hugo and Nebula nominations, and she has taken two of those lucite trophies home. She is popular with fans, and has been Guest of Honor at nearly two dozen conventions (and JJ caught her working enthusiastically at the New Zealand in 2020 promotional table at Worldcon 76).
  • November 6, 1961 – Kim Huett, 57, Writer, Editor, and Fan from Australia who has been editor of, and contributor to, numerous fanzines and apazines, as well as occasional posts for File 770. Although he has mostly gafiated from fandom, he blogs at Doctor Strangemind about forgotten stories of fantastic literature and those who have written it.
  • November 6, 1966 – Peter DeLuise, 52, Actor, Writer, Director, and Producer. After early genre appearances in Solarbabies, Children of the Night, and Bloodsuckers, and guest roles on TV series Supernatural, Highlander, Andromeda, SeaQuest DSV, Third Rock from the Sun, The New Outer Limits, and Stargate SG-1, he began working as producer, writer, director, and creative consultant for SG-1, and went on to do the same for Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe. Among his numerous other directing credits are the series jPod and the fantasy film Beyond Sherwood Forest.
  • November 6, 1970 – Ethan Hawke, 48, Oscar-nominated Actor, Writer, and Director who is best known to genre fans for lead roles in the Hugo- and Saturn-nominated Gattaca and Predestination, the adaptation of Heinlein’s “All You Zombies –”, as well as The Woman in the Fifth, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Explorers, and Sinister (his scenes in the Total Recall remake ended up on the cutting room floor).
  • November 6, 1971 – P. Djèlí Clark, 47, Historian, Critic and Afro-Caribbean-American Writer of speculative fiction who has produced numerous works of short fiction in the last seven years, including the particularly acclaimed novella The Black God’s Drums and the novelette “A Dead Djinn in Cairo”. His work has been published in Strange Horizons, FIYAH, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Tor.com, and various anthologies.
  • November 6, 1972 – Rebecca Romijn, 46, Actor who played Mystique in the X-Men films, but my favorite role for her is as Eve Baird, The Guardian of the Library that crosses all realities in The Librarians series. She also was a regular on Eastwick, yet another riff the John Updike novel about modern-day witches, she voiced Lois Lane in the animated The Death of Superman, and appeared in the Rollerball remake and S1m0ne. She has been cast as Number One in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery.
  • November 6, 1972 – Thandie Newton, 46, Actor and Producer who has been playing a main role in the Saturn-winning TV series Westworld, for which she also received a Saturn nomination. She has also appeared in genre films Solo: A Star Wars Story, Mission: Impossible 2, The Chronicles of Riddick, the Hugo finalist Interview with the Vampire, Beloved, Vanishing on 7th Street, and 2012: We Were Warned.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full concocts a holiday nightmare from leftover pumpkins.

(11) ANOTHER GHOST OF HALLOWEEN PAST. Here’s a relic. The episode of Route 66 aired October 26, 1962 featured guest stars Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney, Jr.

As first broadcast on October 26th, 1962, here’s the famous Halloween episode of ROUTE 66, complete with original network commercials, just as it was seen a half-century ago.

 

(12) WET AND WILD. Apparently, it takes two to tango; if you tango in a swamp (Deadline:‘Swamp Thing’ Finds Its Swamp Thing, Sets Derek Mears & Andy Bean For Roles”). The “DC Universe” streaming service is casting two actors to play the titular character in Swamp Thing—one wearing the suit and one not.

DC Universe’s upcoming Swamp Thing series is continuing to cast up, setting Power‘s Andy Bean to play biologist Alec Holland, who in the DC mythology as created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson transforms into the titular creature. Derek Mears, who played another horror icon Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th reboot, will play the bog monster.

The streaming series, which hails from James Wan’s Atomic Monster in association with Warner Bros Television, is set to premiere in 2019 on the DC Universe digital subscription service.

(13) MARTIAN CHRONICLE. Did you know that Google has now mapped Mars? And more than that, Google Mars performs an assortment of special searches – like the one that pinpoints where all the spacecraft on the planet’s surface currently are.

(14) DOG TREK. “Live Long And Paws-Per”  came out in 2016 but it’s news to me!

(15) FASHION STATEMENT. This could be the perfect gift for someone you know: Star Trek Airlock t-shirt.

(16) WORM RUNNERS. NPR inquires: “These Flatworms Can Regrow A Body From A Fragment. How Do They Do It And Could We?” Chip Hitchcock comments, “Older fans may remember The Worm Runners Digest, a mix of oddball humor and serious articles about the possibility that memory could be transmitted by consuming RNA — since disproved, but the basis of Niven’s ‘The Fourth Profession.’ Now flatworms might show us something usable.”

Other animals like starfish, salamanders and crabs can regrow a tail or a leg. Some planarians, on the other hand, can regrow their entire bodies — even their heads, which only a few animals can do.

Key to planarians’ regenerative ability are powerful cells called pluripotent stem cells, which make up one-fifth of their bodies and can grow into every new body part. Humans only have pluripotent stem cells during the embryonic stage, before birth. After that, we mostly lose our ability to sprout new organs.

(17) POWERING UP. Beyond “slow glass”: “How the humble lamp-post could help power our cities”. A new material can be both structural and photoelectric; another doesn’t require the processing that silicon does.

New materials certainly show promise. Cement mixtures made from power station waste could turn buildings in to batteries, for example.

These potassium-geopolymetric (KGP) composites are cheaper than ordinary cement and can store electricity. A six-metre tall lamp-post made from KGP and equipped with a small solar panel could hold enough energy to power itself throughout the evening, researchers say.

(18) DAM NUISANCES. Researchers say “Large hydropower dams ‘not sustainable’ in the developing world”; based on a paper here).

A new study says that many large-scale hydropower projects in Europe and the US have been disastrous for the environment.

Dozens of these dams are being removed every year, with many considered dangerous and uneconomic.

But the authors fear that the unsustainable nature of these projects has not been recognised in the developing world.

Thousands of new dams are now being planned for rivers in Africa and Asia….

The problem, say the authors of this new paper, is that governments were blindsided by the prospect of cheap electricity without taking into account the full environmental and social costs of these installations.

More than 90% of dams built since the 1930s were more expensive than anticipated. They have damaged river ecology, displaced millions of people and have contributed to climate change by releasing greenhouse gases from the decomposition of flooded lands and forests.

…”Large hydropower doesn’t have a future, that is our blunt conclusion,” said Prof Moran.”

(19) MR. DATA, WOULD IT BE POSSIBLE? More foaming at the mouth about this drive-by asteroid: “Scientists say mysterious ‘Oumuamua’ object could be an alien spacecraft”.

Now a pair of Harvard researchers are raising the possibility that Oumuamua is an alien spacecraft. As they say in a paper to be published Nov. 12 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the object “may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.”

The researchers aren’t claiming outright that aliens sent Oumuamua. But after a careful mathematical analysis of the way the interstellar object sped up as it shot past the sun, they say Oumuamua could be a spacecraft pushed through space by light falling on its surface — or, as they put it in the paper, a “lightsail of artificial origin.”

Who would have sent such a spacecraft our way — and why?

“It is impossible to guess the purpose behind Oumuamua without more data,” Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard’s astronomy department and a co-author of the paper, told NBC News MACH in an email. If Oumuamua is a lightsail, he added, one possibility is that it was floating in interstellar space when our solar system ran into it, “like a ship bumping into a buoy on the surface of the ocean.”

…But Loeb called the conjecture “purely scientific and evidence-based,” adding, “I follow the maxim of Sherlock Holmes: When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

(20) DINOCHROME. BBC discusses “Dinosaur world ‘more colourful than we thought'”.

…”We think that camouflage is one of the main drivers.”

Researchers detected the same two pigments that are present in colourful birds eggs in a group of dinosaurs called eumaniraptorans.

Comparisons with the eggs of modern birds suggest the clawed predator Deinonychus laid a blue egg with brown blotches.

The birdlike feathered Oviraptor had eggs that were a dark blue-green, like an emu.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Dr. Evil Runs for Congress” on YouTube, Dr. Evil showed up on Fallon and says he is running for Congress on the Eviltarian Party to “Make America Evil Again.”

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

Scott Edelman’s GoH Speech for World Fantasy Convention 2018

[[Editor’s Introduction: With Scott Edelman’s permission, File 770 is posting the text of his World Fantasy Convention GoH speech, given in Baltimore this weekend. (It’s also up on his website. And a link to the video appears at the end of this post.]]

Scott Edelman at WFC 44

By Scott Edelman: Welcome, everyone! I’m Scott Edelman, and I’m touched that out of all the things you could possibly be doing here in Baltimore at the 44th World Fantasy Convention, you chose to spend these moments here, with me. Believe me, I understand what a tough decision it was. I know all about having to study the program to figure out where best to be when, while still leaving time to hang out in the place where we all know the most interesting conversations really happen — at the hotel bar.

The reason I’m aware of your struggle is because I’ve been having to pore over programming exactly like that myself at World Fantasy Conventions ever since my first, which was the fifth World Fantasy Convention, held in 1979 at the Biltmore Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island. To illustrate how long ago 1979 was, back then, Stephen King, one of the Guests of Honor — and how we got from inviting Stephen King as a Guest of Honor to ending up with me, I have no idea — could still wander among us without being trailed into a public restroom by writers who would shove their manuscripts at him under his stall.

Yes, that was really done! Not by me, of course. I wasn’t one of them, really. I promise!

That was the same World Fantasy Convention, however, at which — and I’m not joking about that — the Dalai Lama and I had a brief encounter one afternoon in front of the hotel …

So I got that going for me, which is nice.

But that’s another story for another time. Maybe later … in the bar. Because as I told you, that’s where the most interesting conversations take place, remember?

Anyway, by five years after that, in 1984, at the 42nd World Science Fiction Convention in Anaheim, California, Stephen King’s freedom to mingle with con-goers was no more, and I personally saw a ring of fans — off in the distance, so again, I promise I wasn’t one of them — form around that restroom door waiting for him to come back out. And if you want to know the true face of horror, all you have to imagine is Stephen King’s expression as he opened that door and was greeted by that circle.

That wasn’t my first Worldcon, by the way. My first was ten years earlier than that one, in Washington, D.C. at 1974’s 32nd World Science Fiction Convention. And my first could have been, and almost was, a year earlier than that, in 1973 in Toronto, but … I didn’t go because I was afraid of being arrested, I think.

There’s a story to go with that as well, but I don’t want to go off on too many tangents here as I bounce around time this afternoon, and trust me, there’s going to be a lot of bouncing, for my time, as you’ll see, has been even wibblier and wobblier and timey-whimier than The Doctor’s, so again, for that one … you have to meet me in the bar.

As you can tell by now, I’ve spent a lot of my life at events like these. And I suspect some of you have as well.

Or if you haven’t yet, are considering doing so. Which is why I think I could have started this afternoon’s talk by paraphrasing the great Criswell’s opening monologue to Plan 9 from Outer Space, and have begun by intoning:

Greetings, my friends. We are all interested in conventions, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.

But the thing is … and this makes me sad … I also know there are likely those out there who are considering not doing so, and not because the books we read and write or the stories we absorb or tell and gather to discuss here don’t interest them. No, they’re thinking of staying away from what to me has been a magical place for different reasons entirely, and ones which sadden me.

I have listened to their concerns. I have read their blog posts, and seen their tweets.

So while I’m in a reminiscing mood — and I’ve shared and am going to continue to share some stories of past cons with you — reminiscences alone aren’t what I wanted to give to you today. I’ve been thinking a lot about conventions lately, more than I usually do — what they’ve been, what they are, what they could be, and what they should be, and once I learned the themes for this year World Fantasy Convention, I realized there were a few things I needed to say about that topic.

World Fantasy Conventions always have a theme around which the programing tries to focus, and this year, the committee came up with two.

One is a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and yes, I could easily have spent an hour talking to you today about that.

Not only because the original novel made an impression on me at an extremely young age, but also because I suspect I’m the only World Fantasy Convention Guest of Honor since the beginning who’s not only alluded to the Creature in his fiction, not only included that Creature in one of his short horror stories written for the DC Comics title House of Mystery, but who has also portrayed the Creature — the one given to long philosophical speeches, not the one who only grunted “fire” — in community theater, so I truly know that character from the inside. That role, by the way, was back before I decided I’d dedicate myself to having a go at being a writer rather than an actor.

And yes, there’s a story behind that decision, too. But again — that one’s for later in the bar.

But it’s the other theme of this year’s convention I want to talk to you about: Ports in a storm. Safe havens. Sanctuaries for the body and refuges for the spirit. Places which offer respite to not only the characters in our favorite fantasy, horror, and weird tales as the theme states … but to us.

And I want you to know: That’s what conventions have been, are, and continue to be to me.

Recently, in the final moments of the last panel of a busy three-convention weekend — see, I told you I love these things — which occurred during a period I was binge-watching Steven Universe, and found myself yearning for that sense of family, that sense of belonging, that sense of being a part of something bigger than oneself the characters on the show, the Crystal Gems, feel, I came to a realization, and that yearning stopped. It went away, because it came to me, as I looked around — and as I told the people who surrounded me, with a meaning far more than metaphor — they were my Crystal Gems.

You are my Crystal Gems.

When I dream — and I have a vivid dream life — I often dream of conventions. And those dreams are never anxious. Those dreams are never fearful. I don’t have the equivalent of those cliche “I forgot to do my homework” dreams when it comes to cons. I’m never lost in the maze-like halls, never late for a panel, never worried that I’m unprepared, never afraid I’ll be judged.

Never in my underwear.

Well … sometimes in my underwear. But only, I assure you, when it’s entirely appropriate.

I am usually with a conglomeration of friends lost, and friends still alive, some of whom are even now in this building. Some are even in this room. I’ve dreamed so many of you, and at one time was sharing so many of those dreams across social media, that Patrick Nielsen Hayden once jokingly tweeted that the new SFWA membership requirements were going to have to be one novel, three short stories, or two appearances in my dreams.

I’ve been going to cons for a long, long time, and I plan to continue going to them for a long, long time, because there’s something special in this thing we have, this thing we’ve built and are still building, in rooms like these spread across the world. I’ve been to so many it seems as if rather than having attended hundreds, perhaps nearly a thousand of them, I’ve only been to one convention, a single gathering stretching back to my first, and lasting until now, one never-ending convention.

I’ve been lucky.

But here’s that other thing I want you to know, and which some of you know already:

Not all of us get to feel lucky. Not all of us are embraced. Not all of us are welcomed.

Not everyone gets to experience the sort of convention life I’ve been privileged to live for 48 years now.

My first ever convention was in 1970. I was 15. It was Phil Seuling’s 4th of July Comic Art Convention at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in Manhattan. And let me explain a bit what I mean when I say that first con hasn’t yet ended.

One of the first people little kid me met there was the revolutionary Marvel Comics artist and writer Jim Steranko, best known for his work on Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., the X-Men, and Captain America. And I sat in the front row as he gave a talk and dazzled me with tales of, among many other things, the Houdini-like escapes he did in his younger days, the ones that inspired Jack Kirby to create the character of Mister Miracle. I wouldn’t have believed back then anyone that cool in the pages of the comics I read could also be that cool in real life. But he was.

Flash forward 48 years.

Just a few weeks ago, here in this very city, less than a mile away at the Baltimore Comic-Con — during a different one of three conventions I attended over a single weekend I was telling you about, because yes, that’s how much I love this life — you know what I was doing? Sitting again in the front row before Jim Steranko as he told tales of slipping out of ropes and handcuffs, and again, I was dazzled.

Forty-eight years later, and not a moment had passed.

For that hour, it was 2018. And it was 1970. I was living outside of time.

Because I was living convention time.

My con life has been filled with many such moments like that.

Here’s another one, that took place at Readercon, a Massachusetts con I love so much I’ve attended it every year since it began in 1987, except for the one year my day job at the SCI FI Channel meant I had to report on the conflicting San Diego Comic-Con instead, and so I sent a friend to Readercon with a life-sized photo stand-up of myself, along with a note begging everyone who knew me there to take selfies and put them online, because I knew that would be the only way I could avoid spending a morose weekend missing them all terribly.

Well, not that year at Readercon, but a different year at Readercon a couple of years back, a screening was announced of what I’d heard was a wonderful documentary about Samuel R. Delany titled The Polymath, Or The Life And Opinions Of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman. And I knew I had to be there. Because I’d read Delany long before I’d attended a con of any kind, and had loved him ever since. I got to the meeting room early, and sat in the front row center as I often do, which, by the way, is why I ended in so many comics convention photos from the early ’70s. Just as the lights were about to dim, who should come into the room but Chip himself, taking the one lone remaining unoccupied seat in the room … right next to mine.

And in the darkness, with our faces lit only by the reflected light off the screen, I remembered another con, also more than 40 years earlier, the 1972 LunaCon, my first LunaCon. LunaCon that year had organized special interest groups attendees could sign up for, and even provided pretzels, chips, and sodas to encourage fans to host those get-togethers in their hotel rooms. I decided I’d go to the one devoted to a discussion of the works of one of my favorite authors, Theodore Sturgeon, who’d attracted me then, and attracts me still, because of what his stories were aiming for, as explained in his essay “Why So Much Syzygy,” when he wrote “I think what I have been trying to do all these years is to investigate this matter of love, sexual and asexual.” Those are the kinds of stories which have always interested me the most, and those for the most part were, and still are, what I wanted to try to write about, too.

So I wanted to talk Sturgeon with others who felt about him the way I did, and so a 17-year-old me found himself sitting in a ring on the floor of a stranger’s hotel room one night with about a dozen others, and immediately beside me … I’m sure you’ve guessed who it was … Chip Delany.

I thought back to that 1972 night as I watched the documentary play at Readercon just a few years ago, a documentary which included footage of Chip looking as young as he had when I’d first met him, and also some footage from The Orchid, an experimental film he’d directed which I’d first seen at an early ‘70s con film show, and in that moment, with us in the front row together and seeming as if no one else was in the room with us, I existed in all times at once. I might as well have been Billy Pilgrim from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, totally unstuck in time.

My first cons, and those recent cons, were one, are one, a continuation of what began when my grandfather drove into Manhattan to take me to that first convention in 1970. I hope you get to experience that sort of feeling in your own futures. But most important, I hope you decide you want to hang around these rooms long enough to experience those wondrous moments when decades can vanish.

I can understand, though, why some of you might not want to, understand that some of you are not feeling welcomed, or embraced, or wanted, and might be thinking, what’s the point? Why am I banging my head against the wall? Is it really worth the effort?

I have heard too many stories about moments like those, filled not with the feelings of welcome I experienced in my privilege, but the feeling of exclusion. And I believe those stories, all of them.

I believe N. K. Jemisin, who in a moving acceptance speech earlier this year when she won her third consecutive Best Novel Hugo Award for The Stone Sky — a speech much better than anything you’re going to hear out of me today and one of the best I’e heard in a lifetime of con-going — spoke of the naysayers who told her to tone down her allegories and anger, who didn’t believe anyone but black people wanted to read about black people. And who in her recent Locus interview said, “When I come to Worldcon, I am braced to enter a space that is not friendly, that is hostile, and that is not safe.”

I believe Alyssa Wong, who returned from a Nebula Awards weekend a few years back feeling exhausted and disheartened, writing on her blog that she looked around and perceived a generational divide — what seemed to her a “strict social striation” between the cliquish impenetrable old guard who kept to themselves and didn’t seem interested in interacting with anyone outside of their circle.

I believe Mary Robinette Kowal, who shared on Twitter recently that after explaining to a friend what it was like to be a woman in Science Fiction and Fantasy, how she had to be hyper-aware of her surroundings and do constant threat assessments, was told by that friend, “That sounds like PTSD.”

And I believe the others out there, with similar stories, and similar despair, so many I could easily fill my time with nothing but their words if I chose.

I can understand how easily we might have lost any of those voices I named. How grateful I am that we did not.

How much poorer the field would have been for that loss.

And I’m also aware we have surely already lost others. And we already are the poorer for that.

Though did we simply lose them? Or did we drive them away?

Whatever verbiage you want to use, we can’t afford for any more to decide the prize isn’t worth the fight. Or that it isn’t attainable even if they did fight.

The examples I just mentioned are just three different problems, three different issues, of many. But with, I believe, a single solution.

Let us all do better.

We talk of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, both the real one of the 1940s, and the metaphorical one, the one we’re told we each go through when we are 12. But there’s something else more important, something else that’s Golden. Something I wish I could conjure into existence and imprint on all who are a part of this thing I love:

The Golden Rule of Convention-Going.

It’s something as true now as it was when we first heard it as children, though it wasn’t being applied then to what goes on in these rooms now.

We need to treat others in this space as we would wish to be treated.

Respectfully.

Professionally.

Lovingly.

Unselfishly.

The field has come far in its treatment of those who don’t enter it, as I did, presenting as a straight, white, cisgendered male in a time when most, though not all, of the others who bothered to show up presented as the same. But we have so much farther to go. And we won’t get there merely by wanting to get there. We have to do the work that makes us worthy of getting there.

For example — I can remember how surprised I was the first time a longtime participant to events such as these stepped up beside me in the SFWA suite at a Worldcon, looking somewhat lost, and said, “I don’t know who most of these people are.” I was sad and hoped such a statement and the feelings of insularity which engendered it was an anomaly. But then it happened again. And again. Most recently at one of George R. R. Martin’s post-Hugo Awards ceremony Losers parties, an event he invented before I ever got into the con scene which he rejuvenated at the Spokane Worldcon to heal then-recent wounds, to bring us together again during difficult times. I was asked, by someone with a furrowed brow, “Who are all these people?”

There, in a room filled with music, and dancing, and laughing, and smiling faces, most of which I knew.

To which I say — whose fault is that? Any one of us is certainly free to be the person gazing around a packed room of happy, unfamiliar faces, remembering when the field was smaller and less diverse then when we entered, and think, “What happened? I used to know everybody.”

Or we can go over, say hello, and — surprise — we will surely know who those people are.

I haven’t always said that aloud to those who in bewilderment said that to me. And I must admit I’m somewhat embarrassed about any time that in my shock over such words, I let that sentiment slip by unchallenged. But I commit to you today to never do so again in the future.

We must all work to get out of our bubbles. Yes, it would be easy to spend these events only with friends we’ve known for years, because there are so many of them. But we have to do more. If not simply to honor this thing we have, then for self preservation. So if I can’t reach these people any other way, I will appeal to their selfishness. Because if they only hang out with the friends they already have, and survive to be the last of their generation, they will die alone.

I can remember a Meet the Editors panel at a mid-‘90s Philcon. (Another convention I once attended for decades.) I was on there representing Science Fiction Age along with Gardner Dozois of Asimov’s and Gordon van Gelder from F&SF.

And out in front of us was a sea of hopeful writers eager to learn the secrets of selling stories to us. (The open secret being, of course, that there is no secret.) They were all beginners. All but one. Because in the midst of them was Jack Williamson, already in his mid-‘70s by then, with a career going back half a century.

And when I asked him, what are you doing here, he replied —

“I just want to find out what you guys want.”

And he talked to those around him, some 50 years his junior and just starting out, as if they were the same. Which is how I always saw him in the final decades of his life.

To him, there was no us and them, no thoughts of “I don’t know whose these people are” in him.

They were the same. We … are the same.

Let’s all strive to be more like Jack Williamson.

I urge those who might like me perhaps have the privilege of age or success or a gender expression more readily accepted by society or even just the privilege of having been around long enough to know everyone, to join with me in stepping from our familiar circles, walk out of our ruts, and welcome those who need welcoming.

If you see someone wearing a FIRST WORLDCON or FIRST WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION or FIRST WHATEVER ribbon, do as I do. Walk up to them and tell them you’re glad they decided to join us. Ask the catalyst that caused them to come this particular year rather than any other. Tell them you hoped they were having a good time so far, and that if they had any questions for you about how to navigate this place, you’ll try to answer them. Share an anecdote or two about why you fell in love with cons yourself so long ago.

In fact, don’t wait to get permission of a ribbon. Do this kindness for those without such a concrete sign, to anyone with an unfamiliar face, or sitting outside your group, looking tentative, wondering if they could possibly fit in.

Our organizations have begun to do this as official policy in various ways, and that makes me so happy. The mentor-mentee program begun over recent Nebula Award weekends by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is great. The Horror Writers Association has a similar program, and in fact, Linda Addison, this year’s World Fantasy Convention Toastmaster, was winner of HWA’s 2016 Mentor of the Year Award. But again, it’s a thing we all should be doing whether it’s official or not. Not as a matter of policy, but as a point of humanity. There should be no standing in corners and whispering you don’t know who these people are, and it shouldn’t take a committee of bylaws to cause us to break out of our cliques.

I challenge you all to reach out to someone new this weekend, a face you don’t know, a name you don’t recognize, somebody you don’t expect to help your career in any way, and say hello, and make them feel welcome. Make them feel, once they get home, that they can’t wait to get back.

Making sure, of course, let me add, to be aware of social cues and when such welcome is welcome. Because for some, the lack of any negative interactions is all the positive reinforcement they need. Not all of us are as outwardly social as some of us appear to be, and that must be respected, too.

Let that, in all of its possible aspects, be our Golden Rule.

But that’s not the only way we’re trying to be better, while needing to be better still. Another improvement I’ve seen at conventions over the decades — but as always, even further improvement is devoutly to be wished — is by the addition of inclusive language, for example, the proliferation of preferred pronoun buttons and stickers. This and other instances of inclusive language are good. But inclusive language must be followed by inclusive actions, and the things I see at some cons need to spread to all cons.

For example:

I noted one con recently which included a note for moderators by the microphones instructing them that when they call on audience members during Q&A sessions, they should not identify them by perceived gender. Don’t want to commit the faux pas of misgendering anyone? Unless you know someone’s name, then call on “you with the green backpack in the third row” or “the person wearing the TARDIS T-shirt.” Doing that’s easy for you, will make them happy, and might make someone feel comfortable coming back.

And by the way, when you do talk to the audience, use the microphones. I know we all like to think our voices will be heard loud and clear all the way in the back of the room, and I was guilty of such hubris myself years ago. But we owe it to those we’re trying to reach not to force them to ask us to speak up.

Also, we must continue to provide diverse and inclusive programing content populated by diverse and inclusive program participants, not as an afterthought, but as a mission. And it begins with the suggested programming surveys. Looking back is good. We all came here on the shoulders of giants. But different ones. Remember, not every generation bears the mark of the same influences. One generation may have been molded by Lovecraft, the next by Le Guin, the one after that by LaValle, and generations to come by writers just entering the field now. So when we do create panels to look back, let’s not be blinded by personal nostalgia. Programmers should keep in mind that all of our pasts are not the same. But all of our futures can be.

Accessibility, too, must be a priority. A con that can’t be open to all has no business being open at all. I don’t want to ever again see programming in rooms which can only be reached by stairs, containing stages without ramps. That’s insulting for the participants, embarrassing for the field, not welcoming at all, and has to stop.

And conventions should provide American Sign Language interpretation and any available assistive technologies to allow all members of the community to join the conversations. Readercon’s hoping to provide CART services, that is, live action closed captioning, for next year’s con. I don’t know whether they’ll manage to pull that off, but I hope they do. I hope all conventions decide to try to pull that off, because I’ve heard from members of the community that currently can’t fully engage in what we share here, and losing them, I repeat, is as much our loss as it is theirs.

And I don’t ever again want to see a con runner say a code of conduct is unnecessary because “after all, we’re adults here and know how to behave.” Because not everyone does, and those who are preyed upon — whether those who have the privilege not to be aware of it are aware of it or not — need to know the rest of us are watching out for them, that we care, that they will be believed, that they will be protected, that we will not force them to rely on a whisper network sharing missing stairs.

I know some of you listening to me rattle off these things might be thinking, “Not all con-goers. I never did anything to make anyone feel unwelcome.” Well, then most of this isn’t for you. Not all of it, anyway. But at least some part of it is there for all of us, I think. Because anytime we’ve stood around while someone else has crossed lines which never should have been crossed and not called them out, we’re complicit.

My final wish for everyone here, based on — oh my God, has it really been nearly half a century attending conventions? — is to live your life in these rooms so you won’t have to fear what people will write about you in Locus when you’re gone. Or even worse, fear what they will not write because they can’t think of anything to say which won’t make you sound … problematic.

And to those with hair grown the color of mine who have been around these rooms awhile and who may have become accustomed to things being a certain extremely comfortable way, please — do not fear these changing times. Embrace them. Fight the feeling that because newer voices and visions are filling our books and magazines and winning awards that you have been left behind. As I mentioned, we are all present because we were borne here on the shoulders of giants. Try to be someone who will be remembered for having lifted others up, not having held them back.

Screenwriter Josh Olson recently shared something on Facebook which was said to him by Harlan Ellison during one of their last conversations. Harlan is someone whose legacy is being reassessed by those coming after, as all of us will be reassessed by those who come after us, and based on what Josh and Harlan talked about, Harlan knew it.

Josh pointed out to Harlan that there were things he’d done openly and without shame in 1962 which would be regarded with horror today, to which Harlan replied — and Josh admits this to be a paraphrase —

“We work to create a world in which the people who come after us regard us as monsters.”

Wherever you fall on Harlan’s legacy, there’s still wisdom there.

I thought about those words, and I don’t fear the tomorrow they predict. That’s as it should be. I take comfort in knowing future generations will look back on us and perhaps consider us monsters for issues and actions which are beyond our individual comprehension right now. “How could they have acted that way?” they’ll ask. “How could they have said that thing, written that story?”

I’m sure I’ve done things, and will continue doing things, for which I will be judged. Who knows? This speech might even be one of them.

And you know? I’m OK with that. Because that is progress. That what was once acceptable is acceptable no longer is fine by me, and that the cons of 2018 are not identical in tone and content and participants to those of my past is also fine by me. Because I want the joys I’ve had to be had by all, not just only by those who look like me or have had my background or privilege. And that will only come with change.

Nothing would please me more than for this to be someone’s first con.

Someone who came here having heard both the good and the bad about this thing we have.

Someone vacillating about whether it’s really for them.

Someone who’ll see that, well, at least they’re trying.

Someone who’ll think … maybe I’ll hang in there long enough to find out whether we, you and me, will figure out how to fix the broken parts.

And maybe decades from now, they’ll still be here. And they’ll tell stories of what it was like 40 years earlier to have been there to see, and to still be seeing in that future — the way I saw Chip Delany and Jim Steranko — writers who have stayed here and grown old here and built a life here long after I am gone.

Writers like Alyssa Wong. And Sam J. Miller. And Nnedi Okorafor. And Amal El-Mohtar. And Rebecca Roanhorse. And Carmen Maria Machado. And Brooke Bolander. And Fran Wilde. And Victor LaValle. And JY Yang. And A. Merc Rustad. And the oh, so many more I wish I had time to mention who make this field so wonderful.

And then that newcomer to this thing we have will, 40 years hence in a room not so very different from this one — but only if we make things right — know the joy which I have lived, know the experience of having attended the convention that lasts forever.

I would like that.

Now let’s go make that happen.

Thank you.