Pixel Scroll 5/27/20 Johnny Mnemonic B. Goode

(1) A NEW QUIZ. “The Sky National General Knowledge Test”. Only 80 out of 100 for me. How come I still can’t tell the difference between a watt and an amp? At least I got both genre literature questions right.

Sky have worked with leading academics and celebrity experts to bring together the 100 questions that everyone should know, in celebration of the launch of three TV channels: Sky Nature, Sky Documentaries and Sky HISTORY.

(2) NO COVER CHARGE. Camestros Felapton, where do you get these ideas? “My alternate Hugo novel cover art”. Can you match his six images with the Best Novel Hugo finalists?

As a thing to do, I’ve tried to make alternate cover art for each of the six novel finalists. As a quiz you can guess which picture was meant to be which.

(2b) GET OFF YOUR PHONE! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] On the other side of the paywall, in the May 20 Financial Times, Leo Lewis discusses what happened when Ichiro Ogawa, former chairman of the assembly of Kagawa prefecture, decided that his daughter was spending too much time playing games on her smartphone.

In January Mr Ogawa proposed a rule–the first of its kind in Japan–that would ban anyone under 18, from playing (games) for more than an hour a day (90 minutes on weekends) on mobiles, PCs, and consoles.  The rule, which adds a smartphone curfew of 9 PM for those up to 15, would not be directly enforced by the state; that burden would fall on ‘responsible parents, mass-deputised as screen sentinels.  Two months later the assembly–98 percent male and mostly aged around 70, voted it through, casting cantankerous old Kagawa as the clear-eyed pioneer in a world groping for the answers to screen addiction.

Not so fast, says a 17-year-old from the prefecture who loves his games and views the lumberings of Kagawa’s assembly-osaurs as unconscionable over-reach.  The high-schooler, who uses only the name Wataru, has begin crowdfunding a campaign to repeal the ordinance, arguing it was arrived at unscientifically, wedges the state uncomfortably far into a matter that should be for each household to decide upon, and is in glaring breach of Japanese citizens’ fundamental right to self-determination.”

Tomoshi Sakka, a “fabulously tenacious lawyer” and a champion of free speech in Japan, has joined with Wataru to overturn the law.

(3) THE ACTOR WITH NO FACE. SYFY Wire covers a Golden Globes kerfuffle: “About Face! The Mandalorian’s Masked Hero Prompts Golden Globes To Revise Awards Rules”.

Bad news for The MandalorianThe Masked Singer, and most of the cast of Doom PatrolThe Golden Globes are changing their rules around to better delineate their stance on masked performances — and Pedro Pascal’s helmeted Din Djarin may have been the impetus behind it.

According to Variety, the change in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s awards — which reportedly states that “voice-only performances are not eligible in any acting category” — was prompted by Pascal being hidden for all but a bit of the Disney+ Star Wars show’s eight-episode first season. When the helmet finally came off in the finale, the HFPA must’ve breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that Pascal was really under there … because it seems like they were so caught up about the masked secrecy that they decided to disallow such performances in their future considerations.

(4) LIBRARY WILL SEMI-REOPEN SOON. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I won’t say “they read my mind” but I did not just think about this but also suggested it to a friend or two, along with “Why aren’t the food trucks out driving around the way ice cream trucks use to be…”

Here’s the news, from our mayor’s latest email update:

[Our city’s library] “is preparing to launch “Library To-Go,” their new contactless hold and pickup service, next week. Please note that this will be by appointment only initially.”

I’ve already been making a fair number of reserve/purchase-requests (using the online system), including new books by Robert Sawyer (Oppenheimer Alternative), Marko Kloos’ Ballistic, Baen’s Give Me LibertyCon, Strathan’s Made To Order robot antho, Gene Wolfe’s (presumedly) last, Nearly Nero (pastiche/parody antho)… so, again, woo-hoo!

(5) UNFORCED ERROR. Carolyn Framke renders a verdict at Yahoo! Entertainment: “‘Space Force’ with Steve Carell and John Malkovich: TV Review”.

There was, clearly, no expense spared in the making of “Space Force.” Imagining what a Space Force branch of the military might actually look like outside the bounds of President Trump’s imagination (though the show never mentions him by name), the new comedy is a splashy flex of Netflix’s powers. It boasts the co-creator team of Greg Daniels and Steve Carell, whose smash hit “The Office” gained an almost more successful second life when it hit Netflix and won over a whole new generation of TV fans. With Carell at the center of its orbit, “Space Force” features an all-star cast including Lisa Kudrow (of Netflix’s other onetime rerun hit, “Friends”), John Malkovich, and even the late Fred Willard in the bittersweet role of Carell’s ailing father. Its sets are expansive and slick, gleaming and pristine. Every episode brings new familiar faces, stellar production design, and the kind of confidence that only the total support of a network can bestow. For all the heft behind it, “Space Force” should be an easy win. Ten episodes later, however, it’s safer to say that “Space Force” is really just okay. 

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 27, 1996 Doctor Who premiered on BBC. The film involving the Eighth Doctor played by Paul McGann that is. Short of The War Doctor as portrayed by John Hurt, he would have the briefest tenure of any Doctor from a video representation viewpoint having just the film and a short video later on. (He has done some seventy Big Finish audio stories to date.) The film was directed by Geoffrey Sax off the screenplay by Matthew Jacobs. The remaining cast of importance was Daphne Ashbrook as the Companion to the Doctor, Dr. Grace Holloway, and Eric Roberts as The Master. Critics, American and British alike, were decidedly mixed on their reactions, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are equally divided and give it exactly a fifty percent rating.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 27, 1894 Dashiell Hammett. He’s widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time, but ISFDB says that he was also the editor of three genre anthologies, Creeps by Night: Chills and Thrills, The Red Brain and Other Creepy Thrillers and Breakdown and Other Thrillers with writers such as Frank Bellnap Long and H.P. Lovecraft, it certainly looks that way. ISFDB also says one Continental Op story, “The Farewell Murder,” is at genre adj. (Died 1962.) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1900 – Rudolph Belarski.  Virtuoso at air-combat magazine covers; five dozen covers for us, ArgosyFuture, SF StoriesStartlingThrilling; interiors too.  Here is one from 1955.  Here is a 2018 reprint.  (Died 1983) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1911 Vincent Price. Ok, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in “The House of Horrors“ sketch they did in which he and Kermit sport impressive fangs which you can see here. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted HillHouse of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions.  He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, having a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Express and so forth. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1915 – Herman Wouk.  Name pronounced “woke”.  Began as a gag man for Fred Allen; Pulitzer Prize, four honorary doctorates.  Regardless of The “Caine” Mutiny”, of his masterpiece Marjorie Morningstar, of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, he’s here for A Hole in Texas, a fine SF novel he hardly needed to write but did because he felt like it.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1918 Robert C. Stanley. He was one of the two most prolific paperback cover artists used by the Dell Publishing Company, for whom he worked from 1950 to 1959. Among the covers he did was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and the Lost Empire (here), Anthony Boucher’s Rocket to the Morgue (here), and Olaf Stapledon’s Odd Jon (here). (Died 1996) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1922 Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films.  His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Now interestingly enough, ISFDB lists him as being the co-editor in the Seventies with Michael Parry with a number of horror anthologies such as Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate No. 1From the Archives of Evil and The Great Villains. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1929 Burnett Toskey, 91. He was a Seattle fan who was a member of the Nameless Ones who served in various offices for them from the early Fifties to the mid Sixties. He was also the editor of Spectator Amateur Press Society.  His work on Cry of the Nameless won the Best Fanzine Hugo at Pittcon, a honor he shared with  F. M. Busby, Elinor Busby and Wally Weber. (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1930 – John Barth.  Fellow of Am. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Lannan Award for lifetime achievement.  National Book Award.  The Floating Opera is only strange (it won the Roozi Rozegari at Teheran for best translated novel, also strange).  The Sot-Weed Factor could perhaps be called historical fiction.  By Giles Goat-Boy he was doing SF.  Heinlein compared Stranger in a Strange Land to it.  In The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor a man jumps overboard from a reconstructed Arab ship and finds himself in the world of Sindbad.  Nor was that all.  [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1934 – Harlan Ellison.  Bob Bloch, who also was both a fan and a pro, said HE was “the only living organism I know whose natural habitat is hot water”.  I mustn’t spoil the metaphor by calling HE a firebrand – or, wait, we can say hot water could never extinguish him.  SFWA Grand Master, SF Hall of Fame, Eaton award for lifetime achievement; 8 Hugos, 4 Nebulas; 3 Worldcon special committee awards.  Guest of Honor at Westercon XIX and XXXVII, Lunacon XVI, the first NASFiC (N. Am. SF Con, since 1975 held when Worldcon is overseas), Iguanacon II (36th Worldcon), many more.  At workshops, with students, he gave everything.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1940 – Jackie Causgrove.  Prominent fan in the U.S. Midwest, then Southern California.  For Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck she did the Knight of Cups.  The Deck is a thing of wonder; each card by a leading fan or pro (or both) artist of the day, some extra cards; read BP’s description here (you can still get a deck from Elayne Pelz; if you don’t know how to do that, write to me, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles 90057).  With Bruce Gillespie she administered the Tucker Fund that got Bob Tucker to Aussiecon I (33rd Worldcon); see one of its fliers here.  One of her fanzines was Dilemma, illustrated by her.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1954 – Mark Wheatley.  Writer, penciller, inker, letterer, editor, cover artist, publisher; developed color-production technology for comics; founded Insight Studios.  Re-interpreted the Flash, Baron Munchhausen, the Three Stooges, Dick Tracy, Doctor Who; invented Frankenstein Mobster and (it had to happen) Doctor Cthulittle.  Eisner, Inkpot awards.  [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1971 – Vilma Kadleckova.  We’ve learned the software here won’t recognize the character after the “e”; it should have a little “v” over it for the sound of “ch” in English “church”.  She’s Czech; a dozen SF novels and shorter stories, half a dozen local prizes.  Four novels so far (2013-2016) in her Mycelium series, Amber EyesIce Under the SkinVisionVoices and Stars; the first two won Book of the Year and Original Czech/Slovak Book from the SFFH Acad. in Prague.  In Vector 166, contributed “The View from Olympus” with Carola Biedermann and Eva Hauser.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss shows a measurable effect of the stay-at-home rules.

(9) ALL IN A ROW. Here’s a concept.

(10) GONE CUCKOO. “Epic 7,500-mile cuckoo migration wows scientists”.

One of the longest migrations recorded by any land bird is about to be completed.

Using a satellite tag, scientists have monitored a cuckoo that has just flown more than 7,500 miles (12,000km) from southern Africa to its breeding ground in Mongolia.

The bird has survived ocean crossings and high winds after traversing 16 countries.

It has been, say scientists, “a mammoth journey”. The satellite-tagged common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), named Onon after a Mongolian river, set off from its winter home in Zambia on 20 March.

(11) THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. CinemaBlend makes sure you’re able to “Watch Cats Star Jason Derulo Turn Into Spider-Man”. UPDATE — so many people had a problem with the embedded video I’m just going to link to it here.

Since a lot of people are staying in their homes right now to help flatten the curve of the current health crisis, that naturally means that it’s important to find ways to keep one’s mind occupied in order to maintain sanity. For well-endowed Cats star Jason Derulo, he recently decided to spend some time putting together a mini-Spider-Man origin story within his home’s walls.

Check out the man who played Rum Tum Tigger on the big screen last year suddenly obtaining the ability to do whatever a spider can…

(12) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. On the latest Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss the upcoming Hugo Awards, and David discusses with Rob Gerrand their mutual love of the work of Jack Vance. Episode 28: “Mastering the Dragons”

(13) SPACEWEAR. “Nasa SpaceX launch: Evolution of the spacesuit”.

The spacesuits that will be worn by astronauts on Wednesday’s Crew Dragon launch have been getting a lot of attention. How do they differ from other attire worn by astronauts down the years?

The futuristic flight suits that will be worn by Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on Wednesday look like they’re a world away from the bulky orange shuttle flight suits worn when astronauts last launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

The helmets are 3D-printed and the gloves are touchscreen-sensitive.

But their primary purpose remains the same – to protect crew members from depressurisation, where air is lost from the capsule. They also provide ensure that astronauts have sufficient oxygen and regulate temperature. A communications link and breathable air are provided via a single “umbilical” cable in the seat that “plugs in” to the suit.

The Starman suits, as they’ve been called, are all in one piece and customised for the astronaut. Their look was conceived by Hollywood costume designer Jose Fernandez, who has worked on Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

(14) GOING DARK? “Facebook shareholders try to block encryption plan”

Investors at Facebook’s annual stockholder meeting will vote on a proposal to postpone the firm’s plans for end-to-end encryption.

The firm says it wants to make the measure the default option across its messaging platforms to protect privacy.

But activist shareholders say this would make it nearly impossible to detect child exploitation on Facebook.

The group wants the company to delay the move until after its board of directors studies the risk further.

“As shareholders, we know that privacy is important to a social media company, but it should not come at the expense of unleashing a whole new torrent of virtually undetectable child sexual abuse on Facebook,” said Michael Passoff, founder of Proxy Impact, a shareholder advocacy service supporting the measure.

(15) A RINSE AND A SCRUB. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] (Borrowing from John M. Ford’s “Waiting for the Morning Bird”): “Nasa SpaceX launch: Big day called off because of weather”

Poor weather has forced SpaceX to call off the launch of Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station (ISS).

The two men were due to go up from the Kennedy Space Center in what would have been the first orbital mission from the US in nine years.

But unfavourable atmospheric conditions prompted controllers to call a stop just 16 minutes before lift-off.

The next opportunity for SpaceX and Nasa will come on Saturday.

If that’s no good, there would be a third opportunity on Sunday.

The frustration was that conditions just 10 minutes after the designated launch time of 16:33 EDT were acceptable.

But this was an instantaneous launch window where the SpaceX Falcon rocket and Dragon crew capsule had to leave on time or they wouldn’t be able to catch the space station.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Star Wars Jedi Temple Challenge” on YouTube is a new interactive game hosted by Ahmed Best, who voiced Jar Jar Binks.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, David Grigg, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, who explains it in our first-ever Pixel Scroll Post-Script.]

P.S.P.S. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Item-suitable Backstory & Lagniappe to this title suggestion:

Yesterday’s scroll included an item on Johnny Mnemonic (story and movie). This morning, my Spotify playlist played Charles T. Berry’s song, “Johnny B Goode.”

This in turn reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Chris Smither, “Henry David Thoreau” riffing on (same tune) Berry’s song. Oddly, even incomprehensibly, I find NO mention of it anywhere via DuckDuckGo nor Google, even though I’ve heard Smither sing it numerous times. (I also checked his discography.) Go figure. I bet I’ve got it on one of my cassette recordings (still in need of digitizing, sigh).

SF-semi-adjacentwise, he did (at least in one concert at Passim’s in Cambridge, not sure if it made it to any recordings), riff a few verses starting with Kliban’s Mousies cartoon (“Love them little mousies/mousies is what I eat/bite their little heads/nibble on their tiny feet”).

Smither is a country blues guy, doing a mix of classic blues along with songs by Randy Newman, Dylan and others.

That said, here’s some Smither song links. Two of his own songs: “Origin of Species” (Arguably sf/f in spirit), “Love Me Like a Man” (First recorded/popularized by Bonnie Raitt). And other songs: “Maybelline” (done in a minor key); “Statesboro Blues”; “Friend of the Devil”.

Pixel Scroll 5/25/20 Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Pixels How Do You Measure, Measure A Scroll?

(1) THE SANTA FE. Now he’ll really be George Railroad Martin: “George R. R. Martin Buys Part of Historic Santa Fe Railroad”.

George R. R. Martin, who wrote the book series that was adapted into the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” and two co-investors have bought an abandoned, 18-mile spur railroad line from Santa Fe to Lamy, New Mexico, with the intent of restoring it to its former glory as a tourist attraction, The Business Insider reported on Monday.

No price was mentioned for the purchase, which also includes 10 antique rail cars, two vintage locomotives, and a station house at Lamy currently leased by Amtrak that is part of its twice daily line from Chicago to Los Angeles.

“There are a lot of opportunities for a new tourist attraction,” Martin told the Albuquerque Journal. “COVID has thrown a monkey wrench into our plan. We had hoped to get things up and running in 2021, but now it won’t be until 2022.”

I’ve caught a train at the Lamy station, after visiting my sister in Santa Fe. It’s miles out of town — despite the city’s iconic railroad name, the Amtrak line doesn’t run through the city.

Martin explains his plans in more detail in his blog post “All Aboard for Lamy” which concludes:

…It is going to take a lot of work, more than a few bucks, and a fair amount of time to get the railroad running again.   There are tracks and trestles to inspect and repair, old historic coaches to restore to their former splendor, a dead locomotive to bring back to life.   And the coronavirus has slowed the process way down.   But sooner or later, we do hope to have the old Lamy Line chuffing and puffing once again, and we have all sorts of fun ideas for the future, live music and murder mysteries and train robberies and escape rooms and… well, we shall see.

And best of all, we won’t need to pull up the tracks when Christmas is over.

(2) CON CANCELLATION. Pulpfest, planned for August, has been cancelled, too. They made the announcement today: “There is Nothing Wrong with Your Television Set . . .”

…We regret to announce that PulpFest is being postponed until August 2021.

Although it is likely that businesses and events in the region where PulpFest is staged will be allowed to resume operations in June, they will have to follow guidelines issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

…Given the substantial risks involved and our desire to maintain the health and well-being of our many supporters, the PulpFest organizing committee voted unanimously to postpone this year’s convention until early August 2021.

(3) LEAP, BUT NOT QUANTUM. Chancellor Agard, in “Watch Legends of Tomorrow jump from Friends to Downton Abbey in exclusive sneak peek” on Entertainment Weekly discusses tomorrow’s episode, where the Legends jump from the world of a show like Friends to one like Downton Abbey to one like Star Trek.

(4) A HORSE, OF COURSE. Yesterday was the thirtieth anniversary of the debut of the third Back to the Future movie. Yahoo! Entertaiment put together a quiz — “‘Back to the Future Part III’ turns 30: Take this quiz to test your knowledge”. I really blew this one – only 6 out of 14. And one of my right answers was about how special effects manure was made – am I supposed to be proud of that?

… On May 24, 1990, the final film in Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s Back to the Future trilogy premiered in theaters. Directly picking up from the cliffhanger of 1989’s Back to the Future Part II, where Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and the DeLorean time machine accidentally being struck by lightning, sending him back to the Old West. Part III picks up with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) traveling to 1885 to rescue Doc and return him to the present. 

(5) SPACE FORCE REDUX. Netflix dropped a second trailer for Space Force, which they have cleverly called Space Force Trailer 2.

Steve Carell was also on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Thursday  promoting Space Force but he doesn’t talk about the show until 5-1/2 minutes into the segment.

(6) STILES REMEMBERED. Balticon 54’s website includes a tribute to the late fanartist: “In Memoriam: Steve Stiles (1943-2020)”. Includes lots of photos and art.

Steve Stiles became a science fiction fan in 1957; he’d been illustrating fanzines from then until his death, earning him the first Rotsler Fan Artist Award in 1998, and a Fan Artist Hugo in 2016. Professionally, he worked in numerous comic book genres since 1973 (horror, super hero, science fiction, humor), including the award-winning Xenozoic Tales and perhaps the first steampunk graphic novel, The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle, with author Richard Lupoff.

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

May 25Towel Day which is celebrated by fans every year on May 25 as a tribute to the author Douglas Adams. Fans carry a towel with them as described in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The commemoration was first held May 25, 2001 two weeks after Douglas Adams’ death. [Via Rocketmail.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 25, 1977 Star Wars premiered. Later retitled as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, it was written and directed by George Lucas. You know who the cast is so we’ll not list all of them here. Lucas envisioned the film as being in the tradition of Buck Rodgers which he originally intended to remake but couldn’t get the rights to.  Reception by critics and fans alike was fantastic with IguanaCon II voting it the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo over Close Encounters of The Third Kind. It holds a stellar 96% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • May 25, 1983 Return of the Jedi, the last of the original trilogy, premiered. Later retitled Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, it came out six years after Star Wars. It is directed not by Lucas this time but by Richard Marquand from a screenplay by Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan who co-wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The principal cast is the same as the first film. Critics were ever so slightly less pleased with this concluding film of the trilogy but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an equally stellar 94% rating as the first film. It would win The Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at L.A. con II beating Right Stuff and WarGames. Box office wise, it sold more tickets for most of its first eight week American run than any other film.  

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 25, 1915 – DeeDee Lavender.  Four decades an active fan with her husband Roy.  Together they were Secretary-Treasurer of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n in 1950.  They were at Aussiecon I the 33rd World Science Fiction Convention (I wasn’t), and Noreascon II the 38th (I was).  They’re in Harlan Ellison’s forewords to his collections I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and Angry Candy; they knew Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton, and were guests at the B&H homes in Ohio and California.  They were part of a Southern California fannish social group called the Petards, named by one of Rick Sneary’s famous misspellings, hoist for host.  Here she is with Roy at a Petards meeting in 1983 (Dik Daniels photo), and thirty years earlier in New York (L to R, Bea Mahaffey, Hannes Bok, DeeDee, Roy, Stan Skirvin; Mike Resnick collection).  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1916 – Charles Hornig.  Publishing his fanzine The Fantasy Fan in 1933, thus First Fandom (i.e. active by at least the first Worldcon, 1939), and hired, age 17, by Hugo Gernsback to edit Wonder Stories.  Founded the Science Fiction League with HG, 1934; later edited Fantasy; also Future and Science Fiction (they eventually combined); SF Quarterly.  See his notes on Nycon I, the first Worldcon, here.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1926 – Phyllis Gotlieb.  Prix Aurora for A Judgement of Dragons (note spelling; she was Canadian).  The Sunburst Award is named for her first novel.  Thirteen SF novels, twenty shorter stories, eight poetry collections (the first being Who Knows One?).  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian.  Among her husband’s Physics students was Cory Doctorow’s father.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1946 Frank Oz, 74. Actor, director including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives, producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1946 Janet Morris, 74. Hey I get to mention Thieves’ World! Yea! In that universe, she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She has three series, both listed as SF though I’d call one of them fantasy,  the Silistra quartet, the Kerrion Space trilogy and the Threshold series. And let’s not over overlook her Heroes in Hell series she wrote,most co-authorEd with her husband Chris Morris, some with C J Cherryh and David Drake. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1950 – Kathryn Daugherty.  Engineer.  Married four decades to James Stanley Daugherty.  Back when FORTRAN wasn’t even Two-tran she fed punch-cards to a Control Data CDC 6400.  For ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon, Official Editor of the con committee’s APA (Amateur Press Ass’n, a collection of fanzines) The Never-Ending Meeting.  At Bucconeer the 56th Worldcon, headed Contents of Tables; a typo made it “Contests of Tables”: in each newsletter I announced “Today’s winner is the Picnic”, “Today’s winner is the Periodic”.  Chaired Westercon LIII, a hard one: it was at Honolulu, see my report here [PDF; p. 11].  Luckily not exhausted; she and JSD were Fan Guests of Honor at Baycon in 2001, and Loscon XXXI (2004).  Joined me in liking Mission of Gravity.  Obituary by OGH here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1952 Al Sarrantonio, 68. His horror short stories are brilliant and they‘ve earned him a Stoker for 999: New Tales of Horror and Suspense and a Jackson for Stories: All-New Tales, the latter co-edited with Gaiman. His Masters of Mars series is SF and he’s written a Babylon 5 novel as well, Personal Agendas. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1953 – Stan Sakai.  Lettered Groo the Wanderer comics; since 1984, author of Usagi Yojimbo comics about samurai rabbit Miyamoto Usagi, who has (wouldn’t you know it) crossed paths with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The rônin lifeis hard.  During the most recent Year of the Rabbit (2011), the Japanese-American Nat’l Museum in Los Angeles had an Usagi Yojimbo exhibit.  Sakai has won a Parents’ Choice award, an Inkpot, six Eisners, an Inkwell, two Harveys, two Haxturs (Spain), a Plumilla de Plata (Mexico), a Cultural Ambassador award, and a Nat’l Cartoonists Society award.  [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1960 Eric Brown, 60. Well-deserved winner of two BSFA awards for his short stories, “Hunting the Slarqye” and “The Children of The Winter”.  He’s very prolific, averaging a novel a year over the past three decades and countless novellas and short stories. As far as SF goes, I’d start with his Binary System and Bengal Station series, both of which are superb. And I’m going to single out his Sherlock Holmes metaverse novel, The Martian Menace, in which The Great Detective meets and defeats those Invaders. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 54. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tanith Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1982 – Bertrand Bonnet.  Six dozen reviews in Bifrost (French-language prozine; European SF Society award for Best Magazine, 2016), of Blish, Le Guin, Pohl (with and without Kornbluth), Resnick, Tolkien (including the Letters, yay).  [JH] 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur’s birds learn about their ancestors.
  • Non Sequitur sells foresight.
  • Non Sequitur has an SJWC intervention.
  • Mikey Heller drew a comic about a cat café. It’s got sjw credentials, sf, everything!

(11) LID OVERFLOW. In The Full Lid 22nd May 2020 Alasdair Stuart takes a look “at how now is very much the time for Strange New Worlds and what the Short Treks set on Pike’s Enterprise can teach us about the show’s tone.”

I also take a look at excellent, furious and overlooked movie Assassination Nation and Bog Bodies, a superb crime graphic novel out this week. Signal Boost is big this week but the YA/MG Author spotlight that follows it is much bigger and full of amazing books.

This week Stuart also launched The Full Lid Plus! A monthly supplement covering Disney Plus.

It’s first issue covers what we learn in the first for episodes of The Mandalorian and looks at award winning free-climbing documentary Free Solo. Oh and Will Smith sings.

The Full Lid Plus is published monthly and run off a paid subscription model, Details at the link.

Stuart’s Hugo Voting Packet for 2020 is also available at his website. “It touches on all my non-fiction work, has links to every piece and a consolidated PDF of everything too.”

(12) NO GO. It barely got out of California:“Virgin Orbit rocket fails on debut flight”

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company has tried unsuccessfully to launch a rocket over the Pacific Ocean.

The booster was released from under the wing of one of the UK entrepreneur’s old jumbos which had been specially converted for the task.

The rocket should have ignited its engine seconds later but engineers had to terminate the flight.

Virgin Orbit’s goal is to try to capture a share of the emerging market for the launch of small satellites.

It’s not clear at this stage what went wrong but the firm had warned beforehand that the chances of success might be in the region of 50:50.

The history of rocketry shows that maiden outings very often encounter technical problems.

The firm is sure to be back for another attempt pretty soon – depending on the outcome of the post-mission analysis.

(13) FLOCKING OFF. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] I just noticed this monologue from the May 18th Late Night with Seth Meyers. There was no genre-related sketch that night. However!

When Seth Meyers first started broadcasting from home, he apparently (to my eyes, at least) ordered several feet of cheap respectable-looking trade paper and hardcover books from a local used book store. One that caught my eye was Shardik, which has a lot of whitespace on the spine and that weird symbol. The two copies of a book about Thessalonica were the big tip-off to me these were surplus and not garage detritus.

And then there was The Thorn Birds. No one seemed to believe Seth Meyers was a Thorn Birds fan.

Soon Meyers moved out of his garage and into his attic, where he has a plain backdrop…and an end table with a small stack of books. I’ve seen two dust-jacketed books claiming to be The Thorn Birds and one unjacketed copy between them. The Janelle Monae clip has a stack of Thorn Birds, Thorn Birds II: More Thorns, and Thorn Birds III: Something written in script too fine for me to read.

But the best one yet you can see in this clip, in the lower left-hand corner:

(14) JUST WHEN THE PREZ LEARNED HOW TO PRONOUNCE IT. BBC reports “WHO halts trials of hydroxychloroquine over safety fears”.

Testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for coronavirus has been halted because of safety fears, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

Trials in several countries are being “temporarily” suspended as a precaution, the agency said on Monday.

It comes after a recent medical study suggested the drug could increase the risk of patients dying from Covid-19.

(15) DON’T KNOW HOW GOOD YOU’VE GOT IT. And we close with this benediction from The Onion: “Nation’s Politicians, Law Enforcement, Corporate Executives Marvel At Futuristic Utopia They’re Living In”.

“To think that I have all this at my fingertips, whether it’s automated high-volume stock trading or unlimited surveillance footage of my employees, it’s like something out of a science fiction paradise,” said pharmaceutical executive Ron Pollard, who claimed previous generations of police officers, elected officials, and business leaders could never comprehend the world of unlimited possibilities that has been created for them, where they are free to do whatever they want all the time.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/15/20 Hey, Scrollers! Watch Me Pull a Pixel Out of My Hat!

(1) NEXT TREK. CBS All Access dropped a trailer for Star Trek:  Strange New Worlds, a spinoff from Star Trek; Discovery that stars Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn.

Fans spoke, Star Trek listened, and a new series aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise is on the horizon! Watch stars Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn excitedly break the big news. Stay tuned for more information on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, coming soon to CBS All Access. In the meantime, stream full episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, exclusively in the U.S. on CBS All Access.

(2) NOT ENTIRELY A BAD THING. The Romance Writers of America have cancelled the annual gathering planned for San Francisco in August, another consequence of the pandemic. Attendance levels were already in doubt due to the upheaval and disaffection in the group this year, which led to this reaction from Courtney Milan —

(3) DEALING WITH A FAMILIAR MEDIA WEAPON. On Saturday, May 16, professionals in the field of influence operations (“Fake News”) will join Gadi Evron, Sounil Yu, Malka Older, and special guest David Weber to discuss how disinformation can be countered from an operational standpoint, as well as its effects on society and policy. “Countering ‘Fake News’: Professionals Speak” at Essence of Wonder. Registration required

Panel one will cover the effects of “Fake News” on society, and the shaping of policy around the topic. Panel two will dive deeply into methodologies, operational tools, and techniques, for countering “Fake News” attacks.

(4) THINKING ABOUT ADAPTATIONS. The World Fantasy Con 2020 blog featured one of their GoH’s in an “Interview with Charlaine Harris”.

WFC2020: The Sookie Stackhouse books were made into the series True Blood, which ran seven years. In the books Lafayette (the fry cook) doesn’t last long, but the actor, Nelsan Harris, was so popular his role was expanded in the series. What other changes were made to the books’ characters?

CH: I thought the character of Jessica (Deborah Wohl) was a fabulous addition to the storyline. Wished I had thought of her. The fae on screen turned out to be not at all what was in my head, but it worked for the purposes of the show. I loved the sets, which I saw several times: Sookie’s house, Jason’s house, Merlotte’s. And all the actors were amazing. Alan Ball is a genius at casting. Nelsan was wonderful!

(5) HEAR MORE FROM HARRIS. And on May 23, Essence of Wonder will present “Masters of Urban Fantasy: Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Dana Cameron, and Toni L.P. Kelner”. (Registration required.)

Dana Cameron, Toni L.P. Kelner (a.k.a. Leigh Perry), Patricia Briggs, and Charlaine Harris will join us on Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron for geeky shenanigans in a panel discussion about Worldbuilding (and maybe pets). Before the panel, Charlaine will interview Patricia on her new Mercy Thompson book, “Smoke Bitten. Join us for this special show with The Leading Ladies of Urban Fantasy on Saturday (23 May).

(6) DON’T MISS OUT. Another WFC 2020 guest of honor, Steve Rasnic Tem, telling about “My First WFC”, includes this wisdom:

…My late friend Ed Bryant and I would sometimes read the glowing tributes to authors who had passed and Ed would say, “Well, I hope they told them these nice things while they were still alive.” Attending a World Fantasy Convention gives you a great opportunity to practice Ed’s advice. The sad fact is you may not have another chance.

(7) IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING. Tor.com is serializing “Never Say You Can’t Survive: How To Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories”:

Charlie Jane Anders is writing a nonfiction book—and Tor.com is publishing it as she does so. Never Say You Can’t Survive is a how-to book about the storytelling craft, but it’s also full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish in the present emergency.

Below is the Introduction, followed by the first chapter, “How To Make Your Own Imaginary Friends”

New installments will appear every Tuesday at noon EST.

Here’s an excerpt –

….So I’m writing a series of essays called Never Say You Can’t Survive, all about how writing and making up stories can help you to survive a terrifying moment in history. (These essays came out of a talk that I gave at the Willamette Writers Conference and elsewhere. And their title is borrowed from the 1977 album of the same name by Curtis Mayfield, which is a piece of music that has given me so much strength and inspiration over the years.)

Stories of Darkness and Escapism

When I wrote “Don’t Press Charges And I Won’t Sue,” I was going to the darkest possible place I could go in a story, and putting my protagonist through the most dehumanizing treatment I could imagine. I needed to face up to the absolute worst that could happen, so I felt like I understood it a little better. I also needed to write about someone facing up to the most nightmarish scenario and still emerging in one piece, surviving, even though it’s a dark ending.

Writing a horrifying story on your own terms means that you can show how someone can survive, or even triumph. And meanwhile, you can cast a light on the injustice of oppressive systems. You can also choose the frame and eliminate some of the ambiguity in some situations, to make things more stark and more clear, or to make juxtapositions that illuminate how the problem started, and how it’ll be in the future.

When you’re telling the story, you get to draw all the lines….

(8) 1990’S GAME MAGAZINE. The Digital Antiquarian presents a bit of video game history in “The Shareware Scene, Part 3: The id Boys”.

…Thus he was receptive on the day in early 1990 when one of his most productive if headstrong programmers, a strapping young metalhead named John Romero, suggested that Softdisk start a new MS-DOS disk magazine, dedicated solely to games — the one place where, what with Apogee’s success being still in its early stages, shareware had not yet clearly cut into Softdisk’s business model. After some back-and-forth, the two agreed to a bi-monthly publication known as Gamer’s Edge, featuring at least one — preferably two — original games in each issue. To make it happen, Romero would be allowed to gather together a few others who were willing to work a staggering number of hours cranking out games at an insane pace with no resources beyond themselves for very little money at all. Who could possibly refuse an offer like that?

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

May 15, 1955X Minus One’s “Universe” first aired. It’s based off Heinlein’s Universe which was first published in Astounding Science Fiction’s May 1941 issue, and George Lefferts wrote the script. The cast includes Donald P. Buka, Peter Kapell, Bill Griffis, Abby Lewis, Edgar Stehli, Jason Seymour and Ian Martin. Untold generations of people traveling in a giant’s spaceship have lost track of who they are and what they set out to do. They think that their ship is the Universe. You can listen to it here.                    

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 – L. Frank Baum. His Wizard of Oz has been translated into 50 languages, selling 3 million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956, applauded by the Library of Congress in 2000; 13 more Ozbooks, 28 others, 83 shorter stories, 200 poems, at least 42 scripts, under his own and half a dozen pen names.  While living in the Dakota Territory, he was Secretary of the Aberdeen Woman’s Suffrage Club, and hosted Susan B. Anthony (Aberdeen is now a city in the State of South Dakota).  He knew French, German, Italian. He said at the start that Wizardaspired to fantasy “in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out,” at which he succeeded. Last words, to his wife, “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands.”  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1848 – Viktor Vasnetsov.  Co-founder of Russian folklorist and romantic-nationalist panting, key figure in Russian Revivalist movement.  Designed churches, mosaics, a revenue stamp, the façade of the Tretyakov Gallery.  Worked on stage designs and costumes for Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden.  V’s fantasy and epics irritated radicals, who said he undermined realist principles.  Here is a flying carpet.  (Died 1926) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1891 – Mikhail Bulgakov.  Had he only written The Master and Margarita, that would have sufficed us; an elaborate strange masterpiece; Margarita, not the Master, allies herself with the Devil – maybe; I talk a little about it here; in fact not published until decades after his death, too dangerous.  Mick Jagger said it inspired “Sympathy for the Devil”.  Try this Website.  See also DiaboliadThe Fatal EggsHeart of a Dog.  Two rival museums in Moscow – in the same building; one in Kiev.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born May 15. 1906 – Ellen MacGregor.  Librarian, cataloguer, researcher, editrix of the Illinois Women’s Press Ass’n monthly bulletin Pen Points; also worked in Florida and Hawaii.  For children’s fantasy with accurate science she wrote Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars and Goes UnderseaGoes to the Arctic published after her death; then 13 more, 16 shorter stories, by Dora Pantell.  Lavinia Pickerell, prim, angular, and devoted to her pet cow, is an inadvertent stowaway on a rocket to Mars in her first adventure, but she is unflappable.  (Died 1954) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1932Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana and is quite horrid. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1948 Brian Eno, 72. Worth noting if only for A Multimedia Album Based on the Complete Text of Robert Sheckley’s In a Land of Clear Colors, though all of his albums have a vague SF feeling  to them such as Music for Civic Recovery CentreJanuary 07003: Bell Studies for the Clock of  The Long Now and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today which could the name of Culture mind ships. Huh. I wonder if his music will show up in the forthcoming Culture series? (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1955 Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 55. Her book The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set In California or the Pacific Northwest. (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1955 – Takayuki Tatsumi.  Professor at Keiô University, chair of K.U. SF Study Group; editor, essayist, interviewer, theoretician; 21st Nihon SF Taishô (Grand Prize) from Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan.  President, American Literature Society of Japan 2014-2017, Poe Society of Japan 2009-  ; editorial boards of ParadoxaMark Twain StudiesJournal of Transnat’l American Studies.  In English, for SF ChronicleSF EyeN.Y. Review of SFSF Studies, the 65th and 72nd Worldcons’ Souvenir Books; The Liverpool Companion to World SF Film (2014); The Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature (2016).  [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1974 – Ahmet Zappa.  Brother of Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva; wrote song “Frogs with Dirty Little Lips” with his father Frank.  Debut novel (and interiors), The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless; debut film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green; television, three-season host of Robotica; co-author with wife Shana Muldoon Zappa, Sage and the Journey to Wishworld and 14 more Star Darlings books.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME. Polygon’s Alan Kistler asserts “Superheroes are scrapping their secret identities, and it’s for the best”. This might sound a little counterintuitive at a time when we’re all supposed to be wearing masks.

In the beginning, nearly every superhero had a secret identity. It protected them from villainous revenge, and created a delicious dramatic tension while interacting with loved ones who had no inkling of their other life. But the strict secret identity is fast becoming an anachronism.

Most heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe operate in the open, while other caped cinema stars, like Supergirl, are perfectly willing to trust close allies with their name. In comics, the X-Men no longer hide who they are or where they live. Even Superman’s identity has been revealed to the entire world twice in the last decade.

And all of this is for the better, delivering not only greater dramatic possibilities, but also a healthier idea of heroism….

(13) FANTASTIC FOUR COMICS. Marvel’s tells fans that Fantastic Four: Antithesis is coming in August, the first full-length Fantastic Four story ever illustrated by industry legend Neal Adams.

Adams is joined by Eisner Award-winning writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, Captain America, Fantastic Four), who jam-packs this tale with a fan-favorite roster of Fantastic Four heroes and villains! Together, this celebrated creative team create a new nemesis for the Fantastic Four guaranteed to send shockwaves throughout all of fandom.  

 …Adams shares [Waid’s] enthusiasm about the project. “I have always had the sense of missing the chance to draw the Fantastic Four. It was a quiet sense, since I’ve had every opportunity to do my favorites. More, I felt Kirby and Buscema had done it all, hadn’t they…?” he begins. “When Marvel’s Tom Brevoort asked if I’d like to do the Fantastic Four, I knew I had to ask for Galactus and the Silver Surfer as well. I am humbled and thankful to Tom for the opportunity.”

Who or what is the Antithesis, and will the combined might of the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, and Galactus himself be enough to defeat it?

(14) DC COMICS ARE BIG HITS TOO. The Hollywood Reporter has the numbers: “DC Universe Readership Jumps 35 Percent During Shutdown”.

Two ‘Batman’ titles were atop the most-read list.

With comic book stores closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was an open question just what fans would do to get their fix. New figures released from digital service DC Universe suggest that the answer was, simply, “go online.”

(15) ON THE WILDSIDE. John Betancourt has launched a Kickstarter appeal to produce “Staying In Place”, an “anthology of stories to pass the time.” Various support levels also bring additional rewards in the form of reading material.

With so many people staying at home right now, we at Wildside Press and the Black Cat Mystery & Science Fiction Ebook Club are putting together a mammoth anthology of amazing stories for you to read and enjoy. The anthology will feature 20 novels and short stories by iconic authors such as John Gregory Betancourt,  Paul di Filippo, John W. Campbell Jr., Robert E. Howard, G.D. Falksen, and many more to be announced.  But we need your help to make this happen. We are coming to Kickstarter to fund the anthology. In return for your support, you get the anthology itself, some of our fantastic ebooks, and even a subscription to the Black Cat which gives subscribers 7+ free ebooks every week, including new releases of all of the great Wildside Press magazines (WeirdbookBlack Cat Mystery MagazineSherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, and even the upcoming revival of Startling Stories, the famous pulp magazine).

(16) BORN TO BE DUMPED. “‘Men of Middle-earth as Bad Ex-Boyfriends’ Thread Is Absolutely Perfect” – so says The Mary Sue.

Every now and then, a Twitter act of creation reminds us that good things can still emerge from our hellish Internet stomping grounds. Such is the case with a viral thread from writer Alex Arrelia, in which Arrelia painstakingly—and hilariously—takes on J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters under the heading of “Men of Middle Earth as bad ex boyfriends who ruined your life.”

Thread starts here. Some examples —

(17) THIS CLOSE! And don’t forget Tolkien’s ultimate Bad Boy — “The Lord Of The Rings: 10 Ways Sauron Could Have Won” at ScreenRant.

10. He Could Have Set A Guard On Mount Doom

Most obviously, Sauron could have prevented the destruction of the One Ring–and thus the unraveling of his power–if he’d only done a little more to make sure that Mount Doom was protected from approach and infiltration. Indeed, it is precisely the fact that it is so unguarded–because Sauron couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to destroy the Ring rather than use it – that allows Frodo and Sam to sneak up on it. Sauron is defeated by his own inability to think outside of himself. 

(18) SHE-RA ARRIVES. NPR’s Victoria Whitley-Berry reviews a reboot: “In She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power, True Strength Is In Being Yourself”.

Showrunner Noelle Stevenson has always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy. As a kid, she loved it all: the epic space battles, the magic, the quests that seemed larger than life.

But there was a problem with her favorite childhood stories, like Star Wars and The Lord of The Rings series. “I never quite saw myself reflected in them” Stevenson says, “certainly not at the heart of the story.”

There weren’t a lot of women.

Of course, there’s interstellar rebel Princess Leia and Nazgûl-slaying Éowyn. But Stevenson wanted a female version of Luke Skywalker and a terror-inducing femme Lord Sauron.

So when she started writing stories of her own, she made sure kids like her felt seen, in more ways than one.

…When Netflix and DreamWorks wanted to reboot She-Ra: Princess of Power — an epic showdown between magical princesses and an evil alien invader — Stevenson was all in.

She kept much of the original show’s action and adventure — like the original, the rebooted show takes place on the planet Etheria, and one of the princesses who is trying to stop the evil Horde army from taking over is named Adora.

…Stevenson did make one small but important change to the show: Its name. The Netflix and DreamWorks version is She-Ra and the PRINCESSES of Power. All the princesses are important.

She also gathered an all-female writing staff to update this team of powerful women. In the original show, the princesses are white, skinny and presumably straight. The new rebellion includes women of color. They’re women in all different shapes and sizes. And there are women who love other women.

Princess Weekes is an assistant editor at The Mary Sue, a website that covers the intersection of women and fandom. She’s been writing about the She-Ra reboot since the beginning.

Weekes says that because the team behind She-Ra is made up of LGBTQ people, the stories on the show give genuine representation of queer life for kids.

“You allow queerness for young kids to be just normalized in general,” Weekes says. “What I think Noelle Stevenson and the entire She-Ra team has done is create a society and place where characters can exist, but their biggest problem isn’t that they’re gay.”

(19) THAWED. “Disney Closes ‘Frozen’ on Broadway, Citing Pandemic” – the New York Times has the story.

Even Queen Elsa’s magic is no match for the coronavirus pandemic.

Disney Theatrical Productions said Thursday that its stage adaptation of “Frozen” will not reopen on Broadway once the pandemic eases, making the musical the first to be felled by the current crisis.

“Frozen” had been the weakest of the three Disney musicals that had been running on Broadway — the others were “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” — and the company made it clear that it does not believe audiences will return in substantial enough numbers to sustain all of those shows.

“This difficult decision was made for several reasons but primarily because we believe that three Disney productions will be one too many titles to run successfully in Broadway’s new landscape,” Thomas Schumacher, the president of Disney Theatrical Productions, said in a letter to his staff….

(20) LET THE SUN SHINE IN. WIRED found something the military would let them talk about for “A Secret Space Plane is Carrying a Solar Experiment to Orbit”, and it has a connection to the Golden Age of SF.

On Saturday, the US Air Force is expected to launch its secret space plane, X-37B, for a long-duration mission in low Earth orbit. The robotic orbiter looks like a smaller version of the space shuttle and has spent nearly eight of the past 10 years in space conducting classified experiments for the military. Almost nothing is known about what X-37B does up there, but ahead of its sixth launch the Air Force gave some rare details about its cargo.

…[The] real star of the show is a small solar panel developed by the physicists at the Naval Research Lab that will be used to conduct the first orbital experiment with space-based solar power.

“This is a major step forward,” says Paul Jaffe, an electronics engineer at the Naval Research Lab and lead researcher on the project. “This is the first time that any component geared towards a solar-powered satellite system has ever been tested in orbit.”

Space-based solar power is all about getting solar power to Earth no matter the weather or the time of day. The basic idea is to convert the sun’s energy into microwaves and beam it down. Unlike terrestrial solar panels, satellites in a sufficiently high orbit might only experience darkness for a few minutes per day. If this energy could be captured, it could provide an inexhaustible source of power no matter where you are on the planet.

It’s an idea that was cooked up by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in the 1940s; since then, beamed power experiments have been successfully tested several times on Earth. But the experiment on X-37B will be the first time the core technologies behind microwave solar power will be tested in orbit.

(21) TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS. Not genre, but one stunning upside to the pandemic: “The Most Beautiful Flower Garden In The World Has No Visitors For The First Time In 71 Years And I Got To Capture It (31 Pics)” at Bored Panda.

Most of you probably know the world-famous Keukenhof, the most beautiful tulip garden in the world. Every year millions of tourists visit this garden. That’s a huge lot considering the garden is only open in spring! Every year, a hard-working crew makes sure the garden looks as good as ever, including this year!

This year is ‘special’. Keukenhof is closed, for the first time in 71 years. But that doesn’t mean there are no flowers. On the contrary; the flowers look incredible and get as much attention and care as always. All the passionate gardeners do their work as they’re used to. Because even without people, nature and the show of the garden goes on….

(22) UPDATE. Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’s separation was reported in a recent Pixel Scroll. Gaiman has now made a blog entry about it, which includes an open letter to the world that the couple collaborated on: “Where I Am, What I’m Doing, How I’m Doing And How I Got Here”. Gaiman’s intro says in part —

…Once the world opens up and travel gets easier Amanda and Ash and I are looking forward to being together again in Woodstock. (Yes, I’ve seen the newsfeed headlines saying I’ve moved to the UK, and even that we’re divorcing. No, I haven’t moved the UK, and yes, Amanda and I are still very much together, even with half a world between us.) 

Thank you to everyone who’s been kind and nice and helpful, while Amanda and my problems got rather more public than either of us is comfortable with. We love each other, and we love Ash, and we will sort ourselves out, in private, which is much the best place for things like this….

And the couple’s joint letter follows.

(23) NOT THAT SUBTLE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kyle Mizokami, in “The Space Force Receives Its ‘Kobayashi Maru’ Space-Tracking System” in Popular Mechanics says it’s no coincidence that Space Force’s warning system is a Star Trek reference; the Space Force also has a Kessel Run, and Mizokami thinks it’s no coincidence that the acronym for the force’s Space Operations Center is SPOC.

The U.S. Space Force announced the development of a brand new software package designed to track and monitor objects in space. Dubbed “Kobayashi Maru,” the cloud-based program was designed to modernize the way the U.S. Air Force—and now the U.S. Space Force—interoperates in space but with its allies in the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing alliance.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cliff Ramshaw, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, JJ, David Goldfarb, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 5/8/20 A Logic
Named Mjølnir

(1) ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS. Newsweek is “Talking Murderbot With ‘Network Effect’ Author Martha Wells”.

The series is from Murderbot’s perspective, who doesn’t care much about the wider galaxy (outside of its favorite media), but I assume there’s a lot of worldbuilding you have to juggle. We learn a bit about regions of space like the Corporation Rim, but would you tell me a little more about the state of the larger galaxy?

The Corporation Rim does control a lot of territory, but there are a lot of independent worlds and places outside it and also a lot of unexplored space, basically. In my head, what I see is that there was a whole society—pre-Corporation Rim—that went out and explored and colonized and developed terraformed worlds and all these different places. The Corporation Rim then grew and took over a large section of that. There was a disruption when that happened and so a lot of the pre-Corporation Rim colonies were either destroyed or have been lost. There are a lot of unknown territories out there. I like to do that in my books, I don’t like to define rigidly what the world is, or what the boundaries of the world are. When I’m reading books where that’s done I feel like that limits the reader’s imagination.

I’m kind of a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I don’t plan out a lot ahead of time. I also like to explore the world along with the reader, so I don’t talk about how the world works in general, partly because I want to get the reader concentrated in the plot, but also because I don’t want to set up things so that, later, when I come up with a different idea for the next book, I have to contradict myself or come up with a way around it. I’m just exploring the world. I tend to develop a lot of stuff I need for each story in particular, and then for the next story I realize, “Oh, well, there’s places to go from there. I need to explore this idea.” So I’m kind of making it up as I go along, though I do have ideas about how the world came to be and what caused the society to develop this way, but I don’t usually get into those, because it’s not important for the story that’s being told in that moment (but it might be important later).

(2) FOR THOSE BARD FROM THE CLASSROOM. UK’s Standard says help is on the way — “David Tennant, Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig to offer Shakespeare homework help to children during lockdown”.

Schoolchildren struggling to understand Shakespeare during the lockdown are to get tips and insights from leading actors to perform in his plays.

David Tennant, Sir Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig are among the big names joining the Homework Help initiative being run by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Students with questions can email them to homeworkhelp@rsc.org.uk or share them using the hashtag #RSCHomeworkHelp on Twitter or Instagram by Sunday.

The first round of answers will be released from Monday in the form of videos and recorded messages from actors.

(3) CLOSER LOOK NEEDED? Someone on Reddit posted this link today to a site that contains links to the text of most of the Hugo-Award-winning short stories — http://scifi-hugo.herokuapp.com/.

Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank, who sent the item, says “I spot checked them, and at least some of them are unimpeachable—i.e. they link to the author’s own web site—but for others I’m unsure whether the sites hosting them really have permission from the copyright owners to do so. It might be a public service to call attention to the site so anyone who cares can track the links and authors.”

(4) THE TOP OF THE POP. Alasdair Stuart has posted The Full Lid for 8th May 2020:

This week on The Full Lid, I take a look at the state of the Star Wars universe and find it richer, more interesting and wider than it often seems to be. I also strap in for the magnificent pulpy roller coaster of Netflix’s Into the Night and review Carlos Hernandez’s fantastic Sal and Gabi Fix The Universe. This week’s interstitial pieces are isolation fight scenes, proving that every now and then these violent delights have hilarious ends.

The Full Lid publishes weekly at 5 p.m. GMT on Fridays. Signup is free and the last six months are archived here.

The Clone Wars finished and Rise of Skywalker arrived on Disney Plus this week with the exact combination of joy for the former and ‘oh… hi…’ for the latter you’d expect. Rise is far more the traditional Star Wars movie than Rian Johnson’s defiantly, flamboyantly good space noir predecessor. In some ways — nearly all of them in the last twenty minutes — that’s good. In other ways — in all of which Kelly Marie Tran is reduced to an extra — that borders on unforgivable. It’s Star Wars playing Hotel California and honestly it coasts on the charm of the conceit. Despite that, the emotional beats were solid – I laughed and cried in all the intended spots. It’s a good time, for most. But Star Wars, now more than ever, is bigger than the Skywalker Saga….

(5) IN THE BADLANDS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where they can find “Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets”.

…I must admit that not every science fiction author adopts this buoyant stance. Some of them have taken a contrary point of view, in fact, positing that there are some circumstances that will defeat humans, no matter how smart and persevering they are. Circumstances like alien worlds that cannot be terraformed into human-friendly resort planets. Here are five worlds that steadfastly resist meddling…

(6) VIRTUALLY AMAZING. Steve Davidson’s “AmazingCon UpDates” adds details about his event to be hosted on Zoom from June 12 thru June 14, 2020. Registration required—free or make a donation as you choose. Details at the link.

Over forty authors will present readings from their current and up-coming works, including several soon-to-be-released novels. His current lineup of “Guest Stars” is —

Mike Alexander Anderson, Adam-Troy Castro, Marie Bilodeau, Ricky L Brown, James Cambias, Patty Carvacho, Noah Chinn, Jack Clemons, Carolyn Clink, David L Clink, Dave Creek, Jennifer Crow, Julie Czerneda, Steve Davidson, Vincent Di Fate, Steve Fahnestalk, Sally McBride, Jen Frankel, JM Frey, JF Garrard, David Gerrold, Sean Grigsby, Jerri Hardesty, Chip Houser, G. Scott Huggins, Elizabeth Hirst, Rebecca Inch-Partridge, MD Jackson, Paula Johanson, H Kauderer, Daniel M Kimmel, Kathy Kitts, Judy Mccrosky, Jack McDevitt, Ron Miller, Petrea Mitchell, MJ Moores, Will Murray, Ira Nayman, Wendy Nikel, Julie Novakova, Paul Levinson, Loyd Penney, Brad Preslar, Dan Ritter, David Ritter, Rhea Rose, Amber Royer, Russ Scarola, Veronica Scott, Alex Shvartsman, Steven H Silver, Dan Simon, Rosemary Claire Smith, Bud Sparhawk, Hugh Spencer, Richard Dean Starr, Allen Steele, SP Somtow, Kimberly Unger, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Leslie Wicke, Erin Wilcox, Matt Wolfendon, Kermit Woodall, Brianna Wu, Frank Wu

(7) HERD IMMUNITY. At McSweeney’s, an executive reassures us, “Sure, The Velociraptors Are Still On The Loose, But That’s No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park” in Carlos Greaves satirical article.

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!

(8) THE MOUSE HOUSE. Because it’s not like these guys aren’t thinking about it. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik reports that while Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the Shanghai DIsney Resort will reopen soon, he can not make a similar commitment for American parks, in part because it’s not clear that people would want to come to Disney World or Disneyland, even if attendance is limited to 25 percent of capacity, while the coronavirus rages. “Disney is about to reopen its Shanghai theme park. It could be a lot longer before that happens in the U.S.”

…Disney parks are so crucial to California’s economy that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called Disney “a nation-state,” to some controversy, when he exempted it from closure requirements at the start of the pandemic.

Theme parks are also vital to Disney’s bottom line. The parks division (it also includes hotels and cruise ships) generated $6.76 billion in profit for Disney last year, three times what its film studio did.

All of this makes reopening a no-brainer.

If only….

(9) SOME LIKE IT BOT. ReedPop is exercising its option to take a couple of its major events to Facebook: “BookExpo and BookCon Go Virtual This Month”.

After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22–26, conference organizer Reedpop subsequently canceled both events. Today, Reedpop has announced the events will be replaced by new virtual events taking place this month: BookExpo Online, from May 26-29, and BookCon Online, May 30 and 31.

All programming for both BookExpo Online and BookConline 2020 will be presented on the BookExpo Facebook pages and BookCon Facebook page and, will be free and open to the public. Organizers said an additional day will be added in July, with programming focused on booksellers.

(10) PERSISTENCE OF VISION. Stokercon UK is soldiering on with plans for its new dates – Thursday through Sunday, August 6-9 (subject to further restrictions) in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The Horror Writers Association’s annual conference, with luck being held for the first to be held outside of North America, has even added a Special Guest: author and screenwriter M.R. (Mike) Carey.

Mike Carey…initially worked mainly in the medium of comic books. After writing for several UK and American indie publishers, he got his big break when he was commissioned by DC Comics’ Vertigo division to write Lucifer. Spinning off from Neil Gaiman’s ground-breaking Sandman series, Lucifer told the story of the devil’s exploits after resigning from Hell to run a piano bar in Los Angeles: Mike wrote the book for the whole of its initial seven-year run, during which he was nominated for four Eisner awards and won the Ninth Art and UK National Comics awards. More recently he has written Barbarella, Highest House and The Dollhouse Family, which will be released in September of this year as a hardcover collection.

Mike’s first foray into prose fiction came with the Felix Castor novels, supernatural crime thrillers whose exorcist protagonist consorts with demons, zombies and ghosts in an alternate London. These were followed by two collaborations with his wife Linda and their daughter Louise, The City of Silk and Steel and The House of War and Witness. Subsequently, under the transparent pseudonym of M.R.Carey, he wrote The Girl With All the Gifts and its prequel The Boy On the Bridge. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of The Girl With All the Gifts, for which – at the age of 59! – he received a British Screenwriting award for best newcomer.

The Book of Koli is the start of a new post-apocalyptic trilogy, with the remaining books to be published in September 2020 and April 2021.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 8, 1955 X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition.”  The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there. The cast includes Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1928 John Bennett. His very long involvement in genre fiction started with The Curse of the Werewolf in the early Sixties and ended forty years later with a role on the Minority Report series. Being a Brit, naturally he appeared on Doctor Who in the prime role of Li H’sen Chang as part of a Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He had roles in Blake’s 7, Watership DownTales of The UnexpectedThe Plague DogsDark MythSherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (as Dr. Sigmund Freud!), Merlin of The Crystal Cave and The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better known to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. And let’s not forget his Michael Moorcock comics. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as was White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with  sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death. She published over thirty short stories and essays, including collaborations with Dozois and Jack M. Dann, starting off with “Spring-Fingered Jack”. Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies She was a much-loved figure at cons. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise, 65. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage. It’s available on all the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born May 8, 1967 John Hicklenton. British illustrator also known as John Deadstock. He worked on 2000 AD characters like Judge Dredd (especially the Heavy Metal Dredd series) and Nemesis the Warlock during the Eighties and Nineties. He also dipped into the Warhammer universe with “Cycles of Chaos” (with writer Andy Jones) in Warhammer Monthly No. 9.
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 39. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok, I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few season of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously, the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Midsomer MurdersDiscoveryYoung Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough thank you.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) GAULD CALLED. Shelf Awareness did a Q&A with the popular cartoonist: “Reading with… Tom Gauld”.

On your nightstand now:

I’ve just finished The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks. With the world in such a difficult place right now, it’s been very nice to escape into a completely different universe of spaceships and new planets. I’ve also been reading Angela Carter’s book of fairy tales The Bloody Chamber, which is exquisitely dark and beautifully written.

(15) ROUTE MARCH. Apparently Adri Joy took the road less traveled by. Did that make all the difference? Find out in this game review at Nerds of a Feather — “Diverging Paths and Cinnamon Rolls: Adri plays Fire Emblem: Three Houses”.

My first playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest edition in the long-running tactical JRPG saga, involved what,  it seems to be agreed, is the most boring route of this complicated branching story. I started off following my gut instincts in the game’s initial choices, and quickly realised I was on the most complicated moral pathway. Trying to keep myself as unspoiled as possible while also figuring out how to avoid locking myself into 40 hours of lawful evil misery, when faced with an (admittedly extremely signposted) choice to that effect, I took a deep breath and broke away from the character who asked me. When you do so, the game switches into a narrative that takes you away from the tried-and-tested Fire Emblem strategy of being the silent strategist to a protagonist Lord and into something else…. 

(16) HOW’S YOUR BIRD? Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum has had to cancel Lilac day, but it still has people taking care of nature; Gardener Brendan Keegan reports on “Life in the Landscape: Great Horned Owls”. Lots of photographs, with detailed explanations.

In November 2018, arborist Ben Kirby and I mounted a half dozen artificial nests throughout the Arboretum landscape. Made from old tree planting baskets and landscape fabric and filled with twigs and wood shavings, the nests were created with a goal to increase nest availability for great horned owls. Incapable of building their own nests, this species typically utilizes nests constructed by other large birds or relies on natural cavities in large trees.

After a season of vacancies, we were lucky when a mating pair of owls moved into one of our artificial nests in late January 2020. Due to the location, we were able to observe and collect data on the entire nesting process while remaining on the ground, a rare opportunity. Since the Arboretum is a Chapter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch program, our submitted data will help ornithologists better understand great horned owl breeding behavior and population trends.

The photos below chronicle this season’s nesting process, from egg laying in early February to fledging in late April. Since posting photos of active owl nests on social media typically results in increased human disturbance (which can endanger the female and her young), these photos were purposefully withheld until the young had already fledged. The photos were taken from over 150 feet away, with care to limit the time and frequency of each visit in order to minimize disruption.

(17) EGYPTIAN NEWS. In the Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan and Steve Hendrix say that the Egyptian show “El Nehaya” or “The End” is that nation’s first big-budget sf television show, but it has proven controversial because it foresees that in 2120 (when the drama set) the state of Israel is destroyed and Jews have fled the Middle East.“An Egyptian television drama depicts Israel’s destruction. Israel isn’t happy.”

“This goes back to a narrative from before the peace treaty and everything we’ve done with the Egyptians,” said Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt. “This sees that Israel will be annihilated. It is very disturbing.”

In a highly unusual statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry decried the show as “unfortunate and unacceptable, especially between countries who have had a peace agreement for 41 years.”

It is notable that Synergy, the production company that made the show, has strong ties to the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and its general intelligence agency. “The End” airs on a network that is owned by a pro-government firm. 

(18) ANOTHER BARN DOOR. You know that place on the internet everybody’s moved to, where it’s hard to maintain your privacy?NPR reports “Zoom To Crack Down on Zoombombing, In Deal With NY Attorney General”.

Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users’ data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed incredible growth for Zoom. Daily use of the remote-meeting service ballooned to 300 million from about 10 million in a matter of months. As more people logged on, Zoom’s security and privacy flaws became evident.

Hackers began disrupting online school classes, government meetings, cocktail hours and other events in a trend that became known as Zoombombing.

Federal law enforcement and state investigators across the country started paying attention.

“Our lives have inexorably changed over the past two months, and while Zoom has provided an invaluable service, it unacceptably did so without critical security protections,” James said in a statement released by her office. “This agreement puts protections in place so that Zoom users have control over their privacy and security, and so that workplaces, schools, religious institutions, and consumers don’t have to worry while participating in a video call.”

Zoom has pledged to take more steps to block hackers from gaining access to chat sessions and user accounts. It must now run a “vulnerability management program” to identify and avert breaches into livestreaming conversations on the video platform, New York regulators wrote in the deal.

(19) READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP. “Scientists obtain ‘lucky’ image of Jupiter” – BBC story includes photo.

Astronomers have produced a remarkable new image of Jupiter, tracing the glowing regions of warmth that lurk beneath the gas giant’s cloud tops.

The picture was captured in infared by the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, and is one of the sharpest observations of the planet ever made from the ground.

To achieve the resolution, scientists used a technique called “lucky imaging” which scrubs out the blurring effect of looking through Earth’s turbulent atmosphere.

This method involves acquiring multiple exposures of the target and only keeping those segments of an image where that turbulence is at a minimum.

When all the “lucky shots” are put together in a mosaic, a clarity emerges that’s beyond just the single exposure.

(20) WE’RE PRACTICALLY CIRCLING THE DRAIN! “‘Nearest black hole to Earth discovered'”—BBC tells where.

Astronomers have a new candidate in their search for the nearest black hole to Earth.

It’s about 1,000 light-years away, or roughly 9.5 thousand, million, million km, in the Constellation Telescopium.

That might not sound very close, but on the scale of the Universe, it’s actually right next door.

Scientists discovered the black hole from the way it interacts with two stars – one that orbits the hole, and the other that orbits this inner pair.

Normally, black holes are discovered from the way they interact violently with an accreting disc of gas and dust. As they shred this material, copious X-rays are emitted. It’s this high-energy signal that telescopes detect, not the black hole itself.

So this is an unusual case, in that it’s the motions of the stars, together known as HR 6819, that have given the game away.

“This is what you might call a ‘dark black hole’; it’s truly black in that sense,” said Dietrich Baade, emeritus astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) organisation in Garching, Germany.

“We think this may be the first such case where a black hole has been found this way. And not only that – it’s also the most nearby of all black holes, including the accreting ones,” he told BBC News

(21) FRANK HERBERT RELIC. “Frank Herbert–NBC Interview” on YouTube is an interview done by NBC’s Bryant Gumbel in 1982, probably for the Today Show, where Herbert talks about David Lynch’s Dune movie being released in December 1983, a year before it actually appeared.

(22) LINE UP FOR THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Gizmodo’s Cheryl Eddy is ready to go: “10 Aliens That Can Just Go Ahead and Abduct Us Right Now”. Number four on her list —

4) Heptapods, Arrival

Traveling with Arrival’s time-fluid, squid-like creatures might be a little logistically complicated, but at least Amy Adams’ linguist character has already figured out the nuts and bolts of communicating with them. They are obviously very wise and highly evolved, and they travel around in their sleek ships encouraging the inhabitants of other planets to be better communicators. That is definitely a cause we’d be willing to ditch Earth to support.

(23) SPACE FARCE. SYFY Wire passes along “Real Space Force chief’s one piece of advice for Netflix’s Steve Carell: ‘Get a haircut'”.

Netflix’s out-of-this-world workplace comedy Space Force hasn’t even launched yet, but now the silly show that accidentally mirrored real developments in the government has already gotten something wrong from its real-life source material. Or, at least, that’s what the real head of the U.S. Space Force says. And “head” is the operative word here, because U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Jay Raymond’s primary note for Steve Carell, who plays his doppelganger Mark R. Naird, is that he isn’t bald enough.

Raymond spoke during a Space Foundation webinar, according to Space.com, and addressed the comedic riff on his entire military branch by pointing out that while he is very bald, Carell is boasting a silvery head of hair.

“The one piece of advice I’d give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”…

(24) FOR THE STAY-AT-HOME CROWD. I never knew Tadao Tomomatsu did a Louis Armstrong impression. Here’s his rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/5/20 Have M95 Space Suit, Will Travel Anywhere It’s Helpful

(1) CELEBS READ POTTER. Daniel Radcliffe reads the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone as WizardingWorld.com launches“Harry Potter At Home.” Eddie Redmayne and Stephen Fry are among the other celebrities involved.

Daniel will be the first of many exciting contributors to help us read through the first Harry Potter book, as he introduces the Dursleys, who don’t like anything mysterious. Enter a cat reading a map, owl-filled skies and whispers about the Potters. So, get comfy and enjoy! You can register with the Harry Potter Fan Club to get all the latest updates on further video readings too.

On the webpage there are also links to related activities, and discussion questions for students.

(2) MURDERBOT RETURNS. Martha Wells read from Network Effect at New York Review of SF’s online book launch party hosted by Amy Goldschlager on Facebook.

(3) LAUNCH PREPARATIONS. Netflix dropped a teaser trailer for Space Force.

A four-star general begrudgingly teams up with an eccentric scientist to get the U.S. military’s newest agency — Space Force — ready for lift-off.

Steve Carell, welcome to Space Force. From the crew that brought you The Office, Space Force is coming soon to Netflix.

(4) STEAMPUNK ACCIDENT. [Item by David Doering.] Yesterday morning there was a boiler explosion at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City–venue for this year’s World Fantasy Con. The hotel says no one was seriously injured and repairs will be done well before the con. So not a major deal, just curious because when was the last time you heard of a boiler explosion? KSL reports: “2 injured in boiler explosion at Salt Lake’s Little America hotel”  

…Both of them had to be rushed to the hospital. One had significant burns and respiratory problems because of the steam. Luckily, the building had already been cleared out and guests were moved out before the repairs had even started, so no one else was hurt.

“Due to their low occupancy, they were able to evacuate that whole building because they anticipated the outage from the service,” Stowe said.

Hazmat crews were also sent due to the explosion causing damage to a nearby natural gas line; some of that gas leaked.

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll introduces the Young People Read Old SFF panel to “Satisfaction Guaranteed by Joy Leache”.

This is where I should paint a glowing picture of the author but as the introduction points out, this is one of just three Joy Leache works that saw print. It is the first work by Leache I knowingly encountered. The theme?–?a talented woman propping up a talentless knucklehead?–?seems universal. But what will my Young People make of it? 

 (6) NOT YOUR AVERAGE FURRY. Giles Hattersley, in “The Judi Dench Interview: ‘Retirement? Wash Your Mouth Out’”, in the British edition of Vogue, gets Dame Judi to discuss Cats.  She said that the costume she was made to wear in the film was “like five foxes f**ing on my back” and that she was made to look like “a battered, mangy old cat.”

(7) KGB READING SERIES. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Leanna Renee Hieber and Ilana C. Myer in a YouTube livestream reading on Wednesday, May 20 at 7 p.m. The link is forthcoming – check back at the series’ website. (Listen to their free podcast of previous readings here.)

  • Leanna Renee Hieber

Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright and award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy novels for Tor and Kensington such as the Strangely Beautiful, Magic Most Foul, Eterna Files and Spectral City series. Her work has been included in numerous notable anthologies and translated into many languages. A ghost tour guide for Manhattan’s Boroughs of the Dead, she’s been featured in film and television on shows like Mysteries at the Museum. http://leannareneehieber.com

  • Ilana C. Myer

Ilana C. Myer has worked as a journalist in Jerusalem and a cultural critic for various publications. She has written book reviews and critical essays for The Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of BooksSalon, and the Huffington PostLast Song Before Night was her first novel, followed by Fire Dance and The Poet King.

(8) LEVAR BURTON PROFILE. In the Washington Post, Caitlin Gibson has a profile of LeVar Burton, who has been calming frazzled parents who grew up listening to him read on “Reading Rainbow” by reading stories on Twitter three times a week for children, young readers, and adults,  He’s stopped readings for a while, but he read stories by Cat Rambo and Neil Gaiman while he was reading. “LeVar Burton still loves reading aloud. His storytelling might be what you need right now.”

Burton, 63,has always had a particular love for the simple act of reading aloud, he says, a form of human connection that he views as vital, especially in times like these. Confined as we are, unsettled as we feel — when has the sense of possibility, the transportive power of stories, felt more necessary?

On his first night of what would ultimately become a month of readings, Burton begins with “We Can Get Them for You Wholesale,” a dark work of speculative fiction by English author Neil Gaiman. Burton delivers the story with polish and precision, expressive but never distractingly so, careful to make the voices of characters feel distinctive, not over the top…

(9) SPLIT. Meantime, Gaiman fans are shocked by this item on Vulture: “Amanda Palmer’s Patreon Subscribers Found Out About Her Breakup Before Neil Gaiman Did”.

The fantasy author Neil Gaiman and Dresden Dolls lead singer Amanda Palmer have broken up. Palmer announced the split to the world — and, apparently, to Gaiman himself — in a post on her Patreon: “Since people are getting confused and asking and my phone and inbox is blowing up with ‘where‘s Neil?’ a few times a minute … I can only gather that he’s finally told the internet that he’s left New Zealand, and I thought I would come here with a short note.” The note does not specify the reason for the breakup, but Palmer says she is “heartbroken.” Gaiman now lives in the U.K., and Palmer is quarantining in New Zealand with the couple’s 4-year-old son.

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

May 5 — For some Star Wars fans its “Revenge of the Fifth.” The Southwest U.S. knows it’s Cinco de Mayo. It’s also National Astronaut Day. In honor of that, Newsweek has a list of astronauts who have established records in space: “National Astronaut Day: 10 Record-Breaking NASA Astronauts and Their Achievements”.

Today is the fifth National Astronauts Day—an event held every year on May 5 to mark the day Alan Shepard became the first American in space.

On May 5, 1961, Shepard was launched into space in a Mercury spacecraft called Freedom 7, flying 116 miles high. The entire journey lasted 15-and-a-half minutes and was deemed a success.

Over the last 50 years or so, hundreds more have followed in his footsteps and become astronauts—a word derived from the Greek for “space sailor.” In celebration, Newsweek has compiled a list of 10 record-breaking NASA astronauts and their out-of-this-world achievements.

1. First all-female spacewalk: Jessica Weir and Christina Koch (2019)

After months of anticipation, the first all-female spacewalk took place last year on October 18, when Jessica Weir and Christina Koch stepped outside the International Space Station (ISS) to replace a battery charge/discharge unit. The event had originally been scheduled for March 2019 but problems relating to space suits had put a dampener on the plans. It was a first for Meir, who became the 15th woman to perform a spacewalk….

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 5, 1946 The Shadow’s “The White Witchman of Lawaiki” first aired on Mutual as sponsored by D.L. & W. Coal Company  Blue Coal  and syndicated for the summer by Goodrich Tires. It was written by Joe Bale Smith.  The announcer was Don Hancock with the cast being Bret Morrison as Lamont Cranston and The Shadow, Lesley Woods as Margo Lane and additional cast of Luis Van Rooten, James Monks and Larry Haines.  An atypical episode as it takes place outside of NYC. Told through flashback, Lamont recounts the details of his search for J. MacDonald, an artist friend residing on an island paradise in the South Pacific. Lamont and Margot discover that Oly, a white man known as the White Witchman, has taken command of the natives in a fiendish plan to steal all the pearls they farm from the waters. You can listen to it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 5, 1822 Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC, KCB, KCIE. Harry Flashman appears in a series of 12 of George MacDonald Fraser’s books, collectively known as The Flashman Papers, (Died 1915.) 
  • Born May 5, 1856 William Denslow. Illustrator best remembered for his work in collaboration with Baum, especially his illustrations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He was known for his editorial cartoons, many using Oz in a political bent. Denslow also illustrated and held joint copyright with Baum on By the Candelabra’s GlareFather Goose: His Book and Dot and Tot of Merryland. Finally, it’s worth noting he created the Billy Bounce comic strip which was as one of the earliest comic strips in which the protagonist has some manner of super powers. (Died 1915.)
  • Born May 5, 1890 Christopher Morley. English writer who’d be here solely for Where The Blue Begins with its New York City inhabited solely by canines, but who also wrote The Haunted Bookstore which is at least genre adjacent depending on how you view it, and lovingly  crafted Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship, his look at the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle. (Died 1957.)
  • Born May 5, 1908 Pat Frank. Author of Alas, Babylon whoalso wrote a 160-page non-fiction book, How To Survive the H Bomb And Why (1962). (Insert irony here if you want.) Forbidden Area, another novel, he wrote, was adapted by Rod Serling for the 1957 debut episode of Playhouse 90. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 5, 1942 Lee Killough, 78. Author of two series, the Brill and Maxwell series which I read a very long time ago and remember enjoying, and the Bloodwalk series which doesn’t ring even a faint bell. I see she’s written a number of stand-alone novels as well – who’s read deeply of her? 
  • Born May 5, 1943 Michael Palin, 77. Monty Python of course. I’ll single him out for writing Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and co-writing Time Bandits with Terry Gilliam. And it might be at least genre adjacent, so I’m going to single him out for being in A Fish Called Wanda for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
  • Born May 5, 1944 John Rhys-Davies, 76. He’s known for his portrayal of Gimli and the voice of Treebeard in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, General Leonid Pushkin in The Living Daylights, King Richard I in Robin of Sherwood,  Professor Maximillian Arturo in Sliders, Hades in the animated Justice League Unlimited series, Hades in Justice League and Sallah in the Indiana Jones films. Oh, and voicing Macbeth in the exemplary Gargoyles animated series too.
  • Born May 5, 1957 Richard E. Grant, 63. He first shows up in our world as Giles Redferne in Warlock, begore going on to be Jack Seward in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On a lighter note, he’s Frederick Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and the voice of Lord Barkis Bittern in Corpse Bride. He breaks into the MCU as Xander Rice in Logan, and the Star Wars universe by being Allegiant General Enric Pryde in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
  • Born May 5, 1961 Janet Brennan Croft, 59. She’s  published any number of works on library science, but she is concentrated her research on Tolkien including the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inkling Studies winning War and the works of J.R.R. TolkienTolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the RingsTolkien and Shakespeare: Essays on Shared Themes and Language and Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien. I’d also like to single her work, Baptism of Fire: The Birth of the Modern British Fantastic in World War I.
  • Born May 5, 1979 Catherynne M. Valente,  41. My favorite work by her? Oh, by far that’d be the two volumes of The Orphan’s Tales which I go back to fairly often — stunning writing. If you’ve not read them yet, here’s her telling “The Tea Maid And The Tailor” as excerpted from In the Night Garden which is from Green Man

(13) XTREME COSPLAY. Here’s a gallery you’ll get a kick out of – ScreenRant’s “15 Star Wars Cosplay That Are Nearly Impossible To Do (But Fans Pulled It Off)”.

Have you ever walked by an automatic door and pretended to use the Force to open it? Has an empty wrapping paper tube at Christmas ever suddenly become the weapon of a Tusken Raider? Have you ever pretended to be holding a lightsaber when you were really holding a flashlight? The Star Wars Saga has inspired fans to try to become one of its many characters for generations, and now with the power of cosplay, they’ve only gotten more advanced with their efforts.

Forget holding cinnamon buns to the side of your head and pretending to be Princess Leia – this is painstakingly recreating her mother’s wardrobe from The Phantom Menace down to the last hand-stitched bead. This is getting fellow fans to help you recreate the hulking silhouette of an Imperial Walker, or ingenious ways to transform yourself into General Grievous. All of these Star Wars cosplays should be next to impossible, but the force is with these 10 entries!

(14) FROM THE ISS. [Item by JJ.] John Krasinski (The Office, A Quiet Place, Jack Ryan) decided that everyone needed to be reminded that there is a lot of good in the world, so during lockdown he’s been producing a show from home called Some Good News, which features good news from around the world as a way of lifting spirits and lightening hearts during these difficult times.

In the 6 episodes thus far, he’s arranged to hold Prom and Graduation for the Class of 2020 with special Commencement speakers, as well as opening the baseball season at Fenway Park with frontline medical personnel and providing a personal command performance of Hamilton for a young woman whose birthday theater tickets were cancelled.

And yesterday’s episode begins with a bunch of crowdsourced corrections —  you’d think the Filers are working overtime!

(15) APEX PREDATOR. “Virologist Spends His Days ‘Hunting The Thing That Wants To Hunt Us'”

As the novel coronavirus continues its global rampage, scientists around the world are racing to stop its spread.

Dozens of projects have been launched under great pressure to deliver a vaccine as quickly as possible.

Among the virologists trying to unlock the pathogen’s secrets is Christopher Mores, the director of a new lab devoted to the research of highly infectious diseases. It’s part of George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve always liked the idea of hunting the thing that wants to hunt us,” Mores says.

…Mores’ work over the decades since has brought him up close to a lot of dangerous viruses: Eastern equine encephalitis. West Nile. Dengue. Chikungunya. Zika. Ebola.

Now, his attention is entirely focused on this latest microbe of mystery: the new coronavirus.

“The speed with which this thing wrapped itself around the world has just been remarkable to behold,” Mores says. “That was shocking for me, to see how fast it went.”

Mores’ lab opened up for research on March 24, when COVID-19 cases were spreading quickly throughout the U.S. The urgency of the epidemic made it clear that he and his team should scrap the chikungunya research they had originally planned. Now they devote all of their time to figuring out this new virus.

“There’s a tempo and a challenge there,” Mores says, “with stakes that you can sense, at least, if not see. It’s compelling and it’s cool to be in that fight.”

(16) ENCOMPASSING. BBC listens in as “Scientists explain magnetic pole’s wanderings”.

European scientists think they can now describe with confidence what’s driving the drift of the North Magnetic Pole.

It’s shifted in recent years away from Canada towards Siberia.

And this rapid movement has required more frequent updates to navigation systems, including those that operate the mapping functions in smartphones.

A team, led from Leeds University, says the behaviour is explained by the competition of two magnetic “blobs” on the edge of the Earth’s outer core.

Changes in the flow of molten material in the planet’s interior have altered the strength of the above regions of negative magnetic flux.

“This change in the pattern of flow has weakened the patch under Canada and ever so slightly increased the strength of the patch under Siberia,” explained Dr Phil Livermore.

“This is why the North Pole has left its historic position over the Canadian Arctic and crossed over the International Date Line. Northern Russia is winning the ‘tug of war’, if you like” he told BBC News.

(17) DEADLY HAT. The British version of Antiques Roadshow had an episode where people brought in James Bond related stuff, and someone brought in Oddjob’s hat from Goldfinger.  The hat was missing the metal band but was authentic and worth 25,000 pounds. Here’s the clip.

(18) HORROR, THE NEXT GENERATION. Ramsey Campbell, in “How Having Kids Can Change Your Life—And Your Horror Fiction” on CrimeReads, looks at how the novels of Stephen King, Robert Bloch, and Sir Kingsley Amis changed after they had children.

The Whisper Man is the first novel to be credited to Alex North, a name that hides the identity of a highly talented British crime writer. It’s as rich and complex (which is to say, very) as any of his previous novels, and founds its intricate narrative on a series of relationships between fathers and sons, one of which is not immediately revealed. Hiding at its centre is a killer of children who abducts the protagonist’s son. It’s an agonisingly suspenseful book, but also moving and ultimately redemptive. If you’re yearning for positive emotions to reward after you’ve been harrowed, The Whisper Man is a fine place to find them.

(19) AI DIAGNOSTIC TOOL. “The groundbreaking way to search lungs for signs of Covid-19”.

When Covid-19 was at its height in China, doctors in the city of Wuhan were able to use artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to scan the lungs of thousands of patients.

The algorithm in question, developed by Axial AI, analyses CT imagery in seconds. It declares, for example, whether a patient has a high risk of viral pneumonia from coronavirus or not.

A consortium of firms developed the AI in response to the coronavirus outbreak. They say it can show whether a patient’s lungs have improved or worsened over time, when more CT scans are done for comparison.

A hospital in Malaysia is now trialling the system and Axial AI has also offered to donate it to the NHS.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Future Shock Documentary (1972)” on YouTube is a documentary based on Alvin Toffler’s 1970 Future Shock, narrated by Orson Welles.  It’s a documentary where people are concerned about the pace of change but no one thinks it’s unusual that Orson Welles can walk through an airport smoking a cigar!

[Thanks to David Doering, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Command the US Space Force (Or the Russian Space Agency!)

The Kickstarter for this set of “United States Space Force Action Figures” has already funded and is galloping through its early stretch goals.

Now you can help win the Space Race with the United States Space Force action figures. Build your own Space Force Red or Space Force Blue team OR combine forces to defeat Putin and make space great again!

The goal set by Chris Gawrych, CEO of Amazo Toys, was $40K and they’ve raised over $45K.

Each 4” United States Space Force action figure has over 14 points of articulation, including multiple accessories and 3 interchangeable heads.

The humor is not subtle — Russia’s Space Agency is headed by Vladimir Putin, a figure whose head is interchangeable with Gregori Rasputin.

The actual Space Force is a new branch of the military established in December 2019,

If they reach their $95K stretch goal, a whole flock of other Presidents’ heads will be added to the line. (If they get to $135K they’ll add the four Presidents on Mount Rushmore!)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 1/19/20 All That Is Scrolled Does Not Pixel, Not All Those Who File Are Fifth

(1) A MIGHTY LONG LIST. List Challenges presents “1000 Books You May Have Actually Read” — “Based on the number of ratings each book has on Goodreads. And if you haven’t read them, maybe you can use for a literature bucket list.”

I scored 169. The list has certain biases. If I’d read every book by Nicholas Sparks and Stephen King, I think I could have doubled my number. On the other hand, I got credit for a whole bunch of books I read aloud to my daughter when she was little.

(2) SINCE 9/11. At LA Review of Books, Yxta Maya Murray mines the applications of 2002 Creative Capital awardees to look at how these artists imagined a post-9/11 future: “Art Matters Now — 12 Writers on 20 Years of Art: Yxta Maya Murray on Artists’ Responses to 9/11”.

2002 was a historical hinge. Just a moment earlier, the United States had seemed to be enjoying a period of peace; now it was at war. The art of that year offers a time capsule that reflects the millennium’s complex transitions. Reeling from 9/11 but working on projects begun during the Clintonian boom, before the Towers fell, some artists in 2002 were still able to romanticize millenarianism and the future: rather than imagining the specifics of the violence that would descend with the war presidency of George W. Bush, artists such as Sawad Brooks and Sabrina Raaf, for example, revealed a fascination with a speculative tomorrowland that resembled the visions of sci-fi writers such as Isaac Asimov, Iain Banks, and William Gibson. But others, such as Tana Hargest, Sujata Bhatt, Suzanne Lacy, and Nick Cave, forecasted a more difficult future.

(3) DISNEY’S ARMY OF LAWYERS. IndieWire reports “Disney Is Cracking Down on Sellers of Unlicensed Baby Yoda Dolls”.

Ever since “The Mandalorian” premiered on Disney+ in November, the adorable “Baby Yoda” character has melted hearts and minds around the world. However, despite fervent requests for Baby Yoda dolls, Disney has been rather slow to respond to product demands, reportedly in order to keep Baby Yoda’s reveal in “The Mandalorian” pilot a secret per Jon Favreau’s request.

But the cat was out of the bag after the show’s premiere, and “The Child” quickly became a social media sensation. It shouldn’t then be a surprise that impatient fans have already taken matters into their own hands, with Etsy crafters and sellers creating their own unofficial Baby Yoda toys to capitalize on the demand. And for a while, the bootleg Baby Yoda market seemed to flourish.

Of course, it didn’t take long before Disney discovered this, and began issuing takedown notices, reminding Etsy that it owns the intellectual property rights to all Star Wars characters. And Etsy businesses with popular Baby Yoda products suddenly found their listings deactivated, at the request of Disney, according to The Verge.

(4) LEGO NEWS. In the Washington Post, Abha Bhattarai says that Lego is trying to market itself to Generation X people as a stress reliever, thinking that Gen X types “are more likely to drop $800 on a 7,541-piece Star Wars Millennium Falcon set or $400 for a Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle.” — “Lego sets its sights on a growing market: Stressed-out adults”.

Bhattarai says that Lego is trying to appeal to Gen X nostalgia by offering items such as the Central Perk cafe from “Friends” or a “vintage 1989 Batmobile.”  Also next month LEGO Masters will premiere as a competition show on FOX.

Another connection to sf:  Bhattarai says Lego posted a loss in 1998 but was saved when they got the license to produce Star Wars products

(5) BRICKS IN SPACE. And io9 spotted a massive Lego Star Wars fan project:  “This Custom Lego Version of Echo Base Is Ready for the Empire’s Siege”.

The sheer ambition of Lego creators never ceases to amaze me. Far from being satisfied with what Lego’s sets provide, these sculptors create incredible things. Like this version of Echo Base from The Empire Strikes Back, which is ready for battle.

Hopefully, this version will have a better fight than the one in the film, however. Clocking in at over 16,000 pieces, this Echo Base, created by YouTuber The Lego Room, is a custom build featuring the base’s hangar, medical chamber, and pretty much every other part you see in the films. It even has a fully motorized gate to keep the snow and the Empire out. Capping it off is an elaborate build of the Millenium Falcon, taking up a lot of hangar space.

(6) SAD STORY OF HARASSMENT. LA Times columnist Julia Wick writes: “A female mayor denounces the harassment she receives. Hours later, a man is arrested at her office”.

 If you are a woman who is so bold as to inhabit a vaguely public stage, chances are high that you will be called a lot of things that can’t be printed in a family newspaper. And then some.

It’s a truism that unfortunately appears to transcend industry or geography. Exist in public, and eventually an online mob will nitpick your looks, rate your sexual desirability in relation to your ability to do your job, and probably make threats vague and specific — regardless of whether you’re a female journalist, the founder of an indie game studio or trying to run a small city in the Central Coast region of California.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon was fed up when she finally took to Facebook last Monday morning to call out the constant harassment she received.

(7) FIRST TIMER. Twitter user Yubi had never actually seen The Princess Bride and knew very little about it. Until now, when they did a watch through, and livetweeted their reactions. It’s really entertaining seeing them find out where so many common fan phrases and gifts came from. Thread starts here.

(8) MORE ABOUT STEVE STILES. The Baltimore Sun paid tribute to one of their own: “Steve Stiles, Hugo Award-winning comic fan artist of ‘Xenozoic Tales,’ dies at 76”.

…He did a two-year Army stint in the mid-1960s. A commanding officer told him: “If you can draw my girlfriend, you won’t get orders to go to Vietnam.”

“That’s exactly what happened,” said Elaine Stiles, his wife of 38 years. He was stationed instead at bases in Missouri and Virginia Beach.

Mr. Stiles was tasked with using his artistic talents to liven up the Army manuals for rifles and other equipment — following in the footsteps of one of his idols, the legendary comic artist Will Eisner, who had done similar jobs in the service during World War II.

More than 20 years later, while they were serving together on a science-fiction panel at a 1988 convention in Florida, Mr. Eisner complimented Mr. Stiles on his art.

“He was talking about it for the rest of his life,” Mrs. Stiles said.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 19, 1967 Star Trek’s “Arena” episode first aired on NBC. It was written by Gene L. Coon  but after the episode aired , it was found to almost identical to one Fredric Brown had published in 1944 in Astounding Science Fiction. Coon then bought the rights to his story and Brown has been retroactively given a story writing credit. Not one but two actors play Gorn (Gary Combs and Bobby Clark), both uncredited, and Ted Cassidy is the Voice of Gorn Captain, also uncredited. This episode, aired in the first season is where the Federation is first mentioned.
  • January 19, 1990 — The first Tremors film premiered. It was directed by Ron Underwood and produced by Gale Anne Hurd, Brent Maddock, and S. S. Wilson, as written by Maddock, Wilson, and Underwood. It starred Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, and Reba McEntire. It was the only film of six in total to get a box office release. It did poorly at the box office even though critics thought it well of it and thought it has a Fifties throwback vibe to it. It has an 75% rating at Rotten Tomatoes with an astonishing almost two hundred and forty thousand votes! 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 19, 1930 Tippi Hedren, 90. Melanie Daniels In Hitchcock’s The Birds which scared the shit out of me when I saw it a long time ago. She had a minor role as Helen in The Birds II: Land’s End, a televised sequel done thirty years on. No idea how bad or good it was. Other genre appearances were in such films and shows as Satan’s Harvest, Tales from the Darkside, The Bionic Woman, the new version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born January 19, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 19, 1942 Michael Crawford, 78. He was the first Phantom of the Opera in Andrew Lloyd Opera’s play.  He did thirteen hundred performances in total. He did two other genre plays, Dance of the Vampires and The Wizard of Oz. He did an episode of One Step Beyond as well, though I’m not sure that was genre.
  • Born January 19, 1948 Michael J. Jackson, 72. Shows up on Dr. Who in the Fifth Doctor adventure, “The King’s Demons” as Sir Geoffrey. He played Sean Burns in a recurring role on Highlander, and played Richard I in The Legend of Robin Hood series. He was in The Morons from Outer Space as the Second Scientist.
  • Born January 19, 1954 Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship.
  • Born January 19, 1957 Roger Ashton-Griffiths, 63. He’s no doubt best known for his role as Mace Tyrell on Game of Thrones. And yes he was on Doctor Who in a Twelfth Doctor adventure, “The Robots of Sherwood” as Quayle. He’s also had roles in Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic,Tales from the Crypt, Torchwood, Brazil and Young Sherlock Holmes
  • Born January 19, 1962 Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files
  • Born January 19, 1981 Bitsie Tulloch, 39. She’s best known for her role as Juliette Silverton on Grimm. (I saw the first three seasons I think. It’s rather good.) She played Lois Lane in the Elseworlds event which she reprised during the Crisis on Infinite Earths even a year later.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home shows a certain kind of gourmand in action.
  • The Duplex took a photo of my dating life from back in the day.
  • Free Range has a new idea for a nature park.

(12) PIXEL PACKIN’ POWER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 15 Financial Times, Tom Faber reviews a concert at the O2 Brixton Academy in London by Hatsune Miku, a hologram who has a repertory of 100,000 songs.

Here, on her second European tour, she was performing to a mixed crowd:  ‘otaku’; Japanese subculture obsessives dressed in elaborate aqua wigs and microscopic skirts; other excited teens; and a smattering of baffled dads.  There was a real four-piece band on stage to support the synthesized vocals, but the players were left mostly in the dark as they tore through the signature J-pop genre crush of pop, metal, techno and trance.  The dreams and emotions were turned up to 11 from the first chorus, and for two hours they did not come back down  She sang big hits such as the buoyant, melodramatic ‘World is Mine’ and the English-language ‘Miku’ (sample lyric:  ‘Blue hair, blue tie, hiding in your WiFi’).  The misses outnumbered them, though, with an excess of polite guitar shredding and a particularly bloodless salsa number.

…While the 10-year-old hologram technology used in the show was not particularly impressive, Miku’s star continues to rise; she has just been added to the line-up at Coachella 2020.  Her name translates from Japanese as ‘first sound of the future,’ and while she doesn’t convince as a harbinger of the future of pop, she does suggest the future of fandom. After her last song, Miku exploded into a thousand cyan pixels.  The house lights came up and the crowd roared.  Next to me a man, sweaty and euphoric, screamed, ‘Thank you, Miku!’ into the empty air.

Hatsune Miku’s website is https://piapro.net/intl/en.html .

(13) RADIX OFFERS COPIES FOR AWARDS CONSIDERATION. Radix Media is offering review copies (printed or PDF) to anybody interested in considering their 2019 releases in the Futures: A Science Fiction Series for awards: “2020 Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards Eligibility”.

(14) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. MovieWeb talked to somebody who attended the screening: “First Dune Remake Footage Earns Big Praise, Gets Compared to Lord of the Rings”.

The first Dune footage has screened. The preview footage was shown to a small group of industry insiders and has already been hailed as “epic.” Principal photography wrapped not that long ago and Denis Villeneuve is currently in the post-production phase to prepare the long-awaited movie for release at the end of the year. As for the footage that was shown, it was mixed in with cast interviews and behind-the-scenes shots. It does not seem like it was intended for public release, so don’t expect to see it any time soon.

Sci-fi novelist Brian Clement was one of the lucky viewers of the first Dune footage and he has shared his thoughts online for fans. First of all, the footage did not have completed special effects, though Clement describes the cinematography as “beautiful,” while stating, “I’m not exaggerating when I say a lot of people will have goosebumps/tears when they see this movie (I might!). Heck, when they see the footage I saw they will.” The author had to choose his words wisely as not to catch any trouble with Warner Bros.

…A small amount of footage of Stellan Skarsgard as Baron Harkonnen was seen also seen in the Dune footage, along with a tiny bit of Jason Momoa. Brian Clement went on to tease that the choice of actor for playing Kynes will be a surprise for audiences, while Dave Bautista apparently looks “creepy” in the footage.

(15) OUT FOXED. “Disney culls ‘Fox’ from 20th Century Fox in rebrand”.

Disney executives have cut the word “Fox” from their 20th Century Fox film studio in an apparent bid to distance it from operations of the previous owner, Rupert Murdoch.

US media suggests Disney does not want to be associated with the media mogul’s highly partisan, right-wing Fox News network.

However, Disney has not clarified its reasons.

It bought the studio, with other media operations, in a $71bn deal last March.

20th Century Fox is known for producing some of the biggest films of all-time, including Avatar and Titanic.

(16) AVENUE 5. This is going to be longer than a “three-hour tour” — “Review: HBO’s ‘Avenue 5,’ a Tale of a Fateful Trip (in Space)” in the New York Times.

How far is Armando Iannucci’s new HBO comedy, “Avenue 5,” from his previous one, “Veep”? About a billion miles, give or take, or the distance from earth to Saturn, where the spaceship of the title is thrown off course, greatly increasing the time its load of unlucky tourists will have to spend on their interplanetary cruise.

Set 40 years in the future aboard a vessel that looks like a cross between the Starship Enterprise and a high-end mall, Iannucci’s new show would seem to be a radical departure from the acrid, of-the-moment political satire of “Veep” and his earlier British series “The Thick of It.” (Several of those shows’ writers, including Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche and Will Smith, have joined him on “Avenue 5.”)

But there are recognizably Iannuccian things about this space-com, which debuts Sunday. Like the politicians and operatives guiding the ship of state in “Veep,” the crew members of the Avenue 5 are an often amoral, small-minded and quarrelsome bunch whose constant sniping provides the bulk of the humor. Leading them is a captain, played by the “Veep” alumnus Hugh Laurie, who, like Vice President Selina Meyer, is not ideally qualified for his post.

(17) SAFETY FIRST. “SpaceX completes emergency crew escape manoeuvre” — includes video.

SpaceX has conducted a test of the abort manoeuvre it would use if one of its crew-carrying rockets ever developed a problem during flight.

The rehearsal at Kennedy Space Center saw a Falcon-9 vehicle’s ascent into the sky deliberately terminated just 80 seconds after lift-off.

The Dragon astronaut capsule on top fired its escape engines to carry itself clear of the “faulty” booster.

Parachutes brought the vessel to a safe splashdown some 30km off Florida.

No humans were involved in the practice abort; the only occupants of the Dragon ship were a couple of Anthropomorphic Test Devices, or “dummies”.

This was considered to be the last major milestone for California’s SpaceX company before the US space agency (Nasa) certifies the firm to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.

(18) NOT FOREVER MAN. Hey, don’t laugh, these’ll be very useful the first time there’s a mission to take over an integral tree: “US Space Force mocked for unveiling camouflage uniforms”.

The US Space Force has defended its newly unveiled camouflage uniforms after they were roundly mocked on social media.

The force, officially launched by US President Donald Trump last month, posted a picture of the uniform to its Twitter account.

The uniform in the picture has a woodland camouflage design with badges embroidered on the arm and chest.

Reacting to the uniform, many critics had the same question: “Camo in space?”

[Thanks to Rose Embolism, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, N., Michal Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Andrew and Meredith.]

Pixel Scroll 1/15/20 This Pixel Has Been Approved For Scrolling Before All Audiences

(1) BIG CHOICES. “The Big Idea: Kameron Hurley” at Whatever.

…When I began writing my Worldbreaker Saga back in 2012, which begins with the novel The Mirror Empire, I too was obsessed with this idea of two choices: the light and the dark. I was writing fantasy, after all! While my protagonists might be morally messy early on, I always knew I was headed for a showdown where they had two choices: good or evil. Genocidal or self-sacrificing.

But it was a false choice.

And it literally took me years to realize this.

At some level I must have understood I was setting up a false choice as I finished the second volume, Empire Ascendant, and began the grueling process of tying everything up in the third and final book, The Broken Heavens. Emotionally, I was rebelling against my own embrace of these false choices, because no matter how many times I tried to get myself to write the ending I had in mind at the beginning of the series, it just never felt… right.

(2) BASE RUMORS. CoNZealand has extended the deadline for entering the Hugo base design competition until January 31.

If you were thinking of entering the competition to design bases for the 2020 Hugo Awards and 1945 Retro Hugos, you’re in luck. The deadline for entries has been extended until 31st January 2020 (from the original deadline of 17th January).

Read more about the design contest.

Read more about the Hugo Awards.

(3) SCREAM QUIETLY. Paramount dropped a trailer for A Quiet Place II.

Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe) must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path.

(4) THEY HAVE ISSUES. Daily Grail spotlights fantasy history in “Hidden Jewels in ‘The Garden of Orchids’: The Esoteric Content of an Early Fantasy Magazine”.

For a long time Weird Tales (probably best known for short stories by H.P. Lovecraft, Robert. E. Howard, and later Ray Bradbury) was seen as the first fantastical magazine, publishing science fiction, weird fiction and horror. That history has been revised over the past few years. Der Orchideengarten (in English, The Garden of Orchids) was a Munich-based magazine first published in 1919, predating the better known American magazine by several years, and is now acknowledged as the first fantasy magazine (archived digitally here).

Only published until 1921 Der Orchideengarten is somewhat overshadowed by its better known, and more mainstream, Munich-based contemporaries, Jugend and Simplissicimus, yet the breadth of stories and unsettling art is worth looking at.

(5) WOLFMAN. One of the many cameos in CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths “Part 5” was the real Marv Wolfman, who co-wrote the original Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series which was published by DC Comics in 1985-1986. CBR.com has the dialog, from when Marv, playing a fan, stops Supergirl and The Flash to ask for their autographs.

“Wait, you know both of us?” Kara asks. “And it’s normal to see us together?” Barry adds.

“Well, normally, you’d also have Green Arrow and a Legend or two,” Wolfman explains. “Last year, even Batwoman joined in.” He points to the folder. “Would you make that out to Marv? Thank you!”

“You’re welcome,” Barry says as he scribbles. “Marv, as far as you know, how long have Supergirl and I and all the rest of us been working together on this Earth?”

“Uh, since forever!” Wolfman answers.

(6) LAST TRUMP. The LA Times’ Mark Swed reviews an opera: “King Arthur meets Trump and Superman in Long Beach “.

…Meanwhile, Long Beach Opera, as ever priding itself with radically rethinking repertory, has done a full refashioning of the first great “King Arthur” opera (there aren’t many, but Chausson’s “Le Roi Arthus” is a neglected beauty). Arthur here becomes the comic book delusional fantasy of a pudgy, narcissistic, emigrant-phobic politico requiring psychiatric treatment.

…Arthur King is a patient at Camelot O’Neil, a behavioral residence mental health unit. His sexy nurse is Gwen E. Veer. His buddy is another patient, Lance E. Lott. Doc Oswald runs the dubious joint.

Mitisek then takes apart the opera, adapting Purcell’s music to fit new circumstances and a completely new theatrical structure. His cutup rearranges, revises, reorders and reduces Purcell’s score. The occasional Dryden line is retained, but much of the sung text is new. Five acts become a single uninterrupted one under two hours.

Our schlumpy, Trumpian Arthur thinks he can save the world from aliens. He can be ridiculously pompous, Drydenesque even. He can also be sympathetically vulnerable.

(7) MAISEL MASHUP. Marvel’s Mrs. Maisel: Rachel Brosnahan Enters the Marvel Universe on The Late Late Show with James Corden.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 15, 2010 — Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold‘s The Lovely Bones novel premiered.  It starred starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli, and Saoirse Ronan. The screenplay was by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson. Although Ronan and Tucci were praised for their performances, it received mixed reviews from critics. It has a 32% rating at Rotten Tomatoes by reviewers.
  • January 15, 2008 File 770 blog makes its first post. Happy birthday to us!

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 15, 1879 Ernest  Thesiger. He’s here because of his performance as Doctor Septimus Pretorius in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein. He had a major role in Hitchcock’s not completed and now lost Number 13 (or Mrs. Peabody) which is even genre adjacent. He was also in The Ghoul which was an early Boris Karloff film. And he continued to show up in SFF films such as The Ghosts of Berkeley Square where he was Dr. Cruickshank of Psychical Research Society. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 15, 1913 Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed with it — it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. He’s the Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M, Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 15, 1926 Maria Schell. German actress who had roles in Superman and The Martian Chronicles. I’m reasonably sure that the Village of The Damned was her only other SFF film appearance.  (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 15, 1927 Phyllis Coates, 93. Lois Lane on The Adventures of Superman series for the first season. She’s also in Superman and the Mole Men which preceded the series. And she was in Fifties horror film Teenage Frankenstein. Wiki claims she had an appearance on Lois & Clark but IMDB does not show one. 
  • Born January 15, 1928 Joanne Linville, 92. Best remembered I’d say for being the unnamed Romulnan Commander Spock gets involved with on “The Enterprise Incident”. (Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz, calls her Liviana Charvanek.)  She also starred in the Twilight Zone‘s “The Passersby” episode, and she starred in “I Kiss Your Shadow” which was the final episode of the Bus Stop series. The episode was based on the short story by Robert Bloch who wrote the script for it. This story is in The Early Fears Collection
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 85.  I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man a very long time ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years. So what should I have read by him that I haven’t? 
  • Born January 15, 1944 Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if sometimes excessive dollop of humor. His best-known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series which I’ve read some of years ago. Who here has read has Starship Troupers series? It sounds potentially interesting. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 15, 1945 Ron Bounds, 75. One of the founders of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in the Sixties. He co-chaired Discon 2, was a member of both the Baltimore in ’67 and Washington in ’77 bid committees.  He chaired Loscon 2.  He published the Quinine, a one-shot APA. He was President of the Great Wall of China SF, Marching & Chop Suey Society which is both a cool name and a great undertaking as well.

(10) BINTI FOR TV. Author Nnedi Okorafor will co-write the script alongside Stacy Osei-Kuffour (Watchmen) for Media Res.Shelf Awareness reports –

Hulu has given a script order for an adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s Hugo and Nebula award-winning Binti trilogy. The Hollywood Reporter noted that Stacy Osei-Kuffour (WatchmenPEN15, The Morning Show) will co-write the script with Okorafor. The studio is Media Res, the banner launched by former HBO drama head Michael Ellenberg, who will executive produce alongside Osei-Kuffour and Okorafor.

(11) GENERAL WITHOUT TROOPS. NPR finds it’s lonely a the top:“Commander Sworn In As First Member Of New Space Force”.

The first newly created branch of the U.S. armed forces in more than seven decades now has its first official member.

Air Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond was sworn in Tuesday as chief of Space Operations. It’s the top post in what since late last month is the Pentagon’s seventh military branch, the United States Space Force.

…But at the moment, there are no Space Force troops to command. Most of the 16,000 officers, airmen and civilians who Pentagon officials expect to comprise the new service branch in the next few months would likely be Air Force personnel drawn from the U.S. Space Command, which is to be the Space Force’s operational component.

(12) LIVE LONG AND PROSPER. “Secrets of ‘1,000-year-old trees’ unlocked” – BBC shares the key.

Scientists have discovered the secret of how the ginkgo tree can live for more than 1,000 years.

A study found the tree makes protective chemicals that fend off diseases and drought.

And, unlike many other plants, its genes are not programmed to trigger inexorable decline when its youth is over.

The ginkgo can be found in parks and gardens across the world, but is on the brink of extinction in the wild.

“The secret is maintaining a really healthy defence system and being a species that does not have a pre-determined senescence (ageing) programme,” said Richard Dixon of the University of North Texas, Denton.

“As ginkgo trees age, they show no evidence of weakening their ability to defend themselves from stresses.”

(13) RIGHT TO THE POINT. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers about “Five Sword-Wielding Women in SFF”.

Steel by Carrie Vaughn

In Carrie Vaughn’s Steel, fourth-rate fencer Jill Archer tumbles off her boat during a family vacation near Nassau. She hits the water in the 21st century; she is pulled out during the Golden Age of Piracy. Luckily for the teen, Captain Marjory Cooper offers Jill the choice between signing on as a pirate or remaining a prisoner. (Less savoury fates are not on offer.) She chooses piracy, a life that involves a lot more deck swabbing than Basil Rathbone movies would suggest. Jill’s astounding temporal displacement makes her of considerable interest to scallywag pirate Edmund Blane. Jill will need better than fourth-place sword skills to survive Blane and find her way home.

(14) TWO RESNICK TRIBUTES. One of them was a young writer longer ago than the other, but they both admire how Mike Resnick treated them then.

George R.R. Martin: “RIP Mike”.

I don’t recall when I first met Mike, but it was a long, long time ago, back in the 1970s when both of us were still living in Chicago.  I was a young writer and he was a somewhat older, somewhat more established writer.  There were a lot of young writers in the Chicago area in those days, along with three more seasoned pros, Gene Wolfe, Algis Budrys, and Mike.   What impressed me at the time… and still impresses me, all these years later… was how willing all three of them were to offer their advice, encouragements, and help to aspiring neo-pros like me.   Each of them in his own way epitomized what this genre and this community were all about back then.  Paying forward, in Heinlein’s phrase.

And no one paid it forward more than Mike Resnick.

Michelle Sagara West: “Mike Resnick and me, or Laura Resnick is my sister”.

…Michelle is shy.

People who had met me in real life found this hilar­ious. I think one of them was certain I was play-acting. I wasn’t, of course. I was terri­fied. I could stand outside a door that lead to a publisher party and hyper­ven­ti­late.

Resnick?—?I called him Resnick, not Mike; I don’t remember why?—?under­stood that fear. He talked about being nine­teen and terri­fied at his first conven­tion. And I knew that if I went to a conven­tion that Mike Resnick was at, I’d know at least one person. I’d have one friend.

(15) TO DYE FOR. “Oreo Is Releasing Pink Easter Egg Cookies This Year And They’re Honestly Adorable” – that’s Delish’s opinion, anyway.

From the looks of it, these are actually Golden Oreos that have been dyed pink and made to look like decorated Easter eggs. As @ThreeSnackateers pointed out, these aren’t any fancy flavor, they’re just festive and fun.

And maybe you can wash them down with one of these — “Jelly Belly Is Releasing Seltzer And It Comes In 8 Sweet Flavors”.

Just because the name suggests this will be a super sugary drink (based off the beloved jelly beans, of course) doesn’t mean that’s true. These seltzers are going to have zero calories and zero sweeteners and will only use two ingredients.

The cans will begin to stock shelves next week, and the drink comes in eight of the iconic Jelly Belly jelly bean flavors. You can take your pick between French vanilla, lemon lime, orange sherbet, piña colada, pink grapefruit, tangerine, very cherry, or watermelon. Each flavor is made only with carbonated water and natural flavors, so you can have a taste of the candy jar with zero of the cals.

(16) HOPING TO LAUNCH. When you’re rich enough, you can get AV Club to treat your singles ad as news: “Rich man taking applications for moon wife”.

Yusaku Maezawa is a Japanese billionaire and the founder of online fashion retailer Zozotown—according to Forbes, as of today, he’s worth $2 billion…

Let me be perfectly clear: the Bachelor references are there for fun, and technically, Maezawa is looking for a female “life partner,” not a moon wife, but other than that, nothing else in this story is a joke. These are facts: Yusaku Maezawa, a billionaire, is taking applications from women (aged 20 and up) who want to be his life partner. One of the things that life partner will do with Maezawa is go to the moon, and that’s not just a minor perk or something, it is his major selling point.

(17) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned in when a Jeopardy! contestant missed another chance:

Answer: This Netflix show is a chilling reworking of Shirley Jackson;s gothic horror tale.

Wrong question: “What is ‘The Lottery.'”

Correct question: What is ‘The Haunting of Hill House’?”

And somebody else took a header over this —

Answer: One of England’s most beloved tunes is the one by Hubert Parry names for this faraway Mideast city.

Bizarrely wrong question: “What is Van Diemon’s Land?”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In the sci-fi short film ‘Regulation'” on YouTube, Ryan Patch describes a dystopian future where children are forced to wear “happy patches” to fight depression.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/5/20 The Third Attempt Was With Canned Pumpkin

(1) FOUND IN SPACE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Lifehacker’s Brendan Hesse has figure out “How to Explore the Solar System in Google Maps via Hyperspace”. I’ve briefly tried this, and it works. I wonder if [we] can add tags etc. for sf story/video locations, etc…

Note, the article says, “You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome,” but I’m seeing something that seems to be that effect on my (Win 10 desktop) Firefox browser.

You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome, but it’s easy to find and use:

  1. Go to Google Maps.
  2. Click the “Satellite view” button at the lower-left of the screen.
  3. Click the super-tiny “Global view” button at the top of the navigation controls in your browser’s lower-right corner.
  4. Using either the “-” key, your mouse wheel, or the Google Maps zoom controls, zoom out until you’re in the planetary view of Earth.
  5. Select one of the various planets and moons from the list on the left, and you’ll blast through hyperspace to your new destination. Eligible destinations include Mars (to visit Dr. Manhattan), Europa (to recreate the journey of that 2013 sci-fi film), and the International Space Station (to say hello to everyone currently zooming around our planet).

(2) CROSSING THE STREAMS. “Netflix’s Dracula Easter Egg Sets It In The Same Universe As Doctor Who”ScreenRant noticed the hatchling immediately.

A throwaway line spoken early into the first episode of the newly released Dracula places the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss-produced vampire series within the expansive Doctor Who universe.

…As an oblivious Jonathan rides a rickety carriage towards Dracula’s castle, he pours over a letter from his beloved fiancée, Mina. In it, she writes of life back in England. Whovians were quick to notice that among the details mentioned by Mina was one familiar to watchers of the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who. Doctor Who as run by Steven Moffat has a history of being self-referential itself.

Mina writes to Jonathan of “the adorable barmaid at the Rose and Crown.” The 2012 Doctor Who Christmas special (re)-introduces audiences to Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman). Although the character eventually goes on to become the sharp companion to both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors, in the 1892-set episode, she is a barmaid-cum-governess once earning her income at the Rose & Crown Inn.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The December 2019 entry in Slate’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Actually Naneen,” by Malka Older, a new short story about robot nannies from the author of Infomocracy.

There’s also a response essay by Ed Finn on the role technology should play in childhood.

…The question of automating child care is political, economic, and ideological all at the same time. Despite decades of educational research, we still put most children through systems designed a century ago to train factory workers and farmhands. Mountains of psychological studies have done little to prevent me from making parenting mistakes—some of them, inevitably, recapitulating my childhood, while others are totally new mistakes I’m adopting into our family like so many holiday traditions. Parenting is the most intensely personal, long-haul project many humans ever take on. What other task averages so many hours over so many years, with such little external oversight or reliable feedback? There is no one correct way to parent because every parental situation is different, and navigating those differences requires all the intelligence, compassion, patience, and humanity we can throw at it.

But it also requires resources, and the idea of outsourcing parenting has always tempted those who could afford it….

(4) HE CAN TALK TO REPORTERS, TOO. In Parade, “Robert Downey Jr. Opens Up About Life After Iron Man, Kung Fu Fighting and Managing a Menagerie in Dolittle.

When Robert Downey Jr. was preparing for his new role in Dolittle, a movie in which he plays a doctor who lives with a house full of animals—and talks with them—he began to wonder, “How does anyone relate to this guy?” And then he looked out the window of his home in Malibu, Calif., and saw his alpaca Fuzzy looking back at him.

In addition to his wife of 14 years, Susan, and their two kids, son Exton, 7, and daughter Avri, 5, Downey lives with dozens of animals they’ve taken in over the past 10 years. There are pigs (kunekunes, a New Zealand breed), Oreo cows (with that distinctive white belt), pygmy goats, a larger rescue goat named Cutie Boots, a bunch of chickens and two cats, Montgomery and D’Artagnan. “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah,’” he says with a laugh. “‘You’re completely surrounded by animals!’”

(5) BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL. Aaron Bady is thumbs down on the series:“Dr. Manhattan is a Cop: “Watchmen” and Frantz Fanon” at the LA Review of Books.

… I’ve been thinking about why it’s disappointing. In the ’80s, it could seem plausible to “solve” the looming threat of nuclear war by creating the worldwide fear of an alien invader, “a force so dreadful it must be repelled, all enmities aside,” as Veidt declares. But this elegant twist — by which the savior of mankind is also a supervillain who kills millions of people, and gets away with it — was an elegant genre subversion because the antihero really was novel and subversive in the mid-’80s. By making the original Superman a Hitler-sympathizing vigilante literally clothed in KKK iconography, Moore and Gibbons were demonstrating the genre’s disavowed logic, and what Moore says so explicitly in that 2017 interview is pretty easy to find in the comic itself. There’s literally a comic within the comic, in which a shipwrecked sailor tries to save his family and town from pirates and ends up killing his family and town and then joining the pirates, all to hammer the point home: to save humanity from a nuclear holocaust, Veidt kills three million people; because he calculates the inevitability of The Event, he intervenes to bring it about; to be the hero, he becomes the villain. Since 1985, this once-novel idea has been absurdly generative and influential to the point of cliché: from the Watchmen-esque “The Killing Joke” through the Nolan Batman movie through the MCU up to Thanos, the superantihero has been at the heart of the modern post-9/11 revival of the superhero movie. What if the villain is the hero? What if the hero is the villain? “You know how you can tell the difference between a superhero and supervillain?” the comic asked, and then answers, “Me neither!”

(6) NOT EVERYONE CAN DO THIS. A New York Times interviewer found out “How Ursula K. Le Guin Fooled the Poet Robert Hass”.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I tend to binge, so I have to try to avoid genre fiction, but I’m attracted to mysteries, detective novels partly because they come in a series — so I would find myself working through the 10 novels Simenon wrote in 1931 to see what that explosion was about. I had a Patrick O’Brian addiction at one point. When I read Ursula Le Guin, who grew up in Berkeley, I thought that I had discovered that I loved science fiction, and read a lot of it and discovered that I just loved Ursula Le Guin, unless Calvino and Borges count as science fiction.

(7) LESS THREAD, MORE FILLING. N.K. Jemisin will still be on Twitter, just not as much.

(8) MORE PLEASE. In The Hollywood Reporter, “‘Star Wars’ Star Dominic Monaghan Hopes for ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Director’s Cut”.

…Since the release of The Rise of Skywalker, viewers have been divided over their feelings about the film. This came to a head Thursday as an anonymous, unverified Reddit post suggested that the film was subject to a significant amount of studio meddling, prompting the hashtag #ReleaseTheJJCut to trend across social media. While Monaghan didn’t speak to these latest conspiracy theories, he does wish for the release of a director’s cut given the sheer volume of unused footage that Abrams shot.

“Like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m hoping there will be a director’s cut so we’ll get to see more and more of the stuff that was filmed,” Monaghan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version…. Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”

(9) SHATNER’S CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. ComicBook.com tells how one Captain celebrated the holiday: “Star Trek’s William Shatner Surprised the LAPD on Christmas Day”.

Star Trek‘s William Shatner is famous for playing Captain James T. Kirk. In 2019, he took on the role of local Santa Claus for the Los Angeles Police Department. Sources within the organization tell TMZ that Shatner visited his local precinct’s police station. He didn’t show up empty-handed, reportedly coming with corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, bagels, lox, and cream cheese to help feed the officers on duty on Christmas Day. Shatner reportedly thanked the on-duty officers and left a holiday card behind as well as a few hundred dollars to help feed the officers throughout the remainder of the day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film Drácula, although Wolfman certainly helped make him famous as wellNow tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Yes, he was just forty five when he apparently committed suicide. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one long running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen-part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorist who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a SFF connection that’s will take some explaining. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that time about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones but barely nine to this day. Among the SFF folk that have had a role in the band are Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 61. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out his voice work as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of My best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle.
  • Born January 5, 1975 Bradley Cooper, 45. He’d be here just for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the MCU. In fact, he is here just for that role.
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 42. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I just finished listening to The Girl in the Green Silk Gown which was quite excellent and earlier I’d read her Chaos Choreography, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. I did read at a few of the first October Daye novelsbut they didn’t tickle my fancy. Not sure why though. 

(11) PICARD RECRUITS. ComicBook.com is keeping an eye open for new Picard promos — “Star Trek: Picard Teaser Spotlights Romulan Agent Narek”.

The latest features the new character Narek, played by Harry Treadaway. Narek is a Romulan agent who joins up with Jean-Luc Picard and his crew to investigate the Romulans’ new interest in Borg drones. You can watch the teaser above. And speaking of Borg drones, last week’s teaser featured Seven of Nine, again played by Star Trek: Voyager‘s Jeri Ryan.

(12) ON TARGET. The GoFundMe to help Virgil Finlay’s daughter met it $5,000 goal. She sent her thanks in an update.

I want to thank everyone who so kindly contributed to help me save my father’s artwork, letters, and poetry. We will continue to work on restoring them piece by piece.
My daughter and I both thank you for your kindness!
Sincerely,
Lail and Brien

(13) RETRO RESEARCH. SF Magazines’ Paul Fraser put together a page on his blog listing nearly all of the Retro-Hugo eligible stories from 1944, with hyperlinks to copies on archive.org, as well as one or two other bits and pieces.

The table below* contains the 1944 fiction eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards, and links to copies of the stories on archive.org. Please use the contact form below to inform me of any omissions.

(* The table includes the contents of Amazing Stories, Astounding Science-Fiction, Captain Future, Fantastic Adventures, Planet Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales magazine, plus miscellaneous others—e.g. Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius, Robert Graves’ The Golden Fleece. There was no original fiction in Famous Fantastic Mysteries during 1944.)

(14) GETTING THEIR GOAT. “California Cities Turn To Hired Hooves To Help Prevent Massive Wildfires”. In fact, there’s a place in the foothills a few miles from me where they brought in goats – I don’t know whether they still do.

California has gone through several difficult fire seasons in recent years. Now, some cities are investing in unconventional fire prevention methods, including goats.

Anaheim, a city southeast of Los Angeles, has recently re-upped its contract with the company Environmental Land Management to keep goats grazing on city hillsides nearly year-round.

The goats are stationed in places like Deer Canyon Park, a nature preserve with more than a hundred acres of steep hills. Beginning in July, roughly 400 goats worked through the park, eating invasive grasses and dried brush.

The company’s operations manager Johnny Gonzales says that Deer Canyon, with its peaks and valleys, is just the right kind of place to use goats for fire prevention.

“This is the topography that poses challenges during these wildfire events,” Gonzales says. “And we can go ahead and reduce the fuel loads and take out the invasive plants, and establish the native plants on these banks; you’re re-establishing the ecology.”

…What makes the goats important isn’t just their ability to climb steep hillsides. According to Hogue and Gonzales, the animals eat invasive plants and grasses while only minimally grazing on native plants.

(15) SPACE FORCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Vulcans choose this time to finally drop in on us here on Earth, the US Space Force has a new unit designation ready made for at least one of them. Air Force News press release: “14th Air Force redesignated as Space Operations Command”.

By order of Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett, effective Dec. 20, Fourteenth Air Force was officially redesignated as Space Operations Command.

[…] The SPOC directly supports the U.S. Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.

[…] The SPOC provides space capabilities such as space domain awareness, space electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile warning, nuclear detonation detection, environmental monitoring, military intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, navigation warfare, command and control, and positioning, navigation and timing, on behalf of the USSF for USSPACECOM and other combatant commands.

[…] Additional details about SPOC will be available in early 2020 – highlighting Space Operations Command’s critical roles and responsibilities in support of national security objectives.

(16) THESE ARE THE JOKES. If you pooh-poohed this idea – well, the writers beat you to it. “‘Avenue 5’ review: Iannucci’s sci-fi sitcom is the funniest thing on HBO” promises Inverse.

…The best part of an Iannucci show is typically the insults. (I can’t remember the plot of Veep, but when I close my eyes I can still see and hear Julia Louis Dreyfus cursing out Jonah Ryan or calling him an “unstable piece of human scaffolding.”). Avenue 5 cares more about its plot than its barbs. There are twists, turns, big reveals, and cliffhanger endings that will have you impatiently waiting for next Sunday’s episode. It’s still funny, but don’t expect the mile-per-minute foul-mouthed humor that made Veep so great.

The setting of HBO’s new sci-fi comedy is as impressive as the comedy: A massive gleaming vessel — or, as one character describes it, a “giant dildo floating through space.” The interior sets are all curved, shiny white surfaces and huge windows revealing the infinite outer space all around them; this backfires after some unfortunate space debris ends up orbiting the ship, which is somehow large enough to create its own gravity field.

(17) UNINTENTIONAL WAR GAMES. “Pika-Who? How Pokémon Go Confused the Canadian Military” – the New York Times has the story.

Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality game, had soared to the top of the download charts. Within weeks, millions of people were chasing the digital animated creatures all over the world — and going places they should not go.

More than three years later, Canadian military officials have shared internal documents with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News Network that show how the military, both curious and confused, reacted to the wildly popular app.

Maj. Jeff Monaghan, an official based in Kingston, Ontario, wrote in an email: “Plse advise the Commissionaires that apparently Fort Frontenac is both a Pokégym and a Pokéstop. I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.”

At least three military police officers, stationed at different bases, were assigned to wander around with smartphones and notepads in hand to search for Pokémon, Pokéstops and Pokégyms, according to the documents. (Users can find Pokéballs at Pokéstops, use their Pokéballs to capture Pokémon, and train and join teams at Pokégyms.)

“We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this,” David Levenick, a security expert at a military base in Borden, Ontario, wrote in an email.

Weeks after the app became available, Canadian officials noticed an increase in suspicious activity.

One woman was found on a military base as three children with her climbed on tanks. She was playing Pokémon Go.

(18) THE BEGINNING. In the Washington Post, John Kelly discusses an exhibit at the University of Maryland about Jim Henson’s college years, including sketches and drawings Henson made at college and how Henson created a silk-screening business in school to make money and help perfect his art. “Jim Henson was born gifted. At U-Md., he became even more talented.”

…Though the single-room exhibit is composed of just a few cases, a few walls and a few TV screens, it gives a good sense of the breadth of Henson’s interests and his love of experimentation. In his short animated film “Drums West,” colored shapes dance across a black background in time with a percussive soundtrack. Yellow and orange rectangles make starburst patterns as the (unseen) drummer, Chico Hamilton, plays the high-hat; blue dots pop as he thumps the bass drum. It’s an abstract visual representation of the music.

How was it done? At the end, the camera pulls back to reveal Henson seated at a workbench. In front of him is a black surface about the size of an LP cover. It’s surrounded by bits of colored paper that Henson has been painstakingly arranging with tweezers, then filming a frame at a time.

As for those souvenir Wilkins and Wontkins Muppets, they’re there too, inside a glass case. In 1958 you could have had a pair by sending in $1 and the last inch of winding band from a can of Wilkins Coffee or a Wilkins Instant Coffee label. “Made of soft but durable vinyl,” a newspaper ad explained, “you only need to move your fingers inside to create 1,001 funny faces.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/22/19 And So Pixels Made Of Sand Scroll Into The Sea, Eventually.

(1) FOCUS ON THE FANS. Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak brings word that “Star Wars Documentary Looking for Leia Is Now Streaming”.

At the launch of the Kickstarter project, Ophelian told me that she wanted to focus on how Star Wars impacted female fans, especially because the franchise always seems to be dominated by male fans. She first saw Star Wars in theaters in 1977, and was amazed at the level of female representation when she attended Star Wars Celebration in 2015.

That experience helped to inspire the documentary, and she’s been hard at work since interviewing fans across the country….

You can access the 7-episode playlist on YouTube.

(2) CREAM OF THE SMALL SCREEN. Variety has picked “TV’s Top 25 Episodes of the Decade”, and depending on what you count as genre, about a quarter (or more) of the episodes mentioned in the article linked below are sff-related.

9. “Blackwater,” “Game of Thrones” (HBO, May 27, 2012)
Written by George R.R. Martin; dir. Neil Marshall

In telling about a dozen sweeping stories at any given time, “Game of Thrones” made it difficult for itself to deliver stellar episodes in and of themselves. The ones that do stand out are ones that winnow down the action to a few manageable plots, makes the most of giant setpieces, and gives its characters enough delicious dialogue to chew on alongside the scenery. In that respect, it’s hard to beat “Blackwater,” an action-packed episode that includes Tyrion (Peter Dinklage striving to protect King’s Landing from Stannis Baratheon’s (Stephen Dillane) oncoming onslaught while Cersei (Lena Headey) educates a terrified Sansa (Sophie Turner) on how they, as women, might have to bear the consequences of losing a war. (It’s also very possible that we’re blinded by the power of Headey’s monologuing, which always made Cersei a scathing pleasure to behold throughout the show’s uneven run.)

(3) DUELS. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna, David Betancourt, and Shelly Tan count down “The five best lightsaber battles in Star Wars history”.

“This weapon is your life.” Those wise words about the lightsaber from Obi-Wan Kenobi to a young Anakin Skywalker resonate throughout the Star Wars films, positively glowing with mortal meaning.

And ever since Force-sensitive warriors began wielding their plasma blades in 1977, the lightsaber duel has been a central Star Wars spectacle. From Luke Skywalker to Yoda, from Darth Vader to grandson Kylo Ren, these battles are more than physical showdowns — they are windows into who has greater power or purpose, whether the result is apparent victory or higher self-sacrifice.

(4) THUMB UP. In “Empire of the Alexandrines” on Przekroj, Adam Weglowski has an alternate history where the Alexandrian Library wasn’t destroyed in 48 BC but survived and became a center of knowledge for the Romans and their successors.

Julius Caesar’s Egyptian excursion almost ended in catastrophe. Battles broke out in Alexandria, and from the burning ships, the flames moved to the structure of the great, famous library. Already a good 200 years old, it contained the entirety of ancient knowledge and culture. It’s frightening just to think what dark ages would have fallen on the Earth if we had lost this invaluable collection of books.

We owe the rescue of this treasure to Julius Caesar himself. It was he, seeing that the building with tens of thousands of books was threatened, who ordered the Roman soldiers to halt their attack, and threw himself into the battle against the flames. While putting out the fire he was severely burned, losing his left thumb. It was then that he said the famous words: “When books are burning, it’s time to lay down the sword.” Ever since that moment, the divine Julius has been sculpted and painted without his left thumb. And the Roman salute – the left hand raised, with the thumb hidden – gained popularity as a sign of people who are educated and hungry for wisdom.

(5) LINDSEY OBIT. Bestselling romance novelist Johanna Lindsey has died at the age of 67 reports the New York Times.

…Ms. Lindsey set her passionate tales in many locales, including England as early as the year 873; the Barbary Coast and the Caribbean; Norway when the Vikings ruled; 19th-century Texas, Wyoming and Montana; and the planet Kystran in a series of sci-fi bodice-rippers.

Her deep space/ Ly-san-ter Family Saga included Warrior’s Woman (1990), Keeper Of The Heart (1993), and Heart Of A Warrior (2001), and she wrote a time travel novel whose modern protagonist would up in the Middle Ages, Until Forever (1995).

(6) AUGER OBIT. Actress Claudine Auger died December 18 in Paris. The New York Times’ resume of her career says that in addition to playing James Bond’s love interest in Thunderball, she had these genre credits —

Ms. Auger also worked in both the science fiction and horror thriller genres. “Un Papillon sur l’Épaule” (1988), or “Butterfly on the Shoulder,” one of several projects she did with the director Jacques Deray, was about a parallel world. “Reazione a Catena” (1971), or “A Bay of Blood,” was about a murder spree. And “La Tarantola dal Ventre Nero” (1975), or “Black Belly of the Tarantula,” with Marcello Mastroianni, focused on a serial killer.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 22, 1933 — A audiences were treated to a family picture known as Son Of Kong. Yes, it’s the sequel to King Kong. It was directed by Ernest Schoedsack and had special effects by Buzz Gibson and Willis O’Brien with the cast being Robert Armstrong, Victor Wong, Helen Mack and Frank Reicher. Intended to be more family friendly than its predecessor, it got harsh reviews and currently has a 28% rating among those who’ve reviewed it at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • December 22, 1958 — The BBC aired the first installment of the Quatermass and the Pit television series.  The first  episode of the six in total was called the “The Halfmen”. Each episode was thirty one to thirty six minutes in length. It was created by Nigel Kneale, and stared André Morell. Cec Linder. Anthony Bushell, John Stratton and Christine Finn. Special effects were handled by the BBC Visual Effects Department. For the box set release, Quatermass and the Pit was extensively restored. 
  • December 22, 1967 Star Trek’s “Wolf in The Fold” first aired on CBS. Written by Robert Bloch,  it was not one of the three Trek episodes up for the Best Dramatic Presentation at NyCon 3 which was won by “The Menagerie” episode. Critics in general, now and then, found it both misogynistic and, here’s a phrase you don’t hear very often, “containing offensive orientalist sets”. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge]

  • Born December 22, 1917 Frankie Darro. What I’m most interested to know is that he was inside Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet. Other roles — showing up on Batman as a Newsman in two episodes, and The Addams Family as a Delivery Boy in one episode, I don’t think he had any other  genre roles at all. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 22, 1943 Michael Summerton. One of the original Dalek operators, his work would show up in three First Doctor stories, “The Survivor”, “The Escape” and “ The Ambush”. He’s interviewed for “The Creation of The Daleks” documentary which is included in the 2006 The Beginning DVD box set. According to his Telegraph obit, he was he was the last survivor of the original four operators of the Daleks. So you don’t need to get past their paywall, here’s the Who part here: “After a lean period, he was excited to be offered a part in a new BBC science fiction series. His agent told him he would not need to learn any lines for the casting, and when he arrived at the BBC workshops he was asked to strip down to his underpants and sit in what appeared to be a tub on castors.  Summerton (who was one of the four original Daleks) was instructed in how to move this apparatus about, the director saying: “We want to test this prototype for manoeuvrability. We want you to move forwards, backwards, sideways. Quickly, slowly.” Presently the director lowered a lid over him with a plunger sticking out of it. Summerton found himself in total darkness. He would later relate: “When the lid went on I knew my career as an actor was over.” (Died 2009.)
  • Born December 22, 1951 Charles de Lint, 68. I’ve personally known him for twenty-five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer so let me offer you instead our Charles de Lint special edition. My favorite novels by him? That would be Forests of The Heart, Someplace To Be Flying, Seven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart here.
  • Born December 22, 1962 Ralph Fiennes, 57. Perhaps best-known in genre as Lord Voldemort of the Harry Potter film franchise, he’s also been M in the Bond films starting with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it! 
  • Born December 22, 1968 Dina Meyer, 51. She’s the female in Johnny Mnemonic. Of course, she’s in Starship Troopers, a film that, oh well, where she’s best known for a scene we discuss here. She actually gets to act in Dragonheart, bless the producer!  And there might have been something good come out up of her role as Barbara Gordon/Oracle/Batgirl on Birds of Prey but we’ll never know.
  • Born December 22, 1978 George Mann, 41. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favorite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro gets a very droll joke from this literary mashup.
  • Free Range comes up with something a superhero can’t lift.
  • Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider has a new writing-oriented cartoon.

(10) OH, CANADA! Entertainment Weekly: “Screaming fight at The Rise of Skywalker screening breaks out over cell phone”.

A screaming fight broke out at a Vancouver screening of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, with part of the raucous confrontation captured on video. One man was even allegedly punched in the face.

No, it wasn’t a debate over Rey’s parentage or the practicalities of lightspeed skipping. But a moviegoer who was using their cell phone during the highly anticipated film.

The video below captured the aftermath of the fight […]

As Master Yoda says: “Control, control, you must learn control! Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering — and suffering leads to the whole movie being stopped.”

(11) THE FORCE. “Trump Created The Space Force. Here’s What It Will Actually Do”NPR thought you’d like to know.

When President Trump signed a $738 billion defense spending bill on Friday, he officially created the Space Force. It’s the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Services, and the first new military service since the Air Force was created in 1947.

…”This is not a farce. This is nationally critical,” Gen. John Raymond, who will lead the Space Force, told reporters on Friday. “We are elevating space commensurate with its importance to our national security and the security of our allies and partners.”

…The new service branch essentially repackages and elevates existing military missions in space from the Air Force, Army and Navy, said Todd Harrison, who directs the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

“It’s about, you know, all the different types of missions our military already does in space — just making sure that we’re doing them more effectively, more efficiently,” said Harrison.

“It will create a centralized, unified chain of command that is responsible for space, because ultimately when responsibility is fragmented, no one’s responsible,” he added.

(12) ALL’S NOISY ON THE WESTERN FRONT. The Beaverton follows up one of the week’s surprising American government news stories — “Vibranium stocks tumble as U.S. raises tariffs on Wakanda”.

…Despite the loss of value on the NASDAQ, vibranium has continued robust trading in international markets. Though the rare element is highly prized for its weapon applications, its near indestructibility has made vibranium the go-to material for a wide variety of objects, ranging from single-use Keurig cups to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s exoskeleton.

(13) WITH ELF EDDIE MURPHY. “North Pole News Alert” in last night’s Saturday Night Live explains how global warming has affected the North Pole and Santa and his elves.

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