Pixel Scroll 2/9/19 Long Thoughtful Commentses Wrapped Up In Sings, These Are A Few Of My Scrolliest Things

(1) SCIENCE IS A MOVING TARGET. James S.A. Corey thought they had the science right but a NASA spacecraft proved them gloriously wrong. National Geographic got the creators of The Expanse to write Dawn a fan letter — “Dear Dawn: How a NASA robot messed up our science fiction”.

Dear Dawn:

Did we do something to piss you off? Because to tell you the truth, your attacks on our books seemed kind of personal.

In 2011, we came out with a science-fiction novel called Leviathan Wakes that featured a big plotline on the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. In particular, we imagined a hard, nickel-iron Ceres with a population of millions thirsty for water harvested from the rings of Saturn. We did pretty well with the story; it got a Hugo nomination, and the publisher bought some follow-ups.

Four years later, we were launching a television show based on the book, starring the embattled crew of an ice hauler trying to keep Ceres Station hydrated. That was 2015—the same time you became the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet. And as we gathered in the writer’s room and on set, what did you tell us? Ceres has water. Lots of it. Not only that, you found large deposits of sodium carbonate on Ceres’s surface, which doesn’t sound that impressive until you realize it’s evidence of ice volcanoes. Seriously. Ice volcanoes….

(2) WHAT NEEDS TO BE IN THE DEAL. SF author Ramez Naam (Nexus series) is  a “futurologist” as well, and he just wrote an excellent extended tweet about the Green New Deal and how it might be better. Thread begins here.

(3) ENTERPRISE. “Jeff Bezos, long known for guarding his privacy, faces his most public and personal crisis” is an article by Craig Timberg, Peter Whoriskey, Christian Davenport, and Elizabeth Dwoskin in the Washington Post about how Jeff Bezos broke his long-standing efforts to remain as private as possible in his battle against the National Enquirer. Not the most titillating part of the story, but there is a sci-fi reference in it —

in the early 2000s, Bezos started quietly acquiring hundreds of thousands of acres in West Texas, where Blue Origin now launches its New Shepard rocket.  He purchased the land under corporate entities named for explorers.  Thee was Joliet Holdings and Cabot Enterprises, the James Cook and William Clark Limited Partnerships and Coronado Ventures.

All were linked to a firm with a Seattle post office called Zefram LLC, namedafter Zefram Cochrane, a character in the Star Trek franchise.

(4) WISHING HIM A RAPID RECOVERY. Apex Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore wrote about the burdensome and painful health problems he’s been coping with in his February editorial.

…One of the diagnostics for stroke the doctor ran on me at the emergency room was a CT scan. He said, “Good news, I’m confident you are not having a stroke. But … some bad news, your scan shows a sizable lesion on the front of your mandible.“

(5) CROSS-GENRES. Vicki Who Reads picks out eight niche favorites in “Fantasci Book Recs: Books In Between Science Fiction and Fantasy!”

I love fantasy and I love science-fiction (though, sci-fi a little more than fantasy). And I think it’s really interesting when authors sort of combine the two–mixing sci-fi and fantasy (and ends up just being labeled under fantasy, typically).

But this leads to the creation of the fun, intermediate genre (at least, that’s what it is in my mind), fantasci. The intersection of science-fiction and fantasy where it’s not magic, but it’s not science either….

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

This book is so darn underappreciated, and it deserves ALL the love! I was sucked into the story and had such a hard time stopping, and then the ending completely wrecked me.

Like . . . is it legal to inflict these types of emotions upon me? Idk, but this book had me CRYING late at night as I read a bout [redacted]. And it’s a sort of space fantasy that’s based on Indian mythology and has me swooning.

Gosh. My heart still hurts and I need the sequel ASAP. If this book isn’t on your TBR, you’re doing something wrong because it is AMAZING and the ending is so horrible (for my heart) but so worth it.

You can read my review here!

(6) ACADEMY FOR WAYWARD WRITERS. Cat Rambo livetweeted highlights from Rachel Swirsky’s “Detail and Image” online writing class today. The thread is here.

(7) WORLDCON REUNION. Kees van Toorn, Chairman ConFiction1990, today announced plans for Reunicon 2020:  

It all started with a phone call from a fan in New York way back in 1984. Then it took three years of bidding to win the race in Brighton in 1987. Another three long years to make ConFiction1990 a fact in The Hague, the first true World Science Fiction Convention on the continent of Europe. We are still creating a website and social media avenues to preserve the past for the future and… to promote our intended Reunicon 2020 to commemorate 30 years after ConFiction 1990. We look forward hearing from you or seeing you in 2020 in The Hague.

(8) PLEASE BE SEATED. ThinkGeek s offering a Star Trek TOS 1:6 Scale Captain’s Chair FX Replica for $59.99.

THE CENTERPIECE OF EVERY STARSHIP

Is that the ship intercom, or the self-destruct button? You better read up on your engineering schematics before sitting in a captain’s chair, or your tenure will be shorter than Spock’s patience for illogical behavior.  
 
Quantum Mechanix has created an extremely detailed FX replica of the most important part of the original USS Enterprise: the captain’s chair. This 1/6 scale replica doesn’t just look good – it also lights up and makes sounds. Powered by either three AA batteries or a mini-USB plug (not included), this captain’s chair replica has four different light and sound settings including: standard bridge operations, ship-wide announcement, viewscreen scanning, and of course, red alert.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 9, 1863 Anthony Hope. He is remembered predominantly for only two books: The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau. Well so says Wiki but I never heard of the latter novel. Any of you heard of It? The Prisoner of Zenda was filmed in 1936 with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the lead role. (Died 1933.)
  • Born February 9, 1877George Allan England. His short story, “The Thing from—’Outside'”, which had originally appeared in Gernsback’s Science and Invention, was reprinted in the first issue of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories, in April 1926. Unfortunately, his later Darkness and Dawn trilogy is marked by overt racism as later critics note. (Died 1936.)
  • Born February 9, 1928Frank Frazetta. Artist whose illustrations showed up damn near everywhere from LP covers to book covers and posters. Among the covers he were Tarzan and the Lost EmpireConan the Adventurer (L. Sprague de Camp stories in that setting) and Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. He did over-muscled barbarians very well! Oh and he also helped Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder on three stories of the bawdy parody strip Little Annie Fanny in Playboy. Just saying. In the early 1980s, Frazetta worked with Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice. He provided the poster for it as he did for Mad Monster Party and The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, two other genre films. He was inducted into both Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 9, 1953 Ciaran Hinds, 66. I can’t picture him but he’s listed as being King Lot in Excalibur, that being being his credited his genre role. He next shows up in Mary Reilly, a riff off the Hyde theme, as Sir Danvers Care. I’ve next got him in Jason and the Argonauts as King Aeson followed by being in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life as Jonathan Reiss. (Yes I like those films.) before being replaced in the next film, he played Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Two final roles worth noting. he played The Devil in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Steppenwolf In Justice League.
  • Born February 9, 1956Timothy Truman, 63. Writer and artist best known in my opinion for his work on Grimjack (with John Ostrander), Scout, and the reinvention of Jonah Hex with Joe R. Lansdale. His work with Ostrander is simply stellar and is collected in Grimjack Omnibus, Volume 1 and 2.  For the Hex work, I’d say Jonah Hex: Shadows West which collects their work together. He did do a lot of other work and I’m sure you’ll point out what I’ve overlooked… 
  • Born February 9, 1981 Tom Hiddleston, 38. Loki in the Marvel film universe. And a more charming bastard of a god has never been conceptualised by screenwriters. Outside of the MCU, I see he shows up in Kong: Skull Island as Captain James Conrad and The Pirate Fairy as the voice of James Hook as well in a vampire film called Only Lovers Left Alive as Adam. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • In the world of Brewster Rockit, some newspaper columns are very easy to write.

(11) IN RE VERSE. A star of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (labeled on Wikipedia as a “actor, singer, dancer, and rapper”) told The Hollywood Reporter he hopes to write a song for the sequel (“‘Spider-Verse’ Star Shameik Moore Hopes to Record a Song for the Movie’s Sequel”). The interview also ranges into Moore’s other genre interests. It turns out he’s a fan of the Harry Potter movies.

The Hollywood Reporter: The Spider-Verse soundtrack had a few hits, including Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower.” Have you pitched yourself to do a track for the Spider-Verse sequel?

Shameik Moore: They were asking me to make a song for Spider-Man before any of the songs on the soundtrack were even being considered. The only reason I am not on the soundtrack is because I couldn’t quite come up with a song myself to write from Miles’ point of view. So next time, hopefully. The music that I’ve been making is for me. It’s not really for Spider-Man. It’s for who I am. My music is a bit edgier.

(12) THE GREAT SKY ROAD. Andrew Porter sent screenshots of some flights of fancy seen on the February 4 episode of Antiques Roadshow.

(13) LOCUS LIST CONSIDERED. Adri Joy and Joe Sherry have actually read a lot of these books so their discussion of what did and did not make the list is quite substantial: “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: Locus Recommended Reading List” at Nerds of a Feather.

…What did you expect, or want, to see here that isn’t?

Joe: The first thing I specifically looked for was Matt Wallace’s final Sin du Jour novella Taste of Wrath. I’m not entirely surprised it didn’t make the list simply because I’m not sure it’s received a fraction of the attention and love that the series deserved. I passionately and sometimes aggressively love those stories and it has been a perpetual disappointment to me that they haven’t been nominated for everything they are eligible for and even for some things they aren’t. I’m holding out for a Best Series Hugo nod, but maybe I shouldn’t hold my breath.

The second thing i looked for, and this was mostly out of curiosity, was whether anything from Serial Box made the cut. Nothing did. Because I’m that sort of wonk, I did a super quick check of previous years and the first season Tremontaine made the list. I’m not surprised by that either, because Tremontaine is an expansion of the Swordspoint world and I would expect to see Locus recognize Ellen Kushner. I do wonder if next year we’ll see recognition for The Vela or Ninth Step Station. Both seem like something that might get some extra attention, eyeballs, and acclaim.

(14) LOOK FOR THE BEAR NECESSITIES. BBC reports “Russia islands emergency over polar bear ‘invasion'”. They must be running out of Coca-Cola.

A remote Russian region has declared a state of emergency over the appearance of dozens of polar bears in its human settlements, local officials say.

Authorities in the Novaya Zemlya islands, home to a few thousand people, said there were cases of bears attacking people and entering residential and public buildings.

Polar bears are affected by climate change and are increasingly forced on to land to look for food.

Russia classes them as endangered.

Hunting the bears is banned, and the federal environment agency has refused to issue licences to shoot them.

(15) SLIP-AH-DEE-DOO-DAH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] 2017? No way. 2018? Um, negatory. January 2019? Nope. February? Nope, nope, nope. March? Well, maybe. SpaceX has announced another slip (albeit a modest one) in the schedule for the first (un-crewed) launch of the to-be-crewed version of the Dragon capsule (ExtremeTech: “SpaceX Pushes Crewed Dragon Test Back to March 2”). Boeing is aiming for April for Starliner—their competing capsule—to have its first launch.

NASA kicked off the Commercial Crew Development Program in 2010 to support the development of new crewed spacecraft. Here we are, almost a decade into the program and on the verge of a manned launch. It’s taken a long time to get here, and it may be a little longer still. SpaceX has announced yet another delay in its Dragon 2 test flight, which was supposed to take place this month. 

The precise date has slipped numerous times, and this is after ample delays in earlier phases of the program. We’re in the home stretch now, so each change in the schedule is that much more frustrating. SpaceX initially wanted to conduct the first test launch of its crewed Dragon capsule in 2017. Then the timeline slipped to 2018, and then it was late 2018. More recently, SpaceX promised a January 2019 launch… and then it decided February was more likely. You can probably blame the government shutdown for that one. Now, we’re looking at March 2, according to SpaceX. 

(16) ROLE PLAYING. Last summer Simon Pegg talked about characters he’s played – including one that was a bit autobiographical.

Simon Pegg breaks down his favorite and most iconic characters, including Tim from “Spaced,” Shaun from “Shaun of the Dead,” Nicholas Angel from “Hot Fuzz,” Gary King from “The World’s End,” Scotty in “Star Trek,” Unkar Plutt in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and Benji Dunn in the “Mission: Impossible” movies.

(17) CAN A BOT BE AN INK-STAINED WRETCH? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This story has a personal edge for me as I encounter robot-written stories quite often when using MaxPreps to catch up on various high school sporting events. (Though, those particular stories are obvoiusly written by an Artificial Stupidity.) Forbes, which has dipped a toe in AI journalism itself, takes a look at the growing phenomenon (“Did A Robot Write This? How AI Is Impacting Journalism”).

How do you know I am really a human writing this article and not a robot?  Several major publications are picking up machine learning tools for content. So, what does artificial intelligence mean for the future of journalists?

According to Matt Carlson, author of “The Robotic Reporter”, the algorithm converts data into narrative news text in real-time.

Many of these being financially focused news stories since the data is calculated and released frequently. Which is why should be no surprise that Bloomberg news is one of the first adaptors of this automated content. Their program, Cyborg, churned out thousands of articles last year that took financial reports and turned them into news stories like a business reporter.

Forbes also uses an AI took called Bertie to assist in providing reporters with first drafts and templates for news stories.

(18) UNHEARD OF. Part of the experiment has failed says Gizmodo: “Small Satellites That Accompanied InSight Lander to Mars Go Silent”.

A pair of small satellites that joined the InSight mission on its way to Mars haven’t been heard from in over a month—but the experimental mission is still an important success for NASA.

Mars Cube One, or MarCO, consisted of two 30-pound satellites named WALL-E and EVE. The relatively inexpensive satellites were the first time that CubeSats had entered the space between planets. The mission could foretell a future of spacecraft bringing more CubeSats with them in the future. 

[…] NASA lost contact with WALL-E on December 29 and with EVE on January 4. It’s possible that the probes’ antennae aren’t pointed at Earth properly, or that their solar panels aren’t pointed at the Sun and their batteries died, according to the press release.

(19) I CAN HELP. A little bit of sibling rivalry in Washington state:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CNN—(Warning: Contains mild spoilers) 

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

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

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

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

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

And she’s only 30 years old.

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

The con also overcame horrible weather and other challenges:

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

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

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

Here are links to playlists for the first two seasons:

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/15/19 Mars Ain’t The Kind Of Place To Scroll Your Pixels

(1) SPIDER-MAN. The Spider-Man: Far From Home Teaser Trailer is out. Movie hits theaters July 5.

(2) ELGIN’S CONLANG. Rebecca Romney tells LitHub readers about Suzette Haden Elgin — “This Science Fiction Novelist Created a Feminist Language from Scratch”.

Láadan, the conlang in Native Tongue, is distinctive for its feminist philosophy: according to Elgin, it focuses on words that efficiently describe “concepts important to women” and “emotional information.” Importantly, Láadan isn’t meant exclusively for women: rather, it is a language constructed with feminist principles in its marrow. For example, the Láadan word “radíidin” is immediately recognizable as a form of emotional labor, the often invisible work that falls primarily to women…

(3) HEAR FROM AUTHOR OF ASTOUNDING. Illinois Public Media’s program The 21st headlined a historian of sf’s Golden Age: “Chicago Writer Alec Nevala-Lee; Holiday Movies 2018; Producers as Experts”

Science fiction is everywhere in 2018. Not just in the form of our favorite movies, books, or TV shows — but even in the actual technology we use in our daily lives.

But the story of sci-fi goes back decades — long before films like Star Wars or 2001: A Space Odyssey. The 1930s and 40s are known as the Golden Age of science fiction. This era, and the people in it, are the subject of Chicago writer Alec Nevala Lee’s latest book.

It’s called “Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction.”

And what tied all of these men together is the sci-fi magazine called Astounding, which in many ways helped create the genre.

Alec Nevala-Lee joined us from our studios at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Hear the program at Soundcloud.

(4) BROADWAYCON REDUX. The New York Times ran a heavily photo illustrated report about last weekend’s event devoted to stage musicals: “At BroadwayCon, Fans Get a Curtain Call”.

There were singalongs, fan meetups and workshops, booths jamming two “marketplace” floors, as well as an avalanche of panels dedicated to such topics as portraying Evan Hansen, 25 years of Disney on Broadway, auditioning, the lives of stage managers, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and “Mean Girls.”

(5) KENYON’S POISONING ALLEGATIONS. The Tennessean covers Sherrilyn Kenyon’s lawsuit against her husband and accomplices: “Author Sherrilyn Kenyon files lawsuit accusing husband of poisoning her”

…It wasn’t until after her husband filed for divorce that Sherrilyn Kenyon had her blood, nails and hair tested for toxins. The tests found her body contained high levels of lithium, tin, barium, platinum and thorium, the lawsuit said.

After her husband moved out, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s health began to improve.

The lawsuit said Lawrence Kenyon and Plump, who had taken on a more involved role helping coordinate Sherrilyn Kenyon’s book-related events and appearances, worked together to sabotage her career by disparaging fans and industry professionals. Their actions, she claimed, led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars and several canceled contracts with her publisher. 

… Kenyon is suing for several causes of action, including assault by poisoning, concerted action aiding and abetting, intentional interference with business relationships and invasion of privacy. 

(6) CLICHÉPUNK. According to Lee Konstantinou, “Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction”. As he argues at Slate —

When it first emerged more than 30 years ago, cyberpunk was hailed as the most exciting science fiction of the ’80s. The subgenre, developed by a handful of younger writers, told stories of the near future, focusing on the collision of youth subcultures, new computer technologies, and global corporate dominance. It was only ever a small part of the total SF field, but cyberpunk received an outsize amount of attention. Since then, its characteristic tropes have become clichés. By 1992, they could be hilariously parodied by Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash (a novel often mistaken as an example of the subgenre it meant to mock). In 1999, the Wachowskis brought cyberpunk to a mass audience with The Matrix.

Meanwhile, myriad new SF subgenres and microgenres have been discovered or invented, each trying to recapture the excitement cyberpunk once generated. The list is long to the point of parody. There’s steampunk, biopunk, nanopunk, stonepunk, clockpunk, rococopunk, raypunk, nowpunk, atompunk, mannerpunk, salvagepunk, Trumppunk, solarpunk, and sharkpunk (no joke!), among others. Most recently, my Twitter feed has been choked with discussions (and mockery) of hopepunk, after Vox published an article in December announcing its arrival. The term, coined by Alexandra Rowland, was meant to describe fiction that resists dystopian pessimism in favor of “DEMANDING a better, kinder world, and truly believing that we can get there if we care about each other as hard as we possibly can, with every drop of power in our little hearts.”

(7) REORIENTATION. In December, Sarah Gailey livetweeted watching Top Gun for the first time. The thread starts here.

And that has resulted in Gailey’s post for Tor.com, “Highway to the Danger Zone: The Heterosexual Tragedy of Top Gun – deemed by Soon Lee as possibly the best review of Top Gun ever…

Top Gun is a heartfelt, moving film about one man’s risky dalliance with heterosexuality. Lieutenant Tom “Maverick” Cruise is introduced to the audience as a glistening, patriotic risk-taker. He just wants to be the best Plane Guy he can be. His ambitious Airplane Moves get him all the way to the TOPGUN program, a school for only the coolest plane guys. Everything is going great for Maverick… until the night before classes begin. He arrives at Miramar, where the TOPGUN program is located, as ominous music plays in the background—Maverick, the score informs us, is on the highway to the danger zone.

That very evening, Maverick’s sassy straight friend, Lieutenant j.g. Goose “Goose” Goose, brings him to a straight bar for an evening of exploration. Goose exhorts the tentative Maverick to “have carnal knowledge—of a lady this time—on the premises.”

(8) CANNIZZO OBIT. Dr. John K Cannizzo, husband of author Catherine Asaro, died December 30, 2018 at the age of 61. The family obituary is here.

From Catherine Asaro: I was blessed to have John as my husband for thirty-two years. He truly was a gentle giant with an immense heart and inner strength, the love of my life, the finest human I’ve ever known. I thank all of you who have posted your thoughts here; it helps to ease the great loss of his passing….

From the colleagues of Dr. Cannizzo: …John was a member of the Physics Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory in the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, having been at Goddard for 25 years. He was a longtime member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) science team and of the Swift gamma-ray burst telescope….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 15, 1913Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, but  I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed it because it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. His first SF role as Lost Horizon though uncredited so I don’t trust Wiki on that. 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, 1924 Dennis Lynds. He only wrote two sf novels, probably pulp ones at that, Lukan War and The Planets of Death, but I’m intrigued that he also penned eight titles of The Shadow from 1964 to 1967 under the Shadow’s author by-line of Maxwell Grant. He also, and I count this as genre, under the name of Robert Hart Davis penned a number of Man from U.N.C.L.E. Novella that all ran in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 84. I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man some forty five years 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 excessive dollop of humor. His best known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series. I wrote one that by its title intrigues me — The Feline Wizard! (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 15, 1965 James Nesbitt, 54. Best genre role was as Tom Jackman and Hyde in Jekyll which was written by Steven Moffat. He’s also appeared in Fairy TalesThe Young Indiana Jones ChroniclesStan Lee’s Lucky Man and Outcast. Yes, I know he played Bofur in the Hobbit films. I still consider Jekyll his better by far genre role.

(10) WHAT SFWA’S PRESIDENT DOES. SFWA President Cat Rambo leaves office on June 30, 2019. Before she goes, she’d like to answer the question: “What Does the SFWA President Actually Do?” Here’s an excerpt:

…The President is one of the major faces of the organization, and should be willing to attend events such as the Nebulas and conventions as well as representing SFWA at the other events they’re present at. (When signing up for conventions, I usually pitch a SFWA meeting and/or “What Can SFWA Do For You?” panel, for example.) As such, they do need to bear in mind that anything they say on social media or in interviews may be taken as having “of SFWA” appended to it, whether or not they want it to. The President carries this more than board members, and needs to remember that the membership may interpret something they say jokingly on Twitter as indicating the overall board’s opinion. Having a disclaimer that your opinions are personal and do not represent the organization on places like social media profiles is vital.

A good President will be familiar with the bylaws and OPPM and work to bulletproof the organization against anyone wishing to do it harm. They must work side-by-side with the board, the Executive Director, the Deputy Executive Director, the financial team, and a slew of volunteers and contractors to make sure that SFWA remains true to its mission while growing and adapting to the evolving and ever-changing publishing landscape.

In order to do that, the President needs to keep an eye on what’s going on–which can be difficult at times, given the volunteer nature of the position and the stressors of life. They need to be available to people who need them or arrange someone to cover them when on vacation. But it’s also usually easy to keep up with things and often just a matter of checking in on the discussion boards and e-mail once or twice a day. I do want to note (from experience) that many e-mails are time sensitive and not paying attention can result in holding things up in a frustrating way for other people….

Rambo also sent a link to a “Twitter thread that does a good job of finding SFWA ex-presidents” — https://twitter.com/Catrambo/status/1085209616038821888 

(11) ON THE RECORD. Rob Latham explores the rock and sff connection in “Magic Carpet Rides: Rock Music and the Fantastic”, a review of Jason Heller’s new work for the LA Review of Books.

DURING THE POSTWAR PERIOD, the genres of the fantastic — especially science fiction — have been deeply intertwined with the genres of popular music, especially rock ’n’ roll. Both appeal to youthful audiences, and both make the familiar strange, seeking escape in enchantment and metamorphosis. As Steppenwolf sang in 1968: “Fantasy will set you free […] to the stars away from here.” Two recent books — one a nonfiction survey of 1970s pop music, the other a horror novel about heavy metal — explore this heady intermingling of rock and the fantastic.

As Jason Heller details in his new book Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded, the magic carpet rides of the youth counterculture encompassed both the amorphous yearnings of acid rock and the hard-edged visions of science fiction. In Heller’s account, virtually all the major rock icons — from Jimi Hendrix to David Crosby, from Pete Townshend to Ian Curtis — were avid SF fans; not only was their music strongly influenced by Heinlein, Clarke, Ballard, and other authors, but it also amounted to a significant body of popular SF in its own right. As Heller shows, many rock stars were aspiring SF writers, while established authors in the field sometimes wrote lyrics for popular bands, and a few became rockers themselves. British fantasist Michael Moorcock, for example, fronted an outfit called The Deep Fix while also penning songs for — and performing with — the space-rock group Hawkwind (once memorably described, by Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, as “Star Trek with long hair and drugs”).

(12) THOSE DAYS AT CLIFTON’S CAFETERIA. At the link is a 3-minute preview of “The Dream Pioneers: Visionaries of Science Fiction”, a 2000 documentary. The clip includes LASFSians Forry Ackerman, Ray Bradbury, and Walt Daugherty.

This program looks at the careers and manifold influence of The Los Angeles Science-Fiction League’s most famous members: Forrest J. Ackerman, the mainspring of the group, who coined the term “Sci-Fi”; Ray Bradbury, renowned author of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451; and Ray Harryhausen, master of stop-motion animation. Extended interviews with all three men and the numerous filmmakers, special effects artists, and NASA researchers they have inspired illuminate how so many of their dreams have become reality.

(13) BUBBLE AND SQUEAK. David Gerrold announced on Facebook he has made his collaboration with Ctein available as a free read on Dropbox.

The deadline for Nebula nominations is only one month away. For some shameful reason, “Bubble and Squeak” by Ctein and myself is not on the SFWA recommended reading list.

To make up for that serious lack of attention, once again, I am making the story available for all readers, but especially members of SFWA who might think the story is worth reading and possibly even worthy of award consideration.

(14) A LITTLE LUNAR AGRICULTURE. “China’s Moon mission sees first seeds sprout” – BBC has the story.

Seeds taken up to the Moon by China’s Chang’e-4 mission have sprouted, says China National Space Administration.

It marks the first time any biological matter has grown on the Moon, and is being seen as a significant step towards long-term space exploration.

…Plants have been grown on the International Space Station before but never on the Moon.

(15) SPOTS GET IN YOUR EYES. “Driverless car laser ruined camera”.

A man who took a photograph of a driverless car on display at the CES tech fair says his camera was damaged as a result.

Jit Ray Chowdhury noticed purple spots on all his photographs after taking a photo of a lidar laser scanning system displayed by San Francisco firm AEye.

He says the $1,198 (£930) Sony camera was one month old and the firm has offered to buy him a replacement.

AEye said its system is not harmful to human eyes.

(16) BIGGER BOSONS. BBC reports “Cern plans even larger hadron collider for physics search”.

Cern has published its ideas for a £20bn successor to the Large Hadron Collider, given the working name of Future Circular Collider (FCC).

The Geneva based particle physics research centre is proposing an accelerator that is almost four times longer and ten times more powerful.

The aim is to have the FCC hunting for new sub-atomic particles by 2050.

Critics say that the money could be better spent on other research areas such as combating climate change.

But Cern’s Director-General, Prof Fabiola Gianotti described the proposal as “a remarkable accomplishment”.

“It shows the tremendous potential of the FCC to improve our knowledge of fundamental physics and to advance many technologies with a broad impact on society,” she said.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Keiichi Matsuda’s Merger on Vimeo:

With automation disrupting centuries-old industries, the professional must reshape and expand their service to add value. Failure is a mindset. It is those who empower themselves with technology who will thrive.

Merger is a new film about the future of work, from cult director/designer Keiichi Matsuda (HYPER-REALITY). Set against the backdrop of AI-run corporations, a tele-operator finds herself caught between virtual and physical reality, human and machine. As she fights for her economic survival, she finds herself immersed in the cult of productivity, in search of the ultimate interface. This short film documents her last 4 minutes on earth.

[Thanks to Susan de Guardiola, Colleen McMahon, Michael J. Walsh, Jim Meadows, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Paul DiFilippo, Cat Rambo, John King Tarpinian, BravoLimaPoppa3, Rich Horton, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Steve Davidson, Carl Slaughter, Danny Sichel, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warning: SPOILERS below for Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “I Wish I Liked This Game More” Award

Hollow Knight

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

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

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

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

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

DAVID BRIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/16/18 Cold-Hearted Scroll That Rules The File, Removes The Pixels From Our Pile

(1) ROLL ELEVEN. Nicholas Whyte reviews “Doctor Who, Series 11 (or 37), 2018”, beginning with an overview, followed by comments on individual episodes:

…Overall I have enjoyed it. I don’t agree with Darren Mooney that this has been the weakest series of New Who; I really think that Series 6 (2011), which started with The Impossible Astronaut and ended with The Wedding of River Song, made much greater demands onthe viewer for insufficient payoff. However I think I will agree that the highest points of this year’s stories were not as high as those of previous New Who seasons; even Series 6 had The Doctor’s Wife. On the other hand, none of the low points was quite as awful as the 2007 Daleks in New York two-parter or the 2014 Kill The Moon. I do agree with Darren Mooney that it looks in general much much better than any series of Doctor Who ever has before. The absence of continuity (no theme music in the first episode, no Tardis interior until episode two) was disruptive but also intriguing. The new music is a welcome change (not that I hated Murray Gold, but he’s been doing it since 2004)….

(2) SON’S MEMORIES OF LE GUIN. “Ursula K Le Guin remembered by her son Theo Downes-Le Guin” in The Guardian.

One of the last trips I took alone with Ursula was to New York, in 2014, when she received a lifetime commendation from the National Book Foundation. She wasn’t enthusiastic about the travel, but the award was contingent on her presence. She snarled about this requirement for a few weeks, then allowed me to book the flights. I spent a couple of days with her before the awards, visiting her beloved sister-in-law and viewing “old friends” the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick Collection. In the indifferent and harsh light of a big city, I could see for the first time how small and frail she had become. The vitality of her mind and spirit had concealed her physical state from me. I was shaken by the realisation.

Three days into our trip, I walked her to the stage on which she delivered a speech that was, even by her high standards, fearless. With limited time, in every sense, she had decided to speak plainly to the defence of freedom that courses through her work: freedom of artistic and intellectual expression, freedom from dualism, freedom from oppressors. I’d read a draft beforehand and knew that she was delivering the speech of a lifetime. The audience sensed this as well, and for a few moments after she finished, the room crackled with love, support, excitement and (for some, I’d like to think) shame.

(3) A WINNER. Seeing the movie prompted John Scalzi to have many “Thoughts on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”.

2. It’s also a film where its chosen medium — animation — is exactly right for it. I think there’s a still a bit of aesthetic snobbery around animation, ironically particularly when it comes to superhero films. It’s still assumed to be a compliment if you say something along the lines of “that was good enough to have been live action.” In point of fact, this particular film wouldn’t have been better served as live action; live action and all its aesthetic requirements and expectations would have made it worse. The abstracting remove from reality that animation provides fits the film’s multiverse story and allows it to be a “comicbook film” in a way that most live-action superhero films can’t manage or look silly doing (see: Ang Lee’s Hulk).In live action, this film as it is would have come across as campy; in animation, it’s just doing its thing. This is of course more about our own expectations for live action and animation than it is about the mediums themselves. But you work with what you have.

(4) THE DRAGON CURE. After receiving an anonymous letter from a neighbor claiming that her three front-yard dragons violated the “true meaning of Christmas,” fantasy author Diana Rowland decided that the only proper response was … MORE DRAGONS!

(5) JUDGING SANTA CLAUS MOVIES. SYFY Wire’s “Ffangrrls” column examines “The best, worst and weirdest Santa Claus movies.” Good. Bad. Weird. Ffangrrls takes a look at four Santa Claus movies in each of these categories. It’s a pretty good bet that you won’t have even heard of one or more of these dozen, um, let’s say “classics.” Columnist Kayleigh Donaldson provides a trailer or clip and a fat paragraph on each:

GOOD: Miracle on 34th Street
BAD: The Santa Clause
WEIRD: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

GOOD: Rise of the Guardians
BAD: Silent Night, Deadly Night
WEIRD: The Polar Express

GOOD: The Nightmare Before Christmas
BAD: Santa’s Slay
WEIRD: Fred Claus

GOOD: The Spirit of Christmas
BAD: The Christmas Chronicles
WEIRD: Christmas Evil

(6) SPLATTERPUNK IN ITALY.At the Horror Writers Association blog: “Revelations on the New Horror Renaissance – an Interview with Italian Author/Editor/Translator/Poet Alessandro Manzetti”.

Q. As the first Italian to be awarded the Bram Stoker Award, and as a purveyor of hard-core horror and even splatter-punk how would you describe your reception amongst your Italian peers? What inroads do you hope to make in Italy with your publishing and writing?

A. Here in Italy Splatterpunk fiction represents a small market niche (same goes for poetry, and, unfortunately, also for traditional horror fiction, excluding a few big names), anyway I have a good audience, fans of the genre follow me with great passion; they’re very fond of some of my main characters, and many of them are women (even if I write hardcore/Splatterpunk horror). Somedays ago was released, from Cut Up Publishing, my first dark psycothriller novel, ‘The Keepers of Chernobyl’, something different from what I wrote so far, and I think that this kind of works could reach a larger audience. My goal is always the same: connect myself to the readers, be their accomplice.

(7) RAMBO ACADEMY. Sign up for Seanan McGuire’s workshop: “Crossing Over: Moving from Fanfic to Your Own Worlds”.

Join prolific, award-winning, and overall amazing writer Seanan McGuire for a workshop that will discuss what writing fanfic teaches you and how you can use that in fiction involving your own worlds and characters. Using lecture, discussion, and writing exercises, Sanan will provide you with inspiration as well as the tools with which to apply that inspiration to your work.

This is a single session workshop taught on Saturday, January 12, 2019 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.

Cost is 199 for new students; $79 for former Rambo Academy students and Patreon supporters.

Live classes are taught online via Google hangouts, are limited to 15 participants, and require reliable Internet connection, although in the past participants have logged on from coffee shops, cafes, and even an airplane. A webcam is strongly suggested but not required. If there is an on-demand version of the class, you will be provided with a free coupon for it, so you have access to those notes.

(8) THEY’REDEAD(POOL), JIM. Aw, Jeez, he’s at it again (HuffPost:Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Trailer Is Even Better When Everyone Is Deadpool”).

So much Deadpool. Truly a maximum effort.

And we thought the last “Avengers” trailer was better when every character was Deadpool.

Istanbul-based digital animator Saruhan Saral has outdone himself with a new take on the recently released “Avengers: Endgame” trailer. In Saral’s latest video, voice actor Mishka Thebaud brings to life the Merc with a Mouth. 

(9) WHALE TALE. ASLE-Brasil (Association of Literature and the Environment) interviewed Craig Russell about Fragment: “Craig Russell – Literature and Ecocriticism / Literatura e Ecocrítica”:

2. Z. Can you tell us about the specific characteristics of your narratives?

C. When writing, I find it’s important for me to find at least two interesting ideas that can play off of each other in the story. So in Fragment we have not only the catastrophic events that unfold when a huge part of the three-hundred-meter thick Ross Ice Shelf is thrust out into the ocean, but also the civilization changing interactions that come from humans and blue whales learning to communicate with each other. Then, I try to put my characters in a situation they can’t escape from. (Either because of physical limitations, like the three scientists who are held incommunicado aboard the submarine; or because of a sense of duty, like when Ring, the blue whale feels he has to stay near the Fragment, to warn other blue whale pods of the danger it poses to their survival. Once they’re locked into the situation I confront the characters with problems which I don’t know the solution to, and see how (and if) they can find a way to survive. 

Some authors describe this as chasing your characters up a tree, and then throwing rocks at them.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. I never saw him but he was well known among the small British community there. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s EndRendezvous with Rama  and that novel are the only long form works by him I’ve read. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
  • December 16, 1927Randall Garrett. Ahhh Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett. I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
  • December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. OK, confession time. I’m not a fan of his work so the only acquaintance I’ve with him is the first Bladerunner film which I’ve watched in its various forms many times. (Died 1982.)
  • December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley had a number of truly great works, both genre and not genre, including EvaThe Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of Dragons. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)

(11) LINGUISTICS. Available as an on-demand class: Juliette Wade’s “The Power of Words”, “Everything Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Need to Know about Linguistics at the World-building and Prose Level.”

In this class, we will discuss the study of linguistics and its relevance to genre writing. Author and linguist Juliette Wade shows how linguistics differs from the study of foreign languages, and gives a survey of eight different subfields of linguistics. She examines principles of language at levels of complexity from the most basic articulation of speech sounds to the way that language is used to participate in public forms of discourse. For each subfield, she looks at how it can be used to enhance a writer’s portrayal of characters and societies in a fictional world. After completing this examination of linguistics and its relevance to in-world languages, Wade moves to the meta-level to talk about using the principles of linguistics to hone point of view and the effectiveness of narrative language in storytelling.

(12) BUNNY TIME. Tim Goodman supplies “‘Watership Down’: TV Review” for The Hollywood Reporter.

In 1978, the film Watership Down became legendary for scaring the bejeezus out of children everywhere, drawn there by parents who either didn’t read the book or thought it would hide — not graphically triple down on — all the violence from the book. It’s funny now because so many people have harrowing stories of how that defined their early childhood.

On Christmas Day, Netflix, in a co-production with the BBC, will drop the eagerly awaited, star-studded latest version, a four-part effort that tones down the movie’s bloodshed and finds a good balance, letting Adams’ story unfold as it did in the book (with some tweaks) and suffering no loss of drama by curtailing those awful bunny screams.

Having seen the whole thing, the biggest obstacle the new version has to overcome is that the animation is decidedly flatter than what modern moviegoers are used to in the last chunk of years (decade?), and it’s often difficult to figure out which rabbit is talking or which rabbits are in peril as they fight other rabbits to survive. The saving grace to all of that, of course, is the magnificent voice cast that seems to be employing every available actor in Britain.

(13) CATCHING UP ON 2017. Lady Business delivers a blast from the past, asking contributors to recommend “Media released before 2018 that you didn’t get to until thisyear and loved.” First on the list —

Jenny

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon. What a treasure. I have already yelled about that book in this space, but basically this is a gem of a middle-grade book that you’ll love if you love Eva Ibbotson. I have been responsible for at least five purchases of this book this calendar year, and three of those are me giving it as a gift for Christmas. I regret nothing.

(14) FREE READ. Vice’s Motherboard “imprint” has posted a free short story, “The Bonus,” by Liz Maier.

Two hundred extra hours of life per month, and only a few would have to be dedicated to the Company. Who would say no to not sleeping, to the bonus?

(15) APPROACHING GENRE. An NPR interview: “Lin-Manuel Miranda On ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ And Writing His Way Onstage”.

Audie Cornish: I was reading that your favorite song from the original Mary Poppins movie — maybe not favorite, maybe you have a mixed relationship with it — is “Feed the Birds.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda: [Laughing] “Openly hostile” is probably my relationship to it as a child.

I mean, that’s a little strong.

Yeah, no. I just found it so sad. The notion of this bird lady, who cares for these birds and sits on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, I couldn’t bear it as a child — it was too much for me. And so, I only saw the first two-thirds of the movie many times as a kid: As soon as “Feed the Birds” came on, I would turn it off. Such was VHS technology.

If it has an equivalent in this movie — not so much that I would turn off the movie — there’s a beautiful song in our film called “Where the Lost Things Go.” Mary Poppins is singing to these children — they’ve lost their mother the year before. And she sings about it in such a smart Scott Whitman lyric, because it’s about loss and it’s about grief, but it’s also in a way that a child can understand and is not condescending, it doesn’t talk down, doesn’t baby-talk. It’s just really beautiful. If I were a kid at the time, I probably would’ve fallen apart at it.

Your character offers a kind of path of joy and advice out of that mood. I’m thinking of a song like “Trip a Little Light Fantastic.”

That’s sort of Jack’s MO, is that he sees the light in any situation. He looks for the bright side, the hope, even in a dark time or in a dark place, and it’s a lovely sentiment. It’s also eight minutes of nonstop dancing. It was one of the last numbers we shot, and we basically spent the entire movie shoot rehearsing for it.

“Trip a Little Light Fantastic” (audio only) from Mary Poppins Returns.

(16) MYTH REFURBISHED. Paul Weimer’s latest contribution to Nerds of a Feather is “Microreview [book]: In the Vanisher’s Palace by Aliette de Bodard”.

The story of the Beauty and the Beast, bound relationship to a monster as a price for a service or favor, is a story that spans the globe, and strikes at the heart of a lot of myths and tropes about family relationships, gender politics, power dynamics, autonomy, freedom, choice and a whole lot more. Beauty and the Beast is far more than dancing animated clocks and the song “Be Our Guest”. In The Vanishers’ Palace, Aliette de Bodard takes the Beauty and the Beast story in new directions, giving a strong critique of some of the tropes, interrogating others, and providing a queer friendly narrative, amongst many other strands, in a densely packed novella.

(17) SHATNER ON PARADE. Parade magazine has made their recent interview with William Shatner available online (“William Shatner on His Christmas Album, Shatner Claus, & Why Star TrekIs Still So Popular”). In the usual style of Parade interviews, breadth is emphasized overdepth. It touches on Shatner family holiday traditions, his country album Why Not Me?, recent memoir Live Long And…: What I Learned Along the Way, non-Trek movies he’s involved in, and his longstanding Hollywood Charity Horse Show.

(18) SNL. The New York Times coverage of the most recent Saturday Night Live includes two skits of genre interest.  

Several celebrity guests turned out for the final new “Saturday Night Live” broadcast of 2018, including Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Matt Damon and Robert De Niro.

In the show’s opening sketch, Baldwin returned to play President Trump in a sendup of the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

While it’s rare to see “Saturday Night Live” offer up topical comedy in the waning moments of an episode, the show did just that in a sketch that imagined Theresa May (McKinnon), Britain’s prime minister, struggling to host a Christmas-themed talk show after having survived a party confidence vote.

As McKinnon opened the show, she said, “What a dreadful week it’s been. My Brexit deal is falling apart. I almost got voted out and no one in the world likes me at all. But it’s still Christmas so let’s try to have some cheer tonight, shall we?”

She went on to introduce guests including her predecessor, David Cameron (Damon); Elton John (Bryant); and the Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort (Mikey Day), whom she introduced as “the one person in Britain more reviled than me.” Day apologetically resisted McKinnon’s attempts to compare her to him: “If you could maybe not lump us together, I just can’t have that be the pull-quote from this interview,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His wife, Gretta, predeceased him in 2012.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original story, December 13:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(20) TITANS. The season-ending episode:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/10/18 This Is A Song Called Alice’s Pixel Scroll But Alice’s Pixel Scroll Is Not The Name Of The Pixel Scroll That’s Just The Name Of The Song

(1) SFWA AND THE WRITERS OF THE FUTURE CONTEST. SFWA member and former Greivance Committee member Eric James Stone, whose wife Darci Stone won the Writers of the Future Contest 2018 grand prize Golden Pen Award, has shared his correspondence with the SFWA Board in a blog post where he strongly disagrees with the organization’s actions against the Writers of the Future Contest. Says Stone, “In short, I feel the SFWA Board has acted incompetently and/or unethically.” — “SFWA and the Writers of the Future Contest”.

2. Even if you agree with WOTF being de-listed, I think you should be concerned about the process implemented by the Board. Imagine that one of your favorite publications was being targeted for de-listing, and the SFWA Board acted to de-list before even communicating with the editors about any concerns or complaints. Would you consider that a fair process? If it wouldn’t have been a fair process for Clarkesworld or Asimov’s or Strange Horizons, then it was not a fair process for Writers of the Future.

3. I think that any reasonable person who actually wanted to “…ensur[e] that these concerns [about WOTF] are meaningfully addressed…” would have contacted the WOTF Contest administrators to discuss the concerns before taking the action of de-listing the contest as a qualifying market. The only reasonable excuse for not doing so would be some sort of urgent need to act immediately in order to prevent harm, but since the Board voted in August and failed to make it known until December, that excuse doesn’t seem to apply here. Since it is a stated goal of the Board to see that the concerns are meaningfully addressed, the fact that they do not appear to have exercised reasonable care in attempting to carry out that goal could mean they have violated their fiduciary duty as Board members.

4. None of the members of the Board has answered the charge that the website gave pretexts for the Board’s action in removing contest publications as qualifying markets, while the real goal was to de-list Writers of the Future specifically. The Board’s actions don’t make sense if the objective was to get the contest to address concerns, but they make perfect sense if the objective was to de-list WOTF. Why would they have that specific goal? When I wrote to the Board originally, I was worried that some people might be targeting the contest because of its association with the Church of Scientology. If that was, in fact, the case, and the members of the Board were either in agreement with such an objective or willing to cater to such people, it would explain why the Board would de-list the contest before even going through the motions of resolving concerns about it, and it would also explain why they disguised the motives for their action in the explanation offered on the website.

(2) FIFTH SEASON OR ELEVENTH SEASON? In “Doctor Who: The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos”, Camestros Felapton reviews the last episode of Season 11.

 I don’t know if anybody else got a bit of a Fifth Season vibe from the beginning of this episode. I did, which got my hopes up but overall this was an episode of unexplored ideas. Not terrible but it felt oddly sketched out with hints of something better.

Take for example the idea of this mind altering planet, it gives one character a reason why they can’t initially explain what is going on but otherwise the idea goes nowhere. Which is doubly odd, because it is a concept that could be done really well with a smart script and clever acting.

(3) WHO’S NUMBERS. Yahoo! Finance’s Stewart Clarke, in “Jodie Whittaker to Return as ‘Doctor Who’ in 2020 Amid Strong U.S. Ratings”, says that this year’s series of Doctor Who held up in ratings in both the U.S. and Britain, and Jodie Whittaker drew about as many viewers as Peter Capaldi did in his last season.

British viewers tuned in in droves to the first episode of the current season. With 11 million viewers (consolidated),it was the second-biggest drama audience of the year and the best launch for “Doctor Who” in a decade in the U.K.

Overnight ratings declined steadily over the course of the series,  falling to 5 million for the ninth episode (7 million consolidated). Sunday’s finale delivered 5.3 million viewers. British tabloids have suggested that viewers tuned out because the new season was too “politically correct,” but the fall in overnight ratings is not unusual and follows that of earlier seasons.

It also reflects modern viewing patterns, with many fans and, notably, younger viewers watching the show on catch-up. The BBC said the average consolidated audience through the first eight episodes was 8.4million, significantly above the last season of “Doctor Who,” starring Peter Capaldi, whose average was below 6 million. The current season was the second most-requested series on the BBC’s iPlayer in October, the busiest month ever for the catch-up service.

In the U.S., Whittaker and her team notched a ratings win for BBC America, which said it was the fastest-growing scripted show of the year. Ahead of Sunday’s final episode, BBC America reported that the show was up 47% season-on-season, with young  female viewers driving the growth. The show averaged 1.6 million viewers through its first eight episodes in the U.S.

(4) RECORDS SET. Variety’s “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Trailer Smashes 24-Hour Video Views Record” by Todd Spangler says that 289 million people saw the trailer for Avengers: Endgame in the first 24 hours after it was released, which is a record, and 599,000 people tweeted about it, another record.

(5) CLASS HIGHLIGHTS. Cat Rambo shares tweets about Seanan McGuire’s class:

(6) THE DEFORESTATION OF MIDDLE-EARTH. From 2003, but maybe it’s news to you, too! McSweeny’s magazine imagines a DVD commentary for Lord Of The Rings as done by leftist academics Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky: “Unused Audio Commentary By Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, Recorded Summer 2002 For The Fellowship Of The Ring (Platinum Series Extended Edition) DVD, Part One”.

CHOMSKY: The film opens with Galadriel speaking. “The world has changed,” she tells us, “I can feel it in the water.” She’s actually stealing a line from the non-human Treebeard. He says this to Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers, the novel. Already we can see who is going to be privileged by this narrative and who is not.

ZINN: Of course. “The world has changed.” I would argue that the main thing one learns when one watches this film is that the world hasn’t changed. Not at all.

CHOMSKY: We should examine carefully what’s being established here in the prologue. For one, the point is clearly made that the “master ring,” the so-called “one ring to rule them all,” is actually a rather elaborate justification for preemptive war on Mordor.

ZINN: I think that’s correct. Tolkien makes no attempt to hide the fact that rings are wielded by every other ethnic enclave in Middle Earth. The Dwarves have seven rings, the Elves have three. The race of Man has nine rings, for God’s sake. There are at least 19 rings floating around out there in Middle Earth, and yet Sauron’s ring is supposedly so terrible that no one can be allowed to wield it. Why?

(7) LOOKING FOR AVRAM DAVDISON LETTERS. Danny Sichel encouraged me to give this Locus Online item a signal boost: “Davidson Letters Sought”.

Editor Henry Wes­sels invites “any persons holding correspondence from Avram Davidson to send legible photocopies or scans of interesting or notable letters” to his at­tention, for a volume of Davidson’s selected letters to be published next year by The Nutmeg Point District Mail for the Avram Davidson Society. Material may be sent to Henry Wessells, PO Box 43072,Upper Montclair NJ 07043; <wessells@aol.com>

(8) WILLIS AND SNODGRASS INTERVIEW. Lorene Mills’ next Report From Santa Fe features award-winning authors Connie Willis and Melinda Snodgrass.

Connie Willis has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and awarded the title of Grand Master by the Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America. Her work has won eleven Hugos and seven Nebula awards.

Melinda Snodgrass is an award-winning screenwriter (she wrote Star Trek Next Gen’s popular episode “The Measure of a Man” among others) and author of the popular “Edge” Series, the “Imperials Saga,” and creator/editor (with George RR Martin) of the”Wild Cards” anthologies.

The show will air on various local stations in New Mexico between December 15-17, 2018. See the site for exact times.

(9) STRANGER THINGS. This is called a “title tease” – I’m guessing they’re the titles of Season 3 episodes.

In the summer of 1985, the adventure continues.

(10) BAVE OBIT. [Item by Steve Green.] Terry Bave (1931-2018): British comics artist, died December 6. Freelanced for Odhams, IPC and DC Thomson, on such fantasy strips as Sammy Shrink, Jimmy Jeckle and Master Hyde, Me and My Shadow; many of these were written by his wife Shiela*.  He retired in 2007, publishing his autobiography Cartoons and Comic Strips six years later.

*That is the correct spelling, I understand.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 10, 1815Ada Lovelace. English mathematician and writer, principally known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Genre usage includes William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine and S.M. Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers. (Died 1852.)
  • Born December 10, 1824George MacDonald. Scottish author I think best known for Phantastes:A Faerie Romance for Men and Women and The Princess and The Goblin. His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors including C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien,G. K. Chesterton and Madeleine L’Engle to name but a few who mention him. The Waterboys titled their Room to Roam album after a passage in Phantastes. (Died 1905.)
  • Born December 10, 1903Mary Norton. Author of The Borrowers which won the 1952 Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognizing the novel as the year’s outstanding children’s book by a British author. She would continue to write these novels for three decades with Hallmark turning it into a film in the early seventies. Her novels The Magic Bed Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons and Bonfires and Broomsticks would be adapted into the Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks in the same period. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 10, 1907Graves Gladney. An illustrator known for his cover paintings for Street & Smith pulp magazines, especially The Shadow. He produced all the covers from April 1939 to the end of 1941.
  • It’s worth noting that when he replaced The Shadow‘s cover artist George Rozen who did a more fantastical approach to the covers, Gladney depicted an actual scene that Walter Gibson had written in a story inside. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 10, 1957Michael Clarke Duncan. Certainly best known as John Coffey in Stephen King’s The Green Mile film nearly twenty years ago. He also had roles in Planet of the Apes, Sin City, voice work in The Land Before Time XI: Invasion of the TinysaurusesGeorge and the Dragon and The Scorpion King. He played Kingpin in the Ben Affleck-led version of Daredevil. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 10, 1960 Kenneth Branagh, 58. Oh Branagh, I feel obligated to start with your worst film, Wild Wild West, which, well, had you no shame? Fortunately there’s much better genre work from you as an actor including as Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As a Director, I’m only seeing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Thor — Anyone know of anything else genre related?

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close To Home predicts a near-future name change for a planet in our Solar System.

(13) GHOST WITH THE MOST. The New York Times’ rundown of the latest Saturday Night Live includes this segment: “‘Game of Thrones’ Parody of the Week”.

If you’ve been hard up for “Game of Thrones” content since the most recent season ended in 2017, you could do worse than “Khal Drogo’s Ghost Dojo,” a public access TV show where “we talk with some of the hundreds of characters from ‘Game of Thrones’ who have been killed off the show,” as Thompson, a co-host, explained.

The sketch was mostly an excuse to let this week’s guest host,  Jason Momoa, reprise his “Game of Thrones” role as the warrior Khal Drogo and to let cast members impersonate “Thrones” characters. It also included an exchange between Momoa and Heidi Gardner, playing Brienne of Tarth, that referenced the recent troubles of Kevin Hart, who withdrew as host of the Academy Awards after refusing to apologize for anti-gay jokes.

In his Dothraki language (translated by subtitles), Momoa said of Gardner, “If this man wants to fight, I’ll give him what he wants.”

Gardner replied incredulously: “Man? Wow, you have a lot to learn about identity politics.”

“You’re right,” a chastened Momoa said in broken English. “Khal need to learn from Khal’s mistakes or Khal never win Oscar. Never host Oscar.”

Taking in the scene, Thompson said, “Wow, what a teachable moment.”

(14) GOT THAT RIGHT. If only I hadn’t thrown away my mimeograph years ago! Oh, noes!

(15) NO SURPRISE. The film did everything he predicted. Camestros Felapton loved it anyway: “Review: Bohemian Rhapsody”.

…The trick is the cliches don’t matter in most respects. Queen were a band that was always a bit corny but just kept pushing through that and unironically owning the grandiosity of their songs, arrangements and Freddie Mercury’s presence.

So the film makes them the greatest rock band ever who pushed more boundaries and crossed more genres and styles and broke more conventions of pop music. Which is nonsense but with the grain of truth that they were a band that are hard to classify. Flamboyant camp nerdry which required a braggadocio approach….

(16) CREEPY OR FUNNY? You decide! The Hollywood Reporter introduces the video —  “Andy Serkis Revives Gollum to Mock U.K.’s Brexit Negotiations”.

“Oh precious, our agreement, this is it, our deal, yessss, yesss,” hisses the actor while dressed up as British leader Theresa May.

Gollum has a Brexit plan, kind of. 

The U.K.’s ongoing and increasingly fraught attempts to negotiate its departure from the European Union were given some much-needed comic relief over the weekend thanks to some expert trolling by Andy Serkis. 

(17) SPIDER-VERSE. This clip introduces Spider-Gwen.

Hailee Steinfeld is Spider-Gwen. She’s from another, another dimension.

Miles and Peter swing out of danger in this clip:

(18) REALLY OLD SILICA MEMORIES. In “The key to cracking long-dead languages?” it’s explained how digitizing, computerized decryption and summarizing could speed access to the text in ancient tablets.

They chronicle the rise of fall of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia, the world’s first empires. An estimated half a million of them have been excavated, and more are still buried in the ground.

However, since cuneiform was first deciphered by scholars around 150 years ago, the script has only yielded its secrets to a small group of people who can read it. Some 90% of cuneiform texts remain untranslated.

That could change thanks to a very modern helper: machine translation.

(19) WAVE BYE-BYE. BBC takes note as “Nasa’s Voyager 2 probe ‘leaves the Solar System'”.

The Voyager 2 probe, which left Earth in 1977, has become the second human-made object to leave our Solar System.

It was launched 16 days before its twin craft, Voyager 1, but that probe’s faster trajectory meant that it was in “the space between the stars” six years before Voyager 2.

The news was revealed at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in Washington.

And chief scientist on the mission, Prof Edward Stone, confirmed it.

He said both probes had now “made it into interstellar space” and that Voyager 2’s date of departure from the Solar System was 5 November 2018.

On that date, the steady stream of particles emitted from the Sun that were being detected by the probe suddenly dipped. This indicated that it had crossed the “heliopause” – the term for the outer edge of the Sun’s protective bubble of particles and magnetic field.

(20) BENEATH THE SURFACE. In a hole in the ground there lived – a hell of a lot of stuff! “Amount of deep life on Earth quantified”.

Scientists have estimated the total amount of life on Earth that exists below ground – and it is vast.

You would need a microscope to see this subterranean biosphere, however.

It is made up mostly of microbes, such as bacteria and their evolutionary cousins, the archaea.

Nonetheless, it represents a lot of carbon – about 15 to 23 billion tonnes of it. That is hundreds of times more carbon than is woven into all the humans on the planet.

“Something like 70% of the total number of microbes on Earth are below our feet,” said Karen Lloyd from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, US.

“So, this changes our perception of where we find life on Earth, from mostly on the surface in things like trees and whales and dolphins, to most of it actually being underground,” she told BBC News.

(21) SHE’S POSSIBLE. The live-action Kim Possible movie premieres in the U.S. on February 15, 2019.

Everyday teen hero Kim Possible (Sadie Stanley) and her best friend Ron Stoppable (Sean Giambrone) embark on their freshman year of high school, all while saving the world from evil villains. While Kim and Ron have always been one step ahead of their opponents, navigating the social hierarchy of high school is more challenging than the action-heroes ever imagined. With Drakken (Todd Stashwick) and Shego (Taylor Ortega) lurking in the wings, Kim must rely on her family and friends on Team Possible—Ron, tech-genius Wade (Issac Ryan Brown), new friend Athena (Ciara Wilson), and Rufus, a Naked mole-rat—to stop these super villains!

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

Pixel Scroll 11/27/18 Three Pixels And One Scroll Are Trapped In A File! Send Tick Boxes! If You Can’t Send Tick Boxes, Send Two More Chapter Fives!

(1) WHAT’S INSIGHT. The InSight lander, after yesterday’s successful touchdown, charged up its solar-powered batteries and tested its camera….

(This may be an old chestnut by now, but it’s a Martian chestnut!)

(2) ELVES AND MEN. Olga Polomoshnova considers partings beyond the end of the world in “Last Goodbye” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

Before proceeding, let us look at the fates of Elves and Men after death to understand why Lúthien’s and Arwen’s decisions caused such grief to their parents. The First Children of Ilúvatar were doomed to dwell in Arda as long as it endured. If Elves died (they could be either slain, or die of grief), they went to the Halls of Mandos and stayed there for some time. Then they, with a few notable exceptions, were restored to their bodily forms and returned to life in Aman. Therefore Elves could reunite with their kin and loved ones: even death could not part them forever.

(3) BOOKS OF THE YEAR. NPR’s “Guide To 2018’s Great Reads” – a general link — left-side picks filter for genre.

What would you like to read?

Use the filters below to explore more than 300 titles NPR staff and critics loved this year. (You can also combine filters!)

(4) GREAT WALL OF GOOGLE. “‘We’re Taking A Stand’: Google Workers Protest Plans For Censored Search In China”NPR has the story.

The project, code-named Dragonfly, would block certain websites and search terms determined by the Chinese government — a move that, according to a growing number of workers at Google, is tantamount to enabling “state surveillance.”

“We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices for months. International human rights organizations and investigative reporters have also sounded the alarm, emphasizing serious human rights concerns and repeatedly calling on Google to cancel the project,” said the letter’s signatories, whose group initially numbered nine employees but has ballooned since its publication on Medium.

…The employees are not alone in expressing their dismay at reports of the new project’s development. In fact, they released their letter the same day that Amnesty International launched a protest of its own. The human rights organization announced it would be reaching out to Google staff to add their names to a petition calling on CEO Sundar Pichai to kill the project before it can even get off the ground.

“This is a watershed moment for Google,” Joe Westby, Amnesty’s researcher on technology and human rights, said in a statement Tuesday. “As the world’s number one search engine, it should be fighting for an internet where information is freely accessible to everyone, not backing the Chinese government’s dystopian alternative.”

(5) NYT NOTABLE. Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver has been named a “2018 Notable Book” by the New York Times. (There is only one page for all the fiction selections, so this link does not go directly to the Novik entry.)

In her stunning new novel, rich in both ideas and people, Novik gives classic fairy tales — particularly “Rumpelstiltskin” — a fresh, wholly original twist, with the vastness of Tolkien and the empathy and joy in daily life of Le Guin.

(6) FOR GIVING. Nerds of a Feather has a nice roundup of recommendations in “Holiday Gift Guide: Games”. Here’s one —

Fireball Island (Mike):

If you are looking for a blast of nostalgia then Fireball Island from Restoration Board Games is the game you want under your tree. Vul-Kar has returned and is not happy. Players make their way around the island picking up treasures and snapping pictures.  You can try to steal the heart of Vul-Kar, but watch out for the rolling embers and fireballs that will make your adventure a dangerous one.  Featuring a bigger board than the original and some optional expansions, Fireball Island looks amazing on the table with its stunning 3-D board and shiny marbles.

Another installment covers “Holiday Gift Guide: Books and Comics”, and includes a Paul Weimer writeup:

Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History (recommended by Paul)

This the definitive work that shows the growth and evolution of the artwork used in the Dungeons and Dragons games over the last 40 years. It’s an amazingly deep dive into a look at the game, not just as its art, as filtered through the changing depictions of everything. From the first handdrawn maps of the original developers of the game, to the modern sleek art of today, the book’s art unlocks the evolution of the game through imagery and essays. While the book is mainly arranged by chronology, starting from the precursors of D&D in the 1970’s and running up to today, my favorite feature is “Evilution”, where the book breaks this format to show how an iconic monster or character, like, for example, the fearsome Beholder, has evolved across multiple editions. Features like this give a cohesive and complete view of how the art and the imagery of the game has evolved and changed over time. And, joyfully, the book has some of my favorite art in the game’s history, like “Emirikol the Chaotic”. Anyone vaguely interested in Dungeons and Dragons will love this book. It’s compulsively dippable back into anytime, to be inspired to write, dream, and of course, roleplay.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 27, 1907 – L. Sprague de Camp, Aeronautical Engineer, Writer, and Member of First Fandom, whose early career included many stories for Campbell’s Astounding and Unknown magazines. His time-travel alt-history Lest Darkness Fall is considered a classic. He and Fletcher Pratt co-wrote the popular humorous Incomplete Enchanter fantasy series and collaborated on the Gavagan’s Bar series. His later career turned mostly to fantasy, and he contributed more than three dozen stories to Robert E. Howard’s Conan universe. He wrote many nonfiction reference works for both science fiction and fantasy, as well as a biography of H.P. Lovecraft; his Time & Chance: An Autobiography won a Hugo Award for Best Nonfiction Book. By all accounts, his 60-year marriage with fellow fan and writing collaborator Catherine Crook was a great love, and the two of them were Guest of Honor at more than two dozen conventions. He was GoH at Worldcon in 1966, named SFWA Grand Master in 1979, was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1984, and received a Sidewise Award for Special Achievement in Alternate History in 1995. (Died 2000.)
  • Born November 27, 1951 – Melinda M. Snodgrass, 67, Attorney, Historian, Writer, Editor, Equestrian, and Fan whose Star Trek Original Series early Pocket Books tie-in novel featuring Uhura, The Tears of the Singers, is still considered one of the best, and is probably the reason that her unsolicited script for Star Trek: The Next Generation was accepted and made into the acclaimed episode “The Measure of a Man” – considered by many to be the first truly great episode of the series, and for which she received a Writers Guild of America Award nomination. As a result, she became the series story editor and script consultant for the second and third seasons of TNG. She also wrote scripts for the series Odyssey 5, The (new) Outer Limits, Sliders, SeaQuest DSV, and Beyond Reality, and for the TV movies Trapped in Space (based on Asimov’s story “Breaking Strain”) and Star Command. She is co-creator and co-editor, with GRRM, of the Wild Cards shared universe, which since 1987 has spawned more than two dozen novels and anthologies and more than 200 short fiction works; a TV series is in the works, for which she will be an executive producer. This year saw the release of the third volume in her Military SF quintology The Imperials (which JJ thinks is fantastic).
  • Born November 27, 1940 – Bruce Lee, Actor, Director, and Martial Artist from Hong Kong, best known for his martial arts adventure films – but he had a recurring genre role as Kato in the TV series The Green Hornet which, to my utter surprise, turns out to only have lasted for 26 episodes between 1966 and 1967. He also appeared in three episodes of Adam West’s Batman series, “The Spell of Tut”, “ Batman’s Satisfaction”, and “A Piece of The Action”. He died before having the opportunity to have a full life and career at the age of 32, due to cerebral swelling caused or exacerbated by reaction to pain medication. (Died 1973.)
  • Born November 27, 1960 – Lori Wolf, Forensic Chemist, Bookseller, Conrunner, and Fan who was a member of the Cepheid Variables fan club at Texas A&M and a past chair of the Fandom Association of Central Texas. She co-chaired two ArmadilloCons, served on numerous other convention committees, and managed the Hugo Award ceremony at Worldcon in 1997 and the Boucher Award ceremony at the World Mystery Convention in 2002. She left fandom too soon at the age of 43 after a battle with cancer. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 27, 1961 – Samantha Bond, Actor from England who is best known for playing Miss Moneypenny in four James Bond films during the series’ Pierce Brosnan years, but her first genre role was as Helga in Erik the Viking, which was written and directed by Monty Python‘s Terry Jones. She had a recurring role as Mrs Wormwood in the Doctor Who spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures, and provided voices for characters in the live-action marionette film Strings and in The Children’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • Born November 27, 1974 – Jennifer O’Dell, Actor whose main genre role of note is three seasons as Veronica on Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, a series very loosely based on his 1912 novel. She had roles in two genre films, Sometimes They Come Back… for More and Alien Battlefield, and a guest part in an episode of Charmed.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SPIDER PROLIFERATION. The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ Sequel and All-Female Spinoff in the Works From Sony”.

With just weeks to go before Sony unveils the buzzy animated movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Sony Pictures Animation is already putting the pieces together for not just a sequel but a spinoff as well.

Joaquim Dos Santos, known for his work on cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender and, more recently, Netflix’s Voltron series, has been tapped to direct the sequel. David Callaham, who penned The Expendables and worked on Wonder Woman 1984 as well as Zombieland 2, is writing.

At the same time Lauren Montgomery, who also worked on Voltron and co-directed animated movies Batman: Year One and Superman/Batman: Apocalypse for DC, is in negotiations to helm an untitled Spider-centric project that will gather the female heroes in the Spider-Man universe of characters in one adventure. Bek Smith, who wrote episodes of CBS show Zoo, will pen the script.

(10) NEXT YEAR’S LOSCON. Loscon 46, which will be held November 29-December 1, 2019, has unveiled its website.  There you can find out more about the guests of honor.

Howard Waldrop

Professional Writer Guest of Honor

Julie Dillon

Artist Guest of Honor

Edie Stern

Fan Guest of Honor

(11) WORD BUCKET BRIGADE. BBC tells about “The app that makes writing less lonely”.

If you see a writer in a movie, most likely she (or he) will be tapping on a laptop. But many young writers are doing it on mobile phones, and sometimes in teams….

(12) A GIANT RETURN ON CAPITAL. Another Netflix sff announcement: “Netflix to adapt Roald Dahl stories including Matilda and The BFG”.

Felicity Dahl, the author’s widow, said it was “an incredibly exciting new chapter for the Roald Dahl Story Company.”

She added: “Roald would, I know, be thrilled.”

Melissa Cobb, a spokesperson for Netflix, said: “We have great creative ambition to reimagine the journeys of so many treasured Dahl characters in fresh, contemporary ways with the highest quality animation and production values.”

(13) SHUTDOWN. Text and video on decommissioning a UK nuclear-fuel reprocessing plant — “Inside Sellafield’s death zone with the nuclear clean-up robots”.

Thorp still looks almost new; a giant structure of cavernous halls, deep blue-tinged cooling ponds and giant lifting cranes, imposing in fresh yellow paint.

But now the complex process of decontaminating and dismantling begins.

It is a dangerous job that will take decades to complete and require a great deal of engineering ingenuity and state-of-the-art technology – some of which hasn’t even been invented yet.

This is why.

Five sieverts of radiation is considered a lethal dose for humans. Inside the Head End Shear Cave, where nuclear fuel rods were extracted from their casings and cut into pieces before being dissolved in heated nitric acid, the radiation level is 280 sieverts per hour.

(14) PICKY EATER. The “‘Siberian unicorn’ walked Earth with humans” – if so, then the humans got out of its way!

A giant rhino that may have been the origin of the unicorn myth survived until at least 39,000 years ago – much longer than previously thought.

Known as the Siberian unicorn, the animal had a long horn on its nose, and roamed the grasslands of Eurasia.

New evidence shows the hefty beast may have eventually died out because it was such a picky eater.

…Weighing in at a mighty four tonnes, with an extraordinary single horn on its head, the “Siberian unicorn”, shared the earth with early modern humans up until at least 39,000 years ago.

(15) JEOPARDY! TONIGHT. Andrew Porter reports sff made another appearance on the Jeopardy! game show tonight.

  • In the category, “The Writer Speaks,” the clue was, “This ‘Space Odyssey’ Author: ‘I predict that a new species could well appear on Earth–what I call Robosapiens.”
  • No one could answer with the question, “Who is Arthur C. Clarke.”

(16) TRADITION OVER THRONE AT MEDIEVAL TIMES. Dave Doering writes, “I see that our boisterous battle and binging eatery has run into tougher times over historical recreations as this line from the Washington Post has it — ’Medieval Times has a queen for the first time, but the show is still stuck in the Dark Ages’.” Dave seems shaken up by this change. “First, it was the maiden market in Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland, now we have erased more history…”

The Dairy Queen used to reign supreme over the Arundel Mills shopping mall. But last month, a new ruler ascended the throne: All hail Doña Maria Isabella, who presides over a kingdom of knights and squires, horses and falcons, rotisserie chicken, middle-schoolers wearing paper crowns and Honda Odysseys in the parking lot of the fake castle it shares with a Best Buy next door.

History is being made at the same time it’s being reenacted at Medieval Times. It’s the first time a female ruler has presided over the equestrian jousting dinner theater experience in its nearly 35-year history in America. Gender equality and the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements are still making progress in politics and the C-suite, but at least here, in this version of 11th-century Spain, cultural forces have unseated a long-ruling monarch.

(17) BOOZE CONTINUES, CHOW ON HIATUS. The Franklin Avenue blog drew attention to a big change at the reopened (in 2015) Clifton’s Cafeteria, home to LASFS meetings in the 1930s — “Clifton’s Closes Its Cafeteria; Will Food Ever Return to the Downtown Landmark?”

Opened in 1935 as Clifton’s Brookdale, we visited the forest-themed eatery several times before new owner Andrew Meieran (who previously created downtown’s famed Edison bar) shut it down for what was supposed to be a brief renovation in 2011.

Cut to nearly five years later, and rebuilding Clifton’s became a labor of love for Meieran, who has kept the fun and the kitsch but added so much more to the place. Clifton’s finally re-opened in 2015.

Clifton’s original famous slogan, of course, was “Pay What You Wish, Dine Free Unless Delighted.” Perhaps not enough folks were delighted with the updated cafeteria. I asked Chris Nichols via Twitter what he knew about the shut-down cafeteria portion of Clifton’s, and he wrote back: “I also miss eating at Clifton’s. This just in from the owner: ‘food is definitely coming back— pretty soon if anyone asks.'”

(18) HAUNTED PAINTING. Heritage Auctions is taking bids on “Haunted Mansion Stretching Room Disneyland Painting Original Art”. Currently up to $3,009. Helps if you have a really tall living room.

“The Haunted Mansion” opened in New Orleans Square on 8/9/69. The Mansion boasted a population of 999 Happy Haunts. People rode in “Doom Buggies” in this ride. The “Ghost Host” of this attraction was the voice of Paul Frees. The tour of the Mansion begins in the famous “Stretching Room.” As the walls get larger, four portraits appear to grow and change right before your eyes. The four paintings were designed by original Disney “Nine Old Men” member and Disney Legend Inductee, Mr. Marc Davis. The Stretching Room portraits were hand-painted from 1969 to 1972. They would be changed over time. Eventually they went to prints. This is a rare original hand-painted Stretching Room painting on canvas. It is very large, measuring 11′ 2″ x 3′ 10″. A wooden pole is at the top, for mounting purposes. This is the Elderly Widow, sitting on her husband’s tombstone. One of the few original paintings from the Stretching Room that we have seen, that is hand-signed by Marc Davis. One of the single most identifiable pieces of Disneyland Park original artwork we have ever come across! A slight crease where the tracks to stretching device were. Minor scuffing and edge wear from normal use. Overall Good condition.


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

Pixel Scroll 10/18/18 Last Week I Went To Pixeldelphia But It Was Scrolled

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman, in Episode 79 of Eating the Fantastic, invites podcast listeners to join him for lunch with Rebecca Roanhorse at Zona Rosa Mexican restaurant.

Rebecca Roanhorse

Roanhorse’s short story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience (TM),” which appeared in Apex magazine, won the Nebula Award earlier this year, and was also nominated for this year’s Hugo Award, an amazing feat for a writer’s first published short story. Plus she was also nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. And the following night after she and I dined, she was the winner in both of those categories. (By the way, she was the first writer since 1980 to win the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Campbell Award for Best New Writer the same year. It’s only been done once before, by Barry B. Longyear with his novella “Enemy Mine.”)

Roanhorse’s debut novel, Trail of Lightning, was published this summer by Saga Press, about which the New York Times had this to say: “Someone please cancel Supernatural already and give us at least five seasons of this badass indigenous monster-hunter and her silver-tongued sidekick.” It’s the first book is The Sixth World series, and will be followed next year by Storm of Locusts.

We discussed the spark without which her award-winning short story would never have been written, the differing reactions her tale garnered from inside and outside of the Native American community, the compelling reason she chose to write it in the second person, what she learned as a lawyer that helped in writing her first novel, how she upped her game when she decided to be a writer for real, why she fell out of the reading habit and how a Laurel K. Hamilton novel drew her back in, what it was like to hear Levar Burton read her award-winning story, and much more.

(2) ARTHUR FOR PURISTS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers these are “The Best Arthurian Novels for Fans of Actual History”

I suspect a lot of people’s minds ran in the same direction mine did at the news that a girl named Saga had pulled a fifteen hundred-year-old sword from a lake. Not all swords are Excalibur, of course, and the lake in question was in Sweden, but Britain could do worse than seeing if Saga has any interest in becoming Prime Minister.

All of which reminded me of Arthuriana, and my first and favorite Arthur novel, Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Lantern Bearers (1959)….

(3) NEUKOM TAKING ENTRIES. Tor.com reports “Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award Opens Submissions for Second Year Honoring Speculative Fiction”.

The three award categories are —

1 • The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction

2 • The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Debut Speculative Fiction (for a first book)

3 • The Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Playwriting

…The submission window recently opened for the second year of the Neukom Institute award. Asked how they are approaching the second season, Rockmore responded, “We are not just award judges, we are readers. We can’t wait to read the next crop of speculative fiction that is being submitted for the second Neukom season. We are hoping that we can build on the success of the inaugural year of the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards to gather an even stronger and broader collection of submissions for this year. We continue to welcome speculative fiction in all of its many forms and look forward to continuing to bring greater attention to this important genre.”

Eligible books include any works published no earlier than June 1, 2016 or under contract to be published no later than December 31, 2018; the submission deadline for all three awards is December 31. More detailed submission guidelines here. The awards will be announced in spring 2019.

(4) MORE ABOUT EREWHON. The press release from Liz Gorinsky’s new Erewhon Books fills in more details:

Erewhon’s founder, President, and Publisher Liz Gorinsky came to Erewhon after nearly fifteen years at SF&F publisher Tor Books, where she edited a list that included acclaimed and award-winning speculative fiction authors Liu Cixin, Annalee Newitz, Cherie Priest, Nisi Shawl, Catherynne M. Valente, and Jeff VanderMeer. She was part of the team that founded Tor..com and has won multiple prestigious awards for editing, including the Hugo Award for Best Editor, Long Form. Gorinsky remarked, “I started to learn about science fiction and fantasy at Tor Books as an intern, but I’ve loved those genres ever since I started reading. I’ve been honored to publish many beautiful SF&F books that have been bestselling, award-nominated, critically acclaimed (or all three!), and I’m thrilled to carry on my work with the many great authors in this genre and build the special attention and individual approach that a boutique independent publisher can provide.”

The rest of the Erewhon team includes Editorial Assistant Jillian Feinberg and business advisor Peter Burri, who is the co-founder of the successful independent press The Experiment and has twenty-five years of experience in publishing operations and financing. Erewhon also has substantial financial backers who come from families with over fifty years of publishing experience and are committed to the long-term growth of the company.

Erewhon is pleased to have signed on as a distribution client of independent publisher Workman Publishing, which has fine imprints including Algonquin Books and Artisan Books and a select distribution group that includes The Experiment and duopress. Previously, Workman has had very little presence in the speculative fiction world and is excited to be expanding its offerings in that direction. Workman’s Chief Executive Officer Daniel P. Reynolds commented, “It’s exciting to be part of the talented team starting up Erewhon Books. Many years ago, Workman had a bestseller with Good Omens – our first and only SF&F title, so it’s about time we got back into this category. We can’t wait to help Erewhon develop their own list of bestsellers.”

Erewhon opened its New York City office in June 2018 and is starting to build its list with the aim of debuting its first season of new titles in 2020.

(5) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Mallory O’Meara, in “10 Great Horror Books for Wimps”  on Vulture, selects books for people who think Halloween is a good time to read a horror novel, but would want to read “books that won’t keep you up at night.” Her good taste is evident because one of the books she picks is Something Wicked This Way Comes, and she mentions Bradbury in connection with another choice —

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Kelly Link is the literary heir to Ray Bradbury’s short fiction throne, and her latest collection is filled with fantastic, genre-melding tales. These stories incorporate various horror elements, like vampire boyfriends and creepy faeries, but they fascinate instead of scare, making it the perfect book to test the spooky waters with. Also notable: Get in Trouble was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

(6) USING SFF TO TEACH COMPUTER ETHICS, Teachers at the University of Kentucky and the University of Chicago have been using science fiction to offer students a way to cultivate their capacity for moral imagination. In the recent edition of the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery, they write: ” Teaching ethics to computer science students is a pressing responsibility for computer science faculty but also a challenge. Using fiction as the basis for an ethics course offers several advantages beyond its immediate appeal.” — “How to Teach Computer Ethics through Science Fiction” at Communications of the ACM.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born October 18, 1924 – Vol Molesworth, Mathematician, Editor, Publisher, and Fan from Australia who led a revival of the Sydney Futurians in 1947, becoming one of the leading Australian fans in the 50s. He played a major role in the three Australian Natcons held in Sydney during the 50s, and founded and operated the Futurian Press. His works include An Outline History of Australian Fandom and A History of Australian Science Fiction Fandom 1935-1963, and the fanzines  Luna, Cosmos, and Telefan.
  • Born October 18, 1944 – Katherine Kurtz, 74, Writer who has published sixteen novels in the Deryni series, which is notable for being one of the first historical fantasy series (as opposed to Tolkien-type high fantasy), has garnered her several Mythopoeic and BFA nominations, and has been a perennial favorite in the Locus Reader’s Choice polls. With Deborah Turner Harris, she has co-written the alternate history Templar Knights series and the Adept urban fantasy series. She has written several standalone novels, of which I strongly recommend both Lammas Night and St. Patrick’s Gargoyle. She also contributed a number of recipes to Serve It Forth: Cooking with Anne McCaffrey which was co-edited by McCaffrey and John Gregory Betancourt (I’m curious – have any Filers seen that work?). She has been Guest of Honor at more than two dozen conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention.
  • Born October 18, 1946 – Howard Shore, 72, Oscar-winning Composer from Canada who has created the scores for nearly 80 films, many of them genre, including Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (all of which won Hugo Awards), the Hobbit movies, eXistenZ, Scanners, Videodrome, Dogma, and the Hugo finalists Big and Hugo (which was based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret, about science fiction film pioneer George Méliès and his automata).
  • Born October 18, 1947 – Joe Morton, 71, Tony- and Emmy-nominated Actor of Stage and Screen, who had a lead role on Eureka and a recurring role on Smallville, as well as guest parts on Mission: Impossible, The X-Files, and Warehouse 13. He starred in the film The Brother from Another Planet and had roles in the Hugo-winning Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Paycheck, The Astronaut’s Wife, What Lies Beneath, Dragonfly, Stealth, The Clairvoyant, Batman vs Superman, and Justice League.
  • Born October 18, 1950 – Tony Roberts, 68, Artist from England who, from the 60s to the 90s, produced more than 100 SFF book covers as well as numerous interior illustrations, many of them for the first editions of books by well-known authors, including Heinlein, Le Guin, Leiber, Dick, and van Vogt; they were distinctive for their spaceships and futuristic architecture, and many of them are still instantly recognizable to long-time SFF readers. His work yielded a nomination for the British Fantasy Award Best Artist; however, in the mid-90s, he mostly left the field to pursue fine art painting. In 2000, he made international news for suing artist Glenn Brown, who had plagiarized  reinterpreted his 1974 cover for Heinlein’s Double Star in a painting which became a finalist for the £20,000 Turner Prize.
  • Born October 18, 1964 – Charles Stross, 54, Computer Programmer, Writer, and Fan from England who has transplanted himself to Scotland. His longest-running series is The Laundry Files, a sort of Bondian occult pastiche that can only truly be appreciated if read from the beginning. His Halting State and Rule 34 series novels might, I think, be his best work, but The Merchant Princes series got much better when they were released by Tor in their second incarnation. His Heinlein-homage Saturn’s Children novels are a quick, fun read. His works have racked up an impressive array of more than 50 Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, Sturgeon, Tiptree, Sidewise, Prometheus, Skylark, and Kurd Laßwitz Award nominations including 7 wins (his novel Accelerando alone being responsible for 7 of those nominations). He has been Guest of Honor at more than 20 conventions, including a Eurocon.
  • Born October 18, 1987 – Nicola Posener, 31, Actor from England with an amazingly prolific resume of genre films of which I don’t recognise a one: Lab Rats, House Of Anubis, Dawn Of The Dragonslayer, The Crown And The Dragon, Survivor, Mythica: A Quest For Heroes , Mythica: The Darkspore, Mythica: The Necromancer, Mythica: The Iron Crown, Mythica: The Godslayer and Magellan  – which, trust me, is not a complete list.
  • Born October 18 – Filer NickPheas (who is welcome to provide his own capsule bio if he is so inclined; photos of credentials are also welcome).

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • A super inept job interview at Bizarro.

(9) IF YOU’RE NOT CHEATING YOU’RE NOT TRYING. Some cheating video gamers have been hauled into court —

A YouTube gamer who posted videos of himself cheating at Fortnite is being sued by its developer Epic Games.

Brandon Lucas has attracted 1.7 million subscribers to his Golden Modz channel, where he plays modified or hacked versions of Fortnite and other games.

He also runs a website where he sells cheats, such as automatic aiming, for more than $200 (£150).

“Defendants are cheaters. Nobody likes a cheater,” Epic Games said in its legal filing.

“Defendant Lucas not only cheats, he also promotes, advertises, and sells software that enables those who use it to cheat,” the document states.

The publisher of video game Grand Theft Auto V has been granted the right to search the homes of five people accused of making cheat software.

The court order allowed Rockstar Games and its parent company, Take-Two Interactive, to search two properties in Melbourne, Australia, for evidence related to a cheat known as Infamous.

The Australian federal court has also frozen the assets of the five, who have not yet filed a defence.

The cheat went offline six months ago.

(10) ABOUT ALT COMICS. A transcript of last month’s Reveal “Never meet your (super) heroes” interview with Vox Day and Chuck Dixon is available online.

Al letson: So how does this book become a bestseller?

Amanda Rob: Well it’s possible that a lot of people are really reading it, and it’s possible that Vox is taking advantage of something that Amazon does which is called micro-categorizing. So right now, one of the issues of Alt-Hero is the number one new release in Superhero Graphic Novels. That’s a pretty small category, but it is number one in that category.

Al letson: Is there a way to game the system?

Amanda Rob: Sure. There’s a way to game the system. You have your fans and followers click on the book. If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free.

***

Chuck Dixon: See, that’s the problem. That’s where the agenda, putting the agenda … I’m not saying you have an agenda. There’s nothing wrong with you wanting to see a character that you can relate to more closely, but, when you put the agenda before the story, that’s where the problem lies because then you come up with uninteresting characters for the sake of diversity.

Al letson: Then, I asked the question that brought me all the way down to Florida. Why work with Vox Day?

Chuck Dixon: Well, there’s … He approached me. I didn’t know much about him, I still don’t know a whole lot about him, but this is the first time in my experience that I’ve gone to work on a job and everybody’s concerned with who is publishing it and their background, their beliefs, and everything else because this guy is … Man, is this guy a lightning rod. I don’t agree with a whole lot of what he says but he was offering me an opportunity to create our own work. He had a funding thing and he had a distribution deal set up. He admitted that he didn’t know what he didn’t know, so he wasn’t telling me what to do, he was asking me what I should do or what would be best for me and all the rest of it.

Offering me an opportunity and didn’t tell me what to write, and still has not told me what to write, so, to me, it was just an opportunity to be free of the kind of constraints that are put on you at the major companies, the political correctness constraints. I wasn’t interested in doing a book that was political. I wasn’t interested in doing a message book.

Al letson: So he’s not asking you to write anything political, but you understand how just working with him is political?

Chuck Dixon: I’ve read the “Alt-Hero” thing and I’ve rejected parts of it I didn’t want to do, that I don’t agree with. I don’t write for that.

(11) SPIDEY SINGS, KINDA. At The Verge, Patricia Hernandez gives a strong, if reluctant recommendation for a new music video set in the universe of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (“To see this gorgeous new Into the Spider-Verse footage, you must endure Post Malone”).

I’m sorry to direct Verge readers to a Post Malone song, but the grubby musician has made his latest music video hard to pass up: “Sunflower” is a collaboration with Swae Lee that the pair wrote and recorded to accompany Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the gorgeous upcoming animated film that follows Miles Morales (and basically every other Spidey that ever existed).

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in theaters on December 14th.

(12) WE GOT US A CONVOY. Vice brings the news “The Army is preparing to send driverless vehicles into combat’—as transportation, not as fighting vehicles.

The Army is getting ready to drive into war — in driverless trucks.

Next fall, its “Leader-Follower” technology will enable convoys of autonomous vehicles to follow behind one driven by a human. It’s a direct response to the improvised explosive devices that caused nearly half the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The military has been trying to bring robots into wars since the 1950s, a long line of technological innovations that began with a bulky roving platform and carried into bomb-defusing robots.

The same basic idea is always at play: “remoting the lethality,” essentially creating a bigger, safer distance between American soldiers and the enemy they are trying to kill.

(13) CHENGDU MIRRORSAT FOLLOW-UP. The Asia Times has a followup on the plan announced by Chengdu to orbit a mirrorsat (“Chinese city to launch man-made moon to light up skies”), with a few additional details.

The satellite would be able to light an area with a diameter of 10 to 80 kilometers, while the precise illumination range can be controlled within a few dozen meters, according to the People’s Daily, which quoted a developer with the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute as saying.

…The man-made moon has a highly reflective coating to reflect light from the sun with solar panel-like wings whose angles can be adjusted to realize “precise lighting.” The 14,300-square-meter city of Chengdu would be the primal focus of the light from the man-made moon, and astronomers throughout China and overseas should be able to spot the glowing star at night.

…The idea of an “artificial moon” came from a French artist, who imagined hanging a necklace made of mirrors above the earth, which could reflect sunshine through the streets of Paris all year round.

(14) FICTION FEAST. Charles Payseur dishes up a first serving of short fiction reviews from Beneath Ceaseless Skies — “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #262 [part 1/2]”.

The anniversary offerings continue with a second special double issue from Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Again, for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to break this out into two parts. The first features a novelette and short story that for me deal very much with narratives and with learning. They both have the feel of engaging with fable, with magic, and with characters learning lessons that they weren’t really expecting to. Whether that lesson is about the nature of growing up or of becoming a better person, in both there’s a focus on people seeking something that will give them power and answers and then, ultimately, wondering if that’s what they really want. Both carry a sense of strangeness and wonder, as well, and are warm and cozy at the same time. Before I give too much away, though, let’s get to the reviews!

(15) SECOND OPINION. According to NPR, “Geologists Question ‘Evidence Of Ancient Life’ In 3.7 Billion-Year-Old Rocks”.

That’s according to a new analysis, published Wednesday in the journal Nature by a different team of experts.

This second group examined structures within the rock that were thought in 2016 to have been produced by communities of single-celled microbes that grew up from the bottom of a shallow, salty sea. A three-dimensional look at these structures shows that instead of having a telltale upside-down ice-cream cone shape — the kind produced by microorganisms — they are shaped like a Toblerone candy bar.

“They’re stretched-out ridges that extend deeply into the rock,” said Joel Hurowitz, a geochemist at Stony Brook University in New York and an author of Wednesday’s paper. “That shape is hard to explain as a biological structure and much easier to explain as something that resulted from rocks being squeezed and deformed under tectonic pressures.”

(16) WHAT’S IN THE GIN? Theoretically, this could be yummy — “Not Just For Cows Anymore: New Cottonseed Is Safe For People To Eat”.

You probably don’t think of cotton as food.

There’s a good reason for that. Farmers grow it mostly for the fluffy white fibers that turn into T-shirts or sheets. Cotton plants do produce seeds, but those seeds are poisonous, at least to humans.

This week, though,the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a new kind of cotton — one that’s been genetically engineered so that the seeds are safe to eat.

The invention promises to open new markets for cottonseed, and it could give cotton farming a big boost. Because cotton plants are prodigious seed producers: Every pound of cotton fiber, or lint, comes with 1.6 pounds of seed.

“You’re getting more cottonseed than you are lint,” says Greg Holt, who leads research on cotton production and processing at a USDA research station in Lubbock, Texas.

Each seed is the size of a small peanut. In principle, it could be highly nutritious. It contains lots of oil and protein.

(17) PARENTAL CAUTION. Watchers of Ellen found out “Keira Knightley bans daughter from watching some Disney films”.

Keira Knightley says she has banned her three-year-old daughter from watching Disney films whose portrayal of women she disagrees with.

Edie Knightley Righton is not allowed to watch Cinderella or Little Mermaid.

Knightley told Ellen DeGeneres that 1950’s Cinderella “waits around for a rich guy to rescue her. Don’t! Rescue yourself. Obviously!”

She said of Little Mermaid: “I mean, the songs are great, but do not give your voice up for a man. Hello!”

Presumably on the OK list is the Disney film Knightley is promoting, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, in which she plays the Sugar Plum Fairy.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Hedgehog on Vimeo is a short animated film from France about a little boy obsessed by hedgehogs.

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