Pixel Scroll 2/2/20 The Scroll is a Harsh Pixel

(1) ONE ‘BOOK KING WON’T WRITE. Stephen King has deleted his Facebook profile reports CNN.

(2) WITCHER THOUGHTS. Walter Jon Williams suspects if you cared you’ve already watched the series, thus the heading — “Reviews Too Late: Witcher”.

…Anyway, the Netflix series is based on a series of stories and novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, who I believe I met twenty years ago and found quite genial.  I haven’t read any of his books, though I’ve played Witcher III: The Wild Hunt, which I recommend to any of you interested in action-oriented console RPGs.

The Witcher in The Witcher is Geralt of Rivia, who despite having long white hair, weird eyes, magical powers, “White Wolf” as a nickname, and a sword is not Elric of Melniboné, mainly because Geralt is actually useful in his world, and all Elric does is bring doom to everybody.

(3) HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY. Bill Murray is stuck in the loop again.

So is one of his good pals –

(4) ANOTHER SUPER AD. This cracked me up, too. Amazon’s “What did we do before Alexa?”

(5) WORLDCON MEMBERSHIP RATE RISE. CoNZealand says –

If you haven’t purchased your membership of CoNZealand, now’s the time to do so.

On February 15th, the cost for an adult attending membership will rise to $450. All other membership tier prices remain the same.

View the list of membership tiers and prices, and register to attend CoNZealand here.

(6) SEVEN OF NINE AT 25. The short answer to “a Voyager reboot?” is “No.” But Ryan has an interest in some kind of reunion. “Star Trek: Jeri Ryan Talks Voyager Reunion Potential After Picard” at Comicbook.com.

Jeri Ryan’s history with the Star Trek franchise seems to be coming together in 2020. She’s reprising her role as Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager in the new streaming series Star Trek: Picard. She’s also helping Star Trek Online celebrate its 10th anniversary. At the same time, Star Trek: Voyager is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2020. With all of this happening at once, fans may wonder if Seven of Nine’s return in Star Trek: Picard could lead to a reunion with her former shipmates from Voyager, even if only for an episode of Star Trek: Short Treks. Ryan tells ComicBook.com that, while it would be fun to bump into some of her old Voyager colleagues again, she’s not looking for a full-blown revival.

“Would I love to reunite with some of those characters? Sure, I think that’d be great,” she says. “I don’t necessarily need to do a Voyager show again. I think that I’ve done that. But I’m not a writer. I can’t really tell you anything.

“I’m having a great time on Picard. It’s a very happy set. It’s a very relaxed set, which has been great. I didn’t have a phenomenal overall experience shooting Voyager. I don’t look back on that as a super fun four years for me, unfortunately, so to be revisiting this character in a more pleasant work experience is great.”

(7) HEAR A NOVEL OF THE YEAR. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting The Second Sleep as this week’s book of bedtime (though the rate they are going through the book it will last two weeks).

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris was cited by SF² Concatenation as one of their team’s choices for the best SF novels of 2019. 

It is set in what at first appears to be in post-Tudor times but soon (first couple of chapters) reveals itself to be in a future England centuries hence following the fall of mankind.

Father Fairfax, a newly ordained priest has been sent by the Bishop of Exeter to the village of Addicott St George to bury Father Lacy who has recently died. But a mysterious figure appears at the funeral casting doubt on the accidental nature of the priest’s death.Fairfax soon discovers that Lacy had an unhealthy (sacraligious) interest in artefacts from before the fall.  One of these was a communication device bearing the emblem of humanity’s sinful ways: an apple with a bite taken out of it…

Episodes so far:

Programme home page  “The Second Sleep”

(8) FILET MINIONS. But wait, there’s more! The full trailer for Minions: The Rise of Gru, will debut worldwide on February 5, 2020.

This summer, from the biggest animated franchise in history and global cultural phenomenon, comes the untold story of one 12-year-old’s dream to become the world’s greatest supervillain, in Minions: The Rise of Gru.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

[Item by Daniel Dern.] Sunday, February 2, is “National Yorkshire Pudding Day 2020: When is it, origins of the side dish, and the best Yorkshire Pudding recipe”.

Also known as “British Yorkshire Pudding Day.” Note, the article includes a recipe.

Depending on who you ask, where you search, or how you feel about it, Yorkshire Pudding and popovers either are or aren’t the same thing, although they’re clearly related. Here’s some of those opinions (and more recipes):

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 2, 1882 James Joyce. I’m including him on the Birthday list as ISFDB has a handful of his short stories and an excerpt from Ulysses listed as genre: “The Sisters”, “Everlasting Fire“, “Hell Fire”, “May Goulding”, “The Hero of Michan”, (an excerpt from Ulysses), “What Is a Ghost” and “The Cat and the Devil”. So who’s read these? (Died 1941.)
  • Born February 2, 1905 Ayn Rand. Best known for The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged which is ISFDB lists as genre. Her works have made into films many times starting with The Night of January 16th based on a play by her in the early Forties to an animated series based off her Anthem novel. No, I really don’t care who John Galt is. (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 2, 1933 Tony Jay. Oh, I most remember him as Paracelcus in the superb Beauty and the Beast series even it turns out he was only in for a handful of episodes. Other genre endeavors include, and this is lest OGH strangle me only the Choice Bits, included voicing The Supreme Being In Time Bandits, an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Third Minister Campio In “Cost of Living”, being in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (and yes I loved the series) as Judge Silot Gato in ”Brisco for the Defense” (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 2, 1940 Thomas M. Disch. Camp Concentration, The Genocides, 334 and On Wings of Song are among the best New Wave novels ever done.  He was a superb poet as well though I don’t think any of it was germane to our community. He won the Nonfiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, a critical but loving look on the impact of SF on our culture. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 2, 1944 Geoffrey Hughes. He played Popplewick aka The Valeyard in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Trial of The Time Lord”. Intriguingly he was also was the voice of Paul McCartney in Yellow Submarine. (Died 2012.)
  • Born February 2, 1947 Farrah Fawcett. She has a reasonably good SFF resume and she‘s been in Logan’s Run as Holly 13, and Saturn 3 as Alex. (Does anyone like that film?) She was also Mary Ann Pringle in Myra Breckinridge which might I suppose be considered at least genre adjacent. Or not.  Series wise, she shows up on I Dream of Jeanie as Cindy Tina, has three different roles on The Six Million Man, and was Miss Preem Lila on two episodes of The Flying Nun. (Died 2009.)
  • Born February 2, 1949 Jack McGee, 71. Ok, so how many of us remember him as Doc Kreuger on the Space Rangers series? I’ve also got him as Bronto Crane Examiner in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, as a Deputy in Stardust, Mike Lutz in seaQuest, Doug Perren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Police Officer Person of Interest to name some of his genre roles.
  • Born February 2, 1949 Brent Spiner, 71. Data on more Trek shows and films than I’ll bother listing here. I’ll leave it up to all of you to list your favorite movements of him as Data as I may or may appear on Picard. He also played Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I’ve not seen yet. He also played Dr. Arik Soong/Lt. Commander Data in four episodes of Enterprise.  Over the years, he’s had roles in Twilight Zone, Outer LimitsTales from the DarksideGargoylesYoung JusticeThe Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Warehouse 13. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio turns Groundhog Day into a moment of terror. (In a totally different way than Bill Murray does it.)

(12) WIGGING OUT. [Item by Scott Edelman.] Today would have been Tom Disch’s 80th birthday. Perhaps you’d enjoy these photos of him trying on wigs for GQ in 1971.

(13) EATS SHOOTS AND LEAVES. BrainPickings’ Maria Popova delves into “A Curious Herbal: Gorgeous Illustrations from Elizabeth Blackwell’s 18th-Century Encyclopedia of Medicinal Botany”.  Tagline: “Time-travel to the dawn of modern medical science via the stunning art of a self-taught woman illustrator and botanist.”

A century before botany swung open the backdoor to science for Victorian women and ignited the craze for herbaria — none more enchanting than the adolescent Emily Dickinson’s forgotten herbarium — a Scottish woman by the name of Elizabeth Blackwell (1707–1758) published, against all cultural odds, an ambitious and scrumptiously illustrated guide to medicinal plants, titled A Curious Herbal: Containing Five Hundred Cuts of the Most Useful Plants Which Are Now Used in the Practice of Physick (public library).

(14) NOVEL APPROACH. The Collider says “‘The Thing’ Remake In the Works from Universal & Blumhouse Based on Recently-Unearthed Original Novel”.

John Carpenter‘s The Thing is, undoubtedly, a horror classic. If if you’ve never actually seen it—and shame on you if you haven’t, hypothetical person—you know at least one of the practical nightmares conjured up by the master. (The chest chomp? Come on.) But it turns out neither The Thing nor its 1951 predecessor The Thing From Another World were technically the full vision of author John W. Campbell Jr., who wrote the novella both films were based on, Who Goes There? That full vision would, in fact, be Frozen Hell, the novel-length version of Who Goes There? that was only unearthed in 2018, and Universal and Blumhoise reportedly plan to adapt into a feature film.

(15) DANCE, I SAID. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Writing for SYFY Wire, Andy Hunsaker wraps up genre films from Sundance — “Sundance Roundup: The record-setting “Palm Springs” and other genre highlights of the fest“ .

When you think of the Sundance Film Festival, it’s usually associated with indie dramedies, coming-of-age stories, or intense or quirky documentaries, but it’s also a showcase for insane horror madness and unique sci-fi. Here’s the slate of genre pictures from this year – keep an eye out for them sooner (or in some cases, later).

Films covered include:

  • PALM SPRINGS (Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, and J.K. Simmons)
  • NINE DAYS (Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Tony Hale, and Bill Skarsgård)
  • THE NIGHT HOUSE (Rebecca Hall) 
  • BAD HAIR (Justin Simien, director) 
  • HIS HOUSE (Remi Weekes, director)
  • SAVE YOURSELVES! (Sunita Mani and John Reynolds)
  • HORSE GIRL (Alison Brie) 
  • WENDY (Benh Zeitlin, director)
  • POSSESSOR (Brandon Cronenberg director) 
  • SCARE ME (Josh Ruben and Aya Cash) 
  • AMULET (Imelda Staunton and Carla Juri)
  • SPREE (Joe Keery) 
  • IMPETIGORE (Tara Basro and Joko Anwar, director) 
  • LEAP OF FAITH: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON THE EXORCIST (Alexandre O. Philippe interviews William Friedkin)
  • RELIC (Robyn Nevin, Emily Mortimer, and Bella Heathcoate)

(16) BELOW SEA LEVEL. Yahoo! frames the picture:  

In a recent remake of a 2008 NASA video, planetary scientist James O’Donoghue shows what it would look like if all that water drained away, revealing the hidden three-fifths of Earth’s surface 

And the YouTube introduction gives these details:

Three fifths of the Earth’s surface is under the ocean, and the ocean floor is as rich in detail as the land surface with which we are familiar. This animation simulates a drop in sea level that gradually reveals this detail. As the sea level drops, the continental shelves appear immediately. They are mostly visible by a depth of 140 meters, except for the Arctic and Antarctic regions, where the shelves are deeper. The mid-ocean ridges start to appear at a depth of 2000 to 3000 meters. By 6000 meters, most of the ocean is drained except for the deep ocean trenches, the deepest of which is the Marianas Trench at a depth of 10,911 meters.

(17) SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. First, there’s Frozen 2 with alleged deleted scenes:

Then, “Society Debut,” where Bigfoot shows up at a snooty British party in 1918.

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

View First Episode of Star Trek Picard Free — For Now

Watch the series premiere of the critically acclaimed CBS All Access Original Series, Star Trek: Picard, now available on YouTube for a limited time only, presented by Geico.

At the end of the 24th Century, and 14 years after his retirement from Starfleet, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is living a quiet life on his vineyard, Chateau Picard. When he is sought out by a mysterious young woman, Dahj (Isa Briones), in need of his help, he soon realizes she may have personal connections to his own past.

Pixel Scroll 1/23/20 No-One Expects The Scrollish Pixelation!

(1) THE DOCTOR IS STILL IN. Entertainment Weekly confirms “Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker will play time traveler for at least one more season”.

… “I’ve seen loads of fan art, which I always love,” she says. “But it’s never been that great for me to immerse myself in noise that you can’t control, good or bad. I think both are a rabbit hole that you shouldn’t necessarily go down. We know that we work really hard for the show to be the best it can be in this moment. Once it’s out in the ether, how people feel, in a way, is kind of irrelevant.”

But Whittaker isn’t going anywhere. The length of time an actor has played the Doctor has varied over the years — back in the ’70s and ’80s, Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor piloted the TARDIS for seven seasons; in the aughts, Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor survived just one. So, will Whittaker return for a third run of shows? “Yes, I’m doing another season,” she confirms. “That might be a massive exclusive that I’m not supposed to say, but it’s unhelpful for me to say [I don’t know] because it would be a massive lie! [Laughs] I absolutely adore it. At some point, these shoes are going to be handed on, but it’s not yet. I’m clinging on tight!”

(2) GUINAN. Patrick Stewart, while appearing on The View, extended an invitation to host Whoopi Goldberg to appear in Picard’s second season. See 4-minutue video here. Stewart said —

“I’m here with a formal invitation, and it’s for you, Whoopi.  Alex Kurtzman, who is the senior executive producer of Star Trek: Picard, and all his colleagues, of which I am one, want to invite you into the second season.”

The crowd delivered a standing ovation as Goldberg and Stewart hugged, and Goldberg replied, “Yes, yes, yes!” 

(3) THE PEOPLE ALL RIDE IN A WORMHOLE IN THE GROUND. The New York Post tells readers “Here’s where to get ‘Star Trek: Picard’ MetroCards featuring Patrick Stewart”.

“Star Trek: Picard” is beaming to a subway station near you.

For three weeks starting Thursday, when the show premieres on CBS All Access, the series will be promoted on special MetroCards available at six MTA stations in Manhattan.

In the drama, Sir Patrick Stewart, 79, reprises his “Star Trek: The Next Generation” role of Jean-Luc Picard, the retired Starfleet admiral and former captain of the Starship Enterprise who is living out his latter days on his family’s vineyard in France. Fittingly, the subway promotion will showcase two different cards — one featuring Picard on the front and his family’s sweeping vineyard on the back, the other with Picard’s dog, No. 1, on the front and several planets on the flip side.

(4) IS PICARD MESSAGE-HEAVY? The Daily Beast argues “‘Star Trek: Picard,’ With Its Refugee Crisis and Anti-Trump Messaging, May Be the Most Political Show on TV”.

…At the crux of the Picard premiere is a devastating monologue Stewart delivers recounting a catastrophic event that happened years before, triggering a refugee crisis and driving Picard to quit his position in the Starfleet, disgusted by what the organization and the Federation now stood for. 

It might sound in the weeds if you’re not a Trekkie, but the basics of the plot are refreshingly simple. 

A supernova blast threatened the planet Romulus. Despite their antagonistic relationship, the Federation agreed to rescue the Romulan people. But in the midst of the rescue mission, synthetic lifeforms like Data, who helped Picard pilot his ship, went rogue and destroyed the Federation’s base on Mars, killing over 90,000 people. In the wake of the incident, synthetic lifeforms were banned, a decision that appalled Picard and caused him to quit before he carried out his Romulan rescue mission. 

“It has always been part of the content of Star Trek that it will be attempting to create a better future with the certain belief that a better future is possible if the right kind of work and the right kind of people are engaged in that,” Stewart told reporters. “And my feeling was, as I look all around our world today, there has never been a more important moment when entertainment and show business can address some of the issues that are potentially damaging our world today.” 

(5) CLONE WARS TRAILER. The final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars starts streaming Feb. 21 on DisneyPlus.

One of the most critically-acclaimed entries in the Star Wars saga will be returning for its epic conclusion with twelve all-new episodes on Disney+ beginning Friday, February 21. From Dave Filoni, director and executive producer of “The Mandalorian,” the new Clone Wars episodes will continue the storylines introduced in the original series, exploring the events leading up to Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

(6) HAVE SPACEWORTHY 3D PRINTER, WILL TRAVEL. Daniel Dern looks into “NASA’s 3D Printing Space Initiatives” in an article for GrabCAD.

…The SLS [Space Launch System] is intended to be the primary launch vehicle of NASA’s deep space. By manufacturing as many of the engine’s parts as possible (like the fuel injectors, turbo pumps, valves, and main injectors) with 3D printing, NASA can significantly reduce time and money spent.

“NASA is on track to reduce the number of individual parts by an order of magnitude — from hundreds to tens — and reduce the cost of the entire engine by 30% and later by 50%, and the build time by 50%,” John explains.

Dern notes, “This is the 3rd or 4th NASA-related article I’ve gotten to do over the past six months. I had a lot of fun researching and writing this, and hope find more assignments on this stuff over the coming year.”

(7) WHAT IT TAKES. “Oscar-nominated filmmaker Chris Butler’s top animation tips” – BBC video.

Film writer and director Chris Butler, who has been nominated for an Oscar, has said anyone who wants to be an animator needs to be prepared for “hard work”.

His film Missing Link is up against Toy Story 4 in the Animated Feature category, but Butler, from Maghull, Merseyside, has already beaten it – and Frozen II – to a Golden Globe.

He said he was “shell-shocked” when it was announced as the winner earlier this month – so much so that he cannot remember going on stage to collect the award.

Butler said making animated films was “not easy” and warned that budding filmmakers have to “put in long hours” to make it in the industry.

(8) STONE AGE. First Fandom Experience not only remembers when — “In 1939, Lithography Came To Fanzines — But Why?”. Zine scans at the link.

Beginning in 1932, Conrad H. Ruppert reshaped the world of fan publications with the printing press he bought with money saved by working in his father’s bakery. He printed issues of the most prominent fanzines of the period, including The Time Traveller, Science Fiction Digest, and Charles D. Hornig’s The Fantasy Fan. It’s not unreasonable to assert that the professional appearance of Hornig’s leaflet-sized ‘zine contributed to his ascension to the editorship of Wonder Stories at the age of 17….

(9) THOSE DARN FANS. RS Benedict posted a new episode of the Rite Gud podcast — “This is the first of a two-part series about the dark side of fandom. Why does fandom turn toxic? Can over-investment in fandom stunt your social and artistic growth?” The first episode is here: “The Dark Side of Fandom, Part 1: Have You Accepted Spider-Man as Your Lord and Savior?”

Tim Heiderich of Have You Seen This took the time to talk to us about the creative perils of fandom. Fandom can be fun, but it can also turn ugly too, or it can keep us so busy focusing on someone else’s work that we fail to develop our own talents.

This was a huge conversation, so we split it into two parts. In the first installment, we talk about toxic fandom, simulacra, and the siren song of nostalgia.

(10) EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT. “Orange Mike” Lowrey’s TAFF win attracted local media attention: “From Chester County High School to Stockholm and Birmingham (England)” in the Chester County Independent.

…Lowrey has been attending these conventions since 1975 and loves it. He said he loves how the conventions are filled with interesting, intelligent people. The interaction of science fiction fans overseas is awesome as well he said.
“I got people I consider good friends that I never met before,” he said.
He actually met the woman whom he would spend his life with and marry, C.K. “Cicatrice” Hinchliffe of Bertram, Iowa, at the local Milwaukee science fiction convention in 1981.
Lowrey graduated from Chester County High School in 1971 and earned a magna cum laude degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In addition to his job with the State of Wisconsin, he’s been working as a writer and editor since 1984.
He is also a bookseller, serves as a local president and state executive board member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and acts as a volunteer administrator for Wikipedia. He has had book reviews published and also Dungeon and Dragon articles published in Dragon magazine.

(11) KARLEN OBIT. John Karlen , the actor who played multiple roles (Willie Loomis, Carl Collins, William H. Loomis, Desmond Collins, Alex Jenkins and Kendrick Young) on the ABC serial Dark Shadows died January 22 at the age of 86.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 23, 1954Killers From Space made it to your local drive-in. It was produced and directed by W. Lee Wilder, brother of Billy Wilder. It has a cast of Peter Graves, Barbara Bestar and James Seay. We should note that Killers From Space came about as a commissioned screenplay from Wilder’s son Myles Wilder and their regular collaborator William Raynor. How was it received? Not well. There was, in the opinion of critics, way too much too talk, too little action, poor production values… you get the idea. Though they liked Graves. Who doesn’t? Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a decidedly unfavourable rating of just 24%. 
  • January 23, 1974 The Questor Tapes first aired on NBC. Created and written by Roddenberry himself with Gene L Coon as co-writer, it was by Richard Colla. It starred Robert Foxworth, Mike Farrell and John Vernon. (Fontana’s novelisation would be dedicated to Coon who died before it aired.) though it was intended to be a pilot fir a series, conflict between Roddenberry and the network doomed the series. It would place fifth in the final Hugo balloting the following year at Aussiecon One with Young Frankenstein being the Hugo winner.
  • January 23, 1985 — The Rankin-Bass version of ThunderCats premiered in syndication. Leonard Starr was the primary writer with the animation contracted to the Japanese studio Pacific Animation Corporation, with Masaki Iizuka as the production manager. It would run for four years and one and thirty episodes. Need we note that a vast media empire of future series, films, comics, t-shirts, statues, action figures and so forth have developed since then?

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 23, 1923 Walter M. Miller Jr. He’s best remembered  for A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime. Terry Bisson would finish off the completed draft that he left of Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, a sequel of sorts to the first novel. He did a fair amount of short fiction as well. He’s poorly represented both digitally and in the dead tree sense as well beyond A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Died 1996.)
  • Born January 23, 1932 Bart LaRue. He was the voice of The Guardian  of  Forever in the “City on the Edge of Forever” episode of Trek as well as doing voice roles in “Bread and Circuses” (on-screen too) “The Gamesters of Triskelion” as Provider 1 (uncredited) “Patterns of Force” as an Ekosian newscaster (Both voice and on-screen) and “The Savage Curtain” as Yarnek. He did similar work for Time Tunnel, Mission Impossible, Voyage to The Bottom of The Sea, The Andromeda StrainWild Wild West, Land of Giants and Lost in Space. (Died 1990.)
  • Born January 23, 1939 Greg and Tim Hildebrandt. Greg’s aged eighty one years, and Tim passed in 2006. I’d say best known for their very popular and ubiquitous Lord of the Rings calendar illustrations, also for illustrating comics for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. They also did a lot of genre covers so I went to ISFDB and checked to see if I recognized any. I certainly did. There was Zelazny’s cover of My Name is Legion, Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham and Poul Anderson’s  A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. Nice.
  • Born January 23, 1942 Brian Coucher, 78. He appeared in three genre series — first  the second actor to portray Travis in Blake’s 7 and also as Borg in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Robots of Death”. Finally genre wise he appeared in a Doctor Who spin-off that I’ve never heard existed, Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans. No Who characters appeared though Sophie Alfred played someone other than Ace here. 
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 77. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really a truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination regarding titles that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan created Star Trek: New Voyages. 
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 70. Unless you count MacGyver as genre which I can say is open to debate, his main and rather enduring SF role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate Universe series. Well Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah, I really liked it. And damn it should’ve caught on. 
  • Born January 23, 1976 Tiffani Thiessen, 44. Better known by far by me at least her role as Elizabeth Burke on the White Collar series which might be genre adjacent, she did end up in three films of genre interest: From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th (a parade of the Friday the 13th films) and Cyborg Soldier. They’re average rating at Rotten Tomatoes among reviewers is fifteen percent in case you were wondering how good they were. 
  • Born January 23, 1973 Lanei Chapman, 47. She’s most remembered as Lt. Vanessa Damphousse on Space: Above and Beyond, a series that ended well before it should’ve ended. She made her genre debut on Next Gen as Ensign Sariel Rager, a recurring character who was a conn officer. 
  • Born January 23, 1977 Sonita Henry, 43. Her very first was as President’s Aide on Fifth Element. She was a Kelvin Doctor in the rebooted Star Trek film, and she’s Colonel Meme I the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Time of The Doctor”.  Her latest is playing Raika on Krypton.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) AND SPREAD HIM OUT THIN. Adweek says “Rest in Peace, Mr. Peanut—Planters Kills Off Iconic Mascot in Lead-Up to Super Bowl”.  

… In a shocking move, Planters, the Kraft-Heinz-owned snack brand, has killed off its iconic mascot in a teaser for its Big Game spot. Mr. Peanut’s untimely demise began with a Nutmobile crash, followed by falling off a cliff and ending in an explosion.

… And when will the classic mascot be memorialized? During Super Bowl 2020, naturally.

…The loss of Mr. Peanut is a major moment for the brand. Planters first introduced Mr. Peanut to audiences in 1916, meaning that the mascot has been around since the midst of World War I, making him of the longest-standing brand mascots of all time.

The spot, which will air during the third quarter of the Big Game on Feb. 2, was produced by VaynerMedia. Planters also has several promotions and activations to honor Mr. Peanut’s life, including commemorative pins for fans who spot the Nutmobile on the streets and a hashtag, #RIPeanut, for fans to share their sympathies.

(16) POMPEII AND CIRCUMSTANCE. “Mount Vesuvius eruption: Extreme heat ‘turned man’s brain to glass'” – BBC has the story.

Extreme heat from the Mount Vesuvius eruption in Italy was so immense it turned one victim’s brain into glass, a study has suggested.

The volcano erupted in 79 AD, killing thousands and destroying Roman settlements near modern-day Naples.

The town of Herculaneum was buried by volcanic matter, entombing some of its residents.

A team of researchers has been studying the remains of one victim, unearthed at the town in the 1960s.

A study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, said fragments of a glassy, black material were extracted from the victim’s skull.

Researchers behind the study believe the black material is the vitrified remains of the man’s brain.

(17) YOUR PAL IN SPACE. “Meet Vyom – India’s first robot ‘astronaut'” – BBC video.

India’s space agency has unveiled a robot that will travel to space later this year as part of an unmanned mission

Scientists hope that it will be able to later assist astronauts in a manned space mission called Gaganyaan, which is scheduled for December 2021.

Isro will conduct two unmanned missions – one in December this year and another in June 2021 – before the Gaganyaan mission.

The robot, which has been named Vyom Mitra (which translates from the Sanskrit to friend in space) is designed to perform a number of functions including responding to astronaut’s questions and performing life support operations.

(18) DO IT FOR SCIENCE. Public spirited citizens arise! “Wanted – volunteers to monitor Britain’s growing slug population”.

Citizen scientists are being sought to help carry out the first survey in decades of Britain’s slug populations.

To take part, all that’s required is curiosity, a garden, and a willingness to go out after dark to search for the likes of the great grey or yellow slug.

The year-long research project will identify different slug species and the features that tempt them into gardens.

The last study conducted in English gardens in the 1940s found high numbers of just nine species of slug.

Many more have arrived in recent years, including the Spanish slug, which is thought to have come in on salad leaves. Less than half of the UK’s 40 or more slug species are now considered native.

(19) TRANSMUTING GOLD TO LEAD. Iron Man never had days like this. GQ asks “Does Dolittle’s Box Office Flop Spell Trouble for Robert Downey Jr.?”

For over a decade, Robert Downey Jr. played MCU pillar Tony Stark, a billionaire superhero who would almost certainly consider Dolittle’s abysmal opening weekend earnings to be little more than pocket change.

Despite opening on a holiday weekend, RDJ’s Dolittle made just $29.5 million over the four-day period, and only an additional $17 million internationally. Dolittle cost a jaw-dropping $175 million to make, so those box office numbers are kind of catastrophic, with Universal expected to lose $100 million on the movie, according to The Wrap. Universal, it should be noted, also took a bath last month when the furry fever dream that is Cats flopped, but at least Cats only cost $90 million to make, so the loss isn’t quite as terrible.

The only slim hope for Dolittle’s prospects is a higher than expected haul in the international markets where it hasn’t opened yet—including China—but maybe don’t hold your breath.

It took the strain of wielding all six Infinity Stones to kill him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so Robert Downey Jr. will probably survive Dolittle’s bomb. Still… yikes.

(20) I SPY, AGAIN. “Twitter demands AI company stops ‘collecting faces'”

Twitter has demanded an AI company stop taking images from its website.

Clearview has already amassed more than three billion photographs from sites including Facebook and Twitter.

They are used by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security and more than 600 other law-enforcement agencies around the world to identify suspects.

In a cease-and-desist letter sent on Tuesday, Twitter said its policies had been violated and requested the deletion of any collected data.

…US senator Ron Wyden said on Twitter Clearview’s activities were “extremely troubling”.

“Americans have a right to know whether their personal photos are secretly being sucked into a private facial-recognition database,” he said.

“Every day, we witness a growing need for strong federal laws to protect privacy.”

(21) PYTHON PASSPORT. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] A fitting (and unintentional) tribute to Terry Jones. I’d vote for a Brexit for this one if I could.

Original:

Sad to say, the Express graphic is fixed now — “Britons will fly to 2020 summer holiday destinations on classic BLUE passport”.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Model Citizen” on YouTube, David James Armsby portrays what seems to be the perfect nuclear family–but why is it controlled by evil robots?

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

Pixel Scroll 1/18/20 The Previous Title Appears to Be Accurate

(1) THE FOREVER FRANCHISE. Dave Itzkoff wonders “Can ‘Star Trek’ Chart a Way Forward?” in New York Times Magazine.

Michael Chabon’s job used to consist of writing novels, earning literary acclaim and receiving the occasional prestigious award. But this past June he was racing around the soundstages here at “Star Trek: Picard,” where he was working as an executive producer.

Chabon, a 56-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner, strode through hallways decorated with timelines that chronicled the fictional histories of alien empires and stepped onto the set of a futuristic spacecraft. He giggled to himself as he toyed with some of the fake technology, occasionally exclaiming “Engage!,” and flashed a thumbs-up across the room to the “Picard” star Patrick Stewart as he rehearsed a scene.

These were all welcome perks in Chabon’s new line of work. But what drew him to “Star Trek” as a fan in his teens and kept him invested as a producer, he said, was an underlying message about humanity that was hopeful within reason.

“It’s not saying human beings are basically wonderful and if we just learn to agree, all our problems will go away,” he explained. “It takes work. It takes effort.”

…“If you feel that each piece is handcrafted with care, then I think people really appreciate it,” said Alex Kurtzman, an executive producer of the many new “Star Trek” series. “If you feel like a universe is being shoved down your throat for speed and dollars, there’s no faster way to lose an audience.”

(2) OPENING THE DOOR TO BOOK BANNING. PEN America protests that “Proposed Book Banning Bill in Missouri Could Imprison Librarians”.

 … The bill — the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act or House Bill 2044 — aims to add several provisions to the state’s funding law for public libraries. These new provisions establish “parental library review boards” that would evaluate whether any library materials constitute “age-inappropriate sexual material.” Members of these five-member boards, who would be elected at a town meeting by a simple majority of voters, are empowered to determine whether material is appropriate, including by evaluating its literary merit. Public librarians are explicitly barred by the statute from serving on such review boards, even if they are from the community.

“This is a shockingly transparent attempt to legalize book banning in the state of Missouri,” said James Tager, deputy director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America. “This act is clearly aimed at empowering small groups of parents to appoint themselves as censors over their state’s public libraries. Books wrestling with sexual themes, books uplifting LGBTQIA+ characters, books addressing issues such as sexual assault—all of these books are potentially on the chopping block if this bill is passed.”

Under the act, the boards would hold public hearings to receive suggestions as to possible inappropriate books, and would have the authority to order the library to remove any such material from access by minors. Any public library who allows minors access to such “age-inappropriate materials” would have their funding stripped, and librarians who refuse to comply with the act can be fined and imprisoned for up to one year.

(3) KGB. Ellen Datlow posted her photos from the January 15 KGB readings where Richard Kadrey read from his new novel The Grand Dark and Cassandra Khaw read from her forthcoming novella Nothing But Blackened Teeth.

Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey 1
Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey

(4) PANTSER. At Whatever, “The Big Idea: Simon Jimenez” begins with a confession:

I wrote no encyclopedia and I drew no map before I began writing The Vanished Birds. I laid the track as the train chugged forward and hoped I wouldn’t be outpaced and run over. Of course I was. I wince now as I think back on all the soft resets and double-backs and total rethinks and rewrites I had to do. I’d blame this all on the fact that it was my first book and I didn’t know what I was doing, but that wouldn’t be the truth. This is how I tend to go about all things. Without a plan and screaming in freefall.

(5) WITCHER APPECIATION SOCIETY. On YouTube, Paste’s Allison Keene and Josh Jackson celebrate the new fantasy series from Netflix.

(6) COP ON THE CORNER. “Nine years later, Detroit’s RoboCop statue is finally ready for installation”Curbed Detroit has the story.

It started with a successful Kickstarter campaign. A mere nine years later, the RoboCop statue is nearly done.

The campaign, launched by the community arts nonprofit Imagination Station in March 2011, received $67,436 in donations.

In an update from December 31, 2019, the team showcased photos to scores of eager backers of the enormous, bronze, nearly finished statue. “Here are a last few teaser pics of Robo in the positioning and welding process before his final form is unveiled later this winter, with installation details to follow,” wrote Brandon Walley of the Imagination Station.

The last touches include installing its head and adding a gray patina, now only visible on a breastplate. Once finished around March, the recreation of the original Peter Weller costume will stand 11 feet tall.

(7) RETRO RESEARCH. Cora Buhlert has posted two more reviews of 1945 Retro Hugo eligible works, namely “The Big and the Little” a.k.a. “The Merchant Princes” by Isaac Asimov, which is the second Foundation story of 1944, and “Guard in the Dark”, a horror story by Allison V. Harding.

She’s also posted a roundup of links to other reviews of eligible 1944 works, including several reviews by Steve J. Wright:  “Retro Review Links for January 15, 2020”.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 18, 1952 Tales of Tomorrow’s Frankenstein first aired on ABC. It would be the sixteenth episode of the first season of the series. It was directed by Don Medford. The episode starred Lon Chaney, Jr. in the role of Frankenstein’s monster and John Newland in the role of Victor Frankenstein. Lon Chaney, Jr. Is credited here as Lon Chaney as he was in all his later work. He’s no stranger to playing the Monster as he played the role of the monster in the Universal Pictures Ghost of Frankenstein a decade earlier. You can watch it here.
  • January 18, 1959 Cage of Doom premiered in the United Kingdom. (It would be called Terror from the Year 5000 in the States.) it’s credits were long, so have patience when we say that it was by produced by Robert J. Gurney Jr., Samuel Z. Arkoff, James H. Nicholson, and Gene Searchinger. It was directed by Robert J. Gurney Jr., and starred Ward Costello, Joyce Holden, John Stratton, Salome Jens, and Fred Herrick. The story was actually based on an actually SFF story that ran in in the April 1957 issue of Fantastic, Henry Slesar’s “Bottle Baby”. It is not credited as such however. It’s not a great film and hence it got featured in the eighth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are sure it’s not good giving it a Zero percent approval rating though we caution only a little over a hundred cared enough to express a view. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Talking fat bears obsessed with honey. Bouncing tigers, err, tiggers. Morose, well, what is he? It’s certainly genre. And though it isn’t remotely genre, I wholeheartedly recommend Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1920 Constance Moore. She gets Birthday Honors for being in the 1939 movie serial Buck Rogers in which she was Wilma Deering, the only female character in the serial.  Were there ever other female main cast characters in Buck Rogers?(Died 2005.)
  • Born January 18, 1932 Robert Anton Wilson. Conspiracy nut or SF writer? Or both. I think I first encountered him in something Geis wrote about him in SFR in the Eighties. Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy is just weird and might or might not be a sequel to The Illuminatus! Trilogy. But the absolutely weirdest thing he did I think is an interview titled Robert Anton Wilson On Finnegans Wake and Joseph Campbell. Yes, he frothed at the mouth on Campbell and Joyce! (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 87. Director who’s responsible for one of the best SFF films ever done, Excalibur with Sean Connery, and one of the worst with that also starred Sean Connery, Zardoz. He also directed the rather nifty The Emerald Forest which Holdstock did a far better than merely good job of novelising.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series which ran for three seasons. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. He shows up in Die Hard with a Vengeance in a subway scene. No, it’s not genre, I just like that film. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 18, 1943 Paul Freeman, 77. Best remembered I’d say for being the evil René Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He also played Professor Moriarty in Without a Clue which had Michael Caine as Holmes and Kingsley as Watson.
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennett, 67. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is also a great deal of fun to read. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of the Liavek anthologies are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug. 
  • Born January 18, 1964 Jane Horrocks, 56. Her first SFF video role was Pattern in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, scripted off the Joan Aiken novel. A year later, she showed up in The Witches, scripted off the Roald Dahl novel playing Miss Susan Irvine. She voices Black Widow / Mrs. Plum in Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, and voiced Hannah in the late Ninties Watership Down.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JUGGLING THE BOOKS. “Majipoor – Les Objets Volants” took inspiration from a Robert Silverberg novel to create this stage act.

Majipoor is a fantastic journey through juggling and object manipulation, an exploration of objects and bodies, individuals and community.

The show is freely inspired from Robert Silverberg’s 1980 novel «Lord Valentine’s Castle». This is the story of an identity winning back, a route surrounded by exotic landscapes on giant planet Majipoor, along with a juggling company of intelligent four-handed being called Skandars.

(12) WATER LOSS ON MARS GREATER THAN THOUGHT. Science reports that water is easily transported high into the atmosphere during storms and lost. This takes place even during the dusty season. “Stormy water on Mars: The distribution and saturation of atmospheric water during the dusty season”.

Mars once hosted abundant water on its surface but subsequently lost most of it to space. Small amounts of water vapor are still present in the atmosphere, which can escape if they reach sufficiently high altitudes. Fedorova et al. used data from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft to determine the distribution of water in Mars’ atmosphere and investigate how it varies over seasons. Water vapor is sometimes heavily saturated, and its distribution is affected by the planet’s large dust storms. Water can efficiently reach the upper atmosphere when Mars is in the warmest part of its orbit, and this behavior may have controlled the overall rate at which Mars lost its water.

(13) VERY OLD BIRDS OF A FEATHER. SYFY Wire also reports on the distant past: “This new dinosaur just called it: even feathered dinos were nothing like birds”.

Some dinosaurs looked like birds. Some prehistoric birds looked like dinosaurs, and some birds that are still around echo dinosaurs. That doesn’t mean feathers and wings always make a bird—or a dinosaur.

Wulong bohaiensis was a small feathered therapod that lived 120 million years ago in what is now China, going twice as far back as T. rex. The dinosaur species this creature is most closely related to is (another star of Jurassic Park) the Velociraptor. “Wulong” translates to “dancing dragon,” and the fantastic specimen, which is preserved so well that even some of its feathers are frozen in time, is not only dragon-like, but also birdlike. The thing is that the bones and feathers revealed this newly unearthed dino to be a juvenile who went through different growing pains than birds….

(14) TIS MANY A SLIP. Popsugar thinks “Disney’s New Space Mountain Mug Is Light Years Ahead of Everything Else in My Kitchen Cabinet”.

Official blog Oh My Disney recently announced the upcoming arrival of Space Mountain mugs at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in honor of the high-speed roller coaster’s 45th anniversary.

(15) RELATIVELY WRONG. This week Andrew Porter saw another wrong question on Jeopardy! Can you believe it?

Final Jeopardy: Children’s Literature

Answer: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Max Planck’s Quantum Theory inspired this book that won a 1963 Newberry Medal.

Wrong question: “What is ‘The Fault in Our Stars’?”

Correct question: “What is ‘A Wrinkle in Time’?”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Terry Pratchett: Back in Black” on Vimeo is a 2018 documentary about Sir Terry’s life from BBC Scotland. (Vimeo setting requires it be watched at their site.)

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, N., Cora Buhlert, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 1/17/20 The Longer A Scroll Title, The More Likely It Is Antidisestablishmentarian

(1) DOWN THE TUBES. City A.M. shows off new signage created to advertise the forthcoming series: “PICARDilly Circus: TfL renames Tube station to celebrate Star Trek launch”. More photos at the link.

The move will see Star Trek branding and signage plastered on roundels in the ticket hall and platforms throughout the Grade II listed station

Commuters will also hear special public service announcements advising them to “take care when using stairs, escalators or transporters” while travelling through the station.

The two-day marketing campaign, created with TfL’s advertising partner Global, forms part of the transport body’s efforts to generate more revenue by offering brands station takeovers.

(2) AND DOWN THE HATCH. Joe Otterson, in the Variety story “‘Picard’ Stars Reveal Which ‘Star Trek’ Character They Would Get Drunk With”, finds executive producer Rod Roddenberry voting for his father Gene and Sir Patrick Stewart saying that there were so many interesting new characters in the show that having “a glass or two of something pleasant” with them “would be a treat.”

(3) COLLECTIVE THOUGHTS. Camestros Felapton identifies and analyzes many of what I (not necessarily Camestros) term the ethical issues surrounding the publication and response to Isabel Fall’s story: “Well I guess I’m writing about Clarkesworld again”.

…Again, that’s not Isabel Fall’s fault and it shouldn’t have been her problem because the source of the trust should have not rested with her but with Clarkesworld. The answer to the question “is this story intended to be in good-faith” should have been “yes, because Clarkesworld wouldn’t have published it otherwise”. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a sufficient answer for many people and I don’t think we can fault people for not seeing it as a sufficient answer. The key question Clarkesworld need to answer before publication is whether people in wider fandom (i.e. not just their regular readers) is whether they had sufficient trust both in fandom in general and among transgender fans in particular for Clarkesworld (not Isabel Fall) to attempt to away some of the power of a very hurtful meme. The answer would have been “no”. Clearly, the magazine doesn’t have that level of trust, as demonstrated but also, I think it was obvious before hand.

Am I being wise after the event in saying so? No, really I don’t think so. Multiple people, from varying backgrounds were asking me privately before I wrote a review whether I thought the story was some sort of hoax or other shenanigans. In the context it had then (which isn’t the context it had now) sensible, rational people genuinely couldn’t tell. My main reason for thinking that it wasn’t a hoax was that I don’t think any of the usual suspects are that smart or intellectually adept (or, lets be frank, capable of writing that well). That’s an editorial failure not a failure on the part of the author….

(4) BIG MANDALORIAN IRON. An instant Country/Western classic. Riding a Blurrg ain’t that bleepin’ easy!

From a planet they call Mandalore came a stranger one fine day…

(5) HI GRANDPA. Jon Favreau tweeted a photo of George Lucas holding Baby Yoda.

(6) EPIC FAIL. NPR’s Scott Tobias reports that “‘Dolittle’ Does A Lot, All Of It Terribly”

Dolittle is not a film. Dolittle is a crime scene in need of forensic analysis. Something happened here. Something terrible. Something inexplicable. Watching the film doesn’t tell the whole story, because it doesn’t behave like the usual errant vision, which might be chalked up to a poor conceit or some hiccups in execution. This one has been stabbed multiple times, and only a thorough behind-the-scenes examination could sort out whose fingerprints are on what hilt.

Some details have already emerged: The credited director of Dolittle is Stephen Gaghan, who won an Oscar for scripting Traffic and wrote and directed the oil thriller Syriana — an odd résumé for a children’s film to say the least. After poor test screenings, the film’s release date was pushed from spring of 2019 to January of 2020, and it underwent extensive reshoots under director Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and writer Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie), who reportedly punched up the script. During that same period, the name of the film changed from The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, referencing the second book in Hugh Lofting’s series about an eccentric animal doctor, to simply Dolittle, stripped even of the honorarium.

Normally, such trips to the sausage factory are not necessary to understand why a film works or it doesn’t, but Dolittle is so incoherent that it can’t be unpacked on its own. Certain baseline elements of a professional Hollywood production — this one budgeted upwards of $175 million — are simply not present here: The filmmakers have been stymied by the technical challenge of having human actors interact with CGI animals, so eye-lines don’t meet and the editing within scenes lacks continuity. Robert Downey Jr. is off mumbling incoherently in one part of the frame, an all-star voice cast is making wisecracks as a polar bear or an ostrich or a squirrel in another, and only occasionally do they look like they’re on speaking terms…

(7) STARKWEATHER OBIT. Hey, I still own one of these. “Gary Starkweather, Inventor of the Laser Printer, Dies at 81” – the New York Times paid tribute:

…Mr. Starkweather was working as a junior engineer in the offices of the Xerox Corporation in Rochester, N.Y., in 1964 — several years after the company had introduced the photocopier to American office buildings — when he began working on a version that could transmit information between two distant copiers, so that a person could scan a document in one place and send a copy to someone else in another.

He decided that this could best be done with the precision of a laser, another recent invention, which can use amplified light to transfer images onto paper. But then he had a better idea: Rather than sending grainy images of paper documents from place to place, what if he used the precision of a laser to print more refined images straight from a computer?

“What you have to do is not just look at the marble,” he said in a talk at the University of South Florida in 2017. “You have to see the angel in the marble.”

Because his idea ventured away from the company’s core business, copiers, his boss hated it. At one point Mr. Starkweather was told that if he did not stop working on the project, his entire team would be laid off.

“If you have a good idea, you can bet someone else doesn’t think it’s good,” Mr. Starkweather would say in 1997 in a lecture for the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 17, 1982 The Electric Grandmother  premiered on NBC.  The film starred Maureen Stapleton, Paul Benedict and Edward Herrmann. It was penned by Ray Bradbury as “I Sing the Body Electric” in his 1969 collection of the same name. (It’s the title of a Walt Whitman poem.) School Library Journal said that fans of Bradbury would be fascinated by this film. This is the second dramatisation of his story as the first was presented on The Twilight Zone. It does doesn’t appeared to be out on DVD.
  • January 17, 1992 Freejack premiered. It starred Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins. The screenplay was written by Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett (who was also the producer) and Dan Gilroy. We consider it to be very loosely adapted from Robert Sheckley’s Immortality, Inc. (Great work. The serialised version as “Time Killer” in Galaxy was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.) It was not at the time well-liked by either critics or reviewers. Currently it’s carrying a 25% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes and there’s a lot who have expressed an opinion — over fourteen thousand so far. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1910 Carol Hughes. Genre fans will no doubt best recognize her as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe from sixty years ago. Other than The Red Dragon, a Charlie Chan film done in the Forties if I remember correctly, I’m not seeing anything that’s even genre adjacent for her though I’m assuming that the Fifties Ghost Buster short she was in should be a genre production. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 17, 1922 Betty White, 98. She voiced Gretchen Claus in The Story of Santa Claus which is enough for Birthday Honors, and she was Mrs. Delores Bickerman in Lake Placid as well according to keen eyes of John King Tarpinian. She had a cameo as herself in (I’m not kidding) Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt. and I’ll finish off by that she’s still active at nearly a hundred, bless her!, by voicing Bitey White in Toy Story 4.
  • Born January 17, 1925 Patricia Owens. She was Hélène Delambre in The Fly. No offense to Cronenberg’s The Fly but this one is far more horrific. Her one of her last appearances was as Charlie in The Destructors which is sort of SFF. Ghost Ship where she was an uncredited party girl is definitely SFF, and her appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents falls under my rule that everything he did counts. (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 89. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well.
  • Born January 17, 1935 Paul O. Williams. A poet won the Austonding Award for Best New Writer in 1983 for The Breaking of Northwall and The Ends of the Circle which are the first two novels of  his Pelbar Cycle. I’ve not read these, so be interested in your opinions, of course. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 58. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler that I really liked, then there’s The Truman Show which was way cool. So may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?  (SHUDDER!) We settled last year that we think that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is genre.  And I think I’ll stop there this time. 
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 50. Like Romulnan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste.  He also is responsible for directing the animated Hotel Transylvania franchise. 
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 31. Best known as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. She voices the same character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series.

(10) CLOCKING IN. Flickering Myth shares “First images from the BBC’s Discworld series The Watch”.

The BBC has released five first look images from The Watch, the upcoming fantasy series inspired by Terry Pratchett’s bestselling Discworld novels featuring  Richard Dormer (Captain Sam Vimes),  Lara Rossi (Lady Sybil Ramkin), Adam Hugill (Constable Carrot), Jo Eaton-Kent (Constable Cheery), Sam Adewunmi (Carcer Dun), and Marama Corlett (Corporal Angua); check them out here…

(11) FOR THE RECORD. Classic fm reports “Mark Hamill reunited with missing Star Wars soundtrack signed by John Williams, 20 years later”.

…The incredible discovery came about after staff at an Arizona bookshop came into possession of the record and were keen to return the record to its rightful owner.

It was certainly a noble gesture; despite the Bookmans’ team knowing the album was worth large sums of money, its personalised autograph suggested it should only belong to the Return of the Jedi star.

Williams had gifted the record to Hamill ahead of the 1977 release of the first Star Wars movie, and had signed the sleeve with the inscription: ‘Dear Mark Hamill, May the Force always be with us.’

Amazingly, the 68-year-old actor wasn’t even aware the record was missing and believed it to still be in the basement of his California home, along with his other vinyl….

(12) TOURIST SPOT. Nice of them to fit it in between nearish Worldcons: “Glenfinnan’s Harry Potter viaduct focus of £1.7m upgrade”.

Improvements are being made to areas around a railway viaduct famed for its picturesque setting and appearances in the Harry Potter films.

Network Rail is investing £1.7m to remove loose vegetation, including “dangerous” trees, from slopes above the railway at the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Parts of a fence put up to protect visitors on a tourist path at the site are also being renewed.

Thousands of Potter fans and railway enthusiasts visit the viaduct.

(13) LIVING FOSSILS SURVIVE. NPR has some good news — “Aussie Firefighters Save World’s Only Groves Of Prehistoric Wollemi Pines”.

It was a lifesaving mission as dramatic as any in the months-long battle against the wildfires that have torn through the Australian bush.

But instead of a race to save humans or animals, a specialized team of Australian firefighters was bent on saving invaluable plant life: hidden groves of the Wollemi pine, a prehistoric tree species that has outlived the dinosaurs.

Wollemia nobilis peaked in abundance 34 million to 65 million years ago, before a steady decline. Today, only 200 of the trees exist in their natural environment — all within the canyons of Wollemi National Park, just 100 miles west of Sydney.

The trees are so rare that they were thought to be extinct until 1994.

…when Australia’s wildfires started burning toward Wollemi National Park in recent weeks, firefighters from the parks and wildlife service and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service put a carefully planned operation into motion.

“This is a key asset, not only for the national parks, but for our entire country,” Matt Kean, New South Wales’ environment minister, said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

(14) IN CASE YOU WONDERED. As for the fossils that didn’t survive: “Dinosaur extinction: ‘Asteroid strike was real culprit'”. The latest “final verdict.”

Was it the asteroid or colossal volcanism that initiated the demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago?

This has been a bit of a “to and fro” argument of late, but now a group of scientists has weighed in with what they claim is the definitive answer.

“It was the asteroid ‘wot dun it’!” Prof Paul Wilson told the BBC.

His team’s analysis of ocean sediments shows that huge volcanoes that erupted in India did not change the climate enough to drive the extinction.

Volcanoes can spew enormous volumes of gases into the atmosphere that can both cool and warm the planet.

And the Deccan Traps, as the volcanic terrain in India is known, certainly had massive scale – hundreds of thousands of cubic km of molten rock were erupted onto the land surface over thousands of years.

But the new research from Southampton University’s Prof Wilson, and colleagues from elsewhere in Europe and the US, indicates there is a mismatch in both the effect and timing of the volcanism’s influence.

(15) REDUCTION IN FORCE. This probably wasn’t the cat’s personal New Year’s resolution, I realize… “35-pound cat named Bazooka begins epic weight loss journey”.

A 35-pound orange tabby cat – appropriately named Bazooka – has arrived with pomp and circumstance at a North Carolina shelter this week in preparation to begin his epic weight loss journey.

Bazooka, who was transferred from another shelter about two hours away in Davidson County, arrived at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County earlier this week, requiring two people to carry him in his crate….

(16) PROHIBITION. Food historian Rick Foss, a longtime LASFS member, has an article on the website for BBC History Magazine: “Wet vs Dry: how prohibition fractured America”.

 …When Europeans first settled in America in the 17th century and into the 18th, alcohol was regarded as not merely a beverage, but a medicine. Many of the country’s founding fathers were enthusiastic consumers of beer and rum: George Washington owned a distillery; Thomas Jefferson was a wine enthusiast; and in their era, anyone who didn’t drink alcohol would have been regarded as peculiar. Late into the 19th century beer and cider were the everyday drink of most Americans, and wine production was gaining in quality and quantity. How, then, did the prohibition movement, which was politically insignificant as late as the 1860s, grow to be so powerful?

(17) X-MEN RATED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Have you ever wondered what kind of underwear Wolverine wears? Apparently JP “Pat” Huddlestuff has… and he has the answer for you if you’re willing to venture into the bathroom with him. Creative Bloq: “Illustration series depicts superheroes’ bathroom habits – and it’s genius”.

Superhero fan art is no new thing. From Spiderman and Wolverine to the Hulk and DeadPool, these popular characters have been reimagined by artists in all manner of ways over the years. But just when we think we’ve seen it all, a project like Bathroom Heroes comes along. 

The brainchild of artist JP “Pat” Huddleston, this series of illustrations depicts how superheroes might look while using the bathroom; and, more importantly, how they might manage their superpowers. 

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

Pixel Scroll 1/7/20 Who Flattened Tommy Tribble?

(1) RETRO RESOURCES. Cora Buhlert has started a recommendation spreadsheet for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The shortlink is bit.ly/RetroHugo1945

Cora hopes Filers will fill it in, “Especially since there are whole areas I know very little about. For example, the fan categories are completely empty so far.”

She has also started a companion blog called Retro Science Fiction Reviews, where she is reviewing Retro Hugo eligible works and linking to other people’s reviews. First on the board – “Retro Review: ‘Terror Out of Space’ by Leigh Brackett”.

(2) SPFBO SAMPLER AVAILABLE. Fantasy Book Critic announces “The SPFBO Sampler Available Now!” (SPFBO is the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, an annual competition hosted by Mark Lawrence.)

Today we’re thrilled to announce the official launch of The SPFBO Sampler! Looking to dive into the world of indie fantasy novels, but don’t know where to start? Here’s the perfect place to get a taste of the works of over 70 self-published authors from all around the world. Go get your copy today, and let all these incredible authors transport you into their worlds and beyond.

This huge undertaking has been organized by indie author Jon Auerbach, its gorgeous cover created by indie author and cover artist and designer Luke Tarzian, and includes a foreword by the accomplished and best-selling SFF author Mark Lawrence. This is one you surely cannot miss.

Get the Sampler here.

(3) TONOPAH GOING UP. Membership rates for the 2021 Westercon in Tonopah, NV will rise on March 1.

The cost of an attending membership in Westercon 74 will increase to $50 effective March 1, 2020. In addition, the $10 conversion-to-attending rate for those people who voted in the 2021 Westercon Site Selection in Utah expires at the end of February 2020. Membership rates for Young Adult and Child members remain unchanged.

(4) EREWHON LIT SALON. Louis Evans and Sarah Pinsker will be the readers at the Erewhon Literary Salon on January 9. The event takes place in the office of Erewhon Books in the Flatiron/NoMad district of Manhattan. For full information and policies, and to RSVP, click here. Event address and information will be emailed to those who have RSVPed a few days before the event.

LOUIS EVANS is a writer recently returned to his native NYC from a half-decade spent in the SF Bay. His work has been published in Analog SF&F, Escape Pod, The Toast, Third Flatiron Anthologies, and Write Ahead/The Future Looms. He’s a two-time winner of Zach Weinersmith’s Bad Ad-hoc Hypothesis Festival and the Shipwreck SF bad erotic fanfiction competition. He is a founding co-producer of Cliterary Salon, a feminist and queer literary show in the SF Bay. 

SARAH PINSKER is the author of over fifty works of short fiction, including the novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road,” winner of the Nebula Award in 2016. Her novelette “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” was the Sturgeon Award winner in 2014. Her fiction has been published in magazines including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lightspeed, and Uncanny and in numerous anthologies and year’s bests. Her stories have been translated into Chinese, Spanish, French, and Italian, among other languages, and have been nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, Locus, Eugie, and World Fantasy Awards.Sarah’s first collection, Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea: Stories was published by Small Beer Press in March 2019, and her first novel, A Song For A New Day, was published by Penguin/Random House/Berkley in September 2019.

(5) FUR FRIENDLY. Rolling Stone speculates whether “Will Furries Ever Go Mainstream?” (Hey, they’ve made it into Rolling Stone, that must count for something.)

…The mainstream media has historically painted furries as sex-crazed, socially maladjusted freaks who enjoy rubbing up against each other in giant bunny costumes. This is essentially false. Like most subcultures, the furry fandom is a largely internet-driven phenomenon, providing a label for a preexisting feeling that has always lived, dormant and unnamed, inside a select number of people. While there is a contingent of furries who do derive sexual pleasure from the subculture, the fanbase is much more broad than that.

Maybe you really liked drawing wolves during eighth-grade homeroom. Maybe you’ve always felt an inexplicable affinity with Tony the Tiger. Maybe you’ve long thought it would be rad to buy a $10,000 curvy hippo costume and enter a breakdancing competition. If you fall into any of these categories, then furries are your kind of people, and FurFest the place to unleash the human-sized sergal (a fictional rabbit/shark/wolf amalgam) within. As the voiceover to an intro presentation for FurFest sonorously boomed over a dubstep beat, “You know you are more than a human…now you are the beast that slept inside your mind.”

MFF is widely touted as the biggest furry con in the world, and its attendance has increased exponentially in recent years: While the con only saw about 1,000 attendees in 2005, it reported more than 10,900 guests in 2018, and Matt Berger, media relations lead for MFF, estimates that 12,000 were in attendance this year. That’s in part due to the increasing number of younger children and their families who are gravitating to furry culture — during my time at Midwest FurFest, I saw children as young as seven attending dance competitions and meet-and-greets accompanied by their parents, having stumbled on the fandom via YouTube or TikTok.

In so keeping with its increasingly family-friendly image, the fandom has become intent on promoting itself as a beacon of acceptance and inclusivity, and MFF is no exception….

(6) KEEPING SCORE. In “Asimov’s Empire, Asimov’s Wall”, Alec Nevala-Lee spotlights Isaac Asimov’s epic track record of harassment.

…In the end, however, another number might turn out to be equally meaningful. Over the course of many decades, Asimov groped or engaged in other forms of unwanted touching with countless women, often at conventions, but also privately and in the workplace. Within the science fiction community, this is common knowledge, and whenever I bring it up in a room of older fans, the response is usually a series of nods. The number of such incidents is unknown, but it can be plausibly estimated in the hundreds, and thus may match or exceed the long list of books that Asimov wrote.

(7) BALLARD REDUX. NPR’s Jason Heller reports that “There’s Heart Amidst The Ruins Of ‘The Heap'”.

“An unpreserved Vesuvius, an overnight ruin” — that’s how Sean Adams describes Los Verticalés, the fictional setting of his engrossing debut novel The Heap. Adams is not speaking figuratively. Los Verticalés, nicknamed The Vert, was once a leviathan 500-story building, erected in the American desert, that housed an entire metropolis’ worth of apartments, residents, and businesses. But years ago it suddenly collapsed, leaving a gargantuan pile of rubble and bodies called The Heap. That “overnight ruin” is now surrounded by a loose community of mobile homes called CamperTown, and the denizens of CamperTown dig through the debris, searching for the dead and whatever modest treasure might be salvaged.

One of these Dig Hands, as they’re known, has a higher motivation: Orville Anders is the brother of Bernard Anders, a radio personality who is the last known survivor of The Vert’s collapse. Bernard, however, is still trapped beneath the rubble, miraculously alive and broadcasting his daily radio talk show from somewhere in the bowels of The Vert’s vast corpse. Bernard, living in darkness, subsists on rats and a trickle of water coming down a wall; Orville digs desperately every day in search of his buried-alive, increasingly unstable brother, keeping in touch by calling in to his radio show every day, hoping not only to find Bernard but to strengthen a fraternal bond that’s grown frayed and distant over the years. It’s a numbing, heartbreaking task, and it’s made all the more difficult when Sundial Media — the owner of WVRT, the radio station that Bernard is still technically employed by — saddles Bernard with a moral dilemma: Would he be willing to brand and commercialize his exchanges with his brother as a kind of podcast-meets-reality-show?

Adams’ imaginative scope is staggering. The intricately wrought details of The Vert serve as the substructure of The Heap, contained in interstitial chapters that sketch a blueprint of the fallen building as a monument to modern technology as well as a chilling social experiment. The Vert’s inner core of apartments comprised the lower classes, since they were isolated from the outside of the building and therefore didn’t have windows; in their place, UV screens broadcast moving images of the real world as a kind of analogy of Plato’s cave wall. Reality began to warp inside The Vert as friction grew between The Windowed and The Windowless, to the point where the building’s physical collapse is symbolic of its civic collapse.

(8) ANOTHER DEMON PRINCE. Matthew Hughes announced he will be writing a sequel to Jack Vance’ Demon Princes series.

I’ve come to an agreement with Jack Vance’s son, John, that I will be writing a sequel to Jack Vance’s iconic Demon Princes series. A contract is being drawn up.

I’m not an outliner, but I’ve sketched out an idea for the story: a young person, not sure yet if it’s male or female, returns to the world called Providence and the community of Mount Pleasant. This was the site of a slave-taking raid by the five megacriminals known collectively as the Demon Princes, whom Kirth Gersen devoted his life to tracking down and killing.

The returnee has escaped from slavery and come to reclaim the family property – as well as something precious buried there.

But the ghost town has been repopulated by sinister people – I’m thinking maybe a cult or some kind of radical political organization. So my underdog has to undergo trials and tribulations.

I’m very much looking forward to this.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 7, 1961 — ITV premiered The Avengers. Original cast was Ian Hendry and Patrick Macnee. Hendry left after the first series; Steed with becoming the primary male  character, partnered with a succession of female partners. The series would last for six seasons and one hundred and one episodes. We of course have our favorite female partner but that’s not for us to say here. After it ended in 1969, John Steed would be paired with two new partners on The New Avengers, a series that ran for two seasons in the mid-Seventies. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 7, 1912 Charles Addams. Illustrator best known for the Addams Family which he first drew in 1932 and kept drawing until his death. Needless to say there has been a number of films using these characters of which The Addams Family is my favorite. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 7, 1924 Eugene Lee Coon. Showrunner on Trek for much of the first and second seasons. Responsible in some part for thirteen scripts for the show. Outside of this show, he had little in the genre save writing one episode each of The Wild Wild West and The Immortal, and later scripting The Questor Tapes. (Died 1973.)
  • Born January 7, 1926 Graham Stone. Australian fan, bibliographer, collector, and small press publisher. Founder of the Australian Science Fiction Society and member, as well, of the Futurian Society of Sydney. He wrote with his co-author Royce Williams, Zero Equals Nothing. Winner of an A. Bertram Chandler Award. (Died 2013.)
  • Born January 7, 1928 William Peter Blatty. Novelist and screenwriter best known for The Exorcist though he was also the same for Exorcist III. The former is by no means the only genre work that he would write as his literary career would go on for forty years after this novel and would include Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Fable which he renamed Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Hollywood Christmas Carol and The Exorcist for the 21st Century, his final work. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 7, 1950 Erin Gray, 70. She’s best known as Colonel Wilma Deering Buck Rogers in the 25th Century series. Would it surprise you that she shows up in as Commander Grey in Star Trek Continues, one of those video Trek fanfics 
  • Born January 7, 1955 Karen Haber, 65. Wife of Robert Silverberg. I fondly remember reading her Meditations on Middle Earth anthology. And the three Universe anthologies she did with her husband are most excellent. I don’t remember reading any of her novels but that’s hardly a certainty that I didn’t as even when my memory was a lot better than it is now I hardly remembered all the genre fiction I read. 
  • Born January 7, 1957 Nicholson Baker, 63. Ok ISFDB lists him as having two SFF novels, The Fermata and House of Holes. The Wiki page him lists those as being two out of the three erotic novels that he’s written. Not having read them, are they indeed erotic SFF? I see that ESF say they’re indeed SFF and yes are erotic. H’h. 
  • Born January 7, 1961 Mark Allen Shepherd, 59. Morn, the bar patron on Deep Space Nine. Amazingly he was in Quark’s bar a total of ninety-three episodes plus one episode each on Next Gen and Voyager. Technically he’s uncredited in almost all of those appearances. That’s pretty much his entire acting career. He’s also an abstract painter whose work was used frequently on DS9 sets.
  • Born January 7, 1966 Heidi Elizabeth Yolen Stemple, 54. Daughter of Jane Yolen, sibling of Adam Stemple. She and Yolen co-wrote the Mirror, Mirror: Forty Folktales for Mothers and Daughters to Share anthology. ISFDBsays they did two chapbooks as well, A Kite for Moon and Monster Academy
  • Born January 7, 1971 Jeremy Renner, 49. You know him as Hawkeye in those MCU films but he’s also in a number of other SFF film including Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Mission: Impossible – Ghost ProtocolMission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Arrival.
  • Born January 7, 1980 Tom Harper, 40. Director of such British series as Demons, Misfits and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. He’s also done some SFF film work such as The Woman in Black: Angel of Death and The Borrowers.
  • Born January 7, 1983 Ruth Negga, 37. She was Raina in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but she left that show as she got a leading role being Tulip O’Hare in the Preacher series. She was also Nikki in Misfits, Queen Taria In Warcraft and a WHO Doctor In World War Z. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro suggests one of Stan Lee’s mottos was a bit naïve.
  • Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics is about Beginning,

(12) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. SYFY Wire’s Ryan Britt pinpoints “The moment when Picard became more important than Kirk in Star Trek history”.

Who is the most popular Star Trek captain of all time? This age-old — and extremely fraught — Trekkie debate has arguably been settled. The impending release of Star Trek: Picard seems to prove that, overwhelmingly, fans love Captain Jean-Luc Picard more than any other Trek captain ever. Yes, hardcore Trekkies will tell you they celebrate all captains equally (even Scott Bakula), but the zeitgeist seems to tell a different story.

We love Picard a lot, and surely, we love him more than Captain James T. Kirk. This wasn’t always the case, but we’ve been living in a Picard-first world for a long time now. Here’s when it happened….

(13) WONDER WOMAN. The Warner Bros. UK Twitter account has dropped four pics from the upcoming June 5 release Wonder Woman 1984: “Travel back to 1984 with these new stills from #WW84.” They include scenes set both on The Mall and in a mall.

(14) CELEBRITY BECKONS. Food & Wine sends word — “The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Is Looking for Drivers”. “Want to spend a year traveling around in a giant hot dog? Never mind. We know the answer.”

Apply here — “Hotdoggers Wanted”.

Who? – You! We need outgoing, creative, friendly, enthusiastic, graduating college seniors who have an appetite for adventure and are willing to see the country through the windshield of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Applicants should have a BA or BS, preferably in public relations, journalism, communications, advertising, or marketing, though applicants are not limited to these degrees. 

(15) MYSTERY CATS 3K. In the Washington Post, Maura Judkis listens to readers who say they saw CATS after consuming pot, mushrooms, acid, poppers, and other illicit substances (not simultaneously). “People are seeing ‘Cats’ while high out of their minds. These are their stories.”

Anneliese Nielsen, who owns a cannabis brand in Los Angeles, used a strain of weed calibrated for relaxation, but found herself unable to relax in a  dark theatre illuminated by the ghastly cat face of Corden.  ‘I’m 35 and announced, ‘I’m scared!’ to my fellow moviegoers at least seven times,’ says Nielsen, who called the film ‘a special kind of evil.’

The Alamo Drafthouse chain has special ‘rowdy’ showings of CATS where patrons are encouraged to consume adult beverages and loudly comment on the film.

(16) ONE SMALL STEP? BBC reports “Facebook to ban ‘deepfakes'”.

Facebook has announced it will remove videos modified by artificial intelligence, known as deepfakes, from its platform.

Deepfakes are computer-generated clips that are designed to look real.

The social media company said in a blog that these videos distort reality and present a “significant challenge” for the technology industry.

While deepfakes are still relatively uncommon on the internet, they are becoming more prevalent.

AI software creates deepfakes of people – often politicians or celebrities – by merging, replacing, or superimposing content on to a video in a way that makes it look real.

Facebook said it would remove videos if it realised they had been edited in ways that weren’t obvious to an average person, or if they misled a viewer into thinking that a person in a video said words they did not actually say.

“There are people who engage in media manipulation in order to mislead,” wrote Monika Bickert, vice president of global policy management at Facebook in the blog.

Facebook staff and independent fact-checkers will be used to judge a video’s authenticity.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Looney Tunes–Behind The Lines: A Conversation With Tex Avery” on YouTube is an interview with the great animator Tex Avery that is undated, but probably from the late 1970s.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/6/20 Forever Let Us Hold Our Appertainments High

(1) RWA CANCELS RITA AWARDS. The “Status of the 2020 RITA Contest” announces the RITA awards are the latest casualties of the internecine strife that began when Romance Writers of America tried to impose penalties on Courtney Milan.

Due to recent events in RWA, many in the romance community have lost faith in RWA’s ability to administer the 2020 RITA contest fairly, causing numerous judges and entrants to cancel their participation. The contest will not reflect the breadth and diversity of 2019 romance novels/novellas and thus will not be able to fulfill its purpose of recognizing excellence in the genre. For this reason, the Board has voted to cancel the contest for the current year. The plan is for next year’s contest to celebrate 2019 and 2020 romances. 

While we understand this will be disappointing news for some, we also understand that other members will support taking this step. Recent RWA Boards have worked hard to make changes to the current contest, striving to make it more diverse and inclusive, relieve judging burdens, and bring in outside voices, but those changes had to be voted on and implemented in a narrow window of time each year. 

By not holding a contest in 2020, we will be able to move away from making piecemeal changes. Instead, we will have the opportunity to take a proper amount of time to build an awards program and process – whether it’s a revamped RITA contest or something entirely new – that celebrates and elevates the best in our genre. We plan on engaging a consultant who specializes in awards programs and a DEI consultant, as well as soliciting member input. 

Members who entered the 2020 contest will be refunded their full entry fee by January 22, 2020. We extend our deep appreciation to the judges who volunteered their time this year.

(2) LEADING WORKSHOPS. Cat Rambo’s “Nink Knowledge: How to Grow Voices ~ The Subtle Art of Facilitating Workshops” is the featured article for January at Novelists, Inc.

When leading a discussion, don’t be afraid to go with the flow. Sometimes the oddest questions may be the most fruitful, or those questions may lead to additions for the future, sometimes even inspiring entirely new classes. The question of how to maintain a fruitful writing practice in the face of increasingly grey times, for example, led to a class on hopepunk that has become one of my favorites to teach and one which was even referenced in a Wall Street Journal article on the subgenre.

(3) MUTATIS MUTANDI. A trailer for The New Mutants has dropped. Film comes to theaters April 3.

20th Century Fox in association with Marvel Entertainment presents “The New Mutants,” an original horror thriller set in an isolated hospital where a group of young mutants is being held for psychiatric monitoring. When strange occurrences begin to take place, both their new mutant abilities and their friendships will be tested as they battle to try and make it out alive.

(4) PICARD TEASER. The show arrives January 23. Will this be the bait that finally gets me to pay for CBS All-Access?

(5) ALT WORLD PANEL IN LA. The Barnes & Noble story at The Grove in Los Angeles will host “The Man in The High Castle: Creating The Alt World Special Event” on January 8.

Join us when we celebrate “The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World” with our very special panel of guest Mike Avila – author and Emmy award-winning TV producer, Jason O’Mara – Star, “Wyatt Price”, Isa Dick Hackett – Executive Producer, David Scarpa – Co-Showrunner, Drew Boughton – Production Designer.

Discover the alt worlds of The Man in the High Castle with the cast and crew in this exclusive collection of art. Packed with concept art, final designs, and artist commentary plus previously unseen storyboards.

The Man in the High Castle is the hit Amazon series, inspired by Philip K. Dick’s award-winning novel, that offers a glimpse into a chilling alternate timeline in which Hitler was victorious in World War II. In a dystopian America dominated by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Juliana Crain discovers a mysterious film that may hold the key to toppling the totalitarian regimes.

This is a panel discussion and signing and will be wristbanded.

A wristband will be issued on a first come, first serve basis to customers who purchase “The Man in The High Castle: Creating The Alt World ” from Barnes & Noble in The Grove beginning January 8th
• Limit 1 wristband per book
• Check Back for more Details as they Become Available

For more information contact Barnes & Noble at The Grove — 189 The Grove Dr, Ste K 30, Los Angeles, California 90036

(6) FREELANCING IN CALIFORNIA. Publishers Lunch for January 2 includes the following: “Legal: California Freelance Law and Authors.”

The Authors Guild has a look at California’s new law AB-5 that requires treating many freelance workers as employees. On the question of whether the law affects book authors, “We were assured by those working on the bill that trade book authors are not covered, and we do not see a basis for disagreeing since the bill clearly states that AB-5 applies only to ‘persons providing labor or services’ and authors provide neither ‘labor’ nor ‘services’ under standard book contracts—they instead grant copyright licenses or assignments. Additionally, royalties—even in the form of advance payments—are not considered wages. It is difficult to imagine how a court would conclude that a typical book contract is for labor or services.”

Some book contracts, though, such as work-made-for-hire agreements and “contracts where the author has ongoing obligations and the publisher has greater editing ability or control over the content” could be subject to the new law, though. And the AG recommends that, “Publishers and authors who want to be certain to retain a freelancer relationship should be careful to make sure the contracts are written as simple license grants and not as services agreements.”

(7) NOT QUITE MAGGIE’S DRAWERS. James Davis Nicoll pointed Tor.com readers at “12 Excellent SFF Books You Might Have Missed in 2019”. Not to brag, but I actually read one of these! The list includes —

Magical Women, edited by Sukanya Venkatraghavan

Venkatraghavan delivers an assortment of stories by talented Indian writers. Three elements unite the stories: all are written by women, all are speculative fiction, and all are worth reading. A further element common to many (but not all) is an undercurrent of incandescent fury over the current condition of the world. Taken as a whole, the collection is not quite as upbeat as Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, but the craft of the writers is undeniable.

(8) ANDI SHECHTER. The Andi Shechter Memorial is scheduled for January 11, 2020 in Seattle.

Her friends will be gathering to remember her and share those memories. The memorial will be held in Seattle, at the Magnolia Public Library.

Date: Saturday 11th January, 2020
Noon – 3pm (set-up at 11am, teardown until 4pm)

Magnolia Meeting Room in Magnolia Library
Address: 2801 34th Ave W, Seattle, WA 98199

Please bring light refreshments to share, and note that this is an alcohol-free venue.

At this gathering we will share stories of Andi,  honoring her life and fight for disabled access and political advantages for all.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

Handsel Monday — According to Scottish custom, the first Monday of the new year was the time to give children and servants a small gift, or handsel. Literally something given into the hands of someone else, the gift itself was less important than the good luck it signified. The handsel was popular as a new year’s gift from the 14th to 19th centuries, but it also had a broader application to mark any new situation. It continues today in the form of a housewarming gift to someone moving into a new home.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 6, 1973 Schoolhouse Rock! premiered
  • January 6, 1975 — The first episode of The Changes premiered on BBC 1. It was a ten-part series adapting Peter Dickinson’s The Changes YA trilogy (The Weathermonger, Heartsease and The Devil’s Children. (The books were written in reverse order: the events of The Devil’s Children happen first, Heartsease second, and The Weathermonger third). It starred Victoria Williams and Keith Ashton. I find no reporting on it from the time, nor is it rated over at Rotten Tomatoes but that’s typical of these BBC series from this time. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 6, 1895 Tom Fadden. He’s on the Birthday Honors List for the original  Invasion of the Body Snatchers where his character was one of the first victims to yield to the invaders. It wasn’t his first SFF role as some thirty years before that role, he would make his Broadway debut as Peter Jekyll in The Wonderful Visit based off the novel of the same name by H. G. Wells, who also co-wrote the play. The last role of his that I’ll note was that one of his first television roles was Eben Kent, the man who adopts Kal-El on the first episode of The Adventures of Superman series. (Died 1980.)
  • Born January 6, 1905 Eric Frank Russell. He won the first annual Hugo Award for Best Short Story at Clevention in 1955 for “Allamagoosa” published in the May 1955 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Sinister Barrier, his first novel, appeared in Unknown in 1939, the first novel to appear there. What’s your favorite work by him? (Died 1978.)
  • Born January 6, 1954 Anthony Minghella. He adapted his Jim Henson’s The Storyteller scripts into story form which were published in his Jim Henson’s The Storyteller collection. They’re quite excellent actually. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 6, 1955 Rowan Atkinson, 65. An unlikely Birthday perhaps except for that he was the lead in Doctor Who and The Curse of Fatal Death which I know did not give him the dubious distinction of the shortest lived Doctor as that goes another actor although who I’ve not a clue.  Other genre appearances were scant I think (clause inserted for the nit pickers here) though he did play Nigel Small-Fawcett in Never Say Never Again and Mr. Stringer in The Witches which I really like even if the author hates. 
  • Born January 6, 1958 Wayne Barlowe, 62. Artist whose Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials that came out in the late Seventies I still remember fondly. It was nominated at Noreascon 2 for a Hugo but came in third with Peter Nichol’s Science Fiction Encyclopedia garnering the Award that year.  His background paintings have been used in Galaxy Quest, Babylon 5, John Carter and Pacific Rim to name but a few films. 
  • Born January 6, 1959 Ahrvid Engholm, 61. Swedish conrunning and fanzine fan who worked on many Nasacons as well as on Swecons. Founder of the long running Baltcon. He has many fanzines including Vheckans Avfentyr, Fanytt, Multum Est and others. He was a member of Lund Fantasy Fan Society in the University of Lund.
  • Born January 6, 1960 Andrea Thompson, 60. I’ll not mention her memorable scene on Arliss as it’s not genre.  Her noted genre work was as the telepath Talia Winters on Babylon 5. Her first genre role was in Nightmare Weekend which I’ll say was definitely a schlock film. Next up was playing a monster in the short-lived Monsters anthology series. She had a one-off on Quantum Leap before landing the Talia Winters gig. Then came Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys. Really. Truly. Her last genre role to date appears to be in the Heroes: Destiny web series.
  • Born January 6, 1969 Aron Eisenberg. Nog on Deep Space 9. Way after DS9, he’d show up in Renegades, a might be Trek series loaded with Trek alumni including Nichelle Nichols, Robert Beltran, Koenig and Terry Farrell. It lasted two episodes. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 6, 1976 Guy Adams, 44. If you’ve listened to a Big Finish audio-works, it’s likely that you are familiar with his writing as he’s written scripts for their Doctor, UNIT and Torchwood series among his many endeavors there. Not surprisingly, he’s also written novels on Doctor Who, Torchwood, Sherlock Holmes and so forth. I’ve read some of his Torchwood novels — they’re good popcorn literature.
  • Born January 6, 1982 Eddie Redmayne, 38. He portrayed Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. He was Newt Scamander in the Fantastic Beasts film series.
  • Born January 6, 1984 Kate McKinnon, 36. Dr. Jillian Holtzmann in that Ghostbusters film.   I think her only other genre role to date was voicing various character on Robotomy, a Cartoon Network series. She is Grunhilda in the forthcoming The Lunch Witch film based off the YA novel by Deb Lucke.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur offers an alternate description of the afterlife.
  • Frank and Ernest find out the problems the cast of The Wizard of Oz has when looking for work.

(13) FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS WATCH ‘CATS’ ON DRUGS. The Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan helps readers decide if they’re the audience for this movie: “‘Cats’ the movie is pretty crazy. But you already know that, and you don’t care.”

Having just watched “Cats,” the movie version of the hit musical about something called “Jellicle cats,” it is clear that “Jellicle” must be cat-speak for “wackadoodle.”…

(14) SILENT RADIO. So far as I know, Camestros Felapton is only on beer. But after reading “CATS! An audio-free podcast review!” I plan to follow Abraham Lincoln’s example and ask him to send each of us a barrel.

[Camestros] So let’s start. [in recitative] Did you find this film weird?
[Timothy] Did it give us the frights?
[Susan] Did it run far too long?
[Camestros] Did the cast all wear tights?
[Timothy] Was it bad C-G-I?
[Susan] Was it moving and sad?
[Camestros] Was it ineffably awful and indescribably bad?
[Susan] (take it away Timothy!)
[Timothy -sings] Because the movie of Cats is and the movie is not,
It’s like the movie of Cats can and the movie can not,
It’s not the movie of Cats is but also its not,
While this movie of Cats should and really should not,
And its because the movie of Cats is bad and bad it is not….

(15) FERTILITY PIONEER. BBC makes sure you’ll remember the name of “The female scientist who changed human fertility forever”.

She was the first person to successfully fertilise a human egg in vitro, changing reproductive medicine forever – but few people know her name today.

…As a technician for Harvard fertility expert John Rock, Menkin’s goal was to fertilise an egg outside the human body. This was the first step in Rock’s plan to cure infertility, which remained a scientific mystery to doctors. He particularly wanted to help women who had healthy ovaries but damaged fallopian tubes – the cause of one-fifth of the infertility cases he saw in his clinic.

Usually, Menkin exposed the sperm and egg to each other for around 30 minutes. Not this time. Years later, she recalled what transpired to a reporter: “I was so exhausted and drowsy that, while watching under the microscope how the sperm were frolicking around the egg, I forgot to look at the clock until I suddenly realised that a whole hour had elapsed… In other words, I must admit that my success, after nearly six years of failure, was due – not to a stroke of genius – but simply to cat-napping on the job!”

On Friday, when she came back to the lab, she saw something miraculous: the cells had fused and were now dividing, giving her the world’s first glimpse of a human embryo fertilised in glass.

(16) THE FUTURE IS REDISTRIBUTED. “Wheel.me robot wheels move furniture via voice commands” – a BBC video.

A Norwegian start-up wants to make it possible to rearrange a home’s furniture solely via a voice command or the touch of an app’s button.

To achieve this, Wheel.me has developed the Genius robotic wheels, which attach to the base of tables, chairs and other furnishings.

It is showing off a prototype at the CES tech expo in Las Vegas, where founder Atle Timenes arranged a demo for BBC Click’s Lara Lewington.

(17) HELPFUL SJWC? “CES 2020: Restaurant cat robot meows at dining customers” – let the BBC introduce you.

A robot cat designed to ferry plates of food to restaurant customers has been unveiled at the CES tech expo in Las Vegas.

BellaBot, built by the Chinese firm PuduTech, is one of a number of wacky robotic inventions being shown off at the event this year.

There is also UBTech’s Walker, which can pull yoga poses.

And Charmin’s RollBot. It speeds a roll of toilet paper on demand to bathrooms that have run out of the stuff.

One expert said it was likely that robots exhibited at CES would only continue to get more bizarre in the future.

BellaBot, the table-waiting robot cat, is a service bot with personality.

It updates a previous model that had a more utilitarian design. BellaBot, in contrast, features a screen showing cat-face animations.

It mews when it arrives at tables to encourage customers to pick up their food.

(18) SOUND INVESTMENT. “Audiobooks: the rise and rise of the books you don’t read”.

Audiobooks are having a moment. As they soar in popularity, they are becoming increasingly creative – is the book you listen to now an artform in its own right, asks Clare Thorp.

…Audiobooks are in the midst of a boom, with Deloitte predicting that the global market will grow by 25 per cent in 2020 to US$3.5 billion (£2.6 billion). Compared with physical book sales, audio is the baby of the publishing world, but it is growing up fast. Gone are the days of dusty cassette box-sets and stuffily-read versions of the classics. Now audiobooks draw A-list talent – think Elisabeth Moss reading The Handmaid’s Tale, Meryl Streep narrating Charlotte’s Web or Michelle Obama reading all 19 hours of her own memoir, Becoming. There are hugely ambitious productions using ensemble casts (the audio of George Saunders’ Booker Prize-winning Lincoln in the Bardo features 166 different narrators), specially created soundscapes and technological advances such as surround-sound 3D audio. Some authors are even skipping print and writing exclusive audio content.

…While audiobook sales are up and physical book sales down, it’s not a given that the two things are related. In fact, audio is pulling in new audiences – whether that’s listeners who don’t usually buy books, or readers listening to genres in audio format that they wouldn’t pick up in print.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Is that Emperor Palpatine on an air guitar, or a Force guitar?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Darrah Chavey, James Davis Nicoll, Michael J. Walsh, Peace Is My Middle Name, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/20/19 Return
of the Judi: The Force And The Furry-est

(1) STAR TREK: PICARD. A third teaser has dropped – but it’s been blocked on some sites, so we’ll find out together if this still works by the time I post today’s Scroll.

(2) UPROAR AFTER ROWLING OPINES ON TRANS IDENTITY. Maya Forstater was an employee of the British think tank Centre for Global Development. She tweeted some trans-exclusionary radical feminist views and got fired.  Rowling supported her.

Vox (the pop culture site) responded “JKR just ruined Harry Potter, Merry Christmas.” — “J.K. Rowling’s latest tweet seems like transphobic BS. Her fans are heartbroken”.

Rowling is customarily outspoken about her politics, which can be generalized as ranging from moderately liberal to progressive — though over time, she’s seemed increasingly less so than her fans. On Thursday morning, many of them woke up to a tweet from Rowling, which might seem at first to be a typical example of Rowling’s broadly liberal feminism.

In context, however, Rowling’s tweet reveals itself as a shocking dismissal of transgender identity: its first three lines seem to directly attack trans identity, while its final line mischaracterizes the facts surrounding a court case that involves significant transphobia.

Many fans have found Rowling’s statement deeply disturbing — so much so that the reaction to it was trending on Twitter on early Thursday morning, ahead of the historic impeachment of Donald Trump….

(3) YEAR’S TOP BOOKS. Cat Eldridge says he counts eight SFF novels on Paste’s list of “The 19 Best Novels of 2019”. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone clocks in at number 2.

Whether you’re looking for a story about necromancers fighting in space or boys surviving a reform school in Florida, you’ll find something to love on our ranked list of the year’s best novels. These 19 books promise an escape from reality while still tackling real-world issues in creative ways, exploring everything from grief to mother-child relationships to spirituality. We loved these stories, and we believe you will, too.

There are also genre books, but not quite as many in PopMatters’ “The Best Books of 2019: Fiction”. The list begins with –

Ancestral Night, by Elizabeth Bear [Saga Press / Simon & Schuster]

Elizabeth Bear’s Ancestral Night immerses readers in a strange, futuristic universe from the very first pages, and while some of the concepts and language may be difficult at first for readers who want simple, unchallenging texts or are not used to the more speculative side of the genre, those who persevere will quickly be hooked. The book’s sweeping sense of mystery and discovery is what initially hooks, but it’s the speculative and complex world Bear has constructed which is most rewarding in the end.

Ancestral Night is a wise, intelligent book for modern-minded, thinking readers. Bear has dabbled in the steampunk and fantasy vein in the past, and while elements of that are recognizable here, for the most part this is hard sci-fi combined with brilliantly imagined speculative fiction. Bear has constructed a fascinating, absorbing universe populated with compelling and intelligent characters who conform to neither clichés nor stereotypes. It’s sci-fi of the top order, and here’s hoping we see more of it. – Hans Rollmann

Read more about this book here on PopMatters.

(4) CHANNELING GENRE. WIRED thinks “The 5 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV Shows of 2019” were pretty much the top television shows, period.

We don’t only watch nerd TV here at WIRED. Fleabag’s fabulous. More Pose now. Ship a box of Emmys to Big Little Lies.

It’s just that, this year, when it came to new shows, genre kind of kicked all the butts. In fact, we could’ve left off the sci-fi/fantasy qualifier and called this list “The 5 Best TV Shows of 2019,” period. (We didn’t, because we thought you’d appreciate a bit of what’s known in the biz as framing.) Sure, there was some commodity crapola. The Boys wasn’t half as edgy as it thought. Baby Yoda swallowed The Mandalorian whole. His Dark Materials verged, at times, on the soulless (ironic, for a show about souls). (But Ruth Wilson as Mrs. Coulter—that slightly flared, froglike upper lip!—gives the best performance of 2019.)

(5) ANCIENT ADVICE. “Throw your testicles” at the London Review of Books is a review by Tom Shippey of the Getty Museum’s book about its exhibition of bestiaries. SJWs will not like what medieval people thought about cats! (Fortunately, the title does not come from the section about them.)

Sometimes ordinary life intrudes. A text from Bodley 764 (c.1225-50) neatly describes the cat: ‘This creature is called mouser because he kills mice. The common word is cat because he captures [captat] them … Catus is the Greek word for cunning.’ The mice the cat catches are ‘greedy men who seek earthly goods’, but, as Susan Crane comments, the accompanying pictures show an artist ‘speculat[ing] imaginatively on the hidden life of cats at night’. There are three cats: one curled up in front of a fire (apparently cleaning his behind), another with a mouse in his paws, and a third on his hind legs, trying to reach into a birdcage – almost a Breughel before its time.

(6) MARKET LIGHTLY KILLED. Sorry, you can’t resell pixels in Europe… Publishers Lunch has the story —

The European Court of Justice agreed with the non-binding opinion from their Advocate General that reselling “used” ebooks is a violation of copyright. The ruling was made in a case brought by Dutch publisher associations against the website Tom Kabinet, which has tried to establish a marketplace for individuals to resell their ebooks.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 20, 1961 Mysterious Island premiered. Based on the novel by Jules Verne, the film was produced by Charles H. Schneer and directed by Cy Endfield, it was a visual feast of Ray Harryhausen special effects with music as often was in his films by Bernard Herrmann. Critics loved it, the box office was more than successful and the current Rotten Tomatoes rating among reviewers is an excellent 63%. 
  • December 20, 1985 Enemy Mine premiered. It was directed by Wolfgang Petersen as  the script by Edward Khmara off of Barry B. Longyear’s novella which won a Hugo Award for Best Novella and a Nebula Award for the same as well. The film stars Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr. as you well know.  It wasn’t well received at the time, one critic called it “This season’s Dune”,  but it has a 68% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 20, 2002 — The Firefly series premiered on FOX. The Browncoats among us  know more about it than we could say about it, so tell us what you think about it. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge]

  • Born December 20, 1925 Nicole Maure. She appeared in The Day of the Triffids as Christine Durrant, and was  Elena Antonescu in Secret of the Incas, a film its Wiki page claims was the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best known as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story  as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger Man, The Avengers, The Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 67. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not  a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fav films which is Darkman and finally Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier.  
  • Born December 20, 1952 Kate Atkinson, 67. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. The Life After Life douology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on all of the digital book vendors. 
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 59. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of  her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out  Mojo: Conjure Stories and  Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out out out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction.  She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual?

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Two from The Argyle Sweater:

(10) TAKE-HOME TEST. Camestros Felapton studies all the angles science fiction has come up with to get stories out of the idea of identical human copies in “How to duplicate people”.

So while the term ‘clone’ is what is used, actual cloning does not get at the concept which is more about duplication or near duplication. Creating another copy of a person is the essence of the science-fiction concept. Duplication of genes is just a handy hook on to which the idea can be hung. Practically we have always known that monozygotic twins are not literally identical even at a superficial level and certainly not at the level of character or personality.

So plot wise how do people get duplicated? …

(11) RUMP ROAST. “‘A Christmas Carol’: TV Review”The Hollywood Reporter’s critic is not a fan.

…There have certainly been attempts at gritty and dark interpretations of the Dickens text, but few as random and gratuitous as Steven Knight brings to the table in his new take for FX and BBC. Finally, we have a Christmas Carol in which Ebenezer Scrooge can bellow “Fuck!!!” several times for limited reason and where viewers can be exposed to one fleeting — not prurient, mind you — bare rump, as FX endeavors finally to put the “ass” in “Christmass.”

The result is that FX has made a Christmas Carol that very much isn’t for children — seriously, the wee ones will be either bored or scandalized — and probably isn’t really for adults either. At its very best, it’s an attempted in-depth character study of Scrooge, one that meshes very poorly with the inspiring structure of the story, while at its worst it’s an ill-paced, ill-focused version of A Christmas Carol that doesn’t even get up to the arrival of Jacob Marley until over an hour into its three-hour running time. At least FX is airing A Christmas Carol all at once. On BBC One, it’s airing over three nights, and I’m betting the lack of incident in the first hour will lead to ample tune-out.

(12) NOW THAT’S TALENT. “Miss America 2020: Biochemist wins crown after on-stage experiment” — includes video of experiment and narration.

A Virginian biochemist has been named winner of Miss America 2020 after performing a live science experiment that defied stereotypes of the contest.

Camille Schrier defeated 50 women to take the crown at Thursday’s final in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Wearing a lab coat, the 24-year-old impressed judges with a chemistry demonstration in the talent show.

(13) GOOD QUESTION. Jon Del Arroz has made seven consecutive blog posts about one Star Wars subject or another, including the piece de resistance — “Why Are So Many People Unhealthily Obsessed With Star Wars?”

(14) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. “Review: Star Wars Memories by Craig Miller” — Charon Dunn enjoyed the book.

…If you were there back in the ’70s, anticipating the Empire Strikes Back the way kids long for Santa, you’re going to enjoy this book immensely. It’s like time traveling back to your glorious misspent youth, back in the days of feathered hair and innocence.

Star Wars unlocked science fiction for me. I still run into folks who aren’t shy about letting me know they don’t consider it as *real* a franchise as some of the others. The science is wonky (explosions in space???) and the dialogue is nuts (nerfherder!!!) and some of the storytelling details remain as nebulous as Schroedinger’s cat (Han shot first dang it)….

(15) JUJU. Kwei Quartey analyzes “The Role of the Spiritual in African Crime Fiction” at CrimeReads.

… While supernatural phenomena in Ghana’s daily life serve as a unique background for much of the crime fiction I set in that West African country, it can also be a challenge. For logistic reasons too complex to go into now, my novels are not distributed to a significant degree in Africa in general and Ghana in particular. Western readers, primarily those in the United States, are and will remain my main market for the foreseeable future. So how do I introduce these unfamiliar beliefs and concepts like juju to my readers? Very carefully. It should appear seamless, which is not as simple as it may sound. Whenever I describe or highlight a supernatural phenomenon in my novel, I follow some general rules.

  • It should play an important part in the plot and not be tangential to the story.
  • I avoid making it seem gratuitous.
  • I avoid making it seem didactic.
  • I leave criticisms or praise of the custom to characters in the novel, not the narrator.

(16) MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA Press Release: “NASA Statement on Boeing Orbital Flight Test”.

BLUF: Things were, as they say in the space biz, “off nominal.” At least nothing exploded. The entire press release is reproduced below.

FYI: BLUF means Bottom Line Up Front—one preferred method of briefing high-ranking personnel in case their attention wanders or they cut the briefing off short.

“Early this morning, NASA and Boeing successfully launched Starliner on the first human-rated United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.

“The plan was for Starliner to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station and return home safely to Earth. While a lot of things went right, the uncrewed spacecraft did not reach the planned orbit and will not dock to the International Space Station.

“This is in fact why we test. Teams worked quickly to ensure the spacecraft was in a stable orbit and preserved enough fuel to ensure a landing opportunity.

“Boeing, in coordination with NASA, is working to return Starliner to White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday.

“At NASA we do really difficult things, and we do them all the time. I spoke to Vice President Pence, Chairman of the National Space Council, and he remains very optimistic in our ability to safely launch American astronauts from American soil. We remain positive even though we did face challenges today. We’ll be getting a lot more data in the coming days….

(17) MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A CATS.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Peace on Earth” on Vimeo is a 1939 cartoon by Hugh Harman about how the world is wiped out by a global apocalypse and humanity is replaced by cuddly carol-loving animals.

[Thanks to Joel Zakem, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcok, JJ, N., Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Deuteronomy Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/16/19 It’s Not Easy Being Soylent Green

(1) MAKE IT SO AGAIN. Although showrunner Michael Chabon is moving on, Picard is not a one-and-done series judging by this item of state tax news. (However, CBS declined comment). “‘Star Trek: Picard’ Renewed For Season 2 Ahead Of Series Debut On CBS All Access Next Month” at Deadline.

… Like the first season that will premiere on CBS All Access on January 23, Season 2 of the Patrick Stewart-led Picard looks to be a 10-episode order for the streamer. As a part of that second season, the latest venture in the Alex Kurtzman marshaled Trekverse has been allocated over $20.4 million in California tax incentives….

Certainly, the huge reaction that Picard received when the resurrection of the philosopher-captain was first announced in Las Vegas last year and the tax credits made public today were a cold hard cash indication that the CBS Television Studios, Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment produced series was going to engage further, to paraphrase Jean-Luc himself.

(2) WELL-INFORMED. Joe Haldeman explained to his Facebook readers why he signed a petition to ban assault weapons – and how he became familiar with them.

We got this interesting petition, which Gay asked me to sign, from an outfit called Ban Assault Weapons Now.

I did sign it, but not reflexively. I do know assault weapons.

Unlike most people — unlike almost every American — I have been shot, both as a soldier and as a civilian. But I did carry a gun for most of a year “in country,” in Vietnam, sometimes two guns, and was conventionally glad to be armed.

Because of odd timing, I was never issued an M-16. They were not ubiquitous in Vietnam in 1968. I carried — and preferred, most of the time — the M-14 automatic rifle. We also had a Colt .45 automatic, sealed in a plastic bag, and traded around a Chinese AK-47, which my squad carried on convoy….

(3) ENJOYING THE WRONG FUTURE. In another article that takes off from Gary K. Wolfe’s Sixties sff novel collection for Library of America, Scott Bradfield holds forth on “Science Fiction’s Wonderful Mistakes” in The New Republic. Tagline: “The great novels of the 1960s remain enjoyable because they got everything wrong.”

…The science fiction novels of the 1960s—as this two-volume collection of eight very different sci-fi novels testifies—remain enjoyable because they got everything wrong. They didn’t accurately predict the future of space travel, or what a postnuclear landscape would look like, or how to end intergalactic fascism. They didn’t warn us against the roads we shouldn’t travel, since they probably suspected we were going to take those roads anyway. And they definitely didn’t teach us what a neutrino is. But what ’60s science fiction did do was establish one of the wildest, widest, most stylistically and conceptually various commercial spaces for writing (and reading) fiction in the history of fictional genres. Each book is unpredictable in so many ways as to almost constitute its own genre.

Take, for example, Samuel R. Delany’s influential space opera, Nova (presented here in a newly corrected, author-approved text), which takes the concept of the “cybernetic” fusion of human and machine and runs with it. Nova envisions a universe boiling over with star-hopping spaceships, spine-socketed crew members, weirdly mutated sexual and familial relationships, synesthetic video-art instruments, and at least one character raised on another planet who speaks in a verb-delaying syntax several years before Yoda was a gleam in George Lucas’s eye. (“Not too good going to be is. Out of practice am.”) Delany’s prose was stylistically bright, fizzing with ambitious energy (he began publishing novels in his late teens and won several major awards early) and relentlessly inventive, with flashy new visions of the future in one paragraph after another….

(4) WILL YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?  Alastair Reynolds tells how he admired Niven’s “Tales of Known Space” and that despite recent discoveries a writer can still do wildly creative worldbuilding. Then the question is – how do your space-faring characters navigate your stellar neighborhood?

…In some instances, our observations have begun to put limits on the numbers and properties of planets around familiar, SF-friendly stars such as Epsilon Eridani. It may well turn out that what was perfectly reasonable speculation thirty years ago is now ruled out by current data.

Still, let’s assume for now that our real stars and imagined planets remain viable locations, and we wish to use them in new stories. That’s where an additional wrinkle comes in: it’s very easy to look up how far away these stars are, and on that basis, work out (depending on the mechanics of your imagined space technology) how long it would take to get there from Earth. But sooner or later your story may depend on getting from star A to star B, without stopping off at Earth en-route. How do we work out how far these stars are from each other?

All the information we need is present: for any given star, all we need are its coordinates in the night sky, and a figure for its distance….

(5) KEYS TO THEIR PERSONALITIES. In the Washington Post, Frank Lehman, a music professor at Tufts University, analyzes John Williams’s scores to the Star Wars films and argues the music Williams composed for evil characters such as Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader gives many clues to how we view these characters: “How John Williams’s Star Wars score pulls us to the dark side”.

…It’s said that the Devil gets the best tunes, but Williams has long proved that that maxim applies to Sith lords, too. Within Star Wars’ ever-expanding library of leitmotifs — recurring, malleable musical symbols — much of the most insinuating material belongs to the villains, from Darth Maul to Jabba the Hutt to Supreme Leader Snoke. Listening to these nefarious themes with the ear of a music scholar offers a lesson in the real power of the dark side, showing us how music can repel, deceive and, with the right compositional tricks, even charm.

(6) A DIFFERENT KIND OF COPIER. Daniel Dern’s GrabCAD article unexpectedly predicts “3D Printers Could Be Coming to a Library Near You”.

Public libraries have always been the place where you can go to borrow books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines. And in recent years, it’s now where you can go for 3D printing services.

“Libraries represent the public on-ramp to the world of 3D printing and design,” said Dan Lee, chair of the Advisory Committee for the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP).

According to a report from ALA, there are over 428 public library branches in the United States that offer 3D printers to the public….

… Using 3D printers requires education. The Medway library, for example, offers weekly walk-in 3D printer certification sessions.

How libraries charge for use of their 3D printers varies. Some charge per hour of printing time (probably around a dollar), while others will charge based on the amount of printing materials that will be required — typically nickel to a quarter per gram of filament.

(7) KERFUFFLE IS COMING. According to Vanity Fair, “David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s Lovecraft Movie Has a Massive Problem: H.P. Lovecraft”. Laura Bradley’s question is: “The renowned horror writer was also a known racist and anti-Semite. Are the Game of Thrones creators the right people to handle that history?”

… What is known, however, is that Lovecraft, for all his pop-culture influence, was also terribly racist. His letters and literary work overflow with these sentiments, and in some cases it’s not even subtext. In 1912 he penned a poem titled “On the Creation of N—–s,” in which, as Lithub explained in its thorough exploration of Lovecraft’s white supremacy, Gods create black people as a semi-human species somewhere between man and beasts.

Benioff and Weiss, no strangers to online controversy, are seeing some of the same pushback that happened when they first announced the now-defunct series Confederate for HBO: namely, why this story, and why them?

(8) LEFT BRAINED ALIENS. NPR invites us to “‘Imagine Pleasant Nonsense’ With ‘Strange Planet’ Creator Nathan Pyle”.

Nathan Pyle fills the pages of his new book Strange Planet with big eyed, bright blue aliens from a planet that shares a lot in common with Earth. These aliens sunbathe, sneeze and even wish each other sweet dreams like us, but they describe these practices with deadpan technical terminology like “sun damage” and “face fluid explosions.” The lifegiver aliens even implore their offspring to “imagine pleasant nonsense” as they tuck them in for the night.

“One of the points of Strange Planet is that this is all (gestures in every direction) delightfully odd. It’s wonderful how much complexity we [humans] have created,” Pyle tells me in an email conversation — and yes, those parentheticals are his.

Pyle was inspired to create the series one day as he and his wife were preparing to have guests over — and they began hiding their possessions to make their small New York City apartment appear as clean as possible. “I realized this would make an excellent comic. I drew this one based on the experience, and the series was born,” he says. He began posting the comics on social media in February, and in less than a year, the series has amassed over 4.7 million followers on Instagram.

(9) KARINA OBIT. Actress Anna Karina died December 15 at the age of 79. Her work has been saluted by many culture blogs, including Lawyers, Guns and Money. Alphaville is the only SF she did, “a science-fiction tale set in a loveless dystopian future…”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 16, 2016 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiered. It was directed by Gareth Edwards with the  screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. It is from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta. The cast includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. The film was a box office success, the critics loved it and it’s got an eighty eight percent rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. The Fan Boys…? 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born 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. The tea plantations he described therein are very awesome. 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 End, Rendezvous 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.)
  • Born December 16, 1927 Randall 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.)
  • Born December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. Dick has always been a difficult one for me to get a feel for. Mind you Blade Runner is my major touchstone for him but I’ve read the source material as well, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said which won an John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and I’ve read a lot of the shorter works, so I’d say he’s a challenging writer is a Good Thing. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley. He had a number of truly  great works, both genre and not genre, including Eva, The Tears of the Salamander and  The Flight of Dragons. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)
  • Born December 16, 1957 Mel Odom, 62. An author deep into mining franchise universes with work done into the Buffyverse, Outlanders, Time Police, Rogue Angel (which I’ve listen to a lot as GraphicAudio as produced them as most excellent audioworks) and weirder stuff such as the Left Behind Universe and Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers, both I think game tie-ins. 
  • Born December 16, 1967 Miranda Otto, 52. She was Éowyn in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film franchise. She‘s Zelda Spellman in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Mary Ann Davis in Spielberg’s version of The War of The Worlds. She also played Wueen Lenore inI, Frankenstein which had an an amazing cast even if the Tomatometer gives it’s 5% rating. 
  • Born December 16, Krysten Ritter, 38. She played Jessica Jones on the series of that name and was in The Defenders as well. She had a recurring role in the Veronica Mars series which a lot of a lot is us adore (it’s one of the series that Charles de Lint and his wife MaryAnn Hartis are avid followers of, and they contributed to the the film Kickstarter) and I supposed it’s sort of genre adjacent, isn’t it? (Do not analyze that sentence.) She’s been in a number of horror flicks as well, but nothing I grokked. 
  • Born December 16, 1988 Anna Popplewell, 31. She was Susan Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia film franchise, Chyler Silva in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (I saw this — it’s quite well done), she was (at twelve) Anna Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and she’s Frankie in the forthcoming  Fairytale which may be genre or genre adjacent. It might even be titled Fairytale of New York. Or not. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SOUND AND THE FURY. ScienceFiction.com is excited because “Your Alexa Device Can Now Curse You Out With The Samuel L. Jackson Voice Package!”.

To get started, just say, “Alexa, introduce me to Samuel L. Jackson.” Then, choose whether you’d like Sam to use explicit language or not. If you change your mind later, simply go to the settings menu of the Alexa app to toggle between clean and explicit content.

The Bloomberg video is a bit calmer: “Amazon Alexa Now Lets You Make Samuel L. Jackson’s Your Personal Assistant.”

Amazon company kicked off its celebrity voice program for Alexa, giving customers the option to hear some familiar voices—and it’s starting with Samuel L. Jackson. Users can pay $0.99 and have Jackson respond to your Alexa requests for music, the weather forecast, and more. You can also ask questions that are specific to Jackson, including queries about his career, specific roles, or his interests outside Hollywood.

(14) STEPHENSON BOOK TO SMALL SCREEN. The A.V. Club reports that “HBO is taking a crack at adapting Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash for TV”.

Hollywood’s ongoing efforts to adapt every single book that some guy spent way too much time and energy recommending at you at a party in college continues apace today, with Deadline reporting that HBO has put a TV version of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash into development. The series comes courtesy of The Kid Who Would Be King and Attack The Block director Joe Cornish, with 21 Jump Street’s Michael Bacall set to write the script…[Snow Crash] is satirical, fast-paced, and with one of the most kinetic opening sequences ever committed to print, it’s also one of Stephenson’s most readily accessible books. (Which is to say, he keeps the parables about computer programming, cryptography, and 17th century economics to a minimum.)

(15) FREE DOWNLOAD. Free anthology of Tor.com fiction from 3rd quarter — “Download the Fall 2019 Tor.com Short Fiction Newsletter”.

(16) TAKEN TO THEIR LEADER. Lou Antonelli has posted the latest free story at his Sirius Science Fiction site: “’Trump Asks a Feminist Extraterrestrial Leader for a Favor’ by Marleen S. Barr”.

It’s satirical. Whether it’s satirical enough for you remains the question.

(17) RAMBO UNLIMITED. And to complete our free fiction trifecta, Cat Rambo has released a bunch of titles on KU: “Free Fiction: Stories Newly Enrolled in Kindle Unlimited”. Here are a few of them —

Tabat stories include:

  • §  Narrative of a Beast’s Life: Taken from his home village, the centaur Fino is enslaved and shipped to a new land, where he must learn to cope with the trainer determined to break him. This short story originally appeared in Realms of Fantasy.
  • Events at Fort Plentitude: An exiled soldier tries to wait out a winter in a fort beleaguered by fox-spirits and winter demons. Originally appeared in Weird Tales under editor Ann VanderMeer.
  • How Dogs Came to the New Continent is a short story pulled from the events of the novel Hearts of Tabat, told in the form of a meandering historical paper that teases out more behind the oppression of Beasts and their emerging political struggle.

(18) PLUS ONE. ComicBook.com reports “Guardians of the Galaxy Star Karen Gillan Has Completed Her Role on Marvel’s What If…?”

Marvel’s What If…? may be one of the most anticipated offerings coming to Disney+. The animated series, based on the comics of the same name, will explore many significant moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe but from the angle of what would have happened had just one thing gone a little differently. It’s a premise that is set to offer Peggy Carter as Captain Carter instead of Steve Rogers as Captain America among other interesting twists, but while it’s an exciting premise it’s one that fans have to wait for as the series isn’t set to debut until summer 2021. But while we don’t yet have a release date, fans can at least take some comfort in knowing that work is underway and that when it comes to Guardians of the Galaxy star Karen Gillan, she’s already completed her voice work on the series….

(19) THE FUTURE OF A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY. Los Angeles Times: “After ‘Rise of Skywalker’ and Baby Yoda, Kathleen Kennedy’s plan for ‘Star Wars’ and beyond”.

 [Rob Bredow [(head of Lucasfilm’s visual effects division Industrial Light & Magic), speaking of Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy:]

“She said, ‘There have been a few times in my career where there have been these kinds of moments. Go for it,’” Bredow recalled in the cafeteria of Lucasfilm’s San Francisco headquarters. “She, and we, are looking for those opportunities to break new ground.”

By all accounts, the gamble on “The Mandalorian” has paid off for Lucasfilm since it debuted to an enthusiastic response on streaming service Disney+ in November. Viewers have obsessed online about the show’s introduction of so-called Baby Yoda, an infant from the same species as the green Jedi master…

Kennedy said she plans to make key decisions about the direction of the franchise in the coming weeks. But some things she already knows. While the “Skywalker” saga is ending, the company won’t abandon the characters created in the most recent trilogy. Additionally, she said, the plan is to move beyond trilogies, which can be restricting.

“I think it gives us a more open-ended view of storytelling and doesn’t lock us into this three-act structure,” she said. “We’re not going to have some finite number and fit it into a box. We’re really going to let the story dictate that.” […]

(20) WORKS FOR HER. NPR interviews somebody who had success with the idea — “Researchers Explore A Drug-Free Idea To Relieve Chronic Pain: Green Light”.

Ann Jones tried everything short of surgery for her chronic migraines, which have plagued her since she was a child.

“They’ve actually gotten worse in my old age,” says Jones, who is 70 years old and lives in Tucson, Ariz.

Jones would have as many as two dozen migraines a month.

Over the years, some treatments might work initially, but the effects would prove temporary. Other medications had such severe side effects she couldn’t stay on them.

“It was pretty life-changing and debilitating,” Jones says. “I could either plow through them and sometimes I simply couldn’t.”

In 2018, her doctor mentioned a study that was taking place nearby at the University of Arizona: Researchers were testing if daily exposure to green light could relieve migraines and other kinds of chronic pain.

Jones was skeptical.

“This is going to be one more thing that doesn’t work,” she thought to herself.

But she brushed aside the hesitation and enrolled in the study anyway.

It began with her spending two hours each day in a dark room with only a white light, which served as the control. In the second half of the study, she swapped out the conventional light for a string of green LED lights.

For more than a month, Jones didn’t notice any change in her symptoms. But close to the six-week mark, there was a big shift.

She began going days in a row without migraines. Even when the headaches did come, they weren’t as intense as they had been before the green light therapy.

(21) NOT DARWIN. But a sign of the times: “Driver ‘blows up’ car with ‘excessive’ use of air freshener”. Doesn’t smell so good anymore. (Includes a picture of the destruction.)

A driver caused an explosion in his car when he lit a cigarette after spraying air freshener.

He used “excessive” amounts of the aerosol scent before sparking up, according to firefighters.

Gas from the spray ignited, blew out the windscreen and windows and buckled the doors but the man escaped with only minor injuries.

Police said the incident in Halifax on Saturday “could’ve been worse” and warned people to follow safety advice.

The motorist was in stationary traffic in Fountain Street in the town at about 15:00 GMT on Saturday when the explosion happened.

It was so powerful it caused damage to windows at nearby businesses.

(22) YULE TRADITION. Marcus Errico, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The Joker’s still getting away… How ‘Jingle Bells, Batman Smells’ became the ultimate holiday spoof”, looks into the origins of “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” and traces its origins to the Batman TV series of the 1960s.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Alan Baumler, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]