Pixel Scroll 1/10/20 A Lighter Shade of Scroll

(1) DROP INN. [Item by Errolwi.] Upside when your house gets covered in fire retardant, house probably doesn’t burn. Downside, it is now pink! Upside, you have a fun medium to present a message to the ‘fireys’.

(2) #AUTHORSFORFIREYS. Check out the #AuthorsForFireys hashtag for fund-raising by authors on Twitter.

Genre authors responding include —

There’s also a website supporting the auctions:

Authors For Fireys is an auction of signed books, illustrations, unique experiences, one-off opportunities and writers’ services. Over 500 writers and illustrators are auctioning on Twitter from 6th Jan 2020 under the hashtags #AuthorsForFireys and #AuthorsForFiries. The auction ends on 11th Jan 2020 at 11pm (Syd/Mel time). 

(3) PIXELS AUF DEUTSCH. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] kulturzeit is a German language daily cultural TV program I’ve been watching for a long time now. They’re normally not what you’d consider SFF friendly, but today they had a report about Hopepunk. Alexandra Rowland is namechecked and quoted and they also interview a few German science fiction authors, who wrote Wasteland, the first German language hopepunk novel. The video is here. Only in German, alas.

kulturzeit‘s books for younger readers recommendation column also included the graphic novel West, West Texas by Hugo finalist Tillie Walden today: “’West, West, Texas’ von Tillie Walden” The other recommended book, a picture book, is genre as well — the video is here. The book is Emilia and the Boy from the Sea by Dutch writer and illustratator Annet Schaap. Maybe an SFF fan joined their staff.

(4) RETRO REVIEWS. Cora Buhlert also has posted a second review of fiction eligible for CoNZealand’s edition of the Retro Hugos. “Retro Review: ‘The Wedge’ a.k.a. “The Traders” by Isaac Asimov” discusses one of two eligible Foundation stories from 1944. She says the review for “The Big and the Little”, the other 1944 Foundation story, will go up next week.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. L. Penelope had a little lamb in Episode 113 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast. Host Scott Edelman tells what all is on the auditory bill of fare:

L. Penelope

My guest for the first Eating the Fantastic episode of 2020 is Leslye Penelope — who publishes as L. Penelope. She started out as a self-published author, and her debut fantasy novel Song of Blood & Stone was so successful it was later picked up by St. Martin’s Press. That book earned (among other things) the 2016 Self-Publishing EBook Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and after being republished and brought to a wider audience, named as one of TIME magazine’s top fantasy books of 2018. She has since published two sequels, Breath of Dust & Dawn and Whispers of Shadow & Flame. Additional installments in the series are forthcoming.

We got together for lunch in Columbia, Maryland at The Turn House — because I’d heard about chef Thomas Zippelli, who has put in time at both the French Laundry and Eleven Madison Park, and wanted to check the place out. It turned out to be worth the visit for the porchetta alone.

We discussed why The Neverending Story was her favorite childhood movie, which Octavia Butler quote inspired one of her tattoos, why she decided to go the self-publishing route — and how her indie success resulted in her first novel getting picked up by a traditional publisher, the catalytic scene which sparked her Earthsinger Chronicles series, how she manages to meet the expectations of both fantasy readers and paranormal romance readers, her advice for breaking out of writers block, and much more.

(6) WHERE THE ‘F’ IS PERHAPS ‘FANTASY’. [Item by Daniel Dern.] On Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist on NBC, an earthquake (the show is set in San Francisco) while she’s getting an MRI results in Zoe, a programmer who’s already established as listening to bunches of music along with listening to audiobooks, episodically experiencing people around her burst into song (and dance), apparently expressing their innermost thoughts.

So, lots of good singing and dancing, including great larger production numbers. E.g., on “Help!”

The NPR reviewer said the show didn’t really get into gear until mid-Episode-2, I disagree, and, ahem, felt it founds its groove from the start. Recommended.

(Note, the pilot episode just ran — it’s on YouTube already — but no more episodes until mid-February.)

(7) IT’S A MAGILLA. “Feds launch probe into problem-plagued $41M Hunters Point library” – the New York Post has the story.

Books aren’t the only thing being checked out at this Queens library.

The feds are now probing the problem-plagued new library branch in Hunters Point, The Post has learned.

The US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn hired an architectural expert to conduct a December survey of the $41.5 million book hub to look for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, new Brooklyn federal court filings in a lawsuit against the library reveal.

An attorney for the city’s Law Department blew the lid off the probe in documents filed for the pending suit, saying they needed more time because they’re still awaiting the investigation’s results.

The decade-in-the-making outpost of the Queens Public Library system was hailed by officials as a “stunning architectural marvel” when it opened in September.

But it has since come under fire for its stacks of design and construction problems — including a three-tiered fiction section, a rooftop garden and a reading space on the children’s floor that are all inaccessible for people who use wheelchairs.

(8) NONE TO BEAM UP. The voyages may be continuing, but that doesn’t mean the actors are — “Noah Hawley Suggests His ‘Star Trek’ Movie Will Include New Cast” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In November, news broke that Fargo and Legion creator Noah Hawley would write and direct Star Trek 4, a movie said to continue the voyages of Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk and his crew. But a few weeks later, star Simon Pegg turned heads when he suggested that the news had been incorrect, and that his Enterprise crew would not be returning for Hawley’s movie. Now Hawley himself is suggesting that is indeed the case.

“To call it Star Trek IV is kind of a misnomer. I have my own take on the franchise as a life-long fan,” Hawley told The Hollywood Reporter podcast TV’s Top 5, in an interview set to bow in April.

(9) PEART OBIT. Neil Peart, drummer and primary lyricist for Rush, dead at 67 hreports the CBC.

The band was much honoured at home, including with an induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1994, Canada’s Walk of Fame in 1999; a lifetime achievement honour at the 2012 Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards; and an Order of Canada — the first time that a group was chosen to receive the honour. 

The trio was inducted into the U.S. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, after years of lobbying by devoted fans.

Peart also co-authored two books in the Clockwork Angels series with Kevin J. Anderson. They also co-authored the short story “Drumbeats” in the Shock Rock II anthology.

(10) HENRY OBIT. Buck Henry died January 8. The Hollywood Reporter paid tribute —

Buck Henry, the impish screenwriter whose wry, satirical sensibility brought comic electricity to The Graduate, What’s Up, Doc?, To Die For and TV’s Get Smart, has died. He was 89.

Henry, a two-time Oscar nominee who often appeared onscreen — perhaps most memorably as a 10-time host (all in the show’s first four years) on Saturday Night Live — died of a heart attack Wednesday at a Los Angeles hospital, his wife, Irene, told The Washington Post. He had suffered a stroke in November 2014….

Henry wrote for Get Smart and was the show’sstory editor for the first couple of seasons.

Henry, who won an Emmy (shared with Leonard Stern) in 1967 for writing the two-part episode “Ship of Spies,” came up with the cone of silence shtick for the sitcom.

…For TV, Henry also created the 1967 NBC comedy Captain Nice, centered on a mild-mannered guy (William Daniels) who becomes a superhero, and the late ’70s NBC sci-fi spoof Quark, which starred Richard Benjamin. Both series were short-lived.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 10, 1967 The Invaders made its TV premiere. Created by Larry Cohen, it aired on ABC for two seasons. Roy Thinnes stars as David Vincent is the star of the series. Gold Key Comics published four issues of an Invaders comic book based off the series. The series was a Quinn Martin production who was also responsible for A Twist in the Tale, an anthology series that did some SFF, and a film called The Aliens Are Coming
  • January 10, 1997 The Relic premiered.  It was directed by Peter Hyams and based on the SFFish Relic novel written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. It starred Penelope Ann Miller, Tom Sizemore, Linda Hunt and James Whitmore. Some critics really liked, some really like it and it holds a 34% rating among the frankly astounding 26,735 reviewers who took the time to give it a review.  Oh and it bomb at the box office. 
  • January 10, 1999 Batman Beyond premiered on Kids’ WB. It was created by Bruce Timm. Will Friedle as Terry McGinnis, the new Batman and you know who played the old Batman. It lasted three seasons and fifty-two episodes. The actual origin episode for Terry is to be found on Justice League Beyond in the “Epilogue” episode. The episode was originally intended to be the series finale for Justice League and the DCAU in general but they got renewed for a third season after it aired as the second season finale. If you’ve the DCU streaming service, all three seasons are there. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 10, 1902 Andrew Bensen. Sometimes the time someone spends in our universe is very brief. Bensen has but one credit in SFF, the cover for Weird Tales for May 1926. Now admittedly it’s a great cover even if not particularly SFFish. His cover for Real Detective Tales and Mystery Stories for August 1926 is striking in its artistic similarities. He later drew comic book stories for Dell’s Roy Rogers Comics in the late 1940s, and drew a number of other Western themed projects. (Died 1976.)
  • Born January 10, 1904 Ray Bolger. The Scarecrow In The Wizard of Oz, the villainous Barnaby in Babes in Toyland, two appearances on Fantasy Island, and Vector In “Greetings from Earth” on the Seventies version of Battlestar Galactica.  (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 10, 1908 Bernard Lee. He’s best known for his role as M in the first eleven Eon Productions James Bond films ending with Moonraker. He also portrayed Tarmut the sculptor in Terence Fisher’s Hammer Horror picture Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. And he appeared in several episodes of Danger Man. (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 10, 1924 Mike Butterworth. In 1965, he became the primary script writers at Ranger magazine where he was responsible for scripting the space opera The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire which remains to this day one of the most popular boys’ adventure strips ever published in the UK. Between Ranger and later Look and Learn, it would have a run of 854 issues in total, divided between the two magazines. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 10, 1937 Elizabeth Anne Hull, 83. Scholar, and widow of Frederik Pohl with whom she co-edited the most excellent Tales from the Planet Earth anthology. Not surprisingly, she later edited Gateways: Original New Stories Inspired by Frederik Pohl. She has been a member of the panel for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel since 1986.
  • Born January 10, 1944 William Sanderson, 76. I remember him best as J. F. Sebastian, the possibly insane genetic designer working for Tyrell in Blade Runner, but he’s had a career obviously after that film including appearing as Skeets in The Rocketeer, voicing Dr. Karl Rossum on Batman: The Animated Series, playing the character Deuce on Babylon 5 (a series I’ve watched through at least three times), E. B. Farnum on Deadwood (ok, it’s not genre, but it’s Will and Emma’s favorite show so let’s let it slide) and Sheriff Bud Dearborne on True Blood
  • Born January 10, 1947 George Alec Effinger. I’ve read his Marîd Audran series at least twice as it’s an amazing series in both the characters and the setting. I never read the short stories set in this setting until Golden Gryphon Press sent me Budayeen Nights for Green Man to review.  (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 10, 1959 Jeff Kaake, 61. He’s on the Birthday Honors list as he was Captain John Boon on the Space Rangers which lasted only six episodes. Damn. That was a fun show! He was also Thomas Cole on Viper which lasted four seasons. And he showed up in the Stormageddon film (which sounds like the name a Filer would give to a SJW Cred) as well. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) IT WAS 20 YEARS AGO TODAY. Ian McKellen still has his receipts —

I am aware of the high expectations of Tolkien’s fans – like myself. But, never having imagined that I would ever play any sort of wizard, I am ill-prepared. I just worked with a witch, however, a white one, whose spells are formidable. Her energy is impressive. I shall have to come to understand the nature of Gandalf’s energy – what keeps him going. What keeps any of us going?

(15) FURTHER DUBLIN 2019 COVERAGE. An advance post alert has gone out for SF2 Concatenation’s second conreport on the Dublin Worldcon, this one by Marcin “Alqua” Klak, one of the staff volunteers.

Marcin “Alqua” Klak is a fan form Poland who loves conventions and exploring fandom in different countries. He regularly blogs about conventions he visits and about other fannish matters on his blog: www.FandomRover.com.  In 2018 he was a GUFF (Get Up-and-under Fan Fund) delegate to attend Continuum XIV in Melbourne, Australia.  Currently, he chairs the SFF club in his home city of Kraków.

(16) NO TRUE SCOTSMAN. [Item by David Goldfarb.] I was watching the second game of the current “Greatest of All Time” tournament on Jeopardy!, and in the Double Jeopardy round this was the $1600 answer in the category “Pop Culture People”:

Feeling regenerated in “Doctor Who”, this actress confessed, “Sorry, half an hour ago I was a white-haired Scotsman”

File 770 readers should have no problem finding the right question to that one!

(17) ICONIC STYLE. At Print, Steven Heller extols “The Church Lettering Art Style”.

Show card lettering artists were usually anonymous to the public. Art was a commercial service and few people signed their names or were credited for their craft. Edgar Church (1888 – 1978) was among the few who received a certain amount of acclaim – and some of that recognition today is thanks to Chuck Rozanski, an avid comics collector (drag queen) and founder of Mile High Comics. Church was one of the leading comics collectors in the 20s, 30s and 40s. The two disciplines, comics and graphic design/lettering, were intertwined — and comics splash panels certainly influenced his work.

Church maintained his art service studio in the Denver area from about 1910-1965, with the majority of his work – clichés, spot art and custom lettering, produced from 1918-1950. He also created numerous color paintings and landscapes during this time. He was hired on a freelance basis for variegated lettering styles, borders and pen and ink illustrations for ads running in the Colorado Yellow Pages. Rozanski states that Church worked “in the evenings and on weekends for literally thousands of small businesses, creating everything from letterheads, to Christmas cards, to full-page ads in local newspapers.”

…His renown, however, derives from the collection of comic books that he amassed, later known as the “Edgar Church collection.” Under the umbrella of the “Mile High collection”, Church is most famous for his valuable stash, including between 18,000 and 22,000 early comic books….

Andrew Porter sent the link with the comment, “Gorgeous examples of his work at the link. But I bet one company later changed their name…”

(18) INSIDE STORY. The Full Lid returns from the holiday break with a look at the interesting common ground the new Master on Doctor Who has with The Witcher’s own hype man, Jaskier. We also take a look at remake culture and find a very surprising musical example of how to do it right. This week’s Signal Boost covers One YA A Day’, a new blog series looking at the Cast of Wonders back catalog, new Leverage watch-along show The Pod Job, tour dates for the NoSleep Podcast live tour and details of the Last Fleet RPG Kickstarter. The link is: The Full Lid – 10th January 2020.  

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Robert Downey, Jr. runs the Dolittle – Auditions.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Dann, David Goldfarb, Errolwi, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Alasdair Stuart, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Media Birthday Party – January 5

Compiled by Cat Eldridge:

January 5, 1950 The Flying Saucer premiered. It was written by Howard Irving Young, from a story by Mikel Conrad who also produced, directed, and stars with Pat Garrison and Hantz von Teuffen. It as half of a double-feature with Atomic Monster, the retitled-reissue of Man Made Monster originally released in 1941. Critics mostly ignored it, and currently it has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. All rights to the film have been owned worldwide and in perpetuity since 1977 by Wade Williams. Yes, he’s got sff film credits. 

January 5, 1951 Two Lost Worlds premiered. It was directed by Norman Dawn and stars James Arness and Laura Elliott. It was produced by Boris Petroff from the story he wrote. No dinosaurs were harmed in the making of this early Fifties film as all footage here comes from footage recycled from the earlier film One Million B.C. Like many early Fifties films, there’s little or no critical commentary on it, nor does it show up at Rotten Tomatoes. Should you be inclined, you can watch it here.

January 5, 1968 Star Trek’s “The Gamesters of Triskelion” episode premiered, written by Margaret Armen. She would also write the “The Paradise Syndrome” and “The Cloud Minders” episodes for the series. She would be a regular writer in Sixties and later sff television series offering up scripts for The Six Million Dollar Man, Land of the Lost, The Bionic Woman,  Jason of Star Command and Fantasy Island. The popular Star Trek catchphrase “Beam me up, Scotty” is a common misquotation of a line here she wrote in which Kirk says “ Scotty, beam us up.”

January 5, 1995 Twelve Monkeys premiered. It was directed by Terry Gilliam as inspired by Chris Marker’s La Jetée film, with Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad Pitt leading up the cast. (David and Janet Peoples greatly expanded the story from that of the short film in their script.) It was a financial success at the Box Office many times over, critics loved it and it currently has a 90% rating among the very large number of reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

January 5, 2007 Children of Men premiered. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón and produced by Hilary Shor and others, it’s based off the P. D. James novel of that name. Its cast was led by Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Charlie Hunnam.  It was not a box office hit though both critics and reviewers love it — the film currently has a 92% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It would place second in voting for that Hugo Award at Nippon 2007 to Pan’s Labyrinth.

Pixel Scroll 12/29/19 Who Sawed Courtney Milan’s Boat?

(1) STABBY VOTING. Reddit’s r/Fantasy forum hasopened voting for the Stabby Awards. They’ve suffered voting shenanigans in the past, too, and here’s what they’ve done to stop them —

It’s now time to vote for the /r/Fantasy Best of 2019 Stabby Awards. Due to the sub’s growth over the past year (from the time that the nomination thread went live to now, we’ve grown by over 8,000 subscribers!) and to issues we experienced with vote gaming last year, voting will be taking place off Reddit.

We’re using a Google Form (same as we’ve used for our demographic census for years) and in order to vote you’ll need to include a link to your own user profile. Profiles will need to be at least 1 month old for their votes to count – we chose this cutoff to ensure that folks who created accounts solely to nominate and thus aren’t really part of our community aren’t going to affect the results.

Voting will end January 4, 2019 at 9 p.m. PST. Results should be live by January 6, 2019 by 1 p.m. PST.

(2) SPARKS TOO MUCH JOY? In The Guardian‘s “It’s ‘Day of the Triffids’ for today’s Britain, but with antidepressants as the monster”, critic Vanessa Thorpe analyzes the filmmaker’s challenge:

…An award-winning science-fiction thriller billed by critics as a modern Day of the Triffids takes a provocative approach to Britain’s growing dependence on mood-lifting chemicals and antidepressants.

Little Joe, released in UK cinemas in February, and starring Ben Whishaw, Emily Beecham and Kerry Fox, has divided reviewers with its odd, disturbing story of a newly bred plant designed to spread joy.

On set in a vast greenhouse laboratory, the acclaimed Austrian director Jessica Hausner first told her actors to forget about finding “the truth” of their characters.

Little Joe looks at the question of how do you perceive whether someone has changed or not,” Hausner told the Observer. “That was the big issue when I talked to the actors. And so even when we were shooting, we were shooting different versions of each scene.”

(3) ENDANGERED BY IDEAS. Maria Popova tells “How Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe” at Brain Pickings.

…In the anxious winter of 1617, unfigurative wheels are turning beneath Johannes Kepler as he hastens to his mother’s witchcraft trial. For this long journey by horse and carriage, Kepler has packed a battered copy of Dialogue on Ancient and Modern Music by Vincenzo Galilei, his sometime friend Galileo’s father — one of the era’s most influential treatises on music, a subject that always enchanted Kepler as much as mathematics, perhaps because he never saw the two as separate. Three years later, he would draw on it in composing his own groundbreaking book The Harmony of the World, in which he would formulate his third and final law of planetary motion, known as the harmonic law — his exquisite discovery, twenty-two years in the making, of the proportional link between a planet’s orbital period and the length of the axis of its orbit. It would help compute, for the first time, the distance of the planets from the sun — the measure of the heavens in an era when the Solar System was thought to be all there was.

As Kepler is galloping through the German countryside to prevent his mother’s execution, the Inquisition in Rome is about to declare the claim of Earth’s motion heretical — a heresy punishable by death….

(4) NOT MUSED. “And it occurs to me that this is disrespectful to the Nine” at It’s Always More Complicated, (a post inspired by Anne Bilson’s piece for The Guardian, “Anna Karina, Catherine Deneuve: how movies malign women by calling them muses”.)

…But is this view of the Muse, who is after all a goddess, a being at whose feet the artist is supposed to lay the offering of the art created in order that she may judge it worthy, not very disrespectful? In assuming that the muse is just some empty thing to fill up with M. L’Artiste’s (and it is M., is it not) geeenyus?

François Truffaut once said of Catherine Deneuve: “I wouldn’t compare her to a flower or a bouquet, since there is a certain neutrality in her that leads me to compare her to the vase in which all the flowers are placed.” He meant that her reserve and air of mystery enabled spectators to “fill the vase” themselves; but the history of male film directors and their female muses is also a history of vase-filling: men translating their erotic fantasies into cinematic terms while failing to get to grips with the women themselves, who are invariably depicted as quixotic and inscrutable, even dangerous.

Not that I am sure which of the Nine would be the muse of movies – or would it vary by specific genre?

(5) BLUE GENES. Cora Buhlert presents “The 2019 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents”.

… Let’s have a bit of background: I have been informally awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award since sometime in the 1980s with the earliest awards being retroactive. Over the years, the list of winners migrated from a handwritten page via various computer file formats, updated every year. Last year, I finally decided to make the winners public on the Internet, because what’s an award without some publicity and a ceremony? The list of previous winners (in PDF format) up to 2017 may be found here, BTW, and the 2018 winner was announced here.

In 2017 and 2018, a clear frontrunner emerged early on. 2019 was different, because there were several likely and unlikely candidates.

Warning: Spoilers for several of things including The Rise of Skywalker behind the cut…

(6) THE MOST OF BABY YODA. You wouldn’t want to miss this! (Well, some of you would, but your loss!)

BABY YODA from The Mandalorian season 1. Best of Baby Yoda taken from episodes 1 to 8 of The Mandalorian….

(7) GRAY OBIT. Scots author Alasdair Gray died December 29 at the age of 85. His publisher, Canongate, posted this retrospective:

A renowned polymath, Alasdair Gray was beloved equally for his writing and art. His debut, Lanark, which Canongate published in 1981, is widely regarded as being one of the masterpieces of twentieth century fiction. It was followed by more than thirty further books, all of which he designed and illustrated, ranging from novels, short story collections, plays, volumes of poetry, works of non-fiction and translations – most recently, his interpretation of Dante’s Divine Trilogy.

The Guardian’s tribute said he “blazed a trail for contemporary Scottish fiction with his experimental novels.”

In 1954, Gray began writing the novel that would occupy him on and off throughout the 1960s and 70s. Lanark divides the story of a life into four books, alternating between Glasgow and a shadowy version of the city called Unthank. The novel opens with book three, in which a young man finds himself in a dark metropolis filled with strange diseases, and then jumps back to fill in the story of Duncan Thaw, who grows up in Glasgow just before the second world war. The Guardian called it “fluent, imaginative”, a novel “of undeniable quality, but rare, and not for all tastes, like an oyster, or a truffle”.

He made an indelible impression on both the literary and fannish worlds. Alasdair Gray and Russell Hoban were the guests of honor at the first Mexicon (1984) in the UK. As David Langford recalls, he made ink sketches of various fans there, and his “[John] Brosnan drawing is inscribed: ‘The Author of Slimer, a seminal work which has influenced everything I have ever written.”

(8) WOLLEN OBIT. Peter Wollen (1938-2019), author of the influential film theory book Signs and Meaning in the Cinema, who also directed films and wrote screenplays, died December 17. The New York Times appreciation notes:  

Mr. Wollen didn’t just talk and write about cinema; in the 1970s and ’80s he was actively involved in making it. Perhaps his best-known film, which he both wrote and directed, was “Friendship’s Death” (1987), an unusual science-fiction film about an extraterrestrial robot who is on a peace mission but takes a wrong turn and winds up in Amman, Jordan, in 1970, a time of conflict there.

Tilda Swinton, in one of her first film roles, played the robot. In a tribute to Mr. Wollen published by the film website IndieWire, she said “Signs and Meaning” was “the first seminal book I read about film that actually made sense while bopping you to bits with its braininess and taking the engine of cinema completely apart in front of you while making you even more excited to jump in and go racing about in it just as soon as you possibly could.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 29, 1967 — “The Trouble with Tribbles” first aired. Written by David Gerrold and directed by Joseph Pevney, with some of the guest cast being Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as Station Manager and Michael Pataki as Korax. Memory Alpha says ”Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around.” It would come in second in the Hugo balloting to “The City on the Edge of Forever” written by Harlan Ellison. All five final Hugo nominees at Baycon (1968) were Trek episodes.
  • December 29, 2009 Princess of Mars premiered. This film from Asylum had Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris and Antonio Sabàto Jr. as John Carter. Rather loosely based on A Princess of Mars by Burroughs, the film was released in Europe as The Martian Colony Wars. Currently this film has a 10% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 29, 1901 William H Ritt. US cartoonist and author, whose best known strip, Brick Bradford, was SF. Two of the early Thirties strips, Brick Bradford and the City Beneath the Sea and Brick Bradford with Brocco the Mountain Buccaneer, became Big Little books. in 1947, Brick Bradford, a 15-chapter serial film starring Kane Richmond, was produced by Columbia Pictures. (Died 1972.)
  • Born December 29, 1912 Ward Hawkins. Alternative universes! Lizard men as sidekicks! He wrote the Borg and Guss series (Red Flaming BurningSword of Fire, Blaze of Wrath and Torch of Fear) which as it features these I really would like to hear as audiobooks. Not that it’s likely as I see he’s not made it even to the digital book realm yet. (Died 1990.)
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins, 91. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film (with Peter Cushing movie as The Doctor.) He would make it into canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special.
  • Born December 29, 1949 Ian Livingstone, 70. Co-founder of Game Workshop whose flagship products are are Warhammer Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000. (Have I mentioned that Game Workshop has local shops where fans can buy their unpainted miniatures and other goodies?) He was the first Editor of White Dwarf whichyes, I read a long time ago. 
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 56. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well, and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. 
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 53. Did you know Sax Rohmer’s novels were made into a film? I didn’t. Well, she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’d also be in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Neilsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Neither will be mistaken for quality films. 
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 47. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow In Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I., with my fav role for him being the title role in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy In Repo Man and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians

(11) FIRST IMPRESSIONS. ComicBook.com invites us to “Star Wars: Watch Mark Hamill’s Perfect Harrison Ford Impression”, rendered during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

(12) TEN YEARS FROM NOW. New York Magazine did a future-themed issue in November included a batch of predictions about 2029 based on the newsmaking events of 2019: “The Weirdness Is Coming A glimpse of the near future as seen through the recent past.”.

Today In 2029…This odd future came into view…

We Will Never Know If a Movie Is a Hit

All of the entertainment we used to consume in more independently quantifiable ways — via TV ratings, box office, album sales — has moved to streaming, where we just have to trust Netflix or Spotify or Apple to tell us how popular it is, and they will almost certainly lie. Netflix occasionally releases random stats about how many people watched something, and they usually strain credibility. In June, it claimed 30.9 million watched a new Adam Sandler movie in its first three days, which would have made it one of the biggest openings in history if it had been released in theaters. And we never know how successful any movie is when it’s released on for-pay VOD (via iTunes, Amazon, or your cable box) because nobody shares any numbers at all, which is strange because streaming is how plenty of non-superhero movies make most of their money now. Obviously, they will know — the producers and stars who benefit. But the public will be living entirely in the dark, never knowing if something is actually a hit or just totally Astroturfed. This will be really disorienting; today, at least, the popularity of an artist accounts for like half of the way we feel about them. And hard audience figures were, for a generation of barroom debaters about pop culture, the closest thing anyone actually ever got to a “fact.” —Lane Brown

(13) OBAMA’S 2019 PICKS. “Barack Obama Lists His Favorite Films And Television Shows For 2019”Deadline has the story.

Former President Barack Obama is making a list, and checking it twice. A day after he released the list of his favorite books of 2019, he’s issued a film/TV faves ledger, including one of his own creations….

(14) NOT BEWITCHED. Eneasz Brodski pans a new show in “The Witcher, Episode 1: A Festivus Airing of Greivances” at Death Is Bad.

I saw the first episode of The Witcher on Festivus, and boy did that unintentionally fit the holiday theme. tldr is that the writers are just phoning this in, and hoping the strength of the fight choreography will keep people watching.

Full Spoilers below.

(15) ROVER COME OVER. LAist reveals, “We Got A Sneak Peek At JPL’s Mars 2020 Rover Before It Heads To Its Launch Site, And It’s Rad”. Photos at the link.

… On Friday, JPL gave a rare media tour to show off the interplanetary robotic vehicle to reporters inside a meticulous dust, hair and oil-free “clean room.” It’s the last time it will be viewed before it’s shipped off to Florida for its July liftoff.

That meant this reporter had to don a full body “bunny” suit and take an air bath with jets to blow away any wayward dust or hair left on the suit.

It took a lot of time and trouble, but NASA’s Dave Gruel said it’s crucial to keep the rover from getting contaminated.

“It’ll be a real bad day for us in the future if those samples come back from Mars and guess what? They’ve got my whisker in that sample,” Gruel said. “That’ll be bad.”

(16) WITH GREAT POWER COMES MINOR LEAGUE HOCKEY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] ComicBook.com: “Minor League Hockey Team Suits Up in Spider-Man Uniforms on Stan Lee’s Birthday”.

Today, Saturday December 28, would have been the legendary Stan Lee‘s 97th birthday. To mark the occasion fans all around the world are taking a moment to reflect on and honor the prolific and influential comics figure who was responsible for helping to create many of the most iconic characters in comics history — The X-Men, The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Dr. Doom, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and more. It’s one of those characters that a minor league hockey team is using to help honor Lee on his birthday with special Spider-Man uniforms.

On Twitter on Saturday, the Indy Fuel hockey team shared a photo of their uniforms for the evening’s game against the Kansas City Mavericks. The special jerseys are part of the Fuel’s Marvel Super Hero Night event, which just so happens to land on Lee’s birthday. The team also posted thanking the creator for “creating a pretty awesome universe.” You can check out both posts below.

(17) BIZARRE TOY. Nerdbot wants us to know “Monty Python Black Knight Figure Talks & Has Removable Arms”. If they also make one like this for Gandalf, imagine posing them opposite one another yelling, ”None shall pass, none shall pass!”

 [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Dann, Martin Morse Wooster, David Langford, John Hertz, and Rich Lynch for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dennis Howard – classic faanish reference explained here.]

Pixel Scroll 12/6/19 Sometimes Ups Outnumber The Downs, But Not In Pixlingsham

(1) THREE AI’S AND A BABY. Carolyn Giardina’s story in The Hollywood Reporter, “Why Jon Favreau Chose Baby Yoda: ‘”We Don’t Know a Lot of Details About His Species’”, is a lengthy interview with Favreau, where he talks about all his projects, including his cooking show, his direction of The Lion King, and of course, why he created Baby Yoda.

Let’s start with your virtual production process for The Mandalorian. How did it grow out of work that you did for The Lion King?

In The Lion King, we built a tool set, basically a “multiplayer VR filmmaking game,” using the Unity game engine. We built a bunch of tools working with [lead VFX house] MPC and [tech developer] Magnopus and Unity, and we developed a way by which you could actually create environments and set up cameras and shots within VR. In The Mandalorian, we used a lot of the same tools to plan the entire production, working with the Unreal engine [from Epic Games]. But Lion King was a much different production because there was no actual photography. For Mandalorian, we take that cut, and instead of going right to animation and render like we did on Lion King, we build sets and a digital environment that we project onto a video wall. We partnered with Unreal and [VFX house] ILM and put together this system for The Mandalorian. All the people that we worked with then took that technology, and they’re doing their versions of it. They’re all slightly different, but basically we did research and development for The Mandalorian, and now everybody is building on the innovation that we collectively did and making that available to other people who might be curious about this process as well.

(2) CONTINUED NOBEL BLOWBACK. [Item by Karl-Johan Norén.] Member of the Swedish Academy and former permanent secretary Peter Englund will not participate in any of the Nobel festivities or activities this week, due to the 2019 Nobel Prize in literature being awarded to Peter Handke. He writes on Instagram (my translation):

As previously reported I will not participate in this year’s Nobel Week. To celebrate Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize would be deeply hypocritical from my part. Can add that this will not be a surprise for my friends and colleagues in the Academy. Also I will be present in the usual way at the Academy’s celebratory meeting on December 20. The white tie will rest until then.

The image used is of the Stockholm City Hall, where the Nobel Prize banquet is traditionally held.

Peter Englund is a historian, and during the Yugoslavian Civil War he made several trips to the country as a journalist. He is without a doubt the member of the Swedish Academy with the strongest relation to and knowledge of the Yugoslavian Civil War and its consequences.

(3) MORE FUNDS NEEDED FOR ROBYN SURGERY. Amazing Stories has reblogged Shahid Mahmud’s announcement of a new fundraising goal: “Arc Manor Sets Up Go Fund Me for Lezli Robyn”.

Many of you know that Arc Manor is, essentially, a two-person company: Myself and Lezli Robyn. Some of you are also aware that we had a GoFundMe for a couple of years ago for treating her eyes–for Keratoconus, a rare disease that effectively leads to blindness by causing blurriness and multiple images.

…Unfortunately, Lezli’s other illnesses intervened and she had to postpone her eye surgery twice (the second time needing to be in another country for urgent abdominal surgery). She was misdiagnosed for about two years (until very recently) for her hyperthyroid condition, which led her to have a Thyroid Storm. At the point of her diagnosis, she was in the hospital in a touch-and-go situation with her life.

Since her diagnosis, she has been put on the right meds (she may need an additional surgery, but the meds may be sufficient) and has recovered significantly. However, one side effect of her untreated condition has been a significant worsening of her eye-sight. She was legally blind even before this, but now it is gotten to the point where she has needed to get a blind cane. She now sees 40 duplications, instead of the original 7.

In an update by Lezli on the “Help Lezli See (Eye Surgery)” GoFundMe page, she supplies a lot more diagnostic detail following this introduction —

Shahid, his wife, and other close friends have been arguing that I need to raise the level on my fundraiser so it can also cover the procedure to CORRECT my eye condition as well as HALT my Keratoconus (giving me normal eyesight again!). People are very confronted by how bad my eyesight is now—especially after seeing me get around in person. I can no longer hide it and they say it’s not a matter of wanting to get it done, but NEEDING to get it done, because they argue my quality of life is severely compromised. I have also had to be honest and let my boss (also Shahid) know what I cannot do for work now, because I literally cannot see well enough to do certain publishing tasks.

Her delayed eye surgery is now scheduled for March 2020, and for reasons explained in these two posts, more funds are needed,

(4) ANOTHER KIND OF TUBE MAP. Abigail Nussbaum delivers an extended critique of some new shows in “Notes From the Streamapocalypse “ at Asking the Wrong Questions.

Until last month, 2019 felt like a year in which popular culture was winding itself down.  What seems like an abnormal number of shows, including juggernauts like Game of Thrones, wrapped up their stories, while others were cancelled.  Collaborations like the Netflix MCU were brought to an abrupt end.  Everywhere there was a feeling of holding one’s breath, clearing the decks in preparation for the coming onslaught.  And then, a few weeks ago, that deluge arrived with the launch of Apple TV+ and Disney+, two new streaming platforms seeking to directly challenge Netflix and Amazon for primacy in a field that already feels hopelessly crowded and balkanized.  Scripted TV is only one front in that fight (Disney+, for example, can afford to launch with only one original scripted series because it has such an enormous back-catalog to boast of, whereas Apple+ is scrambling to measure up with four new scripted series, and more to come).  But it’s the one I find most interesting.  Overall, my verdict is that all of these shows are ambitious, and a few are interesting, but none of them are truly great (and all suffer from the besetting flaw of streaming TV, of working better at a binge, which obscures annoying tics and makes the plot seem to flow better, than in weekly installments).  If this is the future of television, my reaction to it is decidedly qualified, with a few sprinklings of hope.

(5) NOT QUITE IN THE BEGINNING. James Davis Nicoll advises against “Creating Gods Through Science and Magic” – and illustrates his warning with characters from well-known sff works.

To (mis)quote Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, “I looked and looked but I didn’t see God.” Humans are cunning little monkeys, though, so even if at present we assume there are no gods as such, it’s within the realm of possibility that we might someday build something (or somethings) functionally equivalent to gods.

We could even turn ourselves into gods (via tech assist or magic). Would this be an unmixed blessing? Um, not really. We already know that humans can be monumental dicks; deified humans could be just as nasty….

(6) HELP WANTED. There is an opening for a new Jay Kay Klein and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction at UC Riverside. Full requirements at the link: Assistant Librarian – Associate Librarian – Librarian – Potential Career

THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, RIVERSIDE


Position Title:


Rank and Salary Scale
Assistant Librarian/Associate Librarian/Librarian – Potential Career $61,201 – $82, 045

The Jay Kay Klein and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction is responsible for the development, stewardship, and promotion of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy and associated collections of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other forms of speculative fiction housed in the University of California, Riverside Library’s Special Collections & University Archives Department….

(7) SKYWALKER TRIGGER WARNING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This may not be the type of trigger warning you were expecting… The Hollywood Reporter: “’Star Wars’: Disney Warns of Flashing Lights, Seizure Concerns for ‘Rise of Skywalker’”.

Disney has issued an uncommon warning to cinema owners around the globe asking them to notify customers that certain visuals and sustained flashing lights sequences in J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker could affect those with photosensitive epilepsy.

The studio has also notified the Epilepsy Foundation, which posted a similar advisory Friday morning, saying it was working in concert with Disney to provide information to its constituents.

[Disney’s letter to exhibitors stated,] “Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that you provide at your venue box office and online, and at other appropriate places where your customers will see it, a notice containing the following information: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker contains several sequences with imagery and sustained flashing lights that may affect those who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy or have other photosensitivities.” […]

(8) WALKER OBIT. Robert Walker Jr., who played Charlie X on Star Trek, died today in Malibu: “Robert Walker Jr., ‘Star Trek’ Actor and Son of Hollywood Superstars, Dies at 79”.

…On the second aired episode of Star Trek, “Charlie X,” the slender, blue-eyed Walker portrayed Charles “Charlie” Evans, the sole survivor of a transport-ship crash who possesses strange powers. Walker was actually 26 when he played the 17-year-old Charlie during filming in 1966.

He starred in Jack Lemmon’s role as the title character in Ensign Pulver (1964), a sequel to the 1955 classic comedy Mister Roberts, and portrayed a kid sharpshooter opposite Robert Mitchum in Young Billy Young (1969).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 6, 1991 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country premiered. It will be the last film with the entire cast of the original series. Screenplay by Nicholas Meyer, who also directed as he did previously with the Wrath of Khan film. It was a very spectacular financial success and bless them the critics treated it very well. Currently it scores in the low eighties among critics and viewers alike at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 6, 1893 Sylvia Townsend Warner. Do yourself a favor and look up a bio of her as she’s a fascinating person. This site  is a good place to do so. Her first novel, Lolly Willowes or, The Loving Huntsman, is definitely genre. ISFDB lists four genre collections by her. Kingdoms of Elfin is available on Kindle, Lolly Willowes is available everywhere. (Died 1973.)
  • Born December 6, 1900 Agnes Moorehead. I’m assuming that the statute of limitations for spoilers has long passed on this particular show. I’m referring to the Twilight Zone episode “The Invaders” in which she never spoke a word as she fought off the tiny Invaders, human astronauts, and she a giant alien. Written especially for her by Richard Matheson. (Died 1974.)
  • Born December 6, 1918 William P. McGivern. Once in a while, I run across an author I’ve never heard of. So it is with McGivern. He was a prolific writer of SFF stories for twenty years starting from the early Forties. ISFDB only lists one genre novel by him, The Seeing, that he wrote with his wife Maureen McGivern. The digital has been good for him with both Apple Books and Kindle having pretty much everything by him that he did except the long out of print The Seeing. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 6, 1941 Wende Wagner. She is no doubt best remembered as Lenore Case on the Green Hornet series. Other genre roles include being Rosemary’s Girl Friend in Rosemary’s Baby, and Sandra Welles in Destination Inner Space, a horror film drawing the not coveted 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 6, 1941 Leon Russom, 78. He portrayed Admiral Toddman In Deep Space Nine‘s “The Die is Cast” episode and the Starfleet Chief in Command in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He’s had one offs in the classic Mission Impossible, Strange World, X-Files, Jericho and Paranormal Burbank.
  • Born December 6, 1957 Arabella Weir, 62. A performer with two Who appearences, the first being as Billis in “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, a superb Eleventh Doctor story, before being The Doctor Herself in “Exile”, a Big Audio production. She’s had one-offs on genre and genre adjacent series such as Shades of Darkness, Genie in the House, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Midsomer Murders.
  • Born December 6, 1962 Colin Salmon, 57. Definitely best known for his role as Charles Robinson in the Bond films Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. He played Dr. Moon in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, Tenth Doctor stories. He has, alas, been in some clunkers, Mortal Engines certainly come to mind.
  • Born December 6, 1969 Torri Higginson, 50. I had forgotten that she had a role in the TekWar movies and series as Beth Kittridge. I like that series a lot. Of course, she portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Weir in Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. Her most recent genre role was as Dr. Michelle Kessler in Inhuman Condition, where she plays a therapist who focuses on supernatural patients.

(11) MAZE RUINERS. “Researchers Release Teeny Little Minotaur Into Maze To Test Mice’s Capacity To Use Enchanted String”The Onion covers this scientific breakthrough…

In an effort to study the rodents’ ability to manipulate simple magical objects, researchers at the University of Chicago reportedly released a teeny little minotaur into a maze Thursday to test mice’s capacity to use enchanted string….

(12) HARLEY QUINN. You had to be there… “Colorful New ‘Birds of Prey’ Footage Unveiled for Fans in Brazil”.

Fans of Harley Quinn got a new look at the movie Thursday at Comic Con Experience, the Brazilian convention in São Paulo, where Margot Robbie and the cast of next year’s Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) debuted all-new footage, including the opening sequence of the movie itself.

Two convention-only clips were screened for the audience, including a new trailer that focused more on Black Canary and Huntress than the first — as Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) put it, Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has “anger issues,” despite her shouted assertions to the contrary, while Canary herself has a broken heart and feels empathy for a Harley who’s learning to be alone after the Joker dumped her. Don’t worry; there was also plenty of explosions, and Harley’s two beloved hyenas, Wayne and Bruce. (Just wait a second, it’ll come to you.)

(13) STAR CORK. Bleeding Cool’s Gavin Sheehan liked the bottle even more than the wine: “Review: Star Trek United Federation Of Planets Old Vine Zinfandel”.

…So first and foremost, this bottle is a work of art unto itself. Rarely do I ever have wine in a square container such as this, but it’s a standard 750 ml. The design caught me off-guard but also made me smile because this is very much a Trek thing. Whenever you look at bottles of liquor in Ten Forward or Quark’s, the prop masters always went out of their way to create futuristic glasses and containers that you normally wouldn’t keep booze in during this point in time. But maybe wine is stored differently in the future, so you get this rectangle-shaped design that slims down the lower it goes.

(14) COLONEL’S LOG. The recipe? First, steal one fireplace….“KFC Brings Back Fried Chicken-Scented Fire Log for the Holidays”.

“Last year, we captured the hearts, noses and fireplaces of our fans, but thousands more were clamoring to get their hands on our limited firelogs. So, we brought our 11 Herbs & Spices Firelogs back with an exclusive partnership with Walmart to spread the finger-lickin’ good cheer,” Andrea Zahumensky, KFC U.S. CMO said in a statement to the company’s website. “We hope you’ll cuddle up with your family or friends with a bucket of our world-famous fried chicken and a warm fried chicken-scented fire this holiday season.”

Also available right now, the anime-themed “I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator”

Do you have what it takes to date the most famous chicken salesman of all time? Find out now in the most delicious dating simulator ever created. Play now on Steam for free! http://bit.ly/2m9MaQu

(15) HINT FROM THE MASTER? “How to conquer work paralysis like Ernest Hemingway” – BBC remembers his advice.

The author wasn’t all about literary masterpieces, dry martinis and rakish charm – he also invented a technique that can beat procrastination and boost productivity.

He was famous for his constant womanising, his achingly cool moustache and his affection for six-toed cats. Legend has it that he could drink 17 daiquiris in an afternoon, he was recruited by the KGB as a spy codenamed “Argo” and he once slept with a bear. Oh, and he wrote some of the most highly acclaimed works of all time.

I’m talking about Ernest Hemingway, of course. But it turns out that the author had more than novels and macho anecdotes up his rugged, intellectual sleeves. He was also the inventor of a clever psychological trick: the “useful interruption”.

According to a 1935 article Hemingway penned for Esquire magazine, when asked “How much should you write in a day?” by a young writer, he replied: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel, you will never be stuck.” He urged the nascent writer to remember this – and even went so far as to say that it was the most valuable advice he could give.

(16) PSYCH OUT. Isn’t this what Majel Barrett’s computer voice was doing on the original Star Trek? “Why progress bars can make you feel better”

We are all familiar with the spinning wheels and download indicators that signify when our electronic devices are “working”, but are they making us fall for the “labour illusion”?

…But there is a good chance that you have been misled online at least once already today, probably without you even realising it. If you downloaded some software, tried to stream a video or even conducted an internet search, you’ve more than likely been taken in by one of the most widespread fibs of our modern age.

The spinning wheels, rotating egg timers and moving progress bars we regularly see on our screens when using our electronic devices are often misleading. Rather than offering an accurate representation of work being done, they are more often than not simply there to give the impression that something is happening behind the scenes. They provide us with a sense that we are not waiting in vain for something to happen.

And there is a fundamental reason for this: we like to see real work being done. In fact, we value it more, even when the end result is the same.

Ryan Buell, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, studies how we value the work we see being done. Perhaps this is most clearly illustrated in restaurants where customers can see chefs working in the kitchen. Diners rated the quality of food from those restaurants as 22% higher than the same food when they could not see it being prepared.

(17) BUY-BUY! NPR’s Elizabeth Metzger reviews “‘In Fabric’: Darkly Comic Horror About A (Literally) Killer Dress”.

As Black Friday/Cyber Monday impulse-buys start piling up on our doorsteps, Peter Strickland’s new film In Fabric hits a nerve: Everyone loves a great sale, after all, just as everyone rankles at overly strict return policies.

Especially if the item in question is a dress that’s out to kill you.

Sheila, played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste, falls prey to a great winter sales rack. It’s a pity that the flowy A-line red dress she purchases is haunted by a coven of macabre sales clerks led by Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed) — but what can one expect of a dress purchased at 60% off retail? That said, it does come in ‘Artery Red.’

…What, you may ask, prompts the purchase of a killer dress, beyond a love for a great deal? The recently divorced Sheila is putting herself back out there, going on a first date with Adonis (Anthony Adjekum) — who is not all what his name implies. Bad luck follows Sheila: a mysterious rash, an imploding washing machine, and constant undermining from both her superiors at the bank and her son’s girlfriend, played by Gwendoline Christie in a harsh black wig. Jean-Baptiste grounds the movie in a world filled with the farcical, the gory and the hypersexualized.

(18) APOSTROPHE CATASTROPHE. “Apostrophe society shuts down because ‘ignorance and laziness have won'” – the Evening Standard has the story.

A society dedicated to preserving the correct use of the apostrophe has shut down because “ignorance has won”. 

Retired journalist John Richards, 96, started the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001 to make sure the “much-abused” punctuation mark was being used correctly.

But Mr Richards has now announced: “With regret I have to announce that, after some 18 years, I have decided to close the Apostrophe Protection Society.

“There are two reasons for this. One is that at 96 I am cutting back on my commitments and the second is that fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English Language.”

…His website lists three simple rules for the correct use of the apostrophe.

The rules Mr Richards gave for apostrophes are: They are used to denote a missing letter or letters, they are used to denote possession and apostrophes are never ever used to denote plurals.

(19) TAKING A BITE OUT OF THE SCENERY. The Ringer puts together a commentary on “The Best TV Episodes of 2019”. Some of them are genre.

8. “The Trial,” What We Do in the Shadows

Much like Taika Waititi’s eponymous film, FX’s What We Do in the Shadows gleefully leans into mundanity. This simple idea—that being an immortal, centuries-old vampire could lead to a meandering existence—is elevated by the show’s largely anonymous cast and the fact our vamps are based in Staten Island. (No disrespect to the Staten Islanders out there, but it’s usually not the borough tourists head for when they visit New York.) But in “The Trial,” What We Do in the Shadows pulls out all the stops, providing what could be the greatest on-screen vampire reunion … ever?

When our protagonists Nandor, Laszlo, and Nadja go before an international tribunal of vampires to answer for the death of the “Baron,” they’re greeted not just by the stars of the original movie, but some of the most famous actors who’ve played vampires in other projects: Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive), Evan Rachel Wood (True Blood), Paul Reubens (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie), Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn), and even Wesley Snipes (the Blade trilogy) via glitchy Skype. Absentees Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Robert Pattinson, and Kiefer Sutherland are all name-dropped, as well, turning “The Trial” into the Avengers for pop-culture vampires and, more importantly, a clever inversion of the show’s banal storytelling. The flex of having all these stars show up is commendable in and of itself, but “The Trial” is a series highlight for its excellent banter and the subtle implication that Swinton and Co. are also still themselves—and that they play vampires on screen in order to hide in plain sight. Like the humans they feast on, the vampiric world of What We Do in the Shadows remains an absolute treat. —Surrey

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

D. C. Fontana (1939-2019)

D.C. Fontana in 2016.

Famed Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana has died at the age of 80. The American Film Institute announced today the news of Fontana’s passing. 

She gained fame for her work on the original Star Trek series and the 1970s animated series, which she also associate produced. In later years she wrote Trek-themed games and comics.

According to IMDB, she was advised by Gene Roddenberry to use her initials (D.C.) on her initial scripts for the original Star Trek series because at the time, networks were often biased against female writers. That may have been sound advice, although in her first several TV writing credits for The Tall Man series in 1960 she was identified by her full name, as “Dorothy C. Fontana.”

On Star Trek, she received credits in 11 episodes — her Wikipedia bio has a discussion of her specific contributions to various episodes, and how in some cases credit was apportioned by the Writers Guild of America. A few of her works on Star Trek were credited to the pseudonym Michael Richards.

Fontana and Gene Roddenberry shared writing credit on “Encounter at Farpoint,” the premiere episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

She later contributed to several Star Trek spin-off series and quite a few other genre TV shows, among them The Fantastic Journey, Logan’s Run, The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Automan, and Babylon 5.

Throughout her career she also wrote episodes of non-sff shows like Ben Casey, Bonanza, The Streets of San Francisco, Kung Fu, The Waltons, and Dallas, In 1969 she was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for an episode of Then Came Bronson entitled “Two Percent of Nothing”.

Dorothy Catherine Fontana was born in Sussex, New Jersey in 1939. She was most recently employed as a senior lecturer at the American Film Institute.

Fontana is survived by her husband, Oscar-winning visual effects cinematographer, Dennis Skotak. Both of them have generously shared their experience on many convention panels in Los Angeles over the years.

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 12/1/19 That Is How Pixels Scroll When They Are Excited

(1) BRING ME THE HEAD OF C-3PO. Art Daily announces “Return of the auction: Sotheby’s announces second sale dedicated to Star Wars”. A ‘Return of the Jedi’, Promotional C-3PO helmet (1983) might bring £15,000-25,000.

Following a sell-out auction in 2015 from the collection of NIGO®, Sotheby’s will now host its second sale dedicated to ‘Star Wars’ collectibles, titled ‘Star Wars Online’. Encompassing around 100 lots from the acclaimed franchise, the online-only sale, open from 29 November to 13 December, offers the opportunity to acquire a piece of pop culture history just days ahead of the highly-anticipated release of the final film in the sequel trilogy, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’.

(2) CLARION CALLS. Applications for the 2020 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop are open now through March 1, 2020. The workshop will be held June 21, 2020 – August 1, 2020 on the UC San Diego campus.

(3) ANOTHER SATISFIED MURDERBOT CUSTOMER.  Ann Leckie reports on “Books I’ve Read Recently”.

First off, just to make you all jealous, I’ve read Martha Wells’ Network Effect–you know, the Murderbot novel that’s not out till next May? Yeah, that one.

“When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

“Drastic action it is, then.”

Yeah, it’s just as awesome as you’re hoping it is….

(4) STAR TREK CATS. Today, the Spock Cat. “Live long and prospurrr…”

  • Based on the artwork by Jenny Parks
  • Officially-licensed Star Trek collectible
  • Part of the Star Trek Cats Collection
  • Limited Edition
  • Doesn’t React to Any of Your Jokes
  • Transporter-Inspired Base with Star Trek Logo

(5) A BETTER MOUSE, ER, READER TRAP. Renay turned criticisms of a Barnes & Noble aisle-end book display into a great thought experiment and post for Lady Business“Let’s Get Literate! Building Better Book Endcaps”.

Book presentation is itself a complicated art, using data and knowledge of trends. It’s why I love browsing indie bookstores, when I get to go somewhere with one (ha ha rural life is so dire). You can look at their endcaps and displays and see patterns, and if you’re well read in a genre, you can also see those indie folks making jokes, critiquing, showing books in conversations with each other. This is the part that Unregulated Capitalism can never replicate. What I saw happening in this photo made my soul leak from my body to pool on the floor of B&N, defeated.

Then I thought: I could give this a shot and drag some friends along for the ride. I claim no expertise in building endcaps like the pros in indie bookstore culture. I just wanted to cheer myself up and create a dream endcap that would make me happy to see. So everyone gets a book tag!

(6) LE GUIN ON SALE. Grasshopper Films is selling “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” for $14.97, down from $29.95. Sale ends Monday night, NY time.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 1, 2012 Dragon Wasps premiered.  Starring Dominika Juillet, Nikolette Noel and Corin Nemec, this Little Dragon Productions currently rates 12% at Rotten Tomatoes and doesn’t appeared to have any published reviews. You can see the trailer here.
  • December 1, 2017 Alien Invasion: S.U.M.1 premiered. Directed and written by Christian Pasquariello,  it starred  Iwan Rheon as S.U.M.1, André Hennicke as MAC and Rainer Werner as V.A.X.7. Filmed in Germany, the English language version rates 18% as its audience score at Rotten Tomatoes.  You can see the trailer here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 1, 1886 Rex Stout. He did several genre or at least genre adjacent novels, to wit How Like A GodThe President Vanishes and his lost world tale, Under the Incas. Though I’ve read lots of Stout, I’ve not read these. ISFDB also lists Rue Morgue No. 1 as genre but this appears to be mysteries or possibly straightforward pulp tales that he co-edited with Louis Greenfield. (Died 1975.)
  • Born December 1, 1905 Charles G. Finney. It’s rare that I pick writers that have done one work one that has defined them but his one such work is, well, phenomenal in this regard. His first novel and most famous work, The Circus of Dr. Lao, won one of the inaugural National Book Award for the Most Original Book of 1935, is most decidedly fantasy. Bradbury would so like the novel that he included it in The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories which is rather obviously named after it. It is said the Circus in his Something Wicked This Way Comes is modelled upon The Circus of Dr. Lao. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 1, 1928 Malachi Throne. You’ve likely seen him if you watched genre television on the Sixties and Seventies as he had roles on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Star Trek, Next Gen, Land of the Giants, The Time Tunnel, Mission: Impossible, Lost in Space, Outer LimitsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Batman,  and The Six Million Dollar Man. He provided the voice of the Keeper in Trek’s first pilot episode “The Cage”. Throne was cast in another role in “The Menagerie”, Commodore José I. Méndez, so his voice was altered in his “Cage” role. (Died 2013.)
  • Born December 1, 1936 Melissa Jaffer, 83. Likely you best remember her as Utu Noranti Pralatong on Farscape though she was also in Mad Max: Fury Road where she played Keeper of the Seeds. And she was Annie in the Good Vibrations series.
  • Born December 1, 1942 John Crowley, 77. I’m tempted to say he’s a frelling literary genius and stop there but I won’t. Little, Big is brilliant but if anything his new crow-centric novel of Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr which received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award makes that novel look like child’s play in comparison. Did you know he wrote novella called The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines? Or Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, which contains an entire imaginary novel by the poet?
  • Born December 1, 1954 Douglas Niles, 65. He was one of the creators of the Dragonlance world and the author of the first three Forgotten Realms novels. I’ve not played it as I was into Travellers’ Aid Society when I was gaming. So how was it as a game system? 
  • Born December 1, 1964 Jo Walton, 55. She’s won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer and the World Fantasy award for her novel Tooth and Claw in which dragons got positively and delightfully Victorian. Even if they eat each other.   Her Small Change trilogy may be the finest WW II novels I’ve read bar none, and her Sulien series is an excellent retelling of the Arthurian myth.  Among Others she says is about the “coming-of-age experience of having books instead of people for friends and solace”. I can relate to that as I imagine many here can too. 
  • Born December 1, 1956 Bill Willingham, 63. Best known I’d say for his long running Fable series though personally I think his best work was Proposition Player. He got his start in the late 1970s to early 1980s as a staff artist for TSR games where he was the cover artist for the AD&D Player Character Record Sheets and a lot of games I don’t recognize not having been a gamer at that time. I do recognize his superb 1980s comic book series Elementals,  and he later wrote the equally excellent Shadowpact for DC.
  • Born December 1, 1971 Emily Mortimer, 48. She was the voice of Sophie in the English language version of Howl’s Moving Castle, and Jane Banks in Mary Poppins Returns. She was the voice of Lisette in the superb Hugo animated film, and was Nicole Durant in The Pink Panther

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Dilbert does a nice take on the Robot Apocalypse.
  • Non Sequitur presents the writer’s version of the infamous tombstone.
  • Tom Gauld charts this year’s reading experiences.

(10) PROBES ON THE WAY. Mars is on the menu in 1964 as Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus serves up the news: “[December 1, 1964] Planet Four or Bust! (What we know about Mars)”.

…This week, humanity embarked on its most ambitious voyage to date.  Its destination: Mars.

I use the term “humanity” advisedly, for this effort is a global one.  On November 28, 1964, the United States launched Mariner 4 from Cape Kennedy.  And just yesterday, the Soviet Union’s Zond hurtled into space.  Both are bound for the Red Planet, due to arrive next summer. 

He gives a great overview of the Mars portrayed in sf and popular science – all of which is about to go by the boards.

….Such was our understanding of the planet perhaps a decade ago.  Recently, ground-based science has made some amazing discoveries, and it may well be that Mariner and Zond don’t so much revolutionize as simply enhance our understanding of the planet.

I just read a paper that says the Martian atmosphere is about a quarter as dense at the surface that thought.  This isn’t just bad for breathing — it means NASA scientists have to rethink all the gliders and parachutes they were planning for their Voyager missions scheduled for the next decade.  Observations by spectroscope have found no traces of oxygen and scarcely more water vapor.  The planet’s thin atmosphere is mostly made up of nitrogen and carbon dioxide.  The ice in the polar caps may well be mostly “dry”.

(11) DEADLY CUTENESS. “Baby Yoda Duels Palpatine in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith Fan-Edit”ScreenRant sets the scene:

Baby Yoda fights Emperor Palpatine in a brilliant new Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith fan edit. After months of anticipation, The Mandalorian finally hit Disney+ earlier this month, and fans everywhere immediately fell in love with the show’s breakout character, a tiny alien child unofficially christened “Baby Yoda” who made a surprise first appearance in the kickoff episode (a “twist” that was immediately spoiled by Twitter).

(12) THE MAGIC IS BACK. “In ‘Children Of Virtue And Vengeance,’ Magic Has Returned. Now What?” – NPR interviews Tomi Adeyemi.

Children of Blood and Bone was an instant success last year.

The young adult fantasy novel by then-24-year-old author Tomi Adeyemi has so far spent 89 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. It made countless best books lists, and it was optioned for a movie by Disney. It spoke to people.

“I always pitched it as Black Panther with magic,” Adeyemi says. “It’s this epic young adult fantasy about a girl fighting to bring magic back to her people.”

And now there’s a sequel: Children of Virtue and Vengeance. The heroine, Zélie, has succeeded in her quest to bring magic back to her people, the maji, and the land of Orïsha. But the nobility and the military now have powerful magic, too. And civil war looms.

For Zélie and her ally Amari — a runaway princess who has joined the rebellion, so to speak — the question becomes: Now what? And how will their personal traumas play out?

(13) ANTICIPATORY MUG SHOTS. BBC reports “China due to introduce face scans for mobile users”

People in China are now required to have their faces scanned when registering new mobile phone services, as the authorities seek to verify the identities of the country’s hundreds of millions of internet users.

The regulation, announced in September, was due to come into effect on Sunday.

The government says it wants to “protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace”.

China already uses facial recognition technology to survey its population.

It is a world leader in such technologies, but their intensifying use across the country in recent years has sparked debate.

What are the new rules?

When signing up for new mobile or mobile data contracts, people are already required to show their national identification card (as required in many countries) and have their photos taken.

But now, they will also have their faces scanned in order to verify that they are a genuine match for the ID provided.

China has for years been trying to enforce rules to ensure that everyone using the internet does so under their “real-name” identities.

(14) DARWIN WINNER? “Booby traps: Man in Maine killed by own device”.

A 65-year-old American man who rigged his home with a booby trap to keep out intruders has been killed by the device.

Ronald Cyr called police in the town of Van Buren in the state of Maine to say he had been shot.

Police found a door had been designed to fire a handgun should anyone attempt to enter. Mr Cyr was taken to hospital but died of his injuries.

It is not uncommon for home-owners to install such traps – but it is illegal.

Police in Van Buren, which borders the Canadian province of New Brunswick, said they responded to a 911 call in the early evening of Thanksgiving, last Thursday, from a man who said he had been shot.

“Following an extensive investigation that lasted into the early morning… it was determined that Mr Cyr had been shot as the result of the unintentional discharge of one of his homemade devices,” the police department said in a Facebook post.

(15) E.T. BUY PHONE. CNN backgrounds a nostalgic commercial: “Phone home! E.T. reunites with Elliott and viewers in a Thanksgiving TV ad”.

If you suddenly burst into tears during a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade commercial break, your younger family members might’ve been startled. But they probably never dreamed of taking flight on a bike with an alien in the basket.

E.T. — yes, THAT E.T.! — made a surprise appearance in commercial for telecommunications company Xfinity. Only this time, he landed on Earth on purpose, and he’s learning about tablets and playing in the snow.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/30/19 As Godstalk Is My Scrollness, I Thought Pixels Could Teleport

(1) ONE CRITIC’S CHOICE. Adam Roberts anoints the “Best science fiction and fantasy books of 2019” in the Guardian.

My pick for the book of the year, Tim Maughan’s Infinite Detail (MCD x FSG Originals), is a before-and-after tale of near-future social collapse after a coordinated attack takes the internet down. It’s hard to believe it is a debut, so assured and evocative is Maughan’s writing. As a portrait of the fragility of our current status quo it is as thought-provoking as it is terrifying; you won’t ever take your wifi for granted again.

(2) RESERVATIONS OPEN FOR 2020 NASFIC. The Columbus in 2020 NASFiC hotel room block is now open.

Marriott reservation link

Click on the above link to take you to the Hotel page to book your room for The Columbus NASFIC in 2020 at a cost of $129.00 per night. Room Nights will be available at the discounted rate from August 16th thru the 27th.

You can also go to our website http://columbus2020nasfic.org/our-facilities and click on the link to make your reservation.

Dennis Howard sent the link with this advisory:

I tried to book for 5 nights starting the Wednesday before the convention, but the hotel’s system said that there were no rooms available on Wednesday. So I booked for 4 nights starting Thursday and emailed the con about the issue. Within 24 hours they had added Wednesday to my reservation. So I’m happy. I was probably not the only person having issues because they have now added a note about booking problems on their facilities webpage. But they are obviously working on it.

The note on the Columbus website says —

Apparently there are people who are having issues making extended reservations.
If you are having these issues try and make the reservation for just the weekend of the convention. Until we can get this straightened out, Email the confirmation number to hotel@columbus2020nasfic.org with the dates you want to add and we’ll get them added.

(3) THESE ARE THE VOYAGES. “Star Trek TOS Captain Kirk Cat Polystone Statue” in shops December 18.

James T. Kirk Cat is the inaugural release in Chronicle Collectibles’ new line of the legendary original Star Trek crew, reimagined as cats. This adorable 1:9 scale James T. Kirk Cat comes with his official command chair so that he can direct the furry crew of the Enterprise. Just the right size for any office desk at 7.5 inches tall, you just know this is going to be the right conversation starter at work that combines your love of Star Trek and cats.

(4) TENTACULAR SPECTACULAR. Ursula Vernon weighed in on a question about Disney love interests. Thread starts here.

(5) NEW WORLDS AND OTHERS. Hannah Nussbaum finds forgotten literary connections in UK speculative fiction: “‘An inward looking outer space’: a brief history of Corridor.

What follows is an abridged excavation of the history of Corridor8, under which hides a dense archive of art and literary material reaching back to the 1960s.

The history of Corridor8 begins with Michael Butterworth, the Manchester-based writer, editor, and artist who originally conceived of a publication called Corridor in the early 1970s. This first issue of Corridor can be understood as one discrete point amid a trail of interrelated literary projects fomenting at the time. Before Corridor there was a broadsheet called Concentrate, and before (and during) Concentrate there was a thriving publication called New Worlds. These iterations were surrounded by a succession of other broadsheets and half-imagined projects consigned to the wastebaskets of avant-garde history. The resultant archive relays a history of experimental writing in the North of England, and leads us by way of papery trail to our present Corridor8 platform.

… With these aims (of creating slippages between reader, writer, and editor), Butterworth published the fourth issue Corridor later in 1972, with renewed commitment to destabilising and hybridising form. The teaser language on the cover of the issue shows the extent to which Corridor had evolved into a magazine dedicated to dissolving edges between text-art, criticism, and fiction. This new issue contained a new Jerry Cornelius story by Moorcock, a ‘word movie’ by John Riley, a long poem by Kevin Dixon-Jackson, ‘acid head fantasy’ by Chris Naylor, a review of William Burroughs written by Jay Jeff Jones, experimental work by Trevor Hoyle’s ‘the constant copywriter’ as well as a healthy smattering of letters to the editor. It was an issue that particularly reflected the post-industrial landscape of Manchester: Kevin Dixon-Jackson’s long poem evoked the strange, derelict geometry of Manchester’s city centre, alongside a photo series, also by Jackson, ringing with a palpable hauntology for lost Northern futures.

(6) THE INVISIBLE WOMAN. “Space ageing: where are the galactic grandmas?” According to Nature’s Sylvia Spruck Wrigley, “The lack of older women in sci-fi novels reflects and reifies ageism and sexism.”

As women get old, they gain a superpower: invisibility. And not only in real life. ‘Young adult’ fantasy and science-fiction hits such as Suzanne Collins’s novel series The Hunger Games and Stephenie Meyers’s Twilight series have been taken to task for doing away with mature women. In fantasy generally, older women mainly occupy supporting roles, such as fairy godmothers, wise crones and evil witches. The best are subversions — George R. R. Martin’s Queen of Thorns in A Song of Ice and Fire, for instance, or Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg in the Discworld series. All of them embrace old age with gusto. I expected better from science-fiction novels, where alternative worlds and alien nations explore what it means to be human. In 1976, after all, Ursula K. Le Guin argued in her essay ‘The Space Crone’ that post-menopausal women are best suited to representing the human race to alien species, because they are the most likely to have experienced all the changes of the human condition. And Robert A. Heinlein offers a fantastic galactic grandmother in The Rolling Stones (1952): Hazel Stone, engineer, lunar colonist and expert blackjack player irritated by the everyday misogyny of the Solar System.  

(7) CHANDLER AWARD. Nominations for Australia’s A. Bertram Chandler Award for Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction will open in December. A jury picks the winner.

Nominations for the A Bertram Chandler Award for Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction will open in December and close 1 February 2020. The Award was established in recognition of the contribution that science fiction writer A. Bertram Chandler made to Australian Science Fiction and to Australian fandom in general. It is Australia’s premier award for lifetime achievement in science fiction.

You are encouraged to nominate a person who fulfils the criteria on the nomination page here at ASFF.

Please read the guidelines carefully before making a nomination. The winner of the award will be announced at the 2020 Natcon — which is Swancon in Perth — over the Anzac Day weekend 2020.

(8) THAT BITES. Andrew Porter was in front of his TV when another group of Jeopardy! contestants plotzed on a genre answer.

Category: Classic British Novels.

Answer: “The title character of this novel says of his home, ‘The wind breathes cold through the broken battlements and casements.'”

Wrong questions:

“What is The Hunchback of Notre Dame?’

“What is Tristam Shandy?”

Correct question (which no one got): “What is Dracula?”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 30, 1959 – On UK screens, The Man Who Could Cheat Death premiered. Starring Anton Diffring and Christopher Lee, Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films says  the film “suffers from an excess of dialogue and a lack of action.” Not surprisingly, it gets only 37% at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 30, 1835 Mark Twain. It’s been decades since I read it but I still know I loved A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court when I read it. His other genre work is The Mysterious Stranger In which Satan might be visiting us went unpublished in his lifetime and it’s only relatively recently with the University of California Press editions of all his completed and uncompleted versions in one volume that a reader can see what he intended. (Died 1910.)
  • Born November 30, 1906 John Dickson Carr. Author of the Gideon Fell detective stories, some of which were decidedly genre adjacent. The Burning Court with Fell is on this list as is his vampire mythos backstoried novels, Three Coffins and He Who Whispers. And I really should note his Sir Henry Merrivale character has at one genre outing in Reader is Warned. (Died 1977.)
  • Born November 30, 1937 Ridley Scott, 82. Alien: Covenant, which did surprisingly well at the box office, is his most recent genre work of note but he’s got a long and distinguished list that includes Blade Runner, Alien, the 1984 Apple advert, Exodus: Gods and Kings , Legend,  Alien: Covenant,  Prometheus and Robin Hood. I’ve watched Blade Runner sans the narration and I’ll say I prefer the original version. 
  • Born November 30, 1945 Billy Drago. Best remembered, I think, as the evil John Bly in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.  He was certainly booked in a lot of genre roles as he has appearances in Cyborg 2,  Sci-Fighters,  Supernatural and X-Files. He also played the demon Barbas in the original Charmed series. He also was in Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, a film I’m sure no one was begging for. He was in the Masters of Horror “Imprint” episode, which Showtime pulled due to “disturbing content” which you can read about here. (Died 2019.)
  • Born November 30, 1950 Chris Claremont, 69. Writer in the comic realm. Best known for his astounding twenty year run on the Uncanny X-Men starting in 1976. During his tenure at Marvel, he co-created at least forty characters. Looking at his bibliography, I see that he did Sovereign Seven as a creator own series with DC publishing it.  And then there’s the matter of Lucas providing the notes for The Chronicles of the Shadow War trilogy to follow the Willow film and then contracting our writer to make them exist.  Anyone ever encountered these?
  • Born November 30, 1955 Andy Robertson. A fan and editor who worked as an assistant editor on Interzone and contributed myriad  reviews and interviews. He published some fiction and edited two anthologies based on the works of William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands, Volume 1: Eternal Love, featuring tales set in Hodgson’s world, and William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands Volume 2: Nightmares of the Fall. Alas, they never made into digital editions. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 30, 1955 Kevin Conroy, 64. Without doubt, best known for voicing Batman on Batman: The Animated Series. Justice League Action which just just had its twofirst seasons on the Carton Network saw him reprise that role with the other characters often noting his stoic personality.  I’ve not seen it, but on  Batwoman, he plays  Bruce Wayne in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two” episode. 
  • Born November 30, 1957 Martin Morse Wooster, 62. He discovered fandom in 1974 when he heard about “a big sci-fi con” in downtown Washington where admission was $10 at the door.  He had ten bucks, and so attended Discon II at 16.  A year later, he discovered fanzines through Don Miller, and discovered he liked writing book reviews.  He has been turning them out ever since.  In 1975, he was one of twelve founders of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society, which split from the Washington Science Fiction Association, and regularly attends PRSFS meetings to discuss books.  He has contributed to File 770 since 1978.
  • Born November 30, 1965 Andrew Tiernan, 54. British actor who, yes, did show up on Doctor Who playing Purcell in “Night Calls”, an Eleventh Doctor story. He’s also played Banquo in MacBeth on The Estate, was a Paris vampire in Interview with the Vampire and, skipping several decades worth of performances, is The Manager in Autómata, a neat sounding Spanish-Bulgarian SF film.

(11) TEN BEST. CBR.com celebrates a famous creator in “Osamu Tezuka: 10 Best Works That Aren’t Astro Boy, Ranked”.

Osamu Tezuka is well known for being “the father of manga”, and for good reason. His prolific and pioneering works, and the way he redefined genres has rightfully earned him that title. It was Tezuka who developed and shaped the modern style of manga that we know today. Many considered him the Japanese equivalent of Walt Disney. Tezuka’s most famous work is arguably Astro Boy, which tells the story of an android with human emotions who is created by Umataro Tenma after the death of his son. But what about Tezuka’s other works? They deserve some love, too. So, here’s Osamu Tezuka’s ten best works that aren’t Astro Boy, ranked.

10. Kimba the White Lion

Kimba the White Lion tells the story of a young cub whose family is killed en route to a zoo before being shipwrecked on the Arabian Peninsula. After the stars form the face of his mother, Kimba must journey back to his home in Africa to become his father’s successor.

Kimba was written early in Tezuka’s career and he drew inspiration from post-WW2 Japan and the hardships and struggles they were facing. Kimba’s story is an emotional tale about self discovery and overcoming adversity, serving as a touching metaphor for Japan’s journey toward prosperity following World War II.

(12) ONE LAST LANDING. “The best holiday displays in NYC, mapped” at Curbed New York helps everyone navigate their way to the showiest decorations around town. Some are genre —

3. Bloomingdale’s

Bloomingdale’s is looking to the stars for its holiday windows this year. Inspired by the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, the store pays tribute to space travel with “An Out of This World Holiday Windows.” The first diorama begins the journey with a silver flying saucer beaming up beings dressed in futuristic fashions followed by a series of extraterrestrial holiday scenes….

(13) BACK IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. The LA Times’ Amy Kaufman writes “How befriending Mister Rogers’ widow allowed me to learn the true meaning of his legacy”, her profile of Sarah Joanne Byrd Rogers.

…On the flight home, I became oddly emotional thinking about Fred and Joanne — about how much they’d affected so many simply by expressing genuine care and kindness toward their neighbors. As she told the moviemakers, Fred wasn’t a saint. Since his death, she feels as if he’s been placed on an even higher pedestal. And she doesn’t like it.

“He’s out there now as somebody who’s somehow way above all the rest of us,” she said. “People invariably say, ‘Well, I can’t do that, but I sure do admire him. I would love to do it.’ Well, you can do it. I’m convinced there are lots of Fred Rogerses out there.”

(14) PULP IN NEW JERSEY. Gary Lovisi and Paperback Parade takes a tour of the “Bold Venture” Annual Pulp Fest in Bordentown NJ.

(15) DC PULLS POSTER. “DC Comics Comes Under Fire for Deleting Batman Poster That Sparked Chinese Backlash”Variety has the story.

DC Comics has yanked a poster for a new Batman title from its social media accounts after the image drew criticism from Chinese commenters who said it appeared to support the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The artwork depicts Batman throwing a Molotov cocktail against a backdrop of hot-pink words spelling out the new comic book’s tagline, “the future is young.” It was posted on DC Comics’ Twitter and Instagram accounts; both platforms are blocked in mainland China. The poster was meant to promote a forthcoming DC Black Label comic called “Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child,” due to hit shelves Dec. 11. DC Black Label is an imprint that seeks to appeal to an older-skewing readership through reprints and original limited series.

But the poster came under fire from Chinese internet users who contended that it contained coded messages in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. They said that the Molotov cocktail alluded to young Hong Kong protesters’ more violent tactics, that the “dark knight’s” choice of black attire referred to the black-clad Hong Kong protesters, and that the “golden child” of the book’s title was a veiled reference to the color yellow, which was taken up by previous pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong five years ago….

(16) CAN YOU DIG IT. NPR has learned that “A ‘Mole’ Isn’t Digging Mars: NASA Engineers Are Trying To Find Out Why”.

There’s a mole on Mars that’s making NASA engineers tear their hair out.

No, they haven’t discovered a small, insectivorous mammal on the red planet.

The mole vexing engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena is a scientific instrument known as the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP3 — or just “the mole” — carried on NASA’s InSight probe that landed on Mars a year ago.

“The mole is designed to measure heat flow coming out of the interior of Mars,” says Troy Hudson, InSight’s instrument system engineer.

Scientists are interested to know how much heat is still being generated inside the core of the once geologically active Mars. To do that, the mole has to bury itself about 16 feet below the Martian surface so it won’t be affected by daily temperature fluctuations.

The mole is basically a tube about 16 inches long and an inch in diameter. It has a pointy tip and an internal hammer that works like a kind of pile driver to pound the instrument into the ground.

The frustrations began last February when the digging started. Instead of going down to 16 feet, it got stuck after just 14 inches.

Maybe they need to send for the crew from Armageddon?

(17) FROM GO TO GONE. Yonhap reports: “Go master Lee says he quits unable to win over AI Go players”

South Korean Go master Lee Se-dol, who retired from professional Go competition last week after gaining worldwide fame in 2016 as the only human to defeat the artificial intelligence (AI) Go player AlphaGo, said his retirement was primarily motivated by the invincibility of AI Go programs.

“With the debut of AI in Go games, I’ve realized that I’m not at the top even if I become the number one through frantic efforts,” said Lee.

“Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated,” he said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Seoul on Monday.

AlphaGo, built by Google’s DeepMind Technologies, won four of its five matches against Lee in March 2016, but Lee’s sole win in Game 4 remains the only time a human has beaten the AI player.

A documentary about the epic match was released in 2017.

With more board configurations than there are atoms in the universe, the ancient Chinese game of Go has long been considered a grand challenge for artificial intelligence. On March 9, 2016, the worlds of Go and artificial intelligence collided in South Korea for an extraordinary best-of-five-game competition, coined The DeepMind Challenge Match. Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched as a legendary Go master took on an unproven AI challenger for the first time in history.

Directed by Greg Kohs with an original score by Academy Award nominee, Hauschka, AlphaGo chronicles a journey from the halls of Oxford, through the backstreets of Bordeaux, past the coding terminals of Google DeepMind in London, and ultimately, to the seven-day tournament in Seoul. As the drama unfolds, more questions emerge: What can artificial intelligence reveal about a 3000-year-old game? What can it teach us about humanity?

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

Pixel Scroll 11/23/19 Any Sufficiently Interesting Typo Is Indistinguishable From A Commenting Prompt

(1) WHO’S ON FIRST. The Mirror (UK) reports “No Doctor Who special this Christmas – but new series will start New Year’s Day”.

Doctor Who fans face a Christmas without their favourite show, with no festive special planned – for the second year running.

But there is some good news – the long-awaited 12th series is due to start on New Year’s Day, with one of the biggest episodes in the show’s history.

…The second half of the story is then expected to air on January 4, as the series shifts back to its traditional Saturday evening teatime slot.

(2) OVERHEARD. Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware called attention to “Issues at Audible’s ACX: Attempted Rights Fraud, Withdrawn Promotional Codes”.

Two issues involving Audible’s ACX have come across my desk recently….

Rights Fraud

I’ve heard from several self- and small press-pubbed authors who report that they’ve found their books listed on ACX as open to narrator auditions…except that they, or their publishers, didn’t put them there. This appears to be an attempt to steal authors’ audio rights….

Promotional Code Shenanigans

Multiple authors have contacted me to report that they’ve received an email from ACX withdrawing their promotional codes. The cited reason: “unusual activity,” with no explanation of what that means….

(3) AND WHAT DO THOSE KNIGHTS SAY? In “The Knights of Ren Gather in New Footage For Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Io9 breaks down a new TV ad.

In a newly released 30-second TV spot for The Rise of Skywalker, things are coming to a head. We see and hear some familiar things: Rey and Ben gearing up for a climactic confrontation, Luke imploring a listener (probably Rey) to face fear, as confronting fear is “the destiny of a Jedi.”

(4) WRITER ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER. Michael Chabon tells readers of The New Yorker about writing for Star Trek while his father was dying: “The Final Frontier”.

Ensign Spock, a young half-Vulcan science officer fresh out of Starfleet Academy and newly posted to the Enterprise, found himself alone in a turbolift with the ship’s formidable first officer, a human woman known as Number One. They were waiting for me to rescue them from the silence that reigns in all elevators, as universal as the vacuum of space.

I looked up from the screen of my iPad to my father, lying unconscious, amid tubes and wires, in his starship of a bed, in the irresolute darkness of an I.C.U. at 3 A.M. Ordinarily when my father lay on his back his abdomen rose up like the telescope dome of an observatory, but now there seemed to be nothing between the bed rails at all, just a blanket pulled as taut as a drum skin and then, on the pillow, my father’s big, silver-maned head. Scarecrow, after the flying monkeys had finished with him. His head was tilted upward and his jaw hung slack. All the darkness in the room seemed to pool in his open mouth….

(5) THE APPEAL OF SFF. Michael Chabon also shares his youthful discovery of “Le Guin’s Subversive Imagination” in The Paris Review.

…But my first experience with her work was about more than delight, admiration, or love. It was about transformation. The person I was on the way to becoming, in 1972—a particular coalescent configuration of synapses, apperceptions, and neural pathways—did not survive the encounter, at age nine, with A Wizard of Earthsea. The first volume of her Earthsea trilogy, the book was set in a richly realized and detailed imaginary topography of islands and ocean where the craft of language—the proper, precise configuring and utterance of words by a trained adept who knew their histories and understood their capabilities and thus could call things by their true names—had the power to alter reality, to remake the world.

But what really rearranged the contents of my skull was this: the book itself was a fractal demonstration of its own primary conceit. With nothing but language—lines on paper, properly configured—Ursula K. Le Guin conjured an entire planet into vivid existence, detailed and plausible from its flora to its weather to the dialects and ceremonies of its inhabitants. And while that world vanished the moment I closed the book’s covers, the memory of my visit, of young Ged’s searing struggle with his own malign shadow, remained. In Earthsea, the wielders of linguistic power were known as wizards, and they called their craft magic, but it was obvious to me, even at nine, that the true name of magic was writing, and that a writer like Ursula K. Le Guin was a mage.

(6) TALKIN’ ABOUT MY REGENERATION. Doctor Who has posted an updated compilation of “All The Doctor’s Regenerations.”

From The Tenth Planet, all the way to Twice Upon A Time – Re-live ALL of the Doctor’s regenerations.

(7) PRO TIP. “Toby Kebbell Has Advice for the Next Dr. Doom in Marvel’s Fantastic Four Reboot” and Movieweb passes it along:

Toby Kebbell, who played Doctor Doom the poorly received 2015 Fantastic Four reboot, was asked by Movie Web if he had any advice for the next actor to essay that role. He did.

“Make sure Marvel are in control.”

 (8) EARLY PROMISE FULFILLED. The New York Times obituary “Gahan Wilson, Vividly Macabre Cartoonist, Dies at 89” includes a selection of cartoons.

… he settled into a spartan 1950s bohemian life in New York, trying to break in but mostly accumulating rejections.

“Editors would take my drawings, laugh like hell, then hand them back and say, ‘Sorry, our readers wouldn’t understand,’” he told The Boston Globe in 1973.

And there are many more great cartoons in Michael Maslin’s farewell at The New Yorker, “The Beautifully Macabre Cartoons of Gahan Wilson”.

 Although he habitually delved into that dark funny corner that we associate with Charles Addams, his style was singular. He liked to depict ordinary folks encountering some kind of anxious terror, or experiencing the unthinkable in mundane places. It’s a man at a pizza counter hovering over an entire pizza—the man’s mouth the same oval shape, the same size, as the whole pie. It’s fishermen on a calm lake, with one about to be murdered by the other, who is removing a human mask to reveal his true monster self.

(9) MCPHEE OBIT. Former bookstore owner and NESFAn Spike McPhee died November 13 in Cambridge, MA. Proprietor of the Science Fantasy bookstore in Harvard Square from 1977 to 1989, McPhee was also an art collector, and avid follower of science and space exploration news.  He was a GoH at the 1990 Arisia.

Chip Hitchcock notes, “[Spike told] me some 40 years ago that he was the only fan to gafiate to run a science-fiction bookstore; he’d been active in NESFA before then but the store ate his time; I’ve lost track of whether Boston’s current genre store, Pandemonium, is a literal descendant (from days in two other Harvard Square locations) or just a successor.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 23, 1963 Doctor Who first premiered with the airing of “An Unearthly Child”. Written by Anthony Coburn and C E Webber, it starred Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright, William Russell as Ian Chesterton, and William Hartnell as The Doctor. Critics were mixed with their reaction but generally favorable.
  • November 23, 2015 The Expanse premiered on Syfy. Based on the novels by James S. A. Corey (collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), it has now run three seasons, the latest on Amazon Prime. With a cast of seemingly hundreds, it has met with near unanimous approval, so much so that at Rotten Tomatoes, the third season had a score of 100%.itwas nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Dublin for “Abaddon’s Gate” but lost To The Good Place for their “Janet(s)” episode.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 23, 1887 Boris Karloff. Where do I start? Well consider the Thirties. He portrayed Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein, and Imhotep in The Mummy. And he played a great pulp character in Dr. Fu Manchu in The Mask of Fu Manchu too! Now let’s jump forward to the Sixties and the small screen adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas which featured him as both the voice of The Grinch and the narrator of the story as well. I know I’ve skipped four decades of that means not a word about such as Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where he was the latter. (Died 1969.)
  • Born November 23, 1914 Wilson Tucker. Author and very well-known member of fandom. I’m going to just direct you here to “A Century of Tucker” by Mike as I couldn’t say anything about him that was this good. (Died 2006.)
  • Born November 23, 1916 Michael Gough. Best-known for his roles in the Hammer Horror Films from the late Fifties and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series. His Hammer Horror Films saw him cast usually as the evil, and I mean EVIL! Not to mention SLIMY, villain in such films as Horrors of the Black Museum, The Phantom of the Opera, The Corpse and Horror Hospital, not to overlook Satan’s Slave. Gough appeared in Doctor Who as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” (1966) and then again as Councillor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” (1983). He also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers (1965) returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. Gough worked for Burton in 1999’s Sleepy Hollow and later voice Elder Gutknecht in Corpse Bride. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 23, 1955 Steven Brust, 64. Of Hungarian descendant, something that figures into his fiction which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. Ala are great reads. His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing review of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille. Freedom & Necessity with Emma Bull is decidedly different but good none the less and his Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, stays true to that series. He’s quite the musician too with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics) and others. The band in turn shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album and “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, ‘A Rose For Ecclesiastes,’ which you should read if you haven’t yet.” Quoting him again, ““Songs From The Gypsy” is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing!
  • Born November 23, 1961 David Rappaport. I remember him best as Randall, the leader of the gang of comically inept dwarves in Time Bandits who steal the map to Universe. I’m reasonably sure that it’s the only thing he’ll be remembered for of a genre nature having looked up his other works and found them to be decidedly minor in nature. Most of them such as The Bride, a low budget horror film, were artistic and commercial disasters. It is said that his death by suicide in 1990 is one of the reasons cited by Gilliam for there not being a sequel to Time Bandits. (Died 1990.)
  • Born November 23, 1966 Michelle Gomez, 53. Best-known genre role is Missy, a female version of The Master on Doctor Who from 2014 to 2017, for which she was nominated for the 2016 BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. I admit having grown up with Roger Delgado as The Master that later performers playing this role took a bit of getting used but she made a fine one. She is also Mary Wardwell in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. She plays Talia Bauerin in Highlander: The Raven which apparently is a very short-live spinoff from the Highlander series. And she shows up in the Gotham series for two episodes simply as The Lady. 
  • Born November 23, 1967 Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 52. Best known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka which apparently in syndication is now called A Town Called Eureka. H’h? I’m reasonably sure her first genre role was as Fenna / Nidell in the “Second Sight” of Deep Space Nine but charmingly voiced the main human character on the animated Gargoyles series! Shes shows up as character named Dray’auc in “Bloodlines” on Stargate Sg-1 and had a role on a series called Secret Agent Man that may or may have existed. She’s was Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that lasted longer than I expected it would. 
  • Born November 23, 1992 Miley Cyrus, 27. She’s had three genre appearances, each ten years apart. She was in Big Fish as the eight-year-old Ruthie, she was the voice of Penny in Bolt and she voiced Mainframe on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. And there’s the matter of A Very Murray Christmas which is at least genre adjacent…

(12) LEIBOWITZ REDUX? “In ‘The Second Sleep,’ The World May End, But Life Goes On” says NPR reviewer Ilana Masad.

…Robert Harris’s new book is concerned with questions of institutional power, hypocrisy and individual moral choices, but in a wholly different era of changed perceptions.

The Second Sleep is a pleasingly genre-bending novel that passes itself off as historical fiction in its early pages. Christopher Fairfax, a young priest, rides to Addicott St. George, a village in Wessex, with a rather simple mission: He is to carry out the funeral service for Addicott’s recently deceased Father Lacey. Quickly, however, reader expectations are wonderfully overturned as Fairfax examines, with some distaste, a display case full of ancient artifacts, including “pens, glassware, a plate commemorating a royal wedding …” (wait, what?) “… a bundle of plastic straws …” (huh?) and “what seemed to be the pride of the collection: one of the devices used by the ancients to communicate,” which has on its back “the ultimate symbol of the ancients’ hubris and blasphemy — an apple with a bite taken out of it.”

The year may be 1468, but it’s not the one in the past — Fairfax is, in fact, living in the future, one in which the Apocalypse is widely believed to have occurred just as it was prophesied in the New Testament, after which Christ rose anew and humankind was once again saved. The Church — a political as well as religious entity in this future England, closely tied to and seemingly far more important than the monarchy — started counting years anew after the Apocalypse, beginning with 666, the number of the beast.

As Fairfax learns more about Addicott’s dead priest, he becomes increasingly uncomfortable. It appears that Father Lacey was a collector of artifacts that have become, in the past couple of decades, illegal to own. Worse even than the plastic doodads and useless electronics in his possession, which Father Lacey found in the vicinity of the village, the priest had a library full of illegal books hypothesizing about the ancients who worshipped science and forgot God, bringing about their own downfall.

(13) THE MASTER LIST. Rex Sorgatz is compiling “Best of 2010’s” lists.  It includes several Best SF/F Books, Best Comics/Graphic Novels, Best Horror Movies, etc. lists (and may pick up more as time goes by) — “LISTS: THE 2010s DECADE”.

We’ve covered some of the ones he’s collected, but I don’t think I’ve run this one yet — from Cultured Vultues: “Books of the Decade: 10 Best Sci-Fi/Horror Books of the 2010s”

(14) THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMASES PAST. Smithsonian issues “A Plea to Resurrect the Christmas Tradition of Telling Ghost Stories”.

For the last hundred years, Americans have kept ghosts in their place, letting them out only in October, in the run-up to our only real haunted holiday, Halloween. But it wasn’t always this way, and it’s no coincidence that the most famous ghost story is a Christmas story—or, put another way, that the most famous Christmas story is a ghost story. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843, and its story about a man tormented by a series of ghosts the night before Christmas belonged to a once-rich, now mostly forgotten tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. Dickens’ supernatural yuletide terror was no outlier, since for much of the 19th century, was the holiday indisputably associated with ghosts and the specters.

“Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” humorist Jerome K. Jerome wrote in his 1891 collection, Told After Supper. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood.”

Telling ghost stories during winter is a hallowed tradition, a folk custom stretches back centuries, when families would wile away the winter nights with tales of spooks and monsters. “A sad tale’s best for winter,” Mamillius proclaims in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale: “I have one. Of sprites and goblins.” And the titular Jew of Malta in Christopher Marlowe’s play at one point muses, “Now I remember those old women’s words, Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales, And speak of spirits and ghosts by night.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Moses Goes Down” on Vimeo is Nina Paley’s take on Moses leaving Egypt, with music by Louis Armstrong.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/20/19 Scroll The Size Of A Planet And They Ask Me To File Up A Piece Of Pixel

(1) LOTS OF PLOTS. Vanity Fair’s Anthony Breznican gets Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely to share secrets about how the biggest film in history was assembled—including alternate and abandoned story lines that might have been: “How the Avengers: Endgame Writers Made Life-and-Death Decisions”.

Was Marvel ever like, “There are too many dollar signs in this scene?”

Markus: No, it was, “You better damn well have a good story for us!”

McFeely: You actually try not to leave the five-dollar-signs on the sidelines.

So you’re popping those cards on there, drawing a timeline for the story. How does it look?

McFeely: In the beginning stages it’s a, Oh, wouldn’t it be interesting if Groot and Rocket and Thor went on a journey together? What kind of chemistry could you get from that? But also, we took this job because it scared the hell out of us, because that first movie has 23 [main] characters in it.

First movie meaning Infinity War?

McFeely: If you know that movie, and you know how we ended it, it was in large part just so the second movie would have fewer characters. And we could work with that! [Laughs] We started with 65 characters. I mean, it’s just everyone who was vaguely alive. And when we narrowed it down, you don’t want 23 people in a scene—ever. So that’s what the cards were for, to sort of—

(2) BESTSELLER STATS. [Item by Dann Todd.] I found this analysis/graphic of the 300 top NY Times bestselling novels from 2011 to 2018 and you might find it to be of interest. The chart shows the novels by genre, whether they were stand-alone works or part of a series, and the respective Goodreads ratings.

Of those 300 books, 11 were science fiction, 12 were fantasy and 10 were horror.

  • The science fiction works spent a cumulative 72 weeks on the NYTimes bestsellers list. Four of the eleven works were from a series.  The Goodreads ratings ranged from roughly 3.2 to 4.3.
  • The fantasy works spent a cumulative 93 weeks on the list.  Eleven of the twelve works were from a series.  The Goodreads ratings ranged from 3.3 to 4.4.
  • The horror works spent 69 weeks on the list.  Only two of the ten books were from a series.  The Goodreads ratings ranged from 3.8 to 4.8.

(3) FOURTHCOMING TREK FILM. Inverse seems pleased: “Noah Hawley’s ‘Star Trek 4’ promises to boldly go to trippy new worlds”.

Fans of the 2009 Star Trek cinematic reboot universe were let down last year, when news broke that the planned fourth film in the franchise would not be moving forward. Initially rumored to feature the return of Thor actor Chris Hemsworth as Captain Kirk’s father, negotiations reportedly broke down between the studio and Hemsworth (as well as series star Chris Pine). After box office for the reboot’s third installment, Star Trek: Beyond, fell short of expectations, it seemed the new Trek universe was dead, despite being a box office juggernaut just a few years prior.

That all changed today when news broke that not only will there be a fourth Trek film, but that it will be helmed by visionary TV director Noah Hawley, who’s responsible for both Legion and Fargo on FX.

(4) FIRST STEPS. The Writer offers “Pro tips for writing and publishing speculative fiction” of a rather general nature.

Science fiction versus fantasy

…“There is a little bit of a gray area there,” says [Daniel José] Older, “but I think of science fiction as generally and mostly focused on the technological aspect and fantasy focused on the magical aspect.” Yet he notes that this separation is a “little too easy.”

Perhaps a science fiction expert could give us a definitive answer.

“One answer, per science fiction scholar James Gunn, is that science fiction is about things that could happen or could have happened, and that fantasy could not happen, at least in our consensual understanding of what is possible,” Johnson says. But this definition is somewhat problematic, she states, since “this disregards a lot of things,” one being that “our understanding of what is possible changes regularly.”

(5) NEXT STEPS. Fortunately, more pro tips are on the way.

(6) ZINES AND MUSIC. Boo-Hooray profiles the “The Lenny Kaye Science Fiction Fanzine Library at the University of Miami”.

Lenny Kaye (b. 1946) is the guitarist for the Patti Smith Group and also a music historian and journalist. He compiled the 1960s garage rock compilation Nuggets in 1972, which had a profound impact on the development of Punk rock. Lenny’s early influences as a writer and enthusiast in music developed during his time in science fiction fandom. This collection of approximately 2100 fanzines is Lenny’s personal library.

Science fiction was one of the early subjects that spawned a substantial network of self- published magazines and newsletters, done primarily via mimeograph. Ranging from 1941 to 1971, the fanzines in this collection represent ground zero for the zine explosion that was to come years later in rock, punk, skate, fashion, and art. They are the origination of modern DIY publishing.

…Lenny’s own fanzines (Obelisk, Sadistic Sphinx, Hieroglyph, and Pharaoh) are a perfect example of how many SF editors transformed into music journalists and performers. The connection between SF and music fandom may seem an odd gap to bridge, but a number of big names in music journalism, such as Lester Bangs, Paul Williams, and Greg Shaw wrote for science fiction fanzines.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 20, 1964 — A U.K. adaptation of H.G. Wells’ First Men in the Moon was released into theatres, this one complete with special effects by Ray Harryhausen. Starring Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries, the British press loved it, the American press not so much.  It’s got a 75% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 20, 2007 The Wizard of Oz Munchkins received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin, 90. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum Leap, Starman, Brimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen.
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voiceLong John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies as well. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island. (Died 2012.)
  • Born November 20, 1933 John Gardner. Grendel, the retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s viewpoint, is likely the only work he’s remembered for. Gudgekin The Thistle Girl (and Other Tales) are genre fairy tales as are The King of the Hummingbirds (and Other Tales)A Child’s Bestiary is, well, guess what it says it is. Mickelsson’s Ghosts, his final novel written before his untimely death, is a ghost story. (Died 1982.)
  • Born November 20, 1954 Richard Brooker. Actor and stuntman, likely best known for being in Friday the 13th Part III as Jason Voorhees. He certainly did some other genre films too, such as the Argentinian Deathstalker (Cazador de muerte) and being the lead in Deathstalker. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 63. She makes the birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. Ok, it’s a really bad film redeemed only by her showing lots of skin. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as wellas the two Sharknado films she just did. 
  • Born November 20, 1959 Sean Young, 60. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in Dune. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien. 
  • Born November 20, 1963 Ming-Na Wen, 55. She‘s best known as Melinda May on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but she was also Camile Wary on Stargate Universe, and had an intriguing role as Senator Michaela Wen on Eureka. I see she’s going to be Fennec Shand on the new Mandalorian series.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Foxtrot illustrates the ways a shape-shifting demon can help you study.
  • Cul de Sac shows how you know when a book series is coming to an end.

(10) COMIC RECOMMENDATION. [Item by N.] Der-shing Holmer’s webcomic Mare Internvm is about to end (5 pages left). Pre-orders are open for physical copies. I really do recommend it, it’s a fine read.

(11) SOMETHING TO SINK YOUR TEETH INTO. “The archaeology of plaque (yes, plaque)” at The Harvard Gazette.

Not many people can get excited about plaque, but Christina Warinner loves the stuff.

The recently appointed assistant professor of anthropology in [Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences] and Sally Starling Seaver Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute, Warinner was among the first researchers to realize that calcified plaque, otherwise known as dental calculus, could shed new light on everything from ancient diet and disease to the spread of dairying and the roles of women in society.

“It’s like a time capsule,” she said. “It’s the single richest source of ancient DNA in the archaeological record. There are so many things we can learn from it — everything from pollution in the environment to people’s occupations to aspects of health. It’s all in there.”

And it was a discovery, Warinner said, that happened almost entirely by accident.

After receiving her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in the Anthropology Department’s archaeology program, the Kansas native took a postdoc at the University of Zurich in what was then the new Center for Evolutionary Medicine. There she set out to investigate whether it would be possible to identify pathogens in the archaeological record to study the evolution of diseases. She chose dental caries, or cavities, as a case study, because they are visible amid skeletal remains and abundant in the archaeological record. She set out to examine whether the bacteria that caused caries in ancient teeth could be identified genetically.

“I started to notice all this dental calculus, which is very common on teeth, and was always getting in the way,” she said. “Most people would just take it off and throw it away, but I thought it could be interesting, so I turned that thought around and looked at it from a different angle.

“As a side project, I started applying genomic and proteomic techniques to it, which hadn’t been done before,” she continued. “It’s not perfect, and not everything preserves … but it turns out we can say an awful lot about the past through calculus.”

Applying genomic tools has allowed Warinner to get the clearest picture yet of not only ancient genomes, but ancient microbiomes as well.

(12) HAVE YOU SEEN THE LIGHT. The Harvard Gazette also explains how “New laser paves way for better imaging, communications”.

The terahertz frequency range — which sits in the middle of the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and infrared light — offers the potential for high-bandwidth communications, ultrahigh-resolution imaging, precise long-range sensing for radio astronomy, and much more.

But this section of the electromagnetic spectrum has remained out of reach for most applications. That is because current sources of terahertz frequencies are bulky, inefficient, have limited tuning, or must operate at low temperature.

Now, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Army, have developed a compact, room-temperature, widely tunable terahertz laser.

…To understand what they did, let’s go over some basic physics of how a laser works.

In quantum physics, excited atoms or molecules sit at different energy levels — think of these as floors of a building. In a typical gas laser, a large number of molecules are trapped between two mirrors and brought to an excited energy level, aka a higher floor in the building. When they reach that floor, they decay, fall down one energy level, and emit a photon. These photons stimulate the decay of more molecules as they bounce back and forth, leading to amplification of light. To change the frequency of the emitted photons, you need to change the energy level of the excited molecules.

So, how do you change the energy level? One way is to use light. In a process called optical pumping, light raises molecules from a lower energy level to a higher one — like a quantum elevator. Previous terahertz molecular lasers used optical pumps, but they were limited in their tunability to just a few frequencies, meaning the elevator only went to a small number of floors….

Also see the Science report: “Widely tunable compact terahertz gas lasers”.

(13) BIG ROOMBA. BBC wants to know, “Would you rent a vacuum cleaner for $499 a month?”

Vacuum cleaning is a chore many people are happy to outsource, but one company is trying to persuade firms to swap an automated service for human cleaners.

Softbank, the Japanese firm behind WeWork and Uber, has launched a self-powered machine, dubbed The Whiz, at a hefty price tag of $499 (£381) a month.

Softbank says its robot is meant to replace “over-worked janitorial teams.”

The Whiz is not initially automatic, as a human has to lead it around until it can learn the cleaning route.

It has been developed by Softbank’s US robotics arm and Hong Kong-based firm Intelligent Cleaning Equipment.

The three-feet-tall (0.9 metres) vacuum was initially only offered for rent in Japan and Hong Kong.

The machine sends an alert if there is an issue, such as bumping into a wall. After three hours, it can cover 15,000 square feet (1,394 square metres) but then will need a battery change.

(14) BAUM’S AWAY. Andrew Porter tuned in last night to Jeopardy! and witnessed this:

Category: Authors’ Fictional Places

Answer: “Loompaland.”

Wrong Question: “Who is Baum?”

(15) LOSE RESPONSIBLY. BBC reports “UK gambling machines loaded with AI ‘cool off’ system”.

Every gambling machine in the UK’s betting shops is being updated with software designed to detect and prevent problematic behaviour in players.

The system locks gamblers out of machines for 30 seconds if erratic or excessive play is detected.

While the brief lockdown is in effect, warnings about safe gambling are displayed on the machines’ screens.

One expert said the enforced break was “probably not long enough to have a positive effect”.

…Among the behaviour patterns it tries to detect are chasing losses, spending too long on a single machine and playing a succession of games rapidly.

(16) NUMBER TWO. “50 Years Ago, Americans Made The 2nd Moon Landing… Why Doesn’t Anyone Remember?” asks NPR. Maybe it’s the crappy dialogue?

Fifty years ago, astronaut Pete Conrad stepped out of the lunar module onto the surface of the moon.

His first words were: “Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me.”

…Conrad[‘s] first words as he stepped onto the surface were actually part of a bet with a journalist, Muir-Harmony says. She had asked Conrad whether the U.S. government had dictated Neil Armstrong’s first words. “And he made a bet (I think it’s about a $500 bet) saying, ‘No, we can say whatever we want. We’re not being told what to say by the government.'”

(17) VASTER THAN LIBRARIES. Atlas Obscura explores “The Uncertain Future of the World’s Largest Secondhand Book Market”.

At the College Street market in Kolkata, India, independent booksellers fear the arrival of a massive mall.

…College Street, known by locals as Boi Para (which roughly translates to “Book Town”), spans more than a mile and covers a million square feet. Bigwigs of Bengali publishing coexist with makeshift stalls hammered together from wood, bamboo, tin, and canvas, in a chaotic matrix that runs from Mahatma Gandhi Road to Ganesh Chandra Avenue.

College Street has every imaginable type of text, available in Bengali, English, Mandarin, Sanskrit, Dutch, and every dialect in between. Precious first editions and literary classics sit cheek by jowl with medical encyclopedias, religious texts, and pulp fiction, often precariously stacked in uneven piles that resemble jagged cliff faces. Wily booksellers peer from raised wooden stalls; bearded collectors rifle through stock; mothers drag first-year university students through the aisles to collect their required reading.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/15/19 Looks Like The Time Machine’s Getting Stuck Between Floors. There’s Just A Blank Where The Chronograph Should Be

(1) JOHN M. FORD RETURNING TO PRINT. Isaac Butler’s research for “The Disappearance of John M. Ford” at Slate led to an unexpected benefit: “I wanted to learn why a beloved science fiction writer fell into obscurity after his death. I didn’t expect that I would help bring his books back to life.”

It would take me 18 months to answer my questions. My quest would bring me to the vast treasure trove of Ford’s uncollected and unpublished writing. It would introduce me to friends and relatives of Ford who hadn’t spoken to each other since his death in 2006. And, in an improbable ending worthy of a John M. Ford novel, my quest would in fact set in motion the long-delayed republication of his work, starting in the fall of 2020. How did this happen? More importantly, why was he forgotten in the first place? More importantly than that: How did he write those amazing books?

…And so, after months of investigation, I found myself in an Iceberg Passage, seeing only some of the story while, lurking beneath the surface, other truths remained obscure. I do not share Ford’s horror at obviousness, but there are simply things that we will never know. We will never know why Mike and his family grew apart, or, from the family’s perspective, how far apart they were. We will never know who anonymously tried to edit the Wikipedia page to cut out Elise Matthesen. (The family denies any involvement.)

But I reconnected Ford’s family and editors at Tor, and after a year of delicate back-and-forth spearheaded by Beth Meacham, Tor and the family have reached an agreement that will gradually bring all of his books back into print, plus a new volume of stories, poems, Christmas cards, and other uncollected material. First up, in fall 2020, is the book that introduced me to Ford, The Dragon Waiting. Then, in 2021, Tor will publish—at long last—the unfinished Aspects, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

(2) A LOOK AT CHIZINE CONTRACTS. Victoria Strauss’ roundup “Scandal Engulfs Independent Publisher ChiZine Publications “ at Writer Beware includes this analysis of CZP’s exploitative hold on royalty payments:

CZP’s contract boilerplate empowers the publisher to set a “reasonable” reserve against returns. There are no specifics, so it’s basically up to the publisher to decide what “reasonable” is.

For CZP, “reasonable” seems to mean 50%. This seemed high to me, so I did a mini-canvass of literary agents on Twitter. Most agreed that smaller is better–maybe 25-30%, though some felt that 50% was justifiable depending on the circumstances. They also pointed out that the reserve percentage should fall in subsequent reporting periods (CZP’s remains at 50%, unless boilerplate has been negotiated otherwise), and that publishers should not hold reserves beyond two or three years, or four or five accounting periods (CZP has held reserves for some authors for much longer).

(If you’re unclear on what a reserve against returns is, here’s an explanation.)

– Per CZP’s contract, royalties are paid “by the first royalty period falling one year after publication.” What this means in practice (based on the royalty statements I saw) is that if your pub date is (hypothetically) April of 2016, you are not eligible for payment until the first royalty period that follows your one-year anniversary–which, since CZP pays royalties just once a year on a January-December schedule, would be the royalty period ending December 2017. Since publishers often take months to issue royalty statements and payments following the end of a royalty period, you’d get no royalty check until sometime in 2018–close to, or possibly more than, two full years after publication.

In effect, CZP is setting a 100% reserve against returns for at least a year following publication, and often much more. This gives it the use of the author’s money for far too long, not to mention a financial cushion that lets it write smaller checks, since it doesn’t have to pay anything out until after returns have come in (most sales and most returns occur during the first year of release).

I shouldn’t need to say that this is non-standard. It’s also, in my opinion, seriously exploitative.

– And…about that annual payment. It too is non-standard–even the big houses pay twice a year, and most small publishers pay quarterly or even more often. It’s also extra-contractual–at least for the contracts I saw. According to CZP’s boilerplate, payments are supposed to be bi-annual after that initial year-or-more embargo. The switch to annual payment appears to have been a unilateral decision by CZP owners for logistical and cost reasons, actual contract language be damned (I’ve seen documentation of this).

(3) ANIMATED TREK. Tor.com has assembled a wealth of “New Details and Trailers Out for Star Trek‘s Animated ‘Short Treks’”.

Before the end of 2019, Star Trek will boldly do something it has never done in the 21st century before: Tell stand-alone stories in an animated format. It’s been known for a while that the final two Short Treks of 2019 would be animated, but we didn’t know what they’ d be about, or how they would even look…until now!

(4) TRANSCRIPTS FROM THE UNDERGROUND. Ursula V’s dungeon party reports in. Thread starts here.

(5) CAPTAIN FUTURE. Amazing Selects™ will launch with the release of Allen Steele’s Captain Future in Love, a novella originally serialized in Amazing Stories magazine that “continues the adventures of Edmond Hamilton’s pulp adventure hero Curt Newton, aka Captain Future, rebooted and updated in Allen Steele’s inimitable Neo Pulp style.”

Amazing Selects ™ is a new imprint from Experimenter Publishing Company LLC that will feature stand-alone novella-length works, in both print and electronic formats.

The new Captain Future, originally introduced in Steele’s Avengers of the Moon (Tor, 2017),  “brings golden age science fiction into the modern era presenting classic space opera adventure with modern sensibilities.”

The edition features concept art by Rob Caswell, interior illustrations by Nizar Ilman and non-fiction features by Allen Steele.

Captain Future in Love is available through Amazon in paperback and ebook and through the Amazing Stories store.

(6) NOBODY’S KEEPING SCORE. The new edition of the BBC Radio 4 Film Programme “Emma Thompson” is mainly about the Last Christmas film, but includes two other segments of genre interest. Hear it online for the next four weeks.

Emma Thompson has written 6 films in which she also stars. Last Christmas is the latest. She explains why she sometimes has to bite her tongue when actors deliver her lines in ways that she hadn’t quite imagined.

Neil Brand reveals how the ground-breaking score to cult classic Forbidden Planet was a last minute replacement and why the original composer decided to destroy his rejected score.

“Apocalypse Now meets Pygmalion”. Matthew Sweet pitches a long forgotten science fiction novel to film industry experts Lizzie Francke, Rowan Woods and Clare Binns.

(7) TUNE IN AGAIN. Also on BBC Radio 4 is a production of Doris Lessing’s The Good Terrorist. Available for the next 11 days.

First-ever dramatisation of Doris Lessing’s 1985 satire of incompetent revolutionaries in a London squat. Starring Olivia Vinall and Joe Armstrong, dramatised by Sarah Daniels.

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to nibble naan with artist Paul Kirchner in Episode 109 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Paul Kirchner.

I’ve been attending the Maryland-based indie comics convention SPX — that is, the Small Press Expo — for 15 or so of its 36 years, and this time around took the opportunity to dine with artist Paul Kirchner, who breathed the same comic industry air I did during the ’70s.

Paul broke into comics in the early ‘70s through a fortuitous series of events which had him meeting the legendary comics artist Neal Adams, who introduced him to DC Comics editor Joe Orlando, and within the week getting a gig as assistant to Tex Blaisdell helping him out on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip and stories for DC’s mystery books. He also worked for awhile as assistant to the great EC Comics artist and Daredevil innovator Wally Wood. He moved on from mainstream comics to draw two wonderfully surrealistic strips — “Dope Rider” for High Times and “the bus” for Heavy Metal. His wide-ranging creative resume also includes a graphic novel collaboration with the great writer of detective novels Janwillem van de Wetering, designs for such toy lines as Dino-Riders and Spy-Tech, and much more.

(9) RAINBOW OVER AND UNDER. Will this Andy Weir collaboration make it to the screen? The Hollywood Reporter covers the deal: “Amblin, Michael De Luca Tackling ‘Martian’ Author’s Fantasy Graphic Novel ‘Cheshire Crossing'”.

…The fantasy mashup tells the story of Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan‘s Wendy, who meet in boarding school for troubled young ladies. They each believe they’ve traveled to a fantastical world but no one else does. When their world-hopping sees Captain Hook and the Wicked Witch of the West team up to combine their magical villainy, the trio must band together to thwart them.

The graphic novel began life as a piece of fan fiction that Weir wrote prior to finding best-selling and Hollywood success with Martian…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 15, 1968 Star Trek’s “The Tholian Web” premiered on NBC.  In a two-part episode of Enterprise titled “In a Mirror, Darkly”, the Tholians will be back with a story continuing this story.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 15, 1877 William Hope Hodgson. By far, his best known character is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. (Simon R. Green will make use of him in his Ghost Finders series.)  Two of his later novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land would be lavishly praised by H.P. Lovecraft.  It is said that his horror writing influenced many later writers such as China Miéville, Tim Lebbon and Greg Bear but I cannot find a definitive source for that claim. (Died 1918.)
  • Born November 15, 1929 Ed Asner, 90. Genre work includes roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits,  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Shelley Duvall’s Tall Tales & Legends, Batman: The Animated Series and I’ll stop there as the list goes on for quite some while.
  • Born November 15, 1930 J. G. Ballard. I’ll frankly admit that I’ve not read enough of him to render a coherent opinion of him as writer. What I’ve read such as The Drowned World is more than a bit depressing. Well yes, but really depressing. (Died 2009.)
  • Born November 15, 1933 Theodore Roszak. Winner of the Tiptree Award for The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and the rather excellent Flicker which is superb. Flicker is available at Apple Books and Kindle though no other fiction by him is. Odd. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 15, 1934 Joanna Barnes, 85. She’s Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man with Danny Miller in the title role. It’s not until she’s Carsia in the “Up Above the World So High” episode of The Planet of The Apes series that she does anything so genre again. And a one-off on classic Fantasy Island wraps up her SFF acting.
  • Born November 15, 1939 Yaphet Kotto, 80. Assuming we count the Bond films as genre and I do, his first genre performance was as Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Later performances included Parker in Alien, William Laughlin in The Running Man, Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ressler in The Puppet Masters adapted from Heinlein’s 1951 novel of the same name and a horrid film, and he played a character named Captain Jack Clayton on SeaQuest DSV.
  • Born November 15, 1942 Ruth Berman, 77. She’s a writer mostly of speculative poetry. In 2003, she won the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem for “Potherb Gardening“.  She was also the winner of the 2006 Dwarf Stars Award for her poem “Knowledge Of”.  She’s also written one YA fantasy novel, Bradamant’s quest. And 1973, she was a finalist for the first Campbell Award for Best New Writer. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro gets laughs from the thought-life of Batman’s sidekick.

(13) PALEO POSTAGE. I think I missed the news when these T.Rex stamps were issued in August. Fortunately, they are Forever stamps….

The four distinct stamps depict the long-extinct beast in various forms of its life from a hatchling to a skeleton in a museum.

In two of the stamps, the young adult depicted in skeletal form with a young Triceratops and in the flesh emerging through a forest clearing is the “Nation’s T. Rex,” whose remains were discovered on federal land in Montana and is considered one of the most important specimens of the species ever found, it said.

The four stamps were designed by art director Greg Breeding from original artwork by scientist and paleoartist Julius T. Csotonyi.

Here’s the USPS link to T.Rex products.

(14) NYCON 3. Andrew Porter shared three photos from the 1967 Worldcon, NyCon 3, you aren’t likely to have seen before.

Ted White, Dave Van Arnam, chairs of NYCon 3, at the convention. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

Ted White pastes up display about NyCon 3, as Robin White looks on: Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

Sam Moskowitz, Norm Metcalf (foreground), Ed Wood at NyCon 3. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

(15) DRONING AWAY. “DJI makes app to identify drones and find pilots” – but only if the drone self-identifies…

Drone maker DJI has demonstrated a way to quickly identify a nearby drone, and pinpoint the location of its pilot, via a smartphone.

The technique makes use of a protocol called “Wi-Fi Aware”, with which the drone essentially broadcasts information about itself.

The company said it would help prevent security threats and disruption, and give members of the public peace of mind.

But experts believe sophisticated criminals would still be able to circumvent detection.

“It’s going to be very useful against rogue drones,” said Ulrike Franke, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who studies the impacts of the drone industry.

“But it’s not going to be enough to fight people with real bad intentions, because these are going to be the first people to hack this system.”

DJI told the BBC it could add the functionality to drones already on the market via a software update.

…“If Gatwick staff had a smartphone enabled with this capability in their pockets,” explained Adam Lisberg, from DJI, “they could have taken it out, seen a registration number for the drone, seen the flight path, and the location of the operator.

(16) YA TWITTER. Vulture will fill you in about a new YA Twitter kerfuffle: “Famous Authors Drag Student in Surreal YA Twitter Controversy”. They include gene authors.

Young-adult book Twitter took an especially surreal turn this week when the best-selling novelist Sarah Dessen took offense at a brief critique of her work, inciting a minor Twitter riot, with some of the most famous writers in the world jumping into the fray to defend her.

(17) HOW DID THEY KNOW? I couldn’t help laughing when I read this line in Jon Del Arroz’ blog:

(18) ANOTHER OUTBREAK. USA Today’s Don Oldenburg has kind things to say about Daniel H. Wilson’s novel: “‘The Andromeda Evolution’ an infectious sequel to Michael Crichton’s classic best-seller” – although the reviewer sounds reluctant to admit the book isn’t by Chrichton, who died in 2008.

A new team of four Project Wildfire scientists is sent to the Amazon to investigate how to stop the unexplainable anomaly. A fifth scientist is tracking the crisis from the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting Earth. Meanwhile, a deadly, self-replicating, microparticle structure is growing exponentially, eating the jungle and killing nearby tribal habitants.

(19) NOOO! Those who fail to learn from Jedi history… “Jon Favreau Already Has a Star Picked for His ‘Star Wars’ Holiday Special”.

… “Oh I would definitely be interested in doing a holiday special,” Favreau told Variety at “The Mandalorian” fan event. “And I’m not going to say who I would be interested in. But one of the people is the member of the cast in an upcoming episode of the show. So we’ll leave it at that for now.”

When pressed to see if he was serious, the director doubled down. “I’ve been thinking about it. It’s ready, the ideas are ready. I think it could be really fun. Not as part of this, but there’s an excitement around it because it was so fun and weird, and off and not connected to what ‘Star Wars’ was in the theater. ‘The Mandalorian’ cartoon, the Boba Fett cartoon, from the holiday special was definitely a point of inspiration for what we did in the show.”

(20) WALLACE & GROMIT. The Drum finds a seasonal commercial featuring two popular characters is at the top of the charts: “A week in Christmas ads: big retailers lose out as Wallace & Gromit gives Joules a boost”.

Joules’ heavily-branded Wallce & Gromit-fronted spot from Aardman topped the rankings this week with a star score of 5.4 and a spike rating of 1.51 – indicating sales will follow.

The film shows Wallace, in his typically inventive style, bringing Christmas to West Wallaby Street all at ‘the click of a button’.

Joules’ festive products decorate the living room and there’s no escape for Wallace’s loyal side-kick, Gromit, who becomes the pièce de résistance as the fairy crowning the top of the Christmas tree.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Susan de Guardiola, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Steven H Silver, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]