Pixel Scroll 1/22/20 Keep Scrolling And Pixel On

(1) THE APPETIZER COMES LAST. “Hunger Games prequel will reveal villain’s origins” – BBC has the story,

A new Hunger Games novel is to be published in May, focusing on the back story of the villainous President Snow.

…The new book is set 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games and details the “Dark Days” that led to the failed rebellion in Panem.

A first excerpt, available on the Entertainment Weekly website, depicts Coriolanus Snow as a charming university student who was born into privilege.

Here is the Entertainment Weekly link: “Excerpt from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins”.

The world still thought Coriolanus rich, but his only real currency was charm, which he spread liberally as he made his way through the crowd. Faces lit up as he gave friendly hellos to students and teachers alike, asking about family members, dropping compliments here and there. “Your lecture on district retaliation haunts me.” “Love the bangs!” “How did your mother’s back surgery go? Well, tell her she’s my hero.”

(2) HELP NAME THE ROVER. NASA’s Name the Rover contest—for their next Mars rover—has published its list of nine finalists. Students around the country sent in over 28,000 essays supporting their suggested names.

Now the public is invited to chime in — “You Can Help Name the Mars 2020 Rover!” The polls are open for another five days. Each finalist comes with a link to the essay describing why the nominators think it should win.

(3) NEW EDITOR. Galaxy’s Edge publisher, Shahid Mahmud, has announced Lezli Robyn will take over as editor.

As many of you know, Mike Resnick passed away recently.

He pretty much single handedly created this magazine with the aim to give writers, particularly newer writers, a new venue for their stories. He was known in the industry as someone who loved helping younger aspiring authors and there is a large group of writers out there who proudly call themselves Mike’s Writer Children.

One of his writer children was Lezli Robyn, who also works for me as my assistant publisher. During the last year she also helped Mike with the magazine, particularly as his illness started taking a greater toll on his health.

Lezli is an award-winning writer in her own right and has also collaborated with Mike on a number of stories. She will now be taking over as editor of the magazine. I know Mike was very pleased with that decision…to have someone who was very close to him take over something he put so much of his heart into.

Since the two of them were working together on the magazine for the last few months, the transition should be smooth and we expect issue 43 to be available on time, on March 1, 2020.

(4) GALLERY OF HUGO ELIGIBLE ARTISTS. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual gallery of pro artists who are eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. “2020 Professional Artists”.

It has 300+ images from 100+ pro artists whose art was used for short fiction, magazine covers, and novel covers.

However, there is this note –

Thumbnail images with a highlighted link are professional works done in 2019. Thumbnails without a highlighted link were done earlier (shown in last year’s list), later (show in next year’s list) or fan art (published in a semi-prozine) and included to give more examples of the artist’s style.

(5) STET, I REPEAT, STET. Ursula Vernon fights back against the Copyedits of Doom. Thread starts here.

(6) FREE AGENCY. Rudy Rucker shared his experience “Discussing ‘Agency’ with William Gibson”.

RR===

It’s fine with me if the thriller pace slows down. I like your meditative stuff. so nice to have you doing real SF again! “Slash is electric once more.”

I love how Netherton is expecting to be in a superhero iron man peripheral, and then it’s squat and small, like part of an oil filled radiator. He’s a good anti hero, and you have fun tormenting him. He still works as a character being sober, still has the same outside attitude. When I had my character Sta-Hi be sober in Realware, some of my older fans were mad about it, grumbled that “Rucker has gone religious, he’s no fun anymore, etc.” But if they’d notice, Sta-Hi stays exactly as crazy as before, as does Netherton.

WG===

For me, what took over for Netherton in this book was his co-parenting! My first POV character with a baby to take care of! When I discovered how different that felt to write, I guess I decided to roll with it, getting some perverse satisfaction out of imagining poor fuckers who bought the book in an airport, just before jumping on an 8-hour flight, expecting to get the generic thriller hand-job, and bang, they’re parenting!

(7) VOTING AGAINST THE MUTANT REGISTRATION ACT. The National Post’s “Rookies of Parliament Hill” spotlights a new Canadian legislator with a link to X-Men.

Lenore Zann, best known to the SFF community as the voice of Rogue in the classic X-Men cartoon series of the 1990s has a new role: as a legislator in the Canadian parliament. The 61-year-old actress was elected last autumn as part of the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau. 

“X-Men is a deep show about deep themes that are universal. They’re almost like our Greek gods and goddesses — they’re like mythology for young people,” said Zann. “I sit on a plane watching what people are looking at on their TV screens in front of them. Most of them are watching stuff like that.”

(8) JONES OBIT. Terry Jones of Monty Python’s Flying Circus died January 22. He had been suffering from dementia for years, says The Hollywood Reporter: “Terry Jones, ‘Monty Python’ Co-Founder and British Comedy Icon, Dies at 77”.

Born in North Wales, Jones read English at Oxford University, where he met his long-term collaborator and friend, Michael Palin. The two would star together in the college’s comedy troupe The Oxford Revue, and after graduation, they appeared in the 1967 TV sketch comedy Twice a Fortnight.

Two years later, they created The Complete and Utter History of Britain, which featured comedy sketches from history as if TV had been around at the time. It was on the show Do Not Adjust Your Set where they would be introduced to fellow comic Eric Idle, who had starred alongside John Cleese and Graham Chapman in productions mounted by the Cambridge University theatrical club the Footlights.  

The five — together with Terry Gilliam, whom Cleese had met in New York — would quickly pool their talents for a new show. Monty Python’s Flying Circus was born and ran on the BBC for four seasons between 1969 and 1974, with Jones driving much of the show’s early innovation.

Vanity Fair’s 1999 profile of the troupe, “The Dead Parrot Society”, includes this intro of Terry:

Jones is a noted history buff who has written on Chaucer and hosted a number of documentaries, including one on the Crusades. He directed Life of Brian and Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life; apart from Monty Python he has directed the films Erik the Viking and The Wind in the Willows and written several children’s books. The son of a bank clerk, he was born in North Wales and attended Oxford University. He and his wife, a biochemist, live in London and have a son and a daughter. Jones regularly appeared nude (playing the organ) in the opening credits of the Monty Python television series; he also played the obscenely fat, vomit-spewing Mr. Creosote in The Meaning of Life.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 22, 2000 Cleopatra 2525 first aired in syndication. It was created by R.J. Stewart and Robert G. Tapert. Many who aired it do so as part of the Back2Back Action Hour, along with Jack of All Trades. The primary cast of this SF with chicks not wearing much series was Gina Torres of later Firefly fame, Victoria Pratt and Jennifer Sky. (A sexist statement? We think you should take a look at the show.)  it would last two seasons and twenty episodes, six episodes longer than Jack of All Trades. (Chicks rule?) it gets a 100% rating by its reviewers at a Rotten Tomatoes though the aggregate critics score is a much lower 40%. 
  • January 22, 1984 Airwolf would premiere on CBS where it would run for three seasons before ending its run on USA with a fourth season. Airwolf was created by Donald P. Bellisario who was also behind Quantum Leap and Tales of The Golden Monkey, two other SFF series. It starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Jean Bruce Scott. Ernest Borgnine, and Alex Cord. It airs sporadically in syndication and apparently has not developed enough of a following to get a Rotten Tomatoes rating.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 22, 1858 Charles H. M. Kerr. He’s best remembered for illustrating  the pulp novels of H. Rider Haggard. Some of his other genre-specific work includes the Andrew Lang-edited The True Story Book, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Wrong Box and Arthur Conan Doyle‘s  “The Sign of the Four”. You can see the one of the H. Rider Haggard novels he did here. (Died 1907.)
  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were published in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the ebook publishers are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.)
  • Born January 22, 1925 Katherine MacLean. She received a Nebula Award for “The Missing Man” novella originally published in Analog, March of 1971. She was a Professional Guest of Honor at the first WisCon. Short fiction was her forte and her two collections, The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy and The Trouble with You Earth People, are brilliant. I can’t speak to her three novels, all written in the Seventies and now out of print, as I’ve not read them. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt. I rarely grieve over the death of one individual but his death really stung. I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like. If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty-year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down as General Woundwort and in The Lord of the Rings as the voice of Aragon before appearing as Kane, the first victim, in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as that character in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh, for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 22, 1959 Tyrone Power Jr., 61. Yes, son of that actor. He is the fourth actor to bear the name Tyrone Power. If you remember him at all, it’s as Pillsbury, one of the aliens, in the Cocoon films. Other than Soulmates, a horrid sounding sort of personal zombie film, in which he had a role, that’s it for his SFF creds. 
  • Born January 22, 1959 Linda Blair, 61. Best known for her role as the possessed child, Regan, in The Exorcist. She reprised her role in Exorcist II: The Heretic. (I saw the first, I had no desire to see the second film.)  Right after those films she started she started starring in a lot of the really bad horror films. Let’s see… Stranger in Our HouseHell Night (fraternity slasher film), GrotesqueWitcheryDead Sleep and Scream to name a few of these films. She even starred in Repossessed, a comedy parody of The Exorcist
  • Born January 22, 1969 Olivia d’Abo, 51. She makes the Birthday Honors list for being Amanda Rogers, a female Q, in the “True Q” episode on Next Generation. Setting that gig aside, she’s got a long and extensive SFF series history. Conan the Destroyer, Beyond the Stars, Asterix Conquers America, Tarzan & Jane and Justice League Doom are some of her film work, while her series work includes Fantasy Island, Batman Beyond, Twilight Zone, Eureka and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
  • Born January 22, 1996 Blanca Blanco, 24. She’s here today because she’s on one of those Trek video fanfics that seem to have proliferated a few years back. This one had her planning on playing someone on Star Trek Equinox: The Night Of Time but the funding never materialized. I’m fascinated by this one as a certain actor was reprising his Gary Mitchell role here.  If it was decided that  an audio series would be made instead but I can’t find any sign of that being done either. Any of you spotted it? 

(11) WHEN THE GALAXY IS OUT OF ORDER YOU CALL… Guardians of the Galaxy!

Someone has to guard the galaxy – but who will accept the mission? And will they survive it? See who answers the call in the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1 trailer featuring writer Al Ewing, Editor in Chief CB Cebulski, and Editor Darren Shan! 

Cosmic peace is hanging by a thread as the major galactic empires bristle against each other. Amidst the chaos, the Gods of Olympus have returned — harbingers of a new age of war, reborn to burn their mark on the stars themselves! The legendary Star-Lord leads Rocket Raccoon, Nova, Marvel Boy, Phyla-Vell, and Moondragon on a mission to restore order to the stars!

“The galaxy is just one bad day away from complete and total collapse, and that day is here,” teases Shan.

“Guardians of the Galaxy is where the Marvel cosmic universe, as we know it, comes alive. Marvel space is about to come crashing into the Marvel Universe in a big way,” says Ewing. 

(12) SO MUCH FOR THOSE GOLDEN MEMORIES. The Guardian’s Luke Holland is a little grumpy: “Rise of the ‘bleakquel’: your favourite heroes are back – and more miserable than ever”

… Take the recent Star Wars trilogy, whose entire existence is predicated on the revelation that Han, Leia and Luke all had a miserable old time of it after the events of Return of the Jedi. Before, any fan with R2-D2 on their jim-jams could envisage the three of them growing old together, with a grey-muzzled Chewbacca snoozing contentedly by a crackling hearth. The new films suddenly forced them to confront a new reality in which Han and Leia are estranged because their son became a mass-murderer, and a PTSD-ravaged Luke lives a life of solitude on a remote skerry somewhere uncannily reminiscent of Ireland. And what happens next? Oh, they all die. Miserably. Great. Thanks.

(13) FISTS OF FURRIES. On TV news — “Furries to the rescue: Costumed conventioneers save woman from assault in San Jose”. This is KABC’s caption:

A trio of costumed furries – people who like to dress as animals – came to the rescue of a woman who was being assaulted in a car in San Jose.

(14) CLOSING THE UNDERWATER BARN DOOR. A bit late for this, isn’t it? “Titanic Wreckage Now Protected Under U.S.-U.K. Deal That Was Nearly Sunk”.

More than a century after the RMS Titanic sank to bottom of the sea — and nearly a quarter-century after its memory was dredged up for a Hollywood blockbuster — the U.S. and U.K. have implemented a formal agreement on how to safeguard and manage the ill-fated steamship’s remains.

British Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani confirmed the news Tuesday during a visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the ship was built before setting off from the English port city of Southampton in 1912.

…”This momentous agreement with the United States to preserve the wreck means it will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives,” Ghani said in remarks released Tuesday by the Maritime Ministry.

Ghani’s comments cap a long and winding journey for the deal, which representatives from the U.K., the U.S., Canada and France officially agreed to as part of a 2003 treaty. The Agreement Concerning the Shipwrecked Vessel RMS Titanic sought to sort out and regulate public access, artifact conservation and salvage rights within 1 kilometer of the wreck site, situated hundreds of miles off the coast of Canada in the North Atlantic.

But since the countries negotiated the treaty, the document has largely languished. It requires the ratification of at least two of the four countries to enter into force, and while the U.K. quickly ratified the agreement, both Canada and France have yet to do so. The formal approval of the U.S. government looked long in doubt, as well.

(15) DEAD LETTERS. BBC warns about “The alphabets at risk of extinction”.

It isn’t just languages that are endangered: dozens of alphabets around the world are at risk. And they could have even more to tell us.

On his first two days of school, in a village above the Bangladeshi port of Chittagong, Maung Nyeu was hit with a cane. This was not because he was naughty. It was simply that Nyeu could not understand what the teacher was saying, or what was written in his textbooks. Although 98% of Bangladeshis speak Bengali as a first language, Nyeu grew up with Marma, one of several minority tongues in the region. Written, it is all curls, like messy locks of hair.

Eventually Nyeu managed to escape this cycle of bewilderment and beatings. After learning Bengali at home, he returned to school and went to university. Now he is pursuing a doctorate at Harvard. Yet Nyeu never forgot his early schooldays. He spends much of his time in the hills where he grew up, where he founded Our Golden Hour – a nonprofit fighting to keep Marma and a flurry of other scripts alive.

There are between 6,000 to 7,000 languages in the world. Yet 96% are spoken by just 3% of the global population. And 85% are endangered, like Marma.

Along with the spoken words, something else is also at risk: each language’s individual script. When we talk about “endangered languages”, most of us think of the spoken versions first. But our alphabets can tell us huge amounts about the cultures they came from. Just as impressive is the length people will go to save their scripts – or invent whole new alphabets and spread them to the world.

(16) LET THERE BE LIGHT MEASUREMENT. And it was good. “Space mission to reveal ‘Truths’ about climate change”.

The UK is going to lead a space mission to get an absolute measurement of the light reflected off Earth’s surface.

The information will be used to calibrate the observations of other satellites, allowing their data to be compared more easily.

Called Truths, the new spacecraft was approved for development by European Space Agency member states in November.

Proponents of the mission expect its data to help reduce the uncertainty in projections of future climate change.

Scientists and engineers met on Tuesday to begin planning the project. Industry representatives from Britain, Switzerland, Greece, the Czech Republic and Romania gathered at Esa’s technical centre in Harwell, Oxfordshire.

(17) POCKET WATCH. “Australia fires: ‘Incredible’ signs of life return to burned bush” – BBC video, including incredibly cute joey.

Australia’s bushfires have burnt through 10 million hectares of land, and it is feared some habitats may never recover.

But in some worst-affected areas, the sight of plants growing back and animals returning to habitats is raising spirits.

(18) CALLING CHARLES FORT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Things are not so cute in Florida. NPR aired this story today: “Florida Weather Forecasters Warn Of Falling Iguanas”.

Last night, the National Weather Service called for lows in the 30s and 40s with a chance of falling iguanas. Apparently, the lizards can fall into a deeper slumber in the cold, and it is not uncommon for them to tumble from trees. The advice for you is watch your heads, and don’t bug the iguanas after they land. I mean, do you like being bothered when you’re just getting up?

Related older stories: “What To Do If You Come Across A Frozen Iguana” (2018) – “Bottom line: don’t touch them. They are not dead. They may thaw out and attack.”

For perspective: “Florida Has An Iguana Problem” (2019).

Biologists say invasive green iguanas have been spreading in Florida, and they’re a major nuisance. The state encourages homeowners to kill iguanas on their property.

And for “historical context.” Bob & Ray “The Komodo Dragon” (Live at Carnegie Hall, 1984)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, Disney has not clarified its reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magical Women, edited by Sukanya Venkatraghavan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/26/19 Demotic Space Opera

(1) HUGO VOTER ELIGIBILITY. The CoNZealand committee reminds fans:

If you would like to make a nomination for the Hugo Awards, you must purchase your CoNZealand membership by 31st December 2019, 11.59pm PST.

(2) PODCAST FINDER. The Cambridge Geek compiled a great tool for podcast listeners: “All of 2019’s Audio Drama/Fiction Podcast Debut Releases”. The various tabs include several for genre, such as Science Fiction – over 100 entries – plus Superhero and Urban Fantasy.

Right, here’s the big list of every new Audio Drama/Fiction/RPG show I found that debuted in 2019, sorted by genre. I think it contains 660 shows. It’s probably a fair chunk of data, so I’ve taken the embedded episodes out – you’ll have to look at a show itself to have a listen.

(3) ANOTHER FAILED PREDICTION. According to Vox, “The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came.”

Instead, at the other end of the decade, ebook sales seem to have stabilized at around 20 percent of total book sales, with print sales making up the remaining 80 percent. “Five or 10 years ago,” says Andrew Albanese, a senior writer at trade magazine Publishers Weekly and the author of The Battle of $9.99, “you would have thought those numbers would have been reversed.”

And in part, Albanese tells Vox in a phone interview, that’s because the digital natives of Gen Z and the millennial generation have very little interest in buying ebooks. “They’re glued to their phones, they love social media, but when it comes to reading a book, they want John Green in print,” he says. The people who are actually buying ebooks? Mostly boomers. “Older readers are glued to their e-readers,” says Albanese. “They don’t have to go to the bookstore. They can make the font bigger. It’s convenient.”

Ebooks aren’t only selling less than everyone predicted they would at the beginning of the decade. They also cost more than everyone predicted they would — and consistently, they cost more than their print equivalents. On Amazon as I’m writing this, a copy of Sally Rooney’s Normal People costs $12.99 as an ebook, but only $11.48 as a hardcover. And increasingly, such disparities aren’t an exception. They’re the rule.

(4) TOP SFF BY POC FROM 2018. Rocket Stack Rank catches up with its annual “Outstanding SF/F by People of Color 2018”, with 65 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Eric Wong says, “Included are some observations obtained from pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.”

(5) HEAD OF THE CLASS. The Oxford Mail, while spotlighting a photo gallery about the famed sff author, typoed his name in the headline. And you thought that kind of thing only happens at a certain well-known news blog…

(6) SMOOCHLESS IN SINGAPORE. That history-making kiss in a galaxy far, far away? Well, that history hasn’t been made everywhere in a galaxy close, close to us: “Disney Removes Same-Sex Kiss From ‘Star Wars’ Film in Singapore”.

The scene, which Disney cut to preserve a PG-13 rating in the conservative nation, was the first overt appearance of gay characters in the “Star Wars” franchise.

A brief kiss between two female characters was removed from screenings of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” in Singapore, a country with restrictive laws against gay people.

Though lasting just a few seconds and hardly a major plot point, the kiss between two minor characters was notable as the first overt appearance of gay characters in a “Star Wars” film. Disney cut the kiss to preserve the film’s PG-13 rating in Singapore, according to reports.

(7) MEMORIES, CAN’T GET RID OF THOSE MEMORIES. At The Cut, Hannah Gold wails that “‘Cats’ Has Plunged Us All Into a Horrifying, Ceaseless Fever Dream”.

Apparently the people who made this infernal movie are having to digitally retouch it as it’s in theaters, due to some last-minute suggestions, like that Judi Dench’s character Old Deuteronomy (unquestionably a cat) should not suddenly, for a single shot, have a human hand with a wedding ring on it.

(8) SHINY. BBC gives you a peek at Doctor Who’s remodeled ride: “Look inside the Series 12 TARDIS!”. Photo gallery at the link.

(9) FOILED AGAIN. People Magazine: “Martin Scorsese’s Daughter Trolls Her Dad by Wrapping His Christmas Gifts in Marvel Paper”.

Martin Scorsese‘s daughter is poking fun at the filmmaker following his comments about the Marvel franchise.

On Christmas Eve, Francesca Scorsese showed off the many gifts she got for her dad, which she hilariously wrapped in Marvel wrapping paper.

“Look what I’m wrapping my dad’s xmas gifts in,” Francesca wrote over the Instagram Story photo of the presents, which are adorned with comic book images of The Hulk, Captain America and many other super heroes.

Francesca’s timely joke comes a month after Scorsese, 77, made headlines for saying Marvel films are “not cinema.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 26, 1954 — The very last episode of The Shadow radio serial aired.  It was the program’s 665th installment and the episode was “Murder by the Sea” with Bret Morrison as The Shadow (Lamont Cranston) and Gertrude Warner as Margot Lane. This is the final episode of The Shadow to be aired on the Mutual Broadcasting System.
  • December 26, 1959 — In Japan, Battle In Outer Space premiered. It was produced by Toho Studios, best known for Godzilla. Directed by Ishiro Honda and featuring the special effects of  Eiji Tsuburaya, the film  had a cast of Ryo Ikebe, Koreya Senda and Yoshio Tsuchiya. It was released in the Stateside in an English-dubbed version by Columbia Pictures a year later where it was a double feature with 12 to the Moon. Reception in the States as usual praised the special effects and panned the acting. Rotten Tomatoes reviewers currently deciedly don’t like it giving a 37% rating. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 26, 1791 Charles Babbage. Y’ll likely best know him as creator of the Babbage Machine which shows up in Perdido Street Station, The Peshawar Lancers, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage webcomic, and there’s “Georgia on My Mind“ a novelette by Charles Sheffield which involves a search for a lost Babbage device. The latter won both a  Nebula and a Hugo Award for Best Novelette. (Died 1871.)
  • Born December 26, 1903 Elisha Cook Jr. On the Trek side, he shows up as playing lawyer Samuel T. Cogley in the “Court Martial” episode. Elsewhere he had long association with the genre starting with Voodoo Island and including House on a Haunted Hill, Rosemary’s Baby, Wild Wild West, The Night Stalker and Twilight Zone. (Died 1995.)
  • Born December 26, 1926 Mark R. Hillegas. ESF claims that he was one of the first to teach a University level course in SFF which he did at Colgate in 1961. The Future as Nightmare: H G Wells and the Anti-Utopians and Shadows of Imagination: The Fantasies of C S Lewis, J R R Tolkien and Charles Williams are his two works in the field. The former is listed in Barron’s Anatomy of Wonder as part of a core collection of genre non-fiction. SFRA awarded the Pilgrim Award. (Died 2000.)
  • Born December 26, 1929 Kathleen Crowley. She retired from acting at forty so she has a brief career. She appeared in only a limited number of genre roles, one being as Nora King in in early Fifties Target Earth, and Dolores Carter in Curse of The Undead, a Western horror film. She also played Sophia Starr twice on Batman. (Died 2017.)
  • Born December 26, 1951 Priscilla Olson, 68. She and her husband have been involved with NESFA Press’s efforts to put neglected SF writers back into print and has edited myriad writers such by Chad Oliver and Charles Harness, plus better-known ones like Jane Yolen.  She’s chaired a number of Boskones.
  • Born December 26, 1953 Clayton Emery, 66. Somewhere there’s a bookstore with nothing but the novels and collections that exist within a given franchise. This author has novels in the Forgotten Realms, Magic: The Gathering and Runesworld franchise, plus several genre works including surprisingly Tales of Robin Hood on Baen Books. Must not be your granddaddy’s Hood.
  • Born December 26, 1960 Temuera Morrison, 59. Ahhhh clones. In Attack of the Clones, he plays Jango Fett. In Revenge of the Sith, he came back in the guise of Commander Cody. See no spoilers? 
  • Born December 26, 1961 Tahnee Welch, 58. Yes the daughter of that actress. She’s in both Cocoon films as well in Sleeping Beauty which was filmed in the same time. Black Light in which she’s the lead might qualify as genre in the way some horror does.
  • Born December 26, 1970 Danielle Cormack, 49. If it’s fantasy and it was produced in New Zealand, she’s might have  been in it. She was in Xena and Hercules as Ephiny on recurring role, Hercules again as Lady Marie DeValle, Jack of All Trades, one of Kage Baker’s favorite series because, well, Bruce was the lead, as she was Raina in recurring role, Samsara on Xena in amother one-off and Margaret Sparrow in Perfect Creature, an alternate universe horror film.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ARMORED SJW CREDENTIALS. Yeah, I think I missed this one last month — “This company makes cardboard tanks to help your cat conquer the world”. Upworthy’s profile includes pictures.

“Sit back and have a giggle at your cat ‘doing human things’ and help keep them away from clawing your favorite sofa!”

“These cardboard playhouses come in various humorous designs; the Tank, the Catillac, the Fire Engine, Plane, and for those kitties with a bit more style, the Cabin and Tepee.”

(14) RARE MEMORIAL. NPR reports “Hero Killed In UNC-Charlotte Shooting Immortalized As ‘Star Wars’ Jedi”

Riley Howell, 21, was praised as a hero by police officials, who said “his sacrifice saved lives.” Howell charged and tackled the gunman who opened fire in a classroom on campus in April. Police said his actions stopped the gunman from shooting more people. Ellis Parlier, 19, was also killed in the attack, and four other students were wounded.

Howell, who was a Star Wars fan, is now being honored by Lucasfilm with an entry in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — The Visual Dictionary, which was published this month.

According to The Charlotte Observer, the newly released book named a character after him: “Jedi Master and historian Ri-Lee Howell,” who is credited with collecting “many of the earliest accounts of exploration and codifications of The Force.” Jedi Master Howell also has an entry on Wookieepedia, the Star Wars wiki.

(15) NOT EVEN SO-SO, OR LESS HASTE, MORE SPEED. “Cats: Lame opening for Cats at US and UK box office”

The movie version of Cats has failed to live up to expectations at the box office, taking just $6.5m (£5m) at the North American box office.

The $100m (£77m) film, which was expected to make double that amount, debuted fourth on the US chart, with the new Stars Wars movie on top.

In the UK and Ireland, it grossed £3.4m, having been panned by critics.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, an updated print of Cats was sent out to cinemas on Friday.

The trade paper reported that the film’s director, Tom Hooper, had ordered re-edits to his film with “some improved visual effects”.

…Hooper, who made Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech, has been open about the fact that he only just managed to finish his CGI-heavy movie before its world premiere in New York.

At the event, Hooper told Variety it was completed in a 36-hour sprint on the Sunday.

(16) FROM BLANK TO DARK. “His Dark Materials: How we animated Iorek Byrnison” – BBC takes you inside, with several shots showing buildup from virtual skeleton or real reaction model to finished picture.

Click looks at the visual effects involved in the hit BBC show His Dark Materials.

Russell Dodgson of visual effects company Framestore spoke with Al Moloney about how technology is used to create some of the most memorable scenes from the series including a dramatic bear fight.

(17) PUTINTERNET PREMIERES. “Russia ‘successfully tests’ its unplugged internet” – BBC has the story.

Russia has successfully tested a country-wide alternative to the global internet, its government has announced.

Details of what the test involved were vague but, according to the Ministry of Communications, ordinary users did not notice any changes.

The results will now be presented to President Putin.

Experts remain concerned about the trend for some countries to dismantle the internet.

“Sadly, the Russian direction of travel is just another step in the increasing breaking-up of the internet,” said Prof Alan Woodward, a computer scientist at the University of Surrey.

(18) WHERE THE TEMPERATURE IS ZIP, NOT THE CODE. “‘Christmas with the penguins will be bliss’” a BBC followup to a Pixel about the most extreme post office.

Sub-zero temperatures, dinner from a tin, an icy shower for emergency use only – Kit Adams is all set for Christmas in Antarctica.

Forget chestnuts roasting by an open fire. Not for him hot water or mains electricity.

But Kit, 26, from Newcastle, County Down, cannot believe his luck.

Spending Christmas in a hut thousands of miles from home is bliss…even when top of the chores is scrubbing penguin poo from the doorstep.

The County Down man and his friends are overwintering in remote snowy wastes on an island the size of a football field.

But when that remote piece of earth is home to a colony of Gentoo penguins, it’s paradise.

…Kit is one of a team of five – two Britons, an Irishman; a Scot and a Finn – from the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) who are spending five months at Port Lockroy on Goudier Island, Antarctica.

He is a mountaineer and adventurer by inclination but in Port Lockroy, he is also a postmaster.

…As well as stamp duties, the intrepid volunteers are also observing the penguins, how they meet; find a mate; build a nest, hatch and dispatch their chicks.

They will make an important contribution to a long-term scientific study of the penguin colony to better understand the impact of environmental changes on the site.

Guidelines state they must stay five metres from the penguins, but Kit said: “On an island the size of a football pitch this isn’t always possible.”

(19) A GALAXY DIVIDED. Annalee Newitz tells New York Times readers “‘Star Wars’ Fans Are Angry and Polarized. Like All Americans” in an opinion piece.

… “The Rise of Skywalker,” released last week, is a muddled and aimless homage to previous films in the series. Its countless callbacks to the older films feel like an effort to “make ‘Star Wars’ great again,” though it does manage to deliver a few liberal-sounding messages. Call it the Joe Biden of “Star Wars” movies.

To continue the analogy, you might say that “The Last Jedi,” “The Force Awakens,” and “Rogue One” are in the Barack Obama tradition. They gave fans truly diverse casts and grappled in a relatively nuanced way with the class and race conflicts that have hovered at the margins of every “Star Wars” story.

They also made fans of the early movies livid. Some used social media to demand that Disney stop with the politically correct storytelling, while others launched racist attacks on the Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Tran, who plays the engineer Rose Tico in two of the films….

(20) FUN WITH YOUR OLD HEAD. Popular Mechanics boldly equivocates “Head Transplants Could Definitely Maybe Happen Next Decade”.

…The secret, Mathew believes, is to separate the brain and the spinal column in one piece that will be introduced into a new body. This cuts out, so to speak, what Mathew considers the most daunting obstacle. If you never have to sever the spinal cord at all, you don’t have to solve any of the thorny problems created by all of the different proposed solutions before now.

There’s an inherent downside to Mathew’s idea, even if it were to become feasible in the next 10 years. If a surgery can only successfully be performed on people with intact spinal columns, that rules out one of the major suggested goals of such a transplant, which is to restore mobility to people with disabling spinal injuries who are trying to reverse them….

 (21) FOUND ON TUMBLR. Anne Francis on the set of Forbidden Planet.

Also, other publicity stills from the film here.

(22) GETTING INSIDE OF HEAD OF C-3PO. In the Washington Post, Thomas Floyd has an interview with Anthony Daniels about his autobiography I Am C-3PO.  Daniels talks about how he didn’t use a ghostwriter and how much of Return of the Jedi was directed by George Lucas “by proxy” because Richard Marquand couldn’t control the set. “C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels talks ‘The Rise of Skywalker,’ his new memoir and four decades of Star Wars”.

Q: The book also confirms long-standing speculation that “Return of the Jedi” director Richard Marquand struggled to command the set, leading Lucas to direct much of the film “by proxy.” Why did you want to share your perspective on that situation?

A: Because there has been so much speculation over the years. I am giving my point of view, and hopefully not in an over-elaborated way. Marquand was an unfortunate experience because, really, he should have had the courage to leave the set. It was an uncomfortable situation. He was a man who was clearly out of his depth with responsibility for other people. I didn’t put this in the book, but I remember hearing Harrison Ford was reportedly amazed, and in fact rather angry, to hear that Marquand claimed to have helped him with his performance of Han Solo, and that’s just ridiculous.

(23) OTHER BRAINS FROM A LONG, LONG TIME AGO. SYFY Wire springs a paleontological surprise. “500,000-year-old fossilized brain has totally changed our minds”.

… This is kind of a big deal when humans have known about the brain’s tendency to break down after death for so long that even the ancient Egyptians knew it had to go during the mummification process. There was no point in trying to preserve it like some other organs (never mind that the heart was believed to be the epicenter of thinking back then). It seems that an organ that can’t be mummified would never stay intact long enough to fossilize, but what appeared to be a stain on the Alalcomenaeus fossil that was recently dug up was found to be its brain.

…An Alalcomenaeus brain doesn’t exactly look like a human brain. It really has no resemblance to a human brain at all, but is more of a central nervous system that mirrors those of many extant arthropods, with an elongated brain structure that runs from its head to its upper back. Neural tissue connects to the creature’s four eyes and four pairs of segmented nerves. More nerves from the brain extend all the way down its back.

(24) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Since the Scroll took yesterday off there wasn’t a chance to share this clever bit, the “Star Wars Epic Christmas Medley | Carol of The Bells & Imperial March.”

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Eric Wong, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Contrarius, John King Tarpinian, StephenfromOttawa, Bill, Steve Davidson, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

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

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

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

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

You can access the 7-episode playlist on YouTube.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge]

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about this book here on PopMatters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge]

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Two from The Argyle Sweater:

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

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

So plot wise how do people get duplicated? …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/19/19 A Rising Scroll Files All Pixels

(1) RINGING UP FANDOM. io9’s Katharine Trendacostasays this was “The Decade Fandom Went Corporate”. Quite a bit to think about here.

In the last twenty years, fandom and mass culture have basically merged. Fans and fandom spent the 2000s fighting for legitimacy and proving their combined worth. And corporations? Well, they spent the 2010s learning how to co-opt fandom to silence critics, manipulate press, and make even more money.

For decades and decades, fandom wasn’t something you talked about. Not really. Fanfic, fanart, and cosplay—those were things shared at conventions and in zines and, later, in usenet groups. Even the outwardly facing form of fandom—the manboy fan with his collectibles and endless trivia debates—was usually presented as something to be ashamed of.

… Transformative fandom’s road was much rockier. The split between curatorial and transformative fandom—with one more accepted than the other—has been historically viewed as gendered. Transformative fandom is where fans don’t just consume the media, they make it their own. This is where you get cosplay, fan films, and so on. Transformative fandom got you in trouble. Being threatened with legal action for writing fanfic was a very real danger.

I’d argue that transformative fandom calls to marginalized groups in general because it is the realm of people who see something compelling in a piece of media and then reinterpret it in a new way, to make it easier to identify with. Hollywood—and comics, and book writers, and so on—has been so white, so straight, and so male for so long. Transformative fandom lets people participate in mainstream culture and still get to see themselves in it.

… In the same way people these days use things like GoFundMe to raise money for basic necessities, fanwork creators have started taking commissions for their work. This is another expression of the hellscape of 2019, where people can’t afford rent, food, or healthcare and are mobilizing their skills and their communities to survive. This is depressing but understandable. There is also the rise of sites Redbubble (founded 2006) and Etsy (founded in 2006), where fans can sell their work to other fans. Where selling any of this thing in any sort of public forum used to be terrifying, it’s now fairly normal.

There are legal concerns, of course. It’s just that, these days, between the work of groups like OTW and the Electronic Frontier Foundations (which, full disclosure, I work at), there’s more understanding and legal precedent showing that fanworks are transformative and not copyright infringement. Creators and companies also have figured out that this kind of fan creation is the result of a love for their show, movie, etc. and that going after fans—in the way Anne Rice was famous for—can only serve to alienate your base….

(2) FOUR ON THE FLOOR. Tor.com’s Leah Schnelbach, Christina Orlando, Natalie Zutter and Renata Sweeney dialogue about “2010-2019: A Decade of Change in Science Fiction & Fantasy”. About halfway through the conversation they get into —

SELF-REFLEXIVE NERDERY

Zutter: The other 2012 book I wanted to mention was Redshirts by John Scalzi. I feel like it tapped into this era of self-reflexive, meta sci-fi. Riffing on Star Trek, in sort of the Galaxy Quest realm.

Orlando: I was going to bring up Space Opera by Cat Valente, that element of taking the trope and just running with it, even to the extent of calling the book “space opera”. It’s a commentary on tropey stuff, where I think for a long time tropes were something to be avoided, but we see more and more, especially from people who came up through fanfiction, the love of tropes, and the idea of leaning into “there’s only one bed” or those kinds of things, cause it’s the stuff that we find comforting. It does get tongue-in-cheek, and creates layers of commentary on genre itself—

Zutter: This shared language.

Sweeney: The previous year’s Ready Player One was sort of nerd nostalgia, so it’s Redshirts-adjacent. Armada and Ready Player One are steeped in nostalgia in a way that I don’t think Redshirts is, in that self-referential, “This is a joke that you only get if you understand nerd culture” way….

(3) TIME RUNS OUT. The trailer for Christopher Nolan’s TENET.

(4) HAMMERING ON HIS TYPEWRITER. This column by Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf includes a capsule description of an author I found very entertaining when I originally discovered sff: “[December 19, 1964] December Galactoscope #2”.

The Anvil Chorus

Christopher Anvil is the pseudonym of Harry C. Crosby, who published a couple of stories under his real name in the early 1950’s. After remaining silent for a few years, he came back with a bang in the late 1950’s, and has since given readers about fifty tales under his new name. His work most often appears in Astounding/Analog.

A typical Anvil yarn is a lightly comic tale about clever humans defeating technologically advanced but naive aliens. Perhaps his best-known story is Pandora’s Planet (Astounding, September 1956), the first of a series of humorous accounts of the misadventures of lion-like aliens trying to deal with the chaos caused by those unpredictable humans.

(5) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from “Fantastic Fiction at KGB December 2019”.

Paul Tremblay (R) read a powerful excerpt from his next novel coming out next year and Nathan Ballingrud (L) read from a story he just finished writing a few days ago.

Nathan Ballingrud and Paul Tremblay 1

(6) STAR WARS: A NEW HOPI DESIGN. “‘The Force Is With Our People’ Connects Indigenous Culture To A Galaxy Far Away”.

Artist Duane Koyawena is piloting a custom R2D2 unit in front of the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Ariz. It’s life-size and has all the signature bleeps and squawks of the original. But its appearance has a unique Southwestern spin.

“When I was thinking about it, I was like … wouldn’t it be cool to see an R2 that’s decked out [and] looks actually like a pottery?” he says. “So along with that comes the designs, and so the tans and the reddish burn marks from when they fire their pottery.”

At first glance the traditional Hopi maroon-and-tan patterns are a surprising look for the famous droid. But Koyawena says it makes total sense for R2.

“A lot of elders, or our uncles or friends, always tell us in ceremony or something going on ‘nahongvitah,’ which means to give it your all, or just to be strong and to persevere. So, I feel like the Hopi R2 kind of fits in that same line,” he says.

Koyawena is one of 25 artists from more than a dozen Southwestern tribes taking part in the art exhibit “The Force Is With Our People.” The pieces reflect Star Wars themes, such as endurance and rebellion, that have resonated powerfully with the franchise’s devotees for decades. As it turns out though, Star Wars also speaks strongly to the historical experiences of many in the Southwest’s Indigenous communities.

“I think there’s clearly some parallels … between Native stories — things like the Hero Twins, [a] very prominent story in Navajo culture — parallels between that and Star Wars, of course Luke and Leia being basically Hero Twins in that story,” says Museum of Northern Arizona curator and ethnographer Tony Thibodeau.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 19, 1902 Sir Ralph Richardson. God in Time Bandits but also Earl of Greystoke in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Chief Rabbit In Watership Down. Also, the Head Librarian in Rollerball which I’ll admit I’ve never seenAnd a caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And Satan in the Tales from the Crypt film. Oh, my he had an interesting genre film career! (Died 1983.)
  • Born December 19, 1922 Harry Warner Jr. Fan historian and legendary letterhack. Dubbed The Hermit of Hagerstown, he did nearly all his fanac on paper. He’s known now for the many LOCs he wrote and his two books on fanhistory, All Our Yesterdays, (1969), and A Wealth of Fable which won a Hugo in 1993 for Best Related Book. (Died 2003.)
  • Born December 19, 1952 Linda Woolverton, 67. She’s the first woman to have written a Disney animated feature, Beauty and the Beast, which was the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. She also co-wrote The Lion King screenplay (along with Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts).
  • Born December 19, 1960 Dave Hutchinson, 59. Best known for his Fractured Europe series. Great reading! I’ve listened to the first two and will be  listening to the third after the first of the year. He’s got a lot of other genre fiction as well but I’ve not delved into that yet.
  • Born December 19, 1961 Matthew Waterhouse, 58. He’s best known as Adric, companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors. He was the youngest actor in that role at the time. And yes, he too shows up in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born December 19, 1969 Kristy Swanson, 50. Her first starring genre  film role was in Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend, but no doubt her best known genre role was as the original Buffy. She also shows up in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Phantom, Highway to HellNot Quite Human and The Black Hole. For the record, I really, really like her version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! 
  • Born December 19, 1972 Alyssa Milano, 47. Phoebe Halliwell in the long running original Charmed series. Other genre appearances include on Outer Limits, the second Fantasy Island series, Embrace of the Vampire, Double Dragon, the Young Justice animated series as the voice of Poison Ivy and more voice work in DC’s The Spectre excellent animated short as a spoiled rich young thing with a murderous vent.
  • Born December 19, 1975 Brandon Sanderson, 44. Best known for the Mistborn series. He is also known for finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. OK I’m going to freely admit I’ve not read either of this series. Opinions please. 
  • Born December 19, 1979 Robin Sloan, 40. Author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which definitely has fantasy elements in it and is a damn fine read. His second novel which he sent me to me consider reviewing, Sourdough or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market, is also probably genre adjacent but is also weirdly about food as well. And he’s a really nice person as well. 
  • Born December 19, 1980 Jake Gyllenhaal, 39. The lead in Donnie Darko, a strange film indeed; he’s also to be seen as Sam Hall in The Day After Tomorrow, a splendid SF disaster film. Of course, he was Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • There is no excuse for the awful joke in this Frank and Ernest except that it requires familiarity with star names. Well, one of them, anyway. One more fact I can’t say I had no use for once I graduated.

(9) LET THE BARISTA WIN. “You Can Order A Chewbacca Frappuccino From Starbucks And It’s Out Of This World”Delish told us how to find it.

To get this chocolatey treat, you’re going to start by ordering a Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino, but ask your barista to add caramel drizzle in the cup. Top that with whipped cream and cookie crumbles and you’ve got yourself a delicious treat.

(10) WAKANDA DELISTED. “US officials remove Black Panther’s Wakanda from list of trading partners” reports The Guardian. Is it an administration attempt to divert attention from the impeachment proceedings? For a change, no.

Trade talks between Captain America and Black Panther didn’t quite pan out, it seems. Wakanda, the fictional home of the Marvel superhero, is no longer listed as a free trade partner of the US.

Until Wednesday, the made-up east African country was listed on the drop-down menu for the agriculture department’s foreign agricultural service’s tariff tracker along with Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru.

The department (USDA) said the comic book country was added to its systems while it conducted testing.

“Over the past few weeks, the foreign agricultural service staff who maintain the tariff tracker have been using test files to ensure that the system is running properly,” Mike Illenberg, a USDA spokesman, told NBC. “The Wakanda information should have been removed after testing and has now been taken down.”

(11) CRUSHED. Claxton’s Twitter thread is filled with expressions of disillusionment by one-time fans of Rowling, Orson Scott Card, MZB, even Ray Bradbury.

(12) BUMP AND GRIND. Nature says “‘Marsquakes’ reveal red planet’s hidden geology”.

Since arriving on Mars just over a year ago, InSight has detected 322 marsquakes. They are the first quakes ever detected on Mars, and the first on any body other than Earth or the Moon. Scientists aim to use them to probe the Martian interior, including deciphering the planet’s guts into layers of crust, mantle, and core.

Currently the marsquakes are coming fast and furious. From its landing site near the Martian equator, NASA’s InSight mission is detecting about two quakes per day — and the rate is going up.

(13) THEY KNOW WHERE THE BODIES ARE. From Nature: “A statistical solution to the chaotic, non-hierarchical three-body problem”. Cixin Liu might worry…

The three-body problem is arguably the oldest open question in astrophysics and has resisted a general analytic solution for centuries. Various implementations of perturbation theory provide solutions in portions of parameter space, but only where hierarchies of masses or separations exist….

(14) AURAL HISTORY. “‘Star Wars,’ The Trilogy That NPR Turned Into Radio Drama”.

The ninth episode of Star Wars blasts into theaters this weekend, more than 40 years since the release of George Lucas’ original hit movie. Back then, NPR got in on Star Wars saga action, creating a radio drama of that original episode.

In 1981, George Lucas sold the radio rights for $1, and the network partnered with the University of Southern California theater program to produce it. The production was an overwhelming success, and NPR went on to do radio versions of all the movies in the original trilogy.

This week, the latest installment in the Star Wars film saga is posting record numbers around the world. In 1981, NPR hoped the interstellar fable would do the same for its audience numbers. That’s right: Some of you may have forgotten (and some might not even know) that the network created three radio dramas based on George Lucas’ original three movies.

NPR figured it could maybe get more listeners by reviving the radio drama, which had been out of fashion for some 30 years. So the network called Richard Toscan, then-head of the theater program at the University of Southern California. He remembers asking a colleague for advice on what story to dramatize: “There’s this long pause, and he says, ‘Create a scandal.’ “

Toscan was at a loss. Then he mentioned the problem to a student. “And he said, ‘Oh, why don’t you do Star Wars?’ ” Toscan recalls. “There was the scandal.”

(15) HARRY MINION? HARRY MOLESWORTH? NPR’s Juanita Giles has an alternative: “Don’t Like Harry Potter? Come To The ‘Dork’ Side”

…Not to tell you how old I am, but Harry Potter first made his appearance when I was already an adult, so it wasn’t as if I were devastated that my kids poo-pooed books that were formative for me, but I did worry that it might be difficult to find chapter books that caught their interest. Harry Potter’s success has spawned almost an entirely new genre, and sometimes it seems there’s not a chapter book that doesn’t involve magic or spells or curses in some way. I had almost zero experience with this, as popular chapter books for girls when I was a kid involved babysitters, teenagers with terrible diseases, or Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield.

But durn it, I couldn’t give up. How could my kids have a fulfilling childhood if Harry Potter didn’t ever factor in? Would it even be possible? I wasn’t convinced it was, so I set out on a mission to prepare them for their reintroduction to Harry Potter, and I ended up somewhere else entirely.

Enter the Dork Lord, son of the Dark Lord, and heir to the throne of the Grim World.

…My son keeps a basket on the end of his bed filled with whatever books with which he is currently obsessed: Wings of Fire, Calvin and Hobbes, Dog Man, Klawde, and always a Star Wars book or two. So, what did I do, sneak that I am? I shoved Confessions of a Dork Lord right into his basket when he wasn’t looking.

Cut to the next morning: “Mom, this kid is called ‘the Dork Lord,’ can you believe it? And get this — his favorite spell is the ‘Fart Revealer,’ and he can’t even do that right!”

If there were ever a sure way to grab a nine-year-old’s attention, flatulence would be it.

(16) SHIVER ME TIMBERS. BBC finds “World’s oldest fossil trees uncovered in New York”.

The earliest fossilised trees, dating back 386 million years, have been found at an abandoned quarry in New York.

Scientists believe the forest they belonged to was so vast it originally stretched beyond Pennsylvania.

This discovery in Cairo, New York, is thought to be two or three million years older than what was previously the world’s oldest forest at Gilboa, also in New York State.

The findings throw new light on the evolution of trees.

What did they find?

It was more than 10 years ago that experts from Cardiff University, UK, Binghamton University in the US and the New York State Museum began looking at the site in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in the Hudson Valley.

Since then, they have mapped over 3,000 square metres of the forest and concluded the forest was home to at least two types of trees: Cladoxylopsids and Archaeopteris.

…Researchers say they also discovered very long, woody roots that transformed the way plants and soils gather water.

“It’s a very ancient forest from the beginnings of the time where the planet was turning green and forests were becoming a normal part of the Earth’s system,” said Dr Berry.

(17) HOLDOUTS. BBC discusses the evidence:“Homo erectus: Ancient humans survived longer than we thought”

An ancient relative of modern humans survived into comparatively recent times in South East Asia, a new study has revealed.

Homo erectus evolved around two million years ago, and was the first known human species to walk fully upright.

New dating evidence shows that it survived until just over 100,000 years ago on the Indonesian island of Java – long after it had vanished elsewhere.

This means it was still around when our own species was walking the Earth.

Details of the result are described in the journal Nature.

In the 1930s, 12 Homo erectus skull caps and two lower leg bones were found in a bone bed 20m above the Solo River at Ngandong in central Java.

In subsequent decades, researchers have attempted to date the fossils. But this proved difficult because the surrounding geology is complex and details of the original excavations became confused.

…Now, researchers led by Prof Russell Ciochon of the University of Iowa in Iowa City opened up new excavations on the terraces beside the Solo River, reanalysing the site and its surroundings.

They have provided what they describe as a definitive age for the bone bed of between 117,000 and 108,000 years old. This represents the most recent known record of Homo erectus anywhere in the world.

“I don’t know what you could date at the site to give you more precise dates than what we’ve been able to produce,” Prof Ciochon told BBC News.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Use Cups” on Vimeo is a message from Adult Swim explaining what bad things will happen to you if you don’t use cups!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, N., Ellen Datlow, James Davis Nicoll, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Hampus Eckerman, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/19 Like A Pixel Lesnerized Upon A Table

(1) YA’S OWN STORY ARC. Slate’s “The Decade in Young Adult Fiction” is not specifically about sff, but a lot of the books they talk about (Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc.) are genre.

As a book publishing phenomenon, young adult literature entered the decade like a lion. At the beginning of the 2010s, a generation that had grown up obsessed with Harry Potter and other middle-grade fantasy series decided it wasn’t that interested in adult literary fiction, with its often lackadaisical plotting and downbeat endings. YA stood ready to supply them with plenty of action, cliffhangers, supernatural beings, mustache-twirling bad guys, and true love. But now, at decade’s end, YA seems to be eating itself alive….

…The impulse that led to these and other worthy enterprises, however, is vulnerable to being twisted to less salutary ends on platforms that foster cliques, vendettas, and self-righteous posturing. In the past two years, online networks of YA authors and readers—mostly female adults—have been convulsed with assorted scandals and controversies that have left many outside observers with the impression that “YA Twitter” is hopelessly “toxic.” Bloggers and Twitter pundits pilloried 2017’s The Black Witch, a debut young-adult fantasy novel by Laurie Forest, for its purported “racism.” That criticism proved unconvincing—even to teen readers, who made the book a success and reviewed it enthusiastically on Amazon—but few of those weighing in on the controversy bothered to point out instead how listlessly predictable The Black Witch is, with the usual high-born heroine confronting an unjust world while embroiled in the usual bad boy/good boy love triangle. It didn’t quite seem worthy of the energy adult readers devoted to fighting over it….

(2) ADD TO YOUR CINEMA TBR STACK. Leonard Maltin weighs in about a flock of books out this month: “New and Notable Film Books – December 2019”. Here are two of his comments:

THE SHOW WON’T GO ON: THE MOST SHOCKING, BIZARRE, AND HISTORIC DEATHS OF PERFORMERS ONSTAGE by Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns (Chicago Review Press)

Abraham and Kearns surely aren’t the only show-biz aficionados who have harbored a keen interest in the stories of entertainers who actually died in front of an audience… but they’re the only ones who have had the gumption to research every urban legend surrounding this topic and separate fact from fiction.

RICK BAKER: METAMORPHOSIS by J.W. Rinzler; foreword by John Landis, preface by Peter Jackson, introduction by Rick Baker. (Cameron & Co.)

This massive two-volume tribute to seven-time Academy Award winner Rick Baker is a definitive study of his life and career in the world of makeup. Lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced in a slipcase edition, its quality and thoroughness justify its hefty price. Every page offers wonders and delights, including young Rick’s first correspondence with his hero, makeup genius Dick Smith, and his earliest experiments.

(3) EARLY RETURNS. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds that “‘The Rise Of Skywalker’ Makes For An Exciting, Exhaustive, Effortful Ending”.

The thing about the act of plate-spinning is: It’s not about the plates. Not really.

…If we happen to notice one plate starting to wobble, after all, the first thing we do is look away from it, to see if the plate-spinner sees it, too.

We want them to succeed. The whole cheesy novelty act is predicated on this. The sheer skill it takes to keep the plates from falling — the eye, the timing, the light touch — that’s what we’re drawn to, really. The work of the thing.

J.J. Abrams is spinning a great many plates in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final chapter in the third and final trilogy of what we are now apparently supposed to call “The Skywalker Saga.” He’s not simply called upon to end the trilogy he began in 2015 with The Force Awakens, but the whole space-operatic, science-fiction-with-generous-helpings-of-fantasy, embrace-your-destiny, Joseph-Campbell, daddy-issues megillah. He has to land a Corellian light freighter that has been loaded down with everything that got kicked off in 1977…

He nails that 42-year-old recipe dutifully — effortfully, it must be said — but the flavoring’s off. The story doesn’t require him to toss in as many ingredients from earlier films in the saga as he does here, but he dumps them all (callbacks, references, echoes, events, characters) into the mix anyway. The result leaves you feeling not so much bloated — the film moves too quickly and is too much fun for that — but certainly overstuffed….

(4) TWO-MINUTE WARNING. And the Baby Yoda backlash follows right behind as Rolling Stone demands: “It’s Almost 2020, Why Hasn’t the Baby Yoda Meme Died?”.

The Mandalorian, as a whole, is an interesting litmus test of just how successful a giant entertainment conglomerate can be when it comes to wringing a piece of previously existing IP for all its worth. One might measure success in Disney+ views/subscriptions or award nominations — but, in 2019, maybe the measure is whether or not you can proffer up a bit of fan service and hope the Internet latches onto it, turns it into a meme and does all your best viral marketing for you, free of charge.

(5) ECONOMICS IN SPACE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Nobel-prize winning economist, science fiction fan and 2009 Worldcon guest Paul Krugman unpacked the macroeconomic themes of The Expanse in his New York Times column on Wednesday. In specific, he highlights how the story of the Martian economy is a parable about the need for public spending during downturns: 

The emergence of high unemployment on Mars after demobilization and the end of terraforming makes it seem as if the real problem wasn’t technology, it was secular stagnation — a situation in which private spending is consistently too weak to employ the economy’s resources, except during unsustainable asset or debt bubbles.

(6) WE CAME, WE SAW, WE KICKED ITS ASS. Close to the occasion of Ghostbusters’ 35th anniversary, YouTuber and video essayist Ryan Hollinger has published a video analyzing the film’s full legacy and its effect on mainstream belief in the paranormal — “The Real Meaning of GHOSTBUSTERS… Apparently.”

(7) A BORROWER AND A LENDER BE. “Here Are The Most Popular NYC Library Books Of 2019, By Borough” presented by The Gothamist.

Number 1 Titles By Genre
(Manhattan, Staten Island & The Bronx, from the New York Public Library)

  • Classics: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Comics and Graphic Novels: Saga by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan
  • Fantasy: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
  • Horror: The Shining by Stephen King
  • Mystery and Detective: The Chef by James Patterson
  • Romance: Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks
  • Science Fiction: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He’s best remembered perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook — a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939 Michael Moorcock, 81. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well.  Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection and Mother London. 
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Harrison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels, are available in digital form. (Died 2002.) 
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 73. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok, so the quality of the last film wasn’t great…  He’d repeat that feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook (YEA!) which I both love, followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed, starting a string of so-so to piss poor films,  A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, War of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.   The BFG is simply wonderful. 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober, 66. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including V, The Twilight Zone, Alien Nation, the Poltergeist series,the X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, Supernatural, Voyager, Star Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead
  • Born December 18, 1954 J.M. Dillard, 65. Yes I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid-Eighties And her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts. She also wrote one of the many, many non-fiction works that came out on Trek, Star Trek: ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’: A History in Pictures, which was actually largely written by Roddenberry’s assistant on a work-for-hire contract as a another book that didn’t get published, a woman named Susan Sackett. Memory Alpha has the story here.
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta, 65. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think that’s an exemplary genre cred? Well I will.
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 51. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films! He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really Casper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin In Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. That’s a lot of really bad films. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio meets an Alien in a snowman.  

(10) UNRAVELING THE GRINCH’S DNA. CrimeReads investigates “How Dr. Seuss Gave Us One of the Most Complex, Socially Important Heist Stories Ever”. You need to go waaaay back….

…Geisel, though, had a long history of mixed feelings about Christmas. According to biographer Charles D. Cohen, as a student at Dartmouth College in the 1920s and a writer and cartoonist for the campus humor magazine the Jack-O-Lantern, Geisel lampooned the whole affair, specifically citing the greed and materialism he saw in the season in an essay called “Santy Claus be Hanged,” which was mostly about how Christmas mornings are ruined because no one receives the items they truly want. He bemoaned, “Sister wanted silk unmentionables and she gets burlap unpronouncibles. Brother wanted a case of scotch and he gets a case of goldfish.” A few years later, in 1930, he published a humorous essay suggesting that parents should combine Santa Claus, his reindeer, the Bogeyman, the Sand-Man, and the Stork into one home-invasive figure—simplifying the number of flying and/or magical creatures that kids would have to count on entering their homes. And then he drew many cartoons representing classic Christmas hallmarks in weird or comically unpleasant versions.

(11) WHO BLABBED? The Royal Aeronautical Society spills the beans about “The secret history of Santa interceptions”.

For the past 70 plus years, nations around the world have attempted to intercept a mysterious hypersonic, high-flying intruder from the North Pole and learn its aeronautical secrets. Our Lapland aerospace Correspondent CHRIS TINGLE reports on the secret effort to counter these annual airspace intrusions. 

(12) OLD TECH. Some Filers will have read Dava Sobel’s Longitude; the BBC describes a spinoff, “The invention that inspired a New York tradition”.

When the final hours of 2019 arrive, a million celebrants will crowd Times Square in New York. Elsewhere, an estimated billion more will tune in to watch the annual spectacle celebrated across the globe.

…But few will acknowledge the man who really deserves their praise, a deeply religious British Royal Navy officer named Robert Wauchope.

…Wauchope’s goal was to make shipping safer. In the early 19th Century, having the exact time was crucial knowledge for mariners. It was only by keeping a ship’s clock precisely calibrated that sailors could calculate their longitude and accurately travel across oceans.

His ball, first demonstrated in Portsmouth, England, in 1829, was a crude broadcast system, a way to relay time to anyone who could see the signal. Typically, at 12:55, a creaky piece of machinery would raise a large painted orb halfway to the top of a pole or flagstaff; at 12:58, it would proceed to the top; and precisely at 13:00, a worker would release it to drop down the pole.

“It is a clear signal,” said Andrew Jacob, a curator who operates the time ball at the Sydney Observatory in Australia. “It’s easy to see the sudden movement as it begins to drop.”

Before the time ball’s invention, a ship’s master would typically come ashore and physically visit an observatory to check his watch against an official clock. Then he would quite literally bring time back to the ship. Wauchope’s invention let sailors calibrate their shipboard timepiece, called a chronometer, without leaving their boat.

“We’re so used to time being here and available, and that wasn’t always the case,” said Emily Akkermans, who has the enviable title, Curator of Time, at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. The museum and historic site houses the world’s oldest operating time ball, which since 1833 has dropped daily, barring blustery weather, war or mechanical breakdown.

(13) CHEOPS AHOY. The space-pharoahing probe is on the way: “Europe’s Cheops telescope launches to study far-off worlds”.

The European Cheops space telescope has launched to study planets outside our Solar System.

The observatory will follow up the discoveries of previous missions, endeavouring to reveal fresh insights on the nature of distant worlds: What are they made of? How did they form? And how have they changed through time?

The telescope was taken into orbit on a Russian Soyuz rocket that set off from French Guiana at 08:54 GMT.

The ride to 700km lasted 145 minutes.

Cheops (short for CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) is a joint endeavour of 11 member states of the European Space Agency (Esa), with Switzerland in the lead.

What’s significant about this mission?

Some 4,500 planets have been discovered since the late 1990s using a variety of techniques. But there is a feeling now that the science has to move beyond just detection; beyond just counting planets. We need to profile the objects in a more sophisticated way. Do they have atmospheres and how thick are they? What kind of clouds? Do they possess oceans on their surface? Do they have rings and moons? Cheops ought to be able to address such questions just from looking for these tiny dips in light during a transit.

(14) GENTLEMEN, DON’T BE SEATED. BBC reports “Social media awash with scorn for ‘sloping toilet'”.

A toilet designed to slope downwards slightly, making it uncomfortable to sit on for more than a few minutes, has been pooh-poohed on social media.

The toilet design has an upper surface that slopes downwards at a 13-degree angle.

…The BBC spoke to Mr Gill about the toilet, which has been branded “StandardToilet”.

“It came from my personal experience where I stopped off at the motorway to go to the loo and realised there’s a huge queue,” he explained.

“I wondered what people were doing in there, some were coming out with their mobile phones.”

(15) MAKE UP YOUR OWN FACTS. Discover “The Incalculable Joy of Fermi Questions” at Math With Bad Drawings. Numerous examples in the post.

 … Since Fermi questions are so fun and useful, why aren’t they more widely taught? Why isn’t every middle school student doing one of these per week all year long?

I suspect a prosaic reason: they’re hard to grade fairly. Math education is accustomed to cut-and-dry answers. Fermi work is more like an essay, where there are many plausible answers, and reasoning trumps conclusions.

All the more reason to embrace them, I say!

(16) TRACING ANIMATION HISTORY. Alan Baumler recommends Daisy Yan Du’s Animated Encounters: Transnational Movements of Chinese Animation, 1940s–1970s (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2019) in “Princess Iron Fan and the origins of Asian animation”.

… One of the reasons the film is so famous is that Tezuka Osamu the “God of Manga”saw it in Japan as a kid and was profoundly influenced by it. In discussing his version of the Sun Wukong story he said

However, what really opened my eyes , impressed me deeply, and sparked my desire to create today was Princess Iron Fan, the first Chinese animated feature film., which premiered in Japan in 1942. (pg. 58)

… Du gives the background on inspiration for the film (Disney’s Snow White) , but most interestingly, for me at least, deals with how it ended up being shown in Japan and becoming, in some respects, the origin story of Asian animated film. It was the direct inspiration for Momotar?’s Sea Eagles (p.52), Japan’s first almost feature length animated film.

She also deals with what to make of Iron Fan, which was a big issue for the film at the time. It was made by the Wan brothers and a team of 250 artists starting on April 25, 1940. The film opened on Nov 19, 1941, in Shanghai. As you can see below, it was still running on Dec 8, 1941, when Japanese troops marched into the International Settlement and French Concession….

(17) BAD RAP. Who even thinks of stuff like this? “Thanos vs J Robert Oppenheimer” — Epic Rap Battles of History does.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/17/19 After the Police Bread, What Can You Expect?

(1) DESPITE CODES OF CONDUCT. In a post for Medium, Erica Friedman and J. Lynn Hunt count off the many reasons “Why Anime Conventions Are Still Inviting Sexual Predators As Guests”. They hit a lot of familiar problems, and explain them concisely.

…Here’s why.

1)Lack of Training
2) Policies Without Procedures
3) Lack of Organizational Memory
4) Tribalism
5) Misogyny
6) Financial Incentive

Let’s look at each of these in order.

Lack of Training
Con chairs are usually mostly-untrained volunteers with a staff of untrained volunteers. Even the largest cons tend to draw chairs from their own volunteers, so there’s no competence required beyond years of experience and your team of volunteers not walking out on you. No one receives training in sexual harassment policies, or, frankly, anything. Worse, many of the leadership structures in conventions encourages those seeking power and rewards those willing to be assholes. In our experience, we’ve seen volunteers who exploit or abuse their staff allowed to continue because no one feels comfortable removing them from that position. As people around them leave, they rise in the ranks, filling holes they cause. Abusive and exploitative leaders report to no one, especially at small conventions that are privately funded. AnimeMidwest is a perfect example of this. Having been banned from one con, [Ryan] Kopf created his own. Who will be in a position to police him? No one….

(2) TOMORROW THROUGH THE PAST. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll introduces the panel to “A Matter of Proportion” by Ann Walker and gets a good range of responses.  

In general, classic SF wasn’t particularly interested in fiction about the disabled, except perhaps as a first step towards a new life as brain-a-jar piloting a space ship or a cyborg covert operative, or to justify testing Phillips’ experimental regeneration treatment on a Lensman. In A Matter of Proportion, Walker focuses on the challenges facing a disabled individual in a world not particularly invested in accommodating their needs. Anne Walker is an author new to me, one I discovered thanks to Rediscovery, Volume 1. This story convinced me I need to seek out more of her work.

(3) TOY LAUNCH. BBC serves up a slice of genre marketing history: “Star Wars: The Leicestershire factory at the centre of a toy galaxy”.

…But initially, with no guarantee that the first film would be a box office success, let alone spawn a smash-hit series, and with no actual toys or market data to show potential buyers, Palitoy had a tough job to convince retailers to invest.

“You have to remember, this was a film people weren’t sure about… they were reluctant to take stuff because it was what they thought was a B-movie – you know, science fiction, all that business,” said Bob Brechin, the firm’s chief designer.

Salvation came in the form of Action Man. Retailers were offered discounts on the firm’s hugely popular soldier figures if they would take Star Wars toys.

Sales manager John Nicholas recalled how one chain’s whisky-loving buyer was handed a bottle of Scotch and asked how many Star Wars figures he wanted.

About half an hour later, and with a third of the bottle gone, he had decided. He would take a million.

“Well, it was my biggest order ever. I’ve never taken an order for that, and, you know, when Woolworths came along and said, ‘All right, I’ll have 100,000’, it was ‘Oh, is that all?’.”

(4) SPEAKING OF CREDENTIALS. I’d love to get another Cats Sleep on SFF entry to see the year out!

(5) THE RESISTANCE. Phillip Pullman not only discusses the poem, but interrogates what prevents many people from enjoying poetry in general: “The Sound and the Story, Exploring the World of Paradise Lost” at The Public Domain Review.

A correspondent once told me a story — which I’ve never been able to trace, and I don’t know whether it’s true — about a bibulous, semi-literate, ageing country squire 200 years ago or more, sitting by his fireside listening to Paradise Lost being read aloud. He’s never read it himself; he doesn’t know the story at all; but as he sits there, perhaps with a pint of port at his side and with a gouty foot propped up on a stool, he finds himself transfixed.

Suddenly he bangs the arm of his chair, and exclaims “By God! I know not what the outcome may be, but this Lucifer is a damned fine fellow, and I hope he may win!”

Which are my sentiments exactly.

I’m conscious, as I write this essay, that I have hardly any more pretensions to scholarship than that old gentleman. Many of my comparisons will be drawn from popular literature and film rather than from anything more refined….

(6) WATCHMEN EFFECTS FEATURETTE. I don’t know if there are any spoilers – caveat emptor!

The visual effects on Watchmen are a thermodynamic miracle. See how we brought you squid attacks, clones, and Europa

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 17, 1973 Sleeper premiered. Directed by Woody Allen, starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, and written by him, it was made as a tribute to Groucho Marx and Bob Hope. Sleeper was awarded the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II. It was equally well received among critics and reviewers, indeed it currently holds a hundred percent rating among the latter at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 17, 2010 Tron: Legacy premiered. It was directed by Joseph Kosinski, in his feature directorial debut, from a screenplay written by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, based on a story by Horowitz, Kitsis, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. It is a sequel to Tron, whose director Steven Lisberger returned to produce. The cast includes Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprising their roles as Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley.  It did decently at the box Office, got deciedly mixed reviews among critics and currently holds a 51% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 17, 1903 Erskine Caldwell. He’s listed by ISFDB as having only two SFF pieces, both short stories, of which one, and no I’m kidding, is titled “Advice About Women”. It was published in The Bedside Playboy as edited by a certain Hugh Hefner and published of course on Playboy Press in 1963. Fredric Brown, Ray Bradbury, Avram Davidson, Richard Matheson and Robert Sheckley were the SSF writers present therein. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As Barbara Wright, she was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) She’d play another character later in the series. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazinetheSF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton whose Birthday was noted here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed? I find it really impressive that he attended every WorldCon from except one, from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (Died 2005.)
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 73. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film. Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of films including Leviathan, Shark Attack, Hood of Horror, Dragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume!, as he voiced Lucius Fox in Batman: Bad Blood.
  • Born December 17, 1953 Bill Pullman, 66. First SF role was as Lone Starr in Spaceballs, a film I’ll freely admit I watched but once which was more than enough.  He next appears in The Serpent and the Rainbow which is damn weird before playing the lead in the even weirder Brain Dead. Now we come to Independence Day and I must say I love his character and the film a lot.   Post-Independence Day, he went weird again showing up in Lake Placid which is a lot of fun and also voiced Captain Joseph Korso in the animated Titan A.E. film. Which at least in part was written by Joss Whedon.   He reprises his Thomas J. Whitmore character in Independence Day: Resurgence which I’ve not seen. 
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 46. Director responsible for the superb Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi  and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. 
  • Born December 17, 1974 Sarah Paulson, 45. She’s most likely best known for being Bunny Yeager in The Notorious Betty Paige, but she has solid genre creds having acted in Serenity, The Spirit, Bird Box, Abominable, American Gothic and Glass. She was in seven series of American Horror Story playing at least fifteen different characters. And she’s Nurse Ratched in the upcoming Ratched series.
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 44. First SFF appearence was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me when I watch it. She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is five films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Miliday de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy. 
  • Born December 17, 1993 Kiersey Clemons, 26. There’s a Universe in which films exist in which performers actually performed the roles they were hired for. Case in point is her who was Iris West is Justice League but all her scenes were deleted. You can see hose scenes in the extras of course. She has other genre creds including being in the reboot of Flatliners (saw the original but this one), in the live action version of Lady and the Tramp which is at least genre adjacent, and Lucy in Extant, a series produced by Steven Spielberg. 

(9) GET IN ON THE DRAWING. Standback is so enthusiastic about “The Outspoken Authors Bundle, curated by Nick Mamatas” for Storybundle that he’s organized his own giveaway.

(10) EAT YOUR VEGGIES, OR VICE-VERSA. Plants in Science Fiction: Speculative Vegetation – I love the title. The essay collection, edited by Katherine E. Bishop, will be released by the University of Wales Press in May 2020.

Plants have played key roles in science fiction novels, graphic novels, and film. John Wyndham’s triffids, Algernon Blackwood’s willows, and Han Kang’s sprouting woman are just a few examples. Plants surround us, sustain us, pique our imaginations, and inhabit our metaphors – but in many ways they remain opaque. The scope of their alienation is as broad as their biodiversity. And yet, literary reflections of plant-life are driven, as are many threads of science fictional inquiry, by the concerns of today. Plants in Science Fiction is the first-ever collected volume on plants in science fiction. Its original essays argue that plant-life in SF is transforming our attitudes toward morality, politics, economics, and cultural life at large; questioning and shifting our understandings of institutions, nations, borders, and boundaries; erecting – and dismantling – new visions of utopian and dystopian futures

(11) IN MEALS TO COME. Coincidentally, the journal Science asked young scientists to write an advertisement that answers this question: “How will food options, food availability, and individuals’ food choices change in the future?” Their answers were decidedly SFnal. “Foods of the future” [PDF file.] For example —

Health food

Tired of managing your diet? Health Capsule provides non-invasive, cognitive control of your hunger, satiation, and weight. Made possible by deep brain stimulation and neuromodulation technology, this environmentally sustainable capsule will keep you healthy and fit while satisfying all your cravings. Put calculating your calories and carbon footprint behind you!

Saima Naz

 Pakistan.

Personalised diet

Send us your DNA, and we will predict your food preferences! Receive your personalized food basket, with a day-by-day diet program. We will send you full meals and personalized smoothies based on your genetic taste predisposition. We know what you love; it’s in your DNA.

Ada Gabriela Blidner

Laboratorio de Inmunopatología,

Argentina.

(12) EMPLOYEE THEFT! From Jimmy Kimmel Live, “Star Wars Cast on Premiere, Stealing from Set & Gifts from J.J. Abrams.”

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie & Keri Russell talk about the premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, gifts that J.J. gave them, what they stole from set, and they surprise the audience with IMAX movie tickets.

Followed by —

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell & Chewbacca from the cast of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker play #ForceFamilyFeud!

(13) WINDOW ON TRAVEL INTO CHINA. [Item by Bill.] Bunnie Huang is a well-known hardware hacker.  He goes to China annually with a group of MIT students to show them where the products they design will be built, and has written a “how-to” guide for navigating the Shenzen electronics district.  Most of it is specific to the electronics markets, but there is good information on getting around in China generally – internet limitations and work-arounds (p. 19), local customs (dress, tipping, etc.) (p. 20),  point-to-translate written material for getting around (p. 67), visas and border crossing (p. 84), etc. With all the recent discussion about China’s Worldcon bid, it might be a useful introduction. The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen [PDF file].

(14) ARCHAEOLOGICAL SUPERFUND SITE? In this case, we know why it was buried. “Israelis find rare Roman fish sauce factory”.

Israeli archaeologists have discovered the well-preserved remains of a 2,000-year-old factory for making garum, the fabled fish sauce that the Romans took with them on all their journeys of conquest.

The Israel Antiquities Authority came across the small cetaria, or factory for making the prized sauce, while inspecting the site of a planned sports park on the outskirts of the southern city of Ashkelon, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reports.

The dig was funded by the local authorities, and young people and school children from the Ashkelon area came to help out.

It is one of the very few garum factories found in the eastern Mediterranean, despite the Romans’ long presence in the area and the premium they put on the pungent fermented sauce.

Most surviving examples are to be found in the Iberian Peninsula and southern Italy.

“We have something really unusual here,” Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Dr Tali Erickson-Gini told The Times of Israel, as the Romans added garum to almost all their dishes to give them a salty savoury kick.

“It’s said that making garum produced such a stench that cetariae were located some distance from the towns they served, and in this case the factory is about two kilometres from ancient Ashkelon,” Dr Tali Erickson-Gini said, according to Kan.

(15) FACIAL RECONSTRUCTION. “DNA from Stone Age woman obtained 6,000 years on” – image at the link.

This is the face of a woman who lived 6,000 years ago in Scandinavia.

Thanks to the tooth marks she left in ancient “chewing gum”, scientists were able to obtain DNA, which they used to decipher her genetic code.

This is the first time an entire ancient human genome has been extracted from anything other than human bone, said the researchers.

She likely had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

Dr Hannes Schroeder from the University of Copenhagen said the “chewing gum” – actually tar from a tree – is a very valuable source of ancient DNA, especially for time periods where we have no human remains.

“It is amazing to have gotten a complete ancient human genome from anything other than bone,” he said.

What do we know about her?

The woman’s entire genetic code, or genome, was decoded and used to work out what she might have looked like. She was genetically more closely related to hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe than to those who lived in central Scandinavia at the time, and, like them, had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

(16) ECUMENICAL. “Gloas and Cruinlagh: Planet and star become first with Manx names” reports BBC.

A star and planet will be given Manx Gaelic names for the first time after being chosen in an international competition.

The star WASP-13 will be known as Gloas (which means ‘to shine’) and the planet WASP-13b as Cruinlagh (‘to orbit’).

A class of Manx eight and nine-year-olds came up with the names for a competition run by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Professor Robert Walsh said they had made their “mark on the universe”.

The names were chosen due to their “sense of mystery” after taking 20% of 15,000 votes cast by members of the public.

(17) LINE ITEM. Popular Mechanics proclaims “The Space Force Will Become the Sixth Branch of the U.S. Military”. Will it be the right kind of smoke and mirrors?

It’s really happening. A bipartisan budget agreement for 2020 will see the creation of a new branch of the military specifically oriented towards space. The United States Space Force will be the first new service branch in more than 60 years, tasked to ensure America’s freedom to operate in outer space—or take space away from somebody else.

According to a draft of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Agreement, also known as the 2020 U.S. defense budget, the Pentagon will redesignate the U.S. Air Force’s Space Command the U.S. Space Force, spinning it off from an arm of the Air Force into a separate service.

The service will be headed by a Chief of Space Operations, similar to how the U.S. Navy is headed by a Chief of Naval Operations and consist of “the space forces and such assets as may be organic therein.” That’s pretty ambiguous language but probably means most of the Air Force’s space assets, from satellite launching facilities like Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to spacecraft ground control bases like Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. It’ll also include america’s network of GPS satellites, the X-37B spaceplane, and other military space assets. The Space Force will also likely strip away a smaller number of assets and personnel from the U.S. Army and Navy.

(18) A FEW WOODS FROM OUR SPONSOR. Somebody has taken care of making a bunch of cute sequels to these commercials: “Geico makes sequels to popular Pinocchio, racoons and woodchucks ads” at The Drum.

…Six humorous spots from The Martin Agency continue where the originals left off. Pinocchio continues his lying ways in two spots. One finds him pulled over by a cop and his nose grows as he tries to fib his way out of a ticket to no avail. The other finds his lengthening wooden nose becoming a problem as he lies on a first date he booked on a dating app….

You can access the playlist if you click through this video to YouTube.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Bill, N., 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 with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]