Pixel Scroll 4/3/20 Andy Warhol, Pixel Scroll, Can’t Tell Them Apart At All

(1) THE CONLINE LIFE. NYC area convention HELIOsphere is running online this weekend. Here’s how to locate the schedule and tap into the programming.

When we had to cancel HELIOsphere 2020 because of the coronavirus, we were sad. And, we were bored. So, this weekend, we bring to you:

HELIOsphere: Beyond the Corona! (a virtual event)

Join us while we all #StayHome! We unfortunately had to cancel our in-person event this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still gather together online for some presentations, panels, games, and lots of filk! Check for the latest schedule and Zoom and Discord links. And finally, stay safe and healthy, everyone! We want to see you all in person next year!

(2) NOT MAKING BOOK. Writer and editor Beth Meacham updated Facebook readers with the current struggles of the publishing industry.

I want to talk for a minute about why publishing is in so much trouble right now. It’s way more complicated than most people seem to think.

First, you need to know that the vast majority of our business remains in hardcover and paperback books. Hard copies, physical objects. The second strongest sector has been audio books. Ebooks are a distant third.

Selling books is a very long and complicated supply chain. Ignore editorial — writers and editors can work at a distance and electronically. It really starts with the paper. Storing paper for the big presses takes an enormous amount of warehouse space, which costs money. Printers don’t store a lot — they rely on a “just in time” supply chain so that when a book is scheduled to go to press, the paper is delivered to the printer. Most of that paper is manufactured in China. Guess what isn’t coming from China? Anything, for the last three months. Some of it comes from Canada. Guess what the Trump administration put a big tariff on at the beginning of the year?

So, we don’t have adequate paper supplies. Then consider, big printing plants are not “essential businesses”…. 

(3) RITE GUD. The latest episode of the Rite Gud podcast is up. In it, R.S. Benedict talks to horror writer Gretchen Felker-Martin about Isabel Fall’s controversial story “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” and about the need to make space for messy, difficult, transgressive queer fiction. “Transgressive Queer Fiction and the Right to Be Messy”

(4) RAILING AGAINST FATE. Prepare to brace…. Snowpiercer, starring Oscar® winner Jennifer Connelly and Tony Award® winner Daveed Diggs premieres May 17.

Set more than seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland, Snowpiercer centers on the remnants of humanity who inhabit a perpetually moving train, with 1001 cars, that circles the globe. Class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival play out in this riveting television adaptation based on the graphic novel series and film from Oscar® Winner Bong Joon Ho (Parasite).

(5) LBJ’S WALKERS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The U.S. National Archives blog Text Message reveals the behind-the-scenes story of how the government tried to build AT-AT style walking war machines in the 1960s. It’s an interesting story, and the images they’ve posted are amazing“Bringing Sci-Fi to Life: The Walking War Machines of ARPA and G.E.” 

One has only to look to the 1980 movie Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back to see the relationship between science fiction and scientific research to recognize the surviving creative influence of the ambulating quadruped transporter.

(6) ELUSIVE QUARRY. James Davis Nicoll reads a lot – and there are even more books he’d read, if he could! “SFF Books That Are Hard to Track Down in North America” at Tor.com.

…It can be frustrating to have heard of an interesting book, to want to read that book, and to find that it is available ONLY in an imported edition. Well, at least it’s available (failing a breakdown in global trade networks, and how likely is that)…but it may take longer to get the book and the book may be more expensive.

You may be wondering why I am vexed about this. Allow me to list a few books that I wanted to acquire and that were not available in North American editions, as far as I can tell.

(7) BY THAT SPECIAL GLINT IN THEIR…UM. “Proof of Life: How Would We Recognize an Alien If We Saw One?” Tagline: “Some day, astrobiologists will need to answer that question – if they’re lucky.”

…One thing that sets life apart from nonlife is its apparent design. Living things, from the simplest bacteria to the great redwoods, have vast numbers of intricate parts working together to make the organism function. Think of your hands, heart, spleen, mitochondria, cilia, neurons, toenails – all collaborating in synchrony to help you navigate, eat, think and survive. The most beautiful natural rock formations lack even a tiny fraction of the myriad parts of a single bacterial cell that coordinate to help it divide and reproduce. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 3, 1953 — In London, The War Of The Worlds based on the H.G. wells novel had its very first theatrical showing. It was the recipient of a 1954 Retro-Hugo Award at Noreascon 4 in 2004.  It was produced by George Pal, and directed by Byron Haskin. It starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. It was deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant in 2011 by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. 
  • April 3, 1968 Planet Of The Apes had it a full U.S. wide release after several smaller city wide openings. It was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. It starred Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly and Linda Harrison. The screenplay was by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, and was somewhat based on Pierre Boulle‘s La Planète des Singes. It was not on the final Hugo ballot in either 1968 or 1969 for Best Dramatic Presentation, though it was met with critical acclaim and is widely regarded as a classic film and one of the best films of 1968. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an 87% rating with over 117,000 having expressing an opinion! 
  • April 3, 1998 — The rebooted Lost In Space film premiered. Produced by Mark W. Koch, Stephen Hopkins, Akiva Goldsman and Carla Fry, it was directed by Stephen Hopkins from a script by Akiva Goldsman based on ideas by Irwin Allen. It was universally panned by critics on release, it lost enough money to kill the planned sequel and it received a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Remake or Sequel, but lost to the tied GodzillaThe Avengers and Psycho. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 24% rating. 
  • April 3, 1999 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World first aired on TNT.  It starred Peter McCauley, Rachel Blakely, William Snow, David Orth, Jennifer O’Dell and Michael Sinelnikoff. Produced in Australia, it would run for three seasons and last for sixty six episodes. The never produced fourth season would have featured guest appearances of two other Arthur Conan Doyle characters, Holmes and Moriarty. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 3, 1927 Donald M. Grant. He was responsible for the creation of several genre small press publishers. He co-founded Grant-Hadley Enterprises in 1945, Buffalo Book Company in 1946, Centaur Press in 1970 and Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. in 1964. Between 1976 and 2003, he won five World Fantasy Awards and a Balrog Award as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born April 3, 1928 Colin Kapp. He’s best remembered  for his stories about the Unorthodox Engineers which originally largely appeared in the New Writings in SF anthologies. I’d also single out his Cageworld series which is set in the future when humanity lives on nested Dyson spheres. Both series are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 2007.)
  • Born April 3, 1929 Ernest Callenbach. Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston was rejected by every major publisher so Callenbach initially self-published it. Ecotopia Emerging is a prequel and sequel as well published later. Yes, I read both. As such fiction goes, they’re ok. Nothing spectacular, characters flat and writing style pedestrian.  If you can find a copy, Christopher Swan’s YV 88: An Eco-Fiction of Tomorrow which depicts the rewilded Yosemite Valley is a much more interesting read. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 3, 1946 Lyn McConchie, 74. New Zealand author who has written three sequels in the Beast Master series that Andre Norton created and four novels in Norton’s Witch World as well. She has written a lot of Holmesian fiction, so I’ll just recommend her collection of short stories, Sherlock Holmes: Familar Crimes: New Tales of The Great Detective. She’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born April 3, 1958 Alec Baldwin, 62. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve see him in Beetlejuice as Adam Maitland since it’s one of my favorite films, period. Despite those who don’t like The Shadow and him in his dual role of Lamont Cranston and The Shadow, I’m quite fond of it. Let’s just skip past any mention of The Cat in the Hat… Ahhhh Rise of the Guardians where he voices Nicholas St. North is quite fantastic. Another go to, feel good film for me. He’s Alan Hunley in some of the Mission: Impossible franchise, a series I think I’ve only seen the first two films of. And here’s a weird one — the US. run of Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends replaced the U.K. narrator, some minor musician no one had ever heard of by the name of Ringo Starr, with him. 
  • Born April 3, 1961 Eddie Murphy, 59. He’s got a long history in genre starting with The Golden Child and going on to include Wes Craven’s Vampire in BrooklynThe Nutty Professor films, Mulan, the Dr. Dolittle films, the Shrek franchise and The Haunted Mansion
  • Born April 3, 1962 James R. Black, 58. I’d like to say he’s best known for his leading role as Agent Michael Hailey on The Burning Zone but since it was short-lived and I’m not sure anyone actually watched it on UPN that might be stretching reality a bit. If you like great popcorn viewing, The Burning Zone is certainly worth seeing. Prior to his run on that series, he’s got a number of one-offs including Babylon 5Deep Space 9, The SentinelSpace: Above and Beyond with his first genre role being Doctor Death in Zombie Cop.
  • Born April 3, 1970 Jo Graham, 50. Her first novel, Black Ships, re-imagines The Aeneid, and her second novel, Hand of Isis, features the reincarnated main character of the first novel. If that‘s not enough genre cred for you, she’s written Lost Things, with Melissa Scott and a whole lot of Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1 novels.

(10) HELP IS ON THE WAY. Rick Kovalcik announced the results of the “Help Ben and Ireland Hatcher” GoFundMe on March 31:

Two money orders totaling $1661 (since USPS money orders are limited to $1000) went out by Priority Mail to Ben Hatcher today.

(11) NEW WORLD ORDER. SYFY Wire’s Dana Forsythe talks to people trying to ride out the financial storm: “Comic Cons, Artists, And Fans Search For A Way Forward Amid Coronavirus Cancellations”.

…At the top, many convention organizers were caught between a rock and a hard place after C2E2 seemingly went off without a hitch from Feb. 28 through March 1. Without guidance from local (not to mention the federal) government, con creators were still bound by contract to hold these major events. By March 12, though, tough decisions were made simple as federal and state leaders alike declared emergencies and issued bans on large gatherings. With mandatory shelter in place orders now spreading, what happens now? While comic cons big and small fight to stay afloat, the artists, vendors, and support staff scramble for solutions.

Gary Sohmers is the organizer of the NorthEast Comic Con & Collectibles Extravaganza, which organizes two midsize cons that happen three times a year just outside of Boston. The cons usually attract about 4,000 attendees over three days with the average person spending about $100 on merchandise. Sohmers employs a small staff of 12 to 15 people and then usually hires a handful of service contractors per show. That’s not to mention thousands of dollars in marketing costs, he tells SYFY WIRE.

(12) SXSW 2020 SCREENINGS ONLINE. “Amazon will stream SXSW Film Festival selections for free for 10 days”Engadget has the story. Date still to be determined.

SXSW was cancelled this year due to COVID-19, but that isn’t stopping organizers from offering a taste of what the Austin event would have offered. They’re partnering with Amazon on an SXSW Film Festival Collection that will stream movies from the festival on Prime Video for 10 days, completely free in the US — you won’t need a subscription. While creators will have to opt in, they’ll receive a screening fee for their trouble. Amazon and SXSW are tentatively looking at a late April timeframe for the virtual festival.

(13) BRAIN-TO-TEXT! [Item by Daniel Dern.] From Slashdot: “Scientists develop AI that can turn brain activity into text”.

Two immediate (media) plot uses:

1, Superman 1, when Lois Lane, while being flown by Supes, is thinking, “Can you hear what I’m thinking”

2, Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist, for Zoe’s unable-to-speak dad (btw, this show is doing Good-Place-level exploration of Zoe’s ‘superpower’, including one bit, last week, too funny to spoil.)

3, Speechless, for JJ, also unable to talk.

(14) IT’S FREE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] More free watches/reads via io9.

Update: According to TrekCore, CBS All Access has expanded the free trial to 60 days with a second code, ENJOY. Enter both at checkout to get two months free, and if you’ve already done the first one you can extend it by going into My Account and entering ENJOY….

Scribt: In a press release, Scribt announced it’s making book, magazine, and audiobook services free for 30 days—without requiring folks to put down a credit card. All you have to do is visit the website to sign up. There’s a great collection of science fiction and fantasy books on there, as well as some self-help, healthy living, and mindfulness books for folks interested in that as well.

(15) HAPPY DEATH DAY. [Item by N.] Ladyknightthebrave’s video essay on the Happy Death Day movies. I used to dismiss these movies out of hand for their Blumhouse associations but based on the analysis/scenes featured here, they appear to be supremely underrated.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/1/20 When I Was Babel-17, It Was A Very Good Scroll

(1) NO FOOLING. One of the most famous warships that never was – but what kind was it? “HMS Thunderchild – A bad day to be a Tripod,” at Drachinifel. (Here’s a portfolio of related designs by Baron-Engel, “HMS Thunderchild”, at DeviantArt.)

My attempt to answer the question, just what exactly was HMS Thunderchild?

(2) BUDRYS ASSEMBLED. David Langford’s Ansible Editions has released Beyond the Outposts: Essays on SF and Fantasy 1955-1996, a collection of Algis Budrys’s standalone essays, reviews, appreciations, state-of-the-art reports, personal memoirs and thoughts on the mechanics of writing.

As noted in the latest Ansible, the Lulu coupon code LULU20 gives 20% off the paperback today and tomorrow (1 and 2 April). Published: April 2020 at $22.50. Ebook edition April 2020 at £5.50 . Approximately 211,000 words with index.

Among the major pieces here are “Paradise Charted”, a tour-de-force potted history of the science fiction genre that filled some seventy pages of the special SF issue of TriQuarterly magazine; “Literatures of Milieux”, a highly individual attack on the problem of defining our genre; the long series of “On Writing” columns written for Locus magazine; “Non-Literary Influences on Science Fiction”, exploring in disquieting depth how magazine stories were routinely cut, padded or rearranged for production reasons beyond the control of author or editor; and “Obstacles and Ironies in Science-Fiction Criticism”, casting a cold eye on the very thing that Budrys did best. Lighter notes are struck by mordant book and film reviews plus touches of sheer personal fun.

Here is Budrys’s 1980 “Diagram of All SF” which accompanied his potted history of the genre for TriQuarterly magazine.

(3) STOKERCON UK. The Horror Writers Association’s annual event, planned for the UK this year, has been postponed to August 6-9. More information here:

Further to our announcement last week, we wanted to inform the membership that, following further negotiations with the two convention hotels, they have finally agreed to issue refunds on the reservations of those who cannot make the proposed new dates of August 6–9, 2020 for STOKERCON UK. Unfortunately, as the hotels are closed at the moment due to the Government’s restrictions, this cannot happen immediately.

(4) PHANTOM ZONE. Wil Wheaton provides isolation entertainment: “Radio Free Burrito Presents: The Ghost of Harrowby Hall”. (The recording is on Soundcloud here.)

While I listen to medical professionals and practice self-quarantine at home, I’m making an effort to create and release free audio book shorts every few days. It’s a good way for me to stay connected to my creative self, when my everything else self is so anxious and scared, all it wants to do is hide under the blankets and play video games.

…Today’s reading is a satirical Victorian ghost story from the 1890s.

(5) HOLD THE DOOR! “Exploring the Four Types of Portal Narratives” by James Davis Nicoll at Tor.com.

Andre Norton understood the potential in doorways. A door could lead you from post-War Europe to the Witchworld, from a world where one is but an unwanted double to one where one can be a savior, from the world we know to ones where history played out very, very differently. In fact, portals and doorways are so common (see Judith Tarr’s ongoing Norton Reread series) that it’s odd none of her interstellar empires ever seemed to make use of them.

(6) DEVEREAUX OBIT. Cat Devereaux, the International Costumers’ Guild 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient, died today. Active in costume fandom since the early 1980’s, when she reached a time in life where traveling to conventions far away became tougher, she created one of the largest free informational and costume-supportive websites on the Internet, Alley Cat Scratch Costume, with resources for costume design and sewing.

(7) JACK OBIT. BBC reports “Star Wars actor Andrew Jack dies aged 76”.

An actor and dialect coach who appeared in Star Wars and worked with A-list celebrities has died after contracting Covid-19, his agent has said.

Andrew Jack, 76, died in a Surrey hospital on Tuesday.

Agent Jill McCullough said she had been inundated with tributes to one of the acting world’s “brightest and clearest voices”.

She said Jack was unable to see his wife in his final days because she was quarantined in Australia.

His acting credits included The Last Jedi and the Force Awakens.

(8) TODAY’S DAY.

  • April 1 — The term “All Fools,” was probably meant as a deliberate stab at All Saints (November 1) and All Souls (November 2) Day. Although the origin of playing practical jokes and pranks on this day is hazy, many folklorists believe it may go back to 16th-century France. At that time, New Year’s Day was March 25, with a full week of partying and exchanging gifts until April 1. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar moved New Year’s Day to January 1. Those who forgot or refused to honor the new calendar were teasingly called, “April Fool!” Weather folklore states, “If it thunders on All Fools Day, it brings good crops of corn and hay.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 1, 1957 Kronos premiered. It was produced by Irving Block, Louis DeWitt, Kurt Neumann, and Jack Rabin, and directed by Kurt Neumann. It starred Jeff Morrow and Barbara Lawrence. It was shown as a double feature with She Devil. Critics were mixed on it with the Variety reviewer finding much to like in it. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 44% rating.  Despite it being on both Youtube and the Internet Archive, it is still under copyright having been renewed by legal rights holders,  so a link for viewing it will not be provided as those are pirated copies.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 1, 1875 Edgar Wallace. Creator of King Kong, he also wrote SF including Planetoid 127, one of the first parallel Earth stories, and The Green Rust, a bioterrorism novel which was made into a silent film called The Green Terror. Critics as diverse as Orwell, Sayers and Penzler have expressed their rather vehement distaste for him.  Kindle has an impressive number of works available. (Died 1932.)
  • Born April 1, 1916 Mary, Lady Stewart (born Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow, lovely name that). Yes, you know her better as just Mary Stewart. Genre wise, she’s probably best known for her Merlin series which walks along the boundary between the historical novel and fantasy. Explicitly fantasy is her children’s novel A Walk in Wolf Wood: A Tale of Fantasy and Magic. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 1, 1926 Anne McCaffrey. I read both the original trilogy and what’s called the Harper Hall trilogy oh so many years ago. Enjoyed them immensely. No interest in the later works she set there. And I confess that I had no idea she’d written so much other genre fiction! (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 1, 1930 Grace Lee Whitney. Yeoman Janice Rand on Star Trek. She would reach the rank of Lt. Commander in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Folks, I just noticed that IMDB says she was only on eight episodes of Trek. It seemed like a lot more at the time. Oh, and she was in two video fanfics, Star Trek: New Voyages and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 1, 1942 Samuel R. Delany, 78. There’s no short list of recommenced works for him as everything he’s done is brilliant. That said I think I’d start off suggesting a reading of Babel- 17 and Dhalgren followed by the Return to Nevèrÿon series. I think his only Hugo win was in the Short Story category at Heicon ’70  for “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones”  as published  in New Worlds, December 1968.
  • Born April 1, 1953 Barry Sonnenfeld, 67. Director of The Addams Family and its sequel Addams Family Values  (both of which I really like), the Men in Black trilogy (well, one out of three ain’t bad) and Wild Wild West. He also executive produced Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events which I’ve not seen, and did the same for Men in Black: International, the recent not terribly well-received continuation of that franchise. 
  • Born April 1, 1960 Michael Praed, 60. Robin of Loxley on Robin of Sherwood which no doubt is one of the finest genre series ever done of a fantasy nature. He also played Phileas Fogg on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, an amazing series that I think ever got released on DVD. 
  • Born April 1, 1963 James Robinson, 57. Writer, both comics and film. Some of his best-known comics are the series centered on the Justice Society of America, in particular the Starman character he co-created with Tony Harris. His Starman series is without doubt some of the finest work ever done in the comics field. His screenwriting not so much. Remember The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Well that’s him. 
  • Born April 1, 1970 Brad Meltzer, 50. I’m singling him for his work as a writer at DC including the still controversial Identity Crisis miniseries and his superb story in the Green Arrow series from issues 16 to 21 starting in 2002.  He and artist Gene Ha received an Eisner Award for Best Single Issue (or One-Shot) for their work on issue #11 of Justice League of America series. 

(11) KYLE REMEMBERED. The First Fandom Annual, 2019 David A. Kyle: A Life Of Science Fiction Ideas And Dreams is available.  A centenary tribute to David A. Kyle, the annual is edited by John L. Coker III and Jon D. Swartz. Includes:

  • Foreword by Forrest J Ackerman
  • Introduction by Frederik Pohl
  • Afterword by Robert A. Madle
  • Bibliography by Christopher M. O’Brien

(128) pages in two volumes. Limited to 26 lettered copies. Laser-printed on 28 # paper. Photos and illustrations, 8½ x 11. Gloss color covers, booklet-stapled. Each set has a label signed by Kyle. To reserve a copy: jlcoker3@bellsouth.net. Order your set by sending check or M.O. for $60 (includes packing, priority postage and insurance) payable to John L. Coker III at 4813 Lighthouse Road, Orlando, FL – 32808.

(12) ABOVE THE SKY. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus has a book out. His Journey Press has released Kitra — a YA Space Adventure.

Nineteen-year-old Kitra Yilmaz dreams of traveling the galaxy like her Ambassador mother. But soaring in her glider is the closest she can get to touching the stars — until she stakes her inheritance on a salvage Navy spaceship.

On its shakedown cruise, Kitra’s ship plunges into hyperspace, stranding Kitra and her crew light years away. Tensions rise between Kitra and her shipmates: the handsome programmer, Fareedh; Marta, biologist and Kitra’s ex-girlfriend; Peter, the panicking engineer; and the oddball alien navigator, Pinky.

Now, running low on air and food, it’ll take all of them working together to get back home.

Journey Press has also published the well-received collection Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963).

(13) TOUGH NEIGHBORHOOD. Hey, I thought my high school was dangerous. But compared to Gotham High?

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Alex and Eliza and The Witches of East End comes a reimagining of Gotham for a new generation of readers. Before they became Batman, Catwoman, and The Joker, Bruce, Selina, and Jack were high schoolers who would do whatever it took–even destroy the ones they love–to satisfy their own motives. After being kicked out of his boarding school, 16-year-old Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City to find that nothing is as he left it. What once was his family home is now an empty husk, lonely but haunted by the memory of his parents’ murder. Selina Kyle, once the innocent girl next door, now rules over Gotham High School with a dangerous flair, aided by the class clown, Jack Napier. When a kidnapping rattles the school, Bruce seeks answers as the dark and troubled knight–but is he actually the pawn? Nothing is ever as it seems, especially at Gotham High, where the parties and romances are of the highest stakes … and where everyone is a suspect.

(14) RIPPED TO SHREDS. Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait tells SYFY Wire readers: “It Looks Like A Star 750 Million Light Years Away *Was* Torn Apart By A Mid-Sized Black Hole”.

In 2006, the light from a ridiculously violent event reached Earth. Hugely diminished by the time it reached us, it started out as an extremely powerful blast of X-rays… but unlike events such as a typical supernova or other high-energy processes which come and go rather quickly, this one faded slowly, visibly dropping in brightness over the course of more than ten years.

Not too many things can behave this way, and the most common is also one of the scariest: An entire star being ripped to shreds by the gravity of a black hole.

(15) HOSPITAL SETUP. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] The process will look familiar to anyone who has done large-convention setup, but the purpose is more essential: “Transforming London’s ExCeL centre into Nightingale hospital”.

Timelapse footage has captured the transformation of London’s ExCeL centre into a temporary hospital for coronavirus patients.

The Nightingale Hospital is expected to be operational by the end of the week.

Five hundred beds are already in place and there is space for another 3,500.

(16) THEY WERE EVERYWHERE. Maybe not through walls, but “‘Dinosaurs walked through Antarctic rainforests'”.

Scientists drilling off the coast of West Antarctica have found the fossil remains of forests that grew in the region 90 million years ago – in the time of the dinosaurs.

Their analysis of the material indicates the continent back then would have been as warm as parts of Europe are today but that global sea levels would have been over 100m higher than at present.

The research, led from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Germany, is published in the journal Nature.

It’s emerged from an expedition in 2017 to recover marine sediments in Pine Island Bay.

AWI and its partners, including the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), used a novel cassette drill-mechanism called MeBo to extract core material some 30m under the seafloor.

When the team examined the sediments in the lab, it found traces of ancient soils and pollen and even tree roots.

…Seeing the White Continent as we do today with its kilometres-thick ice covering, it’s a challenge to the imagination to think of such productive conditions. But BAS director, Prof Jane Francis, says there have been several periods in Earth history when Antarctica’s great glaciers were absent.

This study, she says, represents the first evidence for Cretaceous forests so close to the South Pole – just 900km away, at what would have been about 81-82 degrees South latitude.

“And, yes, there probably were dinosaurs in the forests,” she explained. “If you go to the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, you’ll find a whole range of fossils – things like hadrosaurs and sauropods, and primitive bird-like dinosaurs. The whole range of dinosaurs that lived in the rest of the world managed to get down to Antarctica during the Cretaceous.”

(17) KISS YOUR ASTERISK GOODBYE. The Root is sure “Samuel L. Jackson’s Spirited Reading of ‘Stay The F**k’ At Home’ Should Brighten Your Day”. The heavily-bleeped Jimmy Kimmel Show video reading starts at 6:10.

Jackson presented a new poem written by Adam Mansbach, the author of the Amazon bestseller Go the F**k to Sleep, titled “Stay the F**k At Home.” Jackson recorded the audiobook for Mansbach’s 2011 hit, a perfect choice given his frequent use of the cuss word throughout both his prolific film career and in his personal life. The original book served as an exasperated way to get Mansbach’s then two-year-old daughter to fall asleep, sparked in response to a Facebook post alluding to writing a book about his frustrations.

(18) TODAY’S OTHER PSA. Curb yourself already.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/31/20 Back In The Future I Was On A Very Famous Pixel Scroll

Illo by Teddy Harvia and Brad Foster.

(1) THE DOCTOR IS BACK IN. In 2013 Russell T. Davies was asked to write a magazine contribution filling in a blank about the Ninth Doctor’s regeneration. His piece got spiked – for Reasons. Read it now at the official Doctor Who blog: “Russell T Davies writes a prequel to Doctor Who – Rose.”

So I wrote this. It even starts mid-sentence, as if you’ve just turned to the last pages. Lee Binding created a beautiful cover. We were excited! And then Tom said, I’d better run this past Steven Moffat, just in case…

Oh, said Steven. Oh. How could we have known? That the Day of the Doctor would have an extra Doctor, a War Doctor? And Steven didn’t even tell us about Night of the Doctor, he kept that regeneration a complete surprise! He just said, sorry, can you lay off that whole area? I agreed, harrumphed, went to bed and told him he was sleeping on the settee that night.

So the idea was snuffed a-borning. Until 2020….

This chapter only died because it became, continuity-wise, incorrect. But now, the Thirteenth Doctor has shown us Doctors galore, with infinite possibilities.

All Doctors exist. All stories are true. So come with me now, to the distant reefs of a terrible war, as the Doctor takes the Moment and changes both the universe and themselves forever…

(2) FUTURE TENSE. The March 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Paciente Cero,” by Juan Villoro. Tagline: “A stirring short story about China turning Mexico into a massive recycling plant for U.S. garbage.”

It was published along with a response essay, “How China Turns Trash Into Wealth” by Adam Minter, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion and an expert on recycling and waste issues.

… Guo Guanghui, vice chairman of a scrap metal recycling trade association in Qingyuan, a thriving industrial town roughly two hours north of us, took the podium. Guo wanted to talk about a government policy that roughly translates as “going out,” designed to help Chinese businesses set up operations abroad. He thought it a good idea for the government to help recycling companies “go out” to foreign countries where they could buy up recyclables and ship them back to China. “We need to get rid of the ability of the other countries to control the resources,” he declared from the podium, “and seize them for ourselves.”

(3) EELEEN LEE Q&A. “Interview: Eeleen Lee, author of Liquid Crystal Nightingale”, with questions from Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson.

NOAF: What inspired you to write Liquid Crystal Nightingale? How different is the finished product from your original concepts?

EL: The novel began as a simple exercise years ago: write about a few fictional cities, in the style of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. As soon as I started writing about a city that looked like a cat’s eye from space I couldn’t stop at a few paragraphs. The style and tone were initially very literary, reminiscent of Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table and the layered stories of Jorges Luis Borges.

(4) IMPERILED CITY. Cate Matthews did an interview for TIME with N.K. Jemisin as “Author N.K. Jemisin On Race, Gentrification, and the Power of Fiction To Bring People Together.”

TIME: The tone of The City We Became is more light-hearted than much of your previous work, but the novel still addresses serious issues—including the perils of gentrification. Why did you want to tell this story?

Jemisin: I’ve always thought of my writing as therapy. I do have a therapist, but there was a time I couldn’t afford one and writing was the way I vented anger and stress and fear and longing and all of the things that I did not have a real-world outlet for. A lot of times I don’t really understand what it is that I’m trying to cope with until after I’ve finished the book. With the Broken Earth trilogy, I realized belatedly that I was processing my mom’s imminent death. She did pass away while I was writing The Stone Sky. Mid-life crises are not always triggered by getting old, they’re also triggered by an event. And Mom’s death did spur a period of [needing] to grow new things and try new things. I started to think about buying a house. I wasn’t going to be able to buy in Crown Heights, which was the New York neighborhood I had been in, because Crown Heights had hit, like, fourth stage gentrification. Over the time I was here, I watched it change.

(5) HIGH DUDGEON. Wendy Paris demands to know “If marijuana is essential during the coronavirus shutdown, why not books?” in an LA Times op-ed.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home edicts let dispensaries stay open but force bookshops to shutter indefinitely. Chevalier’s in Larchmont will take phone orders. Skylight Books in Los Feliz, Book Soup in West Hollywood and Vroman’s in Pasadena are “closed temporarily” but forwarding online orders to Ingram, a wholesaler that will ship direct to buyers. The Last Bookstore, downtown, is seeing customers by appointment.

…Books are essential goods and that ought to mean bookstores are exempt from shutting down during the coronavirus pandemic. As are bread and milk, gas and aspirin, alcohol and marijuana, books should be available, with safety precautions in place, at the usual places we buy them in our neighborhoods.

(6) WHILE THE GETTING IS GOOD. ShoutFactoryTV has made available the complete documentary released last year: “What We Left Behind: Looking Back At Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”.

Ira Steven Behr explores the legacy of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993).

(7) BE PREPARED. “Max Barry on how science fiction prepares us for the apocalypse” at BoingBoing.

My favorite theory on why we dream is that we’re practicing for emergencies. Asleep, unguarded, our minds conjure threats and dilemmas so that once we wake, we’ve learned something. Maybe not very much—maybe only what not to do, because it rarely goes well. But we learn more from our failures than our successes, and this is what our minds serve up, night after night: hypothetical dangers and defeats. Whether we’re fleeing a tiger or struggling to persuade a partner who won’t listen, we fail, but we also practice.

I suspect that’s also why we read fiction. We don’t seek escapism—or, at least, not only that. We read to inform our own future behavior. No matter how fanciful the novel, in the back of our minds, something very practical is taking notes….

(8) MORE TBR FODDER. Lucy Scholes points to another example of the kind of book a lot of people are seeking out lately: “What’s It Like Out?” in The Paris Review.

…Seems like none of us can get enough of stories that echo our current moment, myself included. Fittingly, though, as the author of this column, I found myself drawn to a scarily appropriate but much less widely known plague novel: One by One, by the English writer and critic Penelope Gilliatt.

Originally published in 1965, this was the first novel by Gilliat, who was then the chief film critic for the British newspaper the Observer. It’s ostensibly the story of a marriage—that of Joe Talbot, a vet, and his heavily pregnant wife, Polly—but set against the astonishing backdrop of a mysterious but fatal pestilence. The first cases are diagnosed in London at the beginning of August, but by the third week of the month, ten thousand people are dead….

(9) THE VIRTUE OF VIRTUAL. [Item by Mlex.] In light of the proposed “virtual cons” for Balticon and Worldcon 2020, CoNZealand, I wanted to suggest as a model a new conference that started on March 30th called “Future States,” about the history of periodical culture.

It was planned from the beginning as a “carbon neutral” event to be held completely online.  Now that I have logged in and see how it is set up, I am really impressed by the thought that went into it.

There are keynotes, panel sessions, and forums, which are neatly linked to the video presentations, and the Q&A sessions.  All of the participants can join in to pose questions and comment on the individual presentation threads. 

There is a also a Foyer and a Noticeboard, where you can contact the panelist, or for the con to push updates.  

For those planning virtual cons, take a look:  https://www.futurestates.org/

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 31, 1844 Andrew Lang. To say that he is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales is a bit of understatement. He collected enough tales that twenty five volumes of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books for children were published between 1889 and 1913. That’s 798 stories. If you’re interested in seeing these stories, you can find them here. (Died 1912.)
  • Born March 31, 1926 John Fowles. British author best remembered for The French Lieutenant’s Woman but who did several works of genre fiction, The Magus which I read a long time ago and A Maggot which I’ve not read. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 31, 1932 John Jakes, 88. Author of a number of genre series including Brak the Barbarian. The novels seem to fix-ups from works published in such venues as FantasticDark Gate and Dragonard are his other two series. As Robert Hart Davis, he wrote a number of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. novellas that were published in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. The magazine apparently only existed from 1966 to 1968.
  • Born March 31, 1934 Richard Chamberlain, 86. His first dive into our end of reality was in The Three Musketeers as Aramis, a role he reprised in The Return of Three Musketeers. (I consider all Musketeer films to be genre.) Some of you being cantankerous may argue it was actually when he played the title character in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold which he did some years later. He’s listed as voicing the Jack Kirby created character Highfather on the superb Justice League: Gods and Monsters but that was but a few lines of dialogue I believe. He was in the Blackbeard series as Governor Charles Eden, and series wise has done the usual one-offs on such shows as Alfred Hitchcock PresentsBoris Karloff’s ThrillerChuck and Twin Peaks
  • Born March 31, 1936 Marge Piercy, 84. Author of He, She and It which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction novel. Of course, she also wrote Woman on the Edge of Time doomed to be called a “classic of utopian speculative sf”. 
  • Born March 31, 1943 Christopher Walken, 77. Yet another performer whose first role was in The Three Musketeers, this time as a minor character, John Felton. He has a minor role in The Sentinel, a horror film, and a decidedly juicy one in Trumbull’s Brainstorm as Dr. Michael Anthony Brace followed up by being in Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone as Johnny Smith. Damn, I’d forgotten he was Max Zorin, the villain in A View to a Kill! H’h, didn’t know he was in Gibson’s New Rose Hotel but then I haven’t then I haven’t actually seen it yet. And let’s wrap this up by noting his appearance in The Stepford Wives as Mike Wellington.
  • Born March 31, 1960 Ian McDonald, 60. I see looking him up for this Birthday note that one of my favorite novels by him, Desolation Road, was the first one. Ares Express was just as splendid. Now the Chaga saga was, errr, weird. Everness was fun but ultimately shallow. Strongly recommend both Devish House and River of Gods. Luna series at first blush didn’t impress me me, so other opinions are sought on it.
  • Born March 31, 1971 Ewan McGregor, 49. Nightwatch, a horror film, with him as lead Martin Bell is his first true genre film.  That was followed by The Phantom Menace with him as Obi-Wan Kenobi, a role repeated in Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens. His latest role of interest, well to me if to nobody else, is as Christopher Robin in the film of the same name.

(11) GET YOUR GOJIRA FIX. “Resurfaced Godzilla Film Goes Viral for One Fan Playing All the Parts”Comicbook.com points the way. (The video is on YouTube here.)

We’ve been waiting for the final part of Legendary’s Monsterverse quadrilogy, Godzilla vs. Kong, for quite some time. Initially scheduled for a release this March before being moved to a Fall 2020 release (and potentially even more so if delays over the coronavirus pandemic continues into late in the year), there’s been a hunger for more of the Godzilla films ever since King of the Monsters released. But as it turns out, this has been a problem fans of the famous kaiju for several decades now as they continue to wait for the next big film of the franchise.

A fan film featuring the Kaiju from the 1990s has resurfaced online, and has gone viral among fans of the famous kaiju for featuring a single actor playing all of the roles. Even more hilariously, the actor not only continues to wear the same suit for each part but even takes on the roles of inanimate objects such as the electrical pylons as well. You can check it out in the video above:

(12) SIX PACK. Paul Weimer pages through “Six Books with Ryan Van Loan”, author of The Sin in the Steel, at Nerds of a Feather.

1. What book are you currently reading? 

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman. It’s about a newly minted thief who has to pay off their student loan debts to the guild (relatable), a witch-in training, and a kickass knight with a war raven who go on an adventure together. It’s dark, but delightful in a gritty way that hits some of my favorite adventure fantasy notes. Fans of Nicholas Eames, Douglas Hulick, and V.E. Schwab will enjoy this one…unfortunately Christopher’s fantasy debut doesn’t land on shelves until next year.

I hate when someone names a book that’s not out on shelves right now, so let me also plug the book I read before this one: The Steel Crow Saga by Paul Kreuger. It’s a tight, standalone fantasy–think Pokemon in the immediate aftermath of World War II with half a dozen richly imagined cultures that reminded me of southeast Asia and a cast who all have mysteries they hope none discover.

(13) NOT WORKING FROM HOME? NPR’s news isn’t fake, but can you count on that being true about the next item you read? “Facebook, YouTube Warn Of More Mistakes As Machines Replace Moderators”.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are relying more heavily on automated systems to flag content that violate their rules, as tech workers were sent home to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But that shift could mean more mistakes — some posts or videos that should be taken down might stay up, and others might be incorrectly removed. It comes at a time when the volume of content the platforms have to review is skyrocketing, as they clamp down on misinformation about the pandemic.

Tech companies have been saying for years that they want computers to take on more of the work of keeping misinformation, violence and other objectionable content off their platforms. Now the coronavirus outbreak is accelerating their use of algorithms rather than human reviewers.

(14) BUT SOME DISCRETION. Maybe you can! “Coronavirus: World leaders’ posts deleted over fake news”.

Facebook and Twitter have deleted posts from world leaders for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.

Facebook deleted a video from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that claimed hydroxychloroquine was totally effective in treating the virus.

He has repeatedly downplayed the virus and encouraged Brazilians to ignore medical advice on social distancing.

It follows Twitter’s deletion of a homemade treatment tweeted by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Both social networks rarely interfere with messages from world leaders, even when they are verifiably untrue.

Twitter, for example, says it will “will err on the side of leaving the content up” when world leaders break the rules, citing the public interest.

But all major social networks are under pressure to combat misinformation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

(15) TAIL TALES. Nerds of a Feather’s Adri Joy goes “Questing in Shorts: March 2020”. First up:

The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper by A.J. Fitzwater (Queen of Swords Press)

This collection, featuring a capybara pirate captain in a world full of anthropomorphic animals and magical creatures, is definitely more of a short fiction collection than a novel, but it’s also a bit of an odd duck when trying to review as short stories, as there’s a strong through narrative between each tale (or “tail”) that makes it hard to speak about them individually. After an opening story (the aptly titled “Young Cinrak”) that sees Cinrak take her first steps into piracy (in this world, apparently respectable career for those seeking freedom and a good community around them), the rest of the collection deals with her time as an established captain, taking on an increasingly mythological set of exploits, all while maintaining the affections of both opera prima donna Loquolchi, and the Rat Queen Orvillia, and looking after her diverse and entertaining crew of rodents and affiliated creatures…..

(16) HISTORY ON THE ROCKS. Pollution and politics were entangled even in ancient days; the BBC reports — “Thomas Becket: Alpine ice sheds light on medieval murder”.

Ancient air pollution, trapped in ice, reveals new details about life and death in 12th Century Britain.

In a study, scientists have found traces of lead, transported on the winds from British mines that operated in the late 1100s.

Air pollution from lead in this time period was as bad as during the industrial revolution centuries later.

The pollution also sheds light on a notorious murder of the medieval era; the killing of Thomas Becket…

(17) TUNE IN. Enjoy a BBC archival video clip: “John Williams scoring ‘Empire’, 1980”. (16 min.)

John Williams at work, preparing the score for The Empire Strikes Back. This Clip is from Star Wars: Music by John Williams. Originally broadcast 18 May 1980

(18) ICONOCLAST. Writing for CinemaBlend, Mick Joest shares what may prove to be a controversial opinion: “Face It, Luke Skywalker Peaked With The Death Star’s Destruction.”

With the Skywalker Saga now finished and opinions being handed out left and right in regards to the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, I think it’s time for a take that, frankly, is long overdue. During a recent re-watch of the Original Trilogy I had a blast and still love those movies as much as I ever have. That said, looking back now on all that’s come after and what came before, I don’t believe Luke Skywalker ever did anything greater than destroying the first Death Star.

That’s it, there’s the take, but of course I’m not going to just throw that out there and let the hellfire of disgruntled Star Wars fans rain down. I have a lot more to say about Luke Skywalker, his biggest achievement and how nothing he ever did after really came close to it…

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

Pixel Scroll 3/29/20 Look Around You… Can You Fashion Some Sort Of Rudimentary Lathe Of Heaven?

(1) IF YOU CAN’T DO THE TIME. Steven James “op-ed from the future” for the New York Times, “Criminals Should Serve Their Sentences Psychologically”, explains how that would work. (It’s part of a series in which sff authors and others write Op-Eds that “they imagine we might read five, 10, 50 or even 200 years from now.”)

…It’s time that we stop allowing our justice system to hand out sentences that we know a person cannot possibly serve. Imagine spending two thousand years in solitary confinement. That’s what we’re currently sentencing people to — we just don’t expect the prisoner to be alive to serve it. It has been argued that we should sentence someone for each crime committed (hence the 50-year sentences for every murder) to ensure that all victims’ families receive justice. I agree. The victims and their families deserve to see justice carried out. But these meaninglessly long sentences aren’t justice — they’re a mockery of it.

Yes, those who commit such abhorrent crimes deserve to be punished. And yes, they deserve to serve the entire sentences that they’re given. Otherwise, our criminal justice system would either be giving perpetrators prison terms that no one intends them to serve or sentences that could only be completed if they lived for thousands of years — neither of which is a rational pursuit of justice. We know that a person cannot live for dozens or hundreds of lifetimes, but what if they could perceive themselves to have lived that long? What if they could have the perception that thousands of years have passed?

(2) DONALDSON REDISCOVERED. What Adam Roberts thinks about “Stephen Donaldson, “The War Within” (2019)”, at Sibilant Fricative (found via Ansible Links.)

…The selling point of Lord Foul’s Bane, back in the day, was the way it elaborated a charming, hippyish Tolkienian fantasy realm (called ‘The Land’) only to flag-up horriblenesses of a kind Tolkien would never countenance—for example, Thomas Covenant, leperous visitor from our world and the series protagonist, starts his sojourn in The Land by raping someone. It was the first intimation of what was to become Grimdark, I suppose, although it would presumably read as thin stuff to today’s more committed and Sadean Grimdarkster.

The other notable thing about Donaldson was his prose, what David Langford somewhere calls his ‘knurred and argute vocabulary’, an attempt to elevate the idiom of Fantasy that crashes precipitously into the ceiling of the Ludicrous: ‘they were featureless and telic, like lambent gangrene. They looked horribly like children’ [White Gold Wielder] and the like.

…Now, though, Donaldson has stepped back from such gaudier excesses of style. Both volumes of his new Fantasy series, The Great God’s War [Seventh Decimate (2017) and The War Within (2019)] are written in a markedly plainer prose, a gambit in which the advantage of not being actively fucking ridiculous must be balanced against the disadvantage of positive dullness. Swings, we might say, and roundabouts, although in this instance there are rather more roundabouts than swings.

(3) TWO TO TWAIN UP. I linked to Lionel’s Star Trek train in January, but courtesy of Andrew Porter here’s a much better set of images to show what makes them entertaining.

This year, Lionel wanted to Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before” and offer an out-of-this-world line of iconic Star Trek offerings! Whether you are a lifetime Star Trek fan, or new to the fandom, our Star Trek LionChief Set and add on cars are sure to be some of the most classic pieces on your layout. Let your true Star Trek heart “Live Long and Prosper,” and don’t miss out on these amazing offerings.

(4) RECAP. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The Magicians S5E12: “Fillory’s Extraordinary Playlist” aired March 25 on Syfy.

(Actual title, “The Balls”) Not the final-final episode quite yet – this is the penultimate, with the season and series finale scheduled for April 1, 2020 — but this is the last musical episode. In this episode, as an unintended/unexpected side-effect of a group communications spell to aid in planning a heist, the gang periodically “goes full Glee,” with (unlike in Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist) all the under-the-influencers aware of what’s going on.

I’m only partway (and one musical number) into the episode so far, FWIW.

(5) ONE FIRST AFTER ANOTHER. Here’s video of Joe Siclari’s conversation with legendary First Fandom Hall of Famer Bob Madle at Philcon in 2013, via Fanac.org.

A science fiction reader and fan since the early 1930s, Bob Madle has been a part of the SF field for almost 90 years. He has done it all – he’s pubbed his ish, worked on conventions, been a TAFF fan fund winner, a worldcon Fan Guest of Honor, and one of the best known book dealers in science fiction. His encyclopedic command of the field is legendary. Bob is the one that named the Hugos (and he talks here about how the awards came to be). In this 2013 interview by fan historian Joe Siclari, Bob talks about it all, from his first entry into fandom to his experiences across the years.

(6) PENDERECKI OBIT. Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, whose original instrumental music was used in such genre films as The Exorcist and The Shining, has died at the age of 86. The Syfy WIRE tribute promises, “Even if his name doesn’t sound all that familiar, you’ve almost certainly heard his work in a famous movie before.”

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 29, 1968 Star Trek’s “Assignment: Earth” first aired as part of the second season. Guest starring Robert Lansing as Gary Seven and Terri Garr as Roberta Lincoln, our crew which has time-travelled to 1968 Earth for historical research encounters an interstellar agent and Isis, his cat, who are planning to intervene in Earth history. It was intended as a pilot for an Assignment: Earth series but that never happened. Interesting note: The uncredited human form of Isis was portrayed by actress, dancer, and contortionist April Tatro, not Victoria Vetri, actress (in Rosemary’s Baby under the name of Angela Dorian) and Playboy Playmate of the previous year, as would become part of Trek lore.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 29, 1930 John Astin, 90. He is best-known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising it on the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like to single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode. 
  • Born March 29, 1938 Barry Jackson. I’ve been good, with not a Doctor Who performer in several days, so now you’ll  get one. Or maybe several if I’m feeling generous. He appeared in the series during the time of the First Doctor, in “The Romans” and in “Mission to the Unknown” which served as a prelude to “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. He would also played Drax, a school pal of the Doctor, in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor.“ (Died 2013.)
  • Born March 29, 1943 Eric Idle, 77. Monty Python is genre, isn’t it? If not, I know that The Adventures of Baron MunchausenYellowbeardMonty Python and the Holy GrailQuest for CamelotShrek the Third and Nearly Departed, an updated version of Topper, which he all hand in certainly are. And it turns out he’s written a witty SF novel, The Road to Mars: A Post-Modern Novel, which involves an Android, comedy and interplanetary travel.
  • Born March 29, 1947 Patricia Anthony. Flanders is one damn scary novel. A ghost story set in WW I it spooked me for nights after I read it and I don’t spook easily. Highly recommended.  James Cameron purchased the movie rights to her Brother Termite novel and John Sayles wrote a script, but the movie has not been produced. (Died 2013.)
  • Born March 29, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 70. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in  GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at an airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film.
  • Born March 29, 1955 Marina Sirtis, 65. Counselor Deanna Troi in the Trekverse. Waxwork II: Lost in Time as Gloria is her true genre film role followed shortly by a one-off on the The Return of Sherlock Holmes series as Lucrezia. And then there’s her mid Nineties voice acting as Demona on Gargoyles, possibly her best role to date. Skipping some one-offs on various genre series, her most recent appearance was on Picard where she and Riker are happily married.
  • Born March 29, 1956 Mary Gentle, 64. Her trilogy of Rats and GargoylesThe Architecture of Desire and Left to His Own Devices is a stunning work of alternate history with magic replacing science. I also highly recommend her Grunts! novel. Gamers particularly will love it. She has a cyberpunk novel, Left To His Own Devices, but I’ve not read it. Who here has read it? 
  • Born March 29, 1957 Elizabeth Hand, 63. Not even going to attempt to summarize her brilliant career. I will say that my fav works by her are Wylding HallIllyria and Mortal Love. We did do an entire edition at Green Man on her and I need to update it to the present site. It’s got a neat conversation with her on what her favorite foods are. 
  • Born March 29, 1957 Yolande Palfrey. Yes, another Doctor Who performer. She was Janet in “Terror of the Vervoids”, a Sixth Doctor story. She was also in Dragonslayer as one of its victims, She was Veton in the “Pressure Point” episode of Blake’s 7 and she shows as Ellie on The Ghosts of Motley Hall series. She died far too young of a brain tumor. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 29, 1968 Lucy Lawless, 52. Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Cylon model Number Three D’Anna Biers on that Battlestar Galactica series. She also played Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg, the last of a line of Germanic witches on the Salem series. Her most recent genre role as Ruby Knowby, one of the Dark Ones, on the Ash vs Evil Dead series. Though not genre, she was Lucretia in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance. Let’s just say that her acting may not have been why folks watched those latter series to see her. 

(9) THINKING ABOUT OUR FRIEND, MICHAEL J. WALSH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] A character in the episode of The Frankie Drake Mysteries I saw yesterday was named “Michael Walsh.”  In the episode, first broadcast in Canada in 2018. Walsh was an authenticator at the Field Museum who was sent to Toronto to verify a rare piece of Incan pottery, except he was killed and someone pretending to be Walsh was going to show up and replace the real piece of pottery with a fake.

Such lines as “Michael Walsh is running the con” reminded me that renowned Baltimore fan Michael Walsh has chaired Worldcons and World Fantasy Cons.  My favorite line was “I want you to know that Michael Walsh is tucked away at the Bethany Funeral Home.”

(10) FROM NANO TO STAYHO. “StayHomeWriMo Rallies Writers”Poets & Writers has the link.

Writers around the globe are gathering—virtually—to raise their spirits and keep creating through an initiative called StayHomeWriMo. Sponsored by National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the organizers of the annual November write-a-thon in which authors pen a novel draft in a month, StayHomeWriMo invites writers to find comfort in their creativity and stay inside while the battle with COVID-19 continues.

The initiative launched on March 23 and will run “as long as it’s relevant,” says National Novel Writing Month’s executive director, Grant Faulkner. Each day writers can participate by visiting the StayHomeWriMo website or its social media channels for a daily checklist of four activities.

(11) STAY IN TOUCH. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron has a mission: “In these times of Covid-19 isolation we create online live sessions to explore interesting topics with interesting people.” Read descriptions and participant lists of planned offerings here.

(12) FREE MONTH-OF-STREAMING ACCESSES UPDATE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A growing number of channels/streaming sites are offering free shows or months. Here’s key info from The Boston Globe’s TV Critic Corner, “Free trials give you access to TV’s best, updated March 25, 2020)” (March 26, 2020 in the paper edition)

Some of this info and offers may not necessarily be new. (It’s a paywalled site, so I’m conveying the essential info)

Note: Probably they all require you to create and account and provide a credit card number. Based on pre-C experiences, I suggest that if you don’t plan to continue a subscription, do the cancellation by the end of Week 3, to allow the site’s processing time to digest your “thanks but don’t start charging me.”

Consider doing the cancel like a day after you sign up (but read the rules first). For example, according to The Verge, “CBS also allows you to cancel the plan immediately and still use the entire month…To do that, head over to the CBS All Access account page, scroll down to the ‘Subscription’ line of the ‘Subscription & Billing’ section, and hit ‘Cancel Subscription.'”

I’m including some of my own what-to-watch suggestions. (My apologies if I mis-remember what’s where.)

  • Netflix: Lost In Space.
  • Amazon: Bosch (from Michael Connolly’s books). The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Glow. The Boys. The Expanse.
  • CBS All Access (Free access through April 23, if I understand correctly, use “GIFT”, see https://t.co/i2IfFQN3I8 for more.) Star Trek: Picard. Star Trek: Discovery. The Good Fight (all 3 seasons) and more.
  • ACORN TV (Code FREE30): Murdoch Mysteries. Miss Fisher Mysteries (including the just-released Miss F movie.)
  • AMC’s Shudder (Code “SHUTIN” — scary and horror stuff, apparently.

(13) BEWARE PICARD SPOILERS. Interesting posts abound analyzing the conclusion of Picard’s first season. It’s possible that even quoting their headlines is too much – so YOU ARE WARNED!

(14) STAR TREK REVIVAL. This video should be safer – surely you’ve seen all these movies by now. (Or if you haven’t, won’t give a hoot.) “The Story of Star Trek’s Miraculous Resurrection – Movies with Mikey.”

Stardate 47634.44- Mikey discusses the resurrection of Star Trek after the cancellation of TOS, and examines all 6 of the original films.

(15) ‘BOY BRADBURY. Those who didn’t read Playboy for the articles may have missed these:

(16) AUCTION BLOCKAGE? Will the epidemic dampen interest in Profiles in History’s “The Alex Raymond Flash Gordon Auction”? The Hollywood Reporter questioned Profiles CEO Joe Maddalena, who says they’re moving into “uncharted territory.” “‘Flash Gordon’ Comic Strip Auction to Test Collectors Interest During Coronavirus Crisis”.

The pencil and ink art by Alex Raymond, the creator of the strip, is expected to sell in the range of $400,000 to $600,000 but its historical significance could push it higher.

Or at least it could have. With America now in the throes of the pandemic, auction houses don’t know how collectors are feeling.

“I could have seen this go for a million but now I don’ t know,” says Profiles CEO Joe Maddalena. “In the last 30 days the world has changed. We’re truly in uncharted territory.”

There is some sign for optimism. Last week, Heritage Auctions saw a rare 1933 poster for Universal Pictures’ The Invisible Man sell for $182,000, with spirited bidding that exceeded the initial estimates of $125,000.

(17) A LONG, LONG, TIME AGO RIGHT NOW. If you’re still looking for something to help you fill the idle hours… In the Washington Post, David Betancourt gives a definitive chronology of all the Star Wars movies, animations, comics, and TV shows, including what you should watch between episodes two and three and where the Star Wars comics fit in the grand scheme. “The ultimate guide to your Star Wars binge”.

…Now, when a lot of us are spending more hours indoors than ever, we have the entirety of the Star Wars entertainment catalogue at our fingertips. And with a new season of “The Mandalorian” not coming until this fall, revisiting the finer moments of this far away galaxy with a good stream or two doesn’t seem like the worst idea. Especially if your viewing of “The Rise of Skywalker” felt like a disturbance in The Force….

(18) GOODNIGHT FILE. Tuck yourself in and listen to “’Goodnight Moon’ as read by LeVar Burton to Neil deGrasse Tyson.” Arranged by @Audible,

(19) FUTURE READS. And there are other pleasures in store for followers of LeVar Burton Reads. “Neil Gaiman Gives LeVar Burton ‘Blanket Permission’ to Read His Stories Online”CBR.com has the story.

When Star Trek actor LeVar Burton took to Twitter to explain his fruitless efforts in trying to find public domain short stories to read to audiences at home, superstar scribe Neil Gaiman answered the call.

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

View Siam Sinfonietta Performances Free

The Siam Sinfonietta’s Somtow Sucharitkul tells how to view archival recordings of their performances free online.

Since our concerts are all postponed for a while, I’ve thought up a way to continue to bring classical music into the homes of our friends who are self-quarantined or otherwise unable to go out much while the crisis is going on. We’ve opened up our archive of thousands of hours of twenty years of concerts and created a 24/7 online TV station, OperaSiamTV.com.

We’re putting up something new every day at 8 pm our time, and rerunning it at times appropriate for our friends in other time zones. One of the concerts we’re sharing is our 2018 “Star Wars” concert where our kids played music from every “Star Wars” film that had appeared up to that time. The concert will be streamed at 8 p.m. Thai Time on Tuesday, then 12 a.m., 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Wednesday — I THINK there’s a 14 hour difference so it would be 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Tuesday for our friends in L.A. So — do let people know about it.

We do “scheduled” program 4 times a day (sometimes 3 if it’s a lengthy opera) and the rest of the time we play a selection of pieces from our archive on a rotating roster. Lot of cool stuff on this week — The Rite of Spring for instance. I’ll send you a note whenever I program something of interest to the SF community, like a fantasy-oriented opera.

Read more about Somtow’s Star Wars concert here.

Pixel Scroll 3/10/20 We Are The Pixels, My Friend, And We’ll Keep On Scrollin’, To The End

(1) BULLISH ON JOCK. PropStore is holding an auction of alternate movie posters by Jock. In “Poster Boy”, “Mondo artist Jock talks us through five of his most impressive posters, all of which are part of the Prop Store Movie Poster Auction on March 26.”

Guardians of the Galaxy

This was an idea-led design choice. That technique of cutting out the bodies was more common in old ’50s and ’60s American magazine illustration. The goal with doing that was to elevate what would just be a drawing of the characters standing there into something that’s more design-led and more interesting.

There’s also a “Jock Q&A – In conversation with celebrated Mondo poster artist Jock”

How does your poster-design process start?
I think posters often work best if there’s an idea behind them, rather than just being an illustration of the characters in a cool position. For my most recent Star Wars posters, for example, I chose a scene from the films that we all know and love, but tried to present it from an angle that we haven’t seen before. The only thing about trying to come up with an idea is you can’t force it. You’ve just gotta kind of noodle and doodle until you maybe have an idea for something.

(2) A LITTLE NUDGE. The discussion here is an example of one of the social dynamics at work on the Hugo Awards. It begins with this tweet —  

(3) LIU ADAPTATION TO SMALL SCREEN. AMC has given a two-season pickup to Pantheon,  a sff drama from Craig Silverstein. The series is based on short stories by Ken Liu.

Written by Silverstein (Turn: Washington’s Spies, Nikita), Pantheon is set in a world where uploaded consciousness is a reality. The first season centers on Maddie, a bullied teen who receives mysterious help from someone online. The stranger is soon revealed to be her recently deceased father, David, whose consciousness has been uploaded to the Cloud following an experimental destructive brain scan. David is the first of a new kind of being: an “Uploaded Intelligence” or UI, but he will not be the last, as a global conspiracy unfolds that threatens to trigger a new kind of world war.

(4) SFF SHOW AXED. YouTube is moving away from scripted originals, and Impulse is a casualty.

…YouTube has canceled the sci-fi series Impulse after two seasons, making it the latest casualty in the video platform’s changing strategy for original programming. …

Impulse, developed by Jeffrey Lieber (Lost, NCIS: New Orleans) and with a pilot episode directed by executive producer Doug Liman, premiered in June 2018. It centers on 16-year-old Henrietta “Henry” Coles (Maddie Hasson), who has the ability to teleport but can’t control where she ends up. It’s based on a novel of the same title by Steven Gould.

(5) AND THESE TWO NEVER GOT ON THE AIR. Meanwhile, Disney has changed its mind about a planned Muppets revival, and scrapped a Tron adaptation before anyone even knew they were doing one. The Hollywood Reporter has the story in “Bob Iger’s Next Priority? Streamline Disney+ Development”.

In a sign of the challenges, Disney+ has developed then scrapped three original series in the past year: scripted comedy Muppets Live Another Day from Adam Horowitz, Eddy Kitsis and Josh Gad; Disney villains drama Book of Enchantment from Michael Seitzman; and, per sources, a never-announced Tron adaptation from John Ridley. Two other projects — TV series based on High Fidelity and Love, Simon — were moved to Hulu over their adult thematic content that executives weren’t comfortable showing on the family-friendly Disney+.

(6) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. One doesn’t have to travel too far back in time to run into certain problems: “Old episodes of Doctor Who streaming on BritBox stir up controversy” at Fansided.

Doctor Who is unique among current popular genre series in that it’s technically been around for nearly 60 years, officially kicking off on November 23, 1963….

And that can cause issues, because 1963 was a very different time, for television and the world in general. So was 1977, when Tom Baker was starring as the Fourth Doctor. That’s when the show aired the serial “The Talons of Weng-Chiang,” starring John Bennett acting in yellowface as villain Li H’sen Chang, a stage magician aided by Mr. Sin, a cyborg from the 51st century known as the Peking Homunculus.

Yeah, it’s bad. And did we mention that, in the serial, Chinese people are referred to as “inscrutable ch**ks”? It’s very bad.

“It is really hard to watch because yellowface is so unacceptable now,” said Emma Ko, a screenwriter and spokeswoman for British East Asians in Theatre and on Screen. “When you are somebody who was called a “ch**k” in your childhood, as I have been, it is so hard to hear that word and not feel immediately a trigger reaction of how wrong it is.”…

(7) DOING WHAT COMES SUPERNATURALLY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Michael Koryta and Alma Katsu on Horror, Craft, and Reinvention” at CrimeReads, horror novelists Koryta and Katsu interview each other on their new novels, Katsu’s The Deep and Koryta’s The Chill (written as by Scott Carson), as they ask each other about their backgrounds and how they ended up writing horror. Alma Katsu has lived in the Washington D.C. area and has been a guest at Capclave.

Alma Katsu: After establishing yourself in mystery and crime, I have to ask, what drew you to horror for The Chill? What was the appeal? Does everyone secretly—or openly—love horror? 

Michael Koryta: Love of the storytelling world where the past is encroaching on the present. A ghost story invites the past right in and treats it as if it never left. In my experience, that’s really how we live our lives—every move made in the present is shaped by memory, right? On individual and societal levels. The idea of kicking open a door that allows the past to wander in and be active is always appealing to me. For some reason, I’m particularly drawn to this when the natural world is involved in the story. The idea of turning on a faucet in Queens and receiving water that comes from a reservoir in the Catskills where once a town existed is both intriguing to me and fundamentally eerie. Drink up!

I don’t think everyone loves horror, which is a shame, because they should. A little paranoia is good for the soul. It seems so unimaginative to not be afraid of the dark.

What about you? Why are you writing for the warped minds like mine?

Katsu: I lived in a strangely Gothic world as a child. I grew up in a very spooky house in a spooky town in Massachusetts. The house was an old Victorian, long neglected, which meant it had all these period details that, being a Service brat, I’d never seen before. Pocket doors that disappeared into the walls, twisty stairs leading up to an attic filled with old trunks left by previous occupants. Overrun by mice, so the walls talked to you every night. Growing up in a house like that definitely cements the notion that the past is a frightening place.

(8) BLACK WIDOW FINAL TRAILER. Black Widow arrives in theaters May 1.

“At some point we all have to choose between what the world wants you to be and who you are.”

(9) POMERANTZ OBIT. Earl Pomerantz, a two-time Emmy winner who wrote and produced for such comedies as The Mary Tyler Moore ShowThe Cosby ShowTaxi and The Larry Sanders Show, has died. “Earl Pomerantz, Producer and Emmy-Winning Screenwriter, Dies at 75”. He wrote two episodes of Amazing Stories — “Fine Tuning” and “Mummy Daddy”.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 10, 1978 Return from Witch Mountain premiered. The sequel to Escape to Witch Mountain, it was written by Malcolm Marmorstein and is based on were characters that created by Alexander Key who also wrote the novelization of the film. Ike Eisenmann, Kim Richards, and Denver Pyle reprise their roles from the first with Bette Davis and. Christopher Lee being the baddies here.  Neither critics (40% rating) or audience (50% rating) at Rotten Tomatoes were particularly fond of it. You can see it here.
  • March 10, 1995VR.5 premiered on Fox. It featured a cast of David McCallum, Anthony Head, Lori Singer and Louise Fletcher. It was created by Jeannine Renshaw. Executive producer Thania St. John stated that in press releases, “VR.5 will try to capture that same, creepy feeling of the X-Files” which was the lead-in to this series. It lasted a total of thirteen episodes with only ten shown in its first run. There is no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the aggregate critic rating is very high 75%. You can see the pilot here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 10, 1891 Sam Jaffe. His first role was in Lost Horizon  as the High Lama and much later in The Day the Earth Stood Still  playing Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Later on we find him in The Dunwich Horror as Old Whateley, voicing Bookman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, playing The Old-Man in The Tell-Tale Heart, and in his last film, appearing in Battle Beyond the Stars as Dr. Hephaestus. John Sayles wrote the script oddly enough. (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 10, 1905 Richard Haydon. He’s here as he was in The Lost World, the 1960 film version, as Prof. Summerlee. He showed up in the same year in The Twilight Zone in “A Thing About Machines” as Bartlet Finchley. And he’d be Solicitor Herr Falkstein in Young Frankenstein. (Died 1985.)
  • Born March 10, 1918 Theodore Cogswell. He wrote almost forty science fiction stories, most of them humorous, and was the co-author of a Trek novel, Spock, Messiah!, with Joe Spano Jr. He’s perhaps best remembered as the editor of the Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies in which writers and editors discussed their and each other’s works.  A full collection of which was published during 1993 except, as EoSF notes “for one issue dealing with a particularly ugly controversy involving Walter M. Miller”. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Marvin Kaye, 82. Currently the editor of Weird Tales, he has also edited magazines such as H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.  The Fair Folk anthology which is most excellent and which he edited won a World Fantasy Award.
  • Born March 10, 1958 Sharon Stone,  62. Damn, she’s the same age I am. She’s been in three genre films, her first being Total Recall where she played the ill-fated Lori Quaid. Her next was Sphere where she was cast as Dr. Elizabeth “Beth” Halperin, and last was in, errr, Catwoman where she was Laurel Hedare, an assassin. 
  • Born March 10, 1969 Paget Brewster, 51. She was Jenny Spy on The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, and most of her genre roles have been voice roles: Lana Lang on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Lois Lane on Justice League: Gods and Monsters and Poison Ivy on Batman and Harley Quinn.
  • Born March 10, 1977 Bree Turner, 43. She’s best known for her role as Rosalee on Grimm. She also starred in the pilot episode (“Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”) of Masters of Horror. She was in Jekyll + Hyde as Martha Utterson. Confession time: I got through maybe three seasons of Grimm before giving up as it became increasingly silly.
  • Born March 10, 1979 Fonda Lee, 41. Her Jade City novel was a finalist for a Nebula Award for Best Novel and won a World Fantasy Award. Its sequel. Jade War, was published last year. And her Cross Fire novel was named Best YA Novel at the 2019 Aurora Awards for best Canadian speculative fiction. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo is making perfect sense interpreting a Philip Dick title!
  • Today’s Bizarro has everyone’s dream of heaven.

(13) LIVE LONGER, AND PROSPER. An AP newswire article about Congress trying to cope with the coronavirus situation included this interesting sidelight: “Lawmakers race to respond to outbreak; Trump comes to Hill”.

[…] Meanwhile, lawmakers were given new instructions on how to protect themselves at the Capitol, with the House’s attending physician asking them to stop shaking hands or touching people during greetings — he recommended the split-fingers Star Trek greeting instead.

(14) AMAZON’S LOTR ADAPTATION. Don’t let Yahoo! fool you – they don’t know when it’s going to air. They know some other facts, however — “The Lord of the Rings TV show release date, cast, trailer and everything we know so far about the Amazon Prime series”.

Slowly but surely, we’re starting to find out more about the Lord of the Rings TV show. Amazon’s series – the rights for which are rumoured to have cost the streaming service $250 million – may not yet have a release date, but there’s plenty of information out there: cast members, filming location, and news of a second season renewal have all been revealed.

Whether you’re a Tolkien diehard or someone who’s just eager to head back to Middle-Earth after watching the movies, we’ll break down what to expect from the Lord of the Rings TV show below. To Mordor!

(15) GET AN EARFUL. The GraphicAudio trailer makes Wasted Space, Vol. 1 sound pretty appealing.

Billy Bane is a prophet who got it all wrong, and the galaxy has been burning ever since. All he wants is to waste away in the darkest corner of space with his best pal Dust, a supercharged Fuq bot. But when a new prophet comes calling, Billy is summoned to save the galaxy he’s at least partially responsible for destroying.

Too bad he couldn’t care less.

Michael Moreci (Roche Limit, Wonder Woman, Black Star Renegades) and Hayden Sherman (The Few, Cold War, John Carter: The End) have thrown Philip K. Dick in a blender with Preacher. Take a sip and get wasted.

(16) AHMED’S LATEST. Coming from Marvel in June:

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CIVIL WAR #1

Written by SALADIN AHMED; Art by RYAN KELLY; Cover by ALEX ROSS

In the heart of the Civil War event, a human story unfolds. A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, doing his best to do the job with honor—but is that even possible? A young, low-level Super Hero, trying to help his neighbors—but that’s not even legal any more. The two come together in a story that’ll test their commitment, ideals, hopes, and dreams.

Featuring Captain America, Giant-Man, Maria Hill, and more, Kurt Busiek recruits Hugo-Award-winning writer Saladin Ahmed and all-star Ryan Kelly to uniquely retell this iconic Marvel story.

(17) DON’T LOSE THAT NUMBER. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Evidently, speculative fiction is gaining traction within many music communities. William Gibson was asked by Wire Magazine, which is one of the leading underground music magazines (behind a paywall), to take part in the Invisible Jukebox and identify a series of recordings by ear alone.

Invisible Jukebox: William Gibson: Can the visionary science fiction author hack The Wire’s mystery record selection? Tested by Emily Bick…

Steely Dan

Kid Charlemagne

[(from The Royal Scam [ABC 1976]).  

“Kid Charlemagne. I have it on my iPhone.

You’re a real Steely Dan fan, right?

Yeah, I was a Steely Dan fan from the day the 45 “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” came out and continue to be this day. Lyrically, it was unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and it continues to be. Back in the later  80s I would be in the supermarket shopping. Sometimes I’d be the only male shopper, and “Hey Nineteen” would come on the Muzak. And so I’m listening to this, and looking around me are all these lovely young mothers, and I’m thinking holy shit, does nobody scan the stuff for what the lyrics mean, because this is the most deliberately sexually perverse and shocking material. Sometimes I hear younger people say, “Oh, Steely Dan. Everything’s been sanded off. It’s all smooth, it doesn’t sound like human beings are making it.” And then when you listen to the lyrics….

They got their name from a double-headed dildo, so you really can’t expect much else.

Yeah, that’s true. 

(19) DINO SAVINGS TIME. Gizmodo held a shell up to their ear, and guess what they heard?“Days on Earth Used to Be 30 Minutes Shorter, Ancient Shell Suggests”.

….That days were shorter tens of millions of years ago is hardly a revelation. The new study is important in that it improves the accuracy of pre-existing estimates, while providing a new way of studying the past.

“Previous estimates were based on counting daily laminae [growth layers] similar to the ones we did chemical analyses on,” de Winter told Gizmodo. “This [previous] counting yielded roughly the same number of days per year, but with different countings yielding differences up to 10 days due to human error and the difficulty in recognizing daily layers by eye.”

Key to the research was a single fossil shell belonging to Torreites sanchezi, a rudist clam. Now extinct, rudists were shaped like boxes, tubes, and rings, and they filled an ecological niche currently occupied by coral reefs. T. sanchezi grew very quickly as far as hinged, or bivalve, mollusks are concerned, exhibiting thin layers of daily growth rings.

(20) EVOLUTION IN ACTION. The satellite Pixel’d yesterday for its movie camera also does hot stills: “Anak Krakatau: Finnish radar satellite eyes tsunami volcano”.

Here’s a new view of Anak Krakatau, the collapsed Indonesian volcano that generated the 22 December tsunami that devastated local coastlines.

The picture was assembled from radar images acquired on Wednesday by the ICEYE-X2 satellite.

This is a small innovative spacecraft from Finland that will soon be part of a large orbiting network of sensors.

The volcano continues to evolve, following the cone’s catastrophic failure.

Its original height of 340m was reduced to just 110m in the disaster, but further eruptions have since begun to re-model the remnant structure.

“This image indicates the edifice is in a building phase, with the crater no longer connected to the sea as it was in images from a week or so ago,” observed Prof Andy Hooper from Leeds University, UK.

(21) ANOTHER STEP. “Second patient cured of HIV, say doctors”.

A man from London has become the second person in the world to be cured of HIV, doctors say.

Adam Castillejo is still free of the virus more than 30 months after stopping anti-retroviral therapy.

He was not cured by the HIV drugs, however, but by a stem-cell treatment he received for a cancer he also had, the Lancet HIV journal reports.

The donors of those stem cells have an uncommon gene that gives them, and now Mr Castillejo, protection against HIV.

(22) GENRE L.A. At CrimeReads, Katie Orphan goes to one of the last roadhouses in the L.A. area and visits the house where Mildred Pierce was filmed in“Searching for James M. Cain’s Los Angeles”, an excerpt from her book Read Me, L.A.: Exploring L.A.’s Book Culture.

… In The Postman Always Rings Twice, for example, the fictional Twin Oaks Tavern is at the center of much of the action. The story in Cain’s debut novel revolves around the tavern’s owner, Nick Papadakis (“the Greek”), his younger wife, Cora, and Frank Chambers, a drifter they hire to help out at the place; Cora and Frank get involved and conspire to kill the Greek. The Twin Oaks is a roadhouse in the mountains above L.A., with a gas station and motel joining a restaurant to make Papadakis’s little empire. Places like that were common in the 1930s and ’40s but aren’t today, so the few that are left are treasures. Newcomb’s Ranch is one of them.

Newcomb’s opened in what is now the Angeles National Forest in 1939, only a few years after Cain wrote Postman. It’s a cheery, ranch-style wooden building set among pines, on winding Angeles Crest Highway about an hour north of Glendale, where the Papadakises would travel to do their shopping.

Newcomb’s Ranch is a popular weekend destination for motorcyclists who stop for lunch after roaring up Angeles Crest Highway, and I enjoyed the drive up as much as they do. It’s a gorgeous journey into the San Gabriel Mountains; if you go in winter, you might be fortunate enough to encounter trees flocked with snow and low-hanging clouds settling around the peaks.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/8/20 Shoes For Industry 4.0! Shoes For The Grateful Walking Dead

(1) INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. ComicBook.com tells how some fans are watching as they celebrate the day: “Star Wars Releases Women of the Galaxy Video for International Women’s Day”.

Today is International Women’s Day, and people have been busy celebrating the women in their lives, including their favorite franchise characters. Chewbacca actor Joonas Suotamo wrote a special post in honor of Carrie Fisher, and he’s not the only one to celebrate the women of Star Wars. The official Instagram account for Star Wars also took to social media to share a “Women of the Galaxy” video, which showcases most of the women featured in the original Star Wars trilogy, prequels, sequels, and both live-action and animated series.

View this post on Instagram

Women of the galaxy. 💪

A post shared by Star Wars (@starwars) on

(2) SF IN TRANSLATION. Rachel Cordasco posted the “Favorite SFT From 2019 Poll Results” on February 15. (See second and third place finishers at the link.)

Favorite Novel

  1. Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan, translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu (Tor)

Favorite Collection

  1. Everything is Made of Letters by Sofia Rhei, translated from the Spanish by Sue Burke, James Womack, and the author, with assistance from Ian Whates, Arrate Hidalgo, and Sue Burke (Aqueduct)

Favorite Anthology

  1. Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, edited and translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu (Tor)

Favorite Short Story

  1. “All Saints’ Mountain” by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft (Hazlitt)

Favorite Translator

  1. Ken Liu

(3) JACK BARRON IN MEXICO. Norman Spinrad cheers on the work of a Mexican publisher in “Viva La Fondo De Cultura Economica” on Facebook.

It started with my then agent telling me that a Mexican publisher wanted to publish BUG JACK BARRON in a cheap Mexican edition for a small advance. BUG JACK BARRON had been published in Spanish, but not in Mexico, since, like English language rights split between the US and Britain, Spanish language rights are generally split between Spain and Latin America. I shrugged, and said okay, not knowing much more about it, except that it was Paco Taibo, who I knew years ago, was making the deal, and I didn’t think much more about it then.

But then Paco asked me to come to Mexico City for the book launch, which was also going to be the launch of a new collection of the overall publisher, La Fondo de Cultura Economica. What is that ? I asked, and Paco told me the brief version.

La Fondo de Cultura Economica is a non-profit publisher subsidized by the Mexican government which publishes 500 books a year, distributes the books of other publishers in its 140 book stores in Mexico and the rest of Latin America, whose mission is to allow people who otherwise might not be able to afford buy them to buy a wide assortment of books at cut-rate prices.

(4) LEM IN TRANSLATION. The Washington Post’s Scott Bradfield believes “Stanislaw Lem has finally gotten the translations his genius deserves”.  The Invincible is just one of the books worth reading that’s available in the U.S. for the first time in a proper Polish-to-English translation.

Lem’s fiction is filled with haunting, prescient landscapes. In these reissued and newly issued translations — some by the pitch-perfect Lem-o-phile, Michael Kandel — each sentence is as hard, gleaming and unpredictable as the next marvelous invention or plot twist. It’s hard to keep up with Lem’s hyper-drive of an imagination but always fun to try.

(5) BAD ACTORS AT GOODREADS. Camestros Felapton notes that Ersatz Culture “has been doing some deep data-driven detective work on Goodreads sockpuppet accounts” and rounds up the related Twitter threads here — “Just some links to Ersatz Culture’s detective work”. Felapton explains why the abuse is so easy:

To register an account with Goodreads you have to give an email address BUT unlike most websites these days there is no email verification step i.e. you don’t NEED multiple actual email addresses to set up multiple accounts. The system is wide-open for abuse.

Ersatz Culture says the issue is: “Suspicious Goodreads accounts giving a slate of books 5-star reviews, and potentially getting them onto the Goodreads Choice Award as write-in nominees.”

* On a Hugo-related list on Goodreads that Contrarius admins, a few months ago I noticed patterns of user rating that were atypical and (IMHO) suspicious

* I spent a load of time this weekend digging into why this happened.  Ultimately it came down to 80+ brand new user accounts created in October and November 2019 all giving 5-star ratings to a slate of 25-35 books (plus a few others)

* The November cohort of these accounts were created in the week when the Goodreads Choice Awards were open to write-in candidates.  Quite possibly this is coincidence – there’s no way of proving any connection, that I can see – but two of the books on their slate were successful in getting into the nominations; one of them turns out to be a massive outlier compared to the other nominees in its category when you look at metrics of number of Goodreads users who’d read it etc.

The details are in three long Twitter threads: here, here, and here.

(6) THE ROARING THIRTIES. First Fandom Experience is at work on a project to acquaint people with “The Earliest Bradbury”.

In honor of the upcoming centenary of Ray Bradbury’s birth (August 22, 2020), we’re digging through our archive of 1930s fan material to find the earliest appearances of Ray’s writings — in any form. We hope to publish a compendium of these in the next several weeks.

We’re not talking about the well-known and oft-reproduced works such as Futuria Fantasia, or even the somewhat-known and occasionally-reproduced “Hollerbachen’s Dilemma.” We’re seeking anything that appeared prior to 1940 that has been rarely if ever surfaced, especially as it was originally printed.

A primary source for Ray’s earliest articles is the Los Angeles Science Fiction League’s organ, Imagination! This zine’s first issue was published in October 1937 — the same month that Ray joined the LASFL. It ran for thirteen issues through October 1938. Through years of ardent questing, we’re fortunate to have assembled a complete run.

See pages from those zines at the link.

(7) ALDISS DRAMATIZATION ONLINE. Brian Aldiss’ Hothouse is a 5 part audio book series downloadable from BBC Radio 4 Extra: “Brian Aldiss – Hothouse” read by Gareth Thomas.

Millions of years from now, a small tribe battles to stay alive in Earth’s dense jungle.

(8) WHERE NOVELLAS COME FROM. Odyssey Writing Workshops presents an interview with “Graduate & Guest Lecturer Carrie Vaughn”.

Congratulations on having three novellas come out this year, including two Cormac & Amelia stories, and “Gremlin,” which came out in Asimov’s Science Fiction, about a gremlin partnering with a WWII fighter pilot. What are some of the challenges in writing novella-length fiction?

Thank you! Novellas have actually reduced some of the challenges I’ve been facing recently, as strange as that sounds. Over the last couple of years, I’d been putting a huge amount of pressure on myself to write a “big” novel. Big ideas, big impact, etc. That wasn’t working out so well for various reasons, and novellas gave me a chance to back up and rediscover my creative well, without as much pressure. Novellas have enough space to tell an in-depth story with lots of detail and character development, but without the commitment of writing a full-length novel. I went into my rough drafts folder and found some stories I had abandoned or not really developed because I thought they were supposed to be novels—but it turns out that maybe they were meant to be novellas. I could finally develop them without the pressure to “go big.” “Gremlin” and “Dark Divide” both came out of that effort. So did “The Ghosts of Sherwood,” which will be coming out in June 2020. I’ve found novellas to be more liberating than challenging.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

To celebrate the 42nd anniversary of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Dan Mersh and Helen Keen put on their dressing gowns and make themselves a nice hot cup of tea as they introduce all 6 episodes of the 1978 radio series alongside archive programmes and especially made H2G2-related features and interviews.

  • March 8, 1984 — The comedy musical Voyage of the Rock Aliens premiered. It was directed by James Fargo and Rob Giraldi.  It starred Pia Zadora, Jermaine Jackson,  Tom Nolan, Ruth Gordon and Craig Sheffer. It was conceived as a B-movie spoof, and you can see if that’s true here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 8, 1859 Kenneth Grahame. Author of The Wind in the Willows  of course, which it turns out has had seven film adaptations, not all under the name The Wind in the Willows. Did you know A.A. Milne dramatized it for BBC Radio 4 back in the Seventies as Toad of Toad Hall? Oh, and he did write one other fantasy, The Reluctant Dragon which I’ve never heard of. Have any of y’all read it? (Died 1932.)
  • Born March 8, 1914 Priscilla Lawson. In 1936, she was cast in the very first Flash Gordon serial as the daughter of Ming the Merciless. Princess Aura’s rivalry with Dale Arden for Flash Gordon’s affection was one of the main plots of the serial and gained Lawson lasting cult figure status. (Died 1958.)
  • Born March 8, 1921 Alan Hale Jr. The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island which y’all decided wasgenre, and he did show up in such films as Captain Kidd and the Slave GirlThe Fifth Musketeer and The Giant Spider Invasion which is most decidedly SF, if of a pulpish variety. Series wise, I see he was on The Wild Wild West and Fantasy Island. (Died 1990.)
  • Born March 8, 1934 Kurt Mahr. He’s one of the first authors of the Perry Rhodan series which, according to his German Wiki page, is one of “the largest science fiction series of the world.” I’ve not read any Rhodan fiction, so how is it? (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 8, 1939 Peter Nicholls. Writer and editor. creator and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction with John Clute. His other publications were Science Fiction at LargeThe Science in Science Fiction edited by Nicholls and written by him and David Langford, and Fantastic Cinema. He became the first Administrator of the UK’s Science Fiction Foundation. He was editor of its journal, Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction, from 1974 to 1978. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 8, 1950 Peter McCauley, 70. I remember him best from the most excellent Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World series where he played Professor George Challenger. He also showed as Mr. Spilett on Mysterious Island, another series shot in New Zealand and based off Jules Verne’s novel L’Île mystérieuse. Continuing the Verne riff, he was Admiral McCutcheon in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a Nineties TV version of the novel. 
  • Born March 8, 1970 Jed Rees, 50. Another Galaxy Quest performer, he played Teb, a Thermian. His most recent major genre outing was on Deadpool as Jared / Agent Smith / The Recruiter. He’s had one-offs in Ghost WhispererThe Crow: Stairway to Heaven, The Net, X-Files, Outer Limits,The Sentinel and Sliders.
  • Born March 8, 1976 Freddie Prinze Jr., 44. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was in Wing Commander as Lt. Christopher Blair followed by the animated Mass Effect: Paragon Lost in which he voiced Lieutenant James Vega. Speaking of animated endeavors, I’ve got him in Kim Possible: A Sitch In Time voicing Future Jim / Future Tim followed by being in all in all four seasons of the animated Star Wars Rebels as Kanan Jarrus. And that’s a series which I highly recommend as it may well be the best Star Wars fiction ever done. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Foxtrot’s Jason Fox discovers that role-playing the Witchers may be harder than it seems.
  • Rhymes with Orange makes it two genre references in row, albeit with an awful pun.

(12) NO SXSW THIS YEAR. Strictly speaking, public health wasn’t the reason it got canceled; every sponsor wasn’t going to be there. The Hollywood Reporter explains: “SXSW Canceled Due to Coronavirus Outbreak”.

…In communication with The Austin Chronicle late on Friday, SXSW co-founder and managing director Roland Swenson told the outlet that the festival does not have an insurance plan to cover this specific reason for cancellation. “We have a lot of insurance (terrorism, injury, property destruction, weather). However bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered.”

The cancellation follows many companies choosing not to participate this year as a safety precaution, including Netflix, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, WarnerMedia and Amazon Studios. 

In announcing their cancellations, several companies cited concerns over the spread of the virus, which has resulted in 3,000 deaths worldwide and affected over 90,000 people in numerous countries. Though little is known and a vaccine is not currently available, coronavirus causes the virus, which involves flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and respiratory trouble. 

(13) MICKEY AND MINNIE VISIT THE MUSEUM. In “The Walt Disney Archives are shaping the culture of tomorrow. Ask Marvel’s Kevin Feige”, the LA Times talks about how Disney history is preserved, and the Bowers Museum exhibit that will share it with the public.

…In an industry not known for its permanence, it is perhaps no surprise that the Great Movie Ride is no more — its replacement, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, opened this week — but Feige’s comments cut to the importance of not only remembering but also safeguarding our past. The value of pop art, and how revered and inspirational it can be to its audience, is arguably directly proportional to the care with which we treat it. At least that’s a core thesis of a new Disney-themed exhibit opening at Orange County’s Bowers Museum, which aims to look not only at Disney’s history but the art of conservancy itself.

For 50 years, the Walt Disney Archives has amassed one of Hollywood’s most extensive corporate histories, a collection that ranges from company memos — the initial contract for the silent 1920s Alice Comedies — to figurines from, yes, the recently retired Great Movie Ride. That Alice Comedies contract, as well as a xenomorph from “Alien,” which was once housed in that Walt Disney World attraction, are part of the expansive “Inside the Walt Disney Archives: 50 Years of Preserving the Magic,” an exhibit opening this weekend and continuing through Aug. 30 at Santa Ana’s Bowers Museum.

See full details about the exhibit at the Bowers Museum website.

(14) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. “The first SpaceX Dragon capsule is taking its final flight”.

[Friday] night, SpaceX launched its first generation Dragon capsule on its twentieth — and final — resupply run to the International Space Station.

The launch marks the Dragon’s last mission as the capsule makes way for SpaceX’s updated and improved Dragon 2 capsule, which will begin making resupply runs to the space station in October.

Alongside cargo to resupply the ISS, the Dragon will be bringing along payloads for experimental research aboard the space station. Including an Adidas experiment to see how it can manufacture midsoles in space; a project from the faucet maker, Delta, to see how water droplets form in zero gravity; and Emulate is sending up an organ-on-a-chip to examine how microgravity affects intestinal immune cells and how heart tissue can be cultured in space.

(15) …TWICE. “SpaceX Successfully Lands 50th Rocket In 5 Years”.

SpaceX launched another cargo mission to the International Space Station Friday, successfully landing the flight’s rocket booster for the 50th time in the last five years, the Associated Press reported.

The rocket lifted off to a countdown and cheers from an audience at SpaceX’s headquarters in California, but the largest cheers came for the successful landing of the rocket’s first-stage booster. After falling away from the Dragon capsule, the “Falcon 9” touched back down on the landing pad, amid flashes of bright light and smoke.

“And the Falcon has landed for the 50th time in SpaceX history!” announced lead engineer Jessica Anderson on a livestream from SpaceX HQ.

(16) MODERN FARMING AKA YOU COULDN’T MAKE THIS UP. BBC tells how “Bacon saved after pedometer-eating pig’s poo starts farm fire”.

A peckish pig who swallowed a pedometer ended up sparking a fire in its pen.

Fire crews were called to a farm near Bramham, Leeds, at about 14:00 GMT on Saturday after copper from the pedometer’s batteries apparently reacted with the pig’s excrement and dry bedding.

The pedometers were being used on pigs to prove they were free-range. No pigs or people were hurt in the fire.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said it had gone to “save the bacon”.

(17) THE BAT CAPITAL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] And here everybody thought Gotham was a stand in for NYC. Turns out it was London all along. ComicBook.com is there when “Epic Batman Statue Debuts in London”

DC Comics just debuted an epic new Batman statue in Leicester Square. They posted about the monument to the superhero on Facebook with an image of the Caped Crusader looking down on the populace. The detailing on this piece looks very intricate with the muscle work, utility belt, and cowl deserving special shout outs. The post also calls back to Batman Day when the company made Bat-Signals all across the world in different cities. London was on the list of places that got the light show…

A lot of fans have big hopes for Matt Reeves’ The Batman next year. They believe it could give them a fresh take on the character that will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the other movie version of the hero.

“It’s very much a point of view-driven, noir Batman tale. It’s told very squarely on his shoulders, and I hope it’s going to be a story that will be thrilling but also emotional,” Reeves said to THR. “It’s more Batman in his detective mode than we’ve seen in the films. The comics have a history of that. He’s supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, and that’s not necessarily been a part of what the movies have been. I’d love this to be one where when we go on that journey of tracking down the criminals and trying to solve a crime, it’s going to allow his character to have an arc so that he can go through a transformation.”

(18) 007 VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Saturday Night Live host Daniel Craig of course talked about playing James Bond in the opening monologue.  He also played a purported clip from No Time To Die. It’s really funny!

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

Pixel Scroll 3/4/20 Bring Me My Book Of Divine Stalk: Bring Me My Feline On A Pile: Bring Me My Fifth: O Readers Talk! Bring Me My Pixel Scrolls Of File!

(1) SF IN TRANSLATION. An overview of the year’s output at Locus Online: “SF in Translation in 2019 by Rachel S. Cordasco”.

In general, speculative fiction in translation (SFT) accounts for a very small fraction of the fiction published in English each year. This past year was no exception: 50 books (novels, collections, and anthologies) and 80 short (standalone) works of SFT made their way to Anglophone readers. While this may not sound like much, it does signify a slow but steady increase in non-Anglophone speculative fiction since the turn of the century. Not since the 1960s and ’70s have we seen such an increase, and while I can’t point to any one factor as an explanation, I imagine that the unprecedented worldwide connectivity brought about by the internet at the end of the last century, coupled with the increase in small and micro-presses and magazines that regularly publish speculative fiction, may offer a partial answer. Perhaps another factor is the growing interest of speculative fiction fans in stories that are written from a non-Anglophone perspective…

(2) LONDON’S OFF THE HOOK. Yesterday, the London Book Fair planned to carry on, even in the face of businesses dropping out because of coronavirus fears. Today, The Guardian reports it’s been cancelled.

One of the world’s biggest international literary events, the London book fair, has been cancelled over coronavirus fears, amid growing anger that the delay in calling it off was putting people’s health at risk and an unfair financial strain on publishers.

Organiser Reed Exhibitions announced on Wednesday that the escalation of the illness meant the fair, scheduled to run from 10 to 12 March, would be called off. Around 25,000 publishers, authors and agents from around the world had been due to attend the event, where deals for the hottest new books are struck.

But the event was already set to be a ghost town when it opened its doors, after publishers and rights agencies began withdrawing en masse over the last week. Some of the world’s biggest, including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and Hachette had already pulled out, as had Amazon and a host of literary agencies including Curtis Brown.

(3) NO TIME TO DEBUT. Another British institution, Agent 007, has also been affected by fears of the spread of the COVID-19 flu: No Time to Die’s Release Is Delayed Seven Months Because of Coronavirus”. The 25th James Bond movie was supposed to premiere in April, but GQ reports it now will open in November. The date has been pushed back so the film can make money in Asian countries whose movie theatres are currently in trouble because of the coronavirus.

(4) ANOTHER DELAY. Even Baby Yoda is feeling the effects — “Coronavirus Has Now Affected Baby Yoda’s Impending Arrival in the U.S.”.

Now there are reports that the spread of the illness—and subsequent quarantines and travel restrictions in China—will likely impact the arrival of Baby Yoda toys.

Hasbro, which has the license for several Star Wars toys, including some dolls and figures of The Mandalorian’s breakout star, is very concerned about the potential for the coronavirus to disrupt its toy-making supply chains. CNN Business spoke to toy-industry expert Jim Silver, who said that the first batch of Baby Yoda toys, which are supposed to arrive later this month, are mostly in the clear so far. However, if things don’t return to normal by the start of the summer, Silver predicts “shortages on a litany of toys.”

In a filing released on Thursday, Hasbro admitted that it was experiencing coronavirus-related production difficulties in China, where more than 80,000 people have been infected. The company added that the flu “could have a significant negative impact on our revenues, profitability, and business.”

(5) NEXT YEAR IN HORROR. The StokerCon 2021 website has gone live. Next year’s Horror Writers Association gathering will take place in Denver, CO from May 20-23. Memberships go on sale April 20 for $150 (Early Bird Special). The next rate hike is June 30, 2020.

(6) TURNOVER ON THE MASTHEAD. Sean Wallace, Publisher of The Dark Magazine, told followers about some recent and upcoming personnel changes.

Just before the start of the new year, our reprint editor Michael Kelly stepped back from his duties to put more time and energy in his small press company, Undertow Publications, and we wish him all the best in his endeavours. And then in other somewhat-related sad news, Silvia Moreno-Garcia is also soon leaving The Dark Magazine to focus on her writing career, which is really taking off, and rightfully so. As such, her last month will be with the July 2020 issue, which we are putting together the original lineup as we type this out.

Beyond that, we have no immediate plans to hire a new co-editor, at least for the remainder of 2020, but I will be sending out a further update on this closer to the end of the year.

(7) PARSONS OBIT. Aly Parsons (1952-2020) died February 9, reports Locus Online. With her husband Paul Parsons (d. 2008), she hosted the Potomac River Science Fiction Society for 12 years, and worked on Unicons and the 2003 World Fantasy Convention. She cofounded a Washington DC writers’ group that met for decades. Her pro sales included a short story published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover anthology Sword of Chaos (1982).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 4, 1956 The Atomic Man premiered. If you saw it in the U.K., it was Tinmeslip. It was directed by Ken Hughes, and produced by Alec C. Snowden from The Isotope Man by Charles Eric Maine, who also wrote the screenplay. It starred Gene Nelson and Faith Domergue. You’ll need to watch it for yourself here to see how it is as there’s no Rotten Tomatoes ratings for it. 
  • March 4, 1958 Cosmic Monsters  (The Strange World of Planet X in the U.K.) premiered. It was produced by George Maynard and John Bash, directed by Gilbert Gunn. It starred  Forrest Tucker and Gaby André. It was a double bill with The Crawling Eye. It bombed at the Box Office, critics at the time hated it and it currently has a 6% rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.
  • March 4, 1977 Man From Atlantis premiered. Created by Mayo Simon and Herbert Solow, the pilot was written by Leo Katzin. It starred Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Alan Fudge and Victor Bruno. It ran for thirteen episodes that followed four films. It was not renewed for a full season. We cannot offer you  a look at it as it’s behind a paywall at YouTube. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 4, 1905 Frank Utpatel. Artist who may have done some interior illustrations for Weird Tales, he’s remembered for his Arkham House book covers that began with Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth novel in 1936. He would do covers for Ashton, Howard, Derleth, and Lovecraft. (Died 1980.)
  • Born March 4, 1923 Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders, that kind of thing of thing.” Despite that, he’s here because, he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour.“ And he was in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 4, 1933 Bernie Zuber. A fan artist who was the original vice president of the Mythopoeic Society. He was also a long-time member of LASFS who joined in the Fifties. He served as one of the first editors of Mythlore, but leftafter a falling out with the Mythopoeic Society, and became the founder and president of the Tolkien Fellowships. He published Butterbur’s Woodshed, Germinal and The Westmarch Chronicle. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 4, 1938 Paula Prentiss, 82. One of the wives of the original Stepford Wives, she also appears as Sonia Dracula in the second Mr. and Mrs. Dracula pilot in 1981 after the first pilot was deemed not workable by the network. That pilot was also not brought to series either. 
  • Born March 4, 1958 James Ellroy, 72. Ok Filers. ISFDB lists two novels by him as being genre, Blood Moon and American Tabloid. I’ve read neither but nothing that I can find on the web suggests that either is even remotely genre adjacent. Who’s read them? 
  • Born March 4, 1965 Paul W. S. Anderson, 55. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event Horizon, Alien V. Predator, Pandorum and even the forthcoming Monster Hunter which no, isn’t based off the work of a certain Sad Puppy. 
  • Born March 4, 1966 Daniela Amavia, 54. She appeared as Alia Atreides in the Children of Dune series.usually I wouldn’t include a performer fir just one genre credit, but she made a most perfect Alia that I will make an exception and do so in her case. 

(10) MAGICIANS SERIES WINDING UP. “‘The Magicians’ to End With Season 5 on Syfy”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The show’s April 1 season finale will now serve as a series ender.

Syfy will say goodbye to one of its signature shows in the spring, bringing The Magicians to a close after five seasons.

The series from Universal Content Productions, based on Lev Grossman’s novel of the same name, will air its final episode on April 1. The decision comes with five episodes remaining in the season.

(11) NAILING THAT GALLIFREYAN JELLO TO THE WALL. The finale of Doctor Who’s twelfth season prompts Paste Magazine to consider “Doctor Who and the Difficulty of Rewriting Your Own History”. BEWARE SPOILERS.  

…But sometimes, Doctor Who’s willingness to play fast and loose with things we previously knew to be true just makes its stories unnecessarily complicated without adding anything of value to them. (See also: Clara’s status as the Impossible Girl, Melody Pond growing up to be River Song or the Hybrid mystery.) It certainly feels like that’s the case in the Season 12 finale, an episode which gives the Doctor an entirely new origin story, destroys her race (again!) and creates what feels like an almost limitless number of incarnations of the character that we, as viewers, will likely never meet.

Because the question at the end of all this is: So what?

After promising a game-changing finale that would upend everything we, as viewers, understood about the show, “The Timeless Children” didn’t really live up to that promise. It actually changes very little. By the time the closing credits roll, the entire series’ universe is supposed to be different. The problem is, it’s not. Not really. There are new pieces to the story, sure. But largely those pieces exist in the same places the old ones did. So, it’s hard to tell precisely why this story matters….

Because you can’t have it both ways: Either existing Doctor Who lore is important enough that shaking it up and turning it inside out and fighting strangers on the internet about it matters, or it doesn’t. If we change the rules, those changes need to mean something, and the story that comes out of those has to be worth rewriting the things that have come before. (And you have to respect that there were rules that existed in the first place.) It’s not clear that this episode does that, regardless of whether we’re talking about the Master’s characterization, the Doctor’s past, or the apparent erasure of Rassilon from existence. If nothing is truly different in the aftermath of stories that supposedly change everything, then what’s the point of telling them? Sure, “The Timeless Children” dropped the bombshell that the Doctor is functionally immortal, but we all sort of knew that already, since she was given a new set of regenerations back when she was Eleven.

(12) FRAUD, HE SAYS. While Paste Magazine is dubious, John C. Wright is absolutely outraged (as one might expect) and calls the season-ending episode “The Death of Doctor Who”. Again, BEWARE SPOILERS.

…So the Doctor turns out to be, not an eccentric Time Lord who stole a broken TARDIS to flee into time and space for madcap adventures helping the helpless, nay.

He is in fact a foundling, a poor little black girl, who is the sole source of the regenerative ability of the Time Lords, hence the true founder of their society, not Rassilon.

…The point of message fiction is twofold.

The first, like Aesop, attempts to convey a moral maxim or lesson in a palatable fashion to influence young minds.

This can be done well or poorly, depending on whether the story rules the message, or the message rules the story.

The message itself, like any sermon, can also be well written or poorly written.

But if the message derails the story, that is fraud. The author who promises an entertainment, but delivers a lecture instead, is just as much a cheat as a bartender who charges for a mug of beer but puts a glass of buttermilk before you. Buttermilk may be better for your health, but, honestly, the bartender is not your mother, and he is not doing the job you paid him for.

Wright proceeds to condemn all of this in the strongest terms. I can only imagine how upset he might have been if he had actually watched the show, but he assures his readers —

I have not seen the episode, nor, indeed, the season, nor ever will I.

Okayyy….

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants strike out on this one:

Category: America’s Richest Self-Made Women

Answer: Part of this author’s nearly $400 million fortune came from books she wrote under the J.D. Robb pseudonym.

Wrong question: Who is J.K. Rowling?

Right question: Who is Nora Roberts?

(14) FANTASTIC VOYAGE. NPR reports, “In A 1st, Scientists Use Revolutionary Gene-Editing Tool To Edit Inside A Patient”.

For the first time, scientists have used the gene-editing technique CRISPR to try to edit a gene while the DNA is still inside a person’s body.

The groundbreaking procedure involved injecting the microscopic gene-editing tool into the eye of a patient blinded by a rare genetic disorder, in hopes of enabling the volunteer to see. They hope to know within weeks whether the approach is working and, if so, to know within two or three months how much vision will be restored.

“We’re really excited about this,” Dr. Eric Pierce, a professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, who is leading a study that the procedure launched, tells NPR.

“We’re helping open, potentially, an era of gene-editing for therapeutic use that could have impact in many aspects of medicine,” Pierce says.

The CRISPR gene-editing technique has been revolutionizing scientific research by making it much easier to rewrite the genetic code. It’s also raising high hopes of curing many diseases.

Before this step, doctors had only used CRISPR to try to treat a small number of patients who have cancer, or the rare blood disorders sickle cell anemia or beta-thalassemia. While some of the initial results have been promising, it’s still too soon to know whether the strategy is working.

In those other cases, doctors removed cells from patients’ bodies, edited genes in the cells with CRISPR in the lab and then infused the modified cells back into the volunteers’ bodies to either attack their cancer or produce a protein their bodies are missing.

(15) THE DOOR INTO BUMMER. Did you know? “Amazon’s Ring logs every doorbell press and app action”.

Amazon keeps records of every motion detected by its Ring doorbells, as well as the exact time they are logged down to the millisecond.

The details were revealed via a data request submitted by the BBC.

It also disclosed that every interaction with Ring’s app is also stored, including the model of phone or tablet and mobile network used.

One expert said it gave Amazon the potential for even broader insight into its customers’ lives.

“What’s most interesting is not just the data itself, but all the patterns and insights that can be learned from it,” commented independent privacy expert Frederike Kaltheuner.

“Knowing when someone rings your door, how often, and for how long, can indicate when someone is at home.

“If nobody ever rang your door, that would probably say something about your social life as well.”

She added that it remained unclear how much further “anonymised” data was also being collected.

“This isn’t just about privacy, but about the power and monetary value that is attached to this data.”

Amazon says it uses the information to evaluate, manage and improve its products and services.

(16) CLUMSY FILTER. BBC looks at it from his point of view: “Luton filmmaker warns over over TikTok and Facebook extremism rules”.

A filmmaker says social media rules to prevent extremist material going online are thwarting his attempts to tackle hatred and extremism.

Rizwan Wadan said algorithms used by Facebook and TikTok were making it hard to promote his films.

Mr Wadan, 38, of Luton, said automatic filtering of words such as “jihad” and “terror,” forced users underground to learn about and discuss the issues.

Facebook said his trailer broke its ban on “sensational content” in adverts.

Mr Wadan, based at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, developed camera stabilisation systems and has worked on films including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

He set up a £1.2m project called The Error in Terror to “give Muslims a voice,” and made films intended to deter acts of terrorism and challenge people to rethink their views.

But he said trailers for his work have been “restricted” on Facebook and said TikTok removed the content because it was deemed to break its guidelines.

“If we have algorithms that pick up words like ‘terrorism’ and ‘jihad,’ if we’re not allowed to discuss these things on social media platforms, then people who need to learn about this get pushed underground,” he said.

“They might start to learn about these things from people abroad where jihad is applied very differently and it could encourage individuals to get into revenge and retaliation, and this is very dangerous for us.

“It’s the responsibility of social media platforms to allow this kind of discussion to take place.”

(17) COOL STORY. “Star Wars fan gets bionic R2-D2 arm, meets Luke Skywalker [via Skype]”CNN has video.   

11-year-old Star Wars fan Isabella Tadlock was born with a nub on the end of her left arm and no fingers on her right hand. Actor Mark Hamill saw her story on Twitter and helped her get a R2-D2 bionic arm.

(18) BOOKSHOPPING LEADS TO BOOKHOPPING. Powell’s Books Blog presents “Portrait of a Bookseller: Dana P.”, who recommends V.E. Schwab and Neil Gaiman, and confesses a habit that will probably sound familiar to some of you.

Do you have any odd reading habits?
I definitely have a bad habit of hoarding books and then starting too many of them at once. I love the feeling of just starting a book, when it holds so much potential, so I’ll often have about six books I’m in the middle of — but I’ll bounce back and forth between them so none of them feel neglected.

(19) THE INTERNET OF REBELLIOUS THINGS. Connected is about —

…an everyday family’s struggle to relate while technology rises up around the world! When nature-loving dad Rick… determines the whole family should drive Katie to school together and bond as a family one last time…. the Mitchells’ plans are interrupted by a tech uprising: all around the world, the electronic devices people love – from phones, to appliances, to an innovative new line of personal robots – decide it’s time to take over. With the help of two friendly malfunctioning robots, the Mitchells will have to get past their problems and work together to save each other and the world!

It arrives in theaters September 18.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/23/20 Old Possum’s Scroll Of Practically Universal Robotic Cats

(1) DITMAR NOMINATIONS OPEN. Nominations for the 2020 Australian SF (“Ditmar”) awards are open until one minute before midnight Perth time on Sunday, March 1, 2020 (ie. 11.59 p.m., GMT+8). The current rules, including Award categories can be found at: here.

You must include your name with any nomination. Nominations will be accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of Swancon 2020, the 2020 Australian National SF Convention.

A partial and unofficial eligibility list, to which everyone is encouraged to add, can be found here.

(2) NAACP IMAGE AWARDS. Genre triumphed: “Jordan Peele and Lupita Nyong’o Win Big for Us at NAACP Image Awards”ComicBook.com has the story.

After many thought Lupita Nyongo’o and Jordan Peele were snubbed from Oscar nominations this year for their work on Us, the duo ended up winning big at the NAACP Image Awards. By the time the annual gala was over Saturday night, Peele had won Outstanding Writing In A Motion Picture while Nyong’o won Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture.

…Despite receiving zero nominations at the 92nd Academy Awards, the Peele-directed horror flick also managed to win big elsewhere this awards season. Peele won Best Director at this summer’s Saturn Awards while Nyong’o won Best Actress with the Hollywood Critics Association and more. As a whole, the movie’s biggest award came during the Critics’ Choice Awards, where it won Best Sci-fi/Horror movie.

(3) ORIGINAL COMICS ART ON THE BLOCK. Heritage Auctions is in the internet bidding phase of its 2020 March 5 – 8 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction – Dallas #7224. This Spider-Man cover has already been bid up to $135,000.

John Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man #51 Cover Kingpin Original Art (Marvel, 1967). One of the finest Amazing Spider-Man covers we have ever had! It was the Kingpin’s very first cover appearance, and it set the image of the character in many fan’s heads for decades to come….

(4) SEND THE TARDIS TO DUBLIN. Nicholas Whyte wishes Doctor Who spent more time in Ireland – like any at all. He has written a rundown on the Irishness of the TV show, book adaptations, audio dramas, and comics. You might say there is more green in Tom Baker’s trademark scarf than the rest of the show combined.

It is a sad fact that up to the present day (choosing my words *very* carefully here), not a single second of TV screen time on the show, or any of its spinoffs, has been set in Ireland. Indeed, hitherto the Doctor spent more televised time in Hungary than on the Emerald Isle (special prize if you know what story I am referring to). A couple of confused characters do wonder if Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, may be in Ireland, but that’s as close as we get.

However, the real life relationship between Doctor Who and Ireland is much stronger. Tenth Doctor David Tennant’s grandmother was from Northern Ireland – his grandfather was a professional footballer, whose record of 57 goals for Derry City in a single season still stands. Lalla Ward, who played the second incarnation of Romana and was briefly married to Fourth Doctor Tom Baker, is the daughter of the 7th Viscount Bangor; their family home was Castle Ward in County Down, better known to Game of Thrones fans as Winterfell.

And lucky kids in Belfast and Derry were thrilled one day in 1978 when the Fourth Doctor himself turned up at their school…

(5) CHEWHACKA. ComicBook.com points readers to a video that teaches how “Disneyland Guests Unlock Secret ‘Chewbacca Mode’ on Millenium Falcon Ride, and You Can Too”.

…The hack has to be done like an old video game cheat code. You need to make certain inputs by a certain time in order to bring “Chewie mode” online. Here is a video and written instruction from the FreshBaked YouTube Channel, which specializes in Disneyland tips and tricks:

(6) TRIBBLES BY THE NUMBERS. Although now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall, that wasn’t enough. Ars Technica learned that scientists wanted the answer to yet another question: “Physics undergrads crunched numbers for Star Trek’s tribble problem”.

Chalk this one up to fun scientific papers we inexplicably missed last year. A group of undergraduates at the University of Leicester in the UK calculated the growth rate of the fictional Star Trek critters known as tribbles. They published their results in a short paper in the university’s undergraduate-centric Journal of Physics Special Topics, estimating just how long it would take for there to be enough tribbles to fill up the USS Enterprise….

(7) VENUSIAN ROVER DESIGN CHALLENGE. NASA is summoning the public to help create new technology for a mission to a “hellish” planet: “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover”.

…Imagine a world hot enough to turn lead into a puddle, where the atmospheric pressure can crush a nuclear-powered submarine. Now imagine sending a rover to explore that world. 

Venus, ancient sister of Earth with a planetary environment just this side of hellish, has been visited by a handful of probes since the early days of space flight.  Of the many missions to our celestial neighbor, only about a dozen have made contact with the surface of the planet. The longest-lived landers only managed to function for a couple of hours before succumbing to the relentlessly oppressive heat and pressure.

… Current, state-of-the-art, military-grade electronics fail at approximately 125°C, so mission scientists at JPL have taken their design cues from a different source: automatons and clockwork operations. Powered by wind, the AREE mission concept is intended to spend months, not minutes, exploring the landscape of our sister world. Built of advanced alloys, AREE will be able to collect valuable long-term longitudinal scientific data utilizing both indirect and direct sensors.

As the rover explores the surface of Venus, collecting and relaying data to an orbiter overhead, it must also detect obstacles in its path like rocks, crevices, and steep terrain. To assist AREE on its groundbreaking mission concept, JPL needs an equally groundbreaking obstacle avoidance sensor, one that does not rely on vulnerable electronic systems. For that reason, JPL is turning to the global community of innovators and inventors to design this novel avoidance sensor for AREE. JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity.

This sensor will be the primary mechanism by which the potential rover would detect and navigates through dangerous situations during its operational life. By sensing obstacles such as rocks, crevices, and inclines, the rover would then navigate around the obstruction, enabling the rover to continue to explore the surface of Venus and collect more observational data.

CNN assures everyone:

Don’t have an engineering degree? Doesn’t matter. Never seen a spacecraft in real life? No problem.

“JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity,” NASA said.

The 1st-place winner of the design contest will get up to $15,000, the 2nd-place winner will get up to $10,000, and the 3rd-place winner will get $5,000.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 23, 1935 The Phantom Empire premiered.  It was a Western serial film with elements of SF and musical theater as well. It was directed by Otto Brower and B. Reeves Eason. It starred the singing cowboy himself Gene Autry along with Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross. In 1940, a feature film edited from the serial was released as either Radio Ranch or Men with Steel Faces. It was a box office success earning back its seventy-five thousand dollar budget.  The very few audience members who gave it a rating at Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like it hence the 27% rating there. You can see the first chapter here.
  • February 23, 1954 Rocky Jones, Space Ranger premiered. This was the first science fiction television show to be entirely pre-filmed (instead of being televised live as was the case with Captain Video, Buck Rogers and Tom Corbett.) It was also the first to use sets of unusual good quality, live location shoots, and rather decent special effects. Rocky Jones was played by Richard Crane. It was created by Roland D. Reed and written by Warren Wilson, Arthur Hoerl and Marianne Mosner, with Hollingsworth Morse being the director. It lasted but two seasons as it never really caught on with the public. Story wise, it actually had a great deal of continuity built into it, unlike almost all of the other series at the time. Its thirty-nine episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length, aired originally between February 23rd and November 16th, 1954. You can see the first episode here.
  • February 23, 1978 Quark was slotted in on NBC as a mid-season replacement series. Yes, the pilot aired on May 7, 1977, so technically that it’s birthday but let’s skip past that please. It was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. The series starred Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Richard Kelton, Tricia Barnstable and Cyb Barnstable. It specialized in satirizing popular SF series and films — the Wiki article states that three episodes were based upon actualTrek episodes, though that can’t be confirmed. It lasted but eight episodes beating Space Rangers by two episodes in longevity. You can see the first episode here. here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 23, 1564 Christopher Marlowe. Author of Doctor Faustus (or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.  Elizabeth Bear made him a character in her Stratford Man series which is Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth novels which I highly recommend. If you’ve not read them, the Green Man review is here. (Died 1593.)
  • Born February 23, 1915 Jon Hall. Frank Raymond in Invisible Agent and The Invisible Man’s Revenge. He was also the creator and star of the Ramar of the Jungle series. And he directed and starred in The Beach Girls and the Monster and The Navy vs. the Night Monsters. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties story editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series that ran in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for the series, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen, though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation, who created the Daleks, made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most of the ship computer interfaces throughout the series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. Early Puppies obviously. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 55. Founder, Tachyon Publications, which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading.
  • Born February 23, 1983 Emily Blunt, 37. Her most direct connection to the genre is as Elise Sellas in the Adjustment Bureau film based off Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. Mind, she’s been in quite a number of other genre films including The WolfmanGulliver’s Travels, Gnomeo & Juliet, The Muppets, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods, The Huntsman: Winter’s WarThe Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 18. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday individual that I’ve done.  She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh, The Queen of Years, in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an unnamed English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • And let’s catch up with Tom Gauld –

(11) LEAP BEER. On February 29 Ology Brewing Company in Tallahassee, Florida will combine the debut of their Tropical Habitat beer – “inspired by the Southern Reach trilogy” – with a book signing by Jeff VanderMeer.

To honor our friendship with Jeff VanderMeer, Tallahassee resident and author of the Southern Reach Trilogy, we are releasing Tropical Habitat, a tropical, otherworldly Hazy Double IPA at a special Book Signing and Meet & Greet event alongside the release of three other beers (Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, Barrel-Aged American Sour, and Fruit Beer).

A portion of Tropical Habitat sales (both cans and tap pours) will benefit the Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge (The Salamander Project) and honor the setting of the trilogy book series and one of our team’s favorite places – the North Florida Coast.

(12) BEHIND THE VEIL. Cora Buhlert put up another evaluation of a Retro-eligible work: “Retro Review: ‘The Veil of Astellar’ by Leigh Brackett”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Uncommon for Leigh Brackett, “The Veil of Astellar” begins with a framing story about a manuscript found inside a message rocket sent to the Interworld Space Authority headquarters on Mars. This manuscript offers an explanation of the space phenomenon called “the Veil” which comes out of nowhere and swallows spaceships in the asteroid belt. The space police officers are initially sceptical about the account, but eventually manage to determine that it is authentic. Furthermore, the much feared Veil has vanished and the message inside the rocket explains why….

(13) HEARTFIELD CLASS. Cat Rambo shared “Highlights from Writing Interactive Fiction,” taught online by Kate Heartfield.  Thread starts here.

(14) QUINN AGAIN, BEGIN AGAIN. A.V.Club: “DC Universe’s Harley Quinn is coming back for another season in April”.

We’re going through a Harley Quinnaissance at the moment, even if Birds Of Preydidn’t light up the box office, and it looks like DC Universe is eager to keep it going. As announced on Twitter, the streaming service (which still exists and has yet to be swallowed up by HBO Max!) will already be getting a new season of the Harley Quinn animated series in April. The first season just premiered at the end of 2019, so this will be a surprisingly short wait for a chance to hear more DC comic book characters say “fuck” and get beat up in surprisingly violent ways. Also, maybe this time Harley and Poison Ivy will end up together? Or maybe they won’t and that’s okay too? Either way, DC Universe has to hold onto something that fans want to see, or else HBO Max will just quietly roll up and take over. Then Harley Quinn’s going to have to hang out with the Friendsinstead of Poison Ivy, and nobody wants that.

(15) IF YOU DON’T SLING THE LINGO. BBC asks: “Dubs or subs? Parasite renews debate on how to watch foreign films”.

The South Korean dark comedy film Parasite had a historic awards season sweep – and in the process, reignited the debate over whether subtitles or dubbing is the best way to watch a movie that isn’t in your native language.

As director Bong Joon Ho accepted the first-ever best foreign language picture Golden Globe for a South Korean film, he said: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Fast forward a month, and he was making history again, accepting the best picture award once more at the Oscars. Parasite’s Oscar win introduced it to a broad US audience – but not everyone was in favour of watching the award winner in its original language.

Dubbing takes the stress out of enjoying a foreign film, some argued, and performances are meant to be heard, not read. The angered response from subtitle fans ranged from accusations of racism to pointing out the needs of deaf viewers.

How you watch a foreign film is a clearly personal matter, tangled in pet peeves and accessibility. But as foreign flicks are gaining more screen time before American audiences, here’s a deeper dive into how we got here, and where the industry is headed.

In the early days of film, on-screen text was far from a “one-inch barrier” – it was the only way to express dialogue. Title cards were the precursor to subtitles, and they, too, were controversial in a way that mirrors the modern debate.

Stage actors would try to hide their work in silent film as many felt the lack of sound diminished the quality of the performance, Professor Marsha McKeever, academic director of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, told the BBC.

(16) THE CALL OF THE UNWILD. Yours truly used to live a few blocks from where this happened: “Wild bear roams streets of California neighbourhood” (video). The bears didn’t come down to our block, but coyotes, skunks, and possums did.

A wild bear has been sedated and captured after it was seen roaming in a residential area in Monrovia, California.

The 28.3 stone (180kg) elderly female walked through residential areas close to Angeles National Forest.

A mild California winter could be a possible reason for the sighting, as warmer weather causes bears to leave their dens in search of food.

(17) HOMEMADE ASTRONAUT AND ROUND EARTH SKEPTIC DIES. The earth may not be flat, but now he is: “‘Mad’ Mike Hughes dies after crash-landing homemade rocket”.

A US daredevil pilot has been killed during an attempted launch of a homemade rocket in the Californian desert.

“Mad” Mike Hughes, 64, crash-landed his steam-powered rocket shortly after take-off near Barstow on Saturday.

A video on social media shows a rocket being fired into the sky before plummeting to the ground nearby.

Hughes was well-known for his belief that the Earth was flat. He hoped to prove his theory by going to space.

Video at TMZ.

(18) SEEKER. BrainPickings’ Maria Popova delves into Brian Greene’s book Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe: “Until the End of Time: Physicist Brian Greene on the Poetry of Existence and the Wellspring of Meaning in Our Ephemeral Lives Amid an Impartial Universe”.

…Although science is Greene’s raw material in this fathoming — its histories, its theories, its triumphs, its blind spots — he emerges, as one inevitably does in contemplating these colossal questions, a testament to Einstein’s conviction that “every true theorist is a kind of tamed metaphysicist.”

(19) TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE. Jeffrey Lyles succumbs to the Hasbro advertising — “Check out the incredible trailer for Transformers: War For Cybertron Trilogy: Siege” – at Lyles Movie Files.

I’ve been impressed with my ability to not get sucked into Hasbro’s Transformers’ Siege line. Those figures really look impressive, but I’m trying to keep my Transformers purchases to the Masterpiece line. But now with the release of Netflix’s Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy trailer, I’m thinking my resolve is about to crumble especially given how good this series looks.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/13/20 Doctor Pixelstein’s Scrollster – or The Filing Prometheus

(1) PSYCHICHISTORY. I can’t read minds, but I can read blogs. Camestros Felapton took up the literary question of “How to be psychic”.

Are psychic powers a trojan horse from the world of magic that have snuck into science fiction? Psychic powers are almost indistinguishable from wish fulfilment in aggregate and only take on a resemblance of speculation about reality when codified into subtypes with Graeco-Latin names with sciency connotations.

But psychic powers aren’t going to vanish from science fiction any time soon. Doctor Who has psychic paper and telepathic circuits in their TARDIS, Star Trek has empaths and telepathic Vulcans, and Star Wars has a conflict between psychic factions as its core mythology. Firefly and Babylon 5 had psychics. Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, Le Guin’s Ekumen universe, Asimov’s Foundation series, multiple Philip K Dick works, each contain various beings with mental powers. Science Fiction has a permission note for amazing mental abilities had has used that licence freely….

(2) MAG*C HAPPENS. At Disneyland, “’Magic Happens’ Parade – Debuts February 28”.

Starting February 28, Disneyland Park will welcome Magic Happens, the park’s first new daytime parade in nearly a decade—and one that reminds us wings aren’t needed to fly, shooting stars were created for wishes and magic doesn’t end at midnight!

With a wave of his wand, Mickey Mouse leads a cavalcade of fabulous floats, whimsically costumed performers and popular Disney pals like Anna, Elsa and Olaf around the park and into your hearts—all while moving to a high-energy musical score that puts a contemporary spin on classic Disney hits. In addition, a brand-new song co-composed by singer-songwriter Todrick Hall helps bring some of your favorite Disney tales to life like never before.

(3) ENOUGH ALREADY. Cat Rambo is bidding Facebook farewell:

I’m tired of logging onto here and seeing nothing but propaganda and talking points freshly harvested from the meme farms. I feel that the company has helped shred the American political system, that it divides us more than it connects, that it profits off our private data while selling us out to foreign powers, and that it is a major component of a system that continues to facilitate active class warfare being waged by the current kleptocracy on the poor and middle-class in our country.

If you are being asked to hate certain people or groups, whether liberal or conservative — ask yourself for a moment, who benefits from you hating them? What’s getting slipped past you while the rhetorical smoke and mirrors are dazzling you? I can tell you: it’s your country and all the things that we own in common that’s getting dismantled so rich people can shove more money in their already bulging pockets….

(4) APPEAL CONTINUES. The ”Help Mike Resnick’s widow pay off medical bills” GoFundMe asked people to share the link again, which File 770 is glad to do.

Update on 2/13/2020: Carol and Laura Resnick would dearly love to thank everyone who has donated to Mike’s fundraiser. As you can imagine, this has been an incredibly hard month for them both and all the kind words and support they have received has been so valued and treasured. Unfortunately, with Mike’s passing, the bills did not stop coming in. Carol has literally been swamped with bills, and there is no longer any regular income coming into the house to cover the mortgage, utilities or daily necessities (she has some very tough decisions ahead). We understand many of you have donated before, so even if you could just re-share the fundraiser link again, we would be so very thankful. Carol has been so incredibly touched by all the kindness shown to her and she knows Mike would be so proud of the SF&F field he loved so much for helping to support his family in their time of need. As every book dedication said “To Carol, as always.” She was his world.

(5) ALL FLOCKED UP. In Leonard Maltin’s opinion, “‘Birds’ Preys On Civilized Moviemaking”.

What price girl-power? Does the positive energy of a female-centric comic book movie—made by women—compensate for the nihilistic, super-violent nature of its content? Is this really a step forward for women, behind the camera and in the audience? That’s the conundrum presented by Birds of Prey (full title Birds of Prey And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)….now re-titled Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.

(6) THEY COME OUT AT NIGHT. In “Worldbuilding: Crime and Fantasy Books Have More in Common Than You Might Think at CrimeReads, Kelly Braffet makes a case.

… Take, for example, this passage from the second chapter of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade is on his way to a crime scene, and he stops at an overpass nearby to check out a few looky-loos interested in the murderous goings-on…

There’s nothing in this paragraph that relates to the murder he’s about to investigate or the case he’s working; the fleeing car doesn’t have any important characters in it, and the looky-loo never shows up again. This is pure worldbuilding. Spade’s world is one of cars and ads and fumes and concrete and people so bored and aimless that they’re willing to contort themselves to catch a glimpse of a dead body….

(7) GREEN TEASER. David Lowery’s upcoming movie The Green Knight stars Dev Patel alongside Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton. The fantasy is based on Arthurian legend and will hit screens in Summer 2020. The story is based on the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Native English speakers unconsciously organize adjectives in a particular order that is rarely deviated from, even in informal speech. The order is: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose. For example, it’s more common to hear “silly old fool,” rather than “old silly fool.” One notable exception, however, is the Big Bad Wolf. Source: The Guardian

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 13, 1954 Tom Corbett, Space Cadet first aired “The Space Projectile”. Frankie Thomas played the lead role in the series which was one of the rare series which aired on all four networks of the time. Joseph Greene of Grosset & Dunlap publishing house developed the series off of Heinlein’s late Forties Space Cadet novel but also based of his own prior work. Both a newspaper strip and radio show were intended but never went forward. You can watch this episode here.
  • February 13, 2000 — The last original Peanuts comic strip ran in newspapers

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 13, 1908 Patrick Barr. He appeared in Doctor Who as Hobson in the Second Doctor story, “The Moonbase”, in the Seventies Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) “You Can Always Find a Fall Guy” episode, and appeared once in The Avengers as Stonehouse in the “Take me to Your Leader” episode. His last genre role was as the British Ambassador in Octopussy. (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 13, 1932 Susan Oliver. She shows up in the original Trek pilot, “The Cage” as Vina, the Orion slave girl. She had a number of one-offs in genre television including Wild Wild West, Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Tarzan, The Invaders, Night Gallery and Freddy’s Nightmares. (Died 1990.)
  • Born February 13, 1933 Patrick Godfrey, 87. His very first acting was as Tor in a First Doctor story, “The Savages. He’d be in a Third Doctor story, “Mind of Evil”, as Major Cotsworth. His last two acting roles have both been genre — one being the voice of a Wolf Elder in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle; the other Butler in His Dark Materials.
  • Born February 13, 1938 Oliver Reed. He first shows up in a genre film uncredited in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, with his first credited role being Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf. He was King in The Damned, an SF despite its title, and Z.P.G. saw him cast as Russ McNeil. Next up was him as Athos in the very charming Three Musketeers, a role he reprised in Four Musketeers and Return of the Musketeers. And can we skip past him as Sarm in Gor please? Does Royal Flash count as genre? Kage Baker loved that rogue. Kage also loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which he played Vulcan. Orpheus & Eurydice has him as Narrator, his final film role. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 13, 1943 Leo Frankowski. Probably best known for his Conrad Stargard series featuring the Polish time travelling engineer Conrad Schwartz, but I’m more fond of his stand-alone novels Fata Morgana and Copernick’s Rebellion. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 13, 1954 Mary GrandPré, 66. She’s best known for her cover and chapter illustrations of the Potter books in the Scholastic editions. She’s the author and illustrator of A Dragon’s Guide series which is definitely genre of aimed at children. 
  • Born February 13, 1959 Maureen F. McHugh, 61. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang, was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the Otherwise Award, impressive indeed. Her other novels are Half the Day Is NightMission Child and Nekropolis. She has an impressive collective of short stories. Both her novel and short story collections are readily available at the usual digital sources. 
  • Born February 13, 1960 Matt Salinger, 60. Captain America in the 1990 Yugoslavian film of that name which was directed by Albert Pyun as written by Stephen Tolkin and Lawrence J. Block. It’s got a 16% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes which matches what critics thought of it. As near as I can tell this is only genre role. You can watch the film here.

(11) A FILER’S PICKS. Ziv Witie’s (aka Standback) annual F&SF appreciation/recommendation thread is up. Thread starts here.

(12) NEW WAVICLE. At Eight Miles Higher, Andrew Darlington’s “New Wave SF: Graham Charnock’s ‘First And Last Words'” is a profile of the massive pro career of someone I think of as a legendary UK fan. Which he is, of course.

…Beyond stories in ‘New Writings In SF’, Damon Knight’s ‘Orbit’ and the ‘Other Edens’ anthologies, the ‘New Worlds’ connection continues, into its later reincarnation as a thick paperback series edited by David Garnett. The teasing conundrum “On The Shores Of A Fractal Sea” (in ‘New Worlds no.3’) draws on Graham’s close encounters with Rock music, via his contributions to Michael Moorcock’s Deep Fix. The fictional deceased Rock-star narrator persists in a virtual Lagoona where ‘the beach goes on forever’, and where he works on his concept-cycle triple-album. Maybe being dead means he’s unaware that Hawkwind’s seventh studio album is also called ‘Quark, Strangeness And Charm’ (Charisma, June 1977)! He talks to shape-changing French, to whom his reality exists as ‘a fragment of cloned tissue… awash with oxy-infused saline.’…

(13) READ WITHOUT CEASING. In “5 things I learned from binge-reading a 50-book crime series in 5 months”, Sophia Rosenbaum says she read 50 novels by “J.D. Robb” (a pseudonym of Nora Roberts) in five months and talks about what she learned from reading so many books in a series in so short a time. This is a series that the Internet Science Fiction Database classifies as “futuristic mystery.”

J.D. Robb is the pen name for the prolific romance writer Nora Roberts, who started writing the series in 1995 and releases at least two new titles a year.

In the very first book, “Naked in Death,” we are introduced to a slew of what become recurring characters: Eve’s former partner and trainer, who becomes a father figure; the esteemed police commander; the maternal staff psychiatrist; Eve’s criminal-turned-singer bestie; and most importantly, Roarke.

(14) MADAM I’M. In an article in The Believer that begins “Palindrome, Palindrome” and then has an obscenity, Colin Dickey reprints Dan Hoey’s 543-word expansion of the palindrome “a man, a plan, a canal—Panama.”  Hoey was a Washington DC-area fan who died in 2011. 

Sometime in the mid-1940s, Leigh Mercer rescued from the trash several thousand index cards that his employer, Rawlplug, had thrown out. Mercer may not have yet had a plan, but he had an idea. He’d grown up in a family that cherished word games and had lived through the birth of the modern crossword puzzle craze, but he’d noticed that no one had seriously set their minds to the problem of palindromes. Though Mercer wasn’t interested in crosswords, he’d acquired a used copy of a book for crossworders that contained lists of words—no definitions—grouped alphabetically and according to length. Using this book and his new stash of recovered index cards, he began copying out possible palindrome centers—any word or snippet of a phrase that might be reversible. In 1946, he came up with one construction: “Plan a canal p.” It was, he himself later admitted, “not very hopeful looking,” but all great plans have to start somewhere.

It took him two years to find Panama.

…This kind of nonsense quickly spins out of control. Using a computer that trawled the dictionary, Dan Hoey created this monstrosity in 1984….

It technically works, but it relies on gibberish (“a bater,” “an em,” and “a say”), and it is long enough that all sense is lost and the palindrome topples into meaninglessness. The program used here was rudimentary enough that even Hoey knew his effort could be easily bested, and sure enough, Peter Norvig assembled a 21,012-word variation to commemorate the palindromic date of 6-10-2016, and it is absolutely as unbearable and unreadable as it sounds. And yet, even as everything falls apart, you reach the end—“a canal, Panama!”—and it’s like all is forgiven, like everything is somehow right once more.

(15) DINO CASH. “British dinosaurs to feature on UK money for the first time” – the Natural History Museum has the story.

The Royal Mint is releasing three new dinosaur-themed coins – the first ever in the UK.

The series of 50p coins is a collaboration with palaeoartist Bob Nicholls and experts at the Museum.

The coins will honour the first three dinosaurs ever named – Megalosaurus, Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus – although at the time they were named, ‘dinosaurs’ as a group didn’t exist. In fact, it was these three animals that made Sir Richard Owen realise that there was something different enough about them that they warranted being placed in a new group, which he named Dinosauria.

The three species will be featured on five series of collectors’ coins. Although they will be legal tender, they won’t go into circulation. Instead members of the public will be able to buy the coins, either individually or in sets.

(16) RESTORED TO THE THRONE. “Rise of Skywalker: How we brought Carrie Fisher back” — and other details of the effects are discussed by filmmakers in this BBC video.

Actress Carrie Fisher, who was best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series, died in 2016.

She recently appeared in the 2019 film Rise of Skywalker, but how was this possible?

BBC Click speaks to the visual effects supervisor, Roger Guyett and animation supervisor, Paul Kavanagh of ILM to find out more.

(17) I’M MELTING! “Antarctica logs highest temperature on record of 18.3C”

A record high temperature of 18.3C (64.9F) has been logged on the continent of Antarctica.

The reading, taken on Thursday by Argentine research base Esperanza, is 0.8C hotter than the previous peak temperature of 17.5C, in March 2015.

The temperature was recorded in the Antarctic Peninsula, on the continent’s north-west tip – one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.

It is being verified by the UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

“[This] is not a figure you would normally associate with Antarctica, even in the summertime,” WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters in Geneva.

(18) EIGHT MILES HIGH. That was quick: “British Airways Sets Record, Crossing The Atlantic In Under 5 Hours In Strong Winds”.

Kubilay Kahveci’s flight was supposed to be in the air for more than six hours — an overnight voyage from New York City to London. But British Airways Flight 112 made the trek in under five hours, setting a new record for the fastest subsonic commercial flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

(19) LEAST HYPOTHESIS. Nothing acute about this: “Wreck’s Identification 95 Years After Ship’s Disappearance Puts Theories To Rest”.

Lore had it that the SS Cotopaxi was swallowed by the infamous Bermuda Triangle after the steamship, and all 32 crew members on board, inexplicably vanished in 1925.

In the sci-fi film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, aliens are responsible for the ship’s disappearance.

But a team of divers has identified the ship and debunked the fictions, theories and conspiracies that emerged over the years. And unlike in Close Encounters, the ship wasn’t found in the Gobi desert, but rather 35 miles off St. Augustine in Florida.

The Cotopaxi had set off on its normal route between Charleston, S.C., and Havana, carrying a cargo of coal, when it was caught in a powerful storm, Michael Barnette discovered.

The wreck isn’t located within the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle — a region in the Atlantic Ocean with its corners at South Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico that has been blamed for unexplained disappearances.

(20) BACK TO THE BASICS. How it all got started — “Tom and Jerry: 80 years of cat v mouse”.

A cartoon cat, sick of the annoying mouse living in his home, devises a plot to take him out with a trap loaded with cheese. The mouse, wise to his plan, safely removes the snack and saunters away with a full belly.

You can probably guess what happens next. The story ends as it almost always does: with the cat yelling out in pain as yet another plan backfires.

The plot may be familiar, but the story behind it may not be. From Academy Award wins to secret production behind the Cold War’s Iron Curtain – this is how Tom and Jerry, who turn 80 this week, became one of the world’s best known double-acts.

The duo was dreamt up from a place of desperation. MGM’s animation department, where creators Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera worked, had struggled to emulate the success of other studios who had hit characters like Porky Pig and Mickey Mouse.

Out of boredom, the animators, both aged under 30, began thinking up their own ideas. Barbera said he loved the simple concept of a cat and mouse cartoon, with conflict and chase, even though it had been done countless times before….

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