Pixel Scroll 8/30/20 An Eruciform’s Body Is Wonderful Long.
Says Alice.

(1) FILM PRODUCTION RESUMES IN PRAGUE. Czech diplomat Jaroslav Olsa Jr. told Facebook readers, “I am happy that the Czech Republic is back as the powerhouse for Hollywood productions as it became the first country in Central Europe to reopen for filmmakers!” And he linked to this Czech Film Commission post: “Carnival Row completes two weeks of remaining filming in the Czech Republic under strict coronavirus protocols”.

In the Czech Republic, the clapper has just fallen on the most financially beneficial foreign production since the introduction of production incentives. The neo-Victorian fantasy television series Carnival Row starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne, a joint venture between the American companies Amazon Studios and Legendary Television, has completed two weeks of remaining production in Prague, after filming was interrupted at the beginning of March due to the spread of Covid-19.

(2) G.O.A.T.? Matthew M. Foster strikes an exceptional note of excitement over “Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)”.

This is the greatest movie ever made.

Am I over praising it? Absolutely. But this is the movie we need now. This is it’s time. If there’s ever been a more perfect fit for a film with reality, I don’t know it. Perhaps it won’t end up as the best film of the year, but it will be THE film of the year.

In this miserable time, filled with hate and doom and surrounded by loneliness, there’s been no cinema for nearly six months. Nothing. A huge gaping void to go with the huge gaping void which has been life, and Bill and Ted come along to fill it…

(3) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. Or whack your porcupine, or whatever it is you do to remember a date. 8-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated author Scott Edelman will launch a book on September 22. Scott elaborates —

Since this pandemic has made an in-the-flesh book launch for my new short story collection Things That Never Happened impossible, I’m doing as so many have done and holding a virtual one. So I’ll be running it live on September 22 through YouTube.

And you can even click to set yourself a reminder. I’ll briefly interview the cover artist to discuss how she came up with the concept, then I’ll be interviewed, and take questions. And as you can see by the image, the publisher even donated gift cards good in their store for me to give away as prizes.

Attend this live event for a chance to win one of three $50 gift certificates good at the Cemetery Dance store.

(4) VIRTUAL OR-ECON PLANNED. OryCon 42 has been postponed to next year due to the pandemic. It will be held November 13 to 15, 2021.

They will have a free virtual mini-con in 2020 from November 12-14, 2020 which has been dubbed OR-eCon. See updates at the OryCon website.

For now, we’re actively recruiting volunteers interested in making this virtual event happen. Please contact volunteers@orycon.org if you are interested in volunteering for OR-eCon.

If you would like to be notified as our plans progress, you can join our mailing list here.

While this will be a free event, we will be requesting donations both to cover the costs of the virtual event and for use elsewhere in the organization. As always, the various OSFCI charitable funds (Clayton, Petrey) are also open to donations.

(5) WHERE’S THAT OSCAR? ScreenRant is still peeved: “These Fantastic Sci-Fi Movies Were Some Of The Oscars’ Biggest Snubs”.

… These are often genre films, such as sci-fi, which continually fail to receive the recognition they deserve. While things are getting better, the Academy has a long and storied history of ignoring these excellent and influential films. With this in mind, here are 10 fantastic science-fiction films that were snubbed by the Oscars…

08 Blade Runner

Blade Runner presented a vision of the future unlike anything seen before and its influence continues to be felt today, but it was tragically overlooked by the Oscars and only picked up a mere two nominations and failed to win either award.

Harrison Ford’s fantastic portrayal of Rickard Deckard wasn’t enough to earn him a nomination, or any other member of the cast. Blade Runner’s score was also overlooked. However, Bafta showered the film with eight nominations and awarded it three awards. The huge disparity between organizations goes to show how subjective these nominations are.

(6) TELL KIDS ABOUT BOSEMAN DEATH? Actor Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer on August 28. In the Washington Post, Keith L. Alexander says Black parents with young children who are Black Panther fans are struggling to determine if they should tell their kids that Boseman died: “Parents of young ‘Black Panther’ fans struggle with telling children of actor’s death”.

… Graphic designer Kyle Cox remembers how he struggled to keep his own pain away from his 3-year-old son Lucas when NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, Cox’s idol, was killed in a helicopter crash in January.

“Every time he sees Chadwick on TV or in a movie, he points and says ‘Challa,’ ” said Cox, 34, of Lawrence, Mass. Lucas’s bedroom is covered with Black Panther posters, bedsheets, pillowcases and action figures.

“My wife and I have not decided yet if we are going to tell him. He wants to be like T’Challa when he grows up, a Black king. I don’t know if I want to tell him his hero died. That might crush him,” he said. “He’s still trying to get used to the pandemic and not seeing his friends anymore.”

(7) NEIL KADEN HAS DIED. Fanzine publisher and conrunner Neil Kaden (1954-2020) died August 28 at the age of 66. The family memorial notice is here, where it says a full obituary is coming. He is survived by his wife, Cris. There are some fine photos of the pair here at BostonBaden.com.

In a 2010 letter of comment, Neil told File 770 readers that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease around 2005. He told about his concern that other fans who also suffer from it might lose their connection to fandom and no one would know:

Statistics should show that over 1-in-100 fans are stricken with PD, but neither of us could identify where these fans are. Without a faanish safety net, they fall out of touch. The motion related symptoms, balance problems, bradykinesia, tremors, memory problems, and uncontrollable dystonia, are frequently not very visible, especially in the early stages.

Kaden at one time participated in several amateur publishing associations (APAs), founding DAAPA, and belonging to Taps, Applesauce, Anzapa, Canadapa, Vanapa. His publications included Dopplegangers!; Nekromancy; and Confessions Of A Failed Yuppie.

He co-chaired Ditto 13, a con for fanzine fans, in 2000.

(8) NELSON OBIT. Actress Lori Nelson died August 30. The Hollywood Reporter paid tribute.

Lori Nelson, the 1950s starlet who was kidnapped by an amphibious monster in Revenge of the Creature and portrayed Barbara Stanwyck’s daughter in Douglas Sirk’s All I Desire, has died. She was 87.

Nelson had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years and died Sunday at her home in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles, her daughter Jennifer Mann said.

…In Revenge of the Creature (1955), the first of two sequels spawned from 1954’s Creature From the Black Lagoon, Nelson played the ichthyology student named Helen who is snatched from a seaside restaurant by a smitten Gill Man (Tom Hennesy and Ricou Browning).

She initially did not want to make the movie but in the end was glad she did.

“I played opposite Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin and Audie Murphy, but who’s the leading man everybody wants to ask me about? The Gill Man!” she said in an interview for Tom Weaver’s book The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy. “It’s so funny, Universal had to twist my arm a little to be in a monster movie. But if I knew then how popular they would remain, I would have twisted their arm to be in a couple more.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 30, 1999 — The animated Roughnecks: The Starship Trooper Chronicles first aired in syndication from the Bohbot Kids Network. Produced by Co-Executive Producer’s Verhoeven-Marshall Flat Earth Productions (Richard Raynis was the other Co-Executive Producer), it’s loosely based off both Heinlein’s novel and Verhoeven‘s film. Very loosely. Duane Capizzi who later wrote the Superman: Doomsday film was one of the actual producers. The voice cast was rather large and consisted largely of no one you’ll recognise without Googling them. The series would last one season and thirty six thirty minute episodes before being canceled by Columbia TriStar Television and Sony Pictures on a cliff hanger as the last four episodes weren’t produced. You can see the trailer here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz]

  • Born August 30, 1797 – Mary Shelley.  Frankenstein her first novel; I agree with Brian Aldiss it’s the first science fiction novel.  Alas, it seems one of those books everybody talks about but nobody has read.  It’s an irresponsibility contest between the man and the monster.  Also a feminist tract; I’ve said that of Glory Road but falling on deaf ears.  One more novel, a score of shorter stories, for us; five other novels, travelogues, biographies, editions of Percy Shelley’s work.  (Died 1851) [JH]
  • Born August 30, 1887 – Ray Cummings.  Two dozen novels, two hundred thirty shorter stories for us; perhaps seven hundred fifty all told.  He, and not e.g. Feynman or the Flying Karamazov Brothers, wrote “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once” (a character in The Girl in the Golden Atom says it, ch. 5).  (Died 1957) [JH]
  • Born August 30, 1896 Raymond Massey. In 1936, he starred in Things to Come, a film adaptation by H.G. Wells of his own novel The Shape of Things to Come. Other than several appearances on Night Gallery forty years later, that’s it for genre appearances. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born August 30, 1931 – Jack Swigert.  Licensed private pilot by age 16; attained Second Class Scout, Boy Scouts of America.  At Univ. Colorado, football for the Buffaloes; M.S. (aerospace engineering) from Rensselaer; M.B.A. from Univ. Hartford.  U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, Korea; jet fighter pilot, Air Nat’l Guard; engineering test pilot; 7,200 hrs in flight.  AIAA (Am. Inst. Aeronautics & Astronautics) Chanute Award for demonstrating Rogallo wing.  NASA (Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Adm’n) Astronaut; on Apollo 13 mission said “Houston, we’ve had a problem here”; Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Elected to U.S. House of Representatives, developed cancer, died before serving.  Three honorary doctorates.  Int’l Space Hall of Fame.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born August 30, 1940 – Ye Yonglie.  (Written Chinese-style; the family name is Ye, rhymes with Heh heh.)  Chemist, poet, biographer, film director; fifty volumes of various material; proclaimed the leading science popularizer by the Party (thus sometimes “the Chinese Asimov”).  Xiao Lingtong Manyou Weilai (in romanization the Party prefers; “Little Know-it-all Roams the Future”) and sequels still in print, three million copies circulating, many Chinese children’s first contact with Futures Studies.  Half a dozen short stories for adults, three translated into English, see e.g. Science Fiction from ChinaTales from the Planet Earth.  Reports on SF in China for FoundationLocus.  (Died 2020) [JH]
  • Born August 30, 1942 Judith Moffett, 78. She won the first Theodore Sturgeon Award with her story “Surviving” and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at Nolacon II (1988) for her Pennterra novel. Asimov wrote an introduction for the book and published it under his Isaac Asimov Presents series. Her Holy Ground series of The Ragged World: A Novel of the Hefn on EarthTime, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream: A Sequel to the Ragged World and The Bird Shaman are her other genre novels. The Bear’s Babys And Other Stories collects her genre short stories. All of her works are surprisingly available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born August 30, 1956 – Lissanne Lake, 64.  A hundred covers, plus interiors, for Feast of LaughterMythic DeliriumStrange Plasma, books, gaming cards.  Here is Lafferty in “Orbit”, i.e. stories published in Orbit.  Here is the Four of Chivs (blades) from her Buckland Romani Tarot Deck.  Of course she has a Facebook page.  [JH]
  • Born August 30, 1963 Michael Chiklis, 57. He was The Thing in two first Fantastic Four films, and Jim Powell on the No Ordinary Family series which I’ve never heard of.  He was on American Horror Story for its fourth season, American Horror Story: Freak Show as Dell Toledo. The following year he was cast as Nathaniel Barnes, in the second season of Gotham, in a recurring role. And he voiced Lt. Jan Agusta in Heavy Gear: The Animated Series. (CE)
  • Born August 30, 1965 Laeta Kalogridis, 55. She was an executive producer of the short-lived not so great Birds of Prey series and she co-wrote the screenplays for Terminator Genisys and Alita: Battle Angel. She recently was the creator and executive producer of Altered Carbon. She also has a screenwriting credit for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a film the fanboys hate but which I really like. (CE) 
  • Born August 30, 1972 Cameron Diaz, 48. She first shows as Tina Carlyle in The Mask, an amazing film. (The sequel is bloody awful.)   She voices Princess Fiona in the Shrek franchise. While dating Tom Cruise, she’s cast as an uncredited Bus passenger in Minority Report. Oh, and she’s Lenore Case in the cringingly awful Green Hornet, a film I gave up on after fifteen or so minutes despite being predisposed to liking it. (CE)
  • Born August 30, 1973 – Echo Chernik, 47.  Commercial artist including science fiction and fantasy images; in four issues of Spectrum.  Here are some cards from her Patrick Rothfuss Name of the Wind Art Deck.  Here is Echo Recoil.  Here is a tote bag for the Uwajimaya shops.  Here is her Four of Blades for the “Shadowrun” Sixth World Tarot.  Here is an Elf for Shadowrun.  [JH]
  • Born August 30, 1980 Angel Coulby, 40. She is best remembered for her recurring role as Gwen (Guinevere) in the BBC’s Merlin. She also shows up in Doctor Who as Katherine in the “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Tenth Doctor story. She also voices Tanusha ‘Kayo’ Kyrano in the revived animated Thunderbirds Are Go series. (CE)

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

  • It’s Fred MacMurray’s birthday. He was used by artist C.C. Beck as the basis for Captain Marvel back in 1939.

(12) LEADERSHIP. “Octavia Butler on How (Not) to Choose Our Leaders” by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.

Like Ursula K. Le Guin, Butler straddled the timeless and the prophetic, saturating her fiction with astute philosophical and psychological insight into human nature and the superorganism of society. Also like Le Guin, Butler soared into poetry to frame and punctuate her prose. Each chapter begins with an original verse abstracting its thematic direction. She opens the eleventh chapter of the second Earthseed book with this verse:

Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.
To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.
To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.

(13) POETIC LICENSE. In the latest podcast from Diamond Bay Radio, Lex Berman interviews Sebastian Doubinsky.  Touching on drugs, music, and the need to protect poets as the last bastion of freedom, Seb provides a thoughtful background to his novel The Invisible  (Meerkat Press, 2020):  The Invisible With Seb Doubinsky’.

Take a stroll around New Babylon with the City Commissioner, Ratner, who finesses his way through the subcultures of Synth music, political corruption, and the invisible power of shared delusions. Ratner is out to find the murderer of Jesse Valentino, the former cop and unknown poet, unknown at home, and famous everywhere else.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY.“It’s a Neil Gaiman Universe, We Just Live In It” on YouTube is a clip from a 2014 episode of the NPR game show Ask Me Another where a contestant was asked whether a passage was from Neil Gaiman’s work or was made up by the Ask Me Another staff.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/4/20 Authors Pull Flashing Swords From
Story Stones

(1) SHATNER’S NOT SHOCKED. Ross A. Lincoln, “In Case You Were Wondering, William Shatner Knows Exactly What ‘Star Trek’ Slash Fiction Is” in The Wrap, says that someone thought she was blocked from Shat’s Twitter feed for making “Spirk”  (Spock/Kirk) slash fiction references, and Shat explained that he knew what slash fiction was, thought it hilarious, and noted that there are references to slash fiction in the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

(2) FINDING WOMEN HORROR WRITERS. “Weird Women:  The Forgotten Female Horror Writers of the 19th Century And Beyond” on CrimeReads is an excerpt from the introduction to a new anthology by Leslie S. Klinger and Lisa Morton (also called Weird Women, but with a different subtitle) of women who wrote supernatural fiction in the nineteenth century who the editors think are neglected and should be better known today.

…Yet there were women writing early terror tales—in fact, there were a lot of them. During the second half of the nineteenth century, when printing technologies enabled the mass production of cheap newspapers and magazines that needed a steady supply of material, many of the writers supplying that work were women. The middle classes were demanding reading material, and the plethora of magazines, newspapers, and cheap books meant a robust marketplace for authors. Women had limited career opportunities, and writing was probably more appealing than some of the other avenues open to them. Though the publishing world was male-dominated, writing anonymously or using masculine-sounding names (such as “M.E. Braddon”) gave women a chance to break into the market. It was also still a time when writers were freer than today’s writers to write work in a variety of both styles and what we now call genres. A prolific writer might pen adventure stories, romantic tales, domestic stories, mystery or detective fiction, stories of the supernatural—there were really no limits.

(3) INSURANCE FOR WRITERS. SFWA announcement:“Coalition of Eleven Book Industry Associations Launch Official Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership (BIHIP)”. Details at the link.

Today, a coalition of eleven book industry associations, including Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), launched the official Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership (BIHIP), an alliance with Lighthouse Insurance Group (LIG) Solutions designed to provide members from across the associations with a choice of health insurance options.

As of August 2020, official BIHIP coalition members include American Booksellers Association, American Society for Indexing, Authors Guild, Book Industry Study Group, Graphic Artists Guild, Horror Writers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, Novelists Inc., Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Inc., and Western Writers of America Inc….

(4) SECOND BLAST. The Dragon Awards website continues its Q&A with previous winners: “A Blast from the Past (Winners) – Part 2”.

So, your book comes out. At that time, what did you know about the Dragon Awards? Had you heard of them, and if so, how and what had you heard? How did you react when you found you were nominated?

Brian Niemeier: Oh, yes. I was well aware of the Dragon Awards from the day they were announced. The industry was in desperate need of a true readers’ choice award open to anyone, and I applauded the Dragons for meeting that need. Learning that Souldancer had been nominated confirmed that my writing efforts were worthwhile. It was like receiving the mandate of greater science fiction fandom.

Kevin Anderson: I’ve been aware of the Dragon Awards since the beginning, and I was thrilled as a fan and professional to know there was one award big enough to truly exemplify the feelings of a large pool of readers and voters. I had been soured on other awards because of politics and in-fighting, but the Dragon Awards really reflective of what readers like. Sarah and I were very thrilled to find out Uncharted had landed on the ballot.

SM Stirling: I’d heard of them and thought they were a good idea; the other major awards had become dominated by small cliques of the like-minded, and we needed a broad-based fan award. I’ve been going to Dragon Con for many years now — it’s my favorite con, full of youthful energy and like sticking your finger into a light socket, but in a -good- way. I was delighted to be nominated; you’re always in good company at the Dragons. Didn’t expect to win, though.

(5) TECH WRECK. Tim Maughan is interviewed by Brian Merchant in “The Man Whose Science Fiction Keeps Turning Into Our Shitty Cyberpunk Reality” on Medium.

.. Tim Maughan: I talk about surveillance to people who don’t think about surveillance all the time like I do and you do…And you walk in the house and they’ve got an Alexa. And you say, “I don’t like the Alexa because it’s a surveillance machine.” And they say to you, “Well, I haven’t got anything to hide. I haven’t done anything wrong. It’s not a problem to me. It doesn’t matter if they’re listening to me. I’ve got nothing to hide.”

And it’s like, actually, the reason I dislike it isn’t the fact that I’m worried they might be listening to me now — it’s monitoring my behavior, and that’s what I’m worried about. I don’t care if it overhears what I say, or an algorithm is listening to it or even someone in an offshore call center. Even if they’re listening to it, that privacy thing isn’t what worries me. The issue that worries me is that they’re modeling my behavior, and they’re making judgments based on that, which might not be the right judgments for everybody. And they’re using that model to make decisions about people who aren’t even their users, too, or they’re using it to make decisions about their users.

It becomes a thing about like, well, okay, what information can we collect from Alexas about a neighborhood or just their Amazon use? What decisions can Amazon make geographically in physical spaces? This neighborhood in South Brooklyn, I used to live in, East Flatbush, it’s gentrified. And I’m sure Amazon can pull up a map of where all the Alexas are, where all their Amazon Prime accounts are and go, “Well, this is a neighborhood which is increasingly likely to be gentrified” — aka, more whites.

Tech workers are moving into the neighborhood. What can we do in that neighborhood for them? And suddenly you’re changing the nature of the neighborhood. …

(6) WOLFE TICKETS. At ReReading Wolfe, “Jack Dann talks about Gene Wolfe’s influence on the genre and his own Renaissance Man career”.

Jack Dann discusses Wolfe’s influence, on the writing process, on the New Wave, and on how he got his start.

(7) SOCIOLOGY OR ARCHEOLOGY? In case you haven’t heard enough about fandom in the Seventies this week… Hey, where did everybody go? James Davis Nicoll forwarded this link to Albert I. Berger’s paper “Science-Fiction Fans in Socio-Economic Perspective: Factors in the Social Consciousness of a Genre” in Science Fiction Studies (Nov. 1977), which analyzes the responses to 3,000 questionnaires distributed at the 1973 Worldcon in Toronto.

Since 1948, several different studies have been made of the demographic characteristics of science-fiction readers, most by the editors of the commercial science-fiction magazines seeking to determine the characteristics of their own readerships. The results of these, along with data collected at two recent science-fiction conventions, have been admirably collected and summarized by Charles Waugh, Carol-Lynn Waugh, and Edwin F. Libby of the University of Maine at Augusta, whose work this paper used throughout for purposes of comparison.2 This study, conducted at the 31st World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto, September, 1973, is offered against the historical perspective of these earlier studies. As the Waughs and Libby discovered, there are difficulties in applying the findings of this survey to the entire science-fiction audience, since it is impossible to know exactly in what ways, if any, people at a convention differ from those who did not attend. Certainly science-fiction fans themselves are divided into groups, with some, notably those primarily interested in film and television SF, and members of the cult following of the series Star Trek, under-represented at this convention (see tables 20 and 21 below). However, the numbers of people responding to the questionnaire, and the diversity of their involvement in science fiction beyond attendance at the convention, suggests that the picture of fans irelatively reliable for readers of science fiction as a whole and, if qualified for the greater affluence of those who could afford to travel to Toronto, is at least as reliable as such commonly accepted-with-qualifications measurements as the Gallup polls….

(8) COPYEDITING, THE GAME. The New Yorker signal boosts “Stet!, the Hot New Language Game”.

… Nitpickers by profession, we ran into a problem right away. The instructions for Stet! suggest that you “play with three or more players” (is that redundant?), and we had been unable, during the pandemic, to scare up a third nerd. The game of Stet! comprises two packs of cards with sentences on them, fifty of them Grammar cards with indisputable errors (dangling modifiers, stinking apostrophes, and homonyms, like horde/hoard and reign/rein) and fifty of them Style cards, on which the sentences are correct but pedestrian, and the object is to improve the sentence without rewriting it. There are trick cards with no mistakes on them. You might suspect that there is something wrong with (spoiler alert) “Jackson Pollock” or “asafetida” or “farmers market,” but these are red herrings. If you believe that the sentence is perfect just as it is, you shout “Stet!,” the proofreading term for “leave it alone” (from the Latin for “let it stand”), which is used by copy editors to protect an author’s prose and by authors to protect their prose from copy editors.

(9) PLAY NICELY. BBC says “Sony’s Spider-Man exclusive sparks backlash”.

The upcoming Marvel Avengers game has sparked a backlash after it was revealed that Spider-Man will only be in the PlayStation version.

Its developer said the web-slinger will be available as downloadable content (DLC) next year on one platform only.

The game will be released on 4 September across several platforms including PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Fans have suggested the move will see many players missing out on the game’s full experience.

Sony has owned the rights to Spider-Man since 1999.

However, the superhero has appeared in games on multiple consoles and PC over the years, including games based on The Amazing Spider-Man film and its 2014 sequel.

But one recent game, simply entitled Spider-Man, was a critically-acclaimed PlayStation 4 exclusive title.

Numerous fans shared their outrage on social media following the surprise announcement on Monday.

(10) MAY SETTLE IN SHIPPING. “Sales Of ‘Settlers Of Catan’ Skyrocket During Coronavirus Crisis”NPR demonstrates, and interviews the creator.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In the pandemic, board games are back. And as NPR’s Rob Schmitz reports, many people are turning to a classic one from Germany.

(SOUNDBITE OF DICE ROLLING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Eight.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Eight again. More brick.

Family game night – we’ve done this a lot this year, thanks to the pandemic. And my family has dusted off Monopoly, Scrabble, but we usually settle on “Settlers Of Catan.”

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Two bricks for anything.

SCHMITZ: It’s a game of trade and development. Players compete for resources on an island and trade with each other in order to build settlements, cities and roads. The most successful developer wins.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Why in the world would I need brick?

SCHMITZ: Entrepreneurs love the game. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is a fan, as is LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who plays the game in job interviews as a way to size up an applicant. In its 25th year, “Catan” has sold more than 32 million units. It’s one of the bestselling board games of all time.

…SCHMITZ: [Klaus] Teuber spoke with me over an old computer, and his voice sounded distant, so we asked one of our colleagues to read for him. He’s 68 now, and he’s just released his autobiography “My Way To Catan” to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the game. Teuber was a dental technician, bored out of his mind by his job when he began creating games in his basement in the 1980s.

…SCHMITZ: And as families shelter in place, sales of “Catan” continue to climb. As the pandemic sent the global economy into a downward spiral, “Catan’s” sales skyrocketed by 144% for the first five months of this year. Teuber, whose two sons work for his company Catan Inc., says he still plays the game with his family, but he admits he’s not very good at it and that he rarely wins. He says what he enjoys most is playing it and being there with his family, something millions of other families are enjoying, too.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 4, 1992  — In the United Kingdom, The Lost World premiered. This is the third film made off the Doyle novel, the first being made in 1925. Another film would be made between these two in 1960, and four radio dramas would be as well. The 1944 one would have John Dickson Carr narrating and playing all parts, and the 1966 one would have Basil Rathbone as Professor Challenger. This film was directed by Timothy Bond and produced by Harry Alan Towers from a screenplay by Marion Fairfax. The primary cast was John Rhys-Davies, Eric McCormack, David Warner and Tamara Gorski whole character replaced that of Lord Roxton. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a twelve percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 4, 1792 – Percy Shelley.  This great poet wrote in our sphere, e.g. AdonaisPrometheus UnboundThe Triumph of Life, the novel St. Irvyne.  What about “Ozymandias”?  David Bratman, what’s this I hear about “The Marriage of King Elessar and Arwen Undómiel” appearing over his name in a Sep 82 issue of The New Tolkien Review?  I can’t get at it or I’d look instead of asking you.  (Died 1822) [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1869 – Evelyn Sharp.  For us a score of short stories, mostly collected in All the Way to Fairyland and The Other Side of the Sun; one novel (a dozen more of those).  At that time there were both suffragettes and suffragists; she was vital.  (Died 1955) [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1924 – Gumarcindo Rocha Dorea, 96.  Brazilian writer, editor, publisher.  His GRD Edições alternated translations with work by local writers, beginning in 1958 with Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet and in 1960 Eles herdarão a Terra (Portuguese, “They shall inherit the Earth”) by Dinah Silveira de Queiroz.  Edited Antologia brasileira de ficção cientifica (1961), first local anthology of only Brazilian authors.  His enterprise continued despite Brazilian politics and what Roberto de Sousa Causo calls a terminal inability to make money.  [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1933 – Thé Tjong-Khing, 87.  There are nine and sixty ways of transliterating Chinese these days, and every single one of them is right.  He’s an Indonesian Chinese from Java living in the Netherlands.  Illustrator.  Likes Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Stan Drake’s Heart of Juliet Jones, Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates.  He’s worked in that style, but see hereherehere – a thumbnailsworth of a long productive career.  Three Golden Brush prizes, Woutertje Pieterse prize, Max Velthuijs prize.  Website here (in Dutch).  [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1937 David Bedford. Composer who worked with Ursula K Le Guin to produce and score her Rigel 9 album which the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says is ‘a work that is musically pleasant although narratively underpowered.’ I’ve not heard it, so cannot say how accurate this opinion is.) (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born August 4, 1941 Martin Jarvis, 79. He makes three appearances on Doctor Who over twenty years. Hilio, captain of Menoptra, in “The Web Planet”, a First Doctor story.  He later is the scientist Dr. Butler in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”, a Third Doctor story, and as the governor of the planet Varos in “Vengeance on Varos”, a Sixth Doctor story. He also voiced Alfred Pennyworth in the animated Batman: Assault on Arkham Adylum which is the real Suicide Squad film. (CE)
  • Born August 4, 1950 Steve Senn, 70. Here because of his Spacebread duology, Spacebread and Born of Flame. Spacebread being a large white cat known throughout the galaxy as an adventuress and a rogue. He’s also written the comic novels, Ralph Fozbek and the Amazing Black Hole Patrol and Loonie Louie Meets the Space Fungus. (CE) 
  • Born August 4 – Taras Wolansky.  Persevering contributor to AboriginalAlexiadFOSFAXThe MT VoidNY Review of SFSF ChronicleScience Fiction & Fantasy Book ReviewSF Review.  Good at asking questions, like “If he had been, would he have done anything differently?” Never mind that I’d leave off the last two letters.  We’ve met in person, which is more than I can say for some people I know.  [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1961 Lauren Tom, 59. Voice actress for our purposes. She shows up on Superman: The Animated Series voicing Angela Chen. From there on, she was Dana Tan in Batman Beyond and several minor roles on Pinky and the BrainFuturama is her biggest series to date where she voices Amy and Inez Wong. (CE)
  • Born August 4, 1969 Fenella Woolgar, 51. Agatha Christie in “The Unicorn and The Wasp” episode of Doctor Who where she more than capably played off against David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. Her only other genre was as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. (CE) 
  • Born August 4, 1961 – Andreas Findig.  It’s possible to be a Perry Rhodan author and an absurdist; he was.  Six PR novels; two short stories and a novella Gödel geht tr. as “Gödel’s Exit” which may be impossible.  (Died 2018)  [JH]
  • Born August 4, 1981 Meghan, the former Duchess of Sussex, 39. Yes, she’s done a genre performance or so. To be precise, she showed up on Fringe in the first two episodes of the second season (“A New Day in the Old Town” and “Night of Desirable Objects” as Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup. She was also in the  “First Knight” episode of Knight Rider as Annie Ortiz, and Natasha in “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose” on Century City, a series you likely never heard of. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater finds working at home can be inconvenient.
  • Lio helps prepare for the zombie apocalypse.

(14) OH MY GOD, YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. In the new episode of Two Chairs Talking, “Translations, transforms and traumas”, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss discuss ConNZealand and the 2020 Hugo Awards, then take the Hugo Time Machine back to the very interesting year of 1963, when The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick won Best Novel, and “The Dragon Masters” by Jack Vance won Best Short Fiction.

(15) KEEPING SCORE. Lyndsey Parker, in the Yahoo! Music story “‘Pee-wee’s Big Adventure’ composer Danny Elfman assumed he’d never work in Hollywood again: ‘I thought the score would get thrown out'”, looks at how Danny Elfman began writing film scores 35 years ago with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and discusses how Elfman got into film music responding to a challenge from his brother and then explains why he is Tim Burton’s preferred choice for writing scores.

…Elfman’s Pee-wee score, with its goofy oompah riffs, Looney Tunes references, and frenetic pacing, was a wild and whimsical ride; created with Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek, it became one of the most instantly recognizable scores in ‘80s cinema. Elfman acknowledges that he quickly became the movie and TV industry’s go-to “quirky comedy guy” — for instance, Matt Groening later enlisted him to compose the Simpsons theme song. It was a label that was tough for Elfman to shed when he was hired by skeptical producers to compose an uncharacteristically darker-sounding score for Burton’s Batman, four years after Pee-wee. But it turns out the most skeptical person in Hollywood was Elfman himself.

(16) TUBULAR, MAN! See “The Roman Empire’s Roads In Transit Map Form”.

Unless you’re a historian or map buff, interpreting a map of the Roman Empire can be a daunting exercise. Place names are unfamiliar and roads meander across the landscape making it difficult to see the connections between specific cities and towns.

Today’s visualization, by Sasha Trubetskoy, has mashed-up two enduring obsessions – transit maps and Ancient Rome – to help us understand the connection between Rome and its sprawling empire.

At the height of the Roman Empire, there were approximately 250,000 miles (400,000 km) of roads, stretching from Northern England to Egypt and beyond. This impressive network is what allowed Rome to exercise control and communicate effectively over such a large territory….

(17) I READ THE NEWS TODAY, OH BOY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Louise McCreesh, in “Game of Thrones’s George RR Martin Accused of Making Racially and Sexually Insensitive Comments At Awards Show” on Digital Spy would only be interesting because she includes the words “in a post on File 770” and links to F770 which is the first time I have ever seen this on a random item in the Yahoo! news feed.

(18) THEY MADE A LITTLE MISTAKE. Meanwhile, Hampus Eckerman emailed to tell me, “You got promoted!” when he saw this passage in io9’s article “George R.R. Martin Responds to Accusations of Hugo Awards Racism, Apologizes for Mispronouncing Names”. (Their link for “the comment section” is to File 770.)

…In response to the criticisms of his hosting—a number of people have described it overall as racist—Martin took to the comment section of the Hugos’ official website to comment rather than his often used personal blog.

Wow. I thought io9 writers were supposed to know fandom better than that.

(19) NOW ON A MOON OF SATURN. Mad Genius Club has revamped its site design. Looks good! Or maybe I’m just a sucker for sky blue at the top of a page….

(20) SPACE CAMP SAVED. With large donations from several companies—as well as many individual donations—the USS&RC has achieved its minimum $1.5 million goal. WAFF 48 reports “New donation pushes US Space & Rocket Center past fundraising goal”.

 A $250,000 donation from Science Applications International Corporation has pushed the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s “Save Space Camp” campaign over its initial goal just one week after the effort launched.

The campaign began July 28 with the hope of raising a minimum of $1.5 million to sustain museum operations and to be able to reopen Space Camp in April 2021.

…The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the Rocket Center, which closed March 13, 2020, in keeping with state health orders intended to combat the surge in coronavirus cases. The museum reopened in late May, but with far fewer than normal visitors. Space Camp did not reopen until June 28, and then with only 20 percent of its usual attendance. With limited admission from international students and school groups this fall and winter, Space Camp will again close for weeklong camp programs in September.

The Space & Rocket Center is continuing to ask for support for the campaign. For more information and to make a donation, visit savespacecamp.com.

(21) EVERYBODY FIGHTS, NOBODY QUIPS! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Starship Troopers (ft. Casper Van Dien)” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the 1997 film “not at all based in the classic sci-fi novel” featuring soldiers whose bodies pulse “with the repulsive green goo they use to make Monster Energy” drinks.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/14/20 No Space Suit? No Service!

(1) WHERE TO FIND WHO. HBO Max did this video meetup to promote that they are now the exclusive outlet for Doctor Who Seasons 1-11. (Future season/specials will premiere on BBC AMERICA.)

Moderated by Terri Schwartz of IGN, HBO Max, in partnership with BBC America, presents the first-ever, historic meeting of The Doctors: Jodie Whittaker, Matt Smith, and David Tennant.

(2) LIKE YOU NEED TEENY TINY BRANDING IRONS. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Remember the Cordwainer Smith story with the laminated mouse brain? here is a picture of a mouse brain slice that won a prize: “Extreme closeup of mouse-brain slice wins top Life Science Microscopy prize” at Ars Technica.

Spain’s Ainara Pintor snagged the top honor from over 400 submissions with her gorgeous image of an immunostained mouse-brain slice, titled Neurogarden. The image focuses on the hippocampus area of a single slice, but there are more than 70 million neurons in the mouse brain as a whole, according to Pintor.

(3) THE MAINSTREAM GOES FILK. [Item by Rob Thornton.] A new musical genre named “bardcore” has emerged, in which musicians create medievalized versions of pop tunes reports The Guardian: “Never mind the ballads! How bardcore took over pop music”.

Is [it] a big thing? Where on earth have you been for the past two months? Bardcore is booming online, swarming all over YouTube and Reddit, and appealing to what i-D Magazine calls Generation Z’s ‘existential humour’.

Here is a bardcore version of Radiohead’s “Creep” as done by the musician Hildegard von Blingin’.

(4) OLD GUARD REVIEW. NPR’s Linda Holmes reports that “‘The Old Guard’ Is A Smart Blend Of Action And Emotion”.

…Here’s a quandary: How do you make a compelling movie — one with a good measure of fairly graphic violence, by the way — about a group of heroes who can’t be killed? Don’t they always have the upper hand? Won’t they always win? There are clever ways that the story itself gets around this problem, but it’s also absolutely critical that it’s in the hands of a director who understands, and can convey on film, that link between physical vulnerability and humanity. Because one of the things this story is about is that even if you do not die, the pain of cycling through injury after injury, recovery after recovery, reconstitution after reconstitution of your being, is a hard way to exist.

It’s a story that’s partly about the attrition of your spirit that can come from being, very literally, a “survivor.” And particularly because new recruit Nile (KiKi Layne, whom you know from If Beale Street Could Talk) is a black woman and two of her teammates are men who fell in love after being on opposite sides of The Crusades (which is a witty idea, let’s be honest), there is additional subtext here about the churn of violence and the costs of enduring it. Moreover, in a world seized with emergencies that activists are scrambling to address, it is frustrating enough when you feel like years have passed and all the attempts you have made to improve the world have come to nothing. What would it be like to feel that for centuries? For longer? Would you really want the long view? How much perspective could you stand to have about humanity?

More immediately, the plot is this: Andy (Theron) has been doing this the longest. She wants out of the hero business, really, but she can’t escape. She’s pulled into a job with teammates Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli). The job, conveyed to them by a man named Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is to rescue a group of kidnapped girls in South Sudan. How can they say no? When it turns out there’s more to the job than meets the eye, she’s confronted by the fact that there are people out there who know about her and her team and wish them no good.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, Nile is a young soldier consumed with the wars of the present, and shortly after she discovers that something is very unusual about her response to injury, she winds up in the company of the Old Guard. (They don’t go around calling themselves that, by the way; it would be very corny. And they don’t do it.)

This is the first film I’ve seen in quarantine that felt to me like a proper big summer movie — and yet it transcends so much of what’s sometimes been disappointing about that category. Yes, it’s a comic book movie. Yes, it’s an action movie. Yes, it’s about a team of good-doers. And it’s exciting and satisfying and tense and all those things. But everything from its queer couple to its leading women to its director to its thoughtfulness to its point of view about violence makes it such a welcome addition….

(5) A SHORTER REVIEW OF SOMETHING EVEN OLDER. Brooke Bolander has a concise take. Thread starts here.

(6) THE CUPBOARD IS SEMI-BARE. Variety says transforming San Diego Comic-Con into an online experience has an extra challenge – how to bake a cake without all the usual ingredients: “Comic-Con ‘At Home’ Aims to Rescue Fandom’s Biggest Week — Even If Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm Are No-Shows”.

Indeed, almost no feature films announced panels for Comic-Con@Home. Paramount, Sony, and Universal are sitting out the convention entirely, while WarnerMedia’s DC Entertainment elected to launch their own virtual fan convention — DC FanDome on Aug. 22 — to promote its suite of film, TV and comic book properties.

The biggest blow for Comic-Con@Home, however, is arguably the lack of participation from marquee Comic-Con participants Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm, which aren’t bringing any of their features or live-action scripted TV series to Comic-Con@Home. Fans had been especially anticipating first looks at Marvel Studios’ upcoming slate, including theatrical releases “Eternals” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and Disney Plus series “Falcon and the Winter Solider” and “WandaVision.”

(7) SFWA DEI. The members of SFWA’s newly-formed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee are:

  • Alaya Dawn Johnson – traditional novelist
  • Alex Acks – traditional novelist 
  • Crystal Watanabe – freelance editor
  • James Beamon – SFWA director-at-large, short fiction writer
  • Jane Pinckard  – writer, game designer, researcher, teacher
  • Kyle Aisteach  – short fiction writer
  • Michi Trota – SFWA Editor-in-Chief, critical and creative nonfiction writer
  • Tao Roung Wong – indie novelist
  • Whitney “Strix” Beltrán – game writer

The committee is developing procedures, and setting its action and scope, and will update the membership soon. 

(8) IMAHARA OBIT. Grant Imahara, host of MythBusters’ and White Rabbit Project, has died at the age of 49. The Hollywood Reporter story is here.

…While as part of the MythBusters team he sky-dived and drove stunt cars, on film sets he came into contact with some of the most iconic characters in screen history, installing lights onto Star Wars‘ R2-D2, creating the robot Geoff Peterson for The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and working on the Energizer Bunny.

…In his nine years at Lucasfilm, he worked for the company’s THX and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) divisions. In his years at ILM, he became chief model maker specializing in animatronics and worked on George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, as well as The Matrix ReloadedThe Matrix RevolutionsGalaxy QuestXXX: State of the UnionVan HelsingThe Lost World: Jurassic ParkA.I. Artificial Intelligence and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

In 2000, Imahara also competed in Comedy Central’s BattleBots with a robot he built himself called “Deadblow” that won two Middleweight Rumbles, was the first season’s Middleweight runner-up and became the third season’s first-ranked robot.

He was also an actor on The Guild and Star Trek Continues (as Sulu in the latter.)

John Scalzi, who knew him from a JoCo Cruise, wrote a short farewell.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 14, 1989 Muppets From Space premiered. It is the first film since the death of Jim Henson to have an original Muppet-focused plot, and is a breakaway from other Muppet films as it is the only non-musical Muppets film to date. Directed by Tim Hill, it was produced by Brian Henson and Martin G. Baker off a script written by Jerry Juhl, Joey Mazzarino and Ken Kaufman. It starred Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Bill Barretta, Frank Oz (in his last Muppet role), Jeffrey Tambor, F. Murray Abraham,  David Arquette, Josh Charles,  Hollywood Hogan, Ray Liotta and Andie MacDowell. Some critics really loved it, some really despised it and mourned the passing of Henson. It bombed at the box office. At Rotten Tomatoes, audience reviewers give it a not bad 58% rating.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 14, 1918 – Ingmar Bergman.  Director, writer, producer of film, television, theater, radio; questioning, perhaps re-creating, the human condition.  Five dozen films, fifteen dozen plays, half a dozen ours; one is Mozart’s Magic Flute; perhaps not The Magician, whose characters prove to be engaged in theatrical, not supernatural, magic.  Three Academy Awards, Golden Bear at Berlin, Palme des Palmes at Cannes, many more. (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born July 14, 1926 – Jef De Wulf.  For us two dozen covers for works in French, like this and this; also this; five hundred all told.  Had his own photography studio, in the end worked with the photo department of a regional newspaper.  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born July 14, 1926 Harry Dean Stanton. My favorite genre role for him? The video for Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. No, I’m not kidding.  He also played Paul of Tarsus in The Last Temptation of Christ, Harold “Brain” Hellman in Escape from New York, Detective Rudolph “Rudy” Junkins in Christine, Bud in Repo Man, Carl Rod in Twin Peaks twice, Toot-Toot in The Green Mile, Harvey in Alien Autopsy and a Security Guard in The Avengers. He didn’t do a lot of genre tv, one episode of The Wild Wild West as Lucius Brand in “The Night of The Hangman” and a character named Lemon on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the “Escape to Sonoita” episode. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born July 14, 1939 – George Slusser, Ph.D.  Eight books of SF criticism; anthologies of papers at U. Cal. Riverside’s Eaton Conference; Professor of Comparative Literature, first Curator of the Eaton Collection, Director of the Eaton Program for SF Studies.  “Clarke, along with Asimov and Heinlein … human dramas determined by advances in science and technology… to blend two otherwise opposite activities.”  Pilgrim Award.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born July 14, 1943 Christopher Priest, 77. This is the Birthday of the One and True Christopher Priest. If I was putting together an introductory reading list to him, I’d start with The Prestige, add in the Islanders and its companion volume, The Dream Archipelago. Maybe Inverted World as well. How’s that sound?  (CE)
  • Born July 14, 1949 Nick Bantock, 71. This is a bit of a puzzler for me. He’s the creator of The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy and The Morning Star Trilogy, a series of faux letters and postcards telling a story between two individuals. ISFDB lists it as genre but I’ve never heard it described as such before, and it certainly isn’t shelved as such in bookstores that I’ve frequented. Who’s read it here? (CE)
  • Born July 14, 1960 – Michèle de Laframboise, 60.  A dozen novels for us, as many shorter stories in Abyss & ApexGalaxiesTesseract (“Women Are From Mars, Men Are From Venus”); others too.  For one of her books she did this cover with Jean-Pierre Normand.  Translated into German, Italian, Russian.  Three Auroras, Prix Cécile-GagnonPrix Solaris.  Website (in English and French, of course) here.  [JH]
  • Born July 14, 1960 – Larry Segriff, 60.  Two novels of Tom Jenkins, a young adult who finds adventure in the stars.  Ten shorter stories.  Three Tom Clancy Net Force tie-ins.  Ten anthologies with Martin H. Greenberg.  Productive and competent.  [JH]
  • Born July 14, 1964 Jane Espenson, 56. She had a five-year stint as a writer and producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer where she shared a Hugo Award at Torcon 3 for her writing on the “Conversations with Dead People” episode, and she shared another Hugo at Chicon 7 for Games of Thrones, season one. She was on the the writing staff for the fourth season of Torchwood and executive produced Caprica. And yes, she had a stint on the rebooted Galactica. (CE)
  • Born July 14, 1966 Brian Selznick, 54. Illustrator and writer best known as the writer of The Invention of Hugo Cabret which may or may not be genre. You decide. His later work, Wonderstruck, definitely is. The Marvels, a story of a travelling circus family is magical in its own right though not genre.  (CE)
  • Born July 14, 1979 – Yukiko Montoya, 41.  Novelist, playwright and theatrical director, radio and television host.  Akutagawa, Noma, Mishima, Ôe Prizes; Nanboku and Kishida Drama Awards.  Recent collection in English, The Lonesome Bodybuilder.  The New York Times says she wins over her audience by pushing the absurd to extremes.  For example, in “The Straw Husband” the narrator’s husband is –    [JH]
  • Born July 14, 1989 Sara Canning, 31. Major roles in A Series of Unfortunate Events,  Primeval: New World and The Vampire Dairies, she also appeared in Once Upon a TimeWar for the Planet Of The ApesAndroid EmployedSupernatural and Smallville to name some of her other genre work. (CE) 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

TwistedDoodles translates parenting into genre:  

(12) MR. RICO GOES TO WASHINGTON. David Gerrold told Facebook readers “Starship Troopers is the single most misunderstood book in the entire SF genre.” An excerpt:

….Now, to be fair — Heinlein stacked the deck. Not the first time, not the last time. In this book, the enemy exist as a relentless, unending horde of mindless giant insects. Bugs. There is nothing there to empathize with. They are killing machines — chitinous terminators. The only response is kill or be killed. And in that context, Heinlein’s assertin is justifiable.

Now, consider if the enemy was not some kind of alien bug — but instead, another branch of humanity. Or even just another nation with a shared border. And consider that the battle is not so much a fight to the death, but an argument over whether eggs should be broken at the big end or the little end. At that point, the whole discussion of military service breaks down with one simple question, “Are you fucking kidding me? You want me to die on that fucking hill?”

Second question? How well did Heinlein do it? Well, we’re still talking about the book 60 years later, so I would say that he did a damn good job. Except that we’re not just talking about the book, we’re arguing ferociously about it. So maybe his point wasn’t as clear as he intended it to be. The accusations of fascism have pretty much obscured the more interesting point, which is worth discussion even if we’re not at war:

What is the obligation of a citizen toward the nation in which he lives? If the citizen benefits from their participation, what is their obligation — but also if the citizen does not benefit, what are their options?…

(13) STAR WARS IN THE NEWS. From the New York Times article, “Headed to the Convention? No I, More Republicans are Saying”:

…Everyone in the media wants to act like it’s some big deal that Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander aren’t going to the convention,” said Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida. “The reality is the number of delegates craving the octogenarians and septuagenarians of the Senate are surely lower than the number who have purchased their third Star Wars costume….

(14) A HIPPER FLIPPER. “Robot dolphins: the cruelty-free £20m ‘animal’ you can’t tell from the real thing”The Guardian will tell you call about it.

…They can respond to questions, swim happily in shopping mall display tanks, and withstand close contact that would usually be harmful to real animals – without any ethical problems. And they could soon be coming to aquariums in China.

Entrepreneurs in New Zealand are working with American creators of some of Hollywood’s most famous creatures to develop animatronic dolphins that look almost identical to their living counterparts.

A robotic dolphin that can nod an answer to a child – thanks to the human controlling it by remote – might sound unappealing or disconcerting. But as marine parks around the world face increasing pressure to abandon exhibitions featuring real whales and dolphins, the creatures provide an appealing alternative, their creators say.

(15) THE PICTURE OF HEALTH. “The new tattoo: Drawing electronics on skin:” Tagline: “MU engineers discover the possibility of using pencils to draw bioelectronics on human skin.”

… Since its invention, pencils — made of lead including various levels of graphite, clay and wax — have often been used for writing and drawing. In the study, the researchers discovered that pencils containing more than 90% graphite are able to conduct a high amount of energy created from the friction between paper and pencil caused by drawing or writing. Specifically, the researchers found pencils with 93% graphite were the best for creating a variety of on-skin bioelectronic devices drawn on commercial office copy paper. Yan said a biocompatible spray-on adhesive could also be applied to the paper to help it stick better to a person’s skin.

(16) THE PERFECT IS THE ENEMY. HBO Max dropped a trailer for the animated series Close Enough, which premiered on the channel last week.

(17) THE LIGHTS IN THE STY ARE NOT STARS. Elly Griffiths speculates about “Why Marshes Capture Our Imaginations—And Inspire Some Of Our Most Unsettling Folklore” at CrimeReads.

…I first came across this legend when I was researching a book, which was subsequently called The Lantern Men. I soon found out that there are many myths and legends about mysterious lights appearing on marshland at night. One version links them to a wicked blacksmith called Jack who tricks the devil and so escapes hell but can never be allowed into heaven. Jack is condemned to walk the earth forever, carrying a single coal from hell inside a pumpkin. The tradition of putting lighted candles into pumpkins at Halloween, also known as jack o’ lanterns, probably comes from this fable.

Jack is not the only creature abroad at night. Sometimes the blacksmith is called Will and, in English folklore,  marsh lights are often called will o’ the wisps, wisp meaning a bundle of twigs tied together to make a torch.  There are some regional variations, hobby lanterns in the north and pixie lights in Devon and Cornwall, where hapless travelers are said to be ‘pixie led’.

(18) HOPE AND GLORY. BBC says “‘Hope’ and ambition drive UAE’s Mars mission”.

The United Arab Emirates will despatch a satellite to Mars to study its weather and climate this week.

Hope, as the 1.3-tonne probe is called, is launching on an H-2A rocket from Japan’s remote Tanegashima spaceport.

The 500-million-km journey should see the robotic craft arrive in February 2021 – in time for the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s formation.

Lift-off is scheduled for 05:43 local time on Friday (20:43 GMT; 21:43 BST on Thursday).

An earlier attempt on Wednesday was called off ahead of time because of expected poor weather conditions over Tanegashima.

…Why is the UAE going to Mars?

The UAE has limited experience of designing and manufacturing spacecraft – and yet here it is attempting something only the US, Russia, Europe and India have succeeded in doing. But it speaks to the Emiratis’ ambition that they should dare to take on this challenge.

Their engineers, mentored by American experts, have produced a sophisticated probe in just six years – and when this satellite gets to Mars, it’s expected to deliver novel science, revealing fresh insights on the workings of the planet’s atmosphere.

In particular, scientists think it can add to our understanding of how Mars lost much of its air and with it a great deal of its water.

The Hope probe is regarded very much as a vehicle for inspiration – something that will attract more young people in the Emirates and across the Arab region to take up the sciences in school and in higher education.

(19) UNWRAPPED BOXING DAY. “Rare Super Mario becomes highest-selling video game”.

A rare version of the classic 1985 Super Mario Bros has sold at auction for $114,000 (£90,000), the most ever paid for a video game.

The cartridge, still in its original packaging, sold to an anonymous bidder.

And the US auctioneer said demand “was extremely high”, partly because this particular packaging had been used for a short while only.

The previous record for an auctioned game was $100,000 – for a different copy of Super Mario.

(20) NOT ZERO YET. In Godzilla:  King of the Monsters Pitch Meeting on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the film has lots of characters who utter “science words” and Snarky Countdown Guy, who is snarky when he isn’t counting things down.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/13/20 Pixel Number 8 Will Make You Cry. Pixel Number 2 Has Surprised Us All

(1) COLSON WHITEHEAD FETED BY LOC. He’s the youngest person to get this recognition: “Library of Congress to honor author Colson Whitehead.

Already this year’s recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Orwell Prize for political fiction, Whitehead is now being honored by the Library of Congress. On Monday, it announced that he had won the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

Whitehead, 50, is the youngest winner of the lifetime achievement prize, which the library has previously given to Toni Morrison, Philip Roth and Denis Johnson, among others. He is the first author to win Pulitzers for consecutive works of fiction — “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys,” for which he won in April.

(2) WHY HE HAD TO LEAVE. Edmund Schluessel reports on his experiences with Finncon 2020, which took place this past Friday-Sunday online and was based in Tampere, Finland. “Finncon 2020. So.”

I was quite sanguine about Finncon 2019. I praised the “more thriving, more diverse, more accepting community” I had found in Finland.

Thus this post is difficult to write. I’ll start with the part of Finncon 2020 I was there for, then talk about why I had to leave….

(3) HOLIDAY ON KLENDATHU. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing at The Verge, Joshua Rivera examines the legacy and impact of Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 film adaptation of Starship Troopers, linking to several other articles that examine the movie’s newfound relevance to America’s current political divisions. I know this film gets debated endlessly around these parts, but to my eye, the fact that a quarter century later people outside the SFF community are still debating its meaning and parsing its subtext is a good indication that Starship Troopers has enduring value. “The world is finally coming around to Starship Troopers”

I’m here to see the fireworks, and rare is the blockbuster that is interested in forcing me to question that.

(4) SAME BAT-TIME, SAME BAT-DISTANCE. Shelf Awareness shows how it’s done genre-style in “Social Distancing at Atomic Books”.

(5) SWEDISH HOPES UP. Fantastika, the Swedish national con or Swecon, is off for this year so they’ve named a date for the event in 2021. (We had the cancellation a few days ago, but not the new date.)

The Committee has decided to cancel the convention in October due to the corona pandemic. We have instead booked the venue, Dieselverkstaden, for the weekend April 9-11, 2021, i e the weekend after Easter. We sincerely hope that it will be possible to have the convention at that time. Please note that this is not the same date as the one that we previously considered.

If you wish to have the membership refunded you need to send me an e-mail with information on how I should send it, e g via PayPal. If you have already got a refund you are of course welcome to pay the membership again.

Please see further information on https://fantastika2020.com/

(6) DEEPSOUTHCON HOPES DOWN BUT NOT OUT. CONtraflow chair Frank Schiavo told Facebook followers the event (which is also this year’s DeepSouthCon) has been postponed to 2021. But there may be a virtual DeepSouthCon on the original weekend.

After much discussion, long board meetings, working back and forth with the host hotel, city/parish/state leadership, and Southern Fandom Confederation/Deep South Con representatives , the board of directors of CONtraflow has come to the following conclusion: under current conditions, we cannot give you the amazing Fan experience that you all have come to expect from the previous nine years of CONtraflow. We must reschedule CONtraflow 10, originally scheduled for this coming November 13-15.  Hosting our convention as usual in 2020 is impossible in these pandemic conditions, as they currently are and will be for the foreseeable future.  There are simply too many unknowns at play at this time.  Our only responsible, reasonable, and possible choice is to reschedule CONtraflow 10.  Please know this decision is as tough and painful for us as it is for all of you.  We didn’t make it lightly and hope you will support our decision.

I am sure most of you have questions about the rescheduled event. I’ll try to answer a few of the big ones.

The new date for CONtraflow 10 is October 1-3, 2021 at the Airport Hilton in Kenner, Louisiana.   We are currently working on guests and speakers for the new convention dates.  We’ll have a first flier about the new dates up on social media for you to share in the next few days. We are planning to have a more detailed flier with guests and major events up and out there online before the end of September.

…As for the DeepSouthCon 58 (2020) to be hosted by CONtraflow this year,  there are plans for a virtual DeepSouthCon 58 mini convention featuring panels, programming, the annual SFC meeting and the Hearts tournament, and more on the Saturday of the original convention weekend (November 14, 2020).  We are working out the details of online hosting and any possible costs and will be updating you with details of the virtual DSC in the coming weeks….

(7) A STRANGE PROLOGUE. Rob Hansen has added “THE 1971 EASTERCON” to his THEN British fanhistory website, complete with the usual cornucopia of photos. It includes this account of a bizarre chain of events:

THE BRIAN ALDISS GoH SAGA – Peter Weston

At SCI-CON 70:

Brian confided that this was the second time he had been asked to be Guest of Honour but had then been required to step down. We were suitably shocked, as he went on to explain how he had been invited as GoH for 1969 in Oxford, but when a new committee had taken over, headed by John Brunner, they had wanted to have Judith Merril instead. George Hay had heard about this, thought it was a bit poor, and so he had asked Brian to be GoH in 1970, which he had accepted. Then George heard that James Blish was moving to England and he did exactly the same thing, pushing out Brian once again in favour of a supposed bigger “name.” Rog and I were suitably disgusted, and promptly offered to make amends. We would bid for the 1971 Eastercon and would do it properly. We promised to find a decent hotel and make Brian our Guest of Honour. (p.191)

***

Suddenly, however, we hit double trouble. Brian Aldiss resigned as Guest of Honour, and this was immediately followed by the start of a postal strike. Brian’s letter was a bombshell! The only reason Rog and I had taken on the convention was to do justice to him, and now he was dropping out for no very good reason, saying vaguely that he “might be living in Hong Kong for a while.”

(8) INSIDE THE STORY. The Odyssey Writing Workshop does a Q&A with a graduate: “Interview: Graduate Corry L. Lee”.

What’s the biggest weakness in your writing these days, and how do you cope with it?

I mentioned cross-tension earlier, which I love. The thorn in my side, however, is forward tension.

To start us on the same page, by forward tension I mean the often external plot tension that pulls a reader through the story. In my Bourshkanya Trilogy, this tends to be resistance activities to weaken or tear down the fascist state. In general, fighting the big bad, and the sequence of events that leads to it, tends to be high in forward tension as the characters try and fail, as the villain pursues them, etc.

Cross-tension, by contrast, occurs between characters who have opposing, potentially unreconcilable beliefs. Both characters may try to do what they believe is right or necessary, may even care deeply for one another, but with the underpinnings of their belief structures in conflict, they’re forced onto opposite sides, e.g., a resistance fighter and a loyal State soldier. Secrets flourish in this soil, as do the juiciest (in my opinion) of all fiction elements: well-motivated, understandable yet heartbreaking betrayals. Or not. Opposing beliefs can be reconciled, which is part of what makes them so delightful. Cross-tension can also arise between a character and elements of the world, e.g., a resistance fighter who has to pretend loyalty to the State.

From my description, you can probably tell how much I love cross-tension. It makes my brain sing and is one reason I love having multiple POVs on both sides of a tricky moral line.

(9) HELP NEEDED. Jenny Parks, the author of Star Trek Cats (2017) and Star Trek: The Next Generation Cats (2018) has an online fundraiser for treatment of her Hodgkin’s lymphoma: “Jenny Parks Cancer Relief Fund”. As of today, people have donated $10,462 of the $25,000 goal. Ben Bird Person submitted the item with these images of “some of her art she’s done for me!”

(10) PRESTON OBIT. Actress Kelly Preston, whose best-known sff role was in the 1986 film Space Camp, died July 12 of cancer. (The New York Times tribute is here.)  She had a brief cameo with her husband John Travolta in Battlefield Earth (2000). On This Date In Science Fiction History takes an extended look at her genre resume in “Stardate 07.13.2020.A: In Memoriam – Kelly Preston”.

(11) CRAWFORD OBIT. Small press publisher Gary William Crawford (1953-2020) died July 9.He founded Gothic Press in 1979, serving as its editor, as well as the author of many published works in Gothic literature. 

From 1979 to 1987, Crawford produced six issues of the journal Gothic, and later, the press published the horror poetry magazine Night Songs. Crawford recently began the online journal, Le Fanu Studies.

(12) BRECHA OBIT. Sff writer F. Alexander Brejcha (1957-2019), whose first story was published in Analog in 1992, died in February 2019 it was recently learned. A collection of his short fiction, People First!!, was released in 2004, as was a collection of three novellas, No World Warranty.

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 13, 1960 — Irwin Allen’s version of The Lost World premiered. Based on the Arthur Conan Doyle novel. It was directed by him, produced by him with the assistance of Cliff Reid, and he wrote the screenplay with the help of Charles Bennett. The cast included Claude Rains, David Hedison, Fernando Lamas, Jill St. John, and Michael Rennie. Financing was so limited that the monsters were monitor lizards, iguanas, and crocodiles affixed with miniature horns and fins. Critics weren’t fond of it, it did poorly at the box office, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a scathingly poor 20% rating. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 13, 1796 – William Harvey.  Engraver and designer.  Woodblocks for e.g. Bewick’s Aesop, Northcote’s Fables, Lane’s Arabian Nights.  Here is “Ali of Cairo”; here is “The Merchant and the Jinni” (note, jinni is the singular, jinn the plural); here is “Sayf al-Muluk and Badi’a al-Jamal”.  Here is a portrait of Defoe, and title page, for Robinson Crusoe.  (Died 1866) [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1864 – John Astor IV.  Possibly the richest man in the world when he went down with the Titanic; wrote A Journey in Other Worlds set in what is now our past, the year 2000, with travel to Jupiter and Saturn powered by antigravity. (Died 1912) [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1904 Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps.  (Died 1961.) (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1926 Robert H. Justman. Producer and director who worked on many a genre series including Adventures of SupermanThe Outer LimitsStar TrekMission: ImpossibleMan from Atlantis and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He was the assistant director for the first two Star Trek episodes: “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1926 – Dik Daniels.  For years a prominent photographer, to whom we owe many such records.  Widely, long, and uncelebratedly enough helpful that he was given the Big Heart, our highest service award. Some photos 1968-2001 on this Website.   (Died about 2001) [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1937 Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time BanditsThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor he claims to have played three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Womblies, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1940 Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, 80. Jean-Luc Picard, starting with being Captain of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) on Star Trek: The Next Generation up though the current Star Trek: Picard. Also had some minor role in the MCU as Professor Charles Xavier, and played Leodegrance in Excalibur. Though not even genre adjacent, I’m fond of his role as King Henry II in The Lion in Winter. (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1942 Harrison Ford, 78. Three great roles of course. First, being Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. in the Indiana Jones franchise which is four films deep with a fifth on the way. The second, of course, being Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise, a role he’s done four times plus a brief cameo in The Rise of Skywalker. And the third being Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, a role he reprised for Blade Runner 2049. Oh ,and he played the older Indy at age fifty in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the “Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues” episode. (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1953 Chip Hitchcock, 67. To quote Fancyclopedia, Chip Hitchcock “is a con-running fan living in the Boston area. He is a member of NESFA and MCFI and has worked on a great many conventions including Worldcons at the Division Head level, Boskones and numerous other regionals.“ Happy Birthday, Chip!  (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1954 – Gary Feldbaum, 66.  First SF con, Boskone 15 (Fancyclopedia 3 and some others call the first Boskones I-V i.e. through 1945; the current ones, starting in 1965, 1-57 so far).  Moved to Philadelphia; happening to be a lawyer when one was wanted incorporated the Philadelphia SF Soc. (PSFS); chaired six Philcons.  Has worked on Worldcons on three continents.  Might be found heading a Division or ushering for the Masquerade.  [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1965 – Tomoyuki Hoshino, 55.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; nine more novels.  Bungei, Mishima, Noma, Ôe, Yomiuri, Tanizaki Prizes.  Born in Los Angeles, lived in Mexico long enough to get work in Japan translating Spanish-language movies.  Teaches creative writing at his alma mater Waseda U.  Me and the collection We, the Children of Cats are available in English.  [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1981 – Monica Byrne, 39.  The Girl in the Road won a Tiptree Award (as it then was); translated into German. Nine shorter stories in, on, or at Electric VelocipedeFantasyThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionShimmer.  Plays.  A TED Talk (Technology, Entertainment, Design).  Non-fiction in The AtlanticHuffington PostVirginia Quarterly Review.  Website.  [JH]

(15) COMICS SECTION.

  • Farcus has a toy that’s too big for the playroom.
  • Something Positive finds it’s too hard to separate the work from the artist.

(16) FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart fills readers in about The Full Lid for 10th July 2020:

This week in The Full Lid we have a first!! Matt Wallace’s Savage Legion is out in a couple of weeks and as part of the coverage for it, I’m delighted to run an original flash fiction piece by Matt, along with one by myself. Matt’s one of my favorite writers and people and it’s a delight to see him doing excellent work like this piece and the upcoming novel.

Elsewhere I take a look at the graphic novel new Netflix movie The Old Guard was adapted from. Finally, I take a look at unfairly overlooked crime/science fiction/magic movie Sleight.

(17) KOWAL Q&A. Andrew Liptak’s Reading List has a substantial “Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal” filled with insights like this:

How did this all dovetail with your interest in science fiction?

There’s no point in my life when I don’t remember reading science fiction. My dad and I would — actually the whole family, but dad and I particularly — would listen to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when it was on the radio. We’d watch Star TrekBattlestar Galactica; I read all of the things. But it is for me again, the thing that I said at the beginning about the ways science fiction and fantasy for me allows us to ask big questions.

Connie Willis set a thing once, which made me go “Oh, yes, that’s why I like it so much.” She said that she thinks that the difference between science fiction and fantasy and mimetic fiction or everyday fiction is that in mimetic fiction, you have ordinary problems, but then your character has to have an outsized or an extraordinary response to an ordinary problem. Like, someone’s husband is cheating on them, it’s not just, that they go stay with a family member; they go to the PTA and they stand on the table and they confront the person that he was having an affair with in order to drive the plot — you have to have this extraordinary reaction to cause the plot to move forward.

Whereas in science fiction and fantasy, we have extraordinary events taking place, which allows people to have normal, proportionate responses. And that made me understand part of why I like science fiction and fantasy, but it also made me realize that it gives us an opportunity to present a much more faithful representation of honest human emotion. The things that happen to us in our real world can be as as rocking or earth-shattering as a meteor hitting. There can be things that are as deeply traumatic. But most of those things aren’t enough to drive a plot. I feel like that’s doing a disservice to people who write mimetic naturalistic fiction, because I certainly have read stuff where people are having completely normal responses to completely normal events, but speaking in very general terms, it is an opportunity that science fiction offers.

(18) WITNESS SELF-PROTECTION PROGRAM. Frank Robinson’s early story, “Hunting Season” has been discovered and is going into production says The Hollywood Reporter: “James Wan, ‘John Wick’ Writer Derek Kolstad Team for Sci-Fi Time Travel Tale ‘Hunting Season'”.

…Robinson was one of the figures to come out of the mid-20th century sci-fi short story scene, penning techno-thrillers for various pulp publications. His thriller The Glass Inferno, written with Thomas Scortia, was one of two books that were combined to make the classic 1974 disaster film The Towering Inferno. He also was known for being the speechwriter for Harvey Milk, the gay San Francisco politician who was assassinated in 1978.

Hunting Season will follow a law officer from the future who is declared an enemy of the state and sentenced to be executed by being sent to the past and stalked by a posse. The man has three days to acclimate to his new era and find a way to survive.

(19) NO NORMAL CONQUEST. Steven H Silver’s new novel After Hastings is behind today’s Big Idea feature at Whatever: “The Big Idea: Steven H. Silver”.

While in grad school, one of the things my professors constantly warned against during discussions was falling into the trap of counterfactual speculation. When discussing and debating the causes and events of the medieval period, we were to confine ourselves to theories that could be supported by the primary sources and archaeological evidence. The fact that I did not become an historian and founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History may give some indication of how well I adhered to those rules.

(20) PAGING DR. HOWARD, DR. FINE, DR. HOWARD… [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Pick six of your most intelligent, fittest friends. Now imagine the seven of you are on a mission to Mars & you have appendicitis. Which friend do you pick to be your surgeon? Mind you, none of them have medical training. “From floating guts to ‘sticky’ blood – here’s how to do surgery in space” at The Conversation.

… Surgery in microgravity is possible and has already been been carried out, albeit not on humans yet. For example, astronauts have managed to repair rat tails and perform laparoscopy – a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to examine and repair the organs inside the abdomen – on animals, while in microgravity.

These surgeries have led to new innovations and improvements such as magnetising surgical tools so they stick to the table, and restraining the “surgeonaut” too.

One problem was that, during open surgery, the intestines would float around, obscuring view of the surgical field. To deal with this, space travellers should opt for minimally invasive surgical techniques, such as keyhole surgery, ideally occurring within patients’ internal cavities through small incisions using a camera and instruments.

(21) DON’T LESNERIZE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Simon Denyer, Akiko Kashiwagi, and Min Joo Kim discuss how robots are being used in the pandemic in Japan and South Korea,  including Avatarin’s use of avatars and the robot in South Korean elementary schools who takes kids temperatures and maskshames them if their masks aren’t over their noses. “No masks, no coughs: Robots can be just what the doctor ordered in time of social distancing”.

Now, the patrol robot has been adapted so it can also disinfect surfaces as it patrols, and is attracting interest from Tokyo’s Metro stations as well as other businesses.

In May, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted surging demand for unmanned deliveries and pledged to carry out tests to see if delivery robots were safe to use on roads and sidewalks by the end of the year.

Even the self-driving wheelchair can come into its own amid a coronavirus-filled world, the company said, potentially helping elderly people move around more independently without a helper who might be a vector for the virus.

(22) OVERTAKING. “Female gamers are on the rise in the ‘world capital of gaming'”.

The number of females playing video games in Asia is growing at a faster rate than their male rivals, according to the latest research.

Women are levelling the playing field across all of Asia’s key markets including China, India and Japan.

The female video gaming community grew by 19% last year, according to data commissioned by Google.

Asia is regarded as the global capital of video games, accounting for 48% of the world’s total gaming revenue.

…There are a number of factors that are contributing to this rise, with storylines becoming more inclusive and connectivity improving across the region.

For 2019, the numbers of female gamers had grown to 38% of the 1.33bn global gaming population, according to Google which collaborated with market researchers Niko Partners.

But for Asia, the proportion of female gamers is much higher. In China, they now account for 45%, while for South Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia the figure is 40%.

(23) ENVIRONMENTAL DRINKING. “Johnnie Walker whisky to be sold in paper bottles”. If this was Beam’s, could you imagine “Smooooth”-ing with a paper bottle?

Johnnie Walker, the whisky which traces its roots back 200 years, will soon be available in paper bottles.

Diageo, the drinks giant that owns the brand, said it plans to run a trial of the new environmentally-friendly packaging from next year.

While most Johnnie Walker is sold in glass bottles, the firm is looking for ways of using less plastic across its brands.

Making bottles from glass also consumes energy and creates carbon emissions.

To make the bottles, Diageo will co-launch a firm called Pulpex, which will also produce packaging for the likes of Unilever and PepsiCo.

Diageo’s paper whisky bottle, which will be trialled in spring 2021, will be made from wood pulp and will be fully recyclable, the company said.

The idea is that customers would be able to drop them straight into the recycling.

(24) TUCKER INTERVIEW, PART DEUX. Fanac.org has posted the second segment of the Bob Tucker interview done for Chicon 2000.

Dick Smith’s interview of Wilson “Bob” Tucker was done for Chicon 2000, that year’s World SF Convention. Here in Part 2, the stories keep coming (and Bob is an excellent storyteller). Tucker talks about Claude Degler’s first appearance in fandom and how Jack Speer (later Judge Speer) got into trouble. There’s more about Chicon 1, how he learned about the internet and how fandom has changed in the preceding 60 years. You’ll even hear how Bob ended up joining the N3F after decades in fandom.  Videography by Tom Veal, Chairman of Chicon 2000.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mlex, Olav Rokne, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Ben Bird Person, John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, Steven H Silver, Michael Toman, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/6/20 Toss Me A Pixel Scroll, I Think There’s One In My Raincoat

(1) WORLDCON AHEAD. CoNZealand urges members: “Fan tables and fan parties- get your application in!”

There’s still time to host a fan table or fan party at the first ever Virtual Worldcon, and we encourage you to apply- but don’t delay, as the registration deadline is 15th July at midnight NZT. This is to give our tech team time to make the plans they need to.

Fan tables will happen on Discord, and fan parties will be hosted via Zoom.

To learn a bit more, and apply to host a table or a party, visit our fan tables, fan parties, flyers and freebies page.

Also, “Masquerade registrations are now live”. More guidelines at the link.

The first Digital WorldCon masquerade is a unique event celebrating costumes from all over the world. The Masquerade has always been a space that welcomes every kind of costuming.

…Take inspiration from how technology has connected us, socially, for work, for school, how theatre has reimagined works, and to embrace any limitations as creativity.

The Masquerade rules can be found here.

The Masquerade registration guide can be found here.

The Masquerade registration form can be found here

Masquerade registration closes Sunday 23.59 NZST (New Zealand Standard Time) 16 July 2020.

(2) GETTING OUT THE VOTE. Camestros Felapton continues this week’s series with “Hugo Fan Writer: Why you should vote for…James Davis Nicoll”.

… The theme that has emerged from the Hugo-voter’s collective intelligence this year is fan writers as connections between worlds. The most apparent aspect of that in James’s work is his Young People Read Old SFF project (http://youngpeoplereadoldsff.com/) which puts classic science fiction stories in front of young people (or sometimes current science fiction in front of old people). As a project it is a fascinating example of how ‘fan writing’ exceed simple definition. The posts show how reading is a conversation with texts and with others reading those texts. James’s role is to facilitate the process but by doing so the whole project turns the process of review into a deeper form of literary criticism.

(3) VIRTUAL MILEHICON. Denver’s MileHiCon 52 has joined the ranks of virtual conventions.

Because we are going Virtual, we will not be able to provide all of the types of programs that we have had in the past. The art show, vendors room, and Authors Row will be available but in a totally different format. Panel discussions, presentations, readings and demonstrations will still be offered. There may also be some totally new types of programming. We will be announcing more information about the program schedule at later dates. Scroll down form more information.

(4) DIVE, DIVE! In “Subplots: What Are They Good For?” Kay Kenyon and Cat Rambo discuss subplots and how to use them. Kenyon will be teaching the “Mapping the Labyrinth: Plotting Your Novel” class on August 2 online at the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. Registration and scholarship info at the link.

An outline is one of your best tools for writing a novel, but how do you figure what happens, when, where, and to whom? How do you deal with plots when they go astray and how do you weave multiple plotlines together? With series, what can you leave for future books — and how do you set events up for those books?

(5) NOT A FAN. In The New Yorker, David Roth articulates “How “Starship Troopers” Aligns with Our Moment of American Defeat” .

… For most of “Starship Troopers,” humanity, in every possible facet, gets its ass kicked. A culture that reveres and communicates exclusively through violence—a culture very much like one that responds to peaceful protests with indiscriminate police brutality, or whose pandemic strategy is to “dominate” an unreasoning virus—keeps running up against its own self-imposed limitations. Once again, the present has caught up to Verhoeven’s acid vision of the future. It’s not a realization that anyone in the film can articulate, or seemingly even process, but the failure is plain: their society has left itself a single solution to every problem, and it doesn’t work….

(6) LOOKITTHAT MOUNT TBR. Buzz Dixon says David Gerrold’s new book is fun: “That’s A HELLA Story”.

…But the best monsters in the book aren’t human but rather the megasized fauna of Hella (an old South Park joke carried to its logical conclusion, much like Niven’s Mt. Lookitthat).  This is the most joyous part of the story, really evocative of the grand old space opera traditions.

But it also explores territory that, if not exactly new to science fiction, certainly isn’t commonplace, either….

 (7) DANIELS OBIT. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Country singer Charlie Daniels — who wrote “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, which one could very easily argue is a fantasy short story — has died at the age of 83.

There’s also an argument to be made that, golden fiddle or no, Jonny lost his soul the second he agreed to participate in the contest.

(8) MORRICONE OBIT. A composer who scored 500 films, Ennio Morricone, died July 6. The New York Times obituary is here: “Ennio Morricone, Influential Creator of Music for Modern Cinema, Dies at 91”.

…Mr. Morricone scored many popular films of the past 40 years: Édouard Molinaro’s “La Cage aux Folles” (1978), Mr. Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982), Mr. De Palma’s “The Untouchables” (1987), Roman Polanski’s “Frantic” (1988), Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Cinema Paradiso” (1988), Wolfgang Petersen’s “In the Line of Fire” (1993), and Mr. Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” (2015).

In 2016, Mr. Morricone won his first competitive Academy Award for his score for “The Hateful Eight,” an American western mystery thriller for which he also won a Golden Globe. In a career showered with honors, he had previously won an Oscar for lifetime achievement (2007) and was nominated for five other Academy Awards, and had won two Golden Globes, four Grammys and dozens of international awards.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

July 1976  — Gordon R. Dickson’s The Dragon and the George was published by the Science Fiction Book Club. It originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the September 1957 issue, as the novella “St. Dragon and the George”. It would be the first in a series that would eventually reach nine titles. The Dragon and the George would win the BFA George August Derleth Fantasy Award, and was loosely adapted into the 1982 animated The Flight of Dragons, a Rankin/Bass production.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 6, 1755 – John Flaxman.  Sculptor and draftsman (he wrote draughtsman); began by working for Wedgwood.  We can claim his illustrations of Homer, Hesiod, Aeschylus, Dante; some of his sculpture.  For our purposes we needn’t care whether angels, or the Greek gods, exist or in what sense: portrayal of them by human beings is fantastic.  Here is Homer invoking the Muse.  Here is Sleep escaping from the wrath of Jupiter (I wish JF had said Zeus, but he didn’t).  Here is Apollo with four Muses.  Here is the Archangel Michael overpowering Satan.  (Died 1826) [JH]
  • Born July 6, 1916 Donald R. Christensen. Animator, cartoonist, illustrator, writer. He worked briefly at Warner Bros. studio, primarily as a storyboard artist for Bob Clampett’s animation unit.  After that, he worked for Dell, Gold Key and Western Publishing comic books, as well as Hanna Barbera, Walter Lantz Productions and other cartoon studios. He wrote and provided illustrations for such comic book titles as Magnus, Robot Fighter, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge. (Died 2006.) (CE)
  • Born July 6, 1927 – Rick Sneary.  We liked what we thought his idiosyncratic spelling, and preserved it; few knew, few imagined, he was largely self-taught and wished we’d correct it.  One of his fanzines was Gripes & Growns – see?  President of the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n), chaired its board of directors; President of FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n) – by mail.  Locally, co-founded the Petards, who took turns as Hoist; the Outlanders, who could not always attend LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) meetings.  Living in South Gate, he did much for the South Gate in ’58 Worldcon bid; it won; physically it had to be in Los Angeles, but by proclamation of both mayors was technically in South Gate; at the end he carried a sign “South Gate Again in 2010”; this came to pass, see File 770 153 p. 20 (PDF).  He won the LASFS Evans-Freehafer service award, wretched health and all.  Afterward June & Len Moffatt and I co-edited the memorial fanzine Button-Tack.  His name rhymed with very.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born July 6, 1935 – Ditmar, 85.  Full name Martin James Ditmar Jenssen.  Outstanding and distinctive fanartist, most often seen on covers of Bruce Gillespie zines because BG has the tech to do him justice; see here (The Metaphysical Review), here (Scratch Pad), here (SF Commentary).  Others too, like this (PDF). The Australian SF Awards are named Ditmars after him.  Won the Rotsler Award.  [JH]
  • Born July 6, 1945 – Rodney Matthews, 75.  Illustrator and conceptual designer, famous for record album covers (130 of them), calendars, jigsaw puzzles, snowboards, T-shirts.  Lavender Castle, a children’s animation series.  Computer games.  Lyrics and drums for a Christmas CD.  A Michael Moorcock calendar and two of his own.  Two RM Portfolios.  Five dozen book & magazine covers, six dozen interiors: here is one for Vortexhere is Rocannon’s World (in Serbo-Croatian); here is his vision of Alice in Wonderland.  [JH]
  • Born July 6, 1945 Burt Ward, 75. Robin in that Batman series. He reprise the role in voicing the character in The New Adventures of Batman and Legends of the Superheroes , and two recent films, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face. The latter are the last work done by Adam West before his death. (CE)
  • Born July 6, 1951 Rick Sternbach, 69. Best-known for his work in the Trek verse starting with ST: TMP where he designed control panel layouts and signage for the Enterprise. He’s next hired for Next Gen where communicator badge, phasers, PADDs and tricorders are all based on his designs. These designs will also be used on DS9 and Voyager. He also pretty much designed every starship during that time from the Cardassian and Klingon to the Voyager itself. He would win the Best Professional Artist Hugo at SunCon and IguanaCon II. (CE)
  • Born July 6, 1946 Sylvester Stallone, 74. Although I think Stallone made a far-less-than-perfect Dredd, I think the look and feel of the first film was spot which was something the second film, which had a perfect Dredd in Karl Urban, utterly lacked. And Demolition Man and him as Sergeant John Spartan were just perfect. (CE)
  • Born July 6, 1966 – Beth Harbison, 54.  Writes fiction and cookbooks; twoscore all told. Shoe Addicts Anonymous was a New York Times Best-Seller.  If I Could Turn Back Time and Every Time You Go Away are ours.  The title Met the Wrong Man, Gave Him the Wrong Finger should give us all, as the French say, furiously to think.  [JH]
  • Born July 6, 1978 – Tamera & Tia Mowry, 42.  Identical twins.  Together four Twintuition novels for us; two television shows, Sister, Sister (both women won the NAACP Image Award, three Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, Nickelodeon Hall of Fame) and Tia & Tamera.  Tamera, the elder (two minutes apart), won a Daytime Emmy and two NAACP Image Awards as a talk-show host on The Real; two films and two dozen other TV shows.  Tia has done eight films, thirty other TV shows; is the head coach of the Entertainment Basketball League celebrity team.  [JH]
  • Born July 6, 1980 Eva Green, 40. First crosses our paths in Casino Royale as Vesper Lynd followed by Serafina Pekkala in The Golden Compass, and then Angelique Bouchard Collins in Dark Shadows. Ava Lord in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (weird films those definitely are) with a decided move sideways into being Miss Alma Peregrine for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And she was Colette Marchant in Dumbo. She’s got two series roles to her credit, Morgan Pendragon in Camelot and Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful. (CE)

(11) SEEN IT ALREADY. PsyArXiv Preprints has posted “Pandemic Practice: Horror Fans and Morbidly Curious Individuals Are More Psychologically Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic”.

Conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, this study (n = 310) tested whether past and current engagement with thematically relevant media fictions, including horror and pandemic films, was associated with greater preparedness for and psychological resilience toward the pandemic. Since morbid curiosity has previously been associated with horror

(12) OKAY BOOMERS. James Davis Nicoll takes us all out to launch in ”Five New Books for Fans of Spaceships, Rockets, and Occasional Explosions” at Tor.com.

I like fantasy well enough, but what warms the cockles of my heart  is science fiction. Preferably with rockets. Brobdinagian space battles (or at least the potential for same) are also a plus.

Here are a few recent novels that scratch that old-fashioned itch….

(13) DISCOVERY OF THE DAY. Apparently it’s been online for years — but it’s news to me! A Goodreads list of the sff classics John Hertz has led discussions about at conventions: “Hertz Led Science Fiction Classics Discussed”.

At a number of Worldcons and other science fiction conventions, John Hertz has organized a discussion of science fiction classics.

By his definition, “A classic is a story which survives its time which, after the currents change which might have buoyed it, is seen to be valuable in itself.” He explicitly is not interested in the idea of a classic as needing to be either influential or popular. To be fair that definition may not be his personal definition, but it was the guiding principle for the discussion at sasquan in 2015.

This list is for the books that were discussed at Worldcons and other science fiction conventions as picked by John Hertz. If a book that is from that list is missing on this one, please add it. Otherwise books that can’t be substantiated as being part of that process will be removed

(14) RECASTING. In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao says some white voice actors including Jenny Slate and Mike Henry (who played Cleveland Brown on Family Guy) have said they will not voice non-white characters as people are thinking about the role race should play in animation. “‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Big Mouth’ are recasting nonwhite roles. But it’s about more than finding the right voices.”

…Equitable casting “is being demanded to the point where people are giving up their jobs they’ve had for 20 years,” Baker says. “In a sense, I think it’s a great thing to have opportunity for diversity to come into place and be the norm. Why? Because it reflects the world. The world isn’t just one-sided.”

Baker co-founded the Society of Voice Arts and Sciences as a means of training, mentoring and advocating for her peers. Diversity and inclusion, mentioned in the organization’s mission statement, are central to what Baker refers to as her “journey of a lifetime.” White people continue to run the industry, she says. It’s always been cost-effective to hire actors like Mel Blanc, nicknamed “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” to play multiple characters. The overarching goal isn’t to take away from these talented white actors, but to ensure that equally equipped people of color have a substantial “piece of the pie.”

(15) ANOTHER ICON MOVES OVER. Food & Wine reports “Iconic Big Boy Restaurant Mascot Has Been Replaced by a Girl Named Dolly”.

…Rest assured that, no, Big Boy has not done anything wrong, or been canceled for bad behavior. Rather, the switch to a female face is a pre-planned promotional move tied to an on-trend new menu item.

“We are rolling out a brand-new chicken sandwich,” Frank Alessandrini, Big Boy’s director of training, said according to Michigan’s WOOD TV, based in the company’s home state. “Dolly has been with Big Boy since as far as we can go back with our comic books […] we decided that she’s going to be the star of this sandwich as Big Boy was the star of his double decker sandwich.”

(16) BADGE 404. BBC reports “Hong Kong: Facebook, Google and Twitter among firms ‘pausing’ police help”.

Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google and Telegram have all said they are “pausing” co-operation with requests for user information from the Hong Kong police.

Several countries have criticised China for imposing a new security law, which they say threatens the territory’s long-standing autonomy.

The announcements are likely to put pressure on Apple to do likewise.

While the others’ services are blocked in mainland China, Apple’s are not.

However, Facebook, Google and Twitter do generate revenue from selling advertising to Chinese clients.

Apple complied with the majority of requests it received from Hong Kong’s government between January and June, before the new law came into effect, according to the firm’s latest transparency report.

Microsoft – which has also previously handed over data about its users to Hong Kong’s authorities, and maintains a significant presence in mainland China – has not announced a change in policy either.

(17) THE OLD SHELL GAME. Did the Harvard Gazette tweet the news too? “When a bird brain tops Harvard students on a test”.

What happens when an African grey parrot goes head-to-head with 21 Harvard students in a test measuring a type of visual memory? Put simply: The parrot moves to the head of the class.

Harvard researchers compared how 21 human adults and 21 6- to 8-year-old children stacked up against an African grey parrot named Griffin in a complex version of the classic shell game.

It worked like this: Tiny colored pom-poms were covered with cups and then shuffled, so participants had to track which object was under which cup. The experimenter then showed them a pom-pom that matched one of the same color hidden under one of the cups and asked them to point at the cup. (Griffin, of course, used his beak to point.) The participants were tested on tracking two, three, and four different-colored pom-poms. The position of the cups were swapped zero to four times for each of those combinations. Griffin and the students did 120 trials; the children did 36.

The game tests the brain’s ability to retain memory of items that are no longer in view, and then updating when faced with new information, like a change in location. This cognitive system is known as visual working memory and is the one of the foundations for intelligent behavior.

So how did the parrot fare? Griffin outperformed the 6- to 8-year-olds across all levels on average, and he performed either as well as or slightly better than the 21 Harvard undergraduates on 12 of the 14 of trial types.

That’s not bad at all for a so-called bird brain.

(18) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. Uh, yeah, that sounds logical.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. On the off chance that you have 22 minutes to spare, you might also appreciate the opportunity to see excerpts from a 1977 interview with Philip K. Dick in Metz, France.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/22/20 Come And See The Filers Inherent In The Pixel

(1) YOU’VE SEEN HIM EXPLAIN HUGO VOTING, SO YOU KNOW HE’S GOT THIS. Kevin Standlee, a volunteer in Nevada’s Democratic Caucuses, appeared on CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto to answer questions about the assistive technology being used there (not the one that sparked controversy in Iowa). See the video here.

Kevin added, responding to a File 770 email:

My specific role was “Precinct Chair,” meaning that I conducted the caucus for my own precinct (Lyon County precinct 40), conducting the votes and certifying the results to the site lead. (Seven precincts caucused at our site.) The Site Lead then took the official paper records, reported them to the party headquarters by telephone and by texting pictures of the records to the party, then he took custody of the paper records and returned them to the party headquarters in Reno.

And before I finished today’s Scroll Kevin had written a complete account (with photos) on his blog — “3 1/2 Minutes of Fame”. Plus, his photos of the CNN appearance start here, and photos of the Nevada Caucus start here.

(2) AXE FALLS AT DC. Dan DiDio was ousted as co-publisher of DC Comics yesterday, says The Hollywood Reporter: “DC’s Dan DiDio Out as Co-Publisher”.

…Since stepping into an executive role at the company, DiDio has served as DC’s public face at conventions and public events, and has worked to champion not only the company as a whole but specifically the comic book division — and comic book specialty market — as being integral to DC’s success on an ongoing basis. DiDio was also part of the push to expand DC’s publishing reach into Walmart and Target via exclusive 100-Page Giant issues, an initiative that proved so successful that the issues were expanded to the comic store market.

…With DiDio’s departure, Jim Lee becomes sole publisher at DC, in addition to his role as the company’s chief creative officer, a position he’s held since June 2018.

Why is he out? The Hollywood Reporter didn’t address the question. Bleeding Cool received an answer from unnamed sources: “So Why Did Dan DiDio Leave DC Comics Anyway?”

Bleeding Cool now understands that yes, DiDio was fired this morning by Warner Bros at 10.30am PT in their Burbank offices and he left the building straight away. I am told by sources close to the situation that he was fired, for cause, for ‘fostering a poor work environment’ – as evidenced, as we previously stated, by significant departures at the publisher by editors. Dan DiDio has a reputation of being a micro-manager from some, for being very involved in projects from others. And DC Comics was heading towards a big change in its publishing programme – one aspect of which was the much-rumoured 5G – or Generation Five. Which would have seen DC’s major figures Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Diana and more aged out and replaced with new characters taking the roles of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as part of the new DC Timeline. And some folk at DC Comics were very much against this. But opposition never worried Dan, after all he was at constant odds with the direction the company line was pushed for pretty much his entire career as Publisher, and was always was striving to put comics first, as he saw it….

(3) FIRING THE IMAGINATION. At Boston Review, John Crowley interviews Elizabeth Hand: “Elizabeth Hand’s Curious Toys”

JC: Historical fictions are designed largely as a sort of medley: true details of time and place, actual persons of the period treated as fictional characters with their own point of view, invented persons who interact with the historical ones, real events that will form memories for the real people and for the fictional ones. You’ve long been drawn to this kind of fiction and its possibilities. What do you think its power is, for writer and reader?

EH: Well, as you know yourself, history is an immense sandbox for a writer to play in. I would add “fulfilling,” but can a sandbox be fulfilling? I love research, searching for and delving into primary sources in hopes of discovering some nugget of information that’s somehow gone unnoticed, that I can then use in a story. And while I always try to create as authentic and absorbing a portrait of a period as I can, I love playing with all the what ifs of history. Darger and Chaplin and Hollywood screenwriter Ben Hecht and others were all in Chicago at the same time: what if their paths crossed in some way?

JC: A theme of Curious Toys is how people in that period were fascinated with human oddities (fake or real), and you explore how, as much as that was about fear and wonder over the bodies of differently-abled people, it was also connected with the period’s gender rules and expectations. How much of this background psychology do you expect readers will sense?

EH: I never know what readers will “get” or not. To me, some things in a narrative seem perfectly obvious, yet are completely overlooked by readers (and critics). But I hope that my depiction of that period and its fears and bigotries is realistic enough that readers grasp how similar it was to our own time, even though many things have changed for the better. I came across an anti-immigrant government screed from around 1915 that could have been written yesterday by a member of the current administration. Gender expectations have changed since 1915; I suspect Pin would have very similar experiences were she to pull the same gender reversals today, though they’d be updated for the twenty-first-century workplace. I guess my real concern should be that some readers will think my historical depiction of an earlier era’s prejudices is fake news.

(4) AS SEEN ON TV. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson poses the questions in “Interview: Myke Cole, author of Sixteenth Watch”.

NOAF: You’re also on TV! While us viewers only see the polished, edited version, you literally get to see what happens behind the scenes. Any funny or surprising stories from your experiences filming the Contact and Hunted TV shows? Is television something you hope to do more of?

MC: I love doing TV. For one thing, I love attention. I used to think of this as a character flaw (we’re all raised to be self-effacing and taught that seeking the spotlight is a sign of egomania), but I’ve come to accept that for better or worse, it’s who I am. TV is so much easier than writing. It’s grueling work (12-15 days when you’re shooting), but it’s compressed into a tight period (Hunted was two month’s work. Contact was one month’s work). I get paid more to do a single TV show than I do in a year of writing, and a book takes me 1-2 years to write.

But just like writing, just because you’re doing it at a professional level is absolutely no guarantee you will get to keep doing it. I thought that starring on two major network shows and having an agent at CAA (it’s really hard to get in there) meant my TV career was set. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The only real benefit of having done two shows is that I now have a gorgeous, professional “reel” (clips of me on TV) that I can show to other shows I am trying to get to book me. Otherwise, I’m basically at square one. So, I’m currently hustling for my next show and there’s no guarantee that I’ll get it.

(5) MAKE IT SO MUCH. ComicBook.com says the floodgates have opened: “Star Trek: New Movie, Two New Series, and More Confirmed in the Works”.

A lot more Star Trek is on the way. ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish confirmed during the company’s 2019 earnings call that two more Star Trek television shows are in the works. These are on top of Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the already announced Star Trek: Lower Decks, Star Trek: Section 31, and the untitled Nickelodeon Star Trek animated series. Bakish also confirmed that the next installment of the Star Trek film series is being developed by Paramount Pictures. This was the first earnings call since ViacomCBS formed out of the merger of Viacom and CBS in 2019. The merger brought the Star Trek film and television rights under the same roof for the first time since the two companies split in 2006.

Bakish says that the reunited ViacomCBS plans “take the Star Trek franchise and extend it across the house.”

To that end, Bakish confirmed that a new line of Star Trek novels is on the way from VIacomCBS subsidiary Simon & Shuster. This line will include prequels tying into Star Trek: Picard. The first Picard tie-in novel, The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack, was released in February.

Bakish also confirmed that more Star Trek comics are on the way…

.(6) DARK MATTERS. “Chasing Einstein: The Dark Universe Event” will be hosted by The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination on March 2. A screening of the feature documentary Chasing Einstein will be followed by a panel discussion and Q & A.

Could Einstein have been wrong about the true nature of gravity? Does his general theory of relativity and the Standard Model need an update? Unprecedented advances in experimental particle physics, astronomy and cosmology are uncovering mysteries of cosmic consequence. Among the most challenging is the realization that 80% of the universe consists of something unknown that exerts galactic forces pulling the universe apart. The search for Dark Matter extends from the worlds most powerful particle accelerators to the most sensitive telescopes, to deep under the earth. Nobel worthy discoveries await. Scientists at UC San Diego are at the epicenter of the search for Dark Matter leading efforts to build the next generation of instruments and experiments to uncover its secrets.

The panelists will be —

  • Professor, and Founder of the XENON Dark Matter Project, Elena Aprile
  • Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor of Physics Brian Keating
  • Kaixuan Ni, Ph.D, Ni Group at UC San Diego. Dr. Ni leads the development of liquid xenon detectors for the search of dark matter.
  • Patrick de Perio, postdoctoral research scientist, Columbia Univerity
  • Steve Brown, producer, Chasing Einstein

(7) THE TAIL OF BO. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson tells what his dog was like: “Bo Davidson 2003 – 2020”.

…Bo used his body.  He developed specific stances and specific locations, along with a variety of sounds.   One such was to come running up to you, circle once, face you straight on and chuff.  We quickly learned that this meant “I’m trying to tell you something and you are too stupid to figure it out.”  So we’d guess, and here’s the cool thing:  we’d know if the guess was right or wrong by what Bo did.  We’d offer (something like “do you need to go out”?) and if we were wrong, he’d look at whatever it was, but not move, then look back at us.  “Nope, that’s not it.”

Finally, if we were unable to come up with an answer, we’d say “show me”, and off Bo would go.  He’d walk right to the immediate vicinity of whatever it was (oh, I left food in the microwave – Bo standing, facing the microwave on the counter, or oh, your toy is way under the jelly cabinet – Bo standing facing the cabinet, then looking up at us, then back down at the floor).

Once he learned that attempts at communicating would be rewarded, he never stopped.

Steve still needs to pay some on-going expenses for Bo’s treatment and has a GoFundMe campaign here.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 22, 1918 — In Denmark, A Trip to Mars (Himmelskibet in Danish), premiered. It is a 1918 Danish film about a trip to Mars. In 2006, the film was restored and released on DVD by the Danish Film Institute. Phil Hardy, the late English film critic, in The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction claims it is “the film that marked the beginning of the space opera subgenre of science fiction”.  You can watch it here.
  • February 22, 1956 The Mole People premiered. It was produced by William Alland, and directed by Virgil W. Vogel. It stars John Agar, Hugh Beaumont, and Cynthia Patrick. (Beaumont is best remembered for his portrayal of Ward Cleaver.)  The story is written by László Görög who also scripted The Land Unknown and Earth v. The Spider,  two other late Fifties SF films. Though I can’t find any contemporary critical reviews, currently audiences at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 28% rating. Oddly enough, the only video of it on YouTube is the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 airing which you can see here. That video alludes to the changed end which may have been done to placate the studio and their sensitivities to Fifties social mores.  

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 22, 1899 Dwight Frye. He’s  the villain in classic Universal Thirties horror films such as Renfield in Dracula, Fritz in Frankenstein and Karl in The Bride of Frankenstein. You might also know him as Wilmer Cook in The Maltese Falcon. He’s uncredited as a Reporter in The Invisible Man. (Died 1943.)
  • Born February 22, 1917 Reed Crandall. Illustrator and penciller best known for the Forties Quality Comics’ Blackhawk (a DC property later) and for stories in myriad EC Comics during the 1950s.  In the late Sixties, he did the illustration work on King Features Syndicate’s King Comics comic-book version of the syndicate’s Flash Gordon strip. He’s been inducted into Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame.  (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 22, 1925 Edward Gorey. I’m reasonably sure that his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! was my first encounter with him. I will recommend Gorey CatsThe Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas and The Doubtful Guest. Ok if he’s not genre but he’s still fun and delightfully weird. Oh, and do go read Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey, with superb photographs and text by Kevin McDermott. (Died 2000.)
  • Born February 22, 1929 James Hong, 91. Though not quite genre, he became known to audiences through starring in The New Adventures of Charlie Chan in the late Fifties. Genre wise, his first role was in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! voicing Ogata/Serizawa. He then pops up in The Satan Bug as Dr. Yang and next is seen playing Ho Lee in Destination Inner Space. You’ll no doubt recognize Colossus: The Forbin Project wherehe’s Dr. Chin but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of, oh wait you have, Blade Runner in which he’s Hannibal Chew and Big Trouble In Little China which I love in which he’s wizard David Lo Pan. It’s back to obscure films after that with next up being Shadowzone where he’s Dr. Van Fleet and Dragonfight where he’s Asawa. He’s next in The Shadow as Li Peng but I’ll be damned if I can remember his role and the same holds true for him as Che’tsai In Tank Girl too.  He’s Mr. Wu in the very loose adaption of the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Born February 22, 1933 Sheila Hancock, 87. Helen A. In the Seventh Doctor story, “The Happiness Patrol”.  Other than voicing The White Witch in an animated version of The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, that’s it for her genre work as far as I can tell but it’s a role worth seeing if you’ve not seen it! 
  • Born February 22, 1937 Joanna Russ. Is it fair to say she’s known as much for her feminist literary criticism as her SF writings? That The Female Man is her best known work suggest my question really isn’t relevant as there may be no difference between the two. She was for a long time a influential reviewer for Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where I think it would fair to say that you knew clearly what she thought of a given work. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 22, 1953 Genny Dazzo, 67. She attended the first Star Trek Convention in New York. She has since been involved in the local SF con, Lunacon. Moving out to LA, she was on the committee for all of the LA WorldCons as well as the Westercons, Loscons, and AmineLA. 
  • Born February 22, 1959 Kyle MacLachlan, 61. Genre wise known for his role as Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks  and its weird film prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Paul Atreides in Dune, Lloyd Gallagher in The Hidden, Clifford Vandercave In The Flintstones, Calvin Zabo in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Jeffrey Beaumont in Blue Velvet (OK not genre, just weird).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • At Family Circus, the kids ask their Mom a challenging genre question.

(11) BOOK FU. This seems like something no one should miss.

(12) WEASLEY SQUIRREL REVIVAL. Four Weasleys will reunite at a Dallas con happening at the end of March: “Harry Potter: Weasley reunion coming at Fan Expo Dallas 2020”. (John Cleese will be there too…!)

If you need a Weasley reunion, look no further than Fan Expo Dallas 2020. Four Harry Potter actors are getting together for some exciting times.

That’s right. You’ll get four of the Weasley siblings. And these aren’t the ones that you didn’t see enough off on screen. Fan Expo Dallas 2020 has managed to get the four Weasley siblings who spent most of their time on screen; the ones you cried over and rooted for.

Rupert Grint, Bonnie Wright, and Oliver and James Phelps will all attend the multi-fandom convention….

(13) FUTURE VISION. At CNBC’s Make It, “Elon Musk shares the science fiction book series that inspired him to start SpaceX”.

As a teenage boy, Elon Musk felt a “personal obligation” for the fate of mankind, according to the book “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance.

Musk’s love of books and the lessons he took from them inspired him to create “cleaner energy technology or [build] spaceships to extend the human species’s reach” in the future, according to Vance.

One set of those books Musk still recommends today: the seven-book “Foundation” science fiction series by scientist and author Isaac Asimov.

(14) 1968 ASIMOV AUDIO. Fanac.org presents a recording of Isaac Asimov’s talk at the 1968 Boskone.

In this audio recording (illustrated with more than 50 images), Isaac Asimov spends an hour talking about everything and anything. He is speaking to his extended family – a roomful of science fiction fans. 

Isaac speaks with great good humor about his writing (both science fiction and science fact), ribs his fellow writers, especially Lester Del Rey and others who were in the room, and tells stories about Harlan Ellison and John W. Campbell.  

He is charming and arrogant, explaining his view of women, why he doesn’t write for TV, his experiences on late night TV and more. 

This is an opportunity to get to know one of science fiction’s greats as his contemporaries did. 

Thanks to the New England Science Fiction Society (NESFA) and Rick Kovalcik for providing the recording. Brought to you here by FANAC.org , the Fanhistory Project. For more fan history, visit FANAC.org and Fancyclopedia.org .

(15) THEY, ROBOT. Plagiarism Today discusses “Why Web Scraping/Spinning is Back” and blames Google.

The big question is “What changed?” Why is it that, after nearly a decade, these antiquated approaches to web spamming are back?

The real answer is that web scraping never really went away. The nature of spamming is that, even after a technique is defeated, people will continue to try it. The reason is fairly simple: Spam is a numbers game and, if you stop a technique 99.9% of the time, a spammer just has to try 1,000 times to have one success (on average).

But that doesn’t explain why many people are noticing more of these sites in their search results, especially when looking for certain kinds of news.

Part of the answer may come from a September announcement by Richard Gingras, Google’s VP for News. There, he talked about efforts they were making to elevate “original reporting” in search results. According to the announcement, Google strongly favored the latest or most comprehensive reporting on a topic. They were going to try and change that algorithm to show more preference to original reporting, keeping those stories toward the top for longer.

Whether that change has materialized is up for debate. I, personally, regularly see duplicative articles rank well both in Google and Google News even today. That said, some of the sites I was monitoring last month when I started researching this topic have disappeared from Google News.

(16) FROM POWERED ARMOR TO CRAB SHELL. “Anytime you think I’m being too rough, anytime you think I’m being too tough, anytime you miss-your-mommy, QUIT! You sign your 1240-A, you get your gear, and you take a stroll down washout lane. Do you get me?”  He’s had quite a career since playing Sgt. Zim in Starship Troopers – the Maltin on Movies podcast interviews Clancy Brown.

With films ranging from The Shawshank Redemption to Starship Troopers and recent TV appearances on The Mandalorian, Emergence, Billions, and The Crown (as LBJ), Clancy Brown is the living definition of a “working actor.” He’s also been the voice of Mr. Krabs on Spongebob Squarepants for more than twenty years! Leonard and Jessie have been after him for many months to appear on the podcast and finally found a day he wasn’t on a soundstage; it was well worth the wait.

(17) AND THE JUDGES SAY. Paul Weimer assesses the end of a trilogy at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: The Poet King by Ilana C Myer”.

In The Poet King, Ilana C Myer sticks the landing, in completing the Harp and the Blade trilogy, a poetical and lyrically rich fantasy of the tumultuous return of magic to a fantasy land, and the poet central to the mythically infused events.

(18) EL SEGUNDO. Paul Weimer also reviews a second book in a series — “Microreview [book]: The Hanged Man, by K D Edwards” at Nerds of a Feather.

The Last Sun introduced us to a fascinating world of Atlanteans, their world gone, living on the occupied island of Nantucket. A world where the most powerful Atlanteans carried terrible magical power, Rune, last heir of fallen House Sun, became wrapped up in the machinations of other, great Houses, and slowly coming into his own power in the process. An unusual sort of urban fantasy, The Last Sun was notable for its invention, its strong character focus, and the queer friendliness of Atlantean society.

Now in The Hanged Man, K.C. Edwards continues the story of Rune, and Brand, his bonded Companion, and their slowly accumulating set of friends, lover, and allies.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/7/19 Filer Scrollflake, Pixelman

(1) OVERCOMING GRIEF. Dan Grossman profiles “Maurice Broaddus: Afrofuturist Author, Conversation Guy, and Mentor” at Nuvo.

Broaddus, who lives near Eagle Creek Reservoir on the northwest side of Indianapolis with his wife and two sons, is a busy guy. This past spring he scored a $175,000 three-book deal with TOR Books for a forthcoming fantasy series titled All the Stars. Tor Books, a subsidiary of Macmillan, is the largest publisher of science fiction and fantasy in the United States. 

Broaddus, 49, also was coping with the death of his father the previous week, but this wasn’t slowing him down.

“One of the ways I tend to cope with grief,” he said, “is to go into high production mode.”

To contain that grief, he wrote a short story, figuring that the word count would be around 5,000. 

“But it turned out to be 20,000 words by the time I was done,” he said. The story, “Bound by Sorrow,” will soon appear in the online sci-fi/fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies.   

(2) POP INTO 1964 GERMANY. Cora Buhlert’s latest article at Galactic Journey is about Perry Rhodan, but there is also a bit about East-West German relations, bad German pop music and fairground rides: “[November 5, 1964] The State of the Solar Empire: Perry Rhodan in 1964”

Since the Heftroman issues of Perry Rhodan are published weekly now, the plot moves at a brisk clip. Furthermore, a monthly companion series of so-called Planetenromane (planet novels), 158 page paperback novels, premiered in September. The third issue just came out. Many Heftromane have paperback companion series, but most of them just republish old material, occasionally by literally stapling unsold issues together and adding a new cover. The Planetenromane, on the other hand, offer all-new stories, often side stories, which don’t quite fit into the main series.

(3) LAUGH TRACK. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertaiment story “‘WandaVision’: Everything we know about Marvel’s ‘first sitcom'” profiles WandaVision, a sitcom featuring Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, and Paul Bettany as Vision which will begin streaming on DisneyPlus in the spring of 2021 but which is reportedly shooting now.

WandaVision’s sitcom status was confirmed to Yahoo Entertainment by no less an authority than the Scarlet Witch herself. Catching up with Olsen and Bettany at Disney’s D23 event in August, the actress told us, “We can confidently say it is [a sitcom].” Her co-star quickly added, “That’s how it begins and it moves into more familiar epic territory later. But it’s absolutely a mash-up of sitcoms.” Based on our interviews and concept art unveiled at D23, The Dick Van Dyke Show and Father Knows Best seem to be some of the sitcoms that are being mashed-up. The teaser image shows Bettany and Olsen in a ’50s suburban setting, dressed more like the Cleavers than the Avengers. All that’s missing is the laugh track — and Olsen revealed that may not change, “That’s to be decided.”

(4) IN TECH TO COME. The November 7 issue of Nature includes Andrew Robinson’s reviews of works like Reality Ahead of Schedule by Joel Levy Smithsonian (2019).

This picture-packed volume by science journalist Joel Levy tours scientific advances sparked by ideas in science fiction. The title comes from a definition of sci-fi by Syd Mead, an industrial designer behind the look of futuristic movies such as Blade Runner (1982). But how prescient is sci-fi? Levy shows how H. G. Wells’s 1903 story ‘The Land Ironclads’ inspired Winston Churchill to promote the development of the military tank in 1915. But Wells did not envisage its key technical idea: caterpillar tracks, for added grip.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 7, 1951Flight To Mars debuted in theaters.
  • November 7, 1954 Target Earth premiered.
  • November 7, 1997 — Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers premiered. Starring Casper Van Dien Dina Meyer and Denise Richards, this adaption of Heinlein’s novel wasn’t well received by critics or SF fans in general but currently garners 70% at Rotten Tomatoes and long since earned back its modest budget. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 7, 1910 Pearl Argyle. Catherine CabalI in the 1936 Things to Come as written by H.G. Wells based off his “The Shape of Things to Come” story. Being a dancer, she also appeared in 1926 The Fairy Queen opera by Henry Purcell, with dances by Marie Rambert and Frederick Ashton. Her roles were Dance of the Followers of Night, an attendant on Summer, and Chaconne. (Died 1946.)
  • Born November 7, 1914 R. A. Lafferty. Writer known for somewhat eccentric usage of language.  His first novel Past Master would set a lifelong pattern of seeing his works nominated for Hugo and Nebula Awards as novels but not winning either though he won a Hugo short story for “Eurema’s Dam”. He had received a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, he received the Cordwainer Smith Foundation’s Rediscovery award. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 7, 1943 Peter Straker, 76. He was Commander Sharrel in “The Destiny of The Daleks” a Fourth Doctor story. He’s also the Lead Choir Singer in, I kid you not, Morons from Outer Space.
  • Born November 7, 1950 Lindsay Duncan, 69. Adelaide Brooke in the Tenth Doctor‘s “The Waters of Mars” story and the recurring role Lady Smallwood  on Sherlock in “His Last Vow”, “The Six Thatchers” and “The Lying Detective”. She’s also been in Black Mirror, A Discovery of Witches, Frankenstein, The Storyteller: Greek Myths, Mission: 2110 and one of my favorite series, The New Avengers.
  • Born November 7, 1954 Guy Gavriel Kay, 65. So the story goes that when Christopher Tolkien needed an assistant to edit his father J. R. R. Tolkien’s unpublished work, he chose Kay who was then a student of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. And Kay moved to Oxford in 1974 to assist Tolkien in editing The Silmarillion. Cool, eh? Kay’s own Finovar trilogy is the retelling of the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere which is why much of his fiction is considered historical fantasy. Tigana likewise somewhat resembles Renaissance Italy . My favorite work by him is Ysabel which strangely enough is called am urban fantasy when it isn’t. It won a World Fantasy Award. 
  • Born November 7, 1960 Linda Nagata, 59. Her novella “Goddesses” was the first online publication to win the Nebula Award. She writes largely in the Nanopunk genre which is not be confused with the Biopunk genre. To date, she has three series out, to wit The Nanotech SuccessionStories of the Puzzle Lands (as Trey Shiels) and The Red. She has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel for The Bohr Maker which the first novel in The Nanotech Succession. Her 2013 story “Nahiku West” was runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and The Red: First Light was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her site is here.
  • Born November 7, 1934 Wendy Williams, 85. You know I’ll work a Doctor Who reference in and she was in a Fourth Doctor story, “The Ark in Space” as Vira. Other genre appearances include Jack the Ripper and The Further Adventures of the Musketeers. 

(7) VOTING NEIGH. Jill Hughes, candidate for the Brexit Party for the UK general elections, has been dropped by her party, because she publicly claimed to be an alien from Sirius who has come to Earth to raise humanity’s consciousness. Apparently, that was too much even by the standards of the Brexit Party: “Brexit Party general election candidate dropped after claiming she’s from a distant star” in The New European.

In the acknowledgements for her novel “Spirit of Prophecy”, which is about a psychic detective in rural England, Hughes also said that extraterrestrials (ETs) are working with world governments in a “hush-hush” arrangement.

“The E.T’s, some of them less than apple pie wholesome or positive pumpkins, are already here working with our world governments, but that’s all hush-hush for now,” she said.

Hughes’ author bio tells of how she came to believe in reincarnation “when her old horse Red made a re-appearance, this time as a palomino called Hooray Henry”.

(8) WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Inverse: “Researchers have developed a durable robot bee”. Video at the link.

Remember those scary bees from Black Mirror? This ain’t that. Researchers at Harvard have developed a “RoboBee” that has soft artificial muscles, which allow it to crash into walls and the ground without breaking. The soft actuators, mechanisms that operate the robot’s wings, were made with a type of electroactive polymer that has elastic qualities.

(9) SKIFFY. A pigeon has made itself at home inside a war memorial in Australia and has taken poppies from wreaths to build its nest. Photo at the link. The article goes on to discuss the use of pigeons in war.

The Hall of Memory has become host to a pigeon, which has stolen poppies from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to make its nest.

Photos show the pigeon nestling by the stained glass window of a wounded Australian soldier in a corner of the revered, mosaic-covered hall.

… Pigeons came back into use in the Second World War, a conflict that at face value appeared to involve only modern technology.

“We’ve got our trucks instead of horses, and wireless radio, and sophisticated radar signals, and all those sorts of things,” Dr Hampton said.

“But particularly in the Pacific, the mountains and the humidity meant that the wireless radios didn’t work very well,” she said.

Pigeons were the most effective way of getting messages up and over ranges, and throughout the islands.

(10) STEM STYLE. FastCompany briefs the fashion conscious that “You can now wear the work of Ada Lovelace, Rachel Carson, and Mae Jemison”.

To those of us who aren’t well-versed in data or computer science, data can seem foreign and intimidating. But Giorgia Lupi has devoted her career to making statistics accessible to everyone by transforming them into visually stunning patterns that tell engaging stories about the knowledge and the people behind the data. In the past, she’s run a data visualization company, and most recently, she joined the design firm Pentagram as a partner. But in her spare time, she’s been moonlighting as a fashion designer.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/31/19 No Screaming While The Scroll Is In Motion!

(1) MARVEL AT MOPOP. Ellie Farrell had a photo taken with a friend during her visit to MoPop’s Marvel exhibit in Seattle. Opened last Spring, the exhibit continues through March 3.

(2) SFF DOES WORK TOO. Charlie Jane Anders, in a Washington Post opinion piece “Kamala Harris is wrong about science fiction”, takes issue with Sen. Kamala Harris’s claim that “we need facts, not science fiction” to deal with climate change, saying that “science fiction creators have been doing some soul-searching that includes looking for ways we can do more to restore people’s faith in the future” in dealing with climate change, “the global crisis of democracy,” and “attacks on LGBTQ people’s right to exist.”

Sen. Kamala D. Harris was half right in her speech launching her 2020 presidential campaign when she said we need to address climate change based on “science fact, not science fiction.” The truth is, we need both. Science fiction has an important role to play in rescuing the future from the huge challenges we’re facing — and the responses to Harris’s statement illustrate this perfectly.

When the California Democrat’s statement about climate change went out on social media, a number of people pointed out the truth: Science fiction has been helping us to prepare for a world of potentially disastrous climate upheaval for years. But an equal number of loud voices took issue with Harris’s warnings about climate change, because in our post-truth era, the scientific consensus about what humans are doing to our planet is still somehow a matter of opinion.

And that’s why science fiction is more important than Harris gives it credit for. No amount of scientific evidence will convince deniers — or the vast number of people who merely live in a state of denial. We live in an era in which facts and fiction are blurring into an indistinguishable mess and power belongs to whoever can tell the best story, true or not. No one can even tell what’s real anymore, and what matters is just how something makes us feel — which is why we need better stories, that, in the words of author Neil Gaiman, “lie in order to tell the truth.”

(3) SATIRE CONSIDERED. Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency podcast for January 30 takes a look back at the original Starship Troopers movie:

You’re going to love this week’s phenomenal conversation about Starship Troopers (1997) with special guests Mary Robinette Kowal and Max Temkin! Tune in for a thought-provoking discussion (and very amicable disagreement) about how successfully the film executes its satire of fascist military fantasies. Just what are the possibilities and limits of satire? What can director Paul Verhoeven’s career tell us about this “pointed critique of American imperialism”? And exactly how long will it take Anita to remember the name of the game Spec Ops without Carolyn to help?

(4) YA UPROAR CONTINUES. On Facebook, Nick Mamatas delved into the questions surrounding Amélie Wen Zhao’s decision to pull Blood Heir (reported in yesterday’s Scroll). His post is quoted with permission:

A YA novel called BLOOD HEIR, which sounds entirely awful, has been pulled from publication by its author Amélie Wen Zhao after complaints of plagiarism, poor “Russian rep” as it was put, and anti-blackness from YA twitter aficionadi:

1. Definitely messed up Russian naming conventions—though I am happy to point out that many of the same people complaining about this book are thrilled to go see the next Avengers film, and even agitated in the past for more action figures of the Black Widow in her sexy bodysuit (you know, for young girls!), called wrongly Natasha Romanoff in the films. So there is definitely a power relationship here; this is at least partially a game of “let’s flex on the new girl” while queueing up to consume a billion dollars worth of slop from the Disney hog trough.

2. Haven’t seen any screencaps actually demonstrating plagiarism except for a single sentence (“Don’t go where I can’t follow.”) In cases like this, often people casually use the term to mean “cliché” or even “genre trope.” Frankly if people don’t like clichés and genre tropes, they shouldn’t be reading children’s literature. That said, I may have just messed the presentation of textual evidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a ton of plagiarism.

3. The author claims that her interest was exploring indenture as it is currently practiced in China and Asia; her critics complain that a major scene involves a black-coded girl with ocean-light eyes being auctioned off, and then dying while the main character sings her a lullaby. Sounds entirely awful. I think this is also a bit of what people mean by plagiarism—this character has been identified as smacking of Rue from HUNGER GAMES. The critics definitely seem to have a point.

4. As is common, moralism abounds. I’ve certainly seen more than one note fretting aloud that CHILDREN and the YOUTH will read this book and thus be exposed to its anti-blackness. Of course, all the right-wingers rallying against the “SJW mobs” and promising the author that *they* would read the book, ya know, to triggerown the shitlibs or whatever, are lying and performing their own version of “virtue signaling” as they call it. None of those kobolds would ever read a thing that doesn’t feature a photo of the author on a red-white-and-blue background.

I think the issue of Blood Heir was that it was trafficking in racist cliches and daring to do so with only a mere publishing company and not a giant media complex behind it. I’ll always feel a thrill when an author is punished for laziness and top-of-mind decision-making, but let’s be clear: moralism itself is a cliché as well, even when it’s left-moralism. YA twitter is absolutely a Pretty Person Club and Zhao was this year’s scapegoat. But Zhao’s crime of auctorial laziness is just one more datum point showing how sadly inadequate the acquisition and editorial process in big publishing is.

And Arthur Cover has written a public letter to Zhao which says in part –

I just wrote this letter to a young author named Amelie Zhao, who withdrew her YA fantasy novel from publication because of negative comments on line…. Obviously I feel very strongly about this….

A novel cannot be all things to all people. At least one comment on your novel that I read was from a person who felt it insufficiently validated his/her ideas about slavery and villains using a cane. Often when a character uses a cane it is symbolic of something and is not a commentary on people who use a cane in real life. Readers who can’t tell the difference aren’t your concern.

Decades ago I was in a conversation with Samuel R. Delany and when he learned that a writing class was divided equally on the merits of one of his stories, he was quite pleased. He knew he’d accomplished something because of the class’s reaction.

Do not stop. Please reconsider your decision regarding your novel. These critics (and I’ve been a nasty one) are throwing spitballs at a battleship….

(5) AUDIO PALS. In the Washington Post, Karen Heller has a piece about authors and their audiobook readers, “‘I can write the words. He supplies the melody’: The harmonious bond between authors and audiobook narrators”. Two of the authors Heller interviews are genre writers:  five-time Bram Stoker Award nominee Jonathan Maberry, who says he now hears the voice of his audiobook reader, Ray Porter, in his head when he’s writing, and Canadian urban fantasy writer Kevin Hearne, who liked narrator Luke Daniels so much they’ve worked together on independent projects.

Jonathan Maberry, a fiercely prolific author of often frightening novels, hears voices rattling in his head. Specifically, one voice, that of actor Ray Porter, who narrates his audiobooks. A five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, Maberry would “imagine how Ray would inflect certain things, and I started to write toward his performance.” Be it horror, thrillers, science fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction, almost three dozen novels since 2006 — this is not a typo, and excludes anthologies, short stories and comics — Porter, without contributing a word, has helped Maberry accomplish the goal of most writers: selling more books. Says Maberry, “We’re very much a team.”

(6) NEW FAN FUND IDEA. Marcin Klak has written a proposal for creating a European Fan Fund to allow people from different countries to attend Eurocon. His draft of the rules and the winner’s responsibilities begins —

Purpose: The purpose of the Fan Fund is to create and strengthen bonds between European fans and fandoms. Currently in almost every country there is a fandom that quite often has small or no connection to the broader European fandom. Most fans do concentrate on the “here and now” and are not looking for friends in other countries.

The idea: A delegate would be elected by fans across Europe to travel to Eurocon. The delegate must offer to have a talk about fandom in their country. The delegate should also offer their participation as a guest in the Eurocon Awards ceremony, Opening ceremony and Closing ceremony. Any other help from the delegate should be encouraged. It will be for the Eurocon organizers to accept that help to the extent that suits them.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1923 Norman Mailer. I never knew he wrote in the genre but he did. Ancient Evenings certainly has the elements of fantasy and The Castle in the Forest is interesting retelling of Adolf Hitler and his last days. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 82. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a fragmentary listing of his works that have a genre bias.   
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 59. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the DC Universe series this fall is based on his work), Seven Soldiers and his weird The Multiversity
  • Born January 31, 1977 Kerry Washington, 42. Alicia Masters in Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Also played Medical Officer Marissa Brau in  30,000 Leagues Under the Sea. She voices Natalie Certain in Care 3. She also voices Princess Shuri in a short run Black Panther series. 

(8) MR. & MRS. Bill writes, “The 1/29 scroll item about Tiptree got me to looking things up, and I found the attached” – a bit of social news from the Chicago Tribune for January 24, 1946. Definitely still news to me.

(9) WRONG ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter spotted another bad guess on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: Scribbling Siblings

Answer: Aviation writer Robert Serling helped little bro Rod with “The Odyssey of Flight 33” episode of this series.

Wrong answer: What is “Star Trek”?

(10) GALAPAGOS AIR FORCE. BBC tells how “Drones help Galapagos tackle rat infestation”.

Drones are helping conservationists rid one Galapagos island of an infestation of rats threatening indigenous birds.

The drones have dropped poison on more than half of North Seymour Island in a bid to kill off the invasive species.

The island’s rare birds nest on the ground and their numbers are being depleted by the rodent invasion.

The drones work much faster and more cheaply than helicopters which have been used in similar rat eradication projects elsewhere.

(11) TRACING CLIMATE HISTORY. Researchers think “America colonisation ‘cooled Earth’s climate’”.

Colonisation of the Americas at the end of the 15th Century killed so many people, it disturbed Earth’s climate.

That’s the conclusion of scientists from University College London, UK.

The team says the disruption that followed European settlement led to a huge swathe of abandoned agricultural land being reclaimed by fast-growing trees and other vegetation.

This pulled down enough carbon dioxide (CO?) from the atmosphere to eventually chill the planet.

It’s a cooling period often referred to in the history books as the “Little Ice Age” – a time when winters in Europe would see the Thames in London regularly freeze over.

“The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of
the Americas led to the abandonment of enough cleared land that the resulting terrestrial carbon uptake had a detectable impact on both atmospheric CO? and global surface air temperatures,” Alexander Koch and colleagues write in their paper published in Quaternary Science Reviews.

(12) THE ELEPHANT (SEAL) IN THE ROOM. Look what happens when those pesky humans aren’t around — “Seals take over California beach closed in US shutdown”.

A large herd of elephant seals has taken over a beach in California that was forced to close during the government shutdown.

The seals took advantage of the 35-day shutdown to make themselves at home on Drakes Beach, and in its car park.

So far they have been spotted lying on their stomachs, taking naps and occasionally snuggling their pups.

The beach will remain closed until the seals decide to move on – although it’s not clear when that will be.

(13) HELP WANTED. There’s a job vacancy in Gotham: “Ben Affleck signals Batman departure”.

Holy recasting, Batman! The search is on for a new Dark Knight following Ben Affleck’s apparent confirmation that he is hanging up his Bat cape.

The actor effectively said as much by retweeting a story saying Matt Reeves’ The Batman would be made without him.

“Excited for #TheBatman in Summer 2021 and to see @MattReevesLA vision come to life,” Affleck wrote.

The 46-year-old first appeared as the comic book superhero in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

(14) DEATH RIDES A BOBBLEHEAD. Matt Monaghan, in “The Dia de Los Dodgers Skull Bobblehead is Amazing”  on Cut4 has one of the all-time greatest fantasy bobbleheads EVER.

Bobblehead nights happen all the time at baseball games. Already this year, there’s been one for a nun, one for Pitbull and one for a bald eagle that flew into a pitcher’s face. But during Wednesday’s Rockies-Dodgers game, we may have found the coolest bobblehead ever: The Dia de Los Dodgers sugar skull bobblehead.

(15) STAN LEE GIVEN POSTHUMOUS KEY TO THE CITY. Hey, it’s LA. L. Ron Hubbard put out books here for years after he died. Who’s to say Stan won’t get some use from it? That was just part of what happened at the celebrity-studded tribute to Stan Lee on Wednesday night: “Stan Lee’s Friends and Fans Pay Tearful, Funny Tribute to Their ‘Generalissimo’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

…Hosting the show was Lee’s long-time friend and fan, filmmaker Kevin Smith, who was sure to note that Lee was “one of the best humans to ever walk the Earth” before inviting everyone to enter the theater. The theater itself was transformed into a monument to the man, with some of his most beloved comics on display, from the first appearance of Spider-Man and Black Panther to some of the most iconic adventures of the Fantastic Four. Costumes from the Sony-led Spider-Man films were displayed inside glass cases, but it was the energy in the room that truly punctuated the evening.

Smith put it best at the beginning of the tribute: “This is not a funeral, though he’s gone. This is a celebration! That’s how religions start. We all agree that we saw him tonight and that he’s no longer gone. Stan’s spirit is here with us.” With all the outpourings of love in the room, it’d be hard to argue otherwise. Copious footage of Lee played throughout the evening, including a touching clip of him singing “Cocktails for Two”, with all the energy of someone in their twenties, as his embarrassed assistants set up his microphone.

Smith kicked off the evening with the story of how he met Stan for his movie Mallrats and the grand efforts it took to convince the then less-recognizable legend to appear in his film after Lee read the script and remarked “I would never say this.” Smith admitted that Lee himself was never quite accepting or aware of his successes, despite his put on braggadocio. “This was a guy who spent his life dreaming of writing the great American novel, and he didn’t realize that he had been successful and fulfilled his dreams one-thousand times over,” Smith said. Smith himself admitted that “it was hard to understand that we were friends” before eventually coming to realize just how much Lee loved him.

…Perhaps the biggest moment of the night came with the appearance of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who detailed Lee’s love affair with L.A. before running through a detailed catalogue of his own nerdiness, including a proclamation that no one could offer him enough money to let go of his complete collection of original copies of the Wolverine comic series. Garcetti made it clear, “Stan Lee was a mensch who always fought for the underdog”, before presenting Stan’s former company Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment with Garcetti’s third ever “Key to the City”, carved from a fallen tree and engraved with Stan’s image and catchphrase “Excelsior!”

(16) IN THE SPIRIT OF IAIN M. BANKS. A funny thread about pet names for weaponry – begins here.

(17) DEALING WITH A FOOD EVANGELIST. “Dear Mother Goose”, an advice column for children’s book characters, by Slate’s Emma Span. Here’s the problem, click to read Mother’s answer:

Dear Mother Goose,

I am being aggressively pursued by someone (I’ll call him S.I.A.) who is bizarrely obsessed with getting me to eat “green eggs and ham.” He has offered no explanation of where the ham and eggs came from, why they are green, or why he cares if I eat them. I have calmly and clearly turned him down, but he is following me everywhere, carrying a plate of food, which by now is cold, dirty, and wet as well as green. Nevertheless, S.I.A. thinks I might like the food. He has brought a mouse, a fox, and a goat to me, as if that would change my mind. We were even involved in a boating accident because of his behavior….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/28/19 Untitled Pixel Scroll Reboot

(1) FROM BOOKER TO GENRE. This week’s New Yorker article “Why Marlon James Decided to Write an African ‘Game of Thrones’” tells about Marlon James, who won the Booker prize and then decided to write “an African Game of Thrones.”   

A couple of weeks before we met for coffee, I went to hear James speak on a panel about diversity in sci-fi and fantasy, at New York Comic Con, a convention that annually converts the Javits Center into a maelstrom of geekery and cosplay. The audience for the panel was a mixture of black, white, and brown faces; a few rows from me, a Harley Quinn in hijab took furious notes. After a fellow-panelist, Tochi Onyebuchi, the author of a young-adult fantasy series influenced by Nigerian myth, urged the crowd to read Jemisin’s books, James joked that Jemisin would be coming for the Booker next. (He told the crowd they should also read Nalo Hopkinson, a Jamaican-born Canadian writer whose début, “Brown Girl in the Ring,” from 1998, is a dystopian horror-fantasy story animated by the West African spirit-magic tradition of Obeah.) Even as condescension toward genre fiction has gone out of style, the universes of literary and speculative fiction remain distinct, with their own awards, their own publishers, and their own separate, albeit overlapping, communities of readers. “There are a lot of literary-fiction authors whose heads are super stuck up their asses,” James said, telling the attendees that writers ought to read widely across genres.

(2) BETTER WORLDS STORY #5. The magic number! Here’s the latest Better Worlds short story from Rivers Solomon: “St. Juju”. Video by Allen Laseter.

Andrew Liptak did a Q&A with the author: “Rivers Solomon on colonialism, the apocalypse, and fascinating fungus”.

Rivers Solomon

What was the inspiration for this story, and what about fungus attracted you to this world, in particular?

Lately, I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of the end of the world — how it’s never really real, though it may feel like it is to us living in the midst of climate change as we are. Except on the scale of billions of years, according to the kind of timeline where suns birth and die and so on, worlds are quite adaptive creatures. Earth has had five or so ice ages. Dinosaurs have come and gone, many dying, others living on as birds. Mass extinction is par for the planet’s course.

(3) ATWOOD MASTER CLASS. Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing is a 23-lesson video course from Masterclass. Cost, $90.

Called the “Prophet of Dystopia,” Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In her first-ever online class, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale teaches how she crafts compelling stories—from historical to speculative fiction—that remain timeless and relevant. Explore Margaret’s creative process for developing ideas into novels with strong structures and nuanced characters.

(4) PLUNK THOSE SILVER STRINGS. The Haffner Press will publish a very ambitious Manly Wade Wellman collection this year — The Complete John the Balladeer. The book will be released at the 2019 World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles.

John, whose last name is never revealed, is a wandering singer who carries a guitar strung with strings of pure silver. He is a veteran of the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army as a sharpshooter (in the novel After Dark, he mentions that his highest rank was PFC). In his travels, he frequently encounters creatures and superstitions from the folk tales and superstitions of the mountain people. Though John has no formal education, he is self-taught, highly intelligent and widely read; it is implied that his knowledge of occult and folk legendarium is of Ph.D level. This knowledge has granted him competent use of white magic, which he has used on occasion to overcome enemies or obstacles, but it is primarily his courage, wit and essential goodness that always enables him to triumph over supernatural evils (although the silver strings of his guitar and his possession of a copy of The Long Lost Friend are also powerful tools in fighting evil magic), while basic Army training allows him to physically deal with human foes.

Stories:
“O Ugly Bird!”
“The Desrick on Yandro”
“Vandy, Vandy”
“One Other”
“Call Me from the Valley”
“The Little Black Train”
“Shiver in the Pines”
“Walk Like a Mountain”
“On the Hills and Everywhere”
“Old Devlins Was A-Waiting”
“Nine Yards of Other Cloth”
“Then I Wasn’t Alone”
“You Know the Tale of Hoph”
“Blue Monkey”
“The Stars Down There”
“Find the Place Yourself”
“I Can’t Claim That”
“Who Else Could I Count On”
“John’s My Name”
“Why They’re Named That”
“None Wiser for the Trip”
“Nary Spell”
“Trill Coster’s Burden”
“The Spring”
“Owls Hoot in the Daytime”
“Can These Bones Live?”
“Nobody Ever Goes There”
“Where Did She Wander?”

Novels
The Old Gods Waken (1979)
After Dark (1980)
The Lost and the Lurking (1981)
The Hanging Stones (1982)
The Voice of the Mountain (1984)

(5) BO PEEP. Disney’s new trailer for Toy Story 4.

(6) MEMORIAL. NASA Watch “Remembering” is a wrap-up of several memorials to lost astronauts and cosmonauts posted the day before the anniversary of the Challenger shuttle disaster. Mike Kennedy sent the link with a note: “In my long-time home of Huntsville AL, we name schools after these people. I live just a few blocks from Roger B. Chaffee Elementary School and maybe 2-3 miles from Virgil I. Grissom High School. The former Ed White Middle School name was sadly lost when it and another school were combined a few years ago. Those were, of course, the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire. We also have Challenger Elementary/Middle school and Columbia High School. These wounds run deep around here, even after all the intervening years.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 28, 1929 Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.)
  • Born January 28, 1969 Kathryn Morris, 50. First played in Sleepstalker, a horror I’ll be gobsmacked if any of you have heard of. She has a small role as a teenage honey (IMDb description, not mine) in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. After that she was Lara Anderton in Minority Report. She played Najara on several episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess and was in Poltergeist: The Legacy series as Laura Davis in the “Silent Partner” episode.
  • Born January 28, 1973 Carrie Vaughn, 46. Author of the Kitty Norville series. She’s also been writing extensively in the Wild Cards as well. And she’s she’s got a new SF series, The Bannerless Saga which has two novels so far, Bannerless and The Wild Dead. Sounds interesting. 
  • Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 38. His first genre role was Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman In Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed. He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
  • Born January 28, 1985 Tom Hopper, 34. His principal genre role was on the BBC Merlin series as Sir Percival. He also shows up in Doctor Who playing Jeff during the “The Eleventh Hour” episode which would be during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. He’s been cast as Luther Hargreeves in the forthcoming The Umbrella Academy which is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. Yes I’m looking forward to seeing this! 
  • Born January 28, 1993 Will Poulter, 26. First genre role was as Eustace Scrubb in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He later appeared as Gally in The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: The Death Cure. He plays Colin Ritman In Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Series wise, he’s been in The Fades, a BBC supernatural drama,playing Mac.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Get Fuzzy posits the best book ever: Harry da Vinci’s Rings.

(9) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Thoughts and Prayers” by Ken Liu, which looks at how much worse trolling could get.

It was published along with a response essay by digital culture researcher Adrienne Massanari, “What’s in It for the Trolls?”

Ken Liu’s “Thoughts and Prayers” shows how the cruelest of online harassers convince themselves they’re doing the right thing….

When reading Liu’s piece, I was reminded again that the terms troll and trolling are maddeningly overused in popular culture. Trolling has come to mean everything from merely derailing a conversation with a purposefully nonsensical or impolite comment to actively harassing women with death and rape threats on Twitter. It’s a kind of linguistic shield that creates an easy way for abusers and harassers to dismiss their toxic behavior as “just trolling.”

(10) DOLLARS MISTER RICO, MILLIONS OF ‘EM! TVWeb says “Starship Troopers TV Show with Original Movie Cast Is Being Planned”.  

The Starship Troopers TV series would more than likely be pretty big, especially with the original cast and Ed Neumeier on board. One could easily see Netflix or Hulu jumping at the chance to put that out. However, it seems that they are in the early stages of talking about the project, and as Neumeier says, we don’t want to “jinx” it either. So for now, we’ll just think positive thoughts about the project actually happening.

Of course, you might have thoughts of your own about it.

(11) WIZARD OF OZ SETS RECORD. Cousin Judy’s film is still bringing ‘em into the theater — Variety: “Film News Roundup: ‘Wizard of Oz’ Sets Single-Day Record for Fathom”.

Fathom Events’ 80th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” took in $1.2 million at 408 North American sites on Sunday, setting a new Fathom record as the highest-grossing single-day classic film release.

“The Wizard of Oz” also had the highest per-screen average of any film in wide release on Sunday. The 1939 release is part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, which will include “My Fair Lady,” “Field of Dreams,” “Glory,” “Alien” and “Lawrence of Arabia” this year.

(12) BAUM’S AWAY. Coming to Oakland in February, the California International Antiquarian Book Fair poster has an Oz theme.

(13) LET’S GET ROVING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A trio of articles give different impressions on the fate of the Opportunity rover on Mars—silent since the planetwide dust storm several months ago—at least according to the headlines. At Futurism, they say, “NASA’s Opportunity Rover Feared Dead: ‘An Honorable Death’,” which sounds decidedly pessimistic. Over on Gizmodo, they say, “Wake Up, Oppy! NASA Sends New Commands to Mars Opportunity Rover,” a somewhat more optimistic take. Meanwhile, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory itself simply says, “Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars.” That article doubtless gives the clearest story, coming as it does straight from NASA.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have begun transmitting a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting. 

[…] “We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL. “These new command strategies are in addition to the ‘sweep and beep’ commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September.” With “sweep and beep,” instead of just listening for Opportunity, the project sends commands to the rover to respond back with a beep. 

[…] “Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times,” said Callas. “While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch.”

Time is of the essence for the Opportunity team. The “dust-clearing season” – the time of year on Mars when increased winds could clear the rover’s solar panels of dust that might be preventing it from charging its batteries – is drawing to a close. Meanwhile, Mars is heading into southern winter, which brings with it extremely low temperatures that are likely to cause irreparable harm to an unpowered rover’s batteries, internal wiring and/or computer systems. 

If either these additional transmission strategies or “sweep and beep” generates a response from the rover, engineers could attempt a recovery. If Opportunity does not respond, the project team would again consult with the Mars Program Office at JPL and NASA Headquarters to determine the path forward.

(14) MARGOT ROBBIE. Miss me? That’s what Margo Robbie’s asks while dressed as her DC alter ego in an Instagram post. Gizmodo/io9 has that story together with a short video clip showing off costumes for Quinn and several other Birds of Prey characters (“Harley Quinn Brings Fantabulous Fashion to Birds of Prey Video Introducing Black Canary, Black Mask, Huntress & More”).

While Warner Bros. upcoming Birds of Prey movie will introduce a number of DC’s formidable heroines like Huntress and Black Canary to the DCEU for the first time, it’ll also feature the return of one Harley Quinn who, judging from the film’s title, might embark upon some sort of redemptive arc. New year, new movie, new Harley—and Margot Robbie’s just revealed our first look at her.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/9/18 Harry Pixel And The Forgotten Click of Tickbox

(1) 2020 REVISION. Radio Times sets off weeping and wailing with news that “Doctor Who series 12 WILL be delayed to 2020”.

Doctor Who series 11 just came to an end – but fans will have quite a long wait until the next full selection of adventures for the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends.

The BBC have confirmed longstanding rumours that the sci-fi series won’t be back on screens for a full series in 2019, with the twelfth season of the revived series instead airing in “early” 2020.

(2) DECK THE DALEK. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society completed decorating their Dalek at the end of the December business meeting, as they have done every year since 2001. Dale Arnold says –

Andrew Bergstrom made this lifesize Dalek for a playat Balticon 35 in 2001 and it was too nice to throw away…so we started decorating it for the holidays and have done so on with new decorations addedto the mix every year.

(3) EDITOR’S INSIGHTS. “Interview: Guest Lecturer Neil Clarke” at Odyssey Writing Workshops.

As a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be lecturing, workshopping, and meeting individually with students. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

I don’t think there’s anything I’d raise to that level, but I do often recommend that developing writers and editors volunteer as slush readers somewhere. The experience gives you insight into the common mistakes most writers are makingand the distance you might need to start recognizing them in your own work.You’ll also see the current trends and get a good sense of your own place inthe field. I’ve yet to meet a slush reader who hasn’t underestimated their skill level. The rule for writers is to quit when you stop learning. Potential editors should keep going a few more months, just to see if they can hack the experience when it becomes routine.

Bonus advice: If you are still seeking your first sale, every editor I know wears their “discoveries” as a badge of honor. Saying “I am previously unpublished” in a cover letter is not a bad thing. When you do sell your first story, make sure the purchasing editor knows.

(4) INVERSE ROUNDUP. What would you think are “The Best Depictions of Real-Life Science in Science Fiction”? Inverse plans a series stretching through most of December discussing the best (not the most accurate) such depictions.

This December, Inverse is counting down the 20 best science moments seen in science fiction this year, whether it be on the big screen or small, in books, on stage or in the immersive worlds of video games. Our science and entertainment writers have teamed up for this year-end series to show how real-life science has been memorably —though not always accurately! — portrayed in the culture. Watch this space for more additions all month long. 

On the list is – “‘Pokémon: Let’s Go’s Fake Poké Ball Science Is Absolutely Terrifying”:

Poké Balls have been a key part of the Pokémon experience, from the original GameBoy games to the recently-released Pokémon: Let’s Go, which even works with a specially-designed Poké Ball Plus accessory that lets you simulate the experience. And yet we still have no idea how Snorlax (a giant fat cat-like creature that’s 6’11” and weighs around 1014 pounds) fits inside a metal object roughly the size of a baseball.

The canonical — and nonsensical — pseudoscientific explanation is that Poké Balls shoot out a beam that converts the Pokémon into a form of energy. Sounds fun, right? Except it’s not. The only known way to legitimately convert matter into energy is through nuclear fusion. Even in that process, less than 1 percent of the matter is converted into energy, and the reaction is so volatile that it causes massive explosions.

(5) ODDEST TITLE. The winner of the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year is Joy of Waterboiling by Christina Scheffenacker. The Bookseller, which sponsors the prize, noted that “for the first time in the 40-year life of the world’s most prestigious literary gong, a foreign-language tome” has won. Published in Austria by Asche Verlag, the book is eligible for the prize despite being in German because its title is in English.

(6) THESE BOOTS AREN’T MADE FOR TALKIN’. Was there ever anybody more impressed with Harlan Ellison than himself? Perhaps Gay Talese. Now available on YouTube is Harlan’s version of this legendary pop culture confrontation: “Harlan Ellison on Esquire’s ‘Frank Sinatra Has a Cold’ by Gay Talese.”

An excerpt and unused interview from the feature doc “‘Tis Autumn: The Search For Jackie Paris” by director Raymond DeFelitta (2007) || RIP Harlan Ellison

(7) CASTING CALL. Dublin2019 will be staging “Jophan!,” Erwin Strauss’ musical adaptation of the great classic of Irish fanwriting, The Enchanted Duplicator by Walt Willis and Bob Shaw, a fannish parody of John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Strauss is reaching out to the community for people interested in participating, either on stage, or in the orchestra pit, or wherever. There is no travel budget, so participants will have to already be planning to be attending Dublin 2019. Contact Strauss or the Dublin Theatre team at theatre@dublin2019.com.

(8) NETFLIX SHELL GAME. Reporting for SYFY Wire, Christian Long says, “Netflix announces a new Ghost in the Shell series as part of its growing anime slate.”

It looks like Netflix is reviving another groundbreaking anime for its ever-expanding platform.

The streaming giant just announced Ghost in theShell: SAC_2045, which is set to premiere sometime in 2020. Based on Masamune Shirow’s classic manga Ghost in the Shell, which premiered back in 1989, it explores themes of consciousness and individuality through the lens of artificial intelligence.

(9) GLOWING BLACK HOLES. On December 14, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents “Sir Roger Penrose: Lecture on Hawking Points”.

Sir Roger Penrose

In this special lecture, we are very pleased to welcome Sir Roger Penrose back to the Clarke Center to explore how Hawking Points –Stephen Hawking’s prediction of glowing black holes– explain the nature of how our universe was formed and if there are others like it.

Sir Roger Penrose, the celebrated mathematician and physicist, is an Emeritus Professor at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford and winner of the Copley Medal and the Wolf Prize in Physics — which he shared with Stephen Hawking. He has made profound contributions in geometry, blackhole singularities, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity, the structure of space-time, the nature of consciousness and the origin of our Universe.

Friday, December 14, 2018 — 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Kavli Auditorium, Tata Hall forthe Sciences, Division of Physical Sciences & the Clarke Center, UC San Diego. RSVP required; pleaseRSVP here

(10) TESSER OBIT. [Item by Mark Blackman.] Gary c Tesser (1952-2018). NY fan Gary c Tesser (small “c” with no period to be demure) died on Saturday night, December 8, after a lengthy battle with cancer.

He was one of the first 2 people in SF Fandom I met (in September 1970; he was recruiting for the Brooklyn College SF & Fantasy Society) and introduced me to apas (notably TAPS) and to Lunarians, of which he later (in the early ’90s) became President.  He was my closest friend for many years.  Dubbed “Captain Doom” and self-dubbed “The Plucky Red Ace”, he was a fannish legend, his habitual lateness (“the Tesser Effect”) and unique sense of logic were the inspiration for a slew of “Tesser Stories.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 9, 1848 Joel Chandler Harris. American journalist, fiction writer, and folklorist who is best known for his collection of Uncle Remus stories. Yes he’s white and the stories are about the ‘Brer Rabbit’ stories from the African-American oral tradition but he’s widely accepted by all about having done these stories justice.  James Weldon Johnson called them “the greatest body of folklore America has produced.” (Died 1908.)
  • Born December 9, 1900Margaret Brundage. Illustrator and painter. Working in pastels on illustration board, she created most of the covers for Weird Tales between 1933 and 1938. Her work is collected in The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-UpArt. She was one of the very few women artist in the industry, a fact not known as she signed her work as M. Brundage. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 9, 1934Judi Dench, 84. M in the Bond films GoldenEyeTomorrow Never DiesThe World Is Not EnoughDie Another DayCasino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Aereon in The Chronicles of Riddick, Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love, Society Lady in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Miss Avocet in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Her very first genre film in the late Sixties, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was poorly received by critics and I recall her role being a mostly nude faerie.
  • Born December 9, 1953John Malkovitch, 65. I was pondering if I was going to include him then decide that Being John Malkovich which won him a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor was enough for me to include him. What a strange role that is! He also shows up in the dreadful Jonah Hex film and played Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach in the Crossbones series.These are selective highlights. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) OUT OF A HUNDRED. AbeBooks.com list of “100 (Fiction) Books to Read in a Lifetime”, says Steve Davidson, is 25% genre or genre-adjacent. Davidson continues —

The genre titles listed are classic works that have endured on bookshelves for decades, if not centuries.

Isn’t in interesting (?) that of these titles that have demonstrated longevity, continued relevance (and, as a side note, continued sales that dwarf just about everything else) each and every one ofthem is not only “science fiction”, but each and every one of them is social commentary?  “Political messaging in fiction” as somehave called it?

Not trying to resurrect a dead horse here, but it’s interesting nonetheless that SF’s enduring works — the classics — are all united in this way.

(14) THEY’RE NOT RELATED. James Davis Nicoll worries about these things. Your mileage may vary: “SF Novels That Get Special Relativity All Wrong” at Tor.com.

I gravitate towards certain SF sub-genres, such as stories featuring relativistic travel. I’ve encountered a fair number of such sub-genrebooks in which it is clear that the authors did not, emphatically NOT, understand relativity. This article features novels in which authors have wrestled with Mr. Einstein and lost three falls out of three.

As you know, there are two essential foundations of relativity.The first is that the laws of physics are the same everywhere. The second is that the speed of light is invariant regardless of one’s frame of reference. Every single SF novel in which reference is made to time as measured by the ship as “subjective” and time measured by the Earth “objective” is wrong: everyone’s clocks are right, even if they don’t agree with each other.

(15) PLEONASM DETECTED ON JUPITER. The Traveler is a bit jaded about Poul Anderson’s prose in the latest IF: “December 9, 1963 Indifferent to it all (January 1964 IF)” at Galactic Journey.

Some examples: Anderson likes to wax poetic on technical details.  He spends a full two pages describing what could have been handled with this sentence: “I used a neutrino beam to contact the Jovians; nothing else could penetrate their giant planet’s hellish radiation belts or the tens of thousands of thick atmosphere.”

Two.  Pages.

(16) ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING: Jason has compiled another “year’s best” at Featured Futures, which includes 29 stories of science fiction, fantasy, and their various permutations: Year’s Best Short Science Fiction and Fantasy #2 (2018 Stories).

This second annual virtual anthology of the year’s best speculative fiction differs in four primary ways from last year’s Web’s Best Science Fiction #1 (2017 Stories) and Web’s Best Fantasy #1 (2017 Stories). Rather than restricting my coverage to web magazines as in 2017, I added coverage of several 2018 print magazines which created a much larger pool of stories to choose from. Thus, the word count for the “best” stories has increased from 140,000 to 250,000 words. Further, those words were evenly divided between two volumes of science fictional and fantastic stories but have now been combined into a single volume with three sections of uneven story and word counts. Finally, because of some of this, I renamed it to Year’s Best Short Science Fiction and Fantasy.

What hasn’t changed is the principle of selecting (to repeat the first introduction’s quote of the late Gardner Dozois) “only those stories that honestly and forcibly struck me as being the best published during that year, with no consideration for log-rolling, friendship, fashion, politics, or any other kind of outside influence.” And there’s still the same qualification to that: for variety’s sake, if multiple stories are by the same author or have strikingly similar elements, I try to select only one. Similarly, I’ve attempted to sequence the stories for a varied reading experience rather than any other principle.

(17) THE ONLINE PALEONTOLOGIST. BBC reports “‘Digital museum’ brings millions of fossils out of the dark”.

The bid to create a “global digital museum” has been welcomed byscientists, who say it will enable them to study valuable specimens that are currently “hidden” in museum drawers.

(18) MR. RICO’S ARTIST. Andrew Liptak interviews Stephen Hickman for The Verge: “An artist on creating the retro art for a new edition of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers”.

You’ve provided cover illustrations for some of Heinlein’s works before — how did working on this edition stack up to those works?

The main difference is that I had quite a bit more time on each of my previous illustrations to refine and finish the paintings, which were done just for book cover images.

A cover is like a small movie poster, designed to compete with literally hundreds of similar tiny posters for the attention of potential buyers in bookstores. On the other hand, illustrations for the interior of a book should be approached a bit differently. They can be more quiet and thoughtful in their presentation, in terms of color mood and content, which is relative in the case of a book like Starship Troopers, naturally.

(19) YODA CLAUS. Business Insider tips readers to “27 creative and unexpected gifts for ‘Star Wars’ fans of all ages”. Two examples –

PANCAKE STAMP

LUGGAGE TAGS

(20) TODAY’S HERESY. An NPR writer throws down the challenge — “Dear Internet: Goats In Sweaters Are Cuter Than Kittens In Mittens”.

The goat pics turnout to be about more than making people go “awwwwww.”

The caprine fashionistas are featured on a calendar, the sales of which have benefited local organizations in Varanasi, India, where most of the images were taken.

Christy Sommers, who takes the photos, first noticed the cuteness that is clothed goats in 2010, while living in a village in northwestern Bangladesh as a Fulbright scholar studying rural primary education. Now she considers the project as adding “net happiness” to the world and helping to share a little slice of life from parts of the world that Americans don’t often get to see.

(21) THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. Netflix dropped a trailer. The show airs February 15.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Dale Arnold, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Jason, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, Alan Baumler, Steve Davidson, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]