Pixel Scroll 6/25/21 Pixelin’ Files And Feelin’ Scrolly

(1) MORE CONTEXT FOR SFF HISTORY. Niall Harrison’s “Accelerated History: Chinese Short Science Fiction in the Twenty-First Century” at Vector notes that 2021 is the tenth anniversary of the publication of the translated Chinese short story that became the foundation for Clarkesworld’s ongoing collaboration with Storycom. And he has been inspired to work up a chronology of Chinese short sf in English, including a nifty diagram.

…What I hope that looking at the original chronology of stories does do, however, is provide another angle on the portrait of Chinese SF that has been presented to readers in English. To a limited extent it also makes it possible to contrast what was happening in English-language and Chinese-language SF at the same time; to think about the conscious and perhaps less-conscious choices made in the filtering process; and, most optimistically, to notice gaps, and provide a tentative framework within which future translations can be understood. In that spirit, in place of the original collections, I’ve organised my discussion into some rough periods, but I will revisit the books themselves at the end.

2. Liu Cixin Era

There’s nothing Liu Cixin likes more than a big picture, so let’s start there. With two single-author collections in the pile — The Wandering Earth (2013 / 2017 retranslations) and Hold Up The Sky (2020) — it’s not a surprise that he is the most-represented author, accounting for one-third of collected stories. In fact the skew is greater the earlier the period you look at. He accounts for over half of the 49 stories that first appeared before August 2011, and nearly three-quarters of the 28 stories that were first published in 2005 or earlier. In English, the story of Chinese SF in the early twenty-first century is overwhelmingly the story of Liu Cixin….

(2) BACK SPACE. James Davis Nicoll introduces Tor.com readers to “Five SF Travel Methods That Offer an Alternative to Starships”. (Holy cow, there’s a Langford novel on this list!)

Starships are all very nice—who among us has not wanted to own a Type-S Scout with the upgraded life support system?—but not all authors stick with that well-tested method of getting their characters from A to distant B. Ponder these five novels, each of which posits a new way of traversing the gulfs of space.

The Space Eater by David Langford (1982)

Project Hideyhole’s geniuses gave America Anomalous Physics. Anomalous Physics let Americans tweak the laws of physics to their taste. Thus, dimensional gates that facilitated an American colony on Pallas, a world that is many light-years from Earth. Thus, the inadvertent destabilization of six percent of the stars across the Milky Way and beyond. Thus, the inadvertent megamegaton explosion as Hideyhole stumbled across total conversion of matter to energy. Thus, the global thermonuclear exchange that followed thanks to the US assumption the explosion was a Soviet attack.

Having sat out WWIII, the EEC places very sensibly limits the use of AP. The problem is the American colony on Pallas, which has been isolated since WWIII. The Europeans detect that the Pallasians are dabbling in Anomalous Physics. Someone must be dispatched to convince Pallas to drop this research before more stars—stars like the Sun—are destabilized. The problem: a full-scale gate of the width needed for an adult male like unfortunate voluntold Forceman Ken Jacklin could well set off more novas. A smaller gate—1.9 cm, say—may be safe. The first step towards Pallas is going to be very, very hard on poor Forceman Jacklin, but this is a sacrifice his superiors are willing to make.

(3) YOUR TURN. Martin Morse Wooster got a kick out of a flash fiction story “Mozart Made A Tsunami, Most Likely By Accident” by Jeff Ronan at Sci Phi Journal. (Which really is too short to excerpt.)

(4) CUE THE SAND. From Yahoo! we learn that “DUNE Has a New Release Date!” But before that, Eric Diaz recaps the entire history of “cursed” efforts to bring this book to the screen.

When Does Dune Arrive In Theaters?

Dune was scheduled for release on December 18, 2020. And though the film will debut at the Venice Film Festival in September (via Variety), it won’t arrive in theaters until October 22, 2021 (this is delayed from October 1).

(5) UNDERGROUND ART. Two resources with images and histories about the artwork in Lewis Carroll’s books.

The Public Domain Review presents “Lewis Carroll’s Illustrations for ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’ (1864)”.

“[W]hat is the use of a book”, asks Alice in the opening scene to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “without pictures or conversations?” This question from Alice is at once a critique of her sister’s pictureless tome, and a paving the way for the delight of words and images to follow. Indeed, John Tenniel’s famous illustrations — for both the first edition of Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass — have become integral to how we experience the story, in both books and film. Tenniel, however, was not the first to illustrate the tale. That honor belongs to Carroll himself, whose original manuscript of the story (then titled “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground”) is littered with thirty-seven of his own sepia-ink drawings. It seems this entwining of word and image — so important to the published version — was there from the beginning….

“John Tenniel and his illustrations” at Alice-in-Wonderland.net.

…Carroll had Tenniel alter his illustrations several times, for example when he was not happy with Alice’s face – even when the woodblocks were already engraved, which meant also the woodblock had to be (partly) re-done.

That doesn’t mean Tenniel’s illustrations were exactly what Carroll described they should be. Tenniel had quite a lot of freedom to give his own interpretation to the illustrations. On several occasions, Carroll was very much willing to accept the artist’s ideas, and in the illustrations the typical style of Tenniel is recognizable. Tenniel had some freedom in selecting the scenes to be illustrated (Hancher), and when Tenniel complained about having to draw a Walrus and a Carpenter, Carroll was willing to change the characters of his poem for him….

(6) WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE EDITOR. E. Catherine Tobler, editor of The Deadlands, found she actually had to spell it out:

(7) JACKIE LANE (1941-2021). Actress Jackie Lane, who played the companion of the First Doctor Who, has died at the age of 79 reports Radio Times.

…The sad news was confirmed by Fantom Films on Twitter last night, with a post reading “It is with deep regret that we announce that actress and friend Jackie Lane has sadly passed away. We pass on our sympathies to her family and friends. Jackie was best known to Doctor Who fans as companion Dodo Chaplet. RIP 1941 – 2021″

… Another fan wrote, “Despite appearing on-screen for just 19 weeks in 1966 as a hastily developed & consistently underserved character who exited the series as strangely & suddenly as she arrived, it’s really heartwarming to see all the love for dear Jackie Lane on #DoctorWho Twitter tonight. RIP.”…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2019 — In Dublin 2019, fifty-one years after she got her first Hugo at Heicon ‘70 for The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin (who died in 2018) won her final Hugo for The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition. It was not awarded a Best Novel Hugo but instead was awarded Best Art Book with its illustrations being by Charles Vess who won Best Professional Artist that same year. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 — George Orwell. George Orwell, born Eric Blair in 1903. I’m not sure if Animal Farm counts as fantasy, but 1984 is clearly Science Fiction, and it may hold the record for the most neologisms added to English by a single SF book. Orwell was mostly known as a journalist and essayist, including his spats with H.G. Wells, most notably in “Wells, Hitler and the World State”. (Died 1950.) (Alan Baumler)
  • Born June 25, 1925 — June Lockhart, 96. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space which amazingly only ran for three seasons. She has a number of genre one-offs including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Greatest American Hero and Babylon 5. She appeared in the Lost in Space film as Principal Cartwright. 
  • Born June 25, 1935 — Charles Sheffield. He was the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society. He won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novelette “Georgia on My Mind” and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel for Brother to Dragons which is an amazing read. Much of his fiction is in his Heritage Universe series; the linked short stories of space traveller Arthur Morton McAndrew are a sheer comic delight. (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 25, 1956 — Anthony Bourdain. That’s a death that hit me hard. Partly because he’s round my age, partly because, damn, he seemed so interested in everything that I couldn’t conceive him committing suicide. And yes, he was one of us with three works to his credit: Get Jiro! (with Joe Rose and Langdon Foss), Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi (with Joe Rose and Ale Garza) and Hungry Ghosts (with Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Irene Koh, Paul Pope). The first two are on DC, the latter‘s on Berger Books. I’m also going to strongly recommend, and it’s not remotely genre, note his Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations: Iceland Special Edition just because it’s so damn fun to watch complete with fermented shark. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 25, 1960 — Ian McDonald, 61. Now here’s an author that I’ve read a lot of starting with his first novel, Desolation Road, and following through to his most recent, The Luna series. I do have favorites — the aforementioned Desolation Road and the other Mars novel, Ares Express, plus the India in 2047 series and The Dervish House are the ones I like the best. Chaga I think is the one I need to read again as I was annoyed by it the first time. 
  • Born June 25, 1981 — Sheridan Smith, 40. She makes the Birthday list for being Lucie Miller, a companion to the Eight Doctor in his Big Finish audio adventures starting in 2006 and running through at least this year. Her only video genre work was being in The Huntsman: Winter’s War as Mrs Bromwyn.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Farcus makes clear why a student is anxious about a visit to the principal.

(11) HELP WANTED. Looking for work in England?“Cambridge to Hire Archivist to Catalog Stephen Hawking Collection” says Mental Floss.

… Last month, it was announced that the University of Cambridge—where Hawking got his Ph.D. and worked for decades—would house the archive in its library. Now, as BBC News reports, Cambridge is looking for an archivist to “arrange, describe, audit the physical condition, rehouse, and review” all 10,000 or so pages. Their main task is to digitize every document so researchers around the world can access them online.

Applicants should have archiving experience; and since they’ll be operating out of Cambridge University’s library, they also need to be allowed to live and work in the UK. The gig is set to last two years, and it’ll pay somewhere between £30,942 and £40,322 (about $43,000 to $56,000). If you’re an avid archivist who’d like to have a hand in preserving Hawking’s legacy, you can apply online here.

(12) HEAD’S UP. The New York Times reports “Discovery of ‘Dragon Man’ Skull in China May Add Species to Human Family Tree” (registration required.) And there’s “A Virtual Reconstruction of a New Homo species, H. longi” at YouTube.

(13) DRUMROLL, PLEASE. “UFO report: US intelligence community releases long-awaited report” at CNN. (And CNN has the full text here.) Don’t they release these things on Friday so nobody will be in the office the next day and have to take questions?

The US intelligence community on Friday released its long-awaited report on what it knows about a series of mysterious flying objects that have been seen moving through restricted military airspace over the last several decades.

In short, the answer, according to Friday’s report, is very little, but the intelligence community’s release of the unclassified document marks one of the first times the US government has publicly acknowledged that these strange aerial sightings by Navy pilots and others are worthy of legitimate scrutiny.

The report examined 144 reports of what the government terms “unidentified aerial phenomenon” — only one of which investigators were able to explain by the end of the study. Investigators found no evidence that the sightings represented either extraterrestrial life or a major technological advancement by a foreign adversary like Russia or China, but acknowledge that is a possible explanation….

(14) HARD TO BELIEVE? Chris Carter tells the New York Times: “I Created ‘The X-Files.’ Here’s Why I’m Skeptical of the New U.F.O. Report.” (Registration probably required.)

…The plot of “The X-Files” was built on a conspiracy theory: The government is lying to you about the existence of U.F.O.s and extraterrestrials. Do I believe the government lies to us? Absolutely. I’m a child of Watergate. Do I believe in conspiracies? Certainly. I believe, for example, that someone is targeting C.I.A. agents and White House officials with microwave radiation, the so-called Havana syndrome, and your government denied it.

Will the new report, or any government report, give us clear answers? I’m as skeptical now as I’ve ever been.

In 1996 I was invited to the clinic of the Harvard psychiatrist John Mack to witness the regression hypnosis of a self-professed alien abductee. I first met Dr. Mack, who studied and ultimately believed in alien abduction, when he came to Fox Studios to discuss his work. I had used a Roper survey he was involved in (a poll of 6000 Americans on their belief in the existence of extraterrestrials) to sell “The X-Files” as a TV show in 1992, and later read his book, “Abduction.” So I knew something about what I was going to see. I went in doubtful, unprepared for the drama of a woman sitting next to me in tears and in terror over the encounter with aliens that she described, on a beach in Mexico. The experience turned out to be powerful and not a little unsettling….

… But the prosecution raises a good question: Where is the Deep Throat of the U.F.O. world? Why no credible deathbed confessions? As Nobelist Enrico Fermi’s famous paradox asked, if aliens are out there, why haven’t we seen them? Could the government actually be telling the truth? That it really doesn’t know what to make of the phenomena? Or is the truth above top secret?…

(15) YOU’D BE INCONSOLABLE. Vice recommends to players of vintage games: “Don’t Piss Off Bradley, the Parts Seller Keeping Atari Machines Alive”.

Every old video game console dies eventually. Moving parts seize-up, circuit boards fail, cables wear out. If a user needs a replacement connector, chip, ribbon, gear, shell—or any of the thousands of other parts that, in time, can break, melt, discolor, delaminate, or explode—they’re usually out of luck, unless they have a spare system to scavenge.

But there is an exception to this depressing law of nature. In San Jose, on a side street next to a highway off-ramp, inside an unmarked warehouse building, is part of the world’s largest remaining collection of factory-original replacement Atari parts — a veritable fountain of youth for aging equipment from the dawn of the home computing and video gaming era. This is the home of Best Electronics, a mail-order business that has been selling Atari goods continuously for almost four decades.

But if you’d like to share in Best’s bounty, as many die-hard Atari fans desperately do, there’s a very important piece of advice you need to keep in mind: whatever you do, don’t piss off Bradley.

Almost everyone who spends enough time loving, collecting, and using Atari products eventually finds their way to the Best Electronics website. And many of them quickly develop strong feelings about Bradley Koda, Best’s proprietor, who, by outlasting most of his competition, has become a sort of one-man Atari-parts powerhouse….

(16) RUH ROH! Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog is a straight-to-video feature.

An original animated feature so exciting it’s scratching at the door! Comedy is unleashed when Scooby-Doo, your favorite mystery-solving mutt, teams up for the first time with Courage the Cowardly Dog. The canine colleagues sniff out a strange object in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, the backwoods hometown of Courage and his owners, Eustace and Muriel Bagge. Soon, the mysterious discovery puts them on the trail of a giant cicada monster and her wacky winged warriors. Fred, Velma, Daphne and Shaggy know that this job is too big for a flyswatter. They’ll need the help of the doggy duo to piece together the puzzle. Can Scooby and Courage overcome their jitters and defeat the insect army before the whole world bugs out? Try not to get scared. We double-dog dare you!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

Pixel Scroll 6/15/21 Mjolnir Moment: Buy Grabthar’s Hammer – 35% Off Today

(1) BANKS WITHDRAWAL. Orbit Books is significantly expanding its Iain M. Banks project, and as a result the original publication date is off: “An update regarding THE CULTURE: NOTES AND DRAWINGS by Iain M. Banks and Ken MacLeod”.

We are pleased to share an exciting publication update with everyone who has been looking forward to the release of The Culture: Notes and Drawings by Iain M. Banks and Ken MacLeod.

As fans of Iain M. Banks’ vastly popular Culture series will be aware, Iain painstakingly designed every element of the Culture’s universe long before the novels were first published. From ships to weapons, language to nomenclature, flora to fauna, the whole of the Culture existed in the form of intricate sketches, notes, tables and charts, many years ahead of its appearance in fiction.

This archival material provides a fascinating insight into Iain’s extraordinary mind. It was originally due to be published as a single volume, accompanied by text from the award-winning Ken MacLeod, who was a close friend of Iain’s. However, to ensure that Iain’s exceptionally detailed drawings can be appreciated in their original format and scale, we are delighted to announce that the material will now be published as two separate editions.

The first release will be a beautiful, full-colour, large-format landscape artbook called The Culture: The Drawings, which will present Iain’s drawings exactly as he intended them to be seen.

Following this, we will publish a Culture companion book that celebrates the world of the Culture through Iain’s own writing. With accompanying text from Ken MacLeod, it will include an extensive selection of Iain’s notes, tables and charts relating to the Culture universe, as well as extracts from the novels.

Given these changes in our publication plans, we are now cancelling the single edition entitled The Culture: Notes and Drawings that was scheduled for 14th October 2021. We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who had pre-ordered this single edition, and we’ll soon be announcing the release dates for the two new publications mentioned above

(2) HANG UP NOW. In the Washington Post, Mark Buchanan says we should stop making attempts to contact aliens through SETI or similar programs because of the strong possibility that the aliens will overpower us through their superior technology. “Contacting aliens could end all life on earth. Let’s stop trying.”

…The search for aliens has reached a stage of technological sophistication and associated risk that it needs strict regulation at national and international levels. Without oversight, even one person — with access to powerful transmitting technology — could take actions affecting the future of the entire planet.

That’s because any aliens we ultimately encounter will likely be far more technologically advanced than we are, for a simple reason: Most stars in our galaxy are much older than the sun. If civilizations arise fairly frequently on some planets, then there ought to be many civilizations in our galaxy millions of years more advanced than our own. Many of these would likely have taken significant steps to begin exploring and possibly colonizing the galaxy….

(3) PKD. Walker Caplan asks “Is Elon Musk a Philip K. Dick fan?” at Literary Hub.

One of the perks of the digital age is that we have unprecedented access to the thoughts of incredibly powerful people. Never before have we been able to intimately experience the president’s thoughts on Coke or Cher’s thoughts on . . . Coke. Even Chrissy Teigen can’t leave Twitter for more than a few weeks; there’s a sense we might be equal-opportunity addicted. This is fun, sometimes, but also often leads to a powerful person tweeting out something that makes very little sense and then everyone else analyzing it. (Just look at the last four years.) I am part of the problem, because one of Elon Musk’s recent tweets raises a lot of questions I can’t stop myself from asking.

At 4:13 AM yesterday, Musk tweeted this:

(4) ANOTHER OPENING OF ANOTHER SHOW. In the LA area, “Mt. Wilson Observatory Is Reopening To Public After ‘Near-Death Experience’ With Bobcat Fire”.

It’s been a rough year for the Mount Wilson Observatory.

First, the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to shut its doors to the public last spring.

Then, in September, flames from the massive Bobcat Fire came within just a few feet of the station, and threatened to destroy its historic array of telescopes and other astronomy equipment. A crowdfunding campaign was later launched to help repair damage.

Next Tuesday, the legendary observatory, which was founded in 1904, is making a comeback — and will reopen its gates to the public.

Sam Hale, chairman of the observatory’s board of trustees, said volunteers have been working tirelessly to maintain the station and its trove of sensitive instruments, despite the challenges of the past year.

“It has been very difficult for us,” Hale said. “First, the pandemic, then the Bobcat Fire — all in one year — was a real near-death experience. But people are feeling absolutely exhilarated.”

The gates will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the summer, according to the observatory’s website. Stargazers will also have an opportunity to book reservations to use the observatory’s 60- and 100-inch telescopes in the evening.

(5) NEWEST TAFF EBOOK. David Langford’s latest addition to the selection of free ebook downloads at the unofficial Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund site is a volume of Forties fan fiction, The Road to Fame by D.R. (Donald Raymond) Smith (25,000 words). Dave explains – “This is an interesting curio rather than one of those huge and newly researched compilations that I like to brag about, and as noted on the page there have been three previous print editions, but it has a certain weird mash-up charm.”

This early example of UK fan fiction – in the modern sense of stories that make free with other authors’ characters – was written in the 1940s and first published as a collected edition in 1953. There have been multiple reprints but no previous ebook.

The expedition team led by cranky Professor Challenger in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World here joins assorted characters from other fantastic fiction – including the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars and Tarzan), John W. Campbell, E.E. “Doc” Smith (the Skylark and Lensman series), H.G. Wells and several others – on a quest for literary immortality. The perils en route are reminiscent of the much earlier The Pilgrim’s Progress and the somewhat later The Enchanted Duplicator:

“On the journey you will have to face such obstacles as the Impassable Precipice of Public Ridicule, the high passes of the Mountains of Contempt through which howls the High Wind of Carping Criticism, the Bog of Apathy in the lowlands beyond, and the vast waterless Plain of Mediocrity where hunt the Wild Wolves of Fierce Competition.”

(6) MICHELLE ZELLICH OBIT. Conrunner and member of the Archon board Michelle Zellich died June 9. The Archon team shared the sad news on Facebook:

Archon is incredibly saddened to say one of our longest serving Board and Committee members, Michelle Zellich, passed away Wednesday, June 9th. On behalf of the Board of Directors, Archon Convention Committee, Staff, and Volunteers, and the greater St. Louis (and national) fandom family, I wish to express our deepest condolences to Rich Zellich and the rest of their families on this devastating loss.

Michelle has been on the Archon Board of Directors since at least 1993 and has been an Archon icon for much longer. She ran the masquerade at Archon 10 (1986), 11, and 13, ran programming for Archon 15-18, and was Pro Liaison for Archon 19 & 20. She was co-chair for Archon 13, and was chair for Archon 12 and 21-30. Michelle was also the co-chair for Archon 31/TuckerCon which was the 9th NASFiC.

Michelle and Rich were Fan Guests of Honor for Archon 32 as a celebration of their efforts, but she wasn’t yet done with us. After a well-deserved year off, Michelle ran the Art Show for Archon 33-42 before her health forced her to step back from running a department.

It was fun at Archon 32 to watch Michelle walk around not knowing what to do with her “free time” and without her binder full of convention information. She was not used to not having to handle something, answer a question, or talk to the Gateway Center about an issue.

We will miss Michelle, her warm smile, her genuine affection for all of you who loved Archon, and her love of all things Donald Duck. I’m sure Wilson “Bob” Tucker was waiting for Michelle and had a shot ready. Smooth!

Goodbye Michelle and thanks for everything you did for Archon, the St. Louis area fandom, and the greater science fiction and fantasy world.

(7) DAMARIS HAYMAN (1929-2021). Damaris Hayman, noted for her many comedy performances, died June 3 at the age of 91. The Guardian’s tribute spotlighted this bit of genre fame:

…Her best television role came in the 1971 Doctor Who serial The Daemons, one of the most fondly remembered adventures featuring the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee. As Miss Hawthorne, the white witch of the village of Devil’s End (in reality Aldbourne, Wiltshire) she gamely stands up to Roger Delgado’s villainous Master and whacks a homicidal Morris dancer on the head with her handbag (rendering him unconscious due to her always carrying a crystal ball around in it). The character was popular enough for her to recreate the role in a 2017 direct-to-DVD sequel series from Reeltime Pictures, The White Witch of Devil’s End….

(8) BEN ROBERTS (1950-2021). Actor Ben Roberts, best known for his role on The Bill, died June 7 reports The Guardian, which also noted his genre work: .

…He was also seen as a villain in Tales of Sherwood (1989), but frequently had to convince Doctor Who fans that he was not the Ben Roberts who reportedly appeared uncredited as a Dalek trooper in the 1984 story Resurrection of the Daleks.

His later screen appearances [included] working with the director Tim Burton on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)….

(9) BANES OBIT. Actress Lisa Banes, whose many movie and TV appearances included The Orville, died June 14 at the age of 65 ten days after being hit by a motor scooter in a New York crosswalk.  

“I am deeply saddened at the news of Lisa Banes’ passing,” wrote Seth MacFarlane. “We had the good fortune to work with her on The Orville this past year. Her stage presence, magnetism, skill and talent were matched only by her unwavering kindness and graciousness toward all of us. A tremendous loss…”

(10) MOSES GINSBERG (1935-2021). Called an “unconventional filmmaker” by the New York Times, Moses Ginsberg died May 23. His two notable films involved “the meltdown of a psychiatrist”and “a press aide in a Nixon-like administration who becomes a murderous werewolf.”  

…He followed “Coming Apart” in 1973 with another low-budget film: “The Werewolf of Washington,” a campy political parody inspired by the classic horror film “The Wolf Man” (1941), which terrified Mr. Ginsberg as a boy, and by President Richard M. Nixon, who terrified him as a man.

In Mr. Ginsberg’s film, released more than a year into the Watergate scandal, Dean Stockwell plays an assistant White House press secretary who turns into a werewolf at inopportune moments and murders characters based on Katharine Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post, and Martha Mitchell, the outspoken wife of Attorney General John N. Mitchell….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

June 1991 – On this month in 1991, Ian MacDonald’s King of Morning, Queen of Day  was first published. It would win the the Philip K. Dick Award  for best original science fiction paperback published in the U.S. in 1992, and it would win the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Award for its French translation in the same year. It had but one physical printing in English in paperback but was printed in French and German hardcopy editions. It’s currently available at all the usual digital suspects. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 15, 1910 — Harold Lawlor. April 1942 saw “The Eternal Priestess” published in Fantastic Adventures, his first sale. His first story for Weird Tales was “Specter in the Steel”, May 1943. Over the next decade, twenty-nine stories by him would appear in Weird Tales. “Mayaya’s Little Green Men” in Weird Tales, November 1946 is of interest as it’s considered the earliest genre appearance of that  phrase. Alas, I don’t believe his stories were ever collected and published. (Died 1992.)
  • Born June 15, 1939 — Brian Jacques. British author who surprisingly is not on the ISFDB list today. Writer of the exceedingly popular Redwall series of novels and also of the Castaways of the Flying Dutchman series. He also wrote two collections of Alan Garner style fiction, Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales and The Ribbajack & Other Curious Yarns. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 15, 1941 — Neal Adams, 80. Comic book artist who worked for both DC and Marvel. Among his achievements was the creation with writer Dennis O’Neil of Ra’s al Ghul. I’m a DC fan so I can’t speak for his work on Marvel but he did amazing work on DeadmanBatmanGreen Lantern and Green Arrow. All of this work is now available on the DC Universe app.  It should be noted he was instrumental in the efforts that resulted in Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster receiving long overdue credit and  financial remuneration from DC. 
  • Born June 15, 1942 — Sondra Marshak, 79. Author of multiple Trek novels including The Price of the Phoenix and The Fate of the Phoenix, both co-written with Myrna Culbreath. She also wrote, again with Myrna Culbreath, Shatner: Where No Man…: The Authorized Biography of William Shatner which of course naturally lists Shatner as the third co-author. She also wrote the fandom reference book Star Trek Lives! which was co-written with Jacqueline Lichtenberg, and television producer Joan Winston. She was an important early promoter of Star Trek fan culture, and a publisher of fan fiction.
  • Born June 15, 1947 — David S Garnett, 74. Not to be confused with the David Garnett without an S. Author of the Bikini Planet novels (StargonautsBikini Planet and Space Wasters) which should be taken as seriously as the names suggests. Revived with the blessing of Michael Moorcock a new version of New Worlds as an anthology this time. Last work was writing Warhammer novels.
  • Born June 15, 1960 — Sabrina Vourvoulias, 61. Thai-born author, an American citizen from birth brought up in Guatemala, but here since her teens. Her novel, Ink, deals with immigrants who are tattooed with biometric implants that are used to keep track of them no matter where they are. I’m assuming that the “Skin in the Game” story which appeared first on Tor.com is set in the future. Fair guess that “The Ways of Walls and Words” which also appeared on Tor.com is also set there. The Readercon 25 panel she was on, “East, West and Everything Between: A Roundtable on Latin@ Speculative Fiction” is available from  the usual suspects, as is all of her fiction. 
  • Born June 15, 1963 — Mark Morris, 58. English author known for his horror novels, although he has also written several novels based on Doctor Who and Torchwood. Given his horror background, these tend to be darker than many similar novels are, I recommend Forever Autumn and Bay of the Dead if you like a good chill. 
  • Born June 15, 1973 — Neil Patrick Harris, 48. His first genre role was not Carl Jenkins in Starships Troopers, but rather Billy Johnson in Purple People Eater, an SF comedy best forgotten I suspect. Post-Starship Troopers, I’ve got him voicing Barry Allen / The Flash in Justice League: The New Frontier and Dick Grayson / Nightwing in Batman: Under the Red Hood. He also voiced Peter Parker and her superhero alias in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series. Finally he’s Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events which he also produces. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The D&D player’s in Jason’s game (at FoxTrot) are almost cautious enough.

(14) NINETIES COLLECTIBLES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Toy Zone’s article “The ‘90s Toys That Are Now Worth a Fortune” includes an interactive table of valuable toys.  I’m sure it’s unnecessary to tell you that market fluctuations and condition of the item will make the large majority of toys worth far less than the prices quoted herein.

Key Findings

  • The most expensive 1990s toy sold is a Rainbow The Chameleon Beanie Baby from 1997 ($50,000).
  • Nine of the top 10 most valuable ‘90s toys are Beanie Babies.
  • The only top 10 toy not to be a Beanie Baby is a copy of Goldeneye 007 for Nintendo 64 ($14,999).
  • The most expensive action figure is Scratch from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Playmates ($5,850).

(15) INDY FIVE. Location shooting for the fifth Indiana Jones movie has drawn the attention of the Scottish press: “Pictures show motorbikes speeding down Highland road for scene in new Indiana Jones film”.

… The plot of the new ‘Indiana Jones 5’ has been kept tightly under wraps.

But these photos of stunt actors racing on motorbikes through the village of Glencoe, western Scotland, give a first insight into the secret plot of the new film.

Two stunt workers can be seen racing each other on motorbikes which appear to be from the World War Two era, behind a vehicle with a large camera rig.

A third, unidentified rider, can then be seen joining the two, riding what looks like a Harley Davidson motorbike, appearing to give the actors directions.

…There were no sightings of star of the franchise Harrison Ford, who has been seen in several locations across the UK in his classic Indiana Jones attire.

(16) INDY ONE. And looking back at the original, the New York Times tells “Four Secrets About ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’”.

1. Spielberg’s commitment to practical effects was anything but practical.

Black-and-white serials like “Tarzan” and “Jungle Jim” couldn’t electrify their thrills with C.G.I. Neither would “Raiders.” The film’s set pieces, from locations to traps, are temples of old Hollywood craftsmanship. Indy’s seaplane departure, the snowbound Nepalese saloon and the plummeting cliffs of Cairo were all handmade matte paintings. On average, a matte painting has only a few seconds before the audience catches on to the trick. Yet, the sprawling warehouse in the film’s final shot had to command the screen for nearly half a minute and took the artist Michael Pangrazio three months to complete. For the opening boulder chase, Spielberg commissioned a 12-foot fiberglass and plaster rock mounted at the top of a 40-yard track. Even at a mere 300 pounds — mere, that is, relative to 80 tons of genuine granite — the fake behemoth shattered the prop stalagmites in its path and they had to be replaced between each take. And the boulder might have crushed the star Harrison Ford if he hadn’t outrun it all 10 times. “He was lucky,” Spielberg said in American Cinematographer magazine, “and I was an idiot for letting him try it.”

(17) THE DAYS OF YOUR PULP LIFE. Simon & Schuster will bring out “The Sci-Fi Art of Virgil Finlay Wall Calendar 2022” in August.

Virgil Finlay was an American pulp fantasy, science fiction and horror illustrator. While he worked in a range of media, from gouache to oils, Finlay specialized in detailed pen-and-ink drawings accomplished with abundant stippling, cross-hatching, and scratchboard techniques. This calendar showcases 12 such intricate and atmospheric line pen and ink drawings in all their glory. Informative text accompanies each work and the datepad features previous and next month’s views.

(18) JUST STEPPED OUT. “Hawking’s office acquired for the nation” announced Science Museum Group.

… A treasure trove of archive papers and personal objects belonging to the late Professor Stephen Hawking – from personalised wheelchairs and scientific bets signed with Hawking’s thumbprint to his seminal papers on theoretical physics and his scripts from The Simpsons – have been acquired by the Science Museum Group and Cambridge University Library….

Selected highlights from Hawking’s office will go on public view for the first time in a new display at the Science Museum in early 2022. Later next year, global audiences will be able to explore hundreds of remarkable items from Hawking’s working life when this significant acquisition is catalogued, photographed and published to the Science Museum Group’s popular online collection.

(19) FLY BY JOVE. “Mushballs and a Great Blue Spot: What Lies Beneath Jupiter’s Pretty Clouds” – the New York Times discusses an array of photos taken by NASA’s Juno probe.

For something that was to have been done and thrown away three years ago, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has a busy schedule ahead exploring Jupiter and its big moons.

The spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016, and has survived bombardment from intense radiation at the largest of the solar system’s planets. It is now finishing its primary mission, but NASA has granted it a four-year extension and 42 more orbits. Last week, it zipped past Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon.

“Basically, we designed and built an armored tank,” said Scott J. Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, who is the mission’s principal investigator. “And it’s worked.”

Jupiter is essentially a big ball of mostly hydrogen, but it has turned out to be a pretty complicated ball. The mission’s discoveries include lightning higher up than thought possible, rings of stable storms at the north and south poles, and winds extending so deep into the interior that they might push around the planet’s magnetic fields.

“I think this has been a revelation,” said David J. Stevenson, a professor of planetary science at the California Institute of Technology and a co-investigator on the mission.

Juno’s highly elliptical path, pitched up at almost a 90-degree angle to the orbits of Jupiter’s moons, passes over the planet’s north and south poles. On each orbit, Juno swoops in, reaching a top speed of 130,000 miles per hour as it passes within a few thousand miles of Jupiter’s clouds….

Juno also has or will visit Jovian moons Ganymede, Io and Europa.

…At Europa, JunoCam will be pointed at the dividing line between day and night. In recent years, observations by the Hubble Space Telescope have indicated eruptions of water vapor from the ocean breaking through the icy surface. The hope is that JunoCam might fortuitously capture a water plume, backlit by sunlight…

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Cruella” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say that Cruella is in the mode of “quasi-redemptive villain origin stories” similar to the prequels for Darth Vader, Norman Bates, the Joker, the Wizard of Oz, the apes from the Planet of the Apes, and the Minions, but Cruella is a “vil-quil” that is “the world’s first reimagined satirical coming-of-age revenge heist comedy drama” that’s basically “an excuse for two fashionistas to dress-fight one another.”  But how does Cruella manage to have a chase scene in 1970s London with a car with a right-hand drive?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Will R., Darrah Chavey, Fred Brooks, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/30/21 Give Me A Long Enough Pixel And A Place To Scroll

(1) CHEN QUIFAN. Yi-Ling Liu has a profile of Chen Qiufan in the April WIRED.  The article has a wealth of detail about what it is like being a sf writer in China, including the news that if The Three-Body Problem had been published in China today instead of in 2008 it would be heavily censored. “Sci-Fi Writer or Prophet? The Hyperreal Life of Chen Qiufan”. Registration required.

… But in the past few years—a period that has seen China’s sci-fi authors elevated to the status of New Age prophets—Chen’s own career has become an object in the fun-house mirror. After The Waste Tide garnered widespread attention at home and abroad, reviewers began praising Chen as the “William Gibson of China,” and the tech industry has embraced him as a kind of oracle. An institute run by AI expert and venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee’s company has even developed an algorithm capable of writing fiction in the author’s voice. (Chen’s recent short story “The State of Trance,” which includes passages generated by the AI, nabbed first prize in a Shanghai literary competition moderated by an artificially intelligent judge, beating an entry written by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mo Yan.) In China, it is the place of science fiction itself—and the status of writers like Chen—that have taken a turn toward the hyperreal….

(2) NOT TODAY’S TITLE: “A Mushroom You Can’t Smoke? That’s A Non-Tokeable Fungi!” The genius that is Daniel Dern strikes again.

(3) FLUSHED WITH PRIDE. James Davis Nicoll is impressed with these “Five Thrilling SFF Works About Meticulously Planned Infrastructure” at Tor.com.

Sure, there’s a lot of entertainment value in grand set piece battles, personal duels, or even two wizards engaging in a magical combat to the death. But there are those of us who enjoy a more arcane pleasure: edge of the seat thrills as protagonists struggle to build vast infrastructure projects. I would argue that providing London with a functional sewer system was more exciting than defeating the French at Trafalgar….

His first specimen is A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! by Harry Harrison (1972).

(4) A HAMMERLOCK ON FAME. “William Shatner to Be Inducted Into the WWE Hall of Fame” reports Comicbook.com.

WWE announced on Tuesday that the latest inductee into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame will be none other than Star Trek star William Shatner. The original Captain Kirk popped up on WWE programming a few times, including his famous 1995 appearance where he flipped Jerry “The King” Lawler and his turn as the celebrity guest general manager for Monday Night Raw in 2010.

This year’s induction ceremony will take place inside the WWE ThunderDome on April 6 and will induct both the Class of 2020 and 2021 after last year’s ceremony was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

(5) MY BIG FAT RED WEDDING. Io9 says Game of Thrones will also inspire a Broadway spinoff: “Game of Thrones Broadway: Key Westeros History Coming to Stage”.

Though the show is long gone, fans of Game of Thrones have plenty to look forward to. There will be more George R.R. Martin books (hopefully), multiple new HBO shows, and now there will be a stage production that’ll go back in time to fill in a key part of Westeros history.

Sixteen years before the events in Martin’s first novel, as well as the TV show, was the Great Tourney at Harrenhal—an event often referred to because many of the major players from across Westeros were there, either competing in, or enjoying, various competitions. Think of it almost like the Westeros Olympics. At the end of the event, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen declared his love for Lyanna Stark, a young woman who was already promised to Robert Baratheon. The event led to Robert overthrowing the Targaryens and basically starting the events that took place in the novels and series….

(6) CONTROVERSIAL MANIFESTO. “Writers in culture war over rules of the imagination”The Guardian visits the front lines.

It’s a venerable global cultural institution, dedicated to freedom of expression and set to celebrate its centenary this year. Yet the writers’ association PEN is being drawn into dispute over a declaration claiming the right of authors to imagination, allowing them to describe the world from the point of view of characters from other cultural backgrounds.

At issue is a charter manifesto, The Democracy of the Imagination, passed unanimously by delegates of PEN International at the 85th world congress in Manila in 2019. A year on , through the social upheavals of 2020, PEN’s US arm, PEN America, has not endorsed the manifesto, which includes the principle: “PEN believes the imagination allows writers and readers to transcend their own place in the world to include the ideas of others.”

While welcoming the commitment to freedom of expression, officials at PEN America indicate that aspects of the declaration might be perceived as straying into the contentious territory of cultural appropriation.

A spokesperson for PEN America told the Observer that the manifesto had not been explicitly rejected – two members of PEN America helped draft it – but “that does not necessarily indicate that we as PEN America formally endorse that action on behalf of our staff or board”.

PEN International’s “The Democracy of the Imagination Manifesto” says —

Pen International Upholds The Following Principles:

  • We defend the imagination and believe it to be as free as dreams.
  • We recognize and seek to counter the limits faced by so many in telling their own stories.
  • We believe the imagination accesses all human experience, and reject restrictions of time, place, or origin.
  • We know attempts to control the imagination may lead to xenophobia, hatred and division.
  • Literature crosses all real and imagined frontiers and is always in the realm of the universal.

(7) VERKLEMPT READERS. The New York Times absolutely knows “How Crying on TikTok Sells Books”.

…An app known for serving up short videos on everything from dance moves to fashion tips, cooking tutorials and funny skits, TikTok is not an obvious destination for book buzz. But videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending.

These videos are starting to sell a lot of books, and many of the creators are just as surprised as everyone else.

“I want people to feel what I feel,” said Mireille Lee, 15, who started @alifeofliterature in February with her sister, Elodie, 13, and now has nearly 200,000 followers. “At school, people don’t really acknowledge books, which is really annoying.”

…“These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble. “We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales — I mean tens of thousands of copies a month — with other social media formats.”…

(8) OVERWROUGHT SKEPTIC. Everything Wrong With did Galaxy Quest recently:

Galaxy Quest is so good it hurts. It’s one of the best Star Trek movies ever made. It’s hilarious. We love it. Still has sins.

(9) EVERYBODY DROPS. NOBODY SPLATS. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] There’s this long but pretty interesting video at Brows Held High that says it’s about Starship Troopers, but is, at least in part 1, much more about Heinlein in general — it references many of his works, including, believe it or not, Farnham’s Freehold. (Any further parts aren’t released yet but probably will be soon; Kyle is reasonably reliable about his YouTube drops.) It also has an interesting dual generation take, where Kyle interviews his folks about their take on Heinlein’s work, as his father is an engineer who’s a huge Heinlein fan, and his family has a long history of military service.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1996 – Twenty-five  years ago, Paul J. McAuley wins the Clarke Award for Fairyland which had been published by Victor Gollancz Ltd the previous year. The other nominated novels were Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, Patricia Anthony’s The Happy Policeman, Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships, Christopher Priest’s The Prestige and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. It would also win the John W. Campbell Memorial and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 30, 1746 – Francisco Goya.  Some of what this painter achieved is very strange.  Here is The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters on the cover of Haunted.  Here is The Spell on the cover of The October Country.  Here is Fantastic Vision on the cover of Positions and Presuppositions in SF.  (Died 1828) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1853 – Vincent Van Gogh.  Another painter whose work can be very strange.  Here is Starry Night on the cover of Orphans of the Sky.  Here is Wheatfield with Crows.  Here is The Night Café on the cover of Campbell & Baker’s anthology of stories and poems it inspired.  Here is a self-portrait.  (Died 1890) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1906 – Dirce Archer.  Served a term as President of PSFA (Pittsburgh SF Ass’n).  Half a dozen reviews in Astounding that I know of.  By 1961 she said of herself, “Primarily a book collector now.  Used to do batik, clay modelling, water colors, but am now too nervous to do art” – after chairing Pittcon the 19th Worldcon.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran twenty-four  volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1914 – Francis T. Laney.  Active in his local club, and The Acolyte (Lovecraft fanzine), but what made him famous, or notorious, was his 130-page Ah! Sweet Idiocy! blistering us with how bad we were.  Read it for its writing, not its accuracy; there is, of course, all too much truth in it.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at the time he was active. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel  which I’d recommend as it reads a lot to similar what Heinlein would write. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1933 Anna Ruud. Dr. Ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey it is genre of a sorts, isn’t it? It’s a really fun film which is in the public domain so enjoy watching it here. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. Stardance won the Hugo Award for Best Novella at IguanaCon II. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program Book. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 71. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at an airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film. (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 63. Voice actor primarily for such roles as The Brain on the Pinky and The Brain series (which Stross makes use of in The Laundry series) with Pinky modeled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced  Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1975 – Wendy Isdell, Ph.D., D.D., age 46.  Two novels.  Likes Barbara Hambly for characterization and style.  Plays classical guitar.  “Can also tie things into knots with my feet….  Anyone who claims to be sane is simply clinging to the illusion that they agree with what everyone else says reality should be.  Sorry.  I don’t subscribe to that publication.  (I used to, but the cover price became too high so I bought Reader’s Digest instead.)”  [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1991 – Michelle IzmaylovM.D., age 30.  Five novels.  Aristine Mann Award.  Also loves drawing and painting.  First published at age 14.  Resident physician at Vanderbilt Univ. Medical Center.   “After a tough day … I sit down and write.”  [JH]

(12) KEEP YOUR DOCTORS STRAIGHT. “Pierce Brosnan joins Black Adam as Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange” explains Yahoo!

Big news in the world of superhero casting, aTHR reports that Pierce Brosnan has joined Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam movie, where he’ll play DC superhero sorcerer Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange. This will be Brosnan’s first indulgence in the world of super-powered cinematic throwdowns, taking on the role of Kent Nelson, an American archeologist (played, obviously, by a British man), who stumbles onto vast magical powers while exploring a foreign country, and yet is not, against all odds, Doctor Strange…

(13) DON’T PLAY WITH THAT! IGN tells where “LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader Helmet and More Sets Are Up for Preorder”. Kylo Ren would buy one of these.

…There’s a Darth Vader helmet, a Scout Trooper helmet, and an Imperial Probe Droid. All three sets will be available April 26, but you can preorder them now on Amazon.

LEGO says these sets are geared toward adults and experienced LEGO makers. They’re not designed to be played with; they’re designed to be displayed. They come with stands and placards so you can put them on your desk or bookshelf….

(14) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Charles Seife’s biography Hawking Hawking regards Stephen Hawking as a “scientific celebrity”:

Stephen Hawking was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist and even the most brilliant man alive–but what if his true talent was self-promotion? When Stephen Hawking died, he was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist, and even its smartest person. He was neither. A brilliant exposé and powerful biography, Hawking Hawking uncovers the authentic Hawking buried underneath the fake. It is the story of a man whose brilliance in physics was matched by his genius for building his own myth.

(15) TICKED OFF. [Item by David Doering.] Another funny story. Swatch and Apple are in court over using the phrase “One more thing…” (Yeah, go figure.) The British judge concluded, however, that while:

Steve Jobs had used the phrase, it had probably been borrowed from television detective Columbo.

Not often does a fictional hero hold sway over a legal decision in a court of law. “Apple loses latest round of legal fight with Swatch over ‘one more thing’ phrase”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Bravely Default II,” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game features “bland do-gooders shaped like bobbleheads” and “will make you regress into your childhood like an adult eating a Lunchable,”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/6/21 First There is A Mount-To-Be-Read, Then There Is No MTBR, Then There Is

(1) INSIDE THE HATCH. ‘”If the aliens lay eggs, how does that affect architecture?’: sci-fi writers on how they build their worlds”. Nest-designing tips from Alastair Reynolds, Nnedi Okorafor, Ann Leckie, Becky Chambers, Kim Stanley Robinson and M. John Harrison.

Nnedi Okorafor

Binti (2015), Akata Witch (2011), Who Fears Death (2010)

My stories tend to start with the characters. Then I look through their eyes (or however they “see”), minds, perspectives to observe the world. Typically this happens the moment the character exists. So I know the world not long after I know the characters. I walk through it, I smell the air, listen to the gossip, observe its insect world, hear its history through various perspectives, and so on … I experience it.

I don’t make notes initially or while writing – I find that distracting. And while writing, I can hold the world pretty fully in my mind … I tend to write first drafts swiftly and nonstop, putting it aside to cool only when it’s complete (which means it carries everything in it; it’s out of my head and on the page). I might draw maps, charts or diagrams while editing. My editing phase is much longer than the writing phase….

(2) THE MAN WITH THE POWER. Fabrice Mathieu, four years after “Darth by Darthwest,” returns with his wonderful “DARTH BY DARTHWEST Episode II”

Cary Grant is back in a new galactic adventure! This time, he is their only hope! When Alfred Hitchcock meets George Lucas…

(3) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. Chuck Serface and Christopher J. Garcia are working on an issue of The Drink Tank dedicated to cults and new religious movements, and they want material to suit the theme:

We’re looking for related articles, fiction, poetry, personal essays, artwork, and photography.  We’re open to explorations of cults and new religious movements, cults and new religious movements in genre fiction and comics . . . you get the idea.  The deadline for submissions is Monday January 25, 2021. We’ll have the issue out shortly thereafter.  Please send your contributions or your questions to either Chris at johnnyeponymous@gmail.com or to Chuck at ceserface@gmail.com.

(4) KEEP THOSE CLICKS COMING. The rumored departure of Jodie Whittaker gives pop culture pundits something to chew on. At Radio Times, Huw Fullerton argues it’s too early for her to go:  “Jodie Whittaker leaving Doctor Who? Why the 13th Doctor should stay”.

… Whether these reports are true or not is currently unclear – the BBC has declined to comment on what it describes as “speculation” about Whittaker’s future in the show, which isn’t a firm denial – but if they are borne out by the facts, I have to confess I’m disappointed.

Because really, it still feels like Whittaker is just getting started. After two series and an awful lot of adventures, I’m still looking and waiting for her quintessential “Doctor” moment, the scene that will define her period in the role and be looked back on by fans with fond nostalgia….

Fullerton also devotes his podcast to the topic here.

(5) THE FACE OF POE. Joe R. Lansdale credits Edgar Allan Poe as his “Dark Inspiration” in 2009 article from The Texas Observer. (It’s news to me!)

I can’t think about Edgar Allan Poe without thinking about my life, because he was there in dark spirit, in my room and in my head. He was out there in the shadows of the East Texas pines, roaming along the creeks and the Sabine River, a friendly specter with gothic tales to tell. It was a perfect place for him. East Texas. It’s the part of Texas that is behind the pine curtain, down here in the damp dark. It’s Poe country, hands down.

These thoughts were in my mind as I toured the Harry Ransom Center’s current exhibition, From Out That Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. The Center, at the University of Texas at Austin, is celebrating the bicentennial of Poe’s birth with an exhibition that includes original manuscripts and illustrations. Looking at these artifacts, it occurred to me that Poe reached out from the grave and saved this East Texan from the aluminum chair factory. I know there are those who will say working in an aluminum chair factory is good honest work, and I’m going to agree. But I will say without hesitation and with no concern of insult that it damn sure wasn’t work of my choosing, and that it takes the skill of a trained raccoon and the I.Q. of a can of green beans, minus the label, to get it done….

(6) THESE MY JOINTS. That robot army you’re always reading about in sf? Might be getting closer. Army Times has the story: “Not quite the Terminator, but ‘muscle-bound’ robots are coming for the Army, Marines”.

Army researchers are looking to add muscle tissue to robot platforms, giving them “never before seen mobility and agility.”

The effort by scientists with the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command, Army Research Laboratory and Duke University and the University of North Carolina is looking first at adding muscle to legged robot joints rather than using actuators, according to an Army Research Laboratory statement….

While the early Army research makes no mention of cyborgs, scientists do note the advantages of muscle tissue as compared to robotics components currently in use.

(7) RELEASE THE BROKEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the December 30 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber uses the problems of Cyberpunk 2077 to explain why developers release so many bug-ridden games.

So why can’t a developer simply delay a game until it’s ready?  Release dates are rarely chosen by  the makers; instead they are imposed by marketing departments and shareholders, calibrated to avoid competitors, giving a game a fighting chance in a crowded market, or timed to tie in with a holiday season or new console.  Pushing back a game’s release can send costs spiralling as marketing needs to be replanned and other games in the pipeline are delayed as a consequence.  A game is a calculated economic risk, and if it flops, a studio can collapse.  Sometimes it makes more sense to release a bug-ridden game than to further delay it…

…The increasing prevalence of patching has incentivized the release of games before they are ready.  This has coincided with a demand for increasingly sophisticated games that developers are struggling to meet.  The result iis unrealistic production schedules and the controversial labor practice known as ‘crunch,’  where developers work six- or seven-day weeks and long hours on the run up to release.  This acceleration is unsustainable, and glitches are simply the external evidence of deeper problems in the industry.

(8) FAREWELL SALE. Offworld Designs owners Ray and Barb Van Tilburg say after 31 years of service to fandom they are retiring. They’re holding a big sale to move their inventory.

We appreciate all of our customers so much.  Whether we met at a Science Fiction, Gaming, Anime, Furry or Comic Con, you’ve been the people we wanted to work for and share this nerdy adventure with. 
 
After the horrible year we’ve all just lived through and the rolling disaster in Washington that’s unfolding while I write this, we need to unlock the value of our dragon’s hoard of inventory.  We were so busy we didn’t know the meaning of the word “scale” as the business grew, but still built something special with the help of family, friends and great employees from our little town of Sandwich, Illinois. 
 
We’ve marked everything down by 50% with nothing held back, including convention souvenirs from our wonderful licensors. 
 
What does this mean in the short term?  Well, we still have staff and equipment to print or embroider for you while we work through this process but we’re not adding new designs to our huge inventory.  Let us know how we can be of service and if we can do it sooner as opposed to later, we’ll be there for you.   

We are open to a sale of the business if you know someone, but it’s time to get moving toward whatever is waiting for us in 2021 and beyond.

(9) LARKIN OBIT. David Larkin has died at the age of 84. Art director for Granada Publishing, Pan, Panther, and had his own imprint. The Guardian’s obituary was written by his brother, Colin.

In 1972 David was headhunted to join Pan Books and in 1980 he moved to the US, setting up David Larkin Books, often working in association with the US publisher Ian Ballantine. By then David had achieved major success with the Fantastic Art seriesFaeries, Giants, Shaker and countless coffee-table books including Barn, Mill, Farm and the Country Wisdom series. He regarded his final book, When Art Worked, as his finest work.

Married Sabra Elliot, who survives him.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 6, 1975 –In the United Kingdom, The Changes was first broadcast on the BBC. It was a ten-part series adapting Peter Dickinson’s trilogy of The WeathermongerHeartsease and The Devil’s Children. It was adapted by Anna Home and directed by John Prowse. It starred Victoria Williams, Keith Ashton, David Garfield, Rafiq Anwar,  Zuleika Robson and  Raghbir Brar. Though written as a children’s series, its themes caused considerable controversy. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 6, 1832 – Gustave Doré.  Illustrated Dante’s Divine Comedy, Milton’s Paradise LostMother Goose, Poe’s “Raven”Puss in Boots, Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel, Shakespeare’s Tempest, and much more outside our field or at our border (is Tennyson’s Idylls of the King – about Arthur – fantasy? what about Cervantes’ Don Quixote?).  Famous in his day as a painter, maybe even greater with engravings and woodcuts. Here is Cinderella.  This is from History of Holy Russia – it’s a dream, so is it fantasy?  Here is a vision of Paradise.  Also sculpture, watercolor, and in fact pioneering comic strips.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born January 6, 1895 Tom Fadden. He’s on the Birthday Honors List for the original  Invasion of the Body Snatchers where his character was one of the first victims to yield to the invaders.  It wasn’t his first SFF role as some thirty years before that role, he would make his Broadway debut as Peter Jekyll in The Wonderful Visit based off the novel of the same name by H. G. Wells, who also co-wrote the play.  The last note of his that I’ll not was that one of his first television roles was Eben Kent, the man who adopts Kal-El on the first episode of The Adventures of Superman series. (Died 1980.) (CE) 
  • Born January 6, 1905 Eric Frank Russell. He won the first Hugo Award for Best Short Story at Clevention in 1955 for “Allamagoosa” first published in the May 1955 issue of Astounding Science FictionSinister Barrier, his first novel, appeared in Unknown in 1939, the first novel to appear there. Much of his work has not made to the digital realm yet. What’s you favorite work by him? (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born January 6, 1941 – Joni Stopa.  Fanwriter since the 1950s – teens can do things.  Helped Bjo (there should be a circumflex over the j, an Esperantism indicating pronunciation “bee-joe”) Trimble invent SF con Art Shows.  Married Jon Stopa, went to live at his family’s ski lodge in Wilmot, Wisconsin.  Mother Joni’s Jams and Jellies raised money for TAFF and DUFF.   Co-founded Windycon; Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon II.   Fine Masquerade entries (our costume competition) with Jon; ran the Masquerade at Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon; she & Jon Fan GoH at Chicon V the 49th.  Three remembrances of her.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born January 6, 1947 – Bob Vardeman, age 74.  Active fan and pro.  Seventy novels (some with co-authors), fifty shorter stories.  Helped found Albuqurque SF Society and Bubonicon where he has often been Toastmaster (no documentation that he ever said “Tackett, you’re toast!”); elsewhere too.  Guest of Honor at AggieCon IV, CopperCon 8, ChattaCon XV.  [JH]
  • Born January 6, 1955 Rowan Atkinson, 64. An unlikely Birthday perhaps except for that he was the lead in Doctor Who and The Curse of Fatal Death which I know did not give him the dubious distinction of the shortest lived Doctor as that goes another actor though who I’ve not a clue.  Other genre appearances were scant I think (clause inserted for the nit pickers here) though he did play Nigel Small-Fawcett in Never Say Never Again and Mr. Stringer in The Witches which I really like even if the author hates.  (CE) 
  • Born January 6, 1959 – Ahrvid Engholm, age 62.  Early winner of the Appeltofft Award.  Two collections in English of Swedish fanwriting (note his initials at lower left; he drew this cover).  Co-founded Baltcon.  Interviewed the Strugatsky brothers for Yellow Submarine.  [JH]
  • Born January 6, 1960 Andrea Thompson, 62. I’ll not mention her memorable scene on Arli$$ as it’s not genre though it was worth seeing.  Her best genre work was as the telepath Talia Winters on Babylon 5. Her first genre role was in Nightmare Weekend which I’ll say was definitely a schlock film. Next up was playing a monster in the short lived Monsters anthology series. She had an one-off on Quantum Leap before landing the Talia Winters gig. Then came Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys. Really. Truly. Her last genre role to date appears to be in the Heroes: Destiny web series. (CE) 
  • Born January 6, 1969 Aron Eisenberg. Nog on Deep Space 9. Way after DS9, he’d show up in Renegades, a would-be Trek series loaded with Trek alumni including Nichelle Nichols, Robert Beltran,  Walter Koenig and Terry Farrell. It lasted two episodes. Born with only one partially functioning kidney, he died of kidney failure way too young. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born January 6, 1974 – Ashley Barnard, age 47.  Four novels for us; three others, one about Byron.  Cast of Illusions is a Shakespearean fantasy (it’s not fair for me to quote “Jonathan Wilder…. preferred dying by the sword, as smothering and choking usually occurred when he was a woman”; that part – I warned you about these puns – is in 16th Century theater).  Has read The MonkThe Scarlet Pimpernel, two by Hardy, two by Willkie Collins, five by Austen, six by Dickens.  [JH]
  • Born January 6, 1976 Guy Adams, 45. If you’ve listened to a Big Finish audio-work, it’s likely that you are familiar with his writing as he’s done scripts for their DoctorUNIT and Torchwood series among his many endeavors there. Not surprisingly, he’s also written novels on Doctor Who, Torchwood, Sherlock Holmes and so forth. I’ve read some of his Torchwood novels — they’re good popcorn corn literature. (CE) 
  • Born January 6, 1983 – Rachel Cotterill, Ph.D., age 38.  Four novels.  Runs.  Bakes tofu in spicy baharat marinade.  Has read Harriet the Invincible hello Wombat, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I can’t tell whose edition of the Dhammapada.  [JH]

(12) IS THE FATE OF DC COMICS IN THE BALANCE? AT&T’s balance sheet, that is. Publishers Weekly looks in as “DC Comics Leaves Its Legacy Behind”.

The world’s #2 superhero comics publisher is undergoing a stress test. DC Comics, the venerable publisher of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Watchmen, and dozens of other celebrated superhero characters, looks to be caught in the corporate restructuring taking place at its parent company, AT&T, along with other divisions of WarnerMedia, which the telecom giant acquired in 2019. After several rounds of layoffs and controversial business decisions, comics fans, comics professionals, and retailers are speculating whether DC, or its parent company, will choose to abandon comics publishing or the comics shop market entirely….

AT&T can’t afford to be concerned with DC’s legacy, no matter what it represents to the U.S. comics market. The company took on an even heavier debt load following the WarnerMedia acquisition, and has much bigger problems, including the controversial move to shift all of WarnerMedia subsidiary Warner Bros.’s 2021 theatrical film releases to streaming in an effort to keep the newly launched HBO Max service alive in a streaming-media war it appears to be losing badly to Disney+.

At the moment, DC’s value seems to be as a licensor of some very famous comics characters and logos that serve as the flagship of a popular consumer brand. That DC also publishes print comics that sell reasonably well in comics stores and the mass market (Walmart, Target), in addition to a strong and growing trade book program, is a bonus. The past, as far as AT&T may be concerned, is history. And that’s too bad, because to a lot of longtime fans, the past is what makes DC, DC.

(13) BOFFO B.O. In the Washington Post, Peter Marks reviews Ratatouille:  The Tik Tok Musical, which premiered Friday online as a benefit for the Actors Fund, which says the show raised $1 million on opening night.  The show has a professional cast and 51 minutes of songs, or half as many as would appear in a full production.  Marks credits Hartsdale, New York teacher Emily Jacobsen as being the inspiration for this project. “’Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical’ debuts online”.

… Let’s acknowledge the affirmative circumstances of this virtual performance, which also offers up the talents of Wayne Brady, Ashley Park, Adam Lambert, Andrew Barth Feldman and André De Shields as Anton Ego, the restaurant critic whose effete heart Remy melts. It augurs the arrival, in the midst of a fraught time for theater and other performing arts, of a bona fide new musical. Even more remarkable — as its title suggests — is that it came together via TikTok, the digital platform on which users create videos of up to a minute….

(14) JEOPARDY! Faithful Jeopardy! viewer Andrew Porter saw the contestants hit another stumbling block tonight —

Final Jeopardy: Blockbuster Movies

Answer: Released in 2017, this movie is the highest-grossing film in the U.S. that’s set during WorldWar I.

All three contestants got it wrong, asking, “What is 1917?” and “What is Dunkirk?”

The correct question: “What is Wonder Woman?”

(15) THEIR WORDS REMAIN. James Davis Nicoll shares memories of “Five Books by Authors We Lost in 2020” at Tor.com. His first book is by Ben Bova.

It is a regrettable fact that authors are mortal. This year has seen at least sixty SFF-related authors, artists, and editors die, some of natural causes, some due to the ongoing pandemic. Here are five books of interest by five different authors we lost in the last few months….

(16) BIOGRAPHY OF AN ICON. Jeff Foust reviews a new memoir about Stephen Hawking for The Space Review: “Review: Stephen Hawking: A Memoir of Friendship and Physics”.

It’s been nearly three years since Stephen Hawking passed away. At the time of his death in 2018, Hawking had been for decades one of the most famous scientists in the world, even though few people understood his research in topics such as black holes and cosmology. He was, in many respects, a cultural figure, revered for his intelligence and his achievements in spite of the physical limitations imposed by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Lost in those recollections is the fact that Hawking was not just a scientist, or a pop culture representation of one, but also a human being with a personality, a person with desires and pet peeves and passions. That aspect of Hawking is illustrated in Stephen Hawking: A Memoir of Friendship and Physics by Leonard Mlodinow, a physicist who worked closely with Hawking for years.

(17) NEED NEW CABIN IN THE SKY. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport surveys what private space companies want to do to replace the aging International Space Station, with Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, and Axiom Space all having their own alternatives. “The International Space Station can’t stay up there forever. Will privately run, commercial replacements be ready in time?”

… While NASA and the private sector work toward developing commercial habitats, China is building its own space station that it hopes to launch within a couple of years and is recruiting countries around the world as partners. The United States would not be one of them, however, since NASA is effectively barred by law from partnering with China in space.

“I think it would be a tragedy if, after all of this time and all of this effort, we were to abandon low Earth orbit and cede that territory,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told a Senate panel earlier this year.

The ISS still does have some good years left, officials said. “We’re good from an engineering standpoint,” Joel Montalbano, NASA’s space station program manager, said in an interview. “We’re cleared through 2028.”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. On Jimmy Kimmel Live, Elizabeth Olsen talks being in London during the lockdown, celebrating New Year’s Eve abroad, an exclusive never-before-seen clip from Marvel’s WandaVision premiering on Disney+ January 15th, and she reacts to online fan theories about the show. The discussion of WandaVision starts around the 3:00 mark, the clip rolls around 4:25.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chuck Serface, Stephen H Silver, StephenfromOttawa, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “En Fuego” Dern.]

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Pixel Scroll 4/22/20 Then Curl Up On The Pile And Sleep For A While, It’s The Scrolliest Thing, It’s The Pixel Dream

(1) DRAGON CON STILL ON SCHEDULE. Dragon Con told Facebook readers today they are proceeding with plans for their Labor Day event.

Many things in the world are uncertain right now. One thing isn’t: We are planning to throw one sorely-needed, amazing celebration come Labor Day. We’re moving forward to keep #DragonCon2020 on schedule.

Currently, there are no plans to reschedule or cancel the event, however we’re keeping in touch with the experts either way, and working with our venue partners to make sure everything and everyone stays safe, happy, and healthy.

Rest assured if at any time we feel that cannot be accomplished, we will do what is needed to protect our community.

(2) POPPING OFF. Gideon Marcus used a clever theme to pull together Galactic Journey’s review of the latest issue – in 1965 – of F&SF: “[APRIL 22, 1965] CRACKER JACK ISSUE (MAY 1965 FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION)”.

I’m sure everyone’s familiar with America’s snack, as ubiquitous at ball games as beer and hotdogs.  As caramel corn goes, it’s pretty mediocre stuff, though once you start eating, you find you can’t stop.  And the real incentive is the prize waiting for you at the bottom of the box.  Will it be a ring?  A toy or a little game?  Maybe a baseball card.

This month, like most months recently, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is kind of like a box of Cracker Jacks.  But the prize at the end of the May 1965 issue is worth the chore of getting there.

(3) PATREON’S UNLUCKY NUMBER. “Patreon lays off 13% of workforce” reports TechCrunch.

Creative platform Patreon  has laid off 30 employees, which is 13% of its workforce, TechCrunch has learned.

“It is unclear how long this economic uncertainty will last and therefore, to prepare accordingly, we have made the difficult decision to part ways with 13% of Patreon’s workforce,” a Patreon spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “This decision was not made lightly and consisted of several other factors beyond the financial ones.”

…The startup ecosystem has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with layoffs no longer the exception, but the rule. Still, it’s peculiar timing for Patreon, given the company touted an increase in new memberships during the first three weeks of March….

(4) VISITOR FROM BEYOND. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Jeff Hecht (who’s sold sf stories everywhere from Analog, Asimov’s and Interzone to Nature and various anthologies — ) has an article in the April 21, 2020 Sky & Telescope on recent interstellar visitors: “The Origins of Interstellar Objects”.

…Comet Borisov was easy to recognize as a comet, but our first interstellar visitor, 1I/’Oumuamua, was like nothing astronomers had seen before. It was elongated, tumbling erratically, porous, moving oddly, releasing only wisps of gas — even evoking thoughts of derelict alien spaceship….

In terms of SF relevance (beyond “we also are interested in science fact stuff”), Jeff notes, regarding this article, “The only SF twist was saying they finally found a way to explain the origin of ‘Oumuamua other than as an alien spacecraft.”

(5) MOORCOCK REVEALED WHEN PAYWALL FALLS. Stacy Hollister’s “A Q&A With Michael Moorcock” is an interview with Michael Moorcock about his novel King Of The City that first appeared in the November 2002 Texas Monthly, which has lowered its paywall for the rest of the year.

texasmonthly.com: What’s your mission as a writer?

MM: I’m very moralistic. I think I bear a certain responsibility for the effect of the fiction I write. Anger at injustice, cruelty, or ignorance is what tends to fire me up. I try to show readers where we might all be wearing cultural blinders. I hate imperialism, so therefore much of my early work was an attempt to show admirers of the British Empire, say, what kind of injustice, prejudice and hypocrisy such an empire is based on. I am very uneasy with current Anglophone rhetoric about responsibilities to other parts of the world, for instance. King of the City deals with some of this, especially the destruction of African society by imperial rapacity.

(6) SMALL SHOW RECAP – BEWARE SPOILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Last night on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the time ship ended up in British Columbia in 2020 and ended up in a woods which ultimately led them to the set of Supernatural.  They didn’t see any members of the cast, but they did see Sam and Dean’s car and opened the trunk, which was full of monster-fighting equipment.  They then used the equipment to fight a bunch of zombie-like creatures, and learn the creatures have killed the crew shooting Supernatural.

“How will they finish season 15?” one of the legends asks.

Well, now we know why Supernatural still has seven episodes left to shoot…

(7) ENTERTAINMENT FOR SJW CREDENTIAL OWNERS. Martin Morse Wooster, our designated Financial Times reader, peeked behind the paywall and found that in the April 17 issue Sarah Hemming reviews fiction podcasts.

Nadia, star of Russian For Cats (created by Pam Cameron), has escaped from prison and is desperately seeking refuge.  She discovers it with Brian, a loser who lives in a caravan in a state of great disorder and despondency.  When Nadia arrives, he finds a confidante and she finds sanctuary.

The only thing is, Nadia is a cat:  a talking cat fluent in Russian.  Here’s a story ideally suited to lockdown :a gently absurd thriller, featuring a chatty feline, the chance to learn Russian (a short lesson follows each episode), and a sinister explanation for popularity of cat memes.  Is your cat spying on you?  Do you need to ask?

(8) MT. TSUNDOKU CALLS YOU. Steven Cooper today made the Asimov biblioraphy that was referenced in the Scroll a few days ago available to purchase as a print-on-demand book from Lulu — An Annotated Bibliography for Isaac Asimov. Thanks to Bill for the discovery.

(9) CASEY OBIT. Past President of the Philadelphia SF Society Hugh Casey died April 21 after a long illness, including a stroke. He is survived by his partner Stephanie Lucas.

In happier times Hugh made File 770 with this humorous incident from 2002:

Philadelphia SF Club President Hugh Casey almost made his show business debut in September. “I was supposed to be checking out an alternate location for meetings, but was unable to make it due to being held up in traffic. In fact I ended up driving into the middle of filming for Kevin Smith’s upcoming movie Jersey Girl – apparently disrupting a shot and getting some crew members very angry at me. I did not see either the director or the stars.”

In 2017, when Casey battled cancer, his friends rallied to raise money for his medical expenses by creating “HughCon”

…The Rotunda has donated their space, Star Trek-themed band The Roddenberries have donated their time and talent, a number of makers and vendors have donated items for our silent auction, and a lots of people have donated their time and effort 

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 22, 1953 Invaders from Mars premiered. It directed by William Cameron Menzies and produced by Edward L. Alperson Jr. from the script written by Richard Blake with the story by John Tucker Battle.  It starred Jimmy Hunt, Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Morris Ankrum, Leif Erickson, and Hillary Brooke. Invaders from Mars was nominated for a Retro-Hugo at Noreascon 4 but lost out to The War of The Worlds. Critics at the time liked it quite a bit, and At Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an approval rating of 82% among audience reviewers. You can watch it here.
  • April 22, 1959 The Monster Of Piedras Blancas enjoyed its premiere. It was produced by Jack Kevan who started out as a makeup artist on The Wizard of Oz as written and directed by Irvin Berwick who was associate produced later on for The Loch Ness Horror. The screenplay was by H. Haile Chace It starred Jeanne Carmen, Les Tremayne, John Harmon, Don Sullivan, Forrest Lewis, and Pete Dunn. It received universally negative criticism with most calling it amateurish with the script, dialogue, and monster design being noted s being bad. It holds a not terribly bad 33% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You’re in for for a special treat as you can see it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 22, 1902 Philip Latham. Name used by Robert Shirley Richardson on his genre work. His novels were largely first published in Astounding starting in the Forties, With the exception of his children’s SF novels that were published in Space Science Fiction Magazine. He also wrote a few scripts for Captain Video, the predecessor of Captain Video and his Video Rangers. His Comeback novel starts this way: ‘ When Parkhurst heard the announcement that climaxed the science fiction convention, he found that he’d been right, years ago when he had faith in science-fictionists’ dreams. But, in another way, he’d been wrong . . .’ It’s available at the usual digital suspects for a buck. (Died 1981.)
  • Born April 22, 1934 Sheldon Jaffery. An editor and bibliographer of pulps whose non-fiction Work and genre anthologies are both fascinating. Among the latter are such publications as Sensuous Science Fiction From the Weird and Spicy Pulps and The Weirds: A Facsimile Selection of Fiction From the Era of the Shudder Pulps, and from the former are Future and Fantastic Worlds: Bibliography of DAW BooksThe Arkham House Companion: Fifty Years of Arkham House and Collector’s Index to Weird Tales. (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 22, 1937 Jack Nicholson, 82. I think my favorite role for him in a genre film was as Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick. Other genre roles include Jack Torrance in The Shining, Wilbur Force in The Little Shop of Horrors, Rexford Bedlo in The Raven, Andre Duvalier in The Terror, (previous three films are all Roger Corman productions), Will Randall in Wolf, President James Dale / Art Land in Mars Attacks! and Jack Napier aka The Joker in Tim  Burton’s The Batman. I watched the last one, was not impressed.
  • Born April 22, 1944 Damien Broderick, 76. Australian writer of over seventy genre novels. It is said that The Judas Mandala novel contains the first appearance of the term “virtual reality” in SF. He’s won five Ditmar Awards, a remarkable achievement. I know I’ve read several novels by him including Godplayers and K-Machines which are quite good.
  • Born April 22, 1967 Sheryl Lee, 53. Best remembered as being cast by David Lynch as Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson in Twin Peaks and in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and reprised in the later Twin Peaks. Her other interesting genre role was playing the title role in Guinevere based on Persia Woolley’s Guinevere trilogy. Finally, she was Katrina in John Carpenter’s Vampires for which she won the very cool sounding Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actress.
  • Born April 22, 1977 Kate Baker, 43. Editor along with with Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace of the last two print issues Clarkesworld. She’s won the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine twice, and the World Fantasy Award (Special Award: Non Professional) in 2014, all alongside the editorial staff of Clarkesworld. She’s a writer of three short genre stories, the latest of which, “No Matter Where; Of Comfort No One Speak”, you can hear here. (Warning for subject matters abuse and suicide.)
  • Born April 22, 1978 Manu Intiraymi, 42. He played the former Borg Icheb on the television series Star Trek: Voyager. A role that he played a remarkable eleven times. And this Birthday research led me to discovering yet another video Trek fanfic, this time in guise of Star Trek: Renegades in which he reprised his role. Any Trekkies here watch this? 
  • Born April 22, 1984 Michelle Ryan, 36. She had the odd honor of being a Companion to the Tenth Doctor as Lady Christina de Souza for just one story, “Planet of the Dead”. She had a somewhat longer genre run as the rebooted Bionic Woman that lasted eight episodes, and early in her career, she appeared as the sorceress Nimueh in BBC’s Merlin. Finally I’ll note she played Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in BBC’s Learning project, Off By Heart Shakespeare.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BREAKTHROUGH. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles Steenz (pseudonym of Christina Stewart) and Bianca Xunise as two African-American comic strip creators who have broken into the world of newspaper comic strips, as Steenz has taken over Heart of the City and Xunise has joined the artists producing Six Chix. “Newspaper comics hardly ever feature black women as artists. But two new voices have arrived.”

“The ‘powers that be’ — white male editors at white publications — have kept folks of color to a minimum on their pages so as not to cause a stir. That’s the case still,” says Barbara Brandon-Croft, whose trailblazing strip “Where I’m Coming From” was distributed by Universal Press Syndicate from 1991 to 2005 — making her the first black woman to achieve national mainstream syndication as a cartoonist.

“You had to go to the black newspapers — as early as the ’30s — to find black characters drawn by black hands,” she says. ”And a black woman lead — what? Jackie Ormes’s ‘Torchy Brown’ was truly groundbreaking.” (Ormes, the first African American woman to have a syndicated comic strip, was elected to the Will Eisner Comics Hall of Fame in 2018.)

(14) KEEP THEM DOGIES MOVIN’. There’s money to be made! “‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3 Already in the Works at Disney Plus”.

The October premiere date for Season 2 of “The Mandalorian” may still feel like it’s far, far away, but pre-production has already begun on a third installment of the wildly popular Disney Plus series, Variety has learned exclusively.

Sources close to the production have confirmed that creator Jon Favreau has been “writing season 3 for a while,” and that the art department, led by Lucasfilm vice president and executive creative director Doug Chiang, has been creating concepts for Season 3 “for the past few weeks.”

…The Mouse House also has two others series from a Galaxy far, far away in the works, namely an Obi-Wan Kenobi series with Ewan McGregor reprising the iconic role, and a Cassian Andor series starring Diego Luna, which recently added Stellan Skarsgard and Kyle Soller, as Variety reported exclusively.

(15) RELIEF FOR COMICS STORES. “Comic Book Publishers Unite for Fund to Help Stores”The Hollywood Reporter runs the numbers.

As the comic book industry seeks to rebuild in the wake of store closures and publication pauses caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC) is announcing the formation of a new fund specifically aimed at assisting comics, the Comicbook United Fund.

Combining the $100,000 pledged last year to BINC from the Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group to support comic book retailers with the $250,000 pledged earlier this month by DC, the Comicbook United Fund is intended to be the central location for any and all figures and organizations hoping to raise money for comic book retailers.

(16) EMERGENCY. The roleplaying game designer Guy McLimore (FASA’s Star Trek: The Roleplaying Game, Mekton Empire, The Fantasy Trip) says he had to break social distancing for an exceptionally good reason:

(17) STEWARDS OF THE FUTURE. Wil Wheaton penned a visionary essay to accompany his voicing of a C.L. Moore audio story — “Radio Free Burrito Presents: The Tree of Life by CL Moore”.

…I’m sure, in her incredible, gifted, magnificent imagination, she never even considered for a second that, almost 100 years into her future, someone whose parents weren’t yet born would take her work, bring it to life in a unique way, and then distribute that new work to anyone who wants it, in the world, without even getting out of my desk chair.

What amazing thing is sitting just over our horizon? What amazing thing is waiting for our grandchildren that we can’t even imagine right now? Why aren’t we doing more to protect our planet and each other, so our grandchildren don’t have to live in some apocalyptic nightmare?

(18) RELIC. “Hawking’s family donate ventilator to hospital”.

Stephen Hawking’s personal ventilator has been donated to the hospital where he was often treated to help patients diagnosed with coronavirus.

The physicist, who had motor neurone disease, died in 2018, aged 76.

His family donated the medical equipment he bought himself to the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.

Prof Hawking’s daughter Lucy said the hospital was “incredibly important” to her father and Dr Mike Davies said staff were “so grateful” to the family.

(19) SPEAKING IN PARSELTONGUES. “Scientists discover a new snake and name it after Salazar Slytherin”CNN has the story.

A team of researchers from India, upon discovering a new species of green pit vipers, have decided to name the snake after the one, the only Salazar Slytherin. Their findings were published this month in the journal Zoosystematics and Evolution.

For those not familiar with Harry Potter, a quick history lesson. In a nutshell, Salazar Slytherin was one of the founders of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, along with his pals Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff.

Along with being some of the most powerful witches and wizards of their time in the Harry Potter world, they’re also the namesakes of the four Hogwarts houses.

Slytherin, partly known for his ability to talk to snakes, is linked to the animals — the snake is, after all, the symbol of the Slytherin Hogwarts house. That’s why the researchers chose the name Trimeresurus salazar.

 (20) NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH. NBC’s Dallas/Ft. Worth affiliate sent a crew to capture this scene: “Stormtrooper Patrols Richardson Neighborhood With Coronavirus-Related Messages”.

A Richardson man who has had a lifelong love of “Star Wars” and particularly stormtroopers, took to the streets to bring a smile and an important message to his neighbors.

Rob Johnson dressed up as a stormtrooper and patrolled the sidewalks near his home carrying signs reminding people “Good guys wear masks” and “move alone, move alone.”

The stormtrooper shows a sense of humor too, with one sign reading, “Have you seen my droid, TP4U?”

(21) TV TIME. Edgar Wright’s doing a thing on Twitter:

Not specifically genre related but it looks fun. Here’s some relevant replies:

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

Pixel Scroll 3/12/19 Special Pixel Service — “Who Scrolls Wins”

(1) MILES TO GO. In “Lessons learned: writing really long fiction” on his blog, Charles Stross discusses his Merchant Princes and Laundry Files series and gives advice to authors planning multi-book series.

The first thing to understand is the scale of the task. Each of these projects, the Laundry Files and the Merchant Princes, represents a sunk cost of many years of full time labour. At my rate of production (roughly 1.5 novels per year, long term, where a novel is on the order of 100-120,000 words) either of them would be a 7 year slog, even if I worked at them full time to the exclusion of all other work. So we’re talking a PhD level of project scale here, or larger.

In reality, I didn’t work at either series full-time. They only account for two thirds of my novel-length fiction output: in the case of both series, I’ve gone multiple years at a time without touching them. Burnout is a very real thing in most creative industries, and if you work for a duration of years to decades on a single project you will experience periods of deep existential nausea and dread at the mere thought of even looking at the thing you just spent the last five years of your life on. It will pass, eventually, but in the meantime? Try not to put all your eggs in the one ultra-maxi-giant sized basket.

(2) CLICK WITHOUT THINKING. James Davis Nicoll gives us three reasons to click through to Tor.com —

There are in every field creators whose output has been lamentably small, people from whom one wishes more material had emerged. This is as true for science fiction and fantasy as any other field. Here are five authors on my “more, please” list.

…At other times, as with the following books, one has a nearly subconscious sense that somehow these works share something…without quite being able to articulate what that something is.

Who knows? If careless time travellers had stepped on different animals 541 million years ago, the Earth’s surface might be dominated by…larger but still squishy things, rather than our marvellous selves….

(3) 2020 VISION. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern Two) will host the “Ray Harryhausen | 100 years” exhibit from May 23-October 25, 2020

Special effects superstar Ray Harryhausen elevated stop motion animation to an art during the 1950s to 1980s. For the first time, Ray’s collection will be showcased in its entirety, and, as such, this will be the largest and widest-ranging exhibition of his work ever seen, with newly restored and previously unseen material from his incredible archive.

Ray Harryhausen’s work included the films Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad films of the 50s and 70s, One Million Years B.C and Mighty Joe Young, and a wider portfolio including children’s fairy tales and commercials. He also inspired a generation of film-makers such as Peter Jackson, Aardman Animation, Tim Burton, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg, and his influence on blockbuster cinema can be felt to this day.

This exhibition is in collaboration with the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday year. As part of a series of events and initiatives under the banner #Harryhausen100, this exhibition will be accompanied by screenings, workshops and more, bringing his creations to life once more and celebrating the legacy of a filmmaker who changed the face of modern cinema.

(4) HARRYHAUSEN TRIBUTE YOU CAN OWN TODAY. Steve Vertlieb says: “Scary Monsters Magazine presents Monster Memories, issue No. 27, is an all Ray Harryhausen issue, and features my affectionate tribute to Ray, and to our half century of friendship. This wonderful one-of-a-kind magazine is available, and on newsstands now. Get yours while copies last. You won’t want to miss this very special collector’s edition honoring the beloved special effects pioneer.”

(5) SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. This Kickstarter has funded and attained a whole series of stretch goals, but how can we resist?

(6) CRISIS MANAGEMENT. Start planning for your next social media disaster now! (Wait, that didn’t come out quite right.) Here’s Janet Falk’s article about “Advising a Client on Crisis Communications” [PDF file].

(7) A MODEST PROPOSAL.

Kind of interesting how this logic works. There’s a Hugo category for Semiprozines and Fanzines, but by design, no category for prozines (which Locus is) — it was superseded by the creation of the Best Editor (now Best Editor, Short Form) category. The rules say anything eligible in another Hugo category may not be nominated for Best Related Work, however, an editor and a magazine are by no means the same thing, and in the absence of a prozine category the rules don’t seem to prevent this result. Yet we’ve gone all these years without the Best Related category being captured by Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, etc. Someone needs to be reminded how this is supposed to work.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. Best known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room! Which was the genesis of Soylent Green. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 12, 1933 Barbara Feldon, 86. [86, you say?] Agent 99 on the Get Smart series. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and reprising her character on the short-lived follow-up to this series. She didn’t have that much of an acting career. 
  • Born March 12, 1952 Julius  Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. oh but what oh role it it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. (Died 2008.)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) WINGING IT. It’s a short post so I’ll just leave The Onion’s headline here: “Butterfly Under Immense Pressure Not To Fuck Up Timeline With Misplaced Wing Flap”.

(11) FILERS ON THE RONDO BALLOT. I was honored when it was pointed out to me that File 770 is up for the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award in the Best Website category. There are lots of true horror-oriented sites that deserve the award more, but news of that genre is part of the mix here. It’s a very nice compliment.

Don Glut’s film Tales of Frankenstein is a nominee in the Best Independent Film category. It’s an anthology-style film, inspired by the old Hammer Horror films from the 1950s. Ed Green has a part in the final chapter. It’s also the last film Len Wein acted in and is dedicated to his memory. Len Wein created Wolverine, as well as several of the “New” X-Men, and had a cameo in X-Men: Days of Future Past. In this trailer, Len appears around the :45 mark, and Ed very briefly as the priest on the right at 1:33.

And nominated for Best Article is Steve Vertlieb’s “Dracula in the Seventies: Prints of Darkness,” a restored version of an original article on the Christopher Lee vampire cycle.

Rondo voting is open – get full information here. The deadline is April 20.

(12) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. During the Cold War while the U.S. Air Force was inspiring Dr. Strangelove, the Royal Air Force was discovering the hazards of “Exploding Chocolate Teacakes”.

When Tony Cunnane joined the Royal Air Force in 1953, chocolate teacakes were “all the rage.” Employees aboard strategic nuclear strike aircrafts requested the snack be added to their in-flight ration boxes. But this wasn’t just a sugary jolt to fuel their Cold War training. Chocolate-coated marshmallow teacakes had become, as Cunnane described it, “the subject of some rather unscientific in-flight experiments.”

Shortly after the foil-wrapped treats appeared in RAF ration packs, pilots began to notice that as altitude increased, the teacakes expanded….

(13) RETURN TRIP. “SpaceX: Crew Dragon’s test flight in graphics”.

On Friday the Crew Dragon capsule will detach from the International Space Station (ISS) 400km above Earth and begin a fiery journey back through the atmosphere, ending in a splashdown 450km off the coast of Florida.

If all goes according to plan, it will wrap up the first complete test mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which is expected to carry its first astronauts into orbit by the middle of this year.

(14) VERBING THE VEGETABLE. Take note: “Vienna’s unpredictable vegetable orchestra”.

They’ve played 300 shows around the world – and most of their instruments don’t make it through the set.

It’s three hours before showtime and members of an orchestra are seated onstage in the garden of a 1,000-year-old Benedictine monastery outside Cologne, Germany. On cue, the neatly coiffed, black-clad musicians slowly raise their instruments, purse their lips and begin playing the opening passage of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Just then, a sound technician abruptly cuts them off. The carrot flutes were too strong and he couldn’t hear the leek violin.

“One more time,” he says. “Starting with the cucumber.”

(15) SUPERHERO WADES IN. “Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot wades into Netanyahu row over Israeli Arabs” – BBC has the story.

Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot has become embroiled in a row with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the status of the country’s Arab minority.

“Love your neighbour as yourself,” the Israeli actress said, amid wrangling over the role of Israeli Arab parties in upcoming polls.

Mr Netanyahu caused a stir when he said Israel “was not a state of all its citizens”, referring to Arabs who make up 20% of its population.

(16) GONE TO CAROLINA. Ian McDowell’s profile “Six-gun sisters and future female private eyes: The diverse pulp fiction of Nicole Givens Kurtz” for North Carolina’s Yes! Weekly delves into science fiction’s local culture wars.

…Another man with a variant of that name became the center of an online controversy involving Charlotte’s popular and long-running science fiction convention ConCarolinas last year. This was the conservative military science fiction and political action thriller writer John Ringo, whose announcement as Guest of Honor caused some other scheduled guests to boycott the convention.

Kurtz was one of those who announced she would not attend the 2018 convention, despite being previously announced as a guest. I asked her if she planned to attend this year’s ConCarolinas, which will be held May 31 through June 2 at the Hilton Charlotte University Place Motel.

“There is an entirely new board and new convention committee this year,” she wrote back, “so I am going to go and see if they’ve done anything differently. I know firsthand from speaking with board members and programming directors they are very interested in increasing diversity and fostering an open, collaborative, and safe environment. I am going to see the changes put in action. The board has stated they wanted to show fans that what was shown last year wasn’t who they are as a convention.”

John Ringo’s publisher is Baen Books, the science fiction and fantasy imprint founded in 1983 by conservative editor Jim Baen. Headquartered in Wake Forest and distributed by Simon and Shuster, Baen Books is also the publisher of several writers associated with the anti-diversity “Sad Puppies” movement formed as a reaction to what its members claim is the negative influence of “social justice warriors” on their genres. Although the Sad Puppies have repeatedly proclaimed their manifesto of restoring what they call the classic virtues of old-fashioned action-adventure storytelling to science fiction and fantasy, few of them write nearly as well as the best of the 1930s and ‘40s pulp authors they claim to admire.

Last July, Baen Books published the Weird Western anthology Straight Out of Tombstone, edited by David Boop. It included Kurtz’s story “The Wicked Wild.” I asked her how it felt appearing in a book from the same publisher as John Ringo.

Kurtz replied that she and the book’s editor David Boop had been friends for decades. “I trusted him with my story, and with the material.” She also said that Straight out of Tombstone wasn’t a typical Baen publication. “I think they were surprised by the success of it. Baen is associated with the Sad Puppies, but I am not sure they want to just be known as the publisher of Sad Puppies authors. They have diverse titles in their catalog, so I didn’t worry about it too much, because I trusted my editor.”

Why does she write horror?

…But, she explained, for a kid growing up in public housing projects, nothing on the page was as frightening as the real world, where she saw people die from violence or drugs, and in which the Atlanta child murders dominated the T.V. news cycle. Horror was an escape from that.

(17) BEWARE THE FLARE. Evidence shows they can get bigger than we’ve ever seen — “Solar storm: Evidence found of huge eruption from Sun”.

Scientists have found evidence of a huge blast of radiation from the Sun that hit Earth more than 2,000 years ago.

The result has important implications for the present, because solar storms can disrupt modern technology.

The team found evidence in Greenland ice cores that the Earth was bombarded with solar proton particles in 660BC.

The event was about 10 times more powerful than any since modern instrumental records began.

The Sun periodically releases huge blasts of charged particles and other radiation that can travel towards Earth.

The particular kind of solar emission recorded in the Greenland ice is known as a solar proton event (SPE). In the modern era, when these high-energy particles collide with Earth, they can knock out electronics in satellites we rely on for communications and services such as GPS.

…Modern instrumental monitoring data extends back about 60 years. So finding an event in 660BC that’s an order of magnitude greater than anything seen in modern times suggests we haven’t appreciated how powerful such events can be.

(18) KEEPING THE BEAT. “‘Greatest drummer ever’ Hal Blaine dies aged 90” — no, not genre — but a subtle influence on a lot of us.

Hal Blaine, one of the most prolific and influential drummers of his generation, has died at the age of 90.

Over the course of his career, he played on countless hits by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys and John Lennon, amongst others.

But his most recognisable riff was the “boom-ba-boom-crack” bar that opened The Ronnettes’ Be My Baby.

…According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 2000, Blaine “certainly played on more hit records than any drummer in the rock era, including 40 number one singles and 150 that made the [US] top 10.”

Among those songs were Elvis Presley’s Return to Sender, The Byrds’ Mr Tambourine Man, the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations, Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson, The Mamas and the Papas’ California Dreamin’ and the theme song to Batman.

Blaine also played on eight songs that won a Grammy for record of the year, including Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, 5th Dimension’s Aquarius/Let The Sunshine and Frank Sinatra’s Strangers In the Night.

(19) A HOLE IN YOUR POCKET. Coin designer has a novel goal: “Prof Stephen Hawking commemorated on new 50p coin”.

Prof Stephen Hawking has been honoured on a new 50p coin inspired by his pioneering work on black holes.

The physicist died last year at the age of 76, having become one of the most renowned leaders in his field.

He joins an elite group of scientists to have appeared on coins, including Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

Designer Edwina Ellis said: “I wanted to fit a big black hole on the tiny coin and wish he was still here chortling at the thought.”

(20) UNHAPPY ENDING. Anastasia Hunter told Facebook readers this video was taken at San Diego Comic Fest this past weekend and the speaker will not be invited back.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/26/18 Caution: Pixels In Scroll Are Closer Than They Appear

(1) POUNDING AWAY AT IT. Although I’ll never carry this much British cash, I’m interested in the story: “New £50 note scientist nominations released”.

 On the list are computing pioneers Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace, telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell and astronomer Patrick Moore.

The Bank received 174,112 nominations, of which 114,000 met the eligibility criteria.

To be on the list, the individual must be real, deceased and have contributed to the field of science in the UK.

The list, which includes more than 600 men and almost 200 women, includes black holes expert Stephen Hawking, penicillin discoverer Alexander Fleming, father of modern epidemiology John Snow, naturalist and zookeeper Gerald Durrell, fossil pioneer Mary Anning, British-Jamaican business woman and nursing pioneer Mary Seacole and Margaret Thatcher, who was a scientist before becoming prime minister.

Here’s the Bank of England’s eligibility list [PDF file]. Fred Hoyle is on it. (Don’t you think he looks darling in the mockup below?) Keep looking, probably lots more sf writer/scientists. And I see other unexpected names – like Jethro Tull….

The BBC story notes that there are a lot of women and minorities on the list, but not whether the bank intends to pick someone ignored rather than someone obviously famous. Hawking is the favorite of bookmakers, but women are #2, #3 (tied) and #6 on that list.

(2) EARLY START ON NEBULA WEEKEND PROGRAM. I’m hungry already.

(3) INSIGHT REACHES THE SURFACE OF MARS. CNN follows the headline with a full retrospective of the mission: “NASA’s InSight lander has touched down on Mars”.

After seven months of traveling through space, the NASA InSight mission has landed on Mars. A few minutes after landing, InSight sent the official “beep” to NASA to signal that it was alive and well, including a photo of the Martian surface where it landed.

Mission Control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory exploded into celebratory applause and cheers after the touchdown was confirmed. The landing was watched around the world and even broadcast live on the Nasdaq Stock Market tower in New York City’s Times Square.

(4) OUTASIGHT. Satirical Canadian news site The Beaverton suggests that the lander must be glad to be away from humans: “Mars probe glad to leave doomed Earth behind”.

“After the atmospheric entry procedure, InSight reported that it was ‘functioning normally, unlike your ill-fated Earth-bound governments,’” said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a press release…

(5) SLOSHING ON THE RED CARPET. Elle’s R. Eric Thomas wasn’t a big fan of the stars’ red carpet outfits: “I Don’t Really Understand the ‘Aquaman’ Premiere’s Dress Code”.

Look, I don’t want to rain on the parade here. I’m not trying to dampen anyone’s spirits. I don’t want to be a wet blanket. I’m not trying to be a drip. But, what was the dress code for this event?

Amber Heard is going very literal with an Esther Williams realness water ballet lewk, complete with an embroidered cap. Loves it. She is giving me 1970s country club loungewear vibes. She just got a perm and she’s just trying to get some sun and maybe stick her feet in the pool. That all tracks.

But what is is Jason Momoa doing in this scenario? This look says less Son of Atlanna and more Son of Anarchy. Whereas Amber is giving us Busby Berkley balletics, Jason is serving Rizzo from Grease.

(6) LAST GEEKWIRE. Frank Catalano reports, “I’ve decided to end my GeekWire podcast series on science fiction, pop culture, and the arts. Or at least take a long pause that, hopefully, refreshes –”

After 18 stories and 14 episodes over about a year and a half, the “popcast” I hosted has run the gamut for now. GeekWire generally is rethinking its podcast strategy, so the timing is right. The episodes were great fun, and not only were the podcasts distributed through Google Play and Apple Podcasts, but they also aired in Seattle on KIRO-FM on the weekends.

Among the science fiction episodes were interviews with Greg Bear, Cat Rambo and Ramez Naam, a look at the history of Clarion West, how Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture looks for and preserves science fiction and fantasy artifacts, and how the SF and science fact site Scout uses science fiction as a business planning tool.

All episodes were recorded in real time and not heavily produced, on purpose, to make the guests and topics the star, not the production. However, the audio quality was always excellent.

I will continue to cover science fiction for GeekWire, but just not necessarily in audio form. (Unless Brian Herbert finally gives me that interview I’ve been pestering him about for 18 months, if he ever makes it into Seattle proper.)

All the episodes and stories can be found at this link: https://www.geekwire.com/tag/popcast

(7) JAY OBIT. Magician and actor Ricky Jay died November 24 reports Variety. BravoLimaPoppa3 notes: “For genre related works, he was in The Prestige, Mystery Men and an episode of the X-Files. Plus he could pull off stunts that made magic look real – as close to a real life wizard as you could get. He will be missed.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 26, 1986Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home had a whale of a time

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 26, 1919 – Frederik Pohl, Writer, Editor, and Member of First Fandom, who was active for more seventy-five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. He edited Astounding Stories, Galaxy Science Fiction and Galaxy Science Fiction UK, If, Star Science Fiction Magazine (which I’ve never heard of), Super Science Stories which were a companion to Astounding Stories, and the list goes on. As a writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series, though I confess some novels were far better than others; Gateway won Hugo Nebula, Campbell, Prix Apollo, and Locus Awards for Best Novel. Man Plus, I think, is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion, of course, will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants, co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952, is damn fun. He wrote a lot of short fiction, some I think brilliant and some not – but that was true of most SF writers of the time. That he was great, and that he was honoured for being great, is beyond doubt — he won seven Hugo Awards (three as editor, three as author, and one as fan writer!) and two Nebula Awards; and for his 1979 novel Jem, he won a U.S. National Book Award in the special one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA made him its 12th recipient of their Grand Master Award in 1993, and he was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 26, 1936 – Shusei Nagaoka, Artist and Illustrator from Japan who is best known for his music album cover art in the 1970s and 1980s. He designed covers for many of Earth, Wind and Fire’s albums, and many of his covers were very distinctively SFFnal; especially notable are Out of the Blue, by Electric Light Orchestra and When We Rock, We Rock, and When We Roll, We Roll by Deep Purple. His art also graced numerous genre books, including Tepper’s After Long Silence, Attanasio’s The Last Legends of Earth, and Reed’s Down the Bright Way. He helped to design the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair Expo, and had one of the first artworks which was launched into outer space and attained orbit, via the Russian Mir Space Station, in 1991. He won a Seiun Award for Best Artist in 1982. (Died 2015.)
  • Born November 26, 1939 – Tina Turner, 79, Grammy-winning Actor, Composer, Singer, and Dancer. She rates being mentioned just for being the oh-so-over-the-top Aunty Entity in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, but let’s not forget her as The Acid Queen in the musical Tommy, and a cameo as The Mayor in The Last Action Hero.
  • Born November 26, 1940 – Paul J. Nahin, 78, Engineer and Writer of numerous non-fiction works, some of genre interest, and at least 20 SF short fiction works. Time travel is certainly one of the intrinsic tropes of SF, so certainly there should be at least one academic that specializes in studying it. Oh, there is: I present this Professor Emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of New Hampshire who has written not one, but three, works on the subject, to wit: Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction, Time Travel: A Writer’s Guide to the Real Science of Plausible Time Travel, and Time Machine Tales: The Science Fiction Adventures and Philosophical Puzzles of Time Travel. No mere dry academic is he, as he’s also had stories published in genre venues which include Analog, Omni, and Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine.
  • Born November 26, 1949 – Victoria Poyser-Lisi, 69, Artist, Illustrator, Teacher, and Fan who was inspired at the 1979 World Fantasy Convention to become a genre artist. She did more than a hundred covers and interior illustrations for fanzines, magazines, and books, and won two of her three Hugo Award nominations for Best Fan Artist. She now works in collaborative children’s book illustration and instructional painting books, and teaches drawing and painting courses in Colorado.
  • Born November 26, 1961 – Steve MacDonald, 57, Musician, Writer, Singer, Filker, and Fan. He served for several years as the Evangelista for the Pegasus Awards (the Filkers’ most prestigious awards, given out by the Ohio Valley Filk Fest), and was responsible for many changes in the award process that led to greater participation among the voting base. In 2001, he attended ten filk conventions around the world and recorded filkers singing “Many Hearts, One Voice”, a song he had composed; the tracks were merged electronically for the WorlDream project to celebrate the new millennium. He has won six Pegasus Awards, for Best Performer, Writer/Composer, Filk Song, Adapted Song, Dorsai Song, and Myth Song. He has been Filk Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2006, after which he emigrated to Germany to marry fellow filker Katy Droge, whom he had met eight years before at OVFF.
  • Born November 26, 1966 – Garcelle Beauvais, 52, Actor and Producer born in Haiti, whose first role was in Manhunter, the original adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon featuring Hannibal Lector. She has also appeared in Spider-Man: Homecoming, I Know Who Killed Me, and the steampunk Wild Wild West film, had a main role in the cybertech TV series Eyes, and played recurring roles in Grimm and The Magicians.
  • Born November 26, 1973 – Peter Facinelli, 45, Actor, Director, and Producer whose genre appearances include a main role in all of the Twilight movies, the first season of Supergirl, parts in The Scorpion King, The Damned, Angela, and Hollow Man 2, and as the oh-so-creepy villain in Supernova.

(10) TRUMP TREK. Reason’s Jonathan Rauch wastes no subtlety on “How Star Trek Explains Donald Trump”

Sociopaths have haunted fiction since fiction began, and no wonder. Sociopathy is civilization’s greatest challenge. Richard III and Iago; Raskolnikov, Kurtz, Willie Stark, and Humbert Humbert; J.R. Ewing, Frank Underwood, and even HAL 9000. How do we understand the narcissist, the demagogue, the liar, the manipulator, the person without scruples or conscience? The creative imagination can probe dark places that psychology and medicine can’t reach. So I am not being cute when I say that Star Trek is a source of insight into the universe of President Donald Trump.

….In “Mirror, Mirror,” the normal Kirk, realizing he has entered a barbaric parallel world, is able to impersonate a barbarian long enough to save himself and his shipmates. In our own universe, meanwhile, Kirk’s corrupt counterpart cannot fake values like empathy, trust, and fair play, and quickly finds himself locked in the brig. The sociopath may be charismatic, wily, and manipulative, but he lacks the moral depth and imagination to fool people who do not wish to be fooled….

This did not go over well with Reason readers, however, you need to register to read the comments. If you’re not willing, just think of a lot of comments that sound like Tank Marmot wrote them…

(11) FACE THE MUSIC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Apropos item (6) (“Negative Feedback”) from the Pixel Scroll of this past Saturday (11/24), Gizmodo brings us news that “Facial Recognition Flags Woman on Bus Ad for ‘Jaywalking’ in China”. A businesswoman whose visage appeared in ads on busses was publicly shamed for jaywalking, before the authorities had to pull an Emily Litella.

China’s surveillance system is becoming increasingly omnipresent, with an estimated 200 million cameras and counting. While this state of existence alone is unsettling, it’s even more troubling that the machines are fucking up even the simplest task.

Last week, the face of Dong Mingzhu—the chairwoman of a leading air conditioner manufacturer in China—was displayed on a giant Billboard-sized screen in Ningbo, a major port city in east China’s Zhejiang province, to publicly shame her for breaking a traffic law. Zhejiang is one of the provinces that last year deployed facial recognition technology that humiliates citizens who jaywalk by putting their photos on massive LED screens. But the cameras didn’t catch Mingzhu jaywalking—they identified a photo of her in a bus ad, South China Morning Post reported.

The error was caught, acknowledged, and corrected and the police were even thanked by Dong Mingzhu’s company (Gree Electric Appliances) “for their hard work” in a blog post. One may be forgiven for wondering if the error would have been caught, acknowledged, or corrected had the citizen offended been of a less lofty station.

(12) CYBER MONDAY. Via KinjaDeals, “ThinkGeek’s Cyber Monday Sale Is a Bonkers 50% Off Sitewide”.

for Cyber Monday, ThinkGeek is taking 50% off sitewide via coupon code DOTCOM. Combined with the lowered free shipping threshold (today you have to spend only $35 pre-discount, rather than the usual $75)

Daniel Dern suggests: “If nothing else, grab a ’Bag of Holding – Con-Survival Edition’here’s an image — It quickly became my favorite day bag, not just for cons but also trade shows and general carrying of stuff during a day.”

(13) ROAR OF SKY. Jana Nyman praises Beth Cato’s trilogy-ending book in “Roar of Sky: A solid conclusion to this magical alternate-history trilogy” at Fantasy Literature. (Beware spoilers.)

…However, I do love everything about the magic system, and Cato’s exploration of geomancy and its potential uses for good and ill is thoughtful and feels sturdy, like it could actually exist. Madam Pele is literally awesome. The sylphs are fun without becoming twee….

(14) MALKA OLDER’S SERIES. Abigail Nussbaum looks over “A Political History of the Future: State Tectonics by Malka Older” for Lawyers, Guns & Money.

The point of the Centennal Cycle books, as I see it, is not to offer a plausible alternative to our current democratic system, but to encourage us to ask questions about how that system is organized, and whether we could make different choices that could lead to better outcomes. The idea of a non-contiguous political entity, for example, one that is united by shared policy preferences rather than ethnic or national identity, is an intriguing one. So is the notion of expanding the concept of political parties past national lines (though on a darker note, it also has its echoes in discussions we’ve had on this site about the trans-national nature of many far-right, supremacist movements). It’s not so much that you’d want to pursue any of these ideas in the real world, as that they provide an interesting thought experiment with which to expand your understanding of what government is and can be.

(15) REFINER’S FIRE. This is a hell of a story from the LA Times coverage of the Northern California fires: “As deadly flames approached, a mother called her daughters to say goodbye”. (Definitely skip the comments on this one.)

This is how I die.

She is standing in the driveway of a sand-colored house — she doesn’t know whose — and the air is choked with smoke.

The sky is a nuclear orange. Wind is hurling embers against her body and into her blond wavy hair.

She has just seen an ambulance melt. Transformers are blowing up around her. Homes are caving in and trees are bowing. Fleeing cars have jammed the roads, and flames dance on both sides of the asphalt….

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Olav Rokne, BravoLimaPoppa3, Mike Kennedy, Frank Catalano, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 11/9/18 But The Pixel Has Passed, And It’s Daylight At Last, And the Scroll Has Been Long — Ditto Ditto My Song

(1) FIRE WATCH. The Westworld sets are casualties of the Woolsey Fire – Variety has the story: “‘Westworld’ Location at Paramount Ranch Burns Down”.

The historic Western town area at Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, Calif., where productions including “Westworld” have shot, burned down Friday in the Woolsey fire, according to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area’s Twitter feed.

Westworld” uses the Western town set to shoot its Main Street scenes. The HBO series is also shot at the Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita and in Utah and other locations.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Taste the tiramisu with Vina Jie-Min Prasad in episode 81 of Scott Edelman’s podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Vina Jie-Min Prasad has been a multiple awards finalist with fiction “working against the world-machine” published in Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Fireside Fiction, Queer Southeast Asia, and HEAT: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology. Her short story “Fandom for Robots” and her novelette “A Series of Steaks” were both finalists for the Nebula, Hugo, and Sturgeon Awards, and she was also a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

We discussed why she didn’t start writing any fiction until the release of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, the reason food has such a prominent place in her fiction, why she might never have become a writer if the Internet hadn’t existed, the lessons she took away from her fan fiction days, what she meant when she wrote in her bio that she’s “working against the world-machine,” why her multi-nominated story “A Series of Steaks” was her first submission to a speculative fiction magazine, her fascination with professional wrestling and wrestling fandom, why her story “Pistol Grip” needed a warning for sexual content but not violence (and what Pat Cadigan called her after reading that story during the Clarion workshop), the reason she likes working in the present tense, and much more

(3) FANTASTIC BEASTS. The BBC’s roundup of critical reaction: “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald gets mixed reviews”.

The latest Fantastic Beasts film The Crimes of Grindelwald has earned mixed reviews from critics.

It has a number of three-star reviews with suggestions that the plot is “overburdened” with details and preparing for future adventures.

There is praise for the “vibrantly drawn” characters and Jude Law is highlighted for his performance as young Dumbledore.

Many agree JK Rowling’s imagination is “as awe-inspiring as ever

The second of five planned Fantastic Beasts films by JK Rowling also earns praise for its special effects.

(4) KNOW YOUR BEASTS. Merriam-Webster.com sets a challenge: “Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz”. I scored 8/13, which isn’t good, but is better than I’ve done on some other quizzes….

You are an amateur cryptozoologist, setting out on an adventure to evaluate evidence of monsters around the world. On your plane ride to your first destination, we recommend you bone up on your monster lore here.

(5) ANIMAL PHYSICS. Kathryn Schulz’ article in the November 6, 2017 New Yorker, “Fantastic Beasts and How to Rank Them”, discusses imaginary creatures and how they continue to persist in the imagination. (Martin Morse Wooster sent the item with an apology: “Yes, I am 11 months behind in reading the New Yorker. You may report me to the Reading Control Board.”)

Although Walt Disney is best remembered today for his Magic Kingdom, his chief contribution to the art of animation was not his extraordinary imagination but his extraordinary realism.  ‘We cannot do the fantastic things, based on the real, unless we first know the real,’ he once wrote, by way of explaining why, in 1929, he began driving his animators to a studio in downtown Los Angeles for night classes in life drawing. In short order, the cartoons emerging from his workshop started exhibiting a quality that we have since come to take for granted but was revolutionary at the time:  all those talking mice, singing lions, dancing puppets, and marching brooms began obeying the laws of physics.

It was Disney, for instance, who introduced to the cartoon universe one of the fundamental elements of the real one:  gravity.  Even those of his characters who could fly could fall, and, when they did, their knees, jowls, hair, and clothes responded as our human ones do when we thump to the ground.  Other laws of nature applied, too.  Witches on broomsticks got buffeted by the wind. Goofy, attached by his feet to the top of a roller-coaster track and by his neck to the cars, didn’t just get longer as the ride started plunging downhill; he also got skinnier, which is to say that his volume remained constant.  To Disney, these concessions to reality were crucial to achieving what he called, in an echo of Aristotle, the ‘plausible impossible.’  Any story based on ‘the fantastic, the unreal, the imaginative,’ he understood, needed ‘a foundation of fact.’

(6) FINLANDIA. The Finlandia Prize is the premiere award for literature written in Finland, awarded annually to the author of the best novel written by a Finnish citizen (Finlandia Award), children’s book (Finlandia Junior Award), and non-fiction book (Tieto-Finlandia Award). It has had its eyes on stfnal books before: in 2000 Johanna Sinisalo (GoH at the Helsinki Worldcon) won it with her fantasy novel Not Before Sundown. Tero Ykspetejä’s news blog Partial Recall reports this year’s Finlandia award also has some nominees of an stfnal character: “Finlandia Award Nominees 2018”:

Magdalena Hai’s Kolmas sisar is a nominee for best children & YA novel, and the general literature category nominees announced today include Hunan by J. Pekka Mäkelä.

(7) THE SATANIC VERSUS NETFLIX. Not everyone believes the axiom that “all publicity is good publicity.” “The Satanic Temple Files $50 Million Copyright Infringement Suit Against Netflix And ‘Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina’”ScienceFiction.com has the story:

The Satanic Temple has made good on threats made by co-founder Lucien Greaves on Twitter about two weeks ago, and filed a $50 million lawsuit against Netflix for their use of a statue of the pagan deity Baphomet as a set piece on its new series ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’.  Greaves claims that the creators of ‘Sabrina’ stole its design of the statue from the Satanic Temple, which placed a copyright on their design, which depicts the goat-headed deity with two children by its side, looking up at him.  On ‘Sabrina’, the statue is never referred to by name but is a focal point at the Academy of Unseen Arts, where young witches and warlocks go to hone their magical abilities.

The Satanic Temple is not only seeking financial compensation but wants Netflix and Warner Brothers to stop distributing ‘Chilling Adventures…’ or further distributing it, meaning releasing it on DVD or Blu-Ray.

(8) FAST OUT OF THE STARTING GATE. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog has a fine list of the “50 of the Greatest Science Fiction & Fantasy Debut Novels Ever Written”. It includes —

Tea with the Black Dragon, by R.A. MacAvoy (1983)
R.A. MacAvoy’s debut is pitch-perfect in its light use of fantasy elements. Martha Macnamara is a middle-aged, free-spirited musician who meets Mayland Long, an older Asian man with elegant manners and a lot of money—who also claims to be a 2,000-year old black dragon in human form. Their conversation (over tea, naturally) hints that he was an eyewitness to momentous events throughout history, and counts as close friends many long-dead historical figures. He and Martha strike up a thoroughly charming, adult relationship, instantly and believably drawn to one another as the story morphs into a mystery. It’s the sort of novel that floats between genres, never precisely one thing, never entirely another. It’s an achievement many writers never manage; MacAvoy nailed it on her first try.

(9) HAWKING AUCTION. “Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis fetch $1 million at auction”DW has the story.

A motorized wheelchair and a thesis belonging to Stephen Hawking have sold at auction for more than $1 million. The sale raised money for two charities, including one belonging to the British physicist.

(10) MARVEL ACTION DOLLS.  The entire line-up of Hasbro’s Marvel Rising Action Dolls is available exclusively at Target. They’ll feature on the covers of some Marvel comics soon –

The next generation of super heroes have arrived! To celebrate, Marvel is excited to present Marvel Rising Action Doll Homage variants, hitting comic shops this December!

Featuring Marvel Rising characters such as Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, America Chavez, Ghost Spider, and Quake stepping into their predecessor’s shoes, each of the five covers is a homage to a classic cover from years past.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 9, 1921Alfred Coppel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love pulp? Everything from the writers to the artwork to the magazines themselves are so, so cool. And this writer was one of the most prolific such authors of the fifties and sixties. That he was also sf writer is an added bonus. Indeed his first science fiction story was “Age of Unreason” in a 1947 Amazing Stories. Under the pseudonym of Robert Cham Gilman, he wrote the Rhada sequence of galactic space opera novels aimed at a young adult market. Wiki claims he wrote under the name A.C. Marin as well but I cannot find any record of this. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 9, 1946Marina Warner, 72, Writer, Historian, and Mythographer from England who is known for her many nonfiction books relating to feminism and myth. She has written for many publications, and has been a visiting professor, given lectures and taught on the faculties of many universities. Her nonfiction works From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers and No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock have garnered several Mythopoeic Award nominations and a win, and a host of non-genre awards as well. In 2017, she was elected president of the Royal Society of Literature (RSL), the first time the role has been held by a woman since the founding of the RSL in 1820. She was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.
  • Born November 9, 1962Teryl Rothery, 56, Actor who is best known for her role as Dr. Janet Fraiser on Stargate SG-1. She can also be found as ISN reporter, Ms. Chambers, in the Babylon 5 movie Voices in the Dark, and has appeared in many genre series including The X-Files, The Outer Limits, Jeremiah, M.A.N.T.I.S., Kyle XY, Eureka, and the Battlestar Galactica prequel, Caprica.
  • Born November 9, 1973Eric Dane, 45, Actor who stars currently as Captain Tom Chandler in the The Last Ship series, and played James Arthur Madrox, aLso known as the Multiple Man, in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played a character named Jason Dean on the superb original Charmed series, and Nick Pierce in the Painkiller Jane film.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ROCKS AROUND THE CLOCK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Three NEOs will make relatively close approaches to Earth this Saturday (Newsweek: “Three Asteroids to Whizz Past Earth in One Day—And One Will Come Closer Than The Moon”). The first one (2018 VS1) will pass by about 861,700 miles from Earth at 9:03AM (Eastern time). The second (2018 VR1) will be significantly further away at over 3 million miles, about 15 minutes later. The third (2018 VX1), though, will pass only about 238,900 miles from Earth at 1:26AM.

The three objects are relatively small—variously estimated to be from 43 to 98 feet wide—but big enough that they could cause widespread destruction if they were a wee bit (by astronomical standards) closer on a future pass. In the US, Near Earth Objects are the province of CNEOS—NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies.

(14) A LABOR OF LINGO. The legacy of a 15th-Century noblewoman lives on in the form of collective nouns used to describe groups of animals across the world: “Why a Group of Hippos Is Called a Bloat”.

As it turns out, these scintillating nouns are neither coincidence nor misnomer, but rather the result of centuries of linguistic evolution.

People have been coming up with terms to describe animal groupings for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until The Book of St Albans, written by Juliana Berners, a 15th-Century Benedictine prioress from England, that they were recorded extensively. Also known by the title The Book of Hawking, Hunting and Blasing of Arms, Berners’ 1486 publication of this gentlemen’s catalogue of wildlife and hunting included 165 collective nouns for animal species, and is said to make her one of the earliest female authors writing in the English language.

(15) DISNEY HIRES LOKI. His show will be part of Disney’s new streaming service — “Tom Hiddleston to return as Loki in new TV series”. When was the last time a villain got their own series?

(16) DIGGING MARS. BBC says “ExoMars: Life-detecting robot to be sent to Oxia Planum”

The robot rover that Europe and Russia will send to Mars in 2020 will be targeted at a near-equatorial site on the Red Planet known as Oxia Planum.

The area was recommended by an expert panel meeting at Leicester University.

Oxia is rich in clays and other minerals that have resulted from prolonged rock interactions with water.

The ExoMars vehicle will carry a drill and sophisticated instruments to this ancient terrain to look for signs of past or even present life.

(17) THE ONLY WAY TO WIN. “The gamer who spent seven years in his dressing gown” has created a game to wean people from game addiction.

It’s a role-playing board game for small groups.

Players meet once a week over a period of weeks or months, improving their social skills as they play.

No equipment is needed aside from a pen and paper, but additions can include dice and character descriptions.

The idea is the participants play themselves, earning points by achieving certain tasks.

They can improve their “characters” and get extra points in between sessions by taking on a challenge in the real world.

Participants have to prove they have completed the tasks and share the details in an online group set up for each game

(18) YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN NOW. Maybe they couldn’t compete with YouTubers free game videos? Variety reports “Video Game Strategy Guide Publisher Prima Games Is Shutting Down”.

The imprint’s guides all feature in-depth content, detailed screen captures, quick-reference tips, and professional strategies. They were a godsend to many gamers of a certain age, back before internet walkthroughs and wikis became de rigueur. Prima Games later tried adapting to an increasingly digital world by offering eguides filled with interactive maps, streaming video, searchable apps, and more.

(19) NEWS FAKER. Yet another job—newsreader—is under threat from Artificial Intelligence (Popular Mechanics: “This AI Reporter Would Never Get Kicked Out of Press Briefings”). Chinese media, already tightly controlled, appears to be in the process of becoming even more buttoned down. (Original source Xinhua.net: “World’s first AI news anchor makes ‘his’ China debut”)

With a state-run media like China’s, there’s already some concern that newscasters are little more than puppets. After an AI news anchor debuted at the World Internet Conference in China this week, we’re one step closer to that reality.

The anchor was created in a partnership between Xinhua News Agency, China’s official state-run media outlet, and sogou.com, a Chinese search engine company. The Chinese news, of course, is thrilled and impressed, claiming that the character “can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor.” Two versions of the AI anchors are now available on Xinhua through their apps, WeChat account, and online news channel.

(20) NUCLEAR CHRISTMAS GIFT. You can now order Threads on Blu-ray, called “The most influential film about nuclear war ever made.”

Directed by Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard) and written by Barry Hines (Kes).

Threads shocked the nation when it first aired on BBC Two in 1984 at the height of Cold War nuclear paranoia, and became one of the most significant and iconic films ever produced by the BBC.

It was nominated for seven BAFTAs in 1985, winning four including Best Single Drama.

Threads was one of the first films to depict the full consequences of global nuclear war when a bomb hits the city of Sheffield. It is uncompromising in its display of the tense weeks leading up to the bomb dropping, the attack, and the bleak years of nuclear winter that are left in its aftermath.

(21) VISIT FROM A DINO. There’s a giant, animatronic dinosaur roaming around BBC…

(22) CHAMPION MAGICIAN. Gizmodo promises “The Winning Trick at the World Championships of Magic Might Fry Your Brain Like an Egg”.

But Chien’s ‘Ribbon’ routine is a non-stop barrage of lightning-quick illusions, leaving you with little time to figure out what you just saw before his next trick baffles your brain all over again.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/13/18 I Can Hear The Pixels Singing Each To Each

(1) GREAT AMERICAN READ UPDATE. Right now five of the top 10 books are sff, as Shelf Awareness alerts readers that the “Great American Read Voting Deadline Nears”:

The deadline is approaching to cast votes for the country’s best-loved novel, and organizers of The Great American Read have released a Top 10 list of the leading candidates thus far. The project’s “Grand Finale” episode will air October 23 on PBS stations nationwide to reveal the number one book.

To date, more than 3.8 million votes have been cast. Viewers can vote for their favorite titles each day through October 18 using hashtag voting via Facebook and Twitter, SMS texting with the dedicated book hashtag, and toll-free by phone. All methods can be found here.

Entering the final week, the current top 10 books, in alphabetical order, are:

• Charlotte’s Web
• Chronicles of Narnia series
• Gone with the Wind
• Harry Potter series
• Jane Eyre
• Little Women
• Lord of the Rings series
• Outlander series
• Pride and Prejudice
• To Kill a Mockingbird

(2) GENRE CROSSOVERS. Claire O’Dell, in “Crime In The Land of Gods and Monsters” on Crimereads, recommends eight sf/mystery crossovers, including works by Aliette de Bodard, Malka Older, and Nnedi Okorafor.

Aliette de Bodard, The Tea Master and the Detective (Subterranean Press)

Ever since the original Watson and Holmes stories first appeared, other authors have experimented with their own takes on the genius detective and his faithful friend. De Bodard has set her own pastiche in her Xuya universe (a far future space age initially dominated by Asian powers). Here we have a Watson who is a mindship named The Shadow’s Child, and who brews psychotropic teas for her customers. Long Chau is our Holmes, and just as abrasive and given to self-medication as the original.

Of course, there is a mystery. Long Chau initially comes to The Shadow’s Child because she wants to locate a corpse in space—for scientific reasons, she says—but she needs a specific concoction to ensure her mind still functions in the Deep Spaces. Chau and The Shadow’s Child do locate a corpse, but when Chau deduces that this was no accident, but a murder, the two embark on an investigation together.

(3) SAWYER ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Reuters conducted a wide-ranging interview with Robert J. Sawyer about the future of AI — “Judging artificial intelligence on its prospects for judging us”. This is just a sample —

ANSWERS: Do you think we will achieve artificial general intelligence (AGI) this century? If so, how do you see it taking shape? And how can it be contained and managed by humans?

ROBERT J. SAWYER: …There is no inner life whatsoever, to that AI or any other AI in the world right now as far as we’ve been able to determine; not any inkling of what we would call consciousness.

The reason for that is very simple. We don’t know what gave rise to it in humanity. Therefore, reproducing it in lines of code is the same thing as saying to a programmer (no matter how good that programmer is), “Reproduce artistic genius for me. Reproduce poetic inspiration for me. Reproduce romantic love for me.”

We don’t know how to do it, so we don’t know how to code it. In that sense, I think we’re nowhere near having artificial general intelligence in the strong AI sense, the way academics use it to refer to machines capable of experiencing consciousness, of having an inner life. Not Watson, not Deep Blue, you name your favorite one, it ain’t doing it. There’s nobody home.

In the weaker sense of being able to perform any intellectual or cognitive task that a human being can perform, absolutely we will have AGI. In the near future, it will be a reality for sure. There’s no question that, with computer growth being exponential as described by Moore’s Law, we are absolutely going to have AGI and in a horizon for which business and the general public should be concerned right now.

(4) FINAL PAPER. Engadget reports “Stephen Hawking’s last paper on black holes is now online”.

Stephen Hawking never stopped trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding black holes — in fact, he was still working to solve one of them shortly before his death. Now, his last research paper on the subject is finally available online through pre-publication website ArXiV, thanks to his co-authors from Cambridge and Harvard. It’s entitled Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair, and it tackles the black hole paradox. According to Hawking’s co-author Malcolm Perry, the paradox “is perhaps the most puzzling problem in fundamental theoretical physics today” and was the center of the late physicist’s life for decades.

The information paradox arose from Hawking’s theoretical argument back in the 1970s that black holes have a temperature. As such, they’re bound to evaporate over time until there’s nothing left, releasing energy now called the “Hawking Radiation.” See, it’s believed that when an object enters a black hole, its information gets preserved on its surface forever even if it vanishes from sight. If a black hole evaporates, though, then so will that information. That creates a paradox, because according to the rules of quantum physics, information can never be destroyed.

The new paper shows how that information can be preserved by photons called “soft hair” surrounding the edge of black hole, which you might know as the event horizon. According to Hawking, Perry, Andrew Strominger and Sasha Haco, a black hole’s temperature changes when you throw an object (say, a planet’s atoms) into it. The hotter it gets, the more its entropy (its internal disorder) rises. That entropy is what’s preserved in a black hole’s soft hair.

(5) FISTREBUFFS. The Hollywood Reporter says this Marvel show is leaving the air: “‘Iron Fist’ Canceled After Two Seasons at Netflix”.

The first Marvel drama has been canceled at Netflix.

Iron Fist, the fourth in the original four-show deal between the streaming giant and Disney’s Marvel, will not return for a third season.

“Marvel’s Iron Fist will not return for a third season on Netflix. Everyone at Marvel Television and Netflix is proud of the series and grateful for all of the hard work from our incredible cast, crew and showrunners. We’re thankful to the fans who have watched these two seasons, and for the partnership we’ve shared on this series. While the series on Netflix has ended, the immortal Iron Fist will live on,” reps for Netflix and Marvel said in a statement to THR late Friday.

(6) SIGNS OF THE TIMES.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • October 13, 1939 – Melinda Dillon, 79, Actor who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the Hugo finalist Close Encounters of the Third Kind. She also played roles in Harry and the Hendersons, Spontaneous Combustion, the Matt Salinger version of Captain America, and had guest roles on The Twilight Zone and the miniseries adaptation of James Michener’s Space.
  • October 13, 1954 – Stephen Gallagher, 64, Writer and Producer. He wrote more than a dozen genre novels and several dozen shorter fiction works, largely science-fictional horror, mostly in the 80s and 90s, as well as 4-part Doctor Who TV serials for both the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, and adapted his novels Chimera and Oktober into TV miniseries. He has received several British Fantasy, World Fantasy, Stoker, and International Horror Guild Award nominations; his collection Out of His Mind won a BFA, and his short story “The Box” won an IHG Award.
  • October 13, 1956 – Chris Carter, 62, Emmy-Nominated Writer, Director, and Producer, best known as the creator of The X-Files, which has accumulated more than 200 episodes during its initial run from 1993 to 2002 and its renewed run from 2016 to 2018, as well as the spinoff series The Lone Gunmen and the series Millennium (no connection to the John Varley work) and Harsh Realm. He shares a credit with Elizabeth Hand for one of the X-Files tie-in novels entitled Fight the Future.
  • October 13, 1959 – Wayne Pygram, 59, Actor from Australia who played quite possibly one of the best-developed villains in genre series history, in the role of Scorpius on the Farscape series. He also appeared as Governor Tarkin in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and had guest roles on the TV Series Lost, Time Trax, and The Girl from Tomorrow.
  • October 13, 1962 – Patrick McMurray, 56, Conrunner and Fan. He is an Irish-born resident of the UK who chaired Mancunicon (the 2016 UK Eastercon National Convention), and has served on a number of other Eastercon and Worldcon committees. He has been a member of several fan groups, and for several years maintained the Memory Hole Annex, a paper archive of printed convention materials. He attended the Australian Natcon in 2004 as the GUFF delegate.
  • October 13, 1963 – Hiro Kanagawa, 55, Actor and Playwright from Japan who emigrated to Canada and has become a go-to actor for character roles in genre TV shows and films. He has had recurring roles in Salvation, Altered Carbon, Legends of Tomorrow, Heroes Reborn, The Man in the High Castle, The 100, and Caprica, with guest roles on dozens more, as well as parts in genre films such as Elektra, The Day the Earth Stood Still remake, and Doomsday Prophecy.
  • October 13, 1964 – Christopher Judge, 54, Actor, Writer, and Producer best known to genre fans as the Jaffa warrior Teal’c in more than 200 episodes of the Hugo-nominated Stargate SG-1, for which he received a Saturn nomination, with a guest appearance on Stargate: Atlantis, and a reprise of that role lending his magnificent voice to the Stargate videogames.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Good grief! A Halloween legend gets out of hand in Bacon.
  • You’ll never guess who joined the National League in Over the Hedge.
  • Can you pass the bookstore entrance exam in this Non Sequitur?

(9) KERMODE. First Man — it’s not a film about a shark (makes sense in context).

Mark Kermode reviews First Man. A biopic of Neil Armstrong and the legendary space mission that made him the first man on the Moon.

 

(10) BAD WEEK FOR SPACE TELESCOPES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] ABC News reveals: “Another NASA space telescope shuts down in orbit”. Damn, it must be catching… first the Hubble loses a gyro, now what Chandra?

Another NASA space telescope has shut down and halted science observations.

Less than a week after the Hubble Space Telescope went offline, the Chandra X-ray Observatory did the same thing. NASA said Friday that Chandra’s automatically went into so-called safe mode Wednesday, possibly because of a gyroscope problem.

Hubble went into hibernation last Friday due to a gyroscope failure.

Both orbiting observatories are old and in well-extended missions: Hubble is 28, while Chandra is 19. Flight controllers are working to resume operations with both.
NASA said it’s coincidental both went “asleep” within a week of one another. An astronomer who works on Chandra, Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted Friday that “Chandra decided that if Hubble could have a little vacation, it wanted one, too.”

Launched by space shuttles in the 1990s, Hubble and Chandra are part of NASA’s Great Observatories series. The others are the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which was also launched in the 1990s but eventually failed and was destroyed, and the Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in 2003 and still working. Each was intended to observe the cosmos in different wavelengths.

(11) ARK PARK. Jamie Lee Curtis Taete’s byline by itself is more interesting than this religious theme park in Kentucky: “This $100 Million Noah’s Ark Theme Park Is a Boring, Homophobic Mess” at Vice.

[Owner Ken] Ham has previously blamed multiple factors for the underwhelming performance of the attraction. From local business owners to atheists. But is there a simpler explanation? Is it possible that people don’t want to visit the Ark because it sucks?

Then it’s on to the living quarters—a series of rooms showing how Noah and his family might have lived. There’s a sign as you enter explaining that they’ve had to take artistic license while designing the area, because the Bible doesn’t give much info on this topic.

They could’ve used that artistic license to make something cool, like Biblical Wakanda. But instead, they made up a name for Noah’s wife (Emzara) and created an exhibit on looms, the single least entertaining object on earth.

IS IT FUN ENOUGH TO CONVERT YOU TO A CREATIONIST BELIEF SYSTEM? No. You can see fake bedrooms and living rooms in an IKEA for free. And you don’t have to read a single word about looms while doing it.

(12) ANTI-DRONE WEAPON. BBC profiles a security technology —“Sky battles: Fighting back against rogue drones”.

Rogue drones have nearly caused air accidents, have been used as offensive weapons, to deliver drugs to prisoners, and to spy on people. So how can we fight back?

…Drones are also being used by so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq as offensive weapons. On one occasion, a small number of drones carrying hand grenades were able to take out an entire Russian weapons depot….

So what can be done to prevent drones from flying places they shouldn’t?

Several companies, including Droptec, OpenWorks Engineering, and DroneDefence have developed hand-held or shoulder-mounted “guns” that fire a net to trap a suspect drone.

They’ve already been used to protect heads of state on foreign visits and other dignitaries at international meetings.

(13) UK COMICS LAUREATE. She’s the third person to hold the title: “Hannah Berry: New UK comics laureate to harness ‘untapped’ potential”.

New comics laureate Hannah Berry has said she wants to use the position to remove some of the “stigma” that still surrounds graphic novels and comics, and harness their “untapped” potential.

Berry is the award-winning creator of graphic novels Adamtine and Livestock.

“There are still a lot of people who think comics are just superheroes throwing stuff at each other.

“With the enormous, diverse, wealth of subjects out there, there’s a graphic novel for everybody,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with superhero comics, but I think if people were aware, maybe the stigma could be removed.”

(14) LEAPS AND BOUNDS IN SCIENCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Phys.org’s article “Numerous boulders, many rocks, no dust: MASCOT’s zigzag course across the asteroid Ryugu” discusses findings from the German “hopping” lander on Asteroid Ryugu (deployed from Japan’s Hayabusa2).

Six minutes of free fall, a gentle impact on the asteroid and then 11 minutes of rebounding until coming to rest. That is how, in the early hours of 3 October 2018, the journey of the MASCOT asteroid lander began on Asteroid Ryugu – a land full of wonder, mystery and challenges. Some 17 hours of scientific exploration followed this first ‘stroll’ on the almost 900-metre diameter asteroid. The lander was commanded and controlled from the MASCOT Control Centre at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) site in Cologne in the presence of scientific teams from Germany, France and Japan. MASCOT surpassed all expectations and performed its four experiments at several locations on the asteroid. Never before in the history of spaceflight has a Solar System body been explored in this way. It has now been possible to precisely trace MASCOT’s path on Ryugu’s surface on the basis of image data from the Japanese Hayabusa2 space probe and the lander’s images and data….

“We were expecting less than 16 hours of battery life because of the cold night, says MASCOT project manager Tra-Mi Ho from the DLR Institute of Space Systems. “After all, we were able to operate MASCOT for more than one extra hour, even until the radio shadow began, which was a great success.”

…Having reconstructed the events that took place on asteroid Ryugu, the scientists are now busy analysing the first results from the acquired data and images. “What we saw from a distance already gave us an idea of what it might look like on the surface,” reports Ralf Jaumann from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research and scientific director of the MASCOT mission. “In fact, it is even crazier on the surface than expected. Everything is covered in rough blocks and strewn with boulders. How compact these blocks are and what they are composed of, we still do not know. But what was most surprising was that large accumulations of fine material are nowhere to be found – and we did not expect that. We have to investigate this in the next few weeks, because the cosmic weathering would actually have had to produce fine material,” continues Jaumann. [Emphasis added.]

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/18 Ascroll Just Off The Pixels Of Langerhans

(1) LICENSE TO THRILL. Steven H Silver spotted an unusual collectible in traffic the other day —

I was unaware that Illinois issued such event specific license plate until I saw this one today (June 6).  The text around Superman indicates it is for the 40th Annual Superman Festival in Metropolis, Illinois from June 7-10.  On the right you can see that the plate expires on June 10, 2018.

(2) SATISFYING SPACE OPERA. Abigail Nussbaum delivers insightful and fascinating sff analysis in “A Political History of the Future: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente”, at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

To which the answer is, because talking about Space Opera gives me an opportunity to point out a glaring lacuna in almost all the works we’ve discussed so far—the way that nearly every one of them leaves out the centrality of culture, and particularly popular culture, in shaping a society and reflecting its preoccupations.

When I say “culture”, I’m talking about several different things, each integral to the believability of any invented world. Culture can mean shared cultural touchstones, classic and modern, that give people a common frame of reference, like humming a pop song or quoting the Simpsons. It can mean characters who are artists, professional or amateur. It could refer to the way that culture can become a political battleground, as we were discussing just a few days ago in response to the news that conservatives want their own version of SNL. Or it could be a discussion of material culture—fashion, design, architecture—and how it allows people to express themselves in even the most mundane aspects of their lives.

It’s very rare, however, to see science fiction try to engage with any of these aspects of culture. Even as it strives to create fully-realized worlds, art—high and low, functional and abstract, popular and obscure, ridiculous and serious—tends to be absent from them. So are artists—try to remember the last time you encountered a character in a science fiction or fantasy story who had an artistic side, even just as a hobby. Even worse, few characters in SFF stories have any kind of cultural touchstones.

(3) KILL YOUR DARLINGS. Delilah S. Dawson tells what she thinks is the real meaning of that traditional writerly advice “kill your darlings.” The thread starts here —

(4) IN THE BEGINNING. The International Costuming Guild presents its research into what fans wore to the masquerade at the Second Worldcon (1940) — “Convention Costuming History: The Pre-WWII Years – Pt. III”.

The earliest Worldcon masquerades were more like informal costume contests, with several well known authors of the time participating. The costumes worn were a mix of original designs, interpretations of literary characters and what would come to be known as media recreations. 1940 – Chicon I

Following the novelty of Ackerman’s and Douglas’ costumed appearance the previous year, a “Science Fiction Masquerade Party” was featured as part of the convention programming.(1) By Forrest Ackerman’s count, there were 25 people in costume there. The co-host masters of ceremonies were fans and writers Jack Speer and Milton Rothman. Judging from the accounts of the party, the occasion was informal – there was no stage, but there were one or two skits, including one by Ackerman and “Morojo” (Douglas) wearing their outfits from the previous year.

There were several reports of who was there for the first official costumed event. Among that first group of convention costuming contestants were…

(5) ICG IN PASSING. The International Costuming Guild’s in memoriam video, presented at Costume-Con 36 (2018) to recognize those in the community lost in the previous year, is posted on YouTube.

(6) WITH CAT IN HAND. Yoon Ha Lee will be doing an Ask Me Anything on June 12.

(7) THIEVES LIKE US. A recent movie premiere inspires B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s listicle “12 Fantasy Heist Novels”.

There are genre tropes, and then there are those archetypes that are mainstays of not just science fiction and fantasy, but of popular culture in general. One of the best examples is the character of the Gentleman Thief (who doesn’t always have to be a gentleman). These rogues are witty, engaging, and will rob you blind with a rakish wink and a smile. You can’t help but be charmed by them. From Robin Hood to Danny Ocean, the character is a permanent favorite in books and on film….

The Holver Alley Crew, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Maresca’s interconnected Maradaine books (multiple series examining life in the same fantasy city) are a real treat. The latest series is about the Holver Alley crew, a ragtag group of formerly retired thieves are forced to return to a life of crime when their new, respectable shop burns down. When they learn the fire was no accident, they are forced to take desperate measures. All of the Maradaine books are a treat, but this one really stands out because of the especially strong characters. In fine Oceans tradition, Asti and Verci are both brothers and ringleaders, and must assemble a skilled crew to pull of a job to rob a gambling house that took everything from them.

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Are any of you trying to get in? “Stephen Hawking: Ballot opens for Westminster Abbey service”.

The public is being offered the chance to attend a service of thanksgiving for Professor Stephen Hawking, who died in March aged 76.

It will take place in Westminster Abbey on 15 June and up to 1,000 tickets are available in a ballot.

During the service, the scientist’s ashes will be interred between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

His daughter, Lucy Hawking, said she wanted to give some of her father’s admirers the chance to remember him.

(9) LAST DAYS. Christopher Stasheff’s son, Edward posted the following to his Facebook page on June 9:

My father, Christopher Stasheff, is currently in hospice and expected to die from Parkinson’s Disease within the next two weeks, quite possibly this week. If anyone would like to say goodbye to him, post it as a response here, and I’ll read it to him the next time I see him (I visit him in the nursing home daily). Thanks.

The most recent reports are suggesting that he may only have a day or so left.

Update:  His son reports Stasheff died this evening.

My father Christopher Stasheff died at 6:45 PM on June 10th, 2018, surrounded by his wife and two of his children. The other two were able to phone in and say goodbye before he passed. He is survived by hundreds of his students and uncountable fans, and his legacy will live on in all the lives he touched.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 10, 1952 – Kage Baker

(11) VOLLEYED AND THUNDERED. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club just put out a new blog post, “Is that The Canon in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”, in which they muse about literary awards and their relation to posterity and questions of enduring value. Is science fiction the new Western Canon?

It is worth noting that Harold Bloom’s 1993 list of The Western Canon included only two works that are traditionally categorized as science fiction: Ursula Le Guin’s Hugo Award winner The Left Hand of Darkness and George Orwell’s 1984.

But of Bloom’s list, I would argue the majority of the works cited are less relevant to the broad public – and to a concept of cultural literacy – than the recent Hugo Award winners and popular works of science fiction.

For example, references and allusions to Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th century poem Parzival are lost on the broader public, while Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One protagonist Parzival is familiar to many.

(12) ICE NINE. Galactic Journey’s Victoria Lucas has just read the new Vonnegut release – in 1963: “[June 10, 1963] Foma: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Cat’s Cradle)”

When a friend lent Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s newest novel, Cat’s Cradle to me, I thought, “Oh, I know this book!” because I saw, as I flipped through it, the “ice-nine” and “Bokonon” I’d heard people buzzing so much about.  So I was glad to read it and understand the phenomenon.

But that’s where my joy ended.  Vonnegut is a fine writer.  His style is idiosyncratic, askew; this is a novel novel.  But no one would accuse him of being optimistic or hopeful about the human future.  No Pollyanna he….

(13) BBC RADIO STAR TREK DOCUMENTARY. BBC Radio 4 has just re-broadcast “Star Trek – The Undiscovered Future”, first aired December 2017. It’s available to listen to online right now.

How far have we voyaged towards Star Trek’s vision of the future and what of it is likely to be fulfilled or remain undiscovered in the next 50 years?

Kevin Fong presents archive material of the likes of Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) talking about the inception and filming of the original Star Trek series, and their thoughts about Roddenberry’s vision of the future and its impact in the United States at the time.

For example, Nichols relates how she had a chance encounter with Martin Luther King the day after she had told Roddenberry that she intended to leave Star Trek after the first series. King told her he was her number fan and almost demanded that she didn’t give up the role of Uhura, because she was an uniquely empowering role model on American television at the time.

For a perspective from today, Kevin also talks to George Takei who played Mr Sulu. Takei laments the ethnically divisive politics of the United States in 2016.

He meets Charles Bolden – the first African American to both command a shuttle mission and lead NASA as its chief administrator. In the age of the International Space Station, he compares himself to the ‘Admiral of Star Fleet’. But the former astronaut also talks about the anger he first felt in 1994 when he was asked to fly the first Russian cosmonaut ever to board an American space shuttle.

Kevin also talk to cultural broadcaster and Star Trek fan Samira Ahmed about the sexual and racial politics of the Original series.

(14) ST:D SEASON TWO. Comedian and new Star Trek: Discovery cast member Tig Notaro opened her set on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert poking fun at her inability to understand any of the tech talk from her Trek dialog. See “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Tig Notaro Talks Technobabble” at Comicbook.com.

Tig Notaro is one of the new additions to the cast of Star Trek: Discovery in the show’s second season and while she’s excited to be a part of the Star Trek universe she doesn’t exactly speak the language.

Notaro was a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote her new comedy special Happy to be Here. She greeted Colbert by saying his theater was “like a room full of pleasant subspace particles wrapped in a tachyon field of good vibes.”
The comment is obviously a reference to her role on Discovery, though she admits “I have no idea what I’m saying on that show…I can’t even picture what I’m talking about.”
She revealed that her character is human and that she plays Commander Jet Reno, a name she got to choose for herself. As for how she got the job, “They just asked if I wanted to do it” she says.

 

(15) BAD WITH NUMBERS? Deadline interviewed the president of Marvel Studios: “Kevin Feige Talks Marvel’s Success, Female Directors, ‘Infinity War II’ & How He’s ‘Bad With Numbers’”.

More female directors on Marvel pics: Captain Marvel is the first Marvel title to have a female director at the helm Anna Boden (who is co-helming with Ryan Fleck. And having more female directors behind his superhero pics is a trend he plans to maintain, “I cannot promise that (the next) 20 Marvel movies will have female directors but a heck of a lot of them will,” he said in response to an audience member’s question. The Marvel boss mentioned that agencies are sending more female directors than men for Marvel directing jobs.

On the $1.3 billion success of Black PantherFeige said that Marvel “wanted to destroy the myth that black movies don’t work well around the world,” and being at Disney with its platinum marketing department allowed the comic book studio to swing for the fences.

“The budget for Black Panther was bigger than Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, and you can’t do that without the support and encouragement from the leaders of the company,” he said.

Feige also applauded Black Panther director Ryan Coogler’s championing his diverse below-the-line team in Hannah Beachler as production designer, Ruth Carter’s costumes, and DP Rachel Morrison. Their resumes, like Marvel’s directors, didn’t scream tentpole experience, but Feige is grateful he heard them pitch rather than rely on his regular team.

“We can’t imagine the movie without them, and the future movies we hope to make with them,” he said.

(16) JURASSIC LARK. In Parade, “Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard Talk Dinosaurs, Parenting and Friendship”.

After their wildly successful first dino film in 2015, the pair reunited last year to film much of Fallen Kingdom on the Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii. But even surrounded by tropical paradise, they faced more than a few challenges on camera, from filming in a chlorinated pool that fried Pratt’s hair and skin to riding in a zero-gravity gyrosphere that made Howard nauseous. And Pratt had to do some awkward face-offs with a velociraptor that wasn’t really there—until the special-effects department created it. He acts out how he’d say to the air in front of him, “Get back, get back . . .” and then “Whoa!” as he’d throw himself on the ground. The camera crew, watching on monitors nearby, “didn’t want to say how stupid it looked!”

(17) SCARIEST MOVIE. The Washington Post’s Monica Castillo, in “The story behind ‘Hereditary,’ the Toni Collette horror movie that scared the bejesus out of Sundance”, interviews Hereditary director Ari Aster who, “in his first feature, marries the horror and melodrama genres into an unnerving movie about grief.”

Aster said he deliberately amped up the drama in the film slowly. “I’m not affected by anything in a film unless I’m invested in the people at the center of it,” he said. “I wanted to take my time and immerse people in this family’s life and their dynamic, which is quite complicated. I just wanted to make a film in the tradition of the horror films I grew up loving, like ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Innocents.’ Films that take their time are very much rooted in character.”

Setting also plays an important role in the creepiness in “Hereditary.” The family’s luxury cabin in the woods has the right dark corners and haunted attics to make it feel like a trap where its inhabitants are left to slowly die. Annie’s miniature houses become a motif. “The miniatures just struck me as a potent metaphor for the family’s situation,” Aster said. “They have no agency, and they’re revealed over the course of the movie to be like dolls in a dollhouse, being manipulated by these outside forces.”

(18) SPONGEBOB TONY. In “How ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ invaded our brains”, Washington Post writer Sonia Rao interviews the cast and creators of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, which is up for 12 Tonys as best musical tonight and is making a lot of Millennials very happy.

Tom Kenny never thought SpongeBob SquarePants, a character he originated on the children’s program almost 20 years ago, would one day end up on Broadway. Why would he have? Parents clamp their hands over their ears whenever they hear SpongeBob’s helium voice, let alone his nasal laugh. The anthropomorphized sponge is no Hugh Jackman.

And yet, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” is up for 12 Tonys on Sunday, tied with “Mean Girls” for the most nominations. Its resonance with serious theatergoers is surprising until you consider that even as adults, those of us who watched the series can’t shake its omnipresent songs, references and memes. Somehow, it became a cultural earworm.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Lexica, Olav Rokne, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Jonathan Cowie, Steven H Silver, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]