Masked Filers Reading SFF: Hella

Steve Davidson – remind me, what’s that magazine he’s affiliated with? – is the first on his block to see these fine new pages:

Books don’t make for good masks, but this soon-to-be-released novel from David Gerrold is a great read!

Comes out June 16, 2020


If you want to see this series continue, send photos of your mask and social distancing reads to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 5/8/20 A Logic
Named Mjølnir

(1) ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS. Newsweek is “Talking Murderbot With ‘Network Effect’ Author Martha Wells”.

The series is from Murderbot’s perspective, who doesn’t care much about the wider galaxy (outside of its favorite media), but I assume there’s a lot of worldbuilding you have to juggle. We learn a bit about regions of space like the Corporation Rim, but would you tell me a little more about the state of the larger galaxy?

The Corporation Rim does control a lot of territory, but there are a lot of independent worlds and places outside it and also a lot of unexplored space, basically. In my head, what I see is that there was a whole society—pre-Corporation Rim—that went out and explored and colonized and developed terraformed worlds and all these different places. The Corporation Rim then grew and took over a large section of that. There was a disruption when that happened and so a lot of the pre-Corporation Rim colonies were either destroyed or have been lost. There are a lot of unknown territories out there. I like to do that in my books, I don’t like to define rigidly what the world is, or what the boundaries of the world are. When I’m reading books where that’s done I feel like that limits the reader’s imagination.

I’m kind of a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I don’t plan out a lot ahead of time. I also like to explore the world along with the reader, so I don’t talk about how the world works in general, partly because I want to get the reader concentrated in the plot, but also because I don’t want to set up things so that, later, when I come up with a different idea for the next book, I have to contradict myself or come up with a way around it. I’m just exploring the world. I tend to develop a lot of stuff I need for each story in particular, and then for the next story I realize, “Oh, well, there’s places to go from there. I need to explore this idea.” So I’m kind of making it up as I go along, though I do have ideas about how the world came to be and what caused the society to develop this way, but I don’t usually get into those, because it’s not important for the story that’s being told in that moment (but it might be important later).

(2) FOR THOSE BARD FROM THE CLASSROOM. UK’s Standard says help is on the way — “David Tennant, Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig to offer Shakespeare homework help to children during lockdown”.

Schoolchildren struggling to understand Shakespeare during the lockdown are to get tips and insights from leading actors to perform in his plays.

David Tennant, Sir Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig are among the big names joining the Homework Help initiative being run by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Students with questions can email them to homeworkhelp@rsc.org.uk or share them using the hashtag #RSCHomeworkHelp on Twitter or Instagram by Sunday.

The first round of answers will be released from Monday in the form of videos and recorded messages from actors.

(3) CLOSER LOOK NEEDED? Someone on Reddit posted this link today to a site that contains links to the text of most of the Hugo-Award-winning short stories — http://scifi-hugo.herokuapp.com/.

Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank, who sent the item, says “I spot checked them, and at least some of them are unimpeachable—i.e. they link to the author’s own web site—but for others I’m unsure whether the sites hosting them really have permission from the copyright owners to do so. It might be a public service to call attention to the site so anyone who cares can track the links and authors.”

(4) THE TOP OF THE POP. Alasdair Stuart has posted The Full Lid for 8th May 2020:

This week on The Full Lid, I take a look at the state of the Star Wars universe and find it richer, more interesting and wider than it often seems to be. I also strap in for the magnificent pulpy roller coaster of Netflix’s Into the Night and review Carlos Hernandez’s fantastic Sal and Gabi Fix The Universe. This week’s interstitial pieces are isolation fight scenes, proving that every now and then these violent delights have hilarious ends.

The Full Lid publishes weekly at 5 p.m. GMT on Fridays. Signup is free and the last six months are archived here.

The Clone Wars finished and Rise of Skywalker arrived on Disney Plus this week with the exact combination of joy for the former and ‘oh… hi…’ for the latter you’d expect. Rise is far more the traditional Star Wars movie than Rian Johnson’s defiantly, flamboyantly good space noir predecessor. In some ways — nearly all of them in the last twenty minutes — that’s good. In other ways — in all of which Kelly Marie Tran is reduced to an extra — that borders on unforgivable. It’s Star Wars playing Hotel California and honestly it coasts on the charm of the conceit. Despite that, the emotional beats were solid – I laughed and cried in all the intended spots. It’s a good time, for most. But Star Wars, now more than ever, is bigger than the Skywalker Saga….

(5) IN THE BADLANDS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where they can find “Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets”.

…I must admit that not every science fiction author adopts this buoyant stance. Some of them have taken a contrary point of view, in fact, positing that there are some circumstances that will defeat humans, no matter how smart and persevering they are. Circumstances like alien worlds that cannot be terraformed into human-friendly resort planets. Here are five worlds that steadfastly resist meddling…

(6) VIRTUALLY AMAZING. Steve Davidson’s “AmazingCon UpDates” adds details about his event to be hosted on Zoom from June 12 thru June 14, 2020. Registration required—free or make a donation as you choose. Details at the link.

Over forty authors will present readings from their current and up-coming works, including several soon-to-be-released novels. His current lineup of “Guest Stars” is —

Mike Alexander Anderson, Adam-Troy Castro, Marie Bilodeau, Ricky L Brown, James Cambias, Patty Carvacho, Noah Chinn, Jack Clemons, Carolyn Clink, David L Clink, Dave Creek, Jennifer Crow, Julie Czerneda, Steve Davidson, Vincent Di Fate, Steve Fahnestalk, Sally McBride, Jen Frankel, JM Frey, JF Garrard, David Gerrold, Sean Grigsby, Jerri Hardesty, Chip Houser, G. Scott Huggins, Elizabeth Hirst, Rebecca Inch-Partridge, MD Jackson, Paula Johanson, H Kauderer, Daniel M Kimmel, Kathy Kitts, Judy Mccrosky, Jack McDevitt, Ron Miller, Petrea Mitchell, MJ Moores, Will Murray, Ira Nayman, Wendy Nikel, Julie Novakova, Paul Levinson, Loyd Penney, Brad Preslar, Dan Ritter, David Ritter, Rhea Rose, Amber Royer, Russ Scarola, Veronica Scott, Alex Shvartsman, Steven H Silver, Dan Simon, Rosemary Claire Smith, Bud Sparhawk, Hugh Spencer, Richard Dean Starr, Allen Steele, SP Somtow, Kimberly Unger, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Leslie Wicke, Erin Wilcox, Matt Wolfendon, Kermit Woodall, Brianna Wu, Frank Wu

(7) HERD IMMUNITY. At McSweeney’s, an executive reassures us, “Sure, The Velociraptors Are Still On The Loose, But That’s No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park” in Carlos Greaves satirical article.

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!

(8) THE MOUSE HOUSE. Because it’s not like these guys aren’t thinking about it. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik reports that while Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the Shanghai DIsney Resort will reopen soon, he can not make a similar commitment for American parks, in part because it’s not clear that people would want to come to Disney World or Disneyland, even if attendance is limited to 25 percent of capacity, while the coronavirus rages. “Disney is about to reopen its Shanghai theme park. It could be a lot longer before that happens in the U.S.”

…Disney parks are so crucial to California’s economy that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called Disney “a nation-state,” to some controversy, when he exempted it from closure requirements at the start of the pandemic.

Theme parks are also vital to Disney’s bottom line. The parks division (it also includes hotels and cruise ships) generated $6.76 billion in profit for Disney last year, three times what its film studio did.

All of this makes reopening a no-brainer.

If only….

(9) SOME LIKE IT BOT. ReedPop is exercising its option to take a couple of its major events to Facebook: “BookExpo and BookCon Go Virtual This Month”.

After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22–26, conference organizer Reedpop subsequently canceled both events. Today, Reedpop has announced the events will be replaced by new virtual events taking place this month: BookExpo Online, from May 26-29, and BookCon Online, May 30 and 31.

All programming for both BookExpo Online and BookConline 2020 will be presented on the BookExpo Facebook pages and BookCon Facebook page and, will be free and open to the public. Organizers said an additional day will be added in July, with programming focused on booksellers.

(10) PERSISTENCE OF VISION. Stokercon UK is soldiering on with plans for its new dates – Thursday through Sunday, August 6-9 (subject to further restrictions) in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The Horror Writers Association’s annual conference, with luck being held for the first to be held outside of North America, has even added a Special Guest: author and screenwriter M.R. (Mike) Carey.

Mike Carey…initially worked mainly in the medium of comic books. After writing for several UK and American indie publishers, he got his big break when he was commissioned by DC Comics’ Vertigo division to write Lucifer. Spinning off from Neil Gaiman’s ground-breaking Sandman series, Lucifer told the story of the devil’s exploits after resigning from Hell to run a piano bar in Los Angeles: Mike wrote the book for the whole of its initial seven-year run, during which he was nominated for four Eisner awards and won the Ninth Art and UK National Comics awards. More recently he has written Barbarella, Highest House and The Dollhouse Family, which will be released in September of this year as a hardcover collection.

Mike’s first foray into prose fiction came with the Felix Castor novels, supernatural crime thrillers whose exorcist protagonist consorts with demons, zombies and ghosts in an alternate London. These were followed by two collaborations with his wife Linda and their daughter Louise, The City of Silk and Steel and The House of War and Witness. Subsequently, under the transparent pseudonym of M.R.Carey, he wrote The Girl With All the Gifts and its prequel The Boy On the Bridge. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of The Girl With All the Gifts, for which – at the age of 59! – he received a British Screenwriting award for best newcomer.

The Book of Koli is the start of a new post-apocalyptic trilogy, with the remaining books to be published in September 2020 and April 2021.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 8, 1955 X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition.”  The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there. The cast includes Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1928 John Bennett. His very long involvement in genre fiction started with The Curse of the Werewolf in the early Sixties and ended forty years later with a role on the Minority Report series. Being a Brit, naturally he appeared on Doctor Who in the prime role of Li H’sen Chang as part of a Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He had roles in Blake’s 7, Watership DownTales of The UnexpectedThe Plague DogsDark MythSherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (as Dr. Sigmund Freud!), Merlin of The Crystal Cave and The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better known to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. And let’s not forget his Michael Moorcock comics. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as was White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with  sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death. She published over thirty short stories and essays, including collaborations with Dozois and Jack M. Dann, starting off with “Spring-Fingered Jack”. Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies She was a much-loved figure at cons. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise, 65. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage. It’s available on all the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born May 8, 1967 John Hicklenton. British illustrator also known as John Deadstock. He worked on 2000 AD characters like Judge Dredd (especially the Heavy Metal Dredd series) and Nemesis the Warlock during the Eighties and Nineties. He also dipped into the Warhammer universe with “Cycles of Chaos” (with writer Andy Jones) in Warhammer Monthly No. 9.
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 39. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok, I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few season of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously, the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Midsomer MurdersDiscoveryYoung Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough thank you.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) GAULD CALLED. Shelf Awareness did a Q&A with the popular cartoonist: “Reading with… Tom Gauld”.

On your nightstand now:

I’ve just finished The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks. With the world in such a difficult place right now, it’s been very nice to escape into a completely different universe of spaceships and new planets. I’ve also been reading Angela Carter’s book of fairy tales The Bloody Chamber, which is exquisitely dark and beautifully written.

(15) ROUTE MARCH. Apparently Adri Joy took the road less traveled by. Did that make all the difference? Find out in this game review at Nerds of a Feather — “Diverging Paths and Cinnamon Rolls: Adri plays Fire Emblem: Three Houses”.

My first playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest edition in the long-running tactical JRPG saga, involved what,  it seems to be agreed, is the most boring route of this complicated branching story. I started off following my gut instincts in the game’s initial choices, and quickly realised I was on the most complicated moral pathway. Trying to keep myself as unspoiled as possible while also figuring out how to avoid locking myself into 40 hours of lawful evil misery, when faced with an (admittedly extremely signposted) choice to that effect, I took a deep breath and broke away from the character who asked me. When you do so, the game switches into a narrative that takes you away from the tried-and-tested Fire Emblem strategy of being the silent strategist to a protagonist Lord and into something else…. 

(16) HOW’S YOUR BIRD? Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum has had to cancel Lilac day, but it still has people taking care of nature; Gardener Brendan Keegan reports on “Life in the Landscape: Great Horned Owls”. Lots of photographs, with detailed explanations.

In November 2018, arborist Ben Kirby and I mounted a half dozen artificial nests throughout the Arboretum landscape. Made from old tree planting baskets and landscape fabric and filled with twigs and wood shavings, the nests were created with a goal to increase nest availability for great horned owls. Incapable of building their own nests, this species typically utilizes nests constructed by other large birds or relies on natural cavities in large trees.

After a season of vacancies, we were lucky when a mating pair of owls moved into one of our artificial nests in late January 2020. Due to the location, we were able to observe and collect data on the entire nesting process while remaining on the ground, a rare opportunity. Since the Arboretum is a Chapter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch program, our submitted data will help ornithologists better understand great horned owl breeding behavior and population trends.

The photos below chronicle this season’s nesting process, from egg laying in early February to fledging in late April. Since posting photos of active owl nests on social media typically results in increased human disturbance (which can endanger the female and her young), these photos were purposefully withheld until the young had already fledged. The photos were taken from over 150 feet away, with care to limit the time and frequency of each visit in order to minimize disruption.

(17) EGYPTIAN NEWS. In the Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan and Steve Hendrix say that the Egyptian show “El Nehaya” or “The End” is that nation’s first big-budget sf television show, but it has proven controversial because it foresees that in 2120 (when the drama set) the state of Israel is destroyed and Jews have fled the Middle East.“An Egyptian television drama depicts Israel’s destruction. Israel isn’t happy.”

“This goes back to a narrative from before the peace treaty and everything we’ve done with the Egyptians,” said Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt. “This sees that Israel will be annihilated. It is very disturbing.”

In a highly unusual statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry decried the show as “unfortunate and unacceptable, especially between countries who have had a peace agreement for 41 years.”

It is notable that Synergy, the production company that made the show, has strong ties to the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and its general intelligence agency. “The End” airs on a network that is owned by a pro-government firm. 

(18) ANOTHER BARN DOOR. You know that place on the internet everybody’s moved to, where it’s hard to maintain your privacy?NPR reports “Zoom To Crack Down on Zoombombing, In Deal With NY Attorney General”.

Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users’ data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed incredible growth for Zoom. Daily use of the remote-meeting service ballooned to 300 million from about 10 million in a matter of months. As more people logged on, Zoom’s security and privacy flaws became evident.

Hackers began disrupting online school classes, government meetings, cocktail hours and other events in a trend that became known as Zoombombing.

Federal law enforcement and state investigators across the country started paying attention.

“Our lives have inexorably changed over the past two months, and while Zoom has provided an invaluable service, it unacceptably did so without critical security protections,” James said in a statement released by her office. “This agreement puts protections in place so that Zoom users have control over their privacy and security, and so that workplaces, schools, religious institutions, and consumers don’t have to worry while participating in a video call.”

Zoom has pledged to take more steps to block hackers from gaining access to chat sessions and user accounts. It must now run a “vulnerability management program” to identify and avert breaches into livestreaming conversations on the video platform, New York regulators wrote in the deal.

(19) READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP. “Scientists obtain ‘lucky’ image of Jupiter” – BBC story includes photo.

Astronomers have produced a remarkable new image of Jupiter, tracing the glowing regions of warmth that lurk beneath the gas giant’s cloud tops.

The picture was captured in infared by the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, and is one of the sharpest observations of the planet ever made from the ground.

To achieve the resolution, scientists used a technique called “lucky imaging” which scrubs out the blurring effect of looking through Earth’s turbulent atmosphere.

This method involves acquiring multiple exposures of the target and only keeping those segments of an image where that turbulence is at a minimum.

When all the “lucky shots” are put together in a mosaic, a clarity emerges that’s beyond just the single exposure.

(20) WE’RE PRACTICALLY CIRCLING THE DRAIN! “‘Nearest black hole to Earth discovered'”—BBC tells where.

Astronomers have a new candidate in their search for the nearest black hole to Earth.

It’s about 1,000 light-years away, or roughly 9.5 thousand, million, million km, in the Constellation Telescopium.

That might not sound very close, but on the scale of the Universe, it’s actually right next door.

Scientists discovered the black hole from the way it interacts with two stars – one that orbits the hole, and the other that orbits this inner pair.

Normally, black holes are discovered from the way they interact violently with an accreting disc of gas and dust. As they shred this material, copious X-rays are emitted. It’s this high-energy signal that telescopes detect, not the black hole itself.

So this is an unusual case, in that it’s the motions of the stars, together known as HR 6819, that have given the game away.

“This is what you might call a ‘dark black hole’; it’s truly black in that sense,” said Dietrich Baade, emeritus astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) organisation in Garching, Germany.

“We think this may be the first such case where a black hole has been found this way. And not only that – it’s also the most nearby of all black holes, including the accreting ones,” he told BBC News

(21) FRANK HERBERT RELIC. “Frank Herbert–NBC Interview” on YouTube is an interview done by NBC’s Bryant Gumbel in 1982, probably for the Today Show, where Herbert talks about David Lynch’s Dune movie being released in December 1983, a year before it actually appeared.

(22) LINE UP FOR THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Gizmodo’s Cheryl Eddy is ready to go: “10 Aliens That Can Just Go Ahead and Abduct Us Right Now”. Number four on her list —

4) Heptapods, Arrival

Traveling with Arrival’s time-fluid, squid-like creatures might be a little logistically complicated, but at least Amy Adams’ linguist character has already figured out the nuts and bolts of communicating with them. They are obviously very wise and highly evolved, and they travel around in their sleek ships encouraging the inhabitants of other planets to be better communicators. That is definitely a cause we’d be willing to ditch Earth to support.

(23) SPACE FARCE. SYFY Wire passes along “Real Space Force chief’s one piece of advice for Netflix’s Steve Carell: ‘Get a haircut'”.

Netflix’s out-of-this-world workplace comedy Space Force hasn’t even launched yet, but now the silly show that accidentally mirrored real developments in the government has already gotten something wrong from its real-life source material. Or, at least, that’s what the real head of the U.S. Space Force says. And “head” is the operative word here, because U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Jay Raymond’s primary note for Steve Carell, who plays his doppelganger Mark R. Naird, is that he isn’t bald enough.

Raymond spoke during a Space Foundation webinar, according to Space.com, and addressed the comedic riff on his entire military branch by pointing out that while he is very bald, Carell is boasting a silvery head of hair.

“The one piece of advice I’d give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”…

(24) FOR THE STAY-AT-HOME CROWD. I never knew Tadao Tomomatsu did a Louis Armstrong impression. Here’s his rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”

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

PhiLunaBaltAutoBoskCon 2020

[Editor’s Note: Steve was inspired to create this piece by SF Concatenation’s call for fans to write about a con, but submitted it here because “I don’t like waiting.” Is this quick enough?]

By Steve Davidson: It took a visionary – but then, what other great contributions to human society haven’t?

Oh, I know, I’m using the original name for the world’s first Transmitter Booth convention, now formally designated the Great Eastern Multi Con – GEMCon for short, but I prefer the original for its historical call-outs.

Did you know that it was originally going to be the Great National Multi Con?  Yeah, that was the plan, but time zones got in the way.  Too many people forgetting the zones, showing up three hours late for a physical event and then getting all pissy about it online.  The worst was the west coast fans flicking east at midnight (their midnight) and showing up at room parties just as they were shutting down.  The con started turning into a permanent floating room party.  Nothing really wrong with that, but the hotels.  The hotels started going crazy with the corkage fees, trying to sneak hourly “maintenance” fees into the contracts.  Not to mention the constant visits by Fire Marshals every time some author said something funny or outrageous and their panel got flash mobbed.

History really is the stuff of little things, isn’t it?

Really.  You’d think someone would have twigged to the possibilities offered to conventions by the transmitter booths and it would have been one of the first things everyone thought of.  I mean – SCIENCE fiction fans, right?

Nope.  What it took was Sheldon Kornpett, sitting in a hotel lobby with his friends, lamenting the fact that two conventions they wanted to attend were happening on the same weekend.  And then he looked up from his pocket schedule, saw the row of transmitter booths by the hotel entrance and said “…but we can go to both conventions, almost at the same time…”.

The rest, as they say, is history.  Well, almost.  It did take a couple of solid years of fan feuds to iron out the details – settling on a date, figuring out how membership fees would work, massaging codes of conduct into one sensible mess, coming to a consensus on the font size for name badges, (not to mention dealer’s room tax issues that almost derailed the entire thing), but, well, you already know it worked out in the end.  If you listen closely you can hear a group of Fen marching through the lobby chanting “All Cons, All Cons in One!”

Now if they’ll just get a move on with that dopelleganger-telepresence tech, I’ll actually be able to attend everything on the schedule I want to see. 

And guys, you’ve really got to do something about the pocket program already.  I’ve seen one fan who’s mounted his on wheels….

Pixel Scroll 4/14/20 You’re The Nosferatu, On The Grave’d Durante

(1) TOPICAL TV IDEAS. The Vulture asked TV’s idle talent to take up the challenge: “If I Wrote a Coronavirus Episode”. Tagline: “Tina Fey, Mike Schur, and 35 more TV writers on what their characters would do in a pandemic.” If you scroll way down there’s one for Picard, although most of the others are funnier. By comparison, this bit for Sheldon Cooper is spot on —

“I’m not one to brag, but I was practicing social distancing back when it was called ‘Who’s the weird kid alone in the corner?’ And at the risk of sounding like a hipster, I was washing my hands 30 times a day before it was cool. I do, however, miss being with my friends. Sitting around eating Chinese takeout, sharing my scientific ideas and correcting theirs … that’s my happy place.” —Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D., The Big Bang Theory (Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro)

(2) SUPPORT AVAILABLE FOR WRITERS. Publishers Lunch has a standing free reference page listing organizations that offer emergency grants to authors and other creators. Two examples:

Poets & Writers has created a COVID-19 Relief Fund to “provide emergency assistance to writers having difficulty meeting their basic needs.” They will provide grants of up to $1,000 to approximately 80 writers in April. The board allocated $50,000, which has been supplemented by gifts from supporters including Michael Piestch and Zibby Owens.

We Need Diverse Books will provide emergency grants to diverse authors, illustrators, and publishing professionals “who are experiencing dire financial need.” They will give grants of $500 each, and are limiting the first round of applications to 70.

(3) A WORD IN DEFENSE. From Publishers Weekly:“Internet Archive Responds to Senator’s Concern Over National Emergency Library”.

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle is defending the legality of the organization’s National Emergency Library initiative to a U.S. Senator who last week raised concerns that the effort may be infringing the rights of authors and publishers.

…In his three-page response to [Senator] Tillis, Kahle rejected those criticisms, and explained the creation of National Emergency Library using the Senator’s constituents to illustrate its utility.

“Your constituents have paid for millions of books they currently cannot access,” Kahle explained, adding that North Carolina’s public libraries house more than 15 million print book volumes in 323 library branches across the state. “The massive public investment paid for by taxpaying citizens is unavailable to the very people who funded it,” he writes. “The National Emergency Library was envisioned to meet this challenge of providing digital access to print materials, helping teachers, students and communities gain access to books while their schools and libraries are closed.”

Kahle further maintained that “the vast majority” of the books in the National Emergency Library, mostly 20th Century books, are not commercially available in e-book form, and said the collection contains no books published in the last five years.

“[For] access to those books, readers and students can continue to turn to services like OverDrive and hoopla,” Kahle explained, making what defenders say is a critical distinction: commercial providers offer patrons access to e-books; the National Emergency Library is providing stopgap digital access to scans of paper books that are locked away in shuttered libraries and schools. “That is where the National Emergency Library fills the gap,” Kahle insists.

(4) LEGACY. [Item by Steve Davidson.] From Faaneds on Facebook: A friend is going through the personal effects of a passed fan and came across a number of LOCs by Michael W. Waite. Does anyone here know if there are any family members/friends who would appreciate having these?

(5) HAVE A LISTEN. Wil Wheaton links to his reading of a Doctorow story — “Radio Free Burrito Presents: Return to Pleasure Island by Cory Doctorow”.

I was talking to my friend, Cory, over the weekend, and we decided that we would each read and release something the other had written, because why not?

I’m a huge fan and admirer of Cory both as a human and as a creative person. He’s been my primary mentor since I started writing professionally, and I owe him more than I’ll ever be able to properly repay. It’s not unreasonable to say that, without Cory’s guidance and kindness, I wouldn’t be a published author.

So it’s with excitement (and a little trepidation, because I don’t want to disappoint my friend) that I chose one of Cory’s fantastic short stories from way back in 1999, which he describes this way:

This is the story of the ogres who run the concession stands on Pleasure Island, where Pinocchio’s friend Lampwick turned into a donkey. Like much of my stuff, this has a tie-in with Walt Disney World; the idea came to me on the Pinocchio ride in the Magic Kingdom, in 1993.

You can grab my narration at my Soundcloud. I hope you enjoy it.

(Public domain ebook versions of the story are also available at Project Gutenberg.)

(6) SPACE VERSE. Asimov’s Science Fiction’s Emily Hockaday posted the “National Poetry Month Podcast 2020” today.

Happy National Poetry Month! We have a dozen poems here pulled from past and current issues to celebrate our poets this year. Each of these poems is striking in its own way, and I hope you enjoy the many voices and styles to come. First up is “All Saints Day” by Lisa Bellamy, read by Diana Marie Delgado, followed by “All the Weight” by Holly Day, read by Emily Hockaday, “The Celestial Body” read and written by Leslie J. Anderson, “The Destroyer is in Doubt about Net Neutrality” read and written by Martin Ott, “Unlooping” read and written by Marie Vibbert, “Attack of the 50 foot Woman” read and written by Ron Koertge, “The Language of Water,” by Jane Yolen, read by Monica Wendel, “Archaeologists Uncover Bones, Bifocals, a Tricycle” read and written by Steven Withrow, “Objects in Space” by Josh Pearce, read by R.J. Carey, “Small Certainties” by Sara Polsky, read by Emily Hockaday, “Palate of the Babel Fish” read and written by Todd Dillard, and finally “After a Year of Solitude” by Lora Gray, read by Jackie Sherbow.

(7) SOUNDS PRETTY NUTTY. In the Washington Post, as part of his annual celebration of Squirrel Week, John Kelly has a piece about the Norse god Ratatoskr, a squirrel with a giant horn in the center of his head who ferried messages up and down the great World Tree. “Meet Ratatoskr, mischievous messenger squirrel to the Viking gods”. Incidentally, long before there was File 770, Bruce Pelz’ Ratatosk was the fannish newzine of record.

…Most of what we know about the stories Vikings told each other comes from Snorri Sturluson, who was an Icelandic poet and lawyer, a combination not quite so rare then as now. Snorri (1179-1241) was ambitious. He journeyed from Iceland to Norway to ingratiate himself with leaders there and pick up skills….

(8) IN WORDS OF MORE THAN ONE SYLLABLE. “’I May Have Gone Too Far In A Few Places’ And 9 Other Famous George Lucas Star Wars Quotes” compiled by ScreenRant.

In May of 1944, George Walton Lucas Jr. was born, twenty-three years later, he graduated from USC, and a decade after that he changed the world forever by releasing Star Wars. The Star Wars franchise is a phenomenon like no other, and nobody, not even the maker himself, could have predicted its impact.

The headline quote is #9. Here is ScreenRant’s commentary:

…Before The Last Jedi came to be, the prequels were the kings of controversy. After seeing a rough cut of his film in 1999, Lucas said the famous quote to a small screening room “I may have gone too far in a few places.”

Ironically, in behind the scenes videos of The Phantom Menace, Lucas talks about how the key to these types of films is not to go too far. This quote shows Lucas’ self-awareness and references the disjointedness of the movie.

(9) SULLIVAN OBIT. Ann Sullivan, the Disney animator behind The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, has died at the age of 91. She is the third member of the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement home to die as a result of the coronavirus. The Hollywood Reporter paid tribute.

… Sullivan re-entered the business in 1973, when she started at Filmnation Hanna Barbera. She later returned to Disney, landing credits on studio titles from the late-1980s to the mid-2000s. Sullivan worked in the paint lab on…1989’s The Little Mermaid…and 1992’s Cool World. She painted for the 1990 short The Prince and the Pauper; 1994’s The Lion King; 1995’s Pocahontas; 1997’s Hercules; 1999’s Tarzan and Fantasia 2000; 2000’s The Emperor’s New Groove; and 2002’s Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet. Sullivan also is credited as having worked as a cel painter on 1994’s The Pagemaster and for performing additional caps and painting on 2004’s Home on the Range.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 14, 2010 — In the United States, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (in French, Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec) premiered. It was directed by Luc Besson from his own screenplay. It was produced by Virginie Besson-Silla, his wife.  It starred Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Philippe Nahon, Gilles Lellouche and Jean-Paul Rouve. It was narrated by Bernard Lanneau. It is rather loosely based upon “Adèle and the Beast” and “Mummies on Parade” by Jacques Tardi. Critics world-wide loved it, and the box office was very good, but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a oddly muted 54% rating. Be advised the Shout Factory! DVD is a censored PG rating version but the Blu-Ray is uncensored. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 14, 1929 Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and if need be voice artist.  Thunderbirds which ran for thirty-two episodes was I think the best of his puppet based shows though Captain Scarlet and the MysteronsFireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on, he would move into live productions with Space: 1999 being the last production under the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 14, 1935 Jack McDevitt, 85. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got quite a bit of time, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races.
  • Born April 14, 1936 Arlene Martel. No doubt you’ll best remember her as T’Pring in Star Trek’s “Amok Time” as it was a rather memorable episode. She also had roles in one-offs in a lot of genre series including Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestMission:ImpossibleThe Delphi BureauI Dream of Jeannie,  Man from AtlantisMy Favorite Martian,  The Six Million Dollar Man and Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 14, 1949 Dave Gibbons, 71. He is best known for his work with writer Alan Moore, which includes Watchmen and the Superman story ”For the Man Who Has Everything” (adapted to television twice, first into the same-named episode of  Justice League Unlimited and then more loosely into “For the Girl Who Has Everything”.) He also did work for 2000 AD where he created Rogue Trooper, and was the lead artist on Doctor Who Weekly and Doctor Who Monthly
  • Born April 14, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 66. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date. He’s won two Best Novelette Hugos, one for “Bicycle Repairman” at LoneStarCon 2, and one at AussieCon Three for “Taklamakan”.
  • Born April 14, 1958 Peter Capaldi, 62. Twelfth Doctor. Not going to rank as high as the Thirteenth, Tenth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor on my list of favorite Doctors, let alone the Fourth Doctor who remains My Doctor, but I thought he did a decent enough take on the role. His first genre appearance was as Angus Flint in the decidedly weird Lair of the White Worm, very loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name. He pops up in World War Z as a W.H.O. Doctor before voicing Mr. Curry in Paddington, the story of Paddington Bear. He also voices Rabbit in Christopher Robin. On the boob tube, he’s been The Angel Islington in Neverwhere. (Almost remade by Jim Henson but not quite.) He was in Iain Banks’ The Crow Road as Rory McHoan (Not genre but worth noting). He played Gordon Fleming in two episodes of Sea of Souls series. Before being the Twelfth Doctor, he was on Torchwood as John Frobisher. He is a magnificent Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers series running on BBC. And he’s involved in the current animated Watership Down series as the voice of Kehaar.
  • Born April 14, 1977 Sarah Michelle Gellar, 43. Buffy Summers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, I watched every episode. Great show. Even watched every bit of Angel as well. Her first genre role was as Casey “Cici” Cooper in Scream 2 followed by voicing Gwendy Doll in Small Soldiers. Her performance as Kathryn Merteuil in Cruel Intentions is simply bone chillingly scary. I’ve not seen, nor plan to see, either of the Scooby-Do films so I’ve no idea how she is Daphne Blake. Finally, she voiced April O’Neil in the one of latest animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films. 
  • Born April 14, 1982 Rachel Swirsky, 38. Her “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window”  novella (lovely title that) won a Nebula Award, and her short story, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” would do a short while later. Very impressive. I’ve read her “Eros, Philia, Agape” which is wonderful and “Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia” which is strange and well, go read it. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BE YOUR OWN VILLAIN. We’ve heard the saying that everyone is the hero of their own story. In contrast, Brian Cronin reminds readers about “That Time That Jerry Siegel Plundered the Funny Pages to Defeat Superman” at CBR.com.

In Meta-Messages, I explore the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.”

Today, we look at Jerry Siegel plunder the Funny Pages as he, himself, becomes the villain of a Superman story involving other newspaper comic strips!

The whole thing went down in the opening story in 1942’s Superman #19 (by Siegel, Ed Dobrotka and John Sikela)… 

(14) DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH. ScreenRant tries to explain “Just What is the Direct Market In Comics and Where Did It Come From?”

With the coronavirus pandemic grinding the comic book industry to all halt, there has been much talk about what is to be done with the “direct market”. But just what exactly is the direct market, and how did it come to be? And perhaps more pressing, what will happen to the direct market in a post-COVID-19 world?

Believe it or not, there was a time comic books were purchased outside of comic book shop, carried by newsstands, grocery stores, and even gas stations. However, the comic book shop model, primarily engineered by Phil Seuling in 1972, offered several advantages. The system was known as the “direct market” because it bypassed traditional newspaper and magazine distributors. It offered a much more diverse line of content than the newsstands, including comic books aimed at an adult audience. One of the primary advantages for the distributor was that the comic books were unreturnable unlike newsstands, which would traditionally return all unsold merchandise…. 

Much history ensues. Then —

…Because of all of these factors and more, the future of the direct market is looking increasingly uncertain. In addition to the growing concern that many retailers will have to close their doors due to the coronavirus, the comic book industry itself seems destined for an overhaul. Some comic book shop owners are considering the possibility of re-negotiating with Diamond, while others are considering trying to bypass the current distribution system altogether. The direct market has served the comic book industry well for nearly fifty years, but it might be time to ask – what will best serve the comic book industry for the next fifty?

(15) GOOD REASON TO PREEN THEIR PLUMAGE. In “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The Hugo Awards”, Adri Joy and Joe Sherry talk about their Hugo nomination for Nerds of a Feather, and some of the other works they’re glad made the final ballot.

Adri: There have been a few feelings knocking around! And about an hour of my life in which it has been unclear whether I should cry, shout, laugh, breathe, throw up, and indeed if I could do any one of those things without the others happening too.

Also, while I’ve definitely experienced the post-announcement Twitter love before, CoNZealand’s decision to schedule a streamed announcement at a timezone that worked for as many Hugo-voter-heavy countries as possible, and the general enthusiasm for people to get online at the moment and hang out, meant that the announcement feed and stream just felt so full of frenzied excitement and love for everyone. Definitely a very heightened moment and, yeah, I’ll absolutely take that finalist status, even if I was already swanning around Dublin wearing the “Finalist” badge ribbon last year.

Joe: I absolutely enjoyed that youtube sidebar chat during the announcement, even if it ultimately did amount to a bunch of people just mashing their keyboards at the same time in excitement.

(16) I’LL TAKE ‘DUBIOUS PRODUCT NAMES’ FOR $100. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This is what comes from not having any Humanities majors in your company… There’s enough obvious cheap-shot jokes that I’m not even going to bother including one here. From PRwire: “Pepperdata Introduces New Kafka Monitoring Capabilities for Mission-Critical Streaming Applications”.

With Streaming Spotlight, existing customers can integrate Kafka monitoring metrics into the Pepperdata dashboard, adding detailed visibility into Kafka cluster metrics, broker health, topics and partitions.

Kafka is a distributed event streaming platform and acts as the central hub for an integrated set of messaging systems. Kafka’s architecture of brokers, topics and data replication supports high availability, high-throughput and publish-subscribe environments. For some users, Kafka handles trillions of messages per day.

Managing these data pipelines and systems is complex and requires deep insight to ensure these systems run at optimal efficiency….

(17) HALL OF FAME. R. Graeme Cameron has finally received the hardware, and I enjoyed his description on Facebook.

Since I was not present when Eileen Kernaghan, Tanya Huff and myself were inducted into the CSFFA Science Fiction Hall of Fame during the Aurora Awards ceremony at Can-Con last year, CSFFA planned to present the plaque to me (and I assume to Eileen) at the Creative Ink Festival in May this year. But, as we all know, Covid-19 forced the CIF to cancel.

Consequently, CSFFA elected to mail me the plaque….

The Janus-like trophy features on one side the visage of an aging knight representing venerable fantasy, blended with vegetation and rather resembling a forest-spirit Don Quixote, an ancient book to the right of his beard, and on the other side the fresh face of a proud, young aviatrix representing the cutting edge of science fiction as perceived back in the 1930s, a rocket ship in flight just to the right of her neck. A most splendid and evocative trophy. Each inductee gets a plaque like this one. The trophy is on display throughout the year in various libraries.

(18) HIGH-SPEED HYPERLOOP PROJECTS WILL BEGIN OPERATION NO EARLIER THAN 2040. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Let’s make notes in our calendars so we can check whether they’re right…

Economics, not technology, pose the largest barriers to building the Hyperloop according to a new Lux report: “High-speed Hyperloop projects will begin operation no earlier than 2040”.

Lux has found that, while the Hyperloop concept is technically feasible, it will require significant development to become cost-effective. The Hyperloop differs from conventional rail because it operates in a vacuum system that reduces aerodynamic drag, thus enabling higher speeds and greater energy efficiency. There are four main design elements creating technical challenges with the Hyperloop: pillar and tube design, pod design, propulsion and levitation of the pods, and station design.

Lux Research found that pod design is the fastest-growing area for Hyperloop patent activity, with a focus on improving comfort and performance. Customer comfort is important due to the compact, enclosed spaces with no windows, which can increase the likelihood of customers getting sick. Optimizing pod performance is key to minimizing drag and reducing costs because pod design choices have a significant impact on tube design and aerodynamics. Propulsion and levitation systems have the least patent activity, in part due to the fact that Hyperloop will likely adapt magnetic levitation, or maglev, technology.

One of the biggest technical challenges will be identifying the optimal system pressure and minimizing leakage of the vacuum system, which, if higher than expected, can increase operating costs and reduce top speeds. “Selecting the Hyperloop’s tube pressure is the most important factor impacting cost, for both operational expenses and the initial capital needed for tube design and construction,” says Lux Research Associate Chad Goldberg….

(19) IN FRANCE. Is this anywhere near Remulac? Reuters reports: “Space scientists use COVID-19 lockdown as dry run for Mars mission”.

French space scientists are using the COVID-19 lockdown as a dry run for what it will be like to be cooped up inside a space craft on a mission to Mars.

The guinea pigs in the experiment are 60 students who are confined to their dormitory rooms in the southern city of Toulouse – not far removed from the kind of conditions they might experience on a long space mission.

When the French government imposed movement restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, space researcher Stephanie Lizy-Destrez decided to make the most of a bad situation, and signed up the student volunteers.

It’s not an exact simulation of space flight: tasks such as picking up samples from a planet’s surface using a lunar rover do not feature, and the students can break off from their virtual space journey for a daily trip outside.

Instead, they conduct computer-based tasks such as memory tests and mental agility tests. They keep a daily journal, and every five days have to complete a questionnaire.

(20) SOCIAL DISTANCING EARTH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Spacecraft BepiColombo’s handlers have published a GIF of Earth as seen from the craft during a recent flyby. BepiColombo was slingshotting past Earth on its way to a Mercury survey mission. BC presumably wished us well in handling COVID-19, and made sure to stay far enough away not to pick up the virus. “BepiColombo takes last snaps of Earth en route to Mercury”.

The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission completed its first flyby on 10 April, as the spacecraft came less than 12 700 km from Earth’s surface at 06:25 CEST, steering its trajectory towards the final destination, Mercury. Images gathered just before closest approach portray our planet shining through darkness, during one of humankind’s most challenging times in recent history.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/6/20 Heavy Water, Holy Water, And Flit

(1) AMAZING STORIES BUS STOP AD. Seen in New York City. Photo courtesy of von DImpleheimer.

(2) ON THE AIR. And the show is now with us. Steve Davidson’s post “Amazing Stories TV Show Debuts” (BEWARE SPOILERS) delivers this assessment:

…All in all – production values are what you would expect, the story is in line with the target the show has always sought (families watching and sharing together) and the theme is marginally SFnal, (though time travel afficianados will have plenty to talk about) and my overall conclusions are: time was not wasted watching this episode and we ought to stick with the show to see how it develops.

(3) IAFA SAYS IT MUST MEET TO SURVIVE. International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts 41 will be held March 18-21, however, the organizers are making some new options available: “ICFA 41: COVID-19, Cancellations, and Credits/Refunds”.

As a result of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the news about COVID-19, the IAFA board would like to take this opportunity to issue an update on ICFA 41.

The conference will meet.

We have to meet certain guaranteed minimums for room occupancy, food and beverage expenditures, etc., specified in our contract with the hotel, or pay out of pocket. It is not an exaggeration to say that cancellation would jeopardize the very existence of the IAFA.

The first concern of the board members is members’ safety and well-being. We urge IAFA members to proactively research COVID-19 and consult status reports through reputable sources such as the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/), and the Florida department of health (http://www.floridahealth.gov/), whose websites are continually updated. We would also advise checking for updates with your travel provider and travel insurer.

…Because of the extraordinary circumstances, we are crediting registration for those who cancel as a result of the outbreak. This credit must be used within 2 years. We will provide refunds to people from countries under travel restrictions. Because we are required to have final numbers for rooms and meals to the hotel a week before the conference, we will provide credits or refunds only to people who cancel by 5p EST on March 9, 2020.

…The board is discussing a number of ways to make it possible for people not able to attend physically but who wish to have their work included in some way to do so. We will make an official announcement before the March 9 deadline.

More details at the link.

(4) FRANK HERBERT ON CORONAVIRUS. Or so the people tweeting it around have captioned this rewritten chart —

(5) PIXAR’S LATEST. Leonard Maltin applauds a new release: “Pixar Scores With Heartfelt ‘Onward’”.

Like the best Pixar and Disney animated films, this one supplies rooting interest in its heroes from the very start. We want them to succeed because we care about them and their quest. Who wouldn’t want to be reunited with a loved one, especially when his absence has left a void in their lives?

(6) SLOW START. NPR’s Glen Weldon reviews “‘Onward’: Timid Teen On A Mythic Quest For Elf-Assurance”.

In the opening minutes of Disney/Pixar’s Onward, we are met with various manifestations of loss.

There’s the film’s setting, a world where magic once flourished, and with it, pixies, unicorns, pegasi, elves, ogres, centaurs, mermaids — your standard-issue high-fantasy mythofaunic biome. But even here, in a gimmick the film leans into juuuuust enough, the Industrial Revolution arrived. As automation increased, magic faded. Elves still live in giant toadstools, but said toadstools are now rigidly apportioned into vast, Spielberg-suburban subdivisions and cul-de-sacs. Once-splendid unicorns have gone feral, raiding raid trash cans and hissing at passers-by like peculiarly horsey raccoons. If Middle-Earth had more strip-malls, it’d look something like this.

There’s also the loss experienced by the elf-family at the film’s center: mom Laurel (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her two sons — the younger, anxious Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and his older, buff, RPG-obsessed brother Barley (Chris Pratt, squarely back in Andy Dwyer mode). It’s Ian’s 16th birthday, and he’s given a gift left to him by his late father, who passed away when Ian was too young to remember him: A wizard’s staff.

Finally, in these opening minutes, there’s still another feeling of loss that manifests in the viewer — that of lost opportunity.

The jokes are glib and smarmy, the family dynamics achingly familiar, and as we follow Ian to high school, his every encounter and interaction feels less Disney/Pixar and more Disney Channel — which is to say, too sweet, too cornball, too affected, too faux-contemporary. The average very young child in the audience won’t notice; the average parent will start checking the theater’s exits.

But!

On or about the 20-minute mark — not coincidentally, upon the arrival of a manticore called Corey, voiced by Octavia Spencer — the film seems to discover what it is: A testament to the remarkable degree of emotional expressiveness that Pixar’s character-animators can imbue into a story….

NPR hosts a 4-way discussion (audio, no transcript yet) here.

(7) PERSEVERANCE PLANS. BBC reports “Nasa 2020 robot rover to target Jezero ‘lake’ crater”.

The American space agency (Nasa) says it will send its 2020 Mars rover to a location known as Jezero Crater.

Nasa believes the rocks in this nearly 50km-wide bowl could conceivably hold a record of ancient life on the planet.

Satellite images of Jezero point to river water having once cut through its rim and flowed via a delta system into a big lake.

It is the kind of environment that might just have supported microbes some 3.5-3.9 billion years ago.

This was a period when Mars was much warmer and wetter than it is today.

What is so special about Jezero?

Evidence for the past presence of a lake is obviously a draw, but Ken Farley, the Nasa project scientist on the mission, said the delta traces were also a major attraction.

“A delta is extremely good at preserving bio-signatures – any evidence of life that might have existed in the lake water, or at the interface of the sediment and the lake water, or possibly things that lived in the headwaters region that were swept in by the river and deposited in the delta,” he told reporters.

Jezero’s multiple rock types, including clays and carbonates, have high potential to preserve the organic molecules that would hint at life’s bygone existence.

Narrated flythrough of planned route here.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 6, 1936 — The “Income from Immigrants” episode of the Green Hornet radio show originated from WXYZ in Detroit. (It is also called “Ligget’s Citizenship Racket”.) The show was created by Fran Striker & George W. Trendle, and starred Al Hodge as the Green Hornet at this point, and Tokutaro Hayashi who had renamed Raymond Toyo by initial series director James Jewell. You can download the episode here.
  • March 6, 1938 — RKO first aired “The Bride of Death” with Orson Welles as  The Shadow. Welles prior to his War of The Worlds broadcast would play the role for thirty three episodes in 1937 and 1938 with Blue Coal being the sponsor. You can download it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 6, 1918 Marjii Ellers. Longtime L.A. fan active in the LASFS. Her offices in the LASFS included Registrar and Scribe. She is known as well for her costumes at cons. Indeed, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990 from the International Costumers Guild. An avid fanzine publisher and writer, some of the fanzines she edited were Masqueraders’ Guide, More Lives Than One, Nexterday, One Equal Temper, Thousands of Thursdays, and Judges’ Guide. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 6, 1928 William F. Nolan, 92. Author of the long running Logan’s Run series (only the first was written with George Clayton Johnson). He started out in fandom in the Fifties publishing several zines including one dedicated to Bradbury. In May 2014, Nolan was presented with another Bram Stoker Award, for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction; this was for his collection about his late friend Ray Bradbury, called Nolan on Bradbury: Sixty Years of Writing about the Master of Science Fiction. He’s done far too much writing-wise for me to sum it him up. 
  • Born March 6, 1930 Allison Hayes. She was Nancy Fowler Archer, the lead role, in The Attack of The 50 Foot Woman. Her first SF role was the year as Grace Thomas in The Unearthly. She’d be Donna in The Crawling Hand shortly thereafter. She died at age forty-seven from the result of injuries sustained from early on Foxfire, a mid Fifties Western that’s she’s actually in. That she made three SF films while in severe pain is amazing. (Died 1977.)
  • Born March 6, 1937 Edward L. Ferman, 83. Editor and publisher who’s best known as the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1966 to 1991.  He also edited a zine I’ve not heard of, Venture Science Fiction Magazine, for two years 1969 – 1970). And, of course, he’s edited myriad anthologies that were assembled from F&SF
  • Born March 6, 1942 Dorothy Hoobler, 78. Author with her husband, Thomas Hoobler, of the Samurai Detective series which is at least genre adjacent. More interestingly, they wrote a biography of Mary Shelley and her family called The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein which sounds absolutely fascinating. Note to ISFDB: no, it’s not a novel. Kindle has everything by them, alas Apple Books has only the biography.
  • Born March 6, 1957 Ann VanderMeer, 63. Publisher and editor, and the second female editor of Weird Tales. As Fiction Editor of Weird Tales, she won a Hugo Award. In 2009 Weird Tales, edited by her and Stephen H. Segal, won a Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. She is also the founder of The Silver Web magazine, a periodical devoted to experimental and avant-garde fantasy literature.
  • Born March 6, 1972 K. J. Bishop, 48. Her first book, The Etched City, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. It won the Ditmar Award.  She is a recipient of the Aurealis Award for best collection, That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote. Both works are available from the usual digital sources. 
  • Born March 6, 1979 Rufus Hound, 41, Ok, I’ll admit it was his name that got him here. He also on the good fortune to appear as Sam Swift in “The Woman Who Lived”, easily one of the best Twelfth Doctor stories. He’s also played Toad in the world premiere of the musical, The Wind In The Willows in Plymouth, Salford and Southampton, as written by Julian Fellowes. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BIERYOGA. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] If Worldcon, SMOFcon, etc. are looking for a new way to encourage fans to exercise at the con… well, it seems like a good fit for much of fandom. That said, notice the source of the article. — Funny or Die claims “‘Beer Yoga’ Is A Real Thing That Exists, Namaste”.

Although it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future holds, there are a couple things that are pretty much guaranteed to happen with each new year. First, we’re all going to make resolutions. Second, we’re all going to abandon those resolutions.

One of the most common goals we make for ourselves when January rolls around is hitting the gym more often, and that’s also one of the toughest things to stick with for more than a few months. Life gets in the way, gyms are far or expensive, and let’s be honest — working out sucks. Yeah, yeah, you get a rush of endorphins and you feel good afterward, but actually dragging your butt there and the entire process of exercising leave much to be desired. However, this year might be the year things change.

If you’re like everyone else on earth and struggle to hold fast to your New-Year-New-Me resolutions, look no further than Bieryoga….

(12) THE BINDING THAT TIES. NPR praises a documentary: “‘The Booksellers’ Speaks Volumes About Old Books And Those Who Love Them”.

As we hurtle closer to a time when little kids will look up from their tablets to inquire, “What was a book, Mommy?” much as they now ask, “What’s a record player?,” it may cheer you to learn, from a charming new documentary about bookselling, that while the middle-aged tend to play on Kindles these days, millennials are to be seen in droves reading print books on the New York subway. They’re probably also the ones ordering “vintage” turntables, and they may be driving the encouraging current renaissance of independent bookstores serving cappuccino on the side, to lure us back from Amazon.

The books being bought, sold and read there, though, are unlikely to be the kind found at the New York Book Fair in a gorgeous old building on the city’s Upper East Side: ancient tomes, some with curled and peeling pages, others gorgeously illuminated. The handlers of those books are the subject of D.W. Young’s beguiling film, The Booksellers, about the world of New York antiquarian book dealers. They’re a vanishing breed who, with some exceptions, regard their work more as consuming passion than as career.

(13) CREDENTIAL CAPTURE. Here’s a bizarre GIF – “Cat UFO Abduction”.

(14) FROZEN TWO. “Destination Uranus! Rare chance to reach ice giants excites scientists”. Tagline: A planetary alignment provides a window to visit Uranus and Neptune — but time is tight.

Momentum is building among planetary scientists to send a major mission to Uranus or Neptune — the most distant and least explored planets in the Solar System. Huge gaps remain in scientists’ knowledge of the blueish planets, known as the ice giants, which have been visited only once by a space probe. But the pressure is on to organize a mission in the next decade, because scientists want to take advantage of an approaching planetary alignment that would cut travel time.

(15) DON’T PANIC, I’LL BE BACK. Science Alert “Japan Is Sending a Lander to a Martian Moon, And It’ll Be Back by 2030”.

Sending a mission to moons of Mars has been on the wish list for mission planners and space enthusiasts for quite some time. For the past few years, however, a team of Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) engineers and scientists have been working on putting such a mission together.

Now, JAXA announced this week that the Martian Moon eXploration (MMX) mission has been greenlighted to move forward, with the goal of launching an orbiter, lander — and possibly a rover — with sample return capability in 2024.

For the past three years, MMX has been in what JAXA calls a Pre-Project phase, which focuses on research and analysis for potential missions, such as simulating landings to improve spacecraft design. Now that the mission has been moved to the development phase, the focus will be on moving ahead with the development of mission hardware and software.

(16) TRAILER TIME. Dreamworks Animation dropped a trailer for Trolls World Tour. In theaters April 2020.

Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake return in an all-star sequel to DreamWorks Animation’s 2016 musical hit: Trolls World Tour. In an adventure that will take them well beyond what they’ve known before, Poppy (Kendrick) and Branch (Timberlake) discover that they are but one of six different Troll tribes scattered over six different lands and devoted to six different kinds of music: Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop and Rock. Their world is about to get a lot bigger and a whole lot louder.

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

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

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

Kevin added, responding to a File 770 email:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The panelists will be —

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/15/20 Pixelo And Scrolliet – A Play In Three Acts By Filiam Scrollspeare

(1) NEBULA NOMINATIONS DEADLINE. It’s today, and only a few hours away.

(2) VET BILL APPEAL. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson has launched the “Bo the Wonder Dog Medical Fund” at GoFundMe.

My wife and I adopted Bo nearly 17 years ago.  

He’s been a great friend and companion, helping me through the loss of my wife to cancer and being a “great guy”.

Bo has some issues:  he’s had chronic pancreatitis and has been diagnosed with Chron’s disease.

…With the loss of my wife a couple of years ago, my personal financial picture has changed dramatically (loss of one entire income, health care, etc) and, while I’ve kept up with the bills (barely) and gotten some help from the family, I anticipate that expenses for treatment will continue for a while and I simply can not afford them.

At the current time, the outstanding balance on his bill is approximately $1300.00 – and that does not include the bill for emergency vet care when I had to bring him in at 11:30 pm on 2/16/20 [sic].  I expect that we are currently looking at around $2500 all told, and that’s just going to increase with additional office visits, tests and medications.

Bo is an extremely intelligent, vibrant, engaged silky terrier; the image shown here appeared on the cover of the Sunday Concord Monitor (NH) showing his involvement with Amazing Stories magazine.  

And Bo is the last remaining connection I have with my wife as we adopted him together and he is in many ways the child of our marriage.

I simply don’t want him to suffer, regardless of what the eventual diagnoses ends up being and I don’t want him to suffer simply because the bills can’t be paid.

(3) HWA INTERVIEW SERIES. Horror Writers of America is celebrating Women in Horror Month by interviewing some of the top women in the horror field in a series called Females of Fright. Here’s what’s online so far —

(4) BUTLER’S PARABLE ON STAGE. There will be a performance of the stage adaptation of “Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower” on Saturday, March 7 in UCLA’s Royce Hall. See details at the link.

Based on the novels Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler, this genre-defying work of political theater featuring a powerhouse ensemble of 20 singers, actors and musicians harnesses 200 years of Black music to give musical life to Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel. Parable of the Sower, set in 2024 and published in 1993, presciently grapples with many of the same issues we face today—global warming, corporate influence over government, a destabilized economy, water scarcity, food scarcity, the privatization of social services, homelessness, public safety, a return of long forgotten diseases and the profit-making machine that runs the medical industry. Written by singer, composer and producer Toshi Reagon in collaboration with her mother, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon (song leader, composer, scholar, social activist and founder of Sweet Honey In the Rock), Parable Of The Sower is a mesmerizing theatrical work of rare power and beauty that reveals deep insights into gender, race and the future of human civilization.

(5) STILL NO CIGAR. “Sonic the Hedgehog movie: Critics put the brakes on” – a BBC survey of the media response.

The reviews are in for the new-and-improved Sonic the Hedgehog movie, and the critics have been getting their (human) teeth stuck in.

The trailer was out last May, but Sonic went back to the drawing board after fans reacted badly to how he looked.

Variety said he “has been redesigned to satisfy fans, but no-one figured out how to make him as fun as he is fast”.

And IndieWire declared that “fixing Sonic’s terrifying face hasn’t made this movie any less of a nightmare”.

Jim Carrey plays Dr Robotnik, who – as well as the US government – is chasing the supersonic Sega hedgehog, portrayed in voice and facial motion capture by Ben Schwartz.

The Guardian gave the film two stars, noting how “dastardly Jim Carrey gives Sonic the blues”.

The paper’s critic Steve Rose wrote: “Carrey’s moustache-twirling villain is more fun and far more animated than the charmless hero in this derivative caper.”

(6) NOODLING AUDIBLY. Scott Edelman invites fans to nibble fried noodles with John Edward Lawson in Episode 115 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

My latest lunch on which you get to eavesdrop is with John Edward Lawson, the author of 16 books of fiction and poetry, plus numerous chapbooks. His short stories have been collected in such titles as Pocketful of Loose Razorblades, Discouraging at Best, and most recently Devil Entendre, while his poetry can be found in multiple titles, including The Plague Factory, The Scars Are Complimentary, Bibliophobia, and the Bram Stoker Award finalist The Troublesome Amputee.

He’s the founding editor of Raw Dog Screaming Press, which was given a Specialty Press Award by the Horror Writers Association in 2019. He currently serves as vice president of Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction, and also manages the Broadkill Writers Resort, which he founded in 2016.

We met for lunch recently on a rainy day in Washington D.C. at Dolan Uyghur restaurant. It was my first taste of Uyghur cuisine, and I was quite impressed, particularly by the hand pulled noodles in my Laghman.

We discussed the birth of the bizarro horror subgenre (and the surprisingly democratic way in which it was named), the reason Alien both repelled and attracted him, how trying to sell screenplays led to him publishing his first short fiction instead, the story of his which was the most emotionally difficult to write, how he won a poetry award only after giving up on poetry, the unexpected gift he was given when starting his own publishing company, his initial doubts about naming his press Raw Dog Screaming, how he survived the 2008 financial meltdown which sank so many small presses, why he loves watching people bicker, the reason he became known as “the forgotten black man of horror,” and much more.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 15, 1883 Sax Rohmer. Though doubtless best remembered for his series of novels featuring the arch-fiend Fu Manchu, I’ll also single out The Romance of Sorcery as he based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini who he was friends with. (Died 1959.)
  • Born February 15, 1907 Cesar Romero. Joker in the classic Batman TV series and film. I think that Lost Continent as Major Joe Nolan was his first SF film, with Around the World in 80 Days as Abdullah’s henchman being his other one. He had assorted genre series appearances on series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 15, 1914 Kevin McCarthy. Best remembered as Dr. Miles Bennell in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He would later have recurring roles in Twilight Zone and is in the Twilight Zone movie as well having a cameo in the Seventies remake of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Other SF credits include The Howling, Innerspace, Addams Family Reunion and Looney Tunes: Back in Action in which he had a cameo as Dr. Miles Bennell. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 15, 1916 Ian Ballantine. He founded and published the paperback line of Ballantine Books from 1952 to 1974 with his wife, Betty Ballantine. The Ballantines were both inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008, with a joint citation. During the Sixties, they published the first authorized paperback edition of Tolkien’s books. (Died 1995.)
  • Born February 15, 1917 Meg Wyllie. She was the Talosian “Keeper” in the Trek pilot episode, “The Cage”. She would show up later in Batman as Grandma in the “Black Widow Strikes Again” episode and earlier in her career, she was in Twilight Zone episode “The Night of the Meek” as Sister Florence. She’s Granny Gordon in The Last Starfighter. (Died 2002.)
  • Born February 15, 1935 Paul Wenzel, 85. Disney illustrator responsible for such works as the Mary Poppins posters, the Walt Disney commemorative stamp and concept art of The Haunted Mansion. For those of you asking why he’s here, I’ll note that during the Sixties, he did both covers and interiors for Fantastic Stories of ImaginationIf ,Galaxy, Space Travel and Worlds of Tomorrow
  • Born February 15, 1945 Jack Dann, 75. Dreaming Down-Under which he co-edited with Janeen Webb is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction. It won Ditmar Award and was the first Australian fiction book ever to win the World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. As for his novels, I’m fond of High Steel written with Jack C. Haldeman II, and The Man Who Melted. He’s not that well stocked digitally speaking though Dreaming Down-Under is available on Kindle. 
  • Born February 15, 1948 Art Spiegelman, 72. Author and illustrator of Maus which if you’ve not read, you really should. He also wrote MetaMaus which goes into great detail how he created that work. And yes, I know he had a long and interesting career in underground comics but I’ll be damn if I can find any that are either genre or genre adjacent. 
  • Born February 15, 1958 – Cat Eldridge, 62, is the publisher of Green Man Review and Sleeping Hedgehog. Cat, who’s had some severe health problems, likes to remind people, “Technically I died in 2017 and was revived in the same year.”
  • Born February 15, 1971 Renee O’Connor, 49. Gabrielle on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. I’m reasonably that I watched every damn episode of both series when they aired originally. Quite fun stuff. Her first genre role was first as a waitress in Tales from the Crypt andshe’s had some genre film work such as Monster Ark and Alien Apocalypse. She’s also played Lady Macbeth in the Shakespeare by the Sea’s production of Macbeth.

(8) PEAK TELEVISION IS HERE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Watching television in the modern era is like trying to drink from a fire hose: According to Nielsen, there were 646,152 unique programs available to view on television in 2019. This is the first time that there’s been a full survey done of available content, but they also ran numbers for the previous few years, and found that 2019 saw 10 per cent more content available than any previous year. From WIRED: “There Were 646,152 Things to Watch on TV Last Year”  

From the report: “We are at the flash point of the “streaming wars,” with an array of new subscription and ad-supported platforms seeking to capitalize on what is a massive global opportunity for consumer attention and value.”

(9) ANOTHER BRANCH IN THE TREE. “‘Ghost’ DNA In West Africans Complicates Story Of Human Origins”NPR has the story.

About 50,000 years ago, ancient humans in what is now West Africa apparently procreated with another group of ancient humans that scientists didn’t know existed.

There aren’t any bones or ancient DNA to prove it, but researchers say the evidence is in the genes of modern West Africans. They analyzed genetic material from hundreds of people from Nigeria and Sierra Leone and found signals of what they call “ghost” DNA from an unknown ancestor.

Our own species — Homo sapiens — lived alongside other groups that split off from the same genetic family tree at different times. And there’s plenty of evidence from other parts of the world that early humans had sex with other hominins, like Neanderthals.

That’s why Neanderthal genes are present in humans today, in people of European and Asian descent. Homo sapiens also mated with another group, the Denisovans, and those genes are found in people from Oceania.

The findings on ghost DNA, published in the journal Science Advances, further complicate the picture of how Homo sapiens — or modern humans — evolved away from other human relatives. “It’s almost certainly the case that the story is incredibly complex and complicated and we have kind of these initial hints about the complexity,” says Sriram Sankararaman, a computational biologist at UCLA.

(10) ONE OF THESE DAYS… “Wanted: New astronauts for Nasa Moon mission”

Going into space is a dream shared by children and adults around the world.

Although humans have not stepped foot on the Moon in almost half a century, Nasa hopes to change this. It plans to land the first woman – and the next man – on the lunar surface by 2024.

And now the US space agency is looking for candidates to take part in its future missions.

So with applications opening from 2 to 31 March, what does it take to become an astronaut?

Nationality matters

Since the 1960s, Nasa has selected 350 candidates to train as astronauts, with 48 currently in the active astronaut corps.

But as it is a US federal agency, the first requirement to join Nasa is American citizenship, although dual nationals are also eligible to apply.

This rule has not put everyone off: late British astronaut Piers Sellers left the UK and became a US citizen as part of his dream to become an astronaut, and later flew on three space shuttle missions.

(11) AND HOW. BBC video — “Record-breaking astronaut: ‘Do what scares you'”.

Christina Koch spent 328 days on the International Space Station and was part of the first all-female spacewalk.

The astronaut also surpassed the previous female record reached by Peggy Whitson in June 2017 for time spent in space.

She touched back down to Earth on 6 February.

(12) DRONING AWAY. PetaPixel invites you to “Watch an Anti-Drone Laser Literally Fry a Bunch of DJI Drones from Miles Away”.

Israeli defense technology company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd recently released a demo of their special “Drone Dome” counter-drone defense system. A car-mounted anti-drone solution that can fry unwelcome drones from miles away using a high-powered laser beam.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/31/20 The Cat That Scrolled Through Pixels

(1) NEW FAN FUND. Marcin Klak writes about efforts to bring the European Fan Fund to life in “European Fan Fund – update”.

…Right now the fund has €367.00 and £84.00. It is both a lot and not so much. It will be enough for the airfare for sure, but may not be enough for accommodation on top of the plane tickets. We also need to gather the money for the years to come. Still, this amount means that we can do it and EFF may start – maybe this year, maybe next, but we should manage to have it working and for that I am really grateful to all the fans who helped.

Future plans

The first thing ahead of us is to ensure we will have proper funds to start the race. If this happens, we will hold a race and choose a candidate that will travel to Eurocon. If this is possible to happen this year, we will have the first EFF delegate at Futuricon in Rijeka (Croatia). This would be really awesome. Then we need to remember that just a few months after Futuricon there will be a Eurocon in Fiugii (Italy). Having two trips within half a year would be challenging but maybe not impossible….

(2) RING IN THE NEW YEAR. On The Blerdgurl Podcast, “N. K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell describe the world of a powerful new Green Lantern”.

Happy Holidays everyone! Today’s episode features the award-winning writer N.K. Jemisin and the incredible artist Jamal Campbell who I spoke to recently about their new comic book Far Sector on the DC Young Animal Imprint. The comic introduces us to a brand new member of the Green Lantern Corp. Sojourner “Jo” Mullein. The first black woman to wield a Power Ring.

(3) HARLAN WOULD BE SO PROUD. Yahoo! Movies has “The most disturbing talking animals in film – ranked!” BEWARE SPOILERS!

9. Blood – A Boy and His Dog (1975)

If you have children and A Boy and His Dog appear on any streaming services, don’t watch it. At first glance, it looks like the sort of earnestly dumb Disney movie that Kurt Russell would have made in the 70s, but it is not that at all. A Boy and His Dog takes place in the aftermath of nuclear war, as a young man scavenges for food with a dog of contemptible character. Voiced by Tim McIntire, Blood’s one job is to find post-apocalyptic women for Don Johnson to have sex with in return for food. They eat a woman at the end. Like I said, not for kids.

After reading that description you might ask, “How in hell is that movie not Number One on the list?” But after you read what Yahoo! has in first place, your question will be answered —

1. Jennyanydots – Cats (2019)

You will have noticed by now that the top 5 of this Ranked! are all cats. That’s because I saw Cats at the cinema and I now hate cats. Picking a weirdest cat from the Cats lineup is almost impossible (the railway cat? The cat with boobs? Jason Derulo’s Towie cat? The suicidal cat?) and yet Rebel Wilson’s Jennyanydots makes the choice a little easier. Because Jennanydots is the masturbating cat who unzips her own skin and eats mice that for some reason have the voice of screaming children. I hate cats now.

(4) BOOKS IS EVERYWHERE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] While reserving more Bujold (see my Arisia 2020 report), I noticed this unexpected field in the library network’s REFINE BY choices. (See pic.)

Interestingly, it seems to only appear except when I’ve done some choices of criteria. I’m still experimenting, and haven’t yet gone to chat with the library.

Stay tuned!

(5) AMAZING! So Steve Davidson really answers Amazing Stories’ spam? A 10-point declaration: “Not That It Will Do Any Good, But….”

To all content mills, web-marketing firms, SEO factories and anyone else who thinks that having an article with your “do follow” links in them published on the Amazing Stories website will help your/your client’s business, or that our website is in desperate need of your technical know-how designed to increase our traffic or raise our internet profile:

1.  WE. ARE. NOT. INTERESTED.  That’s blanket and across the board.

…BONUS:  This post was written so I can reduce my correspondence with the SEO mills by simply sending them a link.

(6) ASIMOV CENTENNIAL. Yosef Lindell skeptically inspects “Isaac Asimov’s Throwback Vision of the Future” for The Atlantic.

When Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy won the Hugo Award for best all-time science-fiction series, in 1966, no one was more surprised than the author. The books contained “no action,” Asimov complained years later, adding, “I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did.” As a young reader, I devoured the Foundation books, the short-story collection I, Robot, and other works by Asimov. Though these tales entranced me with their bold strokes of imagination, when I revisit them as an adult, their flaws stand out more than their virtues. It’s not so much that nothing happens, but that the reader doesn’t get to see anything happen. Asimov’s stories are dialogue-driven; the action happens off-stage while men (and, less frequently, women) huddle to debate the significance of what occurred or what ought to be done in the best Socratic fashion.

Asimov was aware of these quirks. “I don’t see things when I write,” he once apologized. “I hear, and for the most part, what my characters talk about are ideas.” Still, his stories often evoke the smoke-filled corporate boardrooms of the past century more than a progressive tomorrow. And his writing is striking for its optimism, betraying a faith in technology and humanity that seems especially naive and out of place today. When considering Asimov’s tales now, I’m reminded of what another famous science-fiction author, Neil Gaiman, once cautioned about rereading older works in the genre: “Nothing dates harder and faster and more strangely than the future.” (It doesn’t help Asimov’s case that he was known for groping women, an aspect of the author’s legacy that Alec Nevala-Lee wrote about in depth for Public Books earlier this month.)

(7) MYSTERIOUS NEW LOCATION. “Independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy opening in Point Loma”sdnews.com has the story.

Despite changing locales and ownership, patrons of iconic independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy can expect the same incomparable service and variety.

Patrons-turned-booksellers, couple Matthew Berger and Jennifer Marchisotto were regular patrons of Mysterious for six years after moving to San Diego. Of the timing of their acquiring the 27-year-old bookstore specializing in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, young adult, romance, Berger said, “That’s something I always wanted to do.” 

Though they didn’t expect to be in retail so soon, Berger noted, “When that opportunity arises, how can you say no?,” while describing Mysterious as our “favorite bookstore in the world. I’ve been familiar with Mysterious Galaxy since I was a kid when I used to go with my dad to book signings,” said Berger who, along with Marchisotto and newborn child, acquired the store Jan. 3 moving it after its lease in Clairemont had expired, into its new 5,650-square-foot space at 3555 Rosecrans St., Suite 107, in Point Loma. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 31, 1936The Green Hornet made its radio debut.
  • January 31, 1986 Eliminators premiered. It was directed by Peter Manoogian who did such horror films as Demonic Toys, and was involved in Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Sy.  It had a cast of Andrew Prine, Denise Crosby and Patrick Reynolds. It bombed upon its release, and the Rotten Tomatoes of 35% reflects that. It is unfortunately not available fir viewing online.
  • January 31, 1993 Space Rangers aired its final episode. Only six episodes were made of this series which starred Jeff Kaake, Jack McGee, Marjorie Monaghan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Danny Quinn,  Clint Howard,  Linda Hunt and  Gottfried John. It was created by Pen Denshem who wrote and produced such series such as The Outer Limits and Poltergeist. (Well of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as well.) There’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes but all the critics hated it with a passion calling it cliched, predictable and lame. There’s not much on the series on the net but Starlog did a very nice piece you can read here.
  • January 31, 1997 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope: The Special Edition premiered. A New Hope was re-released along with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, under the campaign title The Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition.  It has a number of minor changes from the the original print, an enhanced Mos Eisley spaceport For one, and major ones such as Greedo shooting first and the CGI Jabba the Hut. The changes made many fans unhappy inspiring such things as the t-shirt’s that said “Han shot first.” Currently it holds a stellar 93% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see the trailer here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1921 John Agar. Between the early Fifties and the Sixties, he appeared in many SFF films such as The Rocket Man, Revenge of the Creature, Tarantula, The Mole People, Attack of the Puppet People, Invisible Invaders, Destination Space, Journey to the Seventh Planet, Curse of the Swamp Creature, Zontar: The Thing from Venus,  Women of the Prehistoric Planet and E.T.N.: The Extraterrestrial Nastie. (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 31, 1922 William Sylvester. He’s remembered as Dr. Heywood Floyd in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. Genre, he later shows up in The Hand of Night (horror), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (dark fantasy) and Heaven Can Wait (fantasy) but none gain him the fame of 2001. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 83. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a fragmentary listing of his works that have a SFF underpinning.   
  • Born January 31, 1941 Jonathan Banks, 79. First genre role was as Deputy Brent in Gremlins, a film I adore. In the same year, he’s a Lizardo Hospital Guard in another film I adore, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Ahhh, a good year indeed. Next I see him playing Michelette in Freejack, another better that merely good sf film. The last thing I see him doing film wise is voicing Rick Dicker in the fairly recent Incredibles 2. Series wise and these are just my highlights, I’ve got him on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Shel-la in the “Battle Lines” episode, in Highlander: The Series as Mako in the “Under Colour of Authority” episode and as Kommander Nuveen Kroll in short lived Otherworld series. SeaQuest 2032 also had him for two episodes as Maximillian Scully. 
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 60. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the DC Universe series that started this past fall is based on his work and is quite spectacular), Seven Soldiers and his very weird The Multiversity
  • Born January 31, 1968 Matt King, 52. He’s Peter Streete in the most excellent Tenth Doctor story, “The Shakespeare Code”. His other genre performances are Freeman in the superb Jekyll, Cockerell in Inkheart based off Caroline Funke’s novel of that name, the ghost Henry Mallet in Spirited andClyde in the recent maligned Doolittle.
  • Born January 31, 1970 Minnie Driver, 50. She’s Irina in the seventeenth Bond film GoldenEye. Later on she’s voices Lady Eboshi in the English language version of Princess Mononoke, does the same for Jane Porter in Tarzan, and is Mandy in Ella Enchanted.  She was Lara Croft in the animated Revisioned: Tomb Raider series was distributed through the online video game service GameTap. 
  • Born January 31, 1973 Portia de Rossi, 47. She first shows up as Giddy in Sirens which would be stretching things to even include as genre adjacent but is definitely worth watching. For SFF roles, she was in Catholic Church tinged horror film Stigmata, music Zombie comedy Dead & Breakfast and werewolf horror Cursed. She was Lily Munster in the deli weird Mockingbird Lane pilot that never went to series. 

(10) IS THE BOOK BETTER THAN THE MOVIE? Either way, Gallup’s survey shows “In U.S., Library Visits Outpaced Trips to Movies in 2019”.

Visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far. The average 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults report taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities. Americans attend live music or theatrical events and visit national or historic parks roughly four times a year on average and visit museums and gambling casinos 2.5 times annually. Trips to amusement or theme parks (1.5) and zoos (.9) are the least common activities among this list.

(11) ACTOR IN THE FAMILY. William Ketter, son of well-known book dealer Greg Ketter, will perform in an off-Broadway production of Animal Farm in February.

The animals on a farm drive out their master and take over and run the farm for themselves. The experiment is successful, except that someone has to take the deposed farmer’s place. Leadership devolves upon the pigs, which are cleverer than the rest of the animals. Unfortunately, their character is not equal to their intelligence. This dramatization remains faithful to the book’s plot and intent and retains both its affection for the animals and the incisiveness of its message.

(12) JOCULARITY. McSweeney’s Carlos Greaves declares “As a 28-Year-Old Latino, I’m Shocked My New Novel, Memoirs of a Middle-Aged White Lady, Has Been So Poorly Received”.

…When I set out to write this novel, which takes place in Iowa and centers around 46-year-old Meradyth Spensir and her 8-year-old son Chab, my goal was to shed light on the struggles that white middle-aged women in America face — struggles that I, a 28-year-old Latino man, don’t know much about but I would imagine are pretty tough. And as far as I’m concerned, I freaking nailed it….

(13) WHEN MOVIES WERE SMOKIN’. From “Who’s There?” by Dan Chiasson, in the April 23, 2018 New Yorker, in a piece on the 50th anniversary of 2001:

Hippies may have saved 2001. ‘Stoned audiences’ flocked to the movie.  David Bowie took a few drops of cannabis tincture before watching, and countless others dropped acid.  According to one report, a young man at a showing in Los Angeles plunged through the movie screen. shouting, ‘It’s God! It’s God!’  John Lennon said he saw the film ‘every week.’  2001 initially opened in limited release, shown only in 70mm on curved Cinerama screens,  M-G-M thought it had on its hands a second DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) or BEN-HUR (1959),or perhaps another Spartacus (1960), the splashy studio hit that Kubrick, low on funds, had directed about a decade before.  But instead the theatres were filling up with fans of cult films like Roger Corman’s The Trip, or Psych-Out, the early Jack Nicholson flick with music by the Strawberry Alarm Clock.  These movies, though cheesy, found a new use for editing and special effects:  to mimic psychedelic visions.  The iconic Star Gate sequence in 2001, when Dave Bowman, the film’s protagonist, hurtles in his space pod through a corridor of swimming kaleidoscopic colors, could even be times, with sufficient practice, to crest with the viewer’s own hallucinations.  The studio soon caught on, and a new tagline was added to the movie’s redesigned posters:  ‘The ultimate trip’….

…For the final section of the film, ‘Jupiter and Beyond The Infinite, (Frederick) Ordway, the film’s scientific consultant, read up on a doctoral thesis on psychedelics advised by Timothy Leary.  Theology students had taken psilocybin, then attended a service at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel to see if they’d be hit with religious revelations.  They dutifully reported their findings: most of the participants had indeed touched God.  Such wide-ranging research was characteristic of Clarke and Kubrick’s approach, although the two men, both self-professed squares, might have saved time had they been willing to try hallucinogens themselves.

(14) LIFE SIZE? At $350, “The Child” is a heckuva lot better than a garden gnome. Of course, you may never see another frog in your backyard.

Sideshow presents The Child Life-Size Figure, created in partnership with Legacy Effects to bring you the galaxy’s most sought-after bounty. 

Lovingly referred to by audiences as ‘Baby Yoda’, the mysterious alien known as The Child has quickly become the breakout fan-favorite of Star Wars™: The Mandalorian on Disney+. Now eager collectors can become a clan of two and bring home the asset as an incredible 1:1 scale Star Wars collectible, no tracking fob needed.

The Child Life-Size Figure measures 16.5” tall, standing on a simple ship deck base that lets this adorable alien steal all of the focus- along with the Mandalorian’s ship parts. Inspired by its unique onscreen appearance, this mixed media statue features a tan fabric coat swaddling The Child as it gazes up with charming wide eyes, hiding the silver shift knob from the Razor Crest™ in its right hand. 

(15) DYSTROPES. Dwight Garner reviews Gish Jen’s The Resisters for the New York Times: “In a New Dystopian Novel, the Country is AutoAmerica, but Baseball Is Still Its Pastime”.

The best thing about being God, Iris Murdoch wrote, would be making the heads. The best thing about writing speculative or dystopian fiction, surely, is updating human language, pushing strange new words into a reader’s mind.

Gish Jen’s densely imagined if static new novel, “The Resisters,” is set in a future surveillance state known as AutoAmerica. The ice caps have melted, and much of the land is underwater. A racial and class divide has cleaved the population.

The “Netted” have jobs, plush amenities and well-zoned houses on dry land. The “Surplus,” most of whom live on houseboats in “Flotsam Towns,” have scratchy blankets, thought control and degradation. Members of this underclass have not begun to grow gills, like the buff men and women in Kevin Costner’s “Waterworld,” but that may not be far off.

(16) CITIZEN SCIENCE. “A New Form Of Northern Lights Discovered In Finland – By Amateur Sky Watchers” — includes video.

People in northern climes have long gazed at the wonder that is the aurora borealis: the northern lights.

Those celestial streaks of light and color are often seen on clear nights in Finland, where they’re so admired that a Finnish-language Facebook group dedicated to finding and photographing them has more than 11,000 members.

There aurora aficionados gather to discuss subjects like space weather forecasts and the best equipment to capture the northern lights.

Among its members is Minna Palmroth. She’s a physicist and professor at the University of Helsinki, where she leads a research group that studies the space weather that causes auroral emissions.

When members of the group posted photos of the auroras they’d seen and wanting to learn more, Palmroth would often reply with the aurora’s type and the scientific explanation for its form. The discussions led Palmroth and two collaborators to publish a field guide to the northern lights.

But even after the book came out, some questions remained unanswered. A few of the citizens’ photos showed a form of aurora that didn’t fit into any of the known categories. It had green, horizontal waves running in parallel. Its undulations reminding some observers of sand formations, and it was christened “the dunes.”

(17) ROLLING OUT THE DOUGH. Delish brings word that “Pillsbury Is Selling The Cutest Ready-To-Bake R2-D2 Sugar Cookies”.

And while you may look at the adorable packaging and think you’re getting cookies with different Star Wars characters on each of them, this is really just for R2-D2 die-hards as that’s the only design included. That said, @Pillsbury, I’m fully expecting a roll-out of BB-8 cookies now, as R2-D2 is fantastic and all, but my heart belongs to that tiny round bb always. Actually, I’d take some C-3PO-topped desserts, too. Can we just get all of them ASAP, please? TYSM!

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

Pixel Scroll 1/21/20 We Have Always Filed In The Pixel

(1) COOL RUNNING. Pat Cadigan shares the good news: “Yeah, You Just Keep Running, Cancer”.

The last checkup was a personal best. Today’s checkup was even better than that. The level of cancer has fallen by a substantial amount to an unprecedented low. After five years. Which is three more than I was supposed to get. And I’m in my late 60s—-not the time of life generally associated with healing, restoration, and/or improvement.

Which just goes to show you: old doesn’t mean it’s over. Cancer doesn’t mean it’s over. And being old and having cancer doesn’t mean you’re marking time till you keel over….

(2) LESSONS LEARNED, WOUNDS REOPENED. Dwayne A. Day, who was a civilian investigator for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), responds to Eric Choi’s alternate history story about the shuttle’s last mission in “All these moments will be lost…” at The Space Review.

…To me, the Columbia accident had been a shock, but it had not been personal. I barely knew the astronauts’ names before the event, and had stopped paying attention to the mission while Columbia was in orbit. But many of the NASA people we encountered during our investigation knew the astronauts personally, and some felt responsible, directly or indirectly, for their deaths. This report on what could have been done to save them if the hole in Columbia’s wing had been discovered in time was like pouring salt on an open wound—like telling people that not only had they allowed the accident to happen, they had done nothing to save their friends. The tension in that room among the NASA people was palpable.

Now, 17 years later, there’s a weird new development in that emotionally-charged issue. Eric Choi, a Canadian science fiction writer, has written an alternative history story about the Columbia mission for Analog magazine where NASA seeks to save the crew. In his story, NASA tries to launch the shuttle Atlantis on a rescue mission. When that mission is aborted, the Columbia astronauts engage in a high-risk backup plan to fill the hole in Columbia’s wing with metal and frozen water. The salvage plan is only partially successful and a few crewmembers successfully bail out of the stricken orbiter, but the remainder perish. Those rescue scenarios are based on the actual ones that I and other investigators heard in the summer of 2003, and which were included in the CAIB final report.

Choi’s story is titled “The Greatest Day,” and it features the Columbia astronauts and some NASA officials. (The story is accompanied by a non-fiction article by Choi explaining his sources about the rescue mission option.) But in a head-scratching bit of fiction, Choi has changed some names but kept others. For the Columbia’s crew, mission commander Rick Husband and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon have different names in the story. For the ground personnel, Linda Ham, who chaired the Mission Management Team for the STS-107 mission involving Columbia, has a different name. The main character in Choi’s story is Wayne Hale, who during the actual mission had tried to obtain better imagery of the orbiter after launch photography indicated it had been hit by foam coming off the external tank during ascent. Hale’s effort was shut down by Linda Ham.

It is unclear why Choi changed some names and not others. Could he have feared legal action? The character who runs the Mission Management Team in his story is portrayed extremely negatively, but the mission commander and the Israeli astronaut say and do nothing in the story, so why change their names but not the rest of the crew? Why even use the name “Columbia” in the story? …

(3) TODAY’S 10,000. Hey, they’re catching up fast! Amazing Stories recorded its ”Ten Thousandth Post” today. Congratulations, Steve Davidson. I’ll soon be wavng as you fly past! (And tell me, how do I get this thing out of second gear?)

 My original instructions to would-be bloggers for the site was to “write about what you are passionate about, because Fandom is all about passion, and the author’s enthusiasm will transmit to the reader”.  I believe that most of our contributors achieved that goal.

(4) CHIANG COMING TO NOTRE DAME. The University of Notre Dame has announced that Ted Chiang will join the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS) as an Artist in Residence during the 2020-2021 academic year: “Science fiction writer Ted Chiang to join Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study”, [Via Locus Online.]

…Chiang will participate in a collaborative two-day workshop presented by the NDIAS and the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center (ND-TEC). Throughout the event, he will discuss how technical researchers and artists can work together to develop morally significant options for engaging with technology. Additionally, as part of his residency, Chiang will engage with Notre Dame faculty on campus and participate in NDIAS weekly seminars. These seminars will give Chiang the opportunity to discuss his work in progress with NDIAS fellows, students, and invited guests. 

…Chiang will also interface with undergraduate students throughout his residency. Students will have an opportunity to engage with Chiang during a one-credit course about his and other science fiction writings taught by Sullivan and McKenna. First year students enrolled in Sullivan’s course God and the Good Life will read “Hell is the Absence of God” and Chiang will discuss the story with students in a question and answer session. 

(5) HENSON PUPPETS. What happens when Henson puppeteers are joined by some of the best comedians in the world in a battle of improv comedy? “Brian Henson presents Puppet Up. Shows in Hollywood next week.  

Created by award-winning director, producer, Brian Henson (“Muppet Christmas Carol”, “Muppet Treasure Island”), and actor, director, and improv expert Patrick Bristow (“Ellen,” “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”), Puppet Up! – Uncensored promises to deliver a completely unique experience (it’s never the same show twice!), and expertly combines dynamic and spontaneous off-the-cuff comedy with the unmatched talent and creativity of Henson puppeteers.

Based on suggestions from the audience, the puppet anarchy is two shows in one: the improvised puppet action projected live on screens above the stage, and the puppeteers racing around below in full view of the audience to bring it all to life. The show also features recreations of classic pieces originally created by Jim Henson, Jane Henson, and Frank Oz that haven’t been seen by live audiences in decades.

The award-winning Puppet Up! – Uncensored is hosted on The Jim Henson Company’s historic lot in Hollywood. Built by Charlie Chaplin and a legendary part of movie history, the lot is a classic destination that is not to be missed.

(6) GRANTS. Setsu Uzumé acquaints writers with the basics in “Grant Applications 101: Finding, Troubleshooting, and Completing the Quest for Funding” at the SFWA Blog.

From Kickstarter to ko-fi to patreon, the search for funding can be a huge challenge. I recently attended a lecture provided by the St. Louis chapter of the Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts on the subject of applying for grants. Some of the most basic hurdles include finding grants that might be a good fit for your work, and how to prepare your materials in a way to make it easy for the folks reading your submission. The greatest learning curve when it comes to grant writing is how to think about looking for grants, and how to frame your work as a good fit. Here is a bit of grant application 101.

(7) BUSINESS IS NOT BOOMING. NPR’s Jason Sheehan reviews the new William Gibson novel — “In ‘Agency,’ William Gibson Builds A Bomb That Doesn’t Boom (And That’s OK)”.

William Gibson does not write novels, he makes bombs.

Careful, meticulous, clockwork explosives on long timers. Their first lines are their cores — dangerous, unstable reactant mass so packed with story specific detail that every word seems carved out of TNT. The lines that follow are loops of brittle wire wrapped around them.

Once, he made bombs that exploded. Upended genre and convention, exploded expectations. The early ones were messy and violent and lit such gorgeous fires. Now, though, he does something different. Somewhere a couple decades ago, he hit on a plot architecture that worked for him — this weird kind of thing that is all build-up and no boom — and he has stuck to it ever since. Now, William Gibson makes bombs that don’t explode. Bombs that are art objects. Not inert. Still goddamn dangerous. But contained.

You can hear them tick. You don’t even have to listen that close. His language (half Appalachian economy, half leather-jacket poet of neon and decay) is all about friction and the gray spaces where disparate ideas intersect. His game is living in those spaces, checking out the view, telling us about it.

Agency, that’s his newest. It’s a prequel/sequel (requel?) to his last book, The Peripheral, which dealt, concurrently, with a medium-future London after a slow-motion apocalypse called “The Jackpot,” and a near-future now where a bunch of American war veterans, grifters, video game playtesters and a friendly robot were trying to stop an even worse future from occurring. It was a time travel story, but done in a way that only Gibson could: Almost believably, in a way that hewed harshly to its own internal logic, and felt both hopeful and catastrophic at the same time….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 21, 1991 Dead Space premiered. It was directed by Fred Gallo, produced by Mike Elliott and Roger Corman. The cast included Marc Singer, Laura Tate, Bryan Cranston  and Judith Chapman. The movie is a remake of the Corman-produced Mutant and while we will note that are minor differences, it still retains both story and characters from that film.  It does not fare well at Rotten Tomatoes with a rating of only 18% among reviewers there.
  • January 21, 2016DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow premiered.  It was developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer, who are also executive producers along with Sarah Schechter and Chris Fedak; Klemmer and Fedak serve as showrunners. The cast is is sprawling but Rip Hunter (portrayed by Arthur Darvill of Doctor Who fame) was at the center for the first few seasons. The time travel, multiverse premise, and it’s now been renewed for a sixth season, allows for everything from Greek Mythology to Jonah Hex to show up.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 21, 1923 Judith Merril. Author of four novels, Shadow on the HearthGunner CadeOutpost Mars and The Tomorrow People of which the last three were with C. M. Kornbluth. She also wrote twenty-six stories which can be found in The Best of Judith Merril. She was an editor as well of both anthologies and magazines. Her magazine editorship was as Judy Zissman and was Science*Fiction in 1946 and Temper! In 1945 and 1947. May I comment that ISFDB notes Temper! has a header of The Magazine of Social Protest which given its date may make it the earliest SJW citation known in our genre? Oh, and between, 1965 and 1969, she was an exemplary reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She was also a much-lauded Books Editor there at the same time. (Died 1997.)
  • Born January 21, 1924 Dean Fredericks. He’s best remembered for being Steve Canyon in the series of the same name which aired from a year in the late Fifties on NBC. Is it genre? You decide. He did have genre credits as he played Captain Frank Chapman in The Phantom Planet. He also appeared in The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold and The Disembodied. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 21, 1925 Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination Space, The Invaders, Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name bunt a few of them. (Died 1993.)
  • Born January 21, 1934 Audrey Dalton, 76. I’ve first got her visiting the SFF genre in the Fifties monster flick The Monster That Challenged the World  where she was Gail MacKenzie. She’ll make three more SFF appearences in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before retiring from acting.  
  • Born January 21, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “ The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 21, 1950 Ken Leung, 50. His SFF roles include Syatyoo-Sama in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Miles Straume in Lost, Admiral Statura in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played the Karnak, a member of the Inhumans, on that series which had poor rating and was canceled after eight episodes. 
  • Born January 21, 1954 Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship. 
  • Born January 21, 1956 Geena Davis, 64. Her first genre appearance was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly reboot followed by her widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She also plays Morgan Adams in the box office bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise.  She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Who’s seen it? Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten-episode FOX sequel to the film. 
  • Born January 21, 1962 Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files

(10) PAWSOME IDEA. Discover your Jellicle cat name:

(11) NOT JUST KID STUFF. When Doctor Who arrived in Australia – in 1965 – he ran afoul of the censors. Galactic Journey’s Kaye Dee tells how: “[January 20, 1965] The T.A.R.D.I.S. Lands Down Under and Japan Invades Australia (Doctor Who and The Samurai)”.

…I heard from a friend who works at the ABC that Australia has been one of the first countries to buy Doctor Who from the BBC. In fact, I was really excited when he told me in March last year that the ABC had purchased the show and intended to debut it last May, but then delays arose due to censorship issues. Yes, although Doctor Who is classed as a family show in Britain, the Australian censors (who view and classify every overseas television show that comes into the country) have deemed the first thirteen episodes to be not suitable for children and classified them as “Adult”! This means that the ABC must schedule these episodes for screening after 7pm and couldn’t show Doctor Who in the Sunday night 6.30pm timeslot it originally planned. But at last Doctor Who has found a home on Friday night at 7.30pm (at least in Sydney). I just hope the censors aren’t going to decide one day that some stories are too scary to be screened at all!

(12) SPIRIT OF DEATH. Accompanying The Criterion Collection’s  January selection of Seventies sff films, Ed Park analyzes the dual themes of  “The Labyrinth and the Plague”.

…The decade’s science-fiction legacy is partly obscured by the extraterrestrially inclined blockbusters appearing near its end: George Lucas’s Star Wars and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). But before that, filmmakers were using the genre to construct bleak, paranoid scenarios right here on earth: claustrophobic labyrinths and lethal plagues. Consciously or not, some films read like responses to the ongoing war in Vietnam, corruption in the shadow of Watergate, environmental degradation and urban decay, and the rise of a new machine age. Some of the films snap back at the excesses of the sixties, too: it can’t be coincidence that the slavering creeps whom Neville battles every night call themselves the Family, à la Charles Manson.

Even though humans reached the moon in ’69, most of these movies remain earthbound, as if the gravity of the world’s problems wouldn’t permit such easy, escapist fare—at least for a while. Indeed, the jarring prologue of George Lucas’s 1971 debut, THX 1138, is a snippet of an old Buck Rogers serial, pounding home the difference between a tale of derring-do and the imprisoning nature of man’s own inventions.

(13) ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN. Superversive Press has closed. It stopped selling its books on Amazon last fall, and turned over the balance of its unfinished Planetary Anthologies to another publisher. Today’s announcement said:

It is with great sadness that I bring you the announcement that the owner of Superversive Press has made the decision to shutter the press. His reasons are his own and personal, and I understand that running even a small company is a large amount of work. I would like to thank you, Jason, for all your hard work. It was a good run, and you brought a lot of us together.

Now, with that having been said, Superversive is a movement, not a company, and as authors, we will still be there, pressing forward with our goal of fiction that ennobles and inspires. If you were working with Superversive Press, check with your editors; most are looking at other presses we have worked with. (As we did with the Planetary Anthology.)

Camestros Felapton concisely explains Superversive’s publishing niche:

…Specialising in conservative orientated speculative fiction with an intent to ‘inspire from above’, the publisher was a part of a wave of attempts to revitalise right-leaning science-fiction in the mid 2010’s. From my perspective, given the world we do live in, experiments like Superversive Press were a far more positive outlet for some of the angst and frustrations among conservative SF/F fans than others. If we had to be in the midst of a culture war within science fiction, it was much, much better to be conducted with people exercising their creative energies creatively.

(14) ALL CATS GO TO DINNER. Karen Bruillard in the Washington Post reports that researchers at the “body farm” (formally known as the Forensic Investigation Research Station) at Colorado Mesa University found that cats will eat dead people, but because cats are finicky they may not eat your corpse if you’re dead.  The researchers found that one feral cat, given a choice of 40 bodies to consume, gnawed at one corpse for 35 consecutive days. “Compelling new evidence that your cat might eat your corpse”.

It is one of those pet-owner musings, a conversation topic so dark that it inspired a book by a mortician: Would Fluffy eat me if I dropped dead? The answer, according to small but growing body of scientific literature, is a fairly clear yes.

(15) BRICKS IN SPACE. TechCrunch tells us “Lego made an International Space Station kit, including Space Shuttle and robotic arm”. Photos at the link.

Lego is releasing an official International Space Station kit, which includes a scale model of the orbital platform, along with a miniature dockable Space Shuttle, a deployable satellite and two astronaut mini figurines. The kit is made up of 864 pieces, and celebrates the science station’s more than 20 years in operation. It was originally suggested through Lego’s Ideas platform, which crowdsources ideas from the Lego fan community.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter deduced these Jeopardy! contestants are not insatiable sff TV viewers.

Category: Spaced-Out Pop Culture.

Answer: Led by Captain Mercer, this sci-fi series on Fox sees its title ship & crew boldly going where no comedy has gone before.

No one got the question, “What is ‘The Orville'”.

There was a bit of a gaffe in the final round, too.

Final Jeopardy: Classic Movies.

Answer: This 1939 movie was loosely based on Senator Burton Wheeler, victim of a sham investigation for looking into the Justice Department.

Wrong question: What is “Gone with the Wind.”

Correct question: What is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

(17) SMALL MERCY. Sort of like Barney Fife — “Robot tanks: On patrol but not allowed to shoot”.

In 1985 the US pulled the plug on a computer-controlled anti-aircraft tank after a series of debacles in which its electronic brain locked guns onto a stand packed with top generals reviewing the device. Mercifully it didn’t fire, but did subsequently attack a portable toilet instead of a target drone.

The M247 Sergeant York (pictured above) may have been an embarrassing failure, but digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have changed the game since then.

Today defence contractors around the world are competing to introduce small unmanned tracked vehicles into military service.

…Will this new generation of mini-tanks change the face of warfare? How much autonomy can they be trusted with?

Estonian soldiers currently serving in Mali are going out on patrol with an unmanned ground vehicle or UGV. The size of a sit-on lawn-mower with tracks, it carries heavy supplies such as water and ammunition. Trundling behind a conventional armoured personnel carrier it resembles an obedient younger sibling.

…Across the Atlantic US defence contractor FLIR has been buying up robotics firms in order to put together a UGV package with a group of technology and engineering firms, Team Ripsaw. This group has adapted the Ripsaw, a small tracked vehicle with sports car speeds popularised on TV and by Hollywood.

Originally marketed as a millionaire’s plaything and subsequently starring in Fast and Furious 8, the Ripsaw may be about to earn further recognition as an unmanned war machine.

(18) WHO CAN YOU TRUST? “DDoS: Man who sold website defences pleads guilty to attacks” – BBC has the story,.

A man in the US who co-founded a service to protect sites from cyber-attackers has pleaded guilty to launching distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Tucker Preston is co-founder of BackConnect, a cyber-security firm that claimed to be “the new industry standard in DDoS mitigation”.

However, he was accused of arranging DDoS attacks targeting an unnamed firm.

A court document stated the attacks took place between 2015 and 2016.

News of the guilty plea was published online by Brian Krebs, a cyber-security expert and blogger.

(19) MARS LIVERS. “Learning how to live like a Mars colonist”: video — dippy intro gradually leads to substance.

Astroland is a project designed to see how humans would cope with the psychological demands of living on Mars and to test out potential technologies.

It is thought the first colonists on Mars will have to live in caves or lava tubes to protect them from interstellar radiation and for the purpose of the Astroland experiment, “Mars”, is set up in a remote cave in Arredondo, Spain.

(20) FROM THE FRINGE? “Future Forward: Thai opposition party cleared over Illuminati claims” reports the BBC.

A court in Thailand has acquitted one of the country’s largest opposition parties after it was accused of having links to a mythical secret society.

A sedition charge against Future Forward alleged that it was influenced by the Illuminati and was seeking to overthrow the monarchy.

The Constitutional Court dismissed the charge. A guilty verdict could have seen the party banned.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/3/20 Please Vasten Your Seatbelts

(1) A CENTURY OF THE GOOD DOCTOR. This week Asimov would have been 100. James Gunn marked the occasion in an article for Science “Asimov at 100”.

A case can be made that, like H. G. Wells, Asimov came along at the right time. (Wells once commented that he made his writing debut in the 1890s, when the public was looking for new writers.) But Asimov also had a restless and productive mind. His early experience of reading, and then writing, science fiction gave his popular science writing a rare narrative model, while his fiction similarly benefited from his scientific training.

(2) NOW A JOURNALISTIC TECHNIQUE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Columbia Journalism Review, in “Journalism and the foreseeable future”, takes note of the trend in mainstream publishing to look at contemporaneous and emerging issues through the lens of science fiction. It’s a welcome trend that is producing excellent work we’ve seen featured on the Pixel Scroll several times, and I’m very glad to see this getting attention within journalistic circles. 

Despite its dangers, [Sam] Greenspan sees the value of speculative journalism’s mix of the true and the fanciful. “I think the goal should be to use fiction or sci-fi to tell a better true story,” he says. “And I’m taking seriously the kind of emotional impact these stories have on people. By introducing even just the slightest amount of something fantastical, it gives your audience permission to have their minds wander a bit from what we know to be true, and really opens up this window into possibility and hope.”

(3) GUD LISTENING. On the latest Rite Gud podcast R.S. Benedict’s guest is Stephen Mazur, associate editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. They talk about whether or not originality really matters in writing. Stephen also gets into a bit of inside baseball regarding F&SF publishing: the recent history of the magazine, how many submissions they get, what kind of submissions they get, the process, etc.

(4) ROMANCE WRANGLERS BEWARE. Who but Chuck Tingle would add “no sex” as a selling point? Or need to?

Gorblin Crimble is an aspiring romance author with a brand new novel that could be his first breakthrough hit. Of course, Gorblin is going to need some help getting his work out there, and starts by seeking likeminded creatives.

After attending a local writer’s group, Gorblin makes a new friend, Amber, who points him towards Romance Wranglers Of America. It sounds like this community is exactly the helpful, loving, supportive group that Gorblin is looking for, but when him and Amber arrive at the Romance Wranglers Of America headquarters, they quickly realize something is wrong. This once loving group has been taken over by a dark and mysterious force; lead by a man named Demon and his chanting coven of board members in jet-black robes.

Something horrible from the depths of the cosmic Void has taken hold, but is it too late to prove that romance is about love, not hate?

This important no-sex tale is 4,300 words of reasonable writers looking for a kind and supportive romance community that respects its members and treats them fairly.

(5) SFF ZINES. Jason Sanford today posted three more interviews with editors done in conjunction with his fine “#SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines” report.

Jason Sanford: I suspect most people in the SF/F genre don’t understand the difficulties of publishing a magazine. What’s one aspect of running a genre magazine you wish more readers and writers knew about?

Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas: We think it’s important that people know the financial margins for magazines to stay in the black are razor thin, and that most of the magazines are unable to generate income for their publishers. (And many aren’t able to pay the editors.) Almost all of the income generated by magazines are going to the writers and artists….

Jason Sanford: Amazing Stories was the first science fiction magazine, and helped launch the pulp fiction era of the 1920s and ’30s. What is it like publishing a magazine with such history? Has that history presented any difficulties to your relaunch of the magazine?

Steve Davidson: Well, you get unexpected support and assistance;  a lot of people in the field are still very fond of both the magazine and its place in Science Fiction’s history.  But that brings with it two difficulties.  One, most younger fans among our potential market seem to assume that we’re publishing reprints of older works or new works in a golden-age style, despite the fact that promotion and discussion of the magazine – let alone our contributor’s own statements – clearly say otherwise.  We’re an old, venerable name in the genre publishing new, ground-breaking science fiction from the current era. …

Jason: In many ways Clarkesworld helped birth the current movement in online and genre magazines. How have things changed since the founding of Clarkesworld? Would you say it’s harder or easier to run a genre magazine these days?

Neil: It was a very different world for magazines in 2006. Online fiction wasn’t particularly respected. I remember having established authors tell me point-blank they wouldn’t publish online because it was the domain of “newbie writers and pirates.” The year’s best anthologies and various genre awards rarely featured works from those markets. With two-to-three years, that started changing and today, the awards have heavily swung the other direction – something you could reasonably argue is just as problematic….

(6) BURNED OUT. Australian fan Don Ashby, who lost his home to one of the fires now raging Down Under, was interviewed by The Age: “The sky turned black. The beast had arrived in Mallacoota”. (Via Irwin Hirsh.)

When Don Ashby caught a lift through town on Tuesday afternoon, he counted as many as 20 properties destroyed. One was his mother-in-law’s mudbrick cottage. Another was his own home of 20 years.

Ashby had evacuated his family to Melbourne and spent Monday night helping a friend to defend her house.

It had been an exhausting night and morning, punctuated by the rapid combustion of gas cylinders at a nearby storage business.

“It was like we were in the middle of the battle of the Somme,” he said.

When he returned to his own home, it looked unscathed. Then he realised it was just the facade that had been untouched by fire. The rear of the house was a blazing ruin. With no CFA tankers nearby and no water pressure left to fight the fire, he could only stand and watch it burn.

“It is all a bit grim really,” he said. “We really copped it.

“I have been in a few bushfires before but nothing like this. Nothing like this has happened before. The whole of Gippsland was on fire.”

(7) BABY IT’S GOLD OUTSIDE. Plagiarism Today reports from the front in “The Battle Over ‘Baby Yoda’”.

…However, those were just the first drops of a tidal wave that came crashing down on the internet. Etsy, for example, is swarming with unauthorized Baby Yoda merchandise of all types and eBay is much the same way.

This has become the subject of a lot of media coverage as well, such as this article on The Nerdist highlight a Baby Yoda plush toy.

This glut of unauthorized toys isn’t due to a lack of effort on Disney’s part. Several artists have reported receiving takedown notices after selling Baby Yoda merchandise on such sites and even the toy referenced above was also removed. Still, it’s clear that the Baby Yoda craze has outpaced even Disney’s capacity for control.

And the issues aren’t just related to physical items. Back in November, the popular gif website Giphy pulled all of its Baby Yoda gifs. Though Disney was initially blamed for this, it turned out it was a proactive move by Giphy that aimed to head off potential legal action by Disney. Disney hadn’t done anything.

(8) 2020 SIR JULIUS VOGEL AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) is taking nominations for the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel awards until 11.59 pm NZT on March 31.

The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2019 calendar year.

…A nomination made by a SFFANZ member carries a weight of two nominations, where non-members’ nominations carry a weight of one.

Full information about the awards, including the rules and criteria for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, can be found here. Eligibility list is here.

(9) PRO-ROWLING. Megan McArdle’s opinion piece in the Washington Post “Has J.K. Rowling figured out a way to break our cancel culture?” says that Rowling’s defense of Maya Forstater and her refusal to back down after social media protests shows that “the opinions of officious strangers, possibly thousands of miles away, who swarm social media like deranged starlings over and over again” can be safely ignored.

The censorious power of Mrs. Grundys always depends on the cooperation of the governed, which is why their regime collapsed the moment the baby boomers shrugged off their finger-wagging. If Rowling provides an unmissable public demonstration that it is safe to ignore the current crop, we can hope others will follow her example, and the dictatorship of the proscriptariat will fall as quickly as it arose.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 3, 1970 Doctor Who’s “Spearhead from Space” serial started airing. The Third Doctor as played by John Pertwee first appears in this episode. It would also be the first appearance of companion Liz Shaw who’s played by Caroline John. She only lasted a season because the next showrunner decided she was too intelligent to be a proper companion.
  • January 3, 1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in television syndication. As you know, it would have a seven-year run with one seventy-six episodes in total. S.D. Perry wrote a sort of authorized ninth season in her Avatar novels. She’s written a number of Trek universe novels including a Section 31 one.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 3, 1892 J. R. R. Tolkien. I’m not going to waste my time detailing Tolkien to this group. My go-to book for him for him after over forty years of reading him remains The Hobbit. The book that still annoys me? The Two Towers. Best Tolkien experience? Seeing The Father Christmas Letters read live. (Died 1973.)
  • Born January 3, 1898 Doris Pitkin Buck. She’s got my feline curiosity aroused. Wiki says “She published numerous science fiction stories and poems, many of them in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.” That’s fine but there’s little said about her or how she came to be a SF writer. ESF notes her “still unpublished tale “Cacophony in Pink and Ochre” has long formed part of the announced contents of Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions.” So what do y”all do about her? (Died 1980.)
  • Born January 3, 1930 Stephen Fabian, 90. He specializes in genre illustration and cover art for books and magazines such as H. Warner’s The Werewolf of Ponkert which you can see here. I see he got a World Fantasy Award—Life Achievement, and was nominated seven times for Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. Is that the most times for being nominated without winning? His collected works include Ladies & Legends and Women & Wonders. Of course, they’re genre. 
  • Born January 3, 1937 Glen A. Larson. Triple hitter as a producer, writer and director. Involved in Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980The Six Million Dollar Man, ManimalBuck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Knight Rider. He also was responsible for Magnum, P.I. which I love but I’ll be damned if I can figure any way to claim that’s even genre adjacent. He also did a lot of Battlestar Galactica novels, some with Ron Goulart. (Died 2014.)
  • Born January 3, 1940 Kinuko Y. Craft, 80. She is a Japanese-born American painter, illustrator and fantasy artist. True enough. So why is she here?  Because she had an amazing run of illustrating the covers of the Patricia McKillip novels until quite recently. I’m linking here to our review at Green Man of The Bards of Bone Plain for a favorite cover she did. There’s a slim volume on Imaginosis called Drawings & Paintings which collects some of her work.
  • Born January 3, 1956 Mel Gibson, 64. I know the first thing I saw was genre wise involving him was The Road Warrior in a cinema which would be some forty years ago. Likewise I saw Mad Max 2 and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in cinemas, but I admit have mixed feelings about both of those films, though less about the latter as it’s at least fun. He’s in FairyTale: A True Story, a look at the the Cottingley Fairy photographs of the 1920s, and voices John Smith in Pocahontas. He plays Hamlet in Hamlet but I really don’t think I can call that genre, but I know some of you will. 
  • Born January 3, 1975 Danica McKellar, 45. From 2010–2013 and since 2018, she’s voiced Miss Martian in Young Justice. It’s just completed its third season and it’s most excellent! She’s done far, far more voice work than I can list here, so if you’ve got something you like that she’s done, do mention it. 
  • Born January 3, 1976 Charles Yu, 44. Taiwanese American writer. Author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and the short-story collections, Sorry Please Thank You and Third Class Superhero. His novel was ranked the year’s second-best science fiction novel by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas — runner up for the Campbell Memorial Award. 

(12) ALL ROBOT DOGS GO TO THE CLOUD. BuzzFeed: “While Americans Worry About The AI Uprising, People In Japan Are Learning To Love Their Robots — And Be Loved Back”.

It was before 10 a.m. on a gray summer Sunday, but already a small crowd had gathered outside Penguin Café at the end of a block in residential Tokyo. A woman named Kyoko, dressed in a white T-shirt and apron, unlocked the doors and motioned for everyone to come inside.

Half a dozen or so people filed in, several with signature pink dog carriers slung over their shoulders. As more entered, the group clustered at the center of the café. Carefully, they unzipped the mesh panels of their carriers and removed the small white and silver dogs inside, setting them down on the wooden floor. One owner peeled back a yellow blanket over a baby carrier strapped to her chest where she held her dog, still asleep.

Some of the owners fussed with the dogs’ outfits before putting them down — straightening a necktie or pulling up the elastic band on a pair of shorts. One owner had dressed their dog in a Hawaiian shirt, while another was wearing aviator goggles and had a strong resemblance to Snoopy. Several had tiny straw hats affixed between their ears. All the dogs were plastic, powered by facial recognition and artificial intelligence….

(13) BOOKMARKS. Nerds of a Feather features “6 Books With Yoon Ha Lee”.

6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome? 

Thor: Metal Gods
is a Serial Box serialized novel by Aaron Stewart-Ahn (the lead writer), Jay Edidin, Brian Keene, and myself.  It features Thor and Loki, both coming to terms with old sins and old friends, a Korean tiger goddess, and a genderfluid space pirate and astronomer.  There are black holes, eldritch abominations, heavy metal, and mayhem.  We had terrific fun writing it and we hope you’ll enjoy it too.

(14) CLEANER OR MEANER? Daily Beast writer David Axe contemplates whether “It’s the First Orbiting Garbage Collector—or a New Kind of Space Weapon”.

… The European Space Agency is about to pull one of the bigger hunks of garbage from orbit. But there’s a problem: The same tech that could help make space cleaner might, in the long run, also make it more dangerous.

That’s because the ESA’s ClearSpace-1 orbital garbage truck, as well as other spacecraft like it, could double as a weapon. 

Swiss startup ClearSpace designed the ClearSpace-1 vehicle to intercept a chunk of debris, latch onto it, and drag it back into Earth’s atmosphere where it can safely burn up. The ESA has scheduled the clean-up mission for 2025 and has even identified its target: a 265-pound piece of an old rocket orbiting 310 miles above Earth’s surface.

The 2025 mission will involve what ClearSpace CEO Luc Piguet called “non-cooperative capture.” That is to say, the targeted piece of debris wasn’t designed with an interface or any other system that might help a clean-up craft grab onto it. 

(15) AMAZONS! A growing body of archaeological evidence shows that legends about the horseback-riding, bow-wielding female fighters were almost certainly rooted in reality. The Washington Post has the story: “Amazons were long considered a myth. These discoveries show warrior women were real. “

…In a landmark discovery revealed this month, archaeologists unearthed the remains of four female warriors buried with a cache of arrowheads, spears and horseback-riding equipment in a tomb in western Russia — right where Ancient Greek stories placed the Amazons.

The team from the Institute of Archaeology at the Russian Academy of Sciences identified the women as Scythian nomads who were interred at a burial site some 2,500 years ago near the present-day community of Devitsa. The women ranged in age from early teens to late 40s, according to the archaeologists. And the eldest of the women was found wearing a golden ceremonial headdress, a calathus, engraved with floral ornaments — an indication of stature.

(16) WORDSMITH ALSO TUNESMITH. Don’t say you never got the chance to hear Norman Spinrad sing. Today on Facebook he reminded people about the time he performed at the Cirque Electrique in Paris.

Not that I’m planning to ever give up my day job, but I’ve had a long slow minor career with music, something around a dozen songs written or co-written, something less than that creating and recording, occasional live performances too such as this one, my best I think.

(17) 2019. Joe Sherry explains his choices for the “Top 9 Books of the Year” at Nerds of a Feather.

7. Middlegame: Middlegame is perhaps the most ambitious novels from Seanan McGuire and is a showcase for her skill at telling a good and complex story. Twins, math, alchemy, murder, time-bending, family, secret organizations, impossible powers, and just about everything McGuire can throw into this wonderous novel. Seanan McGuire has blended together as much as she possibly could stuff into one novel and she makes the whole thing work. It’s impressive. McGuire goes big with Middlegame. Doubt Seanan McGuire at your peril. (my review)

(18) IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE HONOR OF THE THING. Publishers Weekly declared “Dav Pilkey Is PW’s Person of the Year for 2019”.

Pilkey’s Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers, the ninth book in his popular children’s novel series, published in 2012, features a comic strip made by the book’s incorrigible pranksters George and Harold, the stars of the series. This comic-within-a-novel marks the first appearance of Dog Man, Pilkey’s lovable crime-fighting superhero, who is surgically constructed from the body of a cop and the head of his police dog companion after they were both injured in a typically Pilkey-style zany accident.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  From Savag Entertainment, “Timelapse Reveals How Clever This Billboard Ad For The BBC’s ‘Dracula’ Is.”

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