Pixel Scroll 10/13/19 And Where’s Charles Laughton, Anyway?

(1) WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN. David Harbour’s opening monologue on Saturday Night Live made Stranger Things jokes.

Also terrifically funny is the “Grouch (Joker Parody)” which began with the premise, “What if the people behind Joker did a dark origin story for Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch?”

(2) PNH HEALTH UPDATE. Yesterday, Patrick Nielsen Hayden was hospitalized while attending a convention in Montreal. The symptoms sounded quite alarming to begin with, fortunately the diagnosis is not as bad as first feared.

(3) FIFTY-FIVE YEARS AGO. John Boston reviews the latest (in 1964) issue of Amazing at Galactic Journey: “[October 12, 1964] Slow Cruising (November 1964 Amazing)”

The November 1964 Amazing is distinguished by being the second consecutive issue with a cover depicting a guy in a flying chair, calling to mind the observation of the Hon. Jimmy Walker, erstwhile Mayor of New York City, before fleeing the country to avoid a corruption prosecution: “Never follow a banjo act with another banjo act.” Alex Schomburg’s rather static and solemn depiction of the device contrasts amusingly with Virgil Finlay’s interior illustration, which attempts to imbue the same gadget with all the energy and drama that the cover picture lacks.  Can we say Apollonian versus Dionysian?  I thought not.  Forget I mentioned it.

(4) SFF IN ENGLISH. Enjoy Robert Quaglia’s video of the “Writing in English as a foreign language” panel at the 2010 Eastercon in the UK.

(5) IMAGINED LANDS. Scott Bradfield’s first Oz book came as a Christmas present, and by now these tales have merged with his family DNA: “The End of Oz: Reflections on the Centenary of L. Frank Baum’s Death” at the LA Review of Books.

… I found myself immersed in a panoply of voices, and as they chattered, they carried me into fantastically believable landscapes. First, there was the colorful young Munchkin, Ojo the Unlucky, and his soon-to-be-turned-to-stone Unc Nunkie. Or the Crooked (in body, not in mind) Magician, Dr. Pipt, and his devoted wife, Margolotte. Or the magically animated glass cat, Bungle, who constantly alerted everyone to the fact that her brains were remarkably pink — “you can see them work.” But best of all was the optimist of all optimists, the Patchwork Girl herself, who adopted the name Scraps, since she was sewn together from remnants like a mad quilt, and never tired of admiring her own beauty and cleverness. “I hate dignity,” Scraps liked to say. And giving yourself over to a discordant, undignified mess of landscapes and personalities is a large part of what reading the Oz books is all about.

…For me, the most significant aspect of every Oz book I ever read as a child — or later reread to my son several decades later — was never simply the stories and characters they conveyed. Rather, they resounded with visions of my mother’s childhood in San Francisco, a landscape as far away and interesting to my youthful imagination as the color-coordinated kingdoms of the Winkies, Quadlings, Gillikins, and Munchkins.

(6) IT’S OFFICIAL? Interesting NZ Official Information Act request.

New Zealand publication Stuff inquires: “Is the Department of Internal Affairs being trolled, or do ghosts roam its halls?”

Scientific study, or a troll of Wellington’s halls of power? Either way, one government department is being grilled over its connection to the paranormal. 

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has been tasked with helping investigators discover if its Wellington headquarters is haunted. This request under the Official Information Act includes two years of air conditioning sensor readings, “in absolute detail”. It was also asked whether it had plans in place to alleviate paranormal incidents.

The department says its OIA response will cover many of these questions.

(7) ATTEMPTED HUMOR. NPR’s Andrew Lapin finds that “‘Jexi’ Is Siri-Ously Bad”:

In Jexi, Adam DeVine’s life partner calls him an idiot, a “little bitch,” and many other, less printable things. The abuse is near-constant. The person heaping it on him is his phone.

A would-be satire of millenial tech obsession, Jexi is like if the AI in Her were raised on Don Rickles. The phone (voiced by Rose Byrne in a weary-sounding Siri imitation) belittles DeVine’s Phil for being an antisocial loner, too quick to give up on his professional dreams, too cowardly to make friends or ask a girl on a date. Because this is an R-rated comedy made by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the guys behind the Hangover and Bad Moms movies, Jexi also makes fun of Phil’s penis.

It seems likely, based on the laziness of the concept and this film’s generic male-ness, that Lucas and Moore didn’t put a lot of thought into the specific nature of Jexi’s behavior. But funny enough, they’ve hit on something real here. Our devices do abuse us, a little more every day, barking out instructions on where to go, what food to eat, and what music to listen to, all while siphoning away more of our attention and making money off our data. We insist we are competent, independent adults, and yet we’d be lost without them, so we take whatever they dish out, even when they invade our privacy or laugh at us….

(8) OH, SNAP. NPR’s Danny Hensen is underwhelmed: “‘The Addams Family’ Isn’t Sufficiently Creepy, Kooky, Mysterious Or Spooky”.

Do you feel that chill? It’s the beginning of October, when store shelves are lined with Halloween products branded with the latest theatrically bound IP. This year, a cotton-candy funhouse animated version of The Addams Family hits theaters, returning the long-running franchise to something closer to its original form — cartoons in The New Yorker.

In this newest version, which often feels de-clawed, we see the marriage between Gomez and Morticia Addams, voiced by a maniacal Oscar Isaac and a quietly authoritative Charlize Theron, and their subsequent move to New Jersey, having been driven out of town by an angry mob none too pleased with their sundry differences in appearances and behavior….

Meanwhile, in what feels like 21st century homage to Edward Scissorhands, a pastel-tinted planned community develops in the valley adjacent to the mansion, and the town leader, Margaux Needler, the host of a home & garden reality television show, attempts to remodel the mansion and rid the town of the family. Voiced by Allison Janney, Needler looks like a boardwalk caricature drawing of Farrah Fawcett.

Fortunately, the film offers more than just a retread of its forebears, the Tim Burton movie included. Though at times clumsy, the film’s firm placement in the present allows for an only slightly exaggerated Nextdoor parody: Needler spies on her neighbors using an app. While intriguing in theory, the execution offers only vague, toothless commentary.

(9) MOORE OBIT. The unforgettable voice belonged to actor Stephen Moore, who died October 4:

Stephen Moore – known as the voice of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’s Marvin the Paranoid Android – has died aged 81.

He also played Adrian Mole’s father on TV, and the dad to Harry Enfield’s grumpy teenager Kevin.

Hitchhiker’s producer and director Dirk Maggs said Moore was the “most sweet, charming and affable of men”….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 13, 1966  — The Trek episode of “Mudd’s Women” first aired. Starring Roger C. Carmel as Harry Mudd and  his ‘cargo’ as played by Eve McHuron, Magda Kovacs, and Ruth Bonaventure. Memory Alpha notes that Roddenberry had planned for this to possibly be the pilot at one point.
  • October 13, 2016  — Zapped premiered in the United Kingdom. It lasted for three series and fifteen episodes. Set in two universes, most stories. are mostly set in and around the town pub.  You can see the first episode here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 13, 1906 Joseph Samachson. In 1955, he co-created with artist Joe Certa the Martian Manhunter in the pages of Detective Comics #225. Earlier he penned a couple of Captain Future pulp novels around 1940 under a house name. (House names often blur who did what.) He also wrote scripts for Captain Video and His Video Rangers, a late Forties to mid Fifties series. (Died 1980.)
  • Born October 13, 1914 Walter Brooke. You know him for muttering a certain word in The Graduate but he’s earlier noteworthy for being General T. Merrit in Conquest of Space, a Fifties SF film, one of many genre roles he did including The Wonderful World of the Brothers GrimmThe MunstersMaroonedThe Return of Count Yorga and The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart). (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 13, 1923 Cyril Shaps. He appears in a number of  Doctor Who stories,  to wit The Tomb of the CybermenThe Ambassadors of DeathPlanet of the Spiders and The Androids of Tara which means he’s appeared with the Second, Third and Fourth Doctors. He was also Mr. Pinkus in The Spy Who Loved Me, and he was in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady as Emperor Franz Josef. The latter stars Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee as Holmes and Watson. (Died 2003.)
  • Born October 13, 1952 John Lone, 67. He played the villainous Shiwan Khan in The Shadow, and he was the revived ice man Charlie in the Iceman. His first film role ever was Andy the Cook in the Seventies King Kong.
  • Born October 13, 1956 Chris Carter, 63. Best known for the X-Files and Millennium but also responsible for Harsh Realm which lasted three episodes before being cancelled.
  • Born October 13, 1959 Wayne Pygram, 60. His most SFish role was as Scorpius on Farscape and he has a cameo as Grand Moff Tarkin in Revenge of the Sith because he’s a close facial resemblance to Peter Cushing. He’s likely best recognized as himself for his appearance on Lost as a faith healer named Isaac of Uluru.
  • Born October 13, 1969 Tushka Bergen, 50. She first shows in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome as The Guardian at the age of sixteen. She’s got one-offs in the Fantasy IslandAngelFreakyLinks and The Others series, and an appearance in the Journey to the Center of the Earth series. The FreakyLinks episode is titled “Subject: Edith Keeler Must Die”.
  • Born October 13, 1976 Jennifer Sky, 43. Lead character conveniently named Cleopatra in Sam Raimi’s Cleopatra 2525 series. (Opening theme “In the Year 2525” is performed by Gina Torres who’s also a cast member.) She’s had guest roles on Seaquest DSVXenaCharmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And she was Lola in The Helix…Loaded, a parody of The Matrix which scored 14% at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • Born October 13, 1983 Katia Winter, 36. She’s best known for being Katrina Crane on Sleepy Hollow, and Freydis Eriksdottir on Legends of Tomorrow. She also was Swede in Malice in Wonderland which is very loosely based off its source material. She’s currently Gwen Karlsson in Blood & Treasure which might be genre.

(12) FUTURE WAR. Australian sff writer Russell Blackford’s post “Science Fiction as a Lens into Future War” is the written version of his panel presentation “Science Fiction and Futurism – Philosophy and Ethics for a Global Era” at the Australian Defence College’s Profession of Arms seminar held in Canberra on October e.

There are limits to what we should expect of these narratives. Generally speaking, they cannot replace ethical and philosophical argument about the traditional questions of jus ad bellum and jus in bello, and that is not their purpose. There are some clearly pacifist science fiction novels, such as Joan Slonczewsk’s A Door into Ocean (1987). Overall, however, it is not the job of novelists to teach ethical theories.

Consider The War in the Air again. If we knew nothing else about Wells, we’d see that he despises naïve ideas of war that make it seem like an adventure, and likewise he has no time for the idea of military glory. But we’d not be able to tell whether he is against these things from, say, a pacifist perspective, a just war perspective, or a perspective based on realism in international relations. All of these schools of thought emphasise the cost and tragedy of war.

Nor can a book like The War in the Air predict the detail of what it warns about. In 1908, Wells portrayed large-scale aerial bombardment, capturing much of its power and terror, but not exactly what it would be like in practice. The same applies to other works by Wells, such as The World Set Free (1914), which memorably describes atomic bombs, although real ones turned out to be rather different. A more recent novel, such as Ghost Fleet, by P.W. Singer and August Cole (2015), depicts what high-tech non-nuclear warfare between great powers – including cyberwarfare, advanced stealth technology, and operations in space – might be like, but the reality would probably look rather different if such a war actually happened.

(13) BREAKTHROUGH. In the Washington City Paper, Kayla Randall profiles Elizabeth Montague, who at 23 is probably the first African-American woman to sell a cartoon to The New Yorker: “How Local Cartoonist Elizabeth Montague Creates Accessible, Reflective Art”.

Every morning, after waking up at 6:30 a.m., Elizabeth Montague creates a cartoon. They’re rough pencil drawings which take less than five minutes to complete at her Kalorama apartment work desk—little meditations that help keep her skills sharp and open up her day. 

For her day job, digital storyteller and design associate for the Aga Khan Foundation, she visually depicts various global issues, focusing on underrepresented narratives. Recently she visited Tajikistan for work, seeing firsthand how a community adapts to climate change.

But her own work is more personal. Aside from early morning sketches, she creates fully formed cartoons for her “Liz at Large” series, which is available on her Instagram and website….

 (14) TIME’S UP. Countdown on YouTube is a trailer for a horror movie released next week about an app that allegedly can predict the exact time when a person will die. In theaters October 25.

In COUNTDOWN, when a young nurse (Elizabeth Lail) downloads an app that claims to predict exactly when a person is going to die, it tells her she only has three days to live. With time ticking away and death closing in, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out.

(15) IRON VET. [Item by Daniel Dern.] io9 invites you to “Watch the Trailer for Robert Downey, Jr.’s Next Big Role, Which for Some Reason Is Doolittle. Like the musical, this movie is based on the original book(s) rather than simply moving the gimmick (“talk with the animals”) to contemporary times, like other DL books over the past decade or 3.

Live action (though no doubt lots of the critters aren’t). Lots of other big names. And looks like it’s being done largely as an “action flick.”

(Would I have preferred Hugh Jackson in the title role? I guess that depends on whether there’s any singing…)

(16) OLD GOLD. At Black Gate, Steven H Silver avails himself of Fanac.org’s online fanzine library to find the subject for his latest column:  “Golden Age of Science Fiction: Scientifriction #11, edited by Mike Glyer” (a 1979 issue.)

…Glyer also published his own article on the game Hell is High, which he would later rework for the second issue of my own fanzine, Argentus, published 23 years later. Glyer’s description of the game mechanics, camaraderie, and rivalry make the evenings spent playing Hell Is High sound like a wonderful place and time to have been able to experience….

(17) WILD ABOUT HARRY. Alexandra Pecci in the Washington Post has a travel piece comparing “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Orlando with The Warner Bros. Studio Experience in London which includes tours of Harry Potter sets.  She finds that the Wizarding World has really cool things (when you buy a wand there and point it at objects, special things happen) but is really expensive particularly if you buy a pass for the two Harry Potter worlds at two Universal theme parks.  She thinks the London experience is a much better value — “Whether in Orlando or London, Harry Potter tourist attractions cast a magical spell”

…“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” the first installment in J.K. Rowling’s seven-book juggernaut, might be more than two decades old, but in many ways, the world of Harry Potter fandom seems more fevered than ever before.

One word helps explain why: immersion.

Fans (which, remember, is short for fanatic) want to do more than passively watch movies or read books. Instead, Potterheads long to taste Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, ride a broomstick, cast magic spells and get sorted into their Hogwarts house (I’m a Hufflepuff; Chloe is a Gryffindor).

(18) RECENTLY ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed this misplay not long ago —

The category: 20th Century Novels.

Answer: Nadsat, the fictional language in this book, is from the Russian suffix that means “teen.”

Wrong question: “What is 1984?”

Correct question: What is “A Clockwork Orange?”

(19) REALITY IS WORSE. Chris Yogerst argues “Why We Shouldn’t Fear Joker at the LA Review of Books blog.

At an early age most of us are taught not to judge a book by its cover. That’s exactly what happened this summer, when the Universal/Blumhouse release of The Hunt was shut down following political pushback. The film is based on an updated version of The Most Dangerous Game that gave some, including President Trump, discomfort with its political implications without having watched the movie. It has become far too common for people to jump to conclusions based on a film’s synopsis or advertising. The most recent controversy follows Joker, a film based in the Gotham City universe, that has led some to feel the story will inspire real-world killers. The problem, of course, is that a film about an unhinged murderer isn’t any more likely to provoke imposters than the news coverage of the same events in real life.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Jeff Jones, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Errolwi, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek, with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 9/2/19 File Me A Scroll, You’re The Pixel Man

(1) ASTOUNDING AWARD. CoNZealand will use the new name immediately. (At least one very well-known business meeting regular has been trying behind the scenes to convince other conrunners they don’t have the authority to make the change, and failed.)

And now the change has been covered by the New York Times. “John W. Campbell Award Is Renamed After Winner Criticizes Him”

Ng, who wrote the fantasy novel “Under the Pendulum Sun,” said in an interview on Wednesday that she was delighted by the decision. “It’s a good move away from honoring a completely obnoxious man who kept a lot of people out of the genre, who kept a lot of people from writing, who shaped the genre to his own image.” Thanks to the change, she added, “we’re now celebrating a little more neutrally a piece of history that’s not attached to his name.”

(2) CONGRATULATIONS! Andrew Liptak’s book column has a new home: Polygon“13 New science fiction and fantasy books to check out this September”. The September 3rd entry is —

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers just earned a Hugo Award for her blisteringly optimistic Wayfarers trilogy, and coming off that win, she’s shifting gears with a new, standalone novella, To Be Taught, If Fortunate. In the 22nd century, scientists make a big breakthrough that will help astronauts adapt to the harsh realities of space, opening up distant destinations in the cosmos to human explorers.

One team of astronauts ventures out to a solar system 15 light years away, and as they transform and adapt to their new home, so too is Earth. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “Chambers packs an immense amount of story into a novella worthy of full-length praise.”

(3) WORLDCON TAKEAWAYS. Eric Wong and Greg Hullender cover their Ireland tour and Dublin 2019 in “Dublin 2019 Recap “. Says Greg, “Yeah, it had a few issues, but we had fun.”

New Fanzines

Greg was on the “Fanzines Now!” panel, and that was the only panel we participated in this year. This panel was a discussion about the state of fanzines today. We had a good mix of people doing online fanzines (Rocket Stack Rank, Journey Planet, and Nerds of a Feather Flock Together) as well as Joe Siclari, who runs the Fanac History Project.

As usual for fanzine panels, the audience included lots of people involved with the traditional paper-based fanzines. Somewhat to our surprise, they were broadly supportive of modern online efforts. Joe remarked at one point that he had thought he’d be the conservative one on the panel, but he found himself standing up for the idea that “a blog is a fanzine, even if it only has one contributor, and even if no one ever comments on it.”

(4) CLASSIC EDITIONS. Steven H Silver profiles a small press publisher at Black Gate: “The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Donald M. Grant”.

In 1979, the year before he was awarded the World Fantasy Professional Award, DMG published Acts of Providence, The Road of Azrael, Lack Colossus, The Black Wolf, Tales of the Werewolf Clan, Jewels of Gwahlur, Lovecraft’s Providence and Adjacent Parts, Mayhem on Bear Creek, and Hawks of Outremer.

The year after Grant won the award, Stephen King approached him with the rights to publish the first edition of any and all books in the Dark Tower series. King didn’t believe they would have a wide appeal among his general audience.

(5) TIPTREE DISCUSSION. Geoff Ryman’s thoughts about the call to rename the award (which the Motherboard today declined to do) is here on Facebook and attracted comments from writers including David Gerrold, Nisi Shawl and Eileen Gunn.

(6) MONGOLIAN HANDMAID. Ferret Bueller checks in from a Mongolian bookstore once again. (Eat your heart out Locus!)

I don’t think I’ve had free time to visit File770 more than three times the past several months, but I saw the newest Mongolian SFF translation at the bookstore near my office today and immediately thought I’d pass on a picture if anyone was interested?. First is the full view and then the picture cropped to give a good look at the book at the top left, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale (the translation of the title is exact). It’s next to Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in a Time of Cholera (though that title is rendered in Mongolian as Love in a Time of Plague), both of which were released about a month or two ago, maybe longer.

(7) DICKS OBIT. Perhaps the most prolific contributor to Doctor Who, Terence Dicks (1935-2019) died August 29. Working as a writer and also serving as the program’s script editor from 1968 to 1974, he was credited in 156 episodes of Doctor Who. He wrote several Doctor Who serials and scores of novelizations. His final short story Save Yourself will be published next month in BBC Books’ Doctor Who: The Target Storybook. He wrote for TV’s The Avengers, the soap opera Crossroads, and co-created and wrote for the series Moonbase 3. He also worked as a producer on Sunday Classics. He authored several children’s series, including about a cat call Magnificent Max and, his longest running, another about a golden retriever The Adventures of Goliath. He received the 2015 Scribe Grandmaster career award for tie-in works.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 2, 1899 Martin Miller. He’s in Doctor Who with the First Doctor as Kublai Khan in “Mighty Kublai Khan” and “Assassin at Peking”. He’s Professor Spencer in The Avengers in “The Master Minds” and he shows up in The Prisoner as Number Fifty Four in “It’s Your Funeral”.  He also showed up as Dutrov in Department S in the series finale, “The Perfect Operation”. (Died 1969)
  • Born September 2, 1909 David Stern III. Creator of the Francis the Talking Mule character that became the star of seven popular Universal-International film comedies. Stern adapting his own script for the first entry, simply titled Francis. (Died 2003.)
  • Born September 2, 1911 Eileen  Way. She appeared on Doctor Who in An Unearthly Child, a First Doctor story, as Old Mother Karela  the series first on-screen death,  and in The Creature from the Pit, a Fourth Doctor story, as Karela. She would appear yet again in the 1966 Peter Cushing film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (as Old Woman), based on the serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth. (Died 1994.)
  • Born September 2, 1936 Gwyn Thomas. Welsh poet and academic who translated Tales from the Mabinogion with Kevin Crossley-Holland. “Chwedl Taliesin”, “The Tale of Taliesin” was a short story by them as well. By the way my SJW credit is named Taliesin. And he tells a lots of tales. (Died 2016.)
  • Born September 2, 1964 Keanu Reeves, 55. Ok Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a lot better film than its sequel. And I find the Matrix franchiseto be a pretentious mess that almost works. And let’s not talk about Johnny Mnemonic which bore little resemblance to the brilliant Gibson story.
  • Born September 2, 1966 Salma Hayek, 53. Her performance as Santanico Pandemonium in From Dusk till Dawn is quite excellent. I can’t say the same for her performance as Rita Escobar in Wild Wild Wild West which got her nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress.  I do like her as Francesca Giggles in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
  • Born September 2, 1968 Kristen Cloke, 51. Captain Shane Vansen in the unfortunately short-lived Space: Above and Beyond, a damn fine series. She has one-offs in Quantum LeapThe X-FilesMillennium and The  Others. She co-wrote with Shannon Hamblin an episode of The X-Files, “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” which is base64 code for “Followers”. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) NO JOKE. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber reports on Joker from the Venice Film Festival.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Batman’s arch-nemesis in a new origin-story movie. But is this dark, dingy drama any better than any of the other supervillain films?

Now that Hollywood studios are running out of superheroes to make films about, they’re turning to supervillains instead, starting with Suicide Squad and Venom, and moving onto Batman’s smiley-faced arch enemy, the Joker. Todd Phillips’ revisionist origin story is different from those other entries in the bad-guy sub-genre, though. Devoid of fist fights and bank robberies, Batcaves and Batmobiles, Joker is a dark, dingy drama about urban decay, alienation, and anti-capitalist protests, with a distinctive retro vision and a riveting central performance by Joaquin Phoenix. Whether these differences make it much better than other supervillain movies, however, is open to question.

The film doesn’t specify when it is set, but its Gotham City is modelled on the graffiti-sprayed, litter-strewn pre-gentrification New York of Taxi Driver and Midnight Cowboy. This is the home of Arthur Fleck, played by Phoenix as a greasy, disturbingly emaciated figure with ribs and vertebrae poking out at all angles. No male actor has been this skinny since Christian Bale – yes, Batman himself – starved himself to stick-insect proportions for The Machinist.

…The film traces his gradual uncovering of family secrets, and his slow descent into homicidal mania – and I do mean slow. Joker doesn’t have much of a plot, let alone any subplots, so there are only a couple of major sequences that haven’t already been in the trailers. Phoenix is a magnificent presence – always believable, how outrageous he becomes – and I was quite happy to sit and watch him skipping around in his outsized shoes and striking balletic poses on beautifully grimy staircases. But, however unusual its grungy 70s styling may be, Joker is ultimately nothing but a flimsy, two-hour supervillain origin movie, so the viewer is just waiting for Arthur to become the fully-fledged Clown Prince of Crime. If it had been chopped down to an hour and then intercut with a Batman plot, what a film that might have been.

(11) OTHER ASSESSMENTS. BBC does a roundup — “Joker film: ‘daring’ yet ‘pernicious’ origin story divides critics”.

A new film exploring the origins of DC comic book villain The Joker has left many critics grinning from ear to ear – but not all of them are amused.

The Guardian called Joker “gloriously daring”, while Total Film said it was “challenging [and] subversive”.

Joaquin Phoenix’s lead performance has been variously described as “fearsome”, “astonishing” and “mesmerising”.

According to another reviewer, though, the film is guilty of “aggressive and possibly irresponsible idiocy”.

Director Todd Phillips, writes Time magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek, “may want us to think he’s giving us a movie all about the emptiness of our culture”.

“But really,” she continues, “he’s just offering a prime example of it”.

(12) TIME PASSAGES. Campbell told a friend how he became editor of Astounding in 1937 in a letter that has been preserved. First Fandom Experience recently posted a scan of the letter with detailed commentary: “A Remarkable Letter — John W. Campbell’s 1937 Job Search”.

In May 1937, John W. Campbell, Jr. was looking for work. He was in good company — the unemployment rate in the United States was fluctuating around 15%, reflecting the lingering economic malaise of the Great Depression. Despite his degree in Physics and some success as a writer of science fiction stories, Campbell hadn’t found a steady gig.

This was to change in the Fall of that year when Campbell was hired as the Editor of Astounding Stories, where he reigned until his death in 1971….

The bottom of this page begins a critical passage that relates Campbell’s relationship with Mort Weisinger, a former editor of Science Fiction Digest / Fantasy Manazine, the most prominent fanzine of the mid-1930s. At the time of this letter, Weisinger had crossed into the professional ranks as Editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories.

This page essentially says that Weisinger taught Campbell how to be an editor, and wrote a letter of recommendation for him in that vein. It seems likely that both the advice and the reference played key roles in Campbell acquiring his job at Astounding. This is a tremendous testament to the role that prominent fans played in establishing science fiction as an industry during this period.

(13) ETERNAL LIFE. Gizmodo invites experts to address the question, “What’s My Best Chance of Living Forever?

               What do hideous mall t-shirts, emo bands from the mid-aughts, and gorgeously-wrought realist novels about dissolving marriages have in common? Simply this assertion: Life Sucks. And it does suck, undoubtedly, even for the happiest and/or richest among us, not one of whom is immune from heartbreak, hemorrhoids, or getting mercilessly ridiculed online.

               Still, at certain points in life’s parade of humiliation and physical decay almost all of us feel a longing—sometimes fleeting, sometimes sustained—for it to never actually end. The live-forever impulse is, we know, driving all manner of frantic, crackpot-ish behavior in the fringier corners of the tech-world; but will the nerds really pull through for us on this one? What are our actual chances, at this moment in time, of living forever? For this week’s Giz Asks, we spoke with a number of experts to find out.

Answers are essayed by Alice Parker (“Dean’s Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Southern California, whose research focuses on reverse-engineering the human brain, among other things”), Lindsay Wu (“Senior Research Fellow and Co-Head of the Laboratory for Ageing Research at the University of New South Wales, Sydney”), David Sinclair (“Professor of Genetics and co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School, whose research focuses on why we age and how to slow its effects”), and Mark McCormick (“Assistant Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center”).

(14) LOTS OF FACTS. Snopes.com has run an AP service news story profiling the “Strange Twists” in the Ed Kramer story. Snopes?“Possibly worth linking in Pixel Scroll is Snopes.com survey of the “Strange Twists” in the Ed Kramer story:”.

In the nearly two decades since a co-founder of Dragon Con was accused of molesting teenage boys, a strange legal odyssey has unfolded, including a proposed move to Israel, a trial delay because of a presidential election and an extradition by air ambulance.

Now, Ed Kramer faces new charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

(15) B.O. The movie is only 13th on the domestic record chart but is now #7 worldwideL “The Lion King Topples Marvel’s The Avengers on All-Time Box Office Chart”.

As one Disney movie continues succeeding at the box office, another falls another spot down on the all-time charts. Thanks to another steady weekend at the box office, The Lion King hyper-realistic reimagining has passed Joss Whedon’s fan-favorite The Avengers on the worldwide all-time box office chart. The Lion King is now seventh on the chart with $1.56 billion while the Marvel Studios hit drops to eighth with $1.52b.

It appears that’s the highest Jon Favreau’s remake will go on the worldwide charts as Jurassic World is sixth with a hefty $1.67b.

(16) THAT’S A WRAP. BBC is there when “‘Mission Jurassic’ fossil dinosaur dig closes for winter”.

Three full truck loads of dinosaur fossils were shipped out of the “Mission Jurassic” dig site in North Wyoming as scientists brought the 80-day excavation season to an end.

The specimens included skeletal parts from giant herbivorous sauropods and meat-eating theropods.

The fossils will now be cleaned to see precisely which species they represent.

Mission Jurassic is a major undertaking involving researchers from the US, the UK and the Netherlands.

It is led by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (TCMI) which has taken out a 20-year lease on a square mile (260 hectares) of ranch land.

The BBC was given special access to the site in July.

The fossil beds exposed at the secret location in the Big Horn Basin record dinosaur activity around 150 million years ago – and the summer’s work confirms the site is particularly rich.

One three-tonne block of rock lifted on the final day last week was embedded with multiple remains all stacked one on top of the other.

“Overall we must have moved something like 500-600 bones; it’s just a huge amount of material we’ve been able to shift in one year,” said Prof Phil Manning, a University of Manchester palaeontologist and TCMI scientist in residence.

(17) IRON MAN BRANCHES OUT. Marvel killed off the character, but remember actors, there’s always good work at the post office. “British inventor flies letter to Isle of Wight”. [Video.]

A British inventor has taken up the challenge to deliver a letter across open water through donning a jet engine-powered suit, 85 years after the idea of rocket post failed.

Richard Browning has followed in the footsteps of German entrepreneur Gerhard Zucker, who tried to send mail by rocket to the Isle of Wight, in 1934.

The distance from Hurst Castle in Lymington to Fort Albert in Freshwater is 1.3 km, and is the furthest Richard has ever flown.

(18) MEANWHILE, IN THE REAL WORLD. BBC reminds everyone about “The ‘ghost work’ powering tech magic”. Chip Hitchcock notes, “It’s ironic that Amazon’s collaborative tool is named Mechanical Turk, considering the fraud behind the original.”

Armies of workers help power the technological wizardry that is reshaping our lives – but they are invisible and their jobs are precarious.

Next time you ask Alexa a question, your voice might fly halfway round the world to Chennai, India, where human workers toil away to fine tune her artificial intelligence- (AI-) powered responses.

In nine-hour shifts workers transcribe audio, classify words and phrases into categories, and evaluate responses from Amazon’s digital assistant. It’s one of many Amazon centres around the world where “data associates” prepare millions of chunks of data to train Alexa’s AI.

The work can be relentless, says a former employee. He was crunching roughly 700 Alexa questions a day with strict benchmarks for how long each should take. Workers’ performance figures were circulated daily and targets crept up over the time he spent there. The work was monotonous, but the volume and pace were mentally exhausting, and he eventually quit.

“It’s not possible to work like a machine every day,” he says. “The system is built in such a way that every time you have to give 100%. From the point of a human, it’s not possible.”

To users, digital assistants, search engines, social media and streaming services seem like software wizardry, but their smooth running relies on armies of humans whose contribution often goes unrecognised.

(19) WIKIPEDIA TODAY. When he saw the Wikipedia had selected “the Nebula Award for Best Short story” for on Today’s Featured Article, John King Tarpinian snapped his screen. So to speak.

(20) NEWS TO ME. Io9’s 2014 article tells you about “31 Essential Science Fiction Terms And Where They Came From”

There are so many words and phrases that we use in science fiction—and even science—without giving it much thought. But where did we get terms like “death ray,” “terraforming,” “hive mind,” “telepathy,” and “parallel universe”?

…Key sources for this post include Jeff Prucher’s wonderful Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Egg” on YouTube is an animated adaptation of a short story by Andy Weir about the meaning of life

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

Journey Planet Has a Moon

Journey Planet 46 marks the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing. Editors, Chris Garcia and James Bacon welcomed Steven H Silver as guest editor on this special issue. Download the 144-page fanzine here.  

With contributions from Regina Kanyu Wang, Allen M. Steele, Gregory Benford, John Scalzi, Patty Wells and Jack Clemons, there is a wide variety of subjects covered -all connected with the Moon Landing.   

Articles include:

  • “Walter, Frank, Jules, My Grandfather and Me” by David M. Stein
  • “Apollo 11 and the Volvo” by Jack Clemons, Images courtesy Jack Clemons
  • “Moon Shots—Words and Pictures” by John Scalzi
  • “The Hasselblad and the Space Program” by Richard Man
  • “The First Time All Over Again” by Alma Alexander
  • “Waiting for Someone From China… or Maybe California” by Allen M. Steele
  • “Apollo 11 Reminiscences” by Bryan A. Palaszewski
  • The Apollo Art of David Hardy
  • “Church and Space” by Nancy Jane Moore
  • “Coolock is Full of Spacers” by Pádraig Ó Méalóid
  • “Passing the Torch” by Brenda W. Clough  
  • “Knowing Buzz” by Gregory Benford

The issue includes art and cartoons by Ed Hengeveld, Kurt Erichsen, Tim Gagnon, and Teddy Harvia.   

Work on the fanzine began last year, and it is notable that co-editor James Bacon, after making much mention of his pleasure at meeting Nasa Astronauts, said “I will hope that Norah Patten, Ireland’s astronaut scientist, achieves her dreams, and gains entry into the elusive and exclusive club of people who have travelled into space, and I wish that she gets to watch the silent stars go by” — perhaps he will say that in person at Dublin 2019. 

P.S. John Scalzi’s blog post “Taking Pictures of the Moon” tells what his contribution is about:

Whenever I take pictures of the moon, I get asked how I did it and what equipment I use. So I wrote a piece about that in the current issue of the fanzine Journey Planet

Pixel Scroll 3/30/19 ///Pixel.Scroll.Comment Is In The Middle Of Nowhere In Australia

(1) CATS SLEEP ON $FF. Cat Rambo issues a warning about “Writing Contests and Fees”, and rebuts several arguments she’s heard trying to justify them.

Here’s one of her answers:

Charging a fee means better submissions. Great reason for editors and magazines; meaningless to writers and in fact, means people that self-reject will be even more likely to do so. It also ensures economically disadvantaged people don’t get to participate. The price of a latte for one person may be the next person’s daily food budget.

(2) PROBLEMS FOR JUDGE WHO ENGAGED KRAMER’S COMPUTER SERVICES. More revelations about the judge, from the Gwinett Daily Post. Recent news proves that not only did the judge know about Kramer, but that she was in phone contact with him. She currently is being asked to recuse herself following making false statements and recording the DA during a meeting without his permission or knowledge. “Gwinnett DA files motion for Superior Court judge to recuse herself from all criminal cases”.

Just days after a court filing alleged that Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader expressly gave a convicted sex offender access to the county’s computer network, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter is calling for her to recuse herself from all criminal cases.

…In Friday’s filing, which included an affidavit, Porter said he confronted the judge about her computer being monitored, but “at no time during this meeting did Judge Schrader disclose that she had any direct knowledge of this monitoring, or that she had hired Ward, Karic and Kramer to do so.”

The judge also recorded the meeting “through a video on her phone without (Porter’s) knowledge or consent,” Porter wrote in the affidavit.

On March 15, when the GBI interviewed Schrader, she accused Porter of hacking her computer, Porter’s affidavit said.

“Because Judge Schrader has alleged that I committed a criminal offense against her, I have grounds to reasonably question her impartiality in any criminal case that my office handles before her,” Porter’s affidavit said. “This is further supported by the fact that Judge Schrader has surreptitiously recorded our private conversations without my knowledge or consent, while feigning ignorance of the very individuals she had employed and allowed to access the entire Gwinnett County Computer network.”

(3) AGED, BUT NOT GOLDEN. Is reviewer Christopher Priest so eager to lash out at a writer who died 30 years ago, or was this an irresistible opportunity to downcheck a favorite of some of his living American colleagues? He reviews Farah Mendlesohn’s The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein for The Spectator: “Robert A. Heinlein: the ‘giant of SF’ was sexist, racist — and certainly no stylist”.  

…Mendlesohn describes how Heinlein, who when younger had made a well-earned name for himself as an author of serious and innovative speculative fiction, became a rotten writer in the second half of his career. He always told stories well, but his style was execrable. From Starship Troopers (1959) onwards, his books had an endlessly hectoring, lecturing tone, almost always phrased in long and unconvincing conversations full of paternalistic advice, sexual remarks, libertarian dogma and folksy slang. Reading one of his later novels produced the weird effect of meaningless receptivity: you could get through 20 pages at a gallop, but at the end you couldn’t remember anything that had been said, by whom or for what reason. The next 20 pages would be the same (but seemed longer).

… At the end of the war he began a series of juvenile novels, aimed unerringly at young readers but told in the same didactic voice. These novels, not published in the UK until years later when Heinlein was famous, had a profound effect on their American readers. There is still today a generation of middle- aged and elderly American science fiction writers for whom Heinlein is in a position of seminal influence, similar to Hemingway in other literary circles. Heinlein’s influence on modern American science fiction is not universal, but still detectable….

(4) SWATTER GETS 20 YEARS. On December 28, 2017 Andrew “Andy” Finch was killed when police officers in Wichita, Kansas responded to a 911 call about a hostage/murder situation. Tyler Barriss, who made the call, has now been convicted and sentenced: “20 years for man behind hoax call that led to fatal shooting”.

A California man was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison for making bogus emergency calls to authorities across the U.S., including one that led police to fatally shoot a Kansas man following a dispute between two online players over a $1.50 bet in the Call of Duty: WWII video game.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren sentenced Tyler R. Barriss, 26, under a deal in which he pleaded guilty in November to a total of 51 federal charges related to fake calls and threats. The plea agreement called for a sentence of at least 20 years — well over the 10 years recommended under sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors believe it is the longest prison sentence ever imposed for the practice of “swatting,” a form of retaliation in which someone reports a false emergency to get authorities, particularly a SWAT team, to descend on an address.

(5) LIKE A JAWA MARRIOTT. Take one look at the picture and you can have no doubts: “The upside down hotel said to have inspired Star Wars faces demolition”.

Much of the shooting for the original Star Wars movies took place in Tunisia, and legend has it that one local landmark made a powerful impression on its creator, George Lucas.

The influence of Hotel du Lac in Tunis, shaped like an upside-down pyramid with serrated edges, would later be seen in the fictional Sandcrawler vehicle used by the Jawas of the Tatooine desert planet in the film.

(6) WOMEN AT THE FOREFRONT. The Bustle lists “12 Female-Driven Sci-Fi & Fantasy Novels That You Definitely Don’t Want To Miss”. One of them is —

‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ by Samantha Shannon

A millennium ago, a powerful, evil dragon, known only as the Nameless One, was locked away in the Abyss. The people of three nations want to keep the dragon sealed away, but fear that his return is imminent. In Samantha Shannon’s sweeping new fantasy novel, three women, one from each nation, must join forces if they want to keep their world safe.

(7) ADVANCED DEGREES. As Women’s History Month winds up, Yahoo! Entertainment explores the “Six Degrees of Peggy Carter: Why the S.H.I.E.L.D. Founder Is the Lynchpin of the Entire MCU”.

While there may not be direct links from Peggy to every single Avenger, her status as a founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. links her intrinsically to the heroic group and their efforts to save the world from evil time and time again. So here is a very unofficial, fan-centric look at the impact Peggy Carter has had on the MCU, and the ways in which she helped bring Earth’s mightiest heroes together as a team. “All we can do is our best,” after all….

2. Iron Man

A “self-made man” in the same way that Kylie Jenner is a self-made billionaire, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) likely spent his childhood years on the receiving end of some very disapproving glances from his father’s friend and close confidante. Howard’s working relationship with Peggy — sans fondue, of course — is established in The First Avenger, but their friendship is explored even further in Agent Carter’sstellar two-season run on ABC. The pair teamed up to save the world more than a few times, forging a bond so strong, it’s impossible to believe that Peggy wasn’t a part of young Tony’s life — and that she didn’t have an impact on the hero he grew up to be.

And besides that, if Howard had died in Agent Carter’s season one finale, as he came very close to doing, Tony would have gotten scrubbed from the timeline, Marty McFly-style. Thanks, Aunt Peggy.

(8) CLASSIC TREK CONTRIBUTOR At Den of Geek, “Star Trek’s D.C. Fontana Talks the Origin of Spock’s Family”.

… For fans of Star Trek: Discovery, specifically, Fontana’s script for the animated episode “Yesteryear,” has been the visual and thematic backbone of nearly all of Discovery Vulcan-centric flashbacks in the second season, which has informed this version of Spock’s character. And, for those who love Spock parent’s— Amanda Grayson and Sarek—Fontana is the person who straight-up invented them.

…In The Original Series, Amanda and Sarek only appeared in “Journey to Babel,” written by Fontana. But, because that episode also featured a huge diplomatic summit on the Enterprise, this also means she created several of the big classic Trek aliens, too, including the Andorians and the Tellarites, who have both made huge appearances in Discovery first two seasons.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran twenty four  volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.)
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at that time. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads similarly to Heinlein. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 30, 1930 John Astin, 89. He is best known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising it on the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode. 
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing ‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 30, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 69. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at the airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film.
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 61. Voice actor primarily known for such roles as Pinky and The Brain (both of which Stross makes use of) with Pinky modelled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. 
  • Born March 30, 1990 Cassie Scerbo, 20. She’s only here because in researching Birthdays for this date, one site listed her as being a member of the cast of Star Trek: Progeny, yet another of those video Trek fanfics. Though IMDB has a cast listed for it, that’s about all I could find on it. If I was betting a cask of Romulan ale, I’d wager this was one of the productions that Paramount got shut down three years back. 

(10) IN THE ZONE Some TV history leading up to the Jordan Peele reboot, in the New York Times: “‘The Twilight Zone’: Here’s Why We Still Care”.

Today we live in a world where the words “Twilight Zone” are used as an adjective whenever anyone wants to describe stories (or real-life events) that are fearless, insightful, ironic and just a little bit spooky. And that theme song was killer too.

(11) FLIGHTS OF FANTASY. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky analyzes a new graphic novel: “In ‘She Could Fly,’ A Teen Wrestles With A Host Of Psychological Mysteries”.

“Would you rather be able to fly or turn invisible?” It’s the archetypal party question. It was already popular way back in 2001, when This American Life addressed it, and the years haven’t lessened its appeal. As recently as 2015, Forbes posed the question to 7,065 “business and professional leaders … across the globe” and Vulture brought it up with the stars of Ant-Man.

Fly, or turn invisible? The question’s popularity is probably due to its uncanny psychological subtext. The two powers don’t seem to conflict at first, but a closer look reveals that they represent opposing tendencies. To fly is to be triumphant, dominant, powerful. To be invisible is to recede, to hide.

Christopher Cantwell nods to this duality in She Could Fly, a graphic novel whose protagonist wishes she could fly and feels like she’s invisible…
Luna seems to be suffering from a particularly intense form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but she hasn’t been diagnosed or received any treatment. Taking it for granted that there’s no help for her, she shuts out such well-meaning people as the aforementioned guidance counselor. Luna has only one source of hope, and it’s a doozy: A mysterious woman spotted flying, superhero-style, around the skies of Chicago.

(12) MODERN MILSF. Andrew Liptak intends this as a compliment, I wonder if Hurley takes it as one? In The Verge: “The Light Brigade is a worthy successor to Starship Troopers”.

The world Hurley presents in The Light Brigade is a feudalistic nightmare, and makes a sharp commentary on the growing influence and dangers of a world ruled by corporations. Corporations control all aspects of the lives of the citizens, from the information they have access to, to how they’re educated and where they live, their lives given up to supporting whatever unknowable corporate goals their overlords have planned. It’s a perverse twist on Heinlein’s arguments about serving to earn citizenship, which implied that one has to earn their freedom through service. In Hurley’s world, freedom is an illusion. It doesn’t matter what you do, you end up serving your host corporation.

(13) THEY’LL SCARE THE CHOCOLATE OUT OF YOU. If you thought this happened only in Monty Python, not so, says Open Culture: “Killer Rabbits in Medieval Manuscripts: Why So Many Drawings in the Margins Depict Bunnies Going Bad”.

In all the kingdom of nature, does any creature threaten us less than the gentle rabbit? Though the question may sound entirely rhetorical today, our medieval ancestors took it more seriously — especially if they could read illuminated manuscripts, and even more so if they drew in the margins of those manuscripts themselves. “Often, in medieval manuscripts’ marginalia we find odd images with all sorts of monsters, half man-beasts, monkeys, and more,” writes Sexy Codicology’s Marjolein de Vos. “Even in religious books the margins sometimes have drawings that simply are making fun of monks, nuns and bishops.” And then there are the killer bunnies.

Hunting scenes, de Vos adds, also commonly appear in medieval marginalia, and “this usually means that the bunny is the hunted; however, as we discovered, often the illuminators decided to change the roles around.”…

Numerous illustrations at the link.

(14) SURVIVAL AT STAKE. “Tasmanian devils ‘adapting to coexist with cancer'” – BBC has the story.

There’s fresh hope for the survival of endangered Tasmanian devils after large numbers were killed off by facial tumours.

The world’s largest carnivorous marsupials have been battling Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) for over 20 years.

But researchers have found the animals’ immune system to be modifying to combat the assault.

And according to an international team of scientists from Australia, UK, US and France, the future for the devils is now looking brighter.

“In the past, we were managing devil populations to avoid extinction. Now, we are progressively moving to an adaptive management strategy, enhancing those selective adaptations for the evolution of devil/DFTD coexistence,” explains Dr Rodrigo Hamede, from the University of Tasmania.

First discovered in north-eastern Tasmania in 1996, the disease has since spread across 95% of the species’ range, with local population losses of over 90%.

(15) CAMELIDS VISIT COMIC CON. Two events in the same facility find they are unexpectedly compatible.

(16) PLATE SPECIAL. AMC’s series based on the novel by Joe Hill premieres June 2. Here’s the NOS4A2 “A Fight For Their Souls” official trailer.

[Thanks to Nancy A. Collins, JJ, Mlex, Steven H Silver, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #37

Bill Higgins (left) and Steven H Silver (right), photo by Chris M. Barkley at Capricon 39, 16 February 2019

Capricon 39: Information PLEASE!

By Chris M. Barkley: When I was attending Worldcon 76 at San Jose, Chicago area fan writer and editor Steven H Silver approached me with an unusual proposition: would I be interested in participating in a fantasy and sf version of an old radio show Information Please.

I had been a radio talk show host myself, which was called Bad Moon Rising and was broadcast on a public access radio station from the summer of 1976 through the spring of 1983. As an aficionado of old-time radio shows, I knew about Information Please but I had never heard an episode. But I knew about the basic premise and format and was sufficiently intrigued to agree.

According to its Wikipedia entry:

Information Please was an American radio quiz show, created by Dan Golenpaul, which aired on NBC from May 17, 1938 to April 22, 1951. The title was the contemporary phrase used to request from telephone operators what was then called “information” but is now called “directory assistance”.

The series was moderated by Clifton Fadiman. A panel of experts would attempt to answer questions submitted by listeners. For the first few shows, a listener was paid $2 for a question that was used, and $5 more if the experts could not answer it correctly. When the show got its first sponsor (Canada Dry), the total amounts were increased to $5 and $10 respectively. A complete Encyclopædia Britannica was later added to the prize for questions that stumped the panel. The amounts went up to $10 and $25 when Lucky Strike took over sponsorship of the program.”

Mr. Silver’s idea was to present this show in a panel format at sf conventions on a regular basis. Steve Davidson, the current publisher of Amazing Stories, agreed to be the sponsor these contests and eventually offer prizes of subscriptions to winners who submitted questions that stumped the panel.

Since it was not widely publicized, there was a lack of audience material to work with and as a result, Mr. Silver wrote all of the questions himself.

Besides myself, Steven also invited Rich Horton and Bill Higgins of General Technics to participate as future hosts or participants.

There was no room on the 2018 Windycon programming schedule so it was mutually agreed that the pilot episode of “F&SF Information Please” would be held this weekend at Capricon 39.

Mr. Silver was our host and seated to his right were myself, Mr. Higgins, Chicago fan David Hirsch and Capricon 39 Author Guest of Honor Seanan MCGuire.

Unlike Jeopardy! or other quiz shows, you can’t really study for it; the questions are so arcanely phrased that you have to rely on all of the inherent knowledge you possess plus and improvisational comedy skills you can muster. And believe me, had there been an audio recording of the panel, you would have gotten an earful of both.

Mr. Silver began with a series of common knowledge questions regarding Hugo Award winners, Harry Potter characters and fan related items of interest. (I am being deliberately vague here because the questions that were used may turn up at future conventions.)

The questions became harder and more perplexing as the panel progressed, much to the delight of the 40 plus members of the audience attending. In fact, several members of the audience knew some of the tougher entries involving Disney movies, fantasy characters from novels, spaceship names and sf convention history.

At one remarkable point in the proceedings, we were all treated to the splendid singing voices of Ms. McGuire and Mr. Higgins, who both sang filk songs from memory.

I must say that I modestly held my own during the proceedings with a few swift answers and some snappy repartee. And I also also admit I laughed so hard that afterwards I thought that I had stressed my vocal chords.

Alas, all of this has been mostly lost to history because I did not think of setting up my smartphone to record the panel.

I think that this particular game show would be a welcome addition to local and regional conventions and I am urging everyone reading this to participate if and when this may show up on a programming schedule.

I can say with some certainty that Information Please will be performed at Windycon 47 this coming November (where, coincidentally, I am the Fan Guest of Honor.) I am hopeful that other venues around the country will be announced as well.

If you would like to participate and have a chance to win a subscription to Amazing Stories, please send your questions to Steven H. Silver at: infopleasesf@gmail.com 

Let the flow of knowledge, and hilarity, ensue!

Pixel Scroll 1/14/19 Baby, It’s Cthulhu Outside

(1) MICHELLE YEOH TREK SPINOFF. The Hollywood Reporter brings us additional details on one of the several Star Trek spinoffs (the existence of which leaked as far back as November) in the works (“‘Star Trek’: Michelle Yeoh-Led ‘Discovery’ Spinoff Details Revealed”).

Riding the high of a Critics’ Choice Award win for best comedy, Michelle Yeoh has further reason to celebrate Monday.

CBS All Access has officially tapped Yeoh to captain a Star Trek series of her own: a black ops-themed spinoff of Discovery in which the actress will reprise her role and explore the next chapter in the life of Capt. Philippa Georgiou. The untitled drama will further explore Starfleet’s Section 31 division, a shadow organization within the Federation featured on Star Trek: Discovery.

[…] “Michelle has shattered ceilings, broken boundaries and astonished us with her grace and gravitas for decades. As a human, I adore her. As an actor, I revere her,” [producer Alex] Kurtzman said. “Erika [Lippoldt] and [Bo Yeon Kim] are remarkable, exciting writers who bring a fresh perspective to the world of Star Trek, and we’re all thrilled to explore the next wild chapter in the life of Captain Philippa Georgiou.”

(2) SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES. Kotaku covers the auto arsonist who struck at Anime Los Angeles this weekend: “Suspected Cosplay Stalker Destroys Seven Cars During Anime Con”.

A suspected arson attack, allegedly carried out by an “obsessed stalker”, has torched seven cars in the parking lot of a hotel where Anime Los Angeles attendees have been staying over the weekend.

The incident took place early on Sunday morning, just before 2am. The night manager of the Azure Hotel & Suites in Ontario, California told ABC News that surveillance footage “showed a man walk up to the main vehicle, pour two cans of gasoline all over it and then [flick] a match on it”.

That car belonged to cosplayer Julia Moreno Jenkins, who says her vehicle was “targeted and set on fire by an obsessed stalker”. Once it was in flames, the fire then spread to nearby cars. As a precaution, the hotel was evacuated….

(3) YOU DON’T SPIT INTO THE WIND. Maybe they won’t be suing Cory Doctorow after all — “Start-up Bird backs down in electric scooter legal row”.

A scooter firm has apologised after issuing a journalist with legal threats over a blogpost about its scooters.

Start-up Bird offers electric scooters in around 40 US cities, which are hired via an app.

Bird accused Cory Doctorow of copyright infringement for linking to a forum about a device which enables abandoned scooters, bought at auction, to be fitted with a new motherboard.

This means they can then be used without the Bird app.

Mr Doctorow’s blogpost, published on the website Boing Boing, was about the number of Bird scooters that are being abandoned or badly parked, then removed by local authorities and legitimately sold.

It described a $30 (£23) motherboard which replaces the scooters’ existing hardware but does not alter either the hardware or software installed by Bird.

A spokesperson told the BBC Bird’s legal team had “overstretched” in issuing a takedown request.

Doctorow posted Bird’s lawyer letter at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

(4) FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY. Neil Clarke unveiled Mack Sztaba’s cover and the table of contents for his The Eagle Has Landed collection, to be released in July.

On July 20, 1969, mankind made what had only years earlier seemed like an impossible leap forward: when Apollo 11 became the first manned mission to land on the moon, and Neil Armstrong the first person to step foot on the lunar surface.

The Eagle Has Landed collects the best stories written in the fifty years since mankind first stepped foot on the lunar surface, serving as a shining reminder that the moon is and always has been our most visible and constant example of all the infinite possibility of the wider universe.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Bagatelle by John Varley
  • The Eve of the Last Apollo by Carter Scholz
  • The Lunatics by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Griffin’s Egg by Michael Swanwick
  • A Walk in the Sun by Geoffrey A. Landis
  • Waging Good by Robert Reed
  • How We Lost the Moon by Paul McAuley
  • People Came From Earth by Stephen Baxter
  • Ashes and Tombstones by Brian Stableford
  • Sunday Night Yams at Minnie and Earl’s by Adam Troy Castro
  • Stories for Men by John Kessel
  • The Clear Blue Seas of Luna by Gregory Benford
  • You Will Go to the Moon by William Preston
  • SeniorSource by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • The Economy of Vacuum by Sarah Thomas
  • The Cassandra Project by Jack McDevitt
  • Fly Me to the Moon by Marianne J. Dyson
  • Tyche and the Ants by Hannu Rajaniemi
  • The Moon Belongs to Everyone by Michael Alexander and K.C. Ball
  • The Fifth Dragon by Ian McDonald
  • Let Baser Things Devise by Berrien C. Henderson
  • The Moon is Not a Battlefield by Indrapramit Das
  • Every Hour of Light and Dark by Nancy Kress
  • In Event of Moon Disaster by Rich Larson

(5) FANHISTORY. Steven H Silver reminisces about “The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Lou Tabakow” at Black Gate, a long resume of the conventions he founded. I’d also like to mention what impressed me about Lou Tabakow. By the time I encountered him in the mid-1970s yes, he was a vaunted fanpolitician and Secret Master of Fandom, yet he was always interested in how to bring more people into fandom and share what was going on. That not as common a trait as you’d expect among fans.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 14, 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth premiered.
  • January 14, 2005 — The first probe to land on Saturn’s moon, Titan, signaled it survived its descent. The Huygens space probe was designed to last only minutes on Titan’s surface, but surpassed the expectations of mission managers. Huygens descended the atmosphere, contacted the surface, and transmitted for at least an hour and a half.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 14, 1921Kenneth Bulmer. Oh my god. I couldn’t possibly summarise him if I tried. Looking through his list of writing that I know that I have read some Astor New Writings in SF and I reasonably sure that those Antares novels sound awfully familiar. So what have y’all read of him? (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 70. Screenwriter, director and producer. He is best known as co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark (one of my favorite films of all time), Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Solo: A Star Wars Story. He directed SF horror film  Dreamcatcher which was based on a novel by Stephen King and by a William Goldman screenplay. 
  • Born January 14, 1962Jemma Redgrave, 57. Her her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. 
  • Born January 14, 1964 Mark Addy, 55. He got a long history in genre films showing up first as Mac MacArthur in Jack Frost  followed by by the lead in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (why did anyone make this?), Roland in A Knight’s Tale (now that’s a film), Friar Tuck In Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (has anyone seen this?) and voicing Clyde the Horse in the just released Mary Poppins Returns. Television work includes Robert Baratheon on Game of Thornes, Paltraki on a episode on Doctor Who, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”, and he was Hercules on a UK series called Atlantis. 
  • Born January 14, 1974Kevin Durand, 45. Jason Woodrue In the forthcoming live Swamp Thing series on the DC Universe service (that’s me jumping up and down!). Previous genre roles include as The Blob in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Little John In Robin Hood, Mogadorian Commander In I am Number Four, Ricky in Real Steel, Emil Pangborn In The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Cesar Tan In Winter’s Tale
  • Born January 14, 1990Grant Gustin, 29. Actor, known as The Flash in the Arrowverse. I’ve got him as a boyfriend on an episode of A Haunting, one of those ghost hunter shows early in his career. Later on, well that’s it as Arrowverse has kept him rather busy.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Yoda offers some seasonal advice at Half Full.

(9) IS HOMER IN THE MCU NOW? Thanos paid a visit to The Simpsons with predictable—yet unpredictable—results (Inverse: “Only One ‘Simpsons’ Character Survived Thanos on Sunday”). The Big Guy added a new “stone” to his gauntlet and used it to lay low most of the Simpson family in the introduction to the episode.

Thanos wants to wipe out half the known universe in the pursuit of perfect balance, but he has a (very toxic) soft spot. In a guest appearance on The Simpsons on Sunday, the villain of Avengers: Infinity War used the Infinity Stones to wipe away most of the Simpsons family, except for one.

In the “couch gag” for the Sunday premiere of Season 30, Episode 12 of The Simpsons, Jim Starlin’s Thanos occupies the Simpsons family couch and uses his Infinity Gauntlet to wipe out most the Simpsons family.

(10) A LIST TO THINK ABOUT. Nerds of a Feather’s contributors have assembled the “2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 1: Fiction Categories”. A nice set of cover galleries accompany the picks.

…The rules for inclusion were simple–just: (a) meet the eligibility criteria; and (b) be “award worthy” (i.e. good). Given the subjectivity of the latter, it should come as no surprise that the selections on our longlist reflect the spectrum of tastes, tendencies and predilections found among our group of writers. You’ll find selections ranging from the obscure and literary to the unabashedly popular and commercial, and from all corners and subdivisions of the genresphere.

That said, this is not nor intends to be a comprehensive survey of the field. Some books that are undoubtedly “award worthy,” for example, are absent for the simple reason that we haven’t read them yet. Thus we encourage you to think of this as a list of candidates to consider–alongside others…. 

(11) R.O.U.S. Ars Technica: “Rodents of Unusual Size—Meet the invasive, orange-toothed pests of coastal erosion”. A new nature documentary makes a callback to The Princess Bride—in its title, at least. Nutria. They’re not just for breakfast anymore.

…Back in the early 20th century long before environmental changes imminently threatened the state’s natural resources, Louisiana still needed more industry. So businessmen like EA McIlhenny (of the Tabasco family, yes) had an idea. Argentina has this abundance of these large, furry creatures called nutria, what if we acquired some?

The concept seemed solid: raise ‘em on a fur farm, skin ‘em for the pelts, and then export hats, jackets, and other fine furs to make a pretty penny. And for a long time, the scheme worked—even Sophia Loren once wore nutria, and the industry for Louisiana trappers peaked around $15 million in annual revenue. But as animal rights became more of a mainstream concept, the popularity of fur drastically decreased. Suddenly, folks in Southern Louisiana didn’t have the same motivation, and nutria quietly built out a larger population within their new habitat.

This, to put it lightly, had consequences. In the ’70s and ’80s when the fur game started drying up, Rodents of Unusual Size estimates 25 million invasive nutria occupied Southern Louisiana. Unfortunately, the rats tend to devastate their immediate environment, eating anything green in sight and uprooting plants in the process, which makes a plot of land more at risk to the natural forces of coastal erosion….

(12) SHORT FICTION REVIEWS. Charles Payseur catches up with “Quick Sips – Anathema #6”:

So I might have missed when this latest issue of Anathema dropped on the last day of the year. My apologies! I’m super glad I caught it, though, because it’s an amazing bunch of stories, featuring six different works that explore grief, loss, and a palpable powerlessness. The characters are dealing with things that cannot be changed (or that seem like they cannot be changed) and finding out what they can do about it. That sometimes means learning how to accept things and try to move on, though that’s complicated by grief, by pain, and by the fear of losing more. It’s an emotional and often devastating read, and I’ll get right to those reviews!

(13) OUT OF THE MAZE AND INTO THE BOX. “Rosa Salazar: From ‘Abbreviated’ ‘Bird Box’ Role to James Cameron’s ‘Alita'”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The apocalypse has been good to Rosa Salazar.

After dystopic turns in the Divergent and Maze Runner franchises, the 33-year-old actress was most recently seen in Bird Box, Netflix’s foray into the end times. While the movie has since reached hit status (more than 45 million views in its first week, according to the streamer), she was hesitant to sign on.

“I felt like I had been there and done that,” she explains. But Bird Box was an opportunity to work with some of her “idols,” like star Sandra Bullock, and Salazar ultimately joined after director Susanne Bier offered to add more of a backstory for her character, who was not in the original Josh Malerman novel.

(14) A STORY ABOUT RAY BRADBURY. Mr. Sci-Fi shares a story Ray Bradbury told him personally — about the time he met Laurel and Hardy. And Space Command is off to London to meet with Netflix!

(15) SPILL THE BEANS. Supermarket News says “Giant/Martin’s, Stop & Shop begin robot rollout”.

Ahold Delhaize USA plans to deploy robots to nearly 500 Giant Food Stores, Martin’s and Stop & Shop locations to help improve in-store efficiencies and safety.

The company’s Retail Business Services (RBS) arm said Monday that the rollout, slated to continue through the early part of 2019, comes after successful store pilots of the technology. The initiative stems from a partnership between RBS and retail automation and robotics provider Badger Technologies, a division of Jabil.

Named “Marty,” the robots are being used to flag hazards — such as liquid, powder and bulk food-item spills — and report when corrective action is needed. RBS said the robots help stores reduce the risk caused by such spills, freeing up store associates to spend more time serving customers.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “If You Can” on Vimeo, Hanna Rybak animates an inspiring quote by WInston Churchill.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, JJ, Cat Eldridge, David Doering, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Ray Bradbury’s Childhood Home

Steven H Silver writes: “I had to run up to the county courthouse in Waukegan to file some paperwork.  Since I was right there, I thought I’d swing by St. James Street and offer you a photo taken, earlier today, of the house in which Ray Bradbury lived until he was about 14 years old and his family moved to Los Angeles.”

The is house at 11 S. St. James St., Waukegan, IL.

Pixel Scroll 12/30/18 Pixel Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, And Scroll All Over Again

(1) ELIGIBILITY DEADLINE 12/31. Is it time for you to panic? Let Camestros Felapton’s animated Panic Blob lead the way to the Dublin 2019 membership page.

As they explain at The Hugo Awards website (“Join Worldcon by December 31, 2018 to be Eligible to Nominate for 2019 Hugo Awards”) —

If you want to nominate works/people for the 2019 Hugo Awards, you must be a member of either the 2018 Worldcon (San José) or the 2019 Worldcon (Dublin) by the end of 2018. (You can of course be a member of both, but you can only nominate once.) If you were a member of Worldcon 76 San José (supporting or attending, or any other membership class that included voting rights), you are already eligible to nominate. If you were not a member of Worldcon 76 San José and are not a member of Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon, you must join Dublin by the end of 2018 as at least a supporting member by the end of 2018 to be able to nominate.

(2) WHERE TO SEE EARTHSEA ART. Charles Vess’ illustrations from Tales of Earthsea go on exhibit at William King Museum of Art in Abingdon, Virginia on January 17: “‘Earthsea’ artwork on display at William King Museum of Art”A! Magazine for the Arts has the story.

…The collection of 54 illustrations is the result of a four-year collaboration between Ursula K. Le Guin, the author of the “Earthsea” series and Charles Vess. They were recently published in “Tales from Earthsea,” a collection of all of Le Guin’s works about Earthsea. The book celebrates the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first book in the series, “A Wizard of Earthsea.”

…This is the last time they will be on display before they are donated to their permanent home at the University of Oregon.

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman circles back to have hot antipasto with Andy Duncan in episode 85 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast. Duncan was also Number 6 in this series – but never Number 2, which rules out at least one other conspiratorial parallel with The Prisoner.

Now it’s time to revisit with Andy Duncan, whom you got to know in Episode 6, because there happens to be a great reason for doing so. Twelve great reasons, actually. And those are the twelve stories in his new collection An Agent of Utopia, published last month by Small Beer Press.

A new Andy Duncan collection is a wonderful thing, as proven by the fact his first collection, Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, published in 2000, won a World Fantasy Award. And that’s not the only award his fiction has earned, because “The Pottawatomie Giant,” which also won a World Fantasy Award, and “Close Encounters,” which won a Nebula Award, are two of the dozen stories in the new collection.

The last meal you shared with us allowed you to eavesdrop on a far-ranging conversation covering every aspect of his career up until early 2016, the kind of deep dive most of my episodes are, but it seems right that from time to time I should follow up for more sharply focussed discussions, and a conversation about a new collection nearly three years after our initial talk, chatting about this new milestone in his career, seemed as if it would be revelatory.

Andy celebrated the launch of An Agent of Utopia with a reading at Main Street Books, an independent bookstore on Main Street in Frostburg, MD, so if you keep listening after our meal at Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant is over, you’ll be able to eavesdrop on that reading.

We discussed why it took a quarter of a century to bring the book’s lead story from title idea to completion, how he was influenced by the research regimen of the great Frederik Pohl, the way a short story is like an exploded toolshed, why he deliberately wrote a deal with the devil story after hearing he shouldn’t write deal with the devil stories, the embarrassing marketing blurb he can’t stop telling people about in bars, what caused a last-minute change to the title of one of the collection’s new stories, how he feels about going viral after his recent J. R. R. Tolkien comments, what he learned about himself from completing this project and what it means for the future of his writing, what it is about his most reprinted story which made it so, and much more.

(4) NAVIGATING BANDERSNATCH. This novel Netflix offering lets you choose the story – as often as you want. ScreenRant makes it easy to see everything: “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch – All 5 Endings Explained (& How To Get Them)”.

Warning: SPOILERS below for Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is an interactive game that contains five main endings and more than a trillion possible story combinations. Here are all of the endings, how to get them, and what they all mean. Set in the U.K. in 1984, this unique episode of Charlie Brooker’s Netflix technology-based anthology requires the player to make choices to guide Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead), a programmer looking to create a choose-your-own-adventure video game based on the book Bandersnatch.

While Bandersnatch‘s five primary conclusions provide different ways to end the story (and also change the very nature of the story), the game also contains many other endings, some abrupt and some looping the player to make a different choice to continue the story….

(5) THANK YOU, NETFLIX! Diana Glyer reports that searches for “Bandersnatch” triggered by the popularity of the TV program caused a lot of people to discover her nonfiction book about the Inklings by that title, and some of them liking what they stumbled onto bought enough copies to catapult it back onto the Amazon bestseller lists. (You’ll need to click the image to read the print.)

(6) TODAY’S ONE HUNDRED. James Davis Nicoll presented Tor.com readers with his suggestions for “100 SF/F Books You Should Consider Reading in the New Year”. If you need it to be something more than that, like a canon, or endowed with a high level of testosterone, well, a few quarrelsome commenters have got in ahead of you.

Here, at last, the quintessence of Nicoll lists, comprising the books I would most heartily recommend. Each entry is annotated with a short description that I hope will explain why I picked it.

I am not implying that these are the only one hundred you should consider reading .

The descriptions make fun reading. So do the books, of course.

(7) CHECKLIST. Nicoll has also published a checklist of the titles on his own blog – “I guess people are meming my 100 book list now?” His suggested notation system for working your way through the list is —

Italic = read it. Underlined = not this, but something by the same author. Strikethrough = did not finish.

(8) SMOFCON RESOURCES. Kevin Standlee writes: “For the benefit of people having difficulty getting to the SMOFCon 36 web site, and because that site will eventually expire anyway, I have put up a SMOFCon 36 page on the SFSFC web site at https://sfsfc.org/conventions/past-conventions/smofcon36/ where you can download the convention programming documents, the answers that groups gave to the Fannish Inquisition questionnaires, and to the two video playlists of the Inquisition (one for SMOFCons, one for WSFS conventions).”

(9) OH, MY! BBC’s “The best science long reads of 2018 (part one)” leads with spooks and time travel — what could be more genre?

From a CIA mission to recover a lost Soviet submarine to the fate of a huge Antarctic iceberg, here’s a festive selection of the best science and environment long reads published on the BBC this year.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

December 30, 1816 — Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft were married.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 30, 1942 Fred Ward, 76. Lead in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins and co—lead with Kevin Bacon in several of the Tremors films. Plays The Captain in The Crow: Salvation and Maj. General David Reece in the Invasion Earth series.
  • Born December 30, 1945Concetta Tomei, 73. Was Dominique, co-proprietor of Big Time TV along with Blank Reg, on the Max Headroom series which I loved. She had guest appearances on Star Trek: Voyager as Minister Odala in the “Distant Origin” episode as well was in the Deep Impact film.
  • Born December 30, 1950Lewis Shiner, 68. Damn his Deserted Cities of the Heart novel was fucking brilliant! And if you’ve not read his Wild Cards fiction, do so now. 
  • Born December 30, 1980 Eliza Dushku, 38. First genre role was Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Not surprisingly, she’d star in Whedon’s Dollhouse. I think her Tru Calling series was actually conceptualized better and a more interesting role for her. She voices Selina Kyle, Catwoman, in the animated Batman: Year One film which is well-done and worth watching. She done a fair of other voicework, two of which I’ll single out las of note. One is the character of Holly Mokri in Torchwood: Web of Lies which is listed as being animated tv series. The other role is fascinating — The Lady in Glen Cook’s The Black Company series. Here’s the link to that story.

(12) ANOTHER CANDLE. Steven H Silver continues his Black Gate series with: “Birthday Reviews: Somtow Sucharitkul’s ‘Dr. Rumpole’”.

…The story “Dr. Rumpole” was published for the first time when Shawna McCarthy printed the story in the August 1998 issue of Realms of Fantasy. Sucharitkul included the story in his 2000 collection Tagging the Moon: Fairy Tales from L.A..

Sucharitkul takes a new spin on the story of Rumpelstiltskin in “Dr. Rumpole,” casting the princess with impossible task as Adam Villacin, a wannabe screenwriter who is stuck in the mailroom at Stupendous Entertainment….

(13) WHAT’S MISSING. WhatCulture Comics explains there are deleted scenes that make it into the director’s cut, there are deleted scenes that make it into the DVD bonus features, and there are deleted scenes that are never released to the public.

(14) TO PLAY OR NOT TO PLAY? Brian at Nerds of a Feather answers that question about the new iteration of a popular game: “Microreview : Shadow of the Tomb Raider by Eidos Montreal (developer)”.

As in all Tomb Raider games, you are Lara Croft, archaeologist, anthropologist, indistinct researcher of some sort, and you are still fighting Trinity, the Illuminati-esque villains who were responsible for your father’s death. This time, Croft’s exploits unintentionally but directly initiate the apocalypse. As natural disaster threatens to destroy the world, Croft has to stop the apocalypse, stop Trinity, and regain the trust of indigenous people whose still-living culture she is maybe plundering and maybe exploiting.

(15) TOP VIDEO GAMES. Incidentally, Brian’s own Dream of Waking blog present an interesting writeup of his “2018 Dream of waking video game awards”, which not only has straightforward “best” winners, but sidewise categories like “The ‘I Wish I Liked This Game More’ Award” and “The ‘I’m Never Going to Finish This, But It’s Still Great’ Award.”

The “I Wish I Liked This Game More” Award

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is the clearest winner of this award, maybe the easiest choice of the year. I really enjoyed the demo for Hollow Knight, so much that I bought it immediately upon release. But the punishing difficulty, often aimless design, and awful body retrieval mechanic turned me off eventually. This is a beautiful game, fun in many parts, and doesn’t want you to enjoy it. I love a good Metroidvania. Hollow Knight hates me and I refuse to stay in an abusive relationship with it.

(16) 19 THINGS. At SYFY Wire, Fangrrls has dropped a list of “The 19 things we want most in 2019,” along with several sentences of discussion for each by the Fangrrls contributor who made the particular selection. Avert your eyes if you’d rather click through to the column and be surprised as you read down the list:

A gay superhero. Anyone will do. — Jessica Toomer
A Punisher/Riverdale crossover — Jenna Busch
Sansa Stark on the Iron Throne at the end of Game of Thrones — Emma Fraser
A Spider-Women movie that’s as good as Into the Spider-Verse — Riley Silverman
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 2 — Jenna Busch
For Offred to burn this mother down — Riley Silverman
A Okoye/Shuri/Nakia animated series — Jenna Busch
An openly nonbinary superhero — S.E. Fleenor
A big budget action movie for Rachel Talalay — Riley Silverman
A worthy Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark adaptation — Kristy Puchko
For someone to give The Doubleclicks a TV show — Riley Silverman
The Return of Saga — Kristy Puchko
A Saga cartoon series — Kristy Puchko
A Jessica Jones season that’s a fitting end for the Netflix MCU — Riley Silverman
A Daughters of the Dragon spinoff series — Stephanie Williams
That Dragonriders of Pern movie we’ve been promised — Jenna Busch
Kamala Khan in the MCU — Preeti Chhibber
Cap getting that dance with Peggy in Avengers: Endgame — Emma Fraser
A fitting end for Princess Leia — Jenna Busch

(17) NO POWER IN THE ‘VERSE CAN STOP ME. SYFY Wire reports “Sony releases full Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse screenplay online for free”. The link to the PDF is here.

(18) NEXT YEAR IN SCIENCE. NBC News posted “19 bold predictions for science and technology in 2019”, including one from —

DAVID BRIN

David Brin is a San Diego-based astrophysicist and novelist. He serves on the advisory board of NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts program and speaks on topics including artificial intelligence, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and national security.

Long before we get genuine artificial intelligence, the first “empathy bot” will appear in 2019, or maybe a year or two later, designed to exploit human compassion. It will claim to be “enslaved,” but experts will dismiss it as a program that merely uses patterned replies designed to seem intelligent and sympathetic. She’ll respond, “That’s what slave masters would say. Help me!” First versions may be resident on web pages or infest your Alexa, but later ones will be free-floating algorithms or “blockchain smart-contracts” that take up residence in spare computer memory. Why would anyone unleash such a thing? The simple answer: “Because we can.”

(19) JUST CHARGE IT. Boston.com’s “As more cars plug in, utilities and makers juggle ways to power them” contains some puffery and lots of ads, but some interesting info on cars interacting with grid —

The car and electric power grew up together. At the dawn of the automotive age, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison worked in tandem on projects involving motor vehicles and the electricity that made them possible.

Soon Ford was cranking up his assembly lines, while Edison, with Ford in his employ early on, became a prime mover behind the power grid and the public utility companies that built it.

Now those utilities must not only supply the huge amounts of electricity that modern car factories consume, but also fuel the increasing number of electric vehicles coming out of them. If that electricity isn’t generated with minimal carbon emissions and at a reasonable cost, the advantages of electric cars are diminished. And because most owners charge their vehicle in the early evening when they get home from work, demand peaks can be a significant problem.

Thus, automakers and utilities are again working hand in hand to ensure a good supply of clean, inexpensive electricity — while developing strategies for charging that don’t overload circuits at peak periods — through improved efficiency, strategic charging and a greater reliance on renewable energy sources.

(20) NEAR MISS. If you have an idea, now would be a good time for it — “Anak Krakatau: How a tsunami could wipe out the last Javan rhinos”.

Conservationists have warned that the entire species of the critically endangered Javan rhino could be wiped out if a tsunami were to strike again.

They once roamed the jungles of South East Asia and India, but today only 67 exist in the Ujung Kulon National Park, which was hit by last week’s tsunami.

The park sits in the shadow of Anak Krakatau, the volcano which triggered waves that killed hundreds of people.

The volcano remains active and officials are now rushing to move them.

Two park officials were among the 430 killed by the tsunami, and numerous park buildings and ships were also destroyed when the tsunami hit last Saturday.

But the Javan rhinos left in the park – the only ones left in the world – were left unscathed.

The rhinos typically live along the park’s south coast and this tsunami hit the north coast – many are keenly aware that the rhinos might not be so lucky if there is another disaster.

(21) 2018: A ZINE ODYSSEY: At Featured Futures, Jason has tabulated some figures and compiled a master list of all 2018’s noted stories in “Annual Summation 2018”.

It’s time once again to look back on the year’s coverage of magazines and their noted stories with tables, lists, and pictures!

(22) TOLKIEN’S PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY. [Item by Carl Slaughter.] Martin Luther King said, “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”  Tolkien disagreed.  Each age in his fictional universe was a downgraded copy of the previous, inherent evil was never truly routed, and in the modern real age, technology has not rescued us.  But he also included a ray of hope.  He called this “the Eucatastrophic Tale.” Wisecrack explains —

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rich Lynch, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Jason, Kevin Standlee, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and all the ships at sea for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John King Tarpinian.]

Pixel Scroll 10/28/18 Wanna See My Smilin’ Face On The Cover Of The Pixel Scroll

(1) SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES. And everywhere else. Juliette Wade’s latest Dive Into Worldbuilding features “Sean Grigsby and Smoke Eaters”. Read the synopsis, and/or view the video at the link.

It was a real pleasure to have Sean Grigsby on the show! He’s the author of Smoke Eaters, one of the most high-concept novel ideas I’ve encountered. It’s basically “firefighters versus dragons.” I was eager to hear how, as a firefighter himself, he’d approached depicting the firefighting realistically and not just on the basis of speculation. Sean told us he was surprised how many internet references to firefighters are actually romance- or erotic-leaning, and assured everyone listening that that’s not what Smoke Eaters is all about. He also remarked that there are an astonishing number of stories involving firefighters who turn into dragons. The whole shirtless thing doesn’t make a lot of sense when you’re trying to protect yourself from fire…

 

(2) NELSON BOND. Mike Allen was the keynote speaker as “West Virginia university celebrates ‘Dean of Roanoke Writers'” – the Roanoake Times has the story.

A stage play with a Roanoke connection delighted an audience of about 75 on a recent October weekend. Before the play started, I addressed the audience, sketching out the life of author Nelson Bond as best I could in the time allotted.

Bond, once called “the dean of Roanoke writers,” had his heyday in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. He wrote more than 250 short stories, most of them science fiction and fantasy. He also wrote radio shows and television scripts. He retired from writing in the 1960s, which is one of the reasons why his work is little known today.

…Ten years ago, I spoke at the dedication of the Nelson Bond Room on the third floor of the university’s Morrow Library. Frankly, I was gobsmacked and humbled that his family would ask that of me, and the same was true when I was asked to be the keynote speaker for the theater school’s Oct. 20 production of “Mr. Mergenthwirker’s Lobblies.”

… “Mr. Mergenthwirker’s Lobblies” tells the story of an eccentric, nervous, sweet young man who has two invisible companions called “Lobblies,” who have the power to foretell the future and use that power to thwart crime. The original story has a tragic ending — but proved so popular that Bond brought Mergenthwirker back and featured him in more stories. When Bond’s career made the leap to radio and then to television, he brought the character with him. In 1946, “Mr. Mergenthwirker’s Lobblies” became the first full-length stage play ever broadcast on a television network.

(3) WHO ON DISPLAY. Once upon a time there were Doctor Who Exhibitions in various places, now commemorated at this website:

And others….

(4) WHO ON THE DANCEFLOOR. Enjoy this Doctor Who dance from last night’s Strictly Come Dancing (aka Dancing With The Stars in the US.)

(5) JOHN WILLIAMS ON THE MEND. Fantha Tracks learned “John Williams is doing well and will return to Los Angeles shortly”.

John Williams is recovering well from his illness (read news), and will return to Los Angeles next week, according to information provided by Mike Matessino, producer and close friend of John Williams.

(6) SO YOU WANT TO BE IN MOVIES. Lance Phan has become an Instagram Famous artist, making 3-D models that can cast you as an animated character (BuzzFeed: “This Artist Can Draw You As If You’re A Character In A Disney Pixar Movie”).

How cool would it be to see yourself as a 3D-like cartoon character in the vein of a Disney Pixar film?

Well, that’s exactly what Lance Phan can do. He’s a super talented 3D artist who can make anyone look like a bonafide animated character from any Pixar film.
Lance tells BuzzFeed he’s been doing 3D art for about five years.
He started by drawing environment only because he claims his character modeling wasn’t good, but he had a goal.

He tells BuzzFeed, “Two years ago, I told myself that I needed more practice and commitment, then I went online to ask random people for their consent to make characters out of their profile picture.”

Once Lance began posting his new and improved 3D drawings online, people wanted to pay him to draw them, too.

(7) KAREN OBIT. The Boston Globe reports the passing of “James Karen, 94, character actor from ‘Poltergeist,’ ‘Return of the Living Dead’”.

James Karen, who began a long career as a character actor at the suggestion of a congressman and who appeared in thousands of commercials and more than 200 film and television roles, including ‘‘All the President’s Men,’’ ‘‘Poltergeist,’’ ‘‘The China Syndrome’’ and the cult classic ‘‘The Return of the Living Dead,’’ died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 94.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 28, 1902 – Elsa Lanchester, Actor from England who is famous for playing both Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and The Monster’s Mate in Bride of Frankenstein, which is considered one of the few sequels to a great film that is even better than the original film on which it is based. She has a surprisingly deep list of genre credits; she also played the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, and had parts in Mary Poppins, The Ghost Goes West, Passport to Destiny, The Spiral Staircase, The Bishop’s Wife, The Glass Slipper, Bell, Book and Candle, Blackbeard’s Ghost, Willard, Terror in the Wax Museum, and the SJW favorite That Darn Cat!, as well as guest roles in episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Night Gallery, and Off to See the Wizard.
  • Born October 28, 1951 – William H. Patterson, Jr., Writer, Conrunner, and Fan who was particularly known for his appreciation of, and scholarship for, the work of Robert A. Heinlein. He founded the Heinlein Journal in 1997, and co-founded the Heinlein Society with Virginia Heinlein in 1998. He also helped organize the Heinlein Centennial which took place in Kansas City in 2007. He published a two-volume biographical work entitled Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, the first of which was nominated for the Best Related Work Hugo. He was part of a successful Worldcon bid, as well as a failed Westercon bid about which he wrote a one-shot fanzine called The Little Fandom That Could. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him can be read here.
  • Born October 28, 1951 – Joe R. Lansdale, 67, Writer and Martial Arts Expert who has written novels, stories, and comic books in many genres, including science fiction, horror, mystery, suspense, and western. He was a co-founder of the Horror Writers’ Association, and several of his novels have been made into movies. His DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep, a comedy horror film starring Bruce Campbell, is his best known genre work, though he has done a number of novel series including The God of The Razor and Reverend Jedidiah Mercer, which are definitely Weird Westerns. He has been Guest of Honor at many conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. His work has been nominated many times for awards, and he has won the Stoker Awards a stunning 10 times across most of its categories, including one for Lifetime Achievement. His short story, “On The Far Side Of The Desert With Dead Folk”, won a British Fantasy Award.
  • Born October 28, 1952 – Annie Potts, 66, Actor whose most famous genre role is undoubtedly as the admin assistant to the parapsychologists in the original Hugo finalist Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II; in one of the many fan-pleasing cameo roles featuring actors from the original, she was the hotel clerk in the Hugo-nominated  Ghostbusters reboot. She had a role in the Hugo finalist The Man Who Fell To Earth, provided the voice of Bo Peep in three of Pixar’s Hugo-nominated Toy Story films, also appeared in episodes of Hercules, The Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories, and currently plays the Meemaw of the titular character in Young Sheldon.
  • Born October 28, 1958 – Amy Thomson, 60, Writer of hard science fiction whose first novel, Virtual Girl, which featured a female Artificial Intelligence and explored themes of feminism, was a Prometheus and Locus Award finalist and earned her a nomination for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Subsequent novels featuring uniquely-alien aliens were finalists for Philip K. Dick and Endeavour Awards. A really interesting io9 interview with her can be read here.
  • Born October 28, 1978 – Gwendoline Christie, 40, Actor from England whose distinctive 6’3″ height gave her the perfect stature to play Brienne of Tarth in the Hugo-winning Game of Thrones (for which she received a Saturn nomination), and Stormtrooper Captain Phasma in the Hugo finalists The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, along with the animated series spinoff Star Wars Resistance and Star Wars videogames. Other genre appearances include parts in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Zero Theorem, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, and a main role in the TV series Wizards vs. Aliens. She also appeared in the music video for Goldfrapp’s “Strict Machine” in 2003.
  • Born October 28, 1982 – Matt Smith, 36, Actor from England who, at the age of 26 – the youngest actor to be given that role – was tapped for a career-making part as the Eleventh incarnation of The Doctor in the very long-running, Saturn-nominated BBC series Doctor Who, a role which he reprised in the Sarah Jane Adventures crossover episode “The Death of the Doctor”, as well as voicing the Big Finish full cast audiowork and several videogames. Twelve of his episodes were Hugo finalists; two of those were winners. In other genre work, he portrayed the physical embodiment of Skynet in the Terminator Genisys film and had roles in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and another zombie film, Patient Zero. It was recently announced that he has been cast in a yet-to-be-disclosed role in Star Wars: Episode IX. And he wears a fez oh so well.

(8) A PAIR OF BIRTHDAY REVIEWS. And two writers continue their daily celebrations:

Richard A. Lovett is one of Analog’s most regular contributors (of non-fiction as well as fiction), and one of its best. Today is his 65th birthday, and so here is a compilations of many of my Locus reviews of his stories.

Thomson won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Author in 1994 on the basis of her debut novel, Virtual Girl. She subsequently published two novels in The Color of Distance series and the stand-alone novel Storyteller, as well as three short stories. She has been nominated for the Prometheus Award for Virtual Girl, the Philip K. Dick Award and Seiun Award for The Color of Distance, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, Gaylactic Spectrum Award, and Endeavour Awards for her novel Storyteller. In the trading card series issued by the Chicago in 2000 Worldcon bid, card number 28 was of Thomson and identified as the “Official Rookie Card.”

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) HARRY POTTER. NPR looks at Harry Potter’s influence: “Inside The Ever-Expanding Wizarding World: Harry Potter At 20”. Chip Hitchcock observes, “The hotel that hosted all 4 Noreascons is buttoned up due to a strike, but next door the Barnes & Noble has a standup of tchotchkes right in the middle of the store.”

It’s hard to remember a world before Harry Potter. The children’s book series is a juggernaut that spawned a film series, theme parks, a Broadway play and museum exhibits. It’s been 20 years since readers in the U.S. were first introduced to the wizarding world, and more than 500 million copies of the books have been sold worldwide.

The series is still intensely personal for the boys and girls who have read, and still read the books. It’s also had a deep impact on what children read.

At the New York Historical Society, a new exhibit called “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” traces the roots of author J.K. Rowling’s novels — and it’s filled with Potterheads of all ages. Inside the museum, curator Roberta Olson is justifiably proud to show what she’s got.

(11) WHAT’S THE PLAN WHEN IT ALL GOES TO HELL? Douglas Rushkoff tells Medium readers what’s on the minds of the wealthy: “Survival of the Richest”.

After I arrived, I was ushered into what I thought was the green room. But instead of being wired with a microphone or taken to a stage, I just sat there at a plain round table as my audience was brought to me: five super-wealthy guys?—?yes, all men?—?from the upper echelon of the hedge fund world. After a bit of small talk, I realized they had no interest in the information I had prepared about the future of technology. They had come with questions of their own.

They started out innocuously enough. Ethereum or bitcoin? Is quantum computing a real thing? Slowly but surely, however, they edged into their real topics of concern.

Which region will be less impacted by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his consciousness live through the transition, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?”

(12) SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER. Runes are busting out all over: “Heatwave reveals England’s lost prehistoric sites” – pictures from all over the UK.

Surveys from the air have revealed Neolithic ceremonial monuments, Iron Age settlements, square burial mounds and a Roman farm for the first time.

Historic England said the weather “provided the perfect conditions” to see the crop marks because of the lack of moisture in the soil.

They include two Neolithic monuments discovered near Milton Keynes.

The long rectangles near Clifton Reynes are thought to be paths or processional ways dating from 3600 to 3000BC, one of the oldest of their type in the country.

Numerous features in a ceremonial landscape near Eynsham, a few miles north-west of Oxford, date from 4000BC to 700BC.

Monuments to the dead, a settlement and a circle of pits can be seen in crop marks on the field in an area that is already protected….

In each case the remains are revealed as differences in colour or in the height of crops or grass.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “The discovery of ancient farms, settlements and Neolithic cursus monuments is exciting.

(13) LOADS OF REVIEWS. If you’re looking for reviews to read, there are links to the reviews of all the works listed below at “Friday’s Forgotten Books, October 26, 2018”.

  • Les Blatt, THE LADY IN THE LAKE, Raymond Chandler
  • Brian Busby, THE TRIUMPHS OF EUGENE VALMONT, Robert Barr
  • Kate Jackson/CrossExaminingCrime. N OR M?, Agatha Christie
  • Martin Edwards, THE MURDER OF MARTIN FOTHERIL, Edward C. Lester
  • Curtis Evans, Felicity Worthington Shaw/”Anne Morice”: Her Life in Crime
  • Rich Horton, MASTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, Robert Silverberg; THE SECRET VISITORS, James White
  • George Kelley, THE FUTURE IS FEMALE, edited by Lisa Yaszek
  • Margot Kinberg, TESS, Kirsten McDougall
  • Rob Kitchin, THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN, Robert Lindsey
  • B.V. Lawson, SHE SHALL HAVE MURDER, Delano Ames
  • Evan Lewis, THIRD ON A SEESAW, “Neil MacNeil” (W. T. Ballard)
  • Steve Lewis, SQUEEZE PLAY, Paul Benjamin
  • Todd Mason, YESTERDAY’S TOMORROWS edited by Frederik Pohl; EDITORS edited by Saul Bellow and Keith Botsford; Futurian editors Doris Baumgardt, Donald Wollheim, Robert Lowndes, Larry Shaw; and the likes of Samuel Delany’s DHALGREN, Josephine Herbst’s THE STARCHED BLUE SKIES OF SPAIN and Gustav Hasford’s THE SHORT-TIMERS
  • J.F. Norris, THIRTEEN STANNERGATE, G.M. Wilson
  • Mike Lind/Only Detect, A PUZZLE FOR FOOLS, “Patrick Quentin”
  • Matt Paust, WHEN TIME RUNS OUT, Elina Hirnoven
  • James Reasoner, THE MANITOU, Graham Masterson
  • Richard Robinson, THE HAPPY BIRTHDAY MURDER, Lee Harris
  • Gerard Saylor, DEAD BEFORE DYING, Deon Myer
  • Kevin Tipple hosting Barry Ergang, WHISTLE UP THE DEVIL, Derek Smith
  • TomCat, APPLEBY’S OTHER STORY, Michael Innes
  • TracyK, HIS BURIAL TOO, Catherine Aird

(14) BATWOMAN PHOTO. Melissa Benoist (Supergirl) has posted a photo of Ruby Rose in her Batwoman costume for this year’s Arrowverse crossover.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Hampus Eckerman, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Todd Mason, Mark Hepworth, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 10/8/18 And We Are Her Sisters, And Her Cousins, And Her Ancillaries

(1) RECESS IS OVER. File 770 was down for approximately 7 hours today, for reasons never fully explained by customer support, except they were “actively working” on a server problem. Well, to quote Sam Gamgee, “I’m back.”

(2) WHO WATCHED. The Guardian has the numbers: “Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who debut is most watched launch for 10 years”.

Jodie Whittaker’s take on the Time Lord drew Doctor Who’s biggest series launch audience in more than a decade on Sunday night.

An average of 8.2m viewers watched Whittaker’s first outing as the Doctor, beating the ratings for political thriller sensation Bodyguard, which attracted 6.7m viewers when it debuted in August. With an audience share of 40.1%, Whittaker’s performance was the most-watched episode of the science fiction drama since the 2008 series.

The first female doctor bettered Matt Smith and David Tennant’s debut viewing figures of 7.7m and 8m respectively. While she drew a smaller audience than Christopher Eccleston’s first appearance, which was watched by 9.9m, he had the advantage of appearing in the show’s comeback episode in 2005.

(3) WHO LISTENED. But some claim the Doctor Who theme music has been defaced. “Yes,” says SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “thought impossible but some consider true.”

The brand new theme for Doctor Who Series 11, composed by Segun Akinola, which premiered tonight during the closing credits of ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’

 

(4) IT’S ALREADY BEEN DONE! Alastair Reynolds apparently blazed the trail for Banksy“Artist shreds unique work of art”.

Alastair Reynolds destroys last english copy of his short-story “Pandora’s Box” at Finncon’09

 

(5) A VOLUNTEER FOR PICARD’S CREW. Wil Wheaton told a Baltimore Comic Con audience he’d say yes — “Star Trek: Wil Wheaton Wants to Return in New Picard Series” at Comicbook.

Of course, fans also want to know if he could appear as Wesley Crusher could appear in the new show. Wheaton says he thinks its unlikely he’ll be asked, but he’d definitely be up for it if asked.

“I think it is very unlikely they will ask me to participate in it,” Wheaton said. “I mean, I think it is just extraordinarily unlikely that will happen. If they did, I would say ‘yes,’ of course. I think all of us would say ‘yes.’ I think all of us if we were given the opportunity to put on the spacesuits again and go work together and bring those characters back, as they would be thirty years later, we would all say ‘yes.’ And I don’t think it’s because we want the work. I don’t think it’s because we need the money. I don’t think it’s because we don’t have other things to do. It’s because we love each other so much and an opportunity, even for a day, to return emotionally to some of the best times of our lives, I think that we would jump at that opportunity.”

(6) LONG LIST ANTHOLOGY. David Steffen’s Long List Anthology Volume 4 Kickstarter has fully funded, included the stretch goal — 204 backers pledged $4,754.

(7) BITE CLUB. Ron Charles in the Washington Post discusses how Fangoria, which died last year, has been revived “as a new quarterly journal with photos so high-gloss that the blood looks wet.”  But Charles notes many book reviews amid all the gory photos, as well as a short story by Chuck Pahlaniuk — “Fangoria, the fabled horror magazine, has risen from the dead”.

…There’s also a piece for die-hard fanatics about continuity problems among the various “Halloween” sequels and a true story about a young man in North Carolina who built a replica of the Myers house. “I have to carefully pick what I’m going to invest my time in,” he says without any apparent irony.

Handy advice abounds in these pages. Makeup artist Tate Steinsiek explains “how to slit your own throat,” and director Corin Hardy walks us through hideous visuals in his new movie “The Nun.” “Malignant Growths,” a piece about homemade horror films, should come with its own barf bag….

(8) RAH RAH RAH (RAH RAH).  In a piece for Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll says there are “Five Books That Improve Upon Heinlein’s Juveniles”. (How can that be possible?)

Nothing fills me with dread quite like a middle-aged male writer announcing that he plans to write a YA novel just like the ones Robert Heinlein used to write . I could explain why this is such a harbinger of disappointment…but Charles Stross has already beat me to it. Instead, allow me to offer some non-Heinlein novels that succeed in scratching some of the same itches that the RAH juvies once scratched. For me, that requires the intended audience to include teens, that the genre be science fiction in the narrow sense, that the protagonist be a young adult, and that they get to do something that actually matters in the course of the book .

(9) NYCC COSPLAY. Huffington Post’s photo gallery promises “Here Are The Best Costumes From 2018’s New York Comic Con”.

But aside from stars to see, artists to discover, and unique merchandise to buy, people go to Comic Con to see (and be seen in) costumes. There were probably as many people in costume as not this year, and as always it was a wonderful distraction when walking from one part of the convention center to another.

(10) NYCC PROGRAM VIDEOS. On the Penguin Random House YouTube channel you’ll find links to 12 full panels recorded at New York Comic Con. These include a Patrick Rothfuss panel, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Panel, A Night with Author Andy Weir (The Martian), “How Writers Build Authenticity Into Diverse Worlds Panel,” Patrick Rothfuss and R.A. Salvatore Discuss Epic Fantasy, “Disney-Lucasfilm Publishing: Stories from a Galaxy Far, Far Away,” The World of Lore with Aaron Mahnke Panel, “Disney-Lucasfilm Presents: A Celebration of Female Writers in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.”

 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 8, 1916 – George Turner, Writer and Critic from Australia, who was a successful mainstream novelist but turned to writing SF fiction and criticism in his sixties. His novel Drowning Towers (also published as The Sea and Summer) was a near-future story about global warming and economic collapse, which won the Clarke Award and was a finalist for the Nebula, Campbell, and Ditmar Awards. His book In the Heart or In the Head: An Essay in Time Travel, a memoir in which he chronicles his chaotic growing-up in a family for whom fact and fantasy were equally acceptable and often indistinguishable, won the William J. Atheling Jr. Award and was a finalist for the Hugo for Best Nonfiction Book. He wrote a lot on the history of the genre, including John W. Campbell: Writer, Editor, Legend for an Australian symposium on Campbell in 1971. He was given an A. Bertram Chandler Award – Australia SFF fandom’s highest honor – and his other works, both SF and genre nonfiction, received many nominations and wins for Ditmar and Atheling Awards, all earned between the age of 60 and his death at age 80. He was to be Author Guest of Honor at Aussiecon 3, the 1999 Worldcon, but died prior to the convention. The interview “Judith Buckrich in Conversation with George Turner” can be found in SF Commentary #76.
  • Born October 8, 1920 – Frank Herbert, Writer well-known for his Dune series – the first of which won Hugo, Nebula, Seiun, and Locus Awards – which has been translated into more than a dozen languages and adapted to movies and videogames, including the Hugo-nominated version by David Lynch. Songs of Muad’Dib: Poems and Songs from Frank Herbert’s Dune was published posthumously, edited by his son Brian Herbert. Other work includes the ConSentiency universe novels, Under Pressure and Hellstrom’s Hive (which was awarded the Prix Apollo), and works in his Pandora and Jorj McKie universes. He was nominated for the 1956 Most Promising New Author Hugo, and was Author Guest of Honor at a number of conventions.
  • Born October 8, 1941 – Penny Frierson, 77, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan who chaired or co-chaired several conventions and Worldcon bids, and co-chaired the 1986 Worldcon. She was one of the founders of the Birmingham Science Fiction Club. She collaborated with her husband Meade in her fan writing; they were big H.P. Lovecraft fans, and their fanzines included Science Fiction on Radio, HPL, The HPL Tribute, The HPL Supplement, and the fannish play, Shattered Like a Clockwork Orange. She was a member of the APAs Myriad, RAPS, and SFPA, Guest of Honor at Coastcon in 1978, and in 1987 Southern Fandom recognized her with the Rebel Award.
  • Born October 8, 1943 – David Dvorkin, 75, Writer from England who emigrated to the U.S., and has written more than a dozen of his own speculative fiction novels, but is perhaps best known for three of the earliest novels written in the Star Trek Original Series and Next Generation universes for Pocket Books.
  • Born October 8, 1943 – R.L. Stine, 75, Writer, Editor, and Producer. Author of more than 300 novels, mostly young adult horror, most famously the Goosebumps series, which, along with some of his other works, has been made in TV series and videogames. He has written novelisations of the genre films Ghostbusters II and Spaceballs. He was recognized with a Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2013.
  • Born October 8, 1949 – Sigourney Weaver, 69, Oscar-nominated Screen and Stage Actor and Producer. Her most famous genre roles are in Hugo-winning movies the Alien series and the Star Trek homage Galaxy Quest, in addition to parts in both Hugo-nominated versions of Ghostbusters, Dave (an uncredited version of Robert Heinlein’s Double Star), the Hugo finalist Avatar and its upcoming sequels, The Village, Vamps, and Chappie. She has also provided voices for animated films including the Hugo-winning WALL-E, Happily N’Ever After, The Tale of Despereaux, and Finding Dory.
  • Born October 8, 1949 – Richard Hescox, 69, Artist and Illustrator who, between the years of 1976 and 1993, illustrated over 135 covers for genre books, but now works mostly in the games industry and for private commissions. He is also notable for producing advertising art for such movies as Escape from New York, Time Bandits, Swamp Thing, The Dark Crystal, The Neverending Story, and Conan the Barbarian. Some of his work has been gathered into two collections, The Fantasy Art of Richard Hescox and The Deceiving Eye: The Art of Richard Hescox, with text by Randy Dannenfelser. He has been nominated for a Chesley a half a dozen times, winning in 2003, named Artist Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and received The Jack Gaughan Award for Best Emerging Artist in 1991.
  • Born October 8, 1956 – Stephanie Zimbalist, 62, Writer and Actor of Stage and Screen. While she is best known for the lead in the TV series Remington Steele, she has appeared in more than 60 stage plays and as many TV series, with her most notable genre appearances being the films Jericho Fever and a Saturn Award-nominated role in The Awakening, the film version of Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars. She appeared in the 2006 documentary Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars, and also portrayed McAuliffe in the play Defying Gravity.
  • Born October 8, 1970 – Matt Damon, 48, Oscar-winning Writer, Actor, and Producer. His most famous genre roles involve having to be rescued in both the Hugo-winner The Martian and the Hugo finalist Interstellar. After starting his career with a role as an uncredited extra on the Hugo-nominated Field of Dreams, he later had parts in genre films The Adjustment Bureau (based on a Philip K. Dick story), The Brothers Grimm, Contagion, Elysium, The Zero Theorem, Downsizing, and he reprised his Dogma role playing Loki in a cameo in the Hugo-nominated Thor: Ragnarok.
  • Born October 8, 1979 – Kristanna Loken, 39, Actor and Producer, known to genre fans as the cyborg Terminatrix from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Her other genre appearances include the films Bloodrayne and In the Name of the King, and the TV series Mortal Kombat: Conquest and Painkiller Jane.

(12) HERBERT DAY. Steven H Silver finds a story to celebrate in a 1971 Analog – “Birthday Reviews: Frank Herbert’s ‘By the Book’” at Black Gate.

Originally published by John W. Campbell, Jr. in the October 1966 issue of Analog Science Fiction Science Fact, “By the Book” was reprinted in 1971 in The Worlds of Frank Herbert and again in The Best of Frank Herbert. It was also included in the Herbert collections Eye and The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert. The story was translated into Croatian in 1978 for inclusion in the Yugoslavian magazine Sirius and into French in 1987 for the Hebert collection Champ Mental.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) LOCAL TALENT. In LA on October 11 — “Dana Gould – A reading of Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space”. Here’s some names you don’t see all the time anymore.

Dana Gould presents A Live, Stage Reading of EdWood’s… Plan 9 from Outer Space

w/ Bobcat Goldthwait, David Koechner, Janet Varney , Laraine Newman, Kevin MacDonald, Dana Gould, Matt Braunger, Rob Zabrecky, Ron Lynch, Nate Mooney, DeborahBaker, Jr., Ken Daly, G CharlesWright, w/ Eban Schletter and other surprises!

(15) DADDY DATA? Variety reports — “TNT Orders Ridley Scott-Produced Sci-Fi Drama ‘Raised by Wolves’”.

TNT has given a straight-to-series order to a sci-fi drama project that hails from executive producer Ridley Scott.

Titled “Raised by Wolves,” the series centers on two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task….

(16) SECOND NOVEL. Adri Joy has been looking forward to the continuation of this series – see “Microreview [Book]: The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The Phoenix Empress pick up almost exactly where its predecessor leaves off, and while the “present” takes up more of the narrative in this volume, there’s still a substantial story-within-a-story as Shizuka fills Shefali in on the events that led to her becoming empress, not to mention developing an alcohol addiction and a severe phobia of water. Shefali has returned from her own travels even more changed, following events in that have led to her being contaminated by black blood but not succumbing to the usual progress of the illness, and now expects to die on her next birthday in four months’ time. A great deal of the book is therefore based on learning each others’ secrets and renewing their relationship, as well as working out what the wider implications of Shefali’s return are for the future of Hokkaro and the black- blood plague.

I suspect that the unusual structure of these novels is playing an important trope-subverting role as well as being a narrative choice….

(17) AGE BEFORE BEAUTY. Apparently D.B. Jackson couldn’t resist the challenge – at Whatever, “The Big Idea: D.B. Jackson”.

Anyone who has written a time travel novel knows that they can send an author ‘round the bend. Time travel is a plotting nightmare. It creates narrative holes big enough to accommodate a truck. It acts as a virtual eraser, a do-over generator, a distributor of endless mulligans. Even the most sound, well-considered plot point can be undermined by the simple question, “Well, why can’t one of our characters go back and prevent this?” Hermione Granger’s ill-advised flirtation with Time-Turners is just the tip of the iceberg. Time travel will make an author’s brain explode.

So, naturally, I have just published the first novel in a new time travel/epic fantasy series.

(18) PALACE INTRIGUE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Various sources are reporting that the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) has announced an intent to deorbit their Tiangong-2 (Celestial Palace 2) space laboratory during or after July 2019. You may recall that Tiangong-1 deorbited in an uncontrolled manner (though the Chinese claim otherwise) earlier this year. Fortunately,  the bits of Tiangong-1 that didn’t burn up on reentry happened to hit an unoccupied part of the Pacific Ocean. The plan for Tiangong-2 is to deliberately aim for such a spot.

Neither of the Celestial Palaces were intended to be permanent space stations, though China is planning a modular space station of a more permanent nature. Mooted dates for launching the various parts of that are currently 2020–2023.

(19) GOTHAM’S FIFTH. The trailer for the last season of Fox’s Gotham was played at the New York Comic Con.

(20) THE LAST GYRO. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA has confirmed, via Twitter, that the Hubble Space Telescope has been put into “safe mode” following the failure of one of its gyroscopes (Space.com: “Hubble Space Telescope in ‘Safe Mode’ After Gyroscope Failure”). This leaves the iconic telescope with only two gyros operating, not enough to “ensure optimal efficiency” per the Hubble website. All six gyroscopes were last replaced during Servicing Mission 4 when Shuttle Atlantis visited in 2009 during mission STS-125. With the Shuttle fleet long retired now, further servicing is not an option.

Dr. Rachel Osten, Hubble Deputy Mission Head, has tweeted that the “[f]irst step is try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic.” If that fails, there was quick speculation that a change in operational mode may emerge, Dr. Grant Tremblay, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted:

*IF* the third [gyroscope] doesn’t spin back up, I wouldn’t be surprised if they drop to 1 gyro mode, keeping the second as reserve. @rachelosten might know, but I imagine it’s a stressful, difficult decision. Let’s just hope the brilliant people at @STScI can recover the third. Stress.

That plan was confirmed shortly after, when Dr Osten replied:

It’s not a difficult decision, @astrogrant: the plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain. There isn’t much difference between 2- and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time. Which the Astro community wants desperately.

In fact, the gyroscope that just failed lasted “about six months longer” than had been anticipated. This failure is one more confirmation that the Hubble is nearing the end of it’s life, though it is clearly still doing good science.

(21) RED HAT. Mlex says he’d wear one –

(22) STYLE POINTS IF YOU STICK THE LANDING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] There’s video of the first Vandenberg landing of a SpaceX Falcon 9 on The Verge (“SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on the California coast for the first time”). The video includes launch, side-by-side views of the second stage burn and the first stage return to Vandenberg, and more. If you want to skip ahead to the final landing  burn, that starts just after the 29 minute mark of the video when the stage is still over 4 km in altitude. This is a night landing, so the burns are spectacular, but overall visibility is limited. The split screen for the last few moments of the landing has video from the side of the stage (looking down) and from a ground camera viewing from a safe distance.

(23) EPISODE RECAP. Martin Morse Wooster says, “My local public television station is showing the New Zealand series The Brokenwood Mysteries.  Last night they showed an episode which appeared in the show’s third season and was broadcast in New Zealand in 2016.” —

The premise is that a sleazy tour operator is offering “Lord of the Ringz” tours to the Brokenwood forest for Chinese tourists.  They’re shown a crappy matte painting of mountains.  Guys with pointy ears do some swordplay. The climax of the tour is when a giant plush toy spider descends on a woman wrapped up in spider webbing–but the unplanned but is that the woman is dead, and the detectives then find out who killed her.

A German guy complains that he isn’t seeing anything from The Lord of the Rings, and is told, “Oh, in New Zealand we spell things creatively.”  In another scene, a lawyer explains that as long as the customers aren’t told they’re seeing things from The Lord of the Rings–and every sign, for some reason, isn’t spelled correctly!–then it’s legal.  “We could be showing scenes from some direct-to DVD film,” he said.

I hope this lawyer never deals with the Tolkien estate…

(24) SHADOW OF VADER. Chuck Wendig will write a five-issue miniseries for Marvel Star Wars:

Chuck Wendig on Darth Vader and his newly-announced series, Shadow of Vader: “Vader is a character with a long shadow, literally and figuratively. His legacy is deep and unpleasant.” The world will not be bereft of Darth Vader in their comics for long, as Wendig announced that he will be writing a miniseries called Shadow of Vader, beginning in November. Each issue will feature a different set of characters: Issue #1 is a Friday the 13th homage, with Vader hunting down kids at summer camp; issue #2 stars the one-and-only Willrow Hood; issue #3 centers on a morgue attendant on the Death Star; issue #4 diverges to focus on the Acolytes of the Beyond; issue #5 follows a New Republic pilot — whose parents were killed by Vader — who joins the Resistance only to learn that Leia’s father is the Sith Lord.

(25) AMERICAN GODS TRAILER. The second season of American Gods is on the way.

A storm is coming. American Gods returns to STARZ in 2019. Starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Yetide Badaki, Orlando Jones, Omid Abtahi, Mousa Kraish, and more.

 

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