Pixel Scroll 6/12/19 If It Is A Pixel That Walks Through Walls, You MAY Get Scratched

(1) MCFARLAND ANNIVERSARY SALE. The late Fred Patten’s Furry Tales (finished in summer 2018) is available for preorder from McFarland Books.

Fans will also be interested to discover that McFarland Books is celebrating their 40th anniversary by offering all their books at a 25% discount through June 30. Use the code —

We’re turning 40, and we’re celebrating with a special fortieth anniversary sale! Through June 30, get a 25% discount on ALL books when you use the code ANN2019. Thank you for supporting our first 40 years—we look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with you.

(2) SCOFFERS. The Guardian rejects the implicit coolness of this idea: “Spielberg After Dark: will a horror show that can only be watched at night be scarier?”

Right, now I get it. A horror series that you can only watch in total darkness. Well, not total darkness, because electric lights exist now, remember.

So it is a horror series that you can watch in the brightest surroundings imaginable? Yes, but only if the sun has set outside.

I still don’t see the point. I don’t expect you to. This is cutting edge. Spielberg After Dark has untapped a brand-new way of watching TV. This might only be the start.

How so? Well, if the technology exists to prevent you from watching something until a certain time of day, think of the potential. Maybe the next big show after Spielberg After Dark will be Spielberg First Thing in the Morning.

Or Spielberg on a Thursday Lunchtime. Why not go even further? Why not have a show that can’t be watched until you’re at a specific location? Spielberg in Gloucestershire, maybe.

(3) THAT MIGHTY BRAIN THING. Eneasz Brodski ponders whether “Consciousness required for Culture?” at Death Is Bad.

…And considering how expensive it is, it must be a massive benefit just to survive. And yet, not only has it survived, it’s taken over the planet. And still we cannot discern any survival advantage that consciousness gives us. It seems to cost a ton with literally no benefit.

(aside: this is the reason we regularly see Science Fiction with advanced non-conscious aliens. It seems intuitively obvious that a non-conscious species would have a huge advantage over a conscious one, and contact with one would lead to our quick extinction. This is also how the Harrises fell into the “the answer must be that consciousness is a fundamental property of physics” trap.)

By coincidence, at about this same time Scott Alexander posted his review of “The Secret of Our Success”. A truly fantastic book which argues, in short, that our species survives and thrives due not to our individual intellect and reasoning ability (which isn’t even up to the job of keeping us from starving to death in a friendly environment overflowing with natural resources and food), but due to the creation and transmission of cultural knowledge. Read Scott’s review at the very least, and pick up the book if you can, you won’t regret it.

Wherein it occurred to me – perhaps consciousness it necessary for culture….

(4) MARVEL AT DISNEYLAND. The LA Times follows the paperwork and discovers “With Star Wars expansion open, Disney gets permits to launch Marvel land”.

The Disneyland Resort has moved full steam ahead on building next year’s planned expansion, a land at California Adventure Park themed for the superheroes of Marvel comics and movies.

The city of Anaheim has approved a handful of building permits for projects such as a bathroom overhaul, a retail outlet, a microbrewery, a character meet-and-greet area, plus improvements to behind-the-scenes buildings

The construction permits assess the value of the work so far at more than $14 million.

One of the permits, approved Wednesday, allows for a 2,071-square-foot merchandise outlet, with three attached canopies. In comparison, the average home in the Western U.S. is 1,800 square feet, according to census data.

(5) INTERNATIONAL DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD. US author Emily Ruskovich has won the 2019 International DUBLIN Literary Award for her novel, Idaho. The non-genre work topped a 10-title shortlist that included George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, and Moshin Hamid’s Exit West.

(6) REFROZEN. Check out the official trailer for Frozen 2, and see the film in theaters November 22.

Why was Elsa born with magical powers? The answer is calling her and threatening her kingdom. Together with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, she’ll set out on a dangerous but remarkable journey. In “Frozen,” Elsa feared her powers were too much for the world. In “Frozen 2,” she must hope they are enough.

(7) REVENGE. James Davis Nicoll has something to say about another dish best served cold: “SFF Stories Of Revenge and Forbearance (But Mostly Revenge)” at Tor.com.

On the whole, society works better if people choose forbearance. But revenge gives ever so much more opportunity for drama. Guess which option science fiction and fantasy authors seem to prefer?

(8) TIMELESS TALES. At CrimeReads, Sandra Ireland tries to work out an answer to her question “Are Crime Thrillers Our New Folklore?”

…In The Lore of Scotland: A Guide to Scottish Legends (Arrow Books, 2011), Sophie Kingshill describes folk tales as a way of personifying the forces of nature, a way of helping people understand the world and giving them some control over their surroundings and circumstances.

Are crime thrillers our new folklore?

It’s my belief that today’s readers want the same things from a story as their ancestors did, long before the invention of the written word. Huddled around a fire in a dark cave, our forebears must have thrilled to tales of light and dark, of good and evil, of life and death. Such things lie beyond the safe circle of the firelight. Who knows what dwells out there, in the dark? Humans are capricious. We enjoy being afraid when the threat is only in our imaginations…

(9) BRADBURY IN ’85. Tom Zimberoff remembers “Photographing Ray Bradbury” as Captan Ahab. (Terrific photo at the link.)

…Ray Bradbury wanted to be portrayed as his all-time favorite character from the canon of American literature: Captain Ahab from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. By the way, Bradbury wrote the screenplay for John Huston’s adaptation of Melville’s novel on the silver screen, featuring Gregory Peck cast as Ahab. Ray thought he could do a better job.

If the harpoon doesn’t look exactly true to form, it’s because my stylist, Shari Geffen, and I had less than a day to come up with all of the props we would need to make Ray up like Ahab. But Shari was a genius. She made a reasonable facsimile of a harpoon out of found material and got the rest of the props and costume from, I think, Western Costume, a rental company catering to the movie and television industries in Hollywood. Lisa-Ann Pedrianna, our makeup artist, painted a collodion scar wickedly down the side of Ray’s face and attached the beard.

Being part whale himself, with his prothesis fashioned from the jaw of another sperm whale, to replace the leg that Moby Dick chomped off, and mythically sanctified by fire when a lightning bolt struck his face (rumored to run down the length of his body), Ahab was nuts.

…The whalebone peg leg required Ray to endure having his ankle cinched up behind his back and tied with a rope around his waist. No Photoshop in those days. He stood that way for several hours! Then, to show off to his wife, he hopped into a cab?—?literally, of course?—?and rode home that way. The cabbie returned the costume and the peg leg the next day.

(10) HOLLYWOOD GOSSIP. Nerdrotic says these are the questions that match its answers: “Star Trek Discovery’s Kurtzman Out? Picard Testing Poorly?”

Rumors keep coming in from behind the scenes at CBS’ Star Trek Discovery and Star Trek Picard. We have heard Netflix rejected Picard and now we hear the test screenings are being received poorly. Star Trek Discovery season 3 may be in question and on top of all of this my insider tells me CBS is done with Alex Kurtzman.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 12, 1987Predator was released on this day.
  • June 12, 2012Ray Bradbury’s Kaleidoscope was released

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 12, 1924 Frank Kelly. All of his short fiction was written in the Thirties for Astounding Science Fiction and Wonder Stories. The stories remained uncollected until they were published as Starship Invincible: Science Fiction Stories of the 30s. He continues to be remembered in Fandom and was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996. Starship Invincible is not available in digital form. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 12, 1930 Jim Nabors. Fum on The Lost Saucer, a mid-Sixties series that lasted sixteen episodes about two friendly time-travelling androids from the year 2369 named Fi (Ruth Buzzi) and Fum (Jim Nabors) who land their UFO on Earth. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 12, 1940 Mary Turzillo, 79. Best known for her short stories of which she has written over forty. She won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for her story “Mars is No Place for Children”.  She has written several books of criticism under the name Mary T. Brizzi including the  Reader’s Guide to Philip José Farmer and the Reader’s Guide to Anne McCaffrey. There’s an Analog interview with her here.
  • Born June 12, 1948 Len Wein. Writer and editor best known for co-creating (with Bernie Wrightson) Swamp Thing and co-creating Wolverine (with Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr.) and for helping revive the the X-Men. He edited Watchmen which must have been interesting. He’s a member of the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 12, 1953 Tess Gerritsen, 66. ISFDB lists her as genre so I’ll include her even though I’m ambivalent on her being so.  They’ve got one novel from the Jane Rizzoli series, The Mephisto Club, and three stand-alone novels (Gravity, Playing with Fire and The Bone Garden). All save Gravity couldbe considered conventional thrillers devoid of genre elements.
  • Born June 12, 1964 Dave Stone, 55. Writer of media tie-ins including quite a few in the Doctor Who universe which contains the Professor Bernice Summerfield stories, and Judge Dredd as well. He has only the Pandora Delbane series ongoing, plus the Golgotha Run novel, and a handful of short fiction.
  • Born June 12, 1968 Marcel Theroux, 51. Author of The Confessions of Mycroft Holmes: A Paper Chase, and his Strange Bodies novel won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. His Far North is a sf novel set in the Siberian taiga. Yes, that’s a novel I want to read. 
  • Born June 12, 1970 Claudia Gray, 49. She’s best known for her Evernight series, but has several more series as well, including the Spellcaster series and the Constellation Trilogy. In addition, she’s written a number of Star Wars novels —  Star Wars: Lost Stars, Star Wars: Bloodline, Leia, Princess of Alderaan and Star Wars: Master and Aprentice.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock says, “I’m with Arlo.”
  • Bizarro remembers the labors of Hercules fils.
  • The Hogwart’s board is a hard sell at Rhymes with Orange.

(14) (DONUT) HOLE IN SPACE. Popsugar says “Disney’s New Star Wars Doughnuts Are So Cool, They’d Make Kylo Ren Crack a Smile”.

The release of these X-Wing and R2D2-inspired snacks is perfectly timed with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland. The Force is far-reaching with these! Get an intergalatic sugar rush before you set out for the day or satisfy your sweet tooth as you’re heading home. Do or doughnut, there is no try.

(15) THE COW JUMPED. This is nothing like one of Van Vogt’s “wheels within wheels” stories, although it does involve a wheel that went to orbit, as Gastro Obscura reminds readers in “SpaceX Space Cheese”.

…In 2010, the rocket venture formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. announced a “secret payload” aboard the maiden flight of their Dragon spacecraft. Fearing the secret cheese would distract press from the actual point of the mission, Musk refrained from revealing anything about it until the project was completed. 

The Dragon’s mission marked the first time a space capsule developed by a private company was launched into orbit and successfully returned to Earth. In a feat previously accomplished by only six government space agencies, the cone-shaped capsule reentered the atmosphere and emerged from its Pacific Ocean splashdown intact. Only then did Musk reveal that a wheel of Le Brouère had hitched a ride, circling Earth twice on its journey. 

Chris Rose says, “I wish I could find somewhere to buy it, but if someone’s near Hawthorne CA I’d love to get a report. Maybe Scott Edelman can eat the sciffy?”

(16) DEADLY CREDENTIALS. Assassin’s Kittens – the fluffy hazard of the Assassin’s Creed! (From 2014.)

(17) KEEP THOSE HUGO REVIEWS COMING.

(18) AND RETROS, TOO. Steve J. Wright has completed his Retro Hugo Short Story Finalist reviews.

Short Story

Evelyn Leeper also delivers reviews of the Retro-Hugo short story finalists, but precedes them with remarks about the burden on dedicated Hugo voters:

Before I start, though, I have some general comments. There are too many categories and/or too many finalists in each category. And having a Retro Hugo ballot in a given year makes this totally ludicrous.

The Hugo voting method works best (or perhaps works only at all) when the voter ranks every finalist in a given category. Currently this means that a voter needs to read six novels, six novellas, six novelettes, and six short stories to vote on just the fiction categories. Oh, wait, there are also six series. Actually, that category alone is impossible for most voters–certainly impossible in the time between when the finalists are announced and when the ballots are due.

(19) MOON SHOT. “Chandrayaan-2: India unveils spacecraft for second Moon mission” –BBC has the story.

India’s space agency has unveiled its spacecraft that it hopes to land on the Moon by September.

If successful, India will be the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, following the US, the former Soviet Union and China.

…This mission will focus on the lunar’s surface and gather data on water, minerals and rock formations.

The new spacecraft will have a lander, an orbiter and rover.

…If all goes according to plan, the lander and rover will touch down near the lunar south pole in September. If successful, it would be the first ever spacecraft to land in that region.

(20) TRUNK MANUSCRIPT. Architectural Digest considers the possibility that “Parks of the Future May Include Elevated Walkways Through Trees”. (From 2017.)

…The firm’s plan for Parkorman, a space located six miles north of Istanbul’s bustling city center, is a series of several different zones that come together in creating an experience that would otherwise not be possible in traditional, densely packed spaces. First, at the park’s entrance, is the Plaza. Here, visitors can easily gather, sit, or lie down on the lawn, much like a traditional park. From there the environment opens to a segment dubbed ‘The Loop,’ where visitors can enjoy a series of swings and hammocks situated above the park floor. ‘The Chords,’ another area on the grounds, invites people to wander through a footpath that twists around tree trunks, giving the park a signature look unique from any other public park in the world. “The initial idea with ‘The Chords’ was to make it possible to experience nature in ways we don’t typically have,” says Dror Benshetrit, head of the firm that bears his name. “The elevated pathway creates a new interaction with trees at different latitudes.”

(21) KRYPTIC IDEA. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Brendan Fraser remembers the time he auditioned to play Superman: ‘You feel kind of invincible'”, says that Fraser recalled testing for Superman: Flyby around a 2004, a J.J. Abrams project that ultimately morphed into Superman Returns. He chats about putting on the super-suit and how much he enjoyed doing it even though the film was never greenlit.

Fraser also remembers really loving Abrams’s script, which imagined a world in which Krypton didn’t explode. Instead, young Kal-El is sent to Earth by his father, Jor-El, to avoid a raging civil war on his homeworld. Once he grows up into Superman, his adopted planet is then visited by a group of war-mongering Kryptonians — led by his cousin Ty-Zor — who kills the would-be champion. But the Man of Steel bounces back to life and plans take the fight to Krypton in a potential sequel. Given the radical changes in store, Warner Bros. tried to keep Flyby details from leaking to the public. “The script was printed on crimson paper with black ink so it couldn’t be photocopied,” Fraser remembers. “I was allowed to sit in an office and read it for an hour. It was like a covert operation.”

(22) HADESTOWN. ScienceFiction.com tells why fans should give this musical a listen: “The Myth-Based Newcomer ‘Hadestown’ Won Eight Tony Awards; Watch The Rousing Performance Here”.

Singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell based the musical on her own concept album of the same name, which reinterprets the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, about the son of Apollo, who falls in love with Eurydice and must journey to the underworld to save her.  Mitchell wrote the music, lyrics and book herself, reimagining the ancient Greek tale, set in the US during the Great Depression.

(23) BACK TO THE FUTURE. ScienceFiction.com also previews the forthcoming Back to the Future musical: “Listen To The First Original Song From ‘Back To The Future: The Musical’, ‘Put Your Mind To It’”.

‘Back to the Future: The Musical’ will open at the Manchester Opera House on February 20, 2020, and will run for 12 weeks, before transferring to London’s West End.  Provided it goes well, presumably it will then be brought to the US.  Tickets to the Manchester shows are already on sale.

The YouTube video introduces the number in these words:

GREAT SCOTT! Turn your flux capacitor on and get ready for 1.21 gigawatts of excitement… Back To The Future – Musical is gonna change musical history at the Manchester Opera House for 12 weeks only from 20 February 2020.  From Back To the Future’s original creators Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, and the combined eight-time Grammy Award-winning pairing of Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard will send you on an electrifying ride through time with an all-new score alongside the movie’s iconic hits, including The Power of Love, Johnny B Goode, Earth Angel and Back in Time!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/8/18 Science Fiction Is What I Yell “ZAP!” For When I Throw At People

(1) WHITTAKER SHALL RETURN.The Hollywood Reporter quashes rumors to the contrary: “Jodie Whittaker Confirms Return for ‘Doctor Who’ Season 12”. Shame on rumor-spreading clickbait sites that got fans all stirred up about this, like, uh — let’s go right to the story, shall we?

The first female Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker, will be returning for another season. 

While it was largely presumed that Whittaker wouldn’t be handing over her sonic screwdriver anytime soon, the typically tight-tipped BBC hadn’t yet confirmed who would be playing Doctor Who for season 12 of the cult sci-fi series, and there was always the chance that she could go the way of Christopher Eccleston, who managed just one stint as the Time Lord. 

“I really can’t wait to step back in and get to work again,” Whittaker told The Hollywood Reporter.”It’s such an incredible role. It’s been an extraordinary journey so far and I’m not quite ready to hand it over yet.”

(2) NEW SFF ZINE DEBUTES NEXT WEEKEND. Future Science Fiction Digest, a new quarterly publication with a strong focus on translation and international fiction, will be available December 15, with the stories to be posted on the web over the next several months

It is a collaboration between Future Affairs Administration (a media and technology brand in China) and UFO Publishing (a small press from Brooklyn, NY) and is edited by Alex Shvartsman.

Our first issue features fiction from the United States, China, Nigeria, Italy, and the Ukraine, as well as several articles, totaling 65,000 words. It will be published on December 15, with stories posted on the web over the course of several months. The next issue will be published on March 15.

(3) TODAY’S BRADBURY REFERENCE. Dennis Howard got permission to share this image with File 770 readers:

My ex emailed me this photo she took at Walmart and asked if I remembered Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Jar”. Of course, I remembered that creepy episode based on a Ray Bradbury story. I wonder if the manufacturer of this thing remembers.

(4) KGB. The hosts of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, present Maria Dahvana Headley & Nicole Kornher-Stace on December 19.

Maria Dahvana Headley

Maria Dahvana Headley is a New York Times-bestselling author of seven books, most recently The Mere Wife,a contemporary retelling of Beowulf for the McD imprint at Farrar, Straus& Giroux, which will be followed in 2019 by a new translation of Beowulf, for the same publisher. She’s also the author of the young adult novels Magonia and Aerie. With Neil Gaiman, she edited Unnatural Creatures, and with Kat Howard, she wrote The End of the Sentence. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson Awards, and included in many Year’s Bests, including Best American Fantasy & Science Fiction, in which, this year, she has two stories. @MariaDahvana on Twitter, or www.mariadahvanaheadley.com

Nicole Kornher-Stace

Nicole Kornher-Stace is the author of Desideria, The Winter Triptych, the Norton Award finalist Archivist Wasp, and its sequel, LatchkeyHer short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Apex, and Fantasy, as well as many anthologiesShe lives in New Paltz, NY with her family. She can be found online at www.nicolekornherstace.com, on Facebook, or onTwitter @wirewalking.

Things begin Wednesday, December 19, 2018, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York, NY.

(5) PRATCHETT REFERENCE. Quoting an article by Simon Ings in the December 1 Financial Times about artists who have residencies at the CERN particle physics laboratory —

In The Science of Discworld 4: Judgment Day, mathematician Ian Stewart and reproductive biologist Jack Cohen have fun at the expense of the particle physics community.  Imagine, they say, a group of blind sages at a hotel, poking at a foyer piano.  After some hours, they arrive at an elegant theory about what a piano is–one that involves sound, frequency, harmony, and the material properties of piano strings.

Then one of their number, still not satisfied, suggests that they carry the piano upstairs and drop it from the roof. This they do–and spend the rest of the day dreaming up and knocking over countless ugly hypotheses  involving hypothetical ‘trangons’ and ‘thudons’ and, oh I don’t know, ‘crash bosons.’

(6) BUTLER. Samuel Delany encourages sff readers to get familiar with this Octavia Butler story and a parallel case of injustice.

Three years before she died, Octavia E. Butler wrote her last two science fiction stories: One of them, “Amnesty,” was published in 2003. Though it received no awards, it is arguably the most important SF story written in this the last quarter of a century. It is the penultimate story in the revised and expanded edition of this book (2005). You should have read it but if, for some reason, you haven’t; then you should learn who the models for the alien “Communities” were and the story’s general political inspiration. It is one of the last two story in the second edition of this book.
Wikipedia is a good start. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wen_Ho_Lee> After you familiarize yourself with this frightening case of injustice, probably you should read the story again.

(7) IMAGINING TECH. Brian Merchant covers the sci-fi/industrial complex for Medium: “Nike and Boeing Are Paying Sci-Fi Writers to Predict Their Futures”.

One of the most influential product prototypes of the 21st century wasn’t dreamed up in Cupertino or Mountain View. Its development began around a half-century ago, in the pages of a monthly pulp fiction mag.

In 1956, Philip K. Dick published a short story that follows the tribulations of a police chief in a future marked by predictive computers, humans wired to machines, and screen-based video communications. Dick’s work inspired a generation of scientists and engineers to think deeply about that kind of future. To adapt that same story into a $100 million Hollywood film 50 years later, Steven Spielberg sent his production designer, Alex McDowell, to MIT. There, a pioneering researcher?—?and lifelong Dickfan?—?named John Underkoffler was experimenting with ways to let people manipulate data with gloved hands. In 2002, a version of his prototype was featured in the film, where it quickly became one of the most important fictional user interfaces since the heyday of Star Trek. Bas Ording, one of the chief UI designers of the original iPhone, told me his work was inspired directly by the gesture-based system showcased in Minority Report.

For the past century, this messy, looping process?—?in which science fiction writers imagine the fabric of various futures, then the generation reared on those visions sets about bringing them into being?—?has yielded some of our most enduring technologies and products. The late sci-fi author Thomas Disch called it “creative visualization” and noted there was no more persuasive example of its power “than the way the rocket-ship daydreams of the early twentieth century evolved into NASA’s hardware.” Submarines, cellphones, and e-readers all evolved along these lines.

Minority Report produced a hundred patents and helped rapidly mainstream the concept of gesture-based computing?—?not just the iPhone but all touchscreen tablets, the Kinect, the Wii?—?and became cultural shorthand for anyone looking to point their ventures toward the future.

(8) SEIDEL OBIT. Myla Seidel, who more fans would have known as Anne Cox, died December 7 reports her son Kevin. Ed and Anne Cox were among the first fans I met in person in the Seventies. They later divorced. Ed died in 1997, and the last time I saw Anne was at a memorial gathering for him.

Ed Cox and Anne Cox (Myla Seidel).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 8, 1954 Atomic Kid, starring Mickey Rooney, was released on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Director of A Trip To The Moon which I know was one of Kage Baker’s most-liked films. It surely must be one of the earliest genre films and also one of the most visually iconic with the rocket ship stuck in the face of the moon. He did some other other genre shorts such as Baron Munchausen’s Dream and The Legend of Rip Van Winkle. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1894 E.C.Segar. Creator of Popeye who of course is genre.Who could not watch Altman’s film and not know that? Segar created the character who first appeared in 1929 in Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre. Fantagraphics has published a six-volume book set reprinting all Thimble Theatre daily and Sunday strips from 1928–38. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker,68. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London. So what else is he know for? Oh I’m not listing everything but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The Exorcist, Star Wars, The Howling which I love, Starman for the Starman transformation, Beast design on the Beauty and the Beast series and Hellboy. 
  • Born December 8, 1951Brian Attebery, 67. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and his Parabolas of Science Fiction recently published with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. 
  • Born December 8, 1965David Harewood, 53. First genre appearance is the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North (Billie Piper plays the lead). He played Tuck in the BBC’s Robin Hood series and showed up as Joshua Naismith in Doctor Who’s ‘The End of Time ‘ episode. Currently he plays two separate characters on Supergirl, J’onnJ’onzz/Martian Manhunter / Hank Henshaw and Cyborg Superman. 
  • Born December 8, 1976 Dominic Monaghan, 42. He  played Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck in Peter Jackson’s version of the Lord of the Rings.He’s also the narrator of Ringers: Lord of the Fans, a look at the early days of the Tolkien fandom when it was part of the hippie culture. He has a role as Maverick in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and will be appearing in the forthcoming Star Wars: Episode IX.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe questions the constant recycling of familiar movie franchises. Sort of.
  • Incidental Comics has a book lover’s holiday wish list.

(12) KEY INGREDIENTS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Have you ever felt the need to spend $250 on a set of replacement keycaps for your computer keyboard? If so, Novel Keys has you covered with this set captioned in Aurebesh characters. SYFY Wire has the full story (“Star Wars keyboard senses a great disturbance in your command of Aurebesh”). The keycaps are expected to ship“late April 2019” for preorders through 5 January. Two models are available,with only Aurebesh or with English legends added.

Alright, C-3PO, it’s time to break out those awesome translating skills you’re always humblebragging about — and while you’re at it, break out your wallet, too. Star Wars has just licensed its first-ever official computer keyboard replacement set, coded in Aurebesh, the written version of the official language spoken throughout the Galactic Empire.

This new key replacement set is color-themed to appeal more to the Death Star crowd than to supporters of the gauzy-hued Rebellion. That means don’t even bother looking for X-Wing symbols and Yoda silhouettes here; rather, the Galactic Empire DSA Set sports the cool iconography of the galactic alphabet, plus some killer stand-in Dark Side symbols (like TIE Fighters, AT-ATs, and Darth Vader helmets) for commonly used commands. A red lightsaber in place of an enter/return key? Swish, swish.

(13) THOSE WERE THE DAYS. An article in the December 1 Financial Times by David McWilliams about the possibility that Brexit would lead to the unification of Northern Ireland with Ireland includes this ST:TNGreference:

In 2990 an episode in the third series of Star Trek:  The Next Generation was deemed so incendiary that it was censored in Britain and Ireland.  In that Episode, “The High Ground,’the Starship Enterprise’s android officer data, musing on terrorism, noted from the vantage point of the year 2364 that Ireland had been unified in 2024. The episode was pulled for fear it might encourage more political violence; 1990 was the year the IRA bombed the London Stock Exchange, assassinated Conservative political Ian Gow and when 81 people on both sides of the conflict were murdered in Northern Ireland.

(14) EVEN OLDER DAYS. At theinferor4, Paul Di Filippo shared an antique poem he rediscovered: “Lament for 1999 from the Year 1911”.

…Think of the thrill to him who first took flight,

When all the vast familiar continent

Of air was unexplored….

(15) PLASTIC RAPS. A character who debuted in 1941 might be getting his own movie. The Hollywood Reporter thinks “‘Plastic Man’ Could Be DC’s Answer to ‘Deadpool'”.

And not just because both characters are dressed in red, have criminal backgrounds and smart mouths that don’t know when to shut up. That Warner Bros. is developing a Plastic Man movie perhaps shouldn’t come as quite the surprise that it does; after all, not only did the DC superhero headline his own ABC animated series for a couple of years, but he’s also the perfect choice to give Warners something that it never even knew it needed: A comedic foil to the rest of the DC cinematic universe.

This wouldn’t be a new role for Plas, as the character’s often called for short. Unusually for a superhero — and especially one whose origin involves having been a criminal who was left for dead by his gang after being exposed to some mysterious chemicals— Plastic Man has traditionally been a comedy character throughout his 75-plus year career. Indeed, his 1970s animated series underscored this appeal by being called The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show. (The series ran from 1979 through 1981; he’s also appeared in other DC animated shows, including Batman:The Brave and the Bold and Justice League Action.)

(16) HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL HAGGIS. NPR interviews the star of “‘Anna And The Apocalypse’: The Scottish Zombie Christmas High School Musical”.

Anna and the Apocalypse is a [checks notes] Scottish zombie Christmas high school musical.

It drew raves in Great Britain, and has now been released in the United States. It’s based on a short film by the writer-director Ryan McHenry, who died of bone cancer at age 27, and did not get to complete this feature-length production.

Anna and the Apocalypse is directed by John McPhail. Ella Hunt (who is English) stars as the young Scottish teen who’s about to graduate from school, but first has to contend with the zombie takeover of her village and perhaps the world — with a little help from her friends.

“I love that this film glorifies teenage friendship and not teenage romance,” Hunt says in an interview. “To me, it’s a much truer thing to glorify.”

(17) BONDING. In the Weekly Standard, Tony Mecia visits the James Bond museum in Murren, Switzerland, which was built to be Blofeld’s lair in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and which gives visitors the chance to pick up a red phone to hear instructions from M and “graft a photo of your face onto (George) Lazenby’s face as he aims a pistol.” —“High-Altitude Hideout”

In real life, the filming location called Piz Gloria was not destroyed. For decades, it was merely an observation point and restaurant. In 2013, its owners decided it needed more. They added a small museum, known as“Bond World 007,” and have been adding Bond-related features ever since.

Among serious Bond fans, the site “is the Holy Grail of Bond film locations,” says Martijn Mulder, a Dutch journalist who leads occasional Bond tours and coauthored On the Tracks of 007: A Field Guide to the Exotic James Bond Filming Locations Around the World. That’s because filmmakers bankrolled construction of Piz Gloria, which looks just as it did in the late 1960s.

Bond enthusiasts list other prime destinations, too, such as a site near Phuket, Thailand, that has come to be called “James Bond Island” after appearing in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun. Last year, Mulder led 40 people on a two-week tour of Japan to visit locations used in 1967’s You Only Live Twice. He was forced to scrap a two-hour hike to a volcano crater that was an earlier Blofeld hideout because the volcano showed signs of erupting.

(18) MAN’S BEST FIEND. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett begins “Bad Mad Vlad” with this unusual comparison —

Vampires are a lot like dogs, you know.

No. Don’t scoff. They really are if you think about it in just the wrong way (that’s always been the Doctor Strangemind way of course).

Here, let me explain.

So what is the single most noticeable feature of the animal known as dog? That’s right, the seemingly endless plasticity of the species.The fact is humanity has been able to twist and turn and breed dogs into a startling wide array of forms from poodles to corgis to dobermans. If the average Martian visited our planet what are the chances that this visitor from space would guess right off that all dogs are of the same species? Not likely is it? Instead the average Martian would probably decide that dogs make no sense to them. Which is probably why they don’t visit Earth all that often,they find this planet too weird and confusing to be a satisfactory holiday destination.

So what has this to do with vampires I’ve no doubt you’re wondering. Well, the answer to that is to point out how humanity has been able to twist and turn and write vampires into a startling wide array of types and situations, far more than any other supernatural creature….

(19) FIGHT TO THE FINNISH. NPR hopes “World’s First Insect Vaccine Could Help Bees Fight Off Deadly Disease”.

Bees may soon get an ally in their fight against bacterial disease — one of the most serious threats the pollinators face — in the form of an edible vaccine. That’s the promise held out by researchers in Finland, who say they’ve made the first-ever vaccine for insects, aimed at helping struggling honeybee populations.

The scientists are targeting one of bees’ most deadly enemies:American foulbrood, or AFB, an infectious disease that devastates hives and can spread at a calamitous rate. Often introduced by nurse bees, the disease works by bacteria feeding on larvae — and then generating more spores, to spread further.

(20) BREAKING MARTIAN WIND. BBC shares a sound clip: “Nasa’s InSight probe listens to Martian winds”.

The British seismometer package carried on Nasa’s InSight lander detected the vibrations from Martian air as it rushed over the probe’s solar panels.

“The solar panels on the lander’s sides are perfect acoustic receivers,” said Prof Tom Pike, who leads the seismometer experiment from Imperial College London.

“It’s like InSight is cupping its ears.”

Prof Pike compares the effect to a flag in the wind.As a flag breaks up the wind, it creates oscillations in frequency that the human ear perceives as flapping.

(21) DRAGONS HAVE GAS. Space flatulence is a real problem closer to home. Wired lays out the story: “A SpaceX Delivery Capsule May Be Contaminating the ISS”. Evidence is accumulating that the Dragon capsule is outgassing and the contaminants are, well, accumulating on the outside of the International Space Station.

In February 2017, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted through low clouds, pushing a Dragon capsule toward orbit. Among the spare parts and food, an important piece of scientific cargo, called SAGE III  rumbled upward. Once installed on the International Space Station, SAGE would peer back and measure ozone molecules and aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere. Its older siblings (SAGEs I and II) had revealed both the growth of the gaping ozone hole and,after humans decided to stop spraying Freon everywhere, its subsequent recovery.

This third kid, then, had a lot to live up to. Like its environmentally conscious predecessors, SAGE III is super sensitive. Because it needs unpolluted conditions to operate optimally, it includes contamination sensors that keep an eye on whether and how its environment might be messing up its measurements. Those sensors soon came in handy: When the next three Dragons docked at the Space Station, over the following months, SAGE experienced unexplained spikes in contamination. Something on these Dragons was outgassing—releasing molecules beyond the expected, and perhaps the acceptable, levels. And those molecules were sticking to SAGE.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Artificial Intelligence That Deleted a Century” on YouTube, Tom Scott shows what happened when a program released in 2028 to hunt down copyright violators on YouTube achieves artificial general intelligence.

[Thanks to Kevin Cox, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Dennis Howard, Alan Baumler, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]