Pixel Scroll 7/28/21 So Put Another File In The Jukebox, Baby

(1) MORE’S HAPPENING THAN WHAT’S ON THE PAGE. Aigner Loren Wilson is “Exploring Nnedi Okorafor’s Africanfuturist Universe” at Tor.com.

…Though not all of the stories take place in Africa, they all speak to the same African future that Okorafor is creating and envisioning. Sometimes this future is at the nexus of American industrialism and the exploitation of Africans like in The Book of Phoenix, in which Okorafor shows the rage and anger of a child used and experimented on. Sometimes her stories show the aftermath of such greed. In Who Fears Death, Okorafor writes of the strife of Sudan and the resilience of its people through the story of Onyesonwu. Readers watch her grow from an infant to a powerful being with the ability to save and heal a whole people. Though the landscapes change, the heart of an Africanfuturist universe is being carved out within these books. Eventually in Binti, Africa reaches the stars by way of the character literally running away so she can be the first of her people to attend a top intergalactic school. Binti is the future of her people, carrying the weight of all the past struggles of them and herself—the histories both told and not….

(2) BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST. The Booker Prize 2021 longlist includes three books of genre interest, titles shown in boldface.

  • A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)
  • Second Place, Rachel Cusk, (Faber)
  • The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • The Sweetness of Water, Nathan Harris (Tinder Press, Headline, Hachette Book Group)
  • Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)
  • An Island, Karen Jennings (Holland House Books)
  • A Town Called Solace, Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)
  • Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)
  • China Room, Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker, Vintage, PRH)
  • Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)
  • Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford (Faber)

The shortlist will be announced September 14, and the winner on November 3.

(3) COMPLICATED Q&A. LeVar Burton was interviewed by David Marchese in the July 4 New York Times Magazine.  It’s mostly about his Jeopardy! stint, but he also discusses his 1997 sf novel Aftermath, which has recently been reprinted. “LeVar Burton’s Quest to Succeed Alex Trebek”

…Forgive me for making the subtext of these questions the text, but I’m trying to see if we can complicate the image of you as almost a secular pop-culture saint like Alex Trebek or Fred Rogers. And one of the things that I came across that maybe does complicate things is your novel, “Aftermath.”5

[5 Published in 1997, Burton’s only novel to date is a dystopian story about a United States recovering from a series of catastrophic events, including violent racial conflicts after the assassination of the nation’s first Black president-elect by a white extremist.]

 Wow. I love talking to people who have taken the time to read my book. I’m enormously proud of it. I just recorded a digital version of it with a new author’s note. I threw out the old author’s note about how I came to be a science-fiction fan and instead addressed the time in which we find ourselves now and some of the ways in which the events at the beginning of the novel are kind of prescient.

I don’t really know how well the book sold, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s obscure. Is it possible that the public wasn’t eager to accept the side of your sensibility that it represented? I was surprised by the violence, the allusions to sexual assault — just the darkness in it. 

I would venture to say, based on some encounters that I have had on Twitter, that there is a population of people who aren’t willing to see me displaying an aspect of my character that perhaps goes against their idea of who I am. They feel like they have the right to opine on who I should be, what I should and should not say. That’s an interesting part of this dynamic of fame. However, I spent a lot of time and energy discovering, defining, divining who I am and how I want to live my life. What you do with what I put out there is your business. What I put out there is my business….

(4) AFTER ACTION REPORT. At Green Book of the White Downs, Tim Bolton’s “Thoughts on the release of the Tolkien Society Summer Seminar videos and push-back against the online small-minded backlash around the event” includes links to “an outpouring of writing focused on the reception of Tolkien’s work and finding representation to identify with in Tolkien’s words” plus “numerous blog posts about LGBT+ and Tolkien.”

…A couple of weeks ago, as we headed towards what would be a fantastic and thoughtful Tolkien Society Summer Seminar, it came apparent that a part of the Tolkien fandom were quite vocally angry that diversity should be a topic associated with Tolkien. We saw a rival conference set up (as if other conferences have ever been a bad thing), we saw podcasts and YouTube rants. Social media saw the same people posting angrily about the affront that the Tolkien Society were holding a seminar – not sure where these lot have been, the Tolkien Society have hosted seminars every year for longer than some of them were born….    

This is the Tolkien Society seminar whose announced schedule was used by some bloggers as an excuse to act out – “Seminar’s Focus on Diversity in Tolkien Draws Conservatives’ Ire” – including pitching a dubious rival event: “Purported Event Will Counter-Program the Seminar on Diversity in Tolkien”.

Bolton concludes his post with this affirmation:

…Here’s the thing. No matter how far back these cave trolls want to try and drag us, we (as a fandom and a society) are going to move forward. We are diverse, we are inclusive. Will we make mistakes? Of course, we are human. But I will stand by groups that at their core hold values such empathy, kindness and being welcoming to all.

And at the centre of it all – our love of Tolkien’s works.

(5) DOG AT LARGE. Joseph Tuttle introduces readers to “’Roverandom:’ Tolkien’s little-known children’s story” at Voyage.

Roverandom is the endearing tale of a little dog’s adventures after being turned into a toy by a wizard. Tolkien originally told this story to his children after one of them had lost a toy dog on vacation. After searching for the lost toy unsuccessfully, Tolkien devised Roverandom to help explain what happened to the toy. Years later, he put the story into the book format we now have….

(6) LUMPY LOKI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 24 Financial Times, Fiona Sturges interviews Richard E Grant about his role on Loki.

Grant hams it up terrifically as Classic Loki, one of several ‘variant’ Lokis marooned in a purgatory known as ‘The Void’ (other variants include Alligator Loki and Kid Loki.)  When he first saw his costume — scoffed-grubby-with clear sagging in the crotch area — he was a little crestfallen.  ‘My first question was, ‘Where are the muscles?’  If you look at Jack Kirby’s original drawings in the comic, the guy had muscles.  But the costume designer was very insistent that I was relying on Loki magic (for strength). So I didn’t get my way.  I thought, ‘Oh well, it’s a withered and old Classic Loki that they’re going to get!’

The role also required Grant to grapple with CGI and green screen technology.  He notes that in 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, in which he played Allegiant General Pryde, ‘ all the doors were functional, all the lights on the consoles worked, and there were stormtroopers’  By contrast, in Loki, his alligator co-star was made of three cushions roughly sewn together. 

(7) METAVERSE MAVEN. The Verge says “Mark Zuckerberg is betting Facebook’s future on the metaverse” – so I guess I’d better start figuring out what that’s supposed to be.

As June came to an end, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his employees about an ambitious new initiative. The future of the company would go far beyond its current project of building a set of connected social apps and some hardware to support them. Instead, he said, Facebook would strive to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi — a world known as the metaverse.

The company’s divisions focused on products for communities, creators, commerce, and virtual reality would increasingly work to realize this vision, he said in a remote address to employees. “What I think is most interesting is how these themes will come together into a bigger idea,” Zuckerberg said. “Our overarching goal across all of these initiatives is to help bring the metaverse to life.”

The metaverse is having a moment. Coined in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, the term refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space. Earlier this month, The New York Times explored how companies and products including Epic Games’ FortniteRoblox, and even Animal Crossing: New Horizons increasingly had metaverse-like elements. (Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been discussing his desire to contribute to a metaverse for many months now.)…

(8) SECOND BANANAS WITH MORE APPEAL. James Davis Nicoll points out “Five Supporting Characters Who Outshine the Protagonist” at Tor.com.

Sergeant Sam Anderson from Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein (1953)

Had runaway Max Jones never met Sam Anderson, late of the Imperial Marines, Max’s plans to follow his late uncle Chester into space would have come to nothing. Chester may have been a member in good standing of the Astrogators’ Guild, but he never signed the necessary paperwork nominating Max for membership. As far as the Guild is concerned, that is that.

Sam, on the other hand, has the ethical flexibility, experience, and connections needed to circumvent onerous regulation. Thanks to Sam’s experienced mentorship, Max acquires all the necessary papers needed to work in space and a position on board the Asgard. Max’s odd talents will prove invaluable when the Asgard is lost in space. Those talents would never have been there to help the Asgard without genially amoral Sam’s corrupting influence.

(9) HELP SOLVE A MYSTERY. Filer Jake says at the Something Awful forums someone has posted a Polaroid picture from 1989 in which a paperback book, believed to be SF, can be seen, and asked “What is that book?”

We’re seriously stumped, to the point where I’ve been trawling a copy of the ISFDB to get titles that might be of the same length as the one in the picture, and am also considering downloading their cover DB so as to do some heavy-duty image analysis.

I’m hoping that you’d be willing to add this as an item in a Pixel Scroll, as in the words of the original asker “Why should we be the only ones to be haunted by this?”

This is the picture. You can see why they’re having so much trouble figuring out the answer. But maybe the pattern of the cover will tickle something in your memory banks?

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 28, 2007 – On this date fourteen years ago, Jekyll, a British series produced as a sequel to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde novella, finishes airing on BBC One. Steven Moffat wrote all six episodes with Douglas Mackinnon and Matt Lipsey each directing three episodes. Elaine Cameron and Jeffrey Taylor were the producers. It starred James Nesbitt in the lead role with the rest of the cast being Gina Bellman, Paterson Joseph, Denis Lawson, Michelle Ryan, Meera Syal and Fenella Woolgar. Critics loved it with James Jackson of The Times saying Nesbitt’s acting as Hyde was “entertainingly over the top as a dozen Doctor Who villains, with a palpable sense of menace to boot”.  A second season was written by Moffat but the BBC never picked up the option on it. Eight years later, ITV would air Jekyll and Hyde based off the same source material and it too would cancelled after one series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second-to-none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Those skills are reflected in her fiction. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 93. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies.has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here.
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here as I can’t add anything to what he says.  I will note that Jay Kay was a published author of three stories, “Century of Progress”, “Mass Communication“ and  “On Conquered Earth”.  The first two in Analog, the latter in If. None of these have been republished since.  (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous LizardThe Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1955 Dey Young, 66. One of those performers who appeared in multiple Trek series. She was in Next Gen’s “The Masterpiece Society” as Hannah Bates, in Deep Space Nine’s “A Simple Investigation” as Arissa and  and in Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights” as Keyla. She’s got minor roles in Running ManStrange Invaders and Spaceballs as well.
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 55. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. (They were CoNZealand GoHs last year.) He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 53. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed up as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Born July 28, 1972 Elizabeth Berkley, 49. Her best known role is Verhooven’s Showgirls which is decidedly not genre even if Kyle MacLachan is in it. She’s done some genre work including The Twilight ZonePerversions of Science which appears to be akin to the Tales from The Crypt series, the animated Armitage III: Polymatrix series, and the Threshold series which pops up regularly in these Birthday notes. 

(12) SJW CREDENTIAL BUNDLE. StoryBundle’s 2021 Cattitude Bundle, curated by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is available for three more weeks. Get the full list of books and the rest of the deal at the link.

This bundle thrills me. Often, I curate StoryBundles filled with books I’ve read. Always, I curate with authors whose work I like. But as I curate them, I’m aware that I am a moody reader who rarely wants to read what’s prescribed. So, with the books I have only read parts of or haven’t read at all, I put them in a To-Be-Read pile to finish when the mood strikes.

With cat fiction, though, the mood always strikes me. I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to read a cat story. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ll do whatever I’m doing, unless I’m petting one of my three cats.

Many of the books in this bundle combine cats and magic. It seems a proper combination. Cats can twist themselves into the strangest positions. They have an uncanny way of loving us or torturing us (depending on how they feel about us). They have a mysterious edge, even if they’re the friendliest cat on the planet.

(13) LOCKDOWN WAS GOOD BUSINESS FOR THEM. Game makers are getting an unexpected slice of the pie. The Guardian has the story: “Warhammer maker Games Workshop hands staff £5,000 bonus after lockdown sales surge”.

Warhammer retailer Games Workshop is handing its shop workers, model makers, designers and support staff a £5,000 bonus each after sales and profits benefited from tabletop gamers escaping lockdown by fighting bloodthirsty battles with orcs, elves and alien hordes.

The Nottingham-based company behind the popular fantasygaming equipment and Lord of the Rings figurines said its 2,600 ordinary workers would split a £10.6m special bonus on top of a £2.6m profit share.

Senior managers will share an extra £1.1m bonus pot, up from £300,000 the year before, after sales rose by just over a third to £361m and pretax profits soared almost 70% to £151m….

(14) WITCHER SPINOFF. This trailer for a Witcher anime spinoff dropped on Wednesday. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf premieres August 23 on Netflix.

The world of The Witcher expands in this anime origin story: Before Geralt, there was his mentor Vesemir — a swashbuckling young witcher who escaped a life of poverty to slay monsters for coin. But when a strange new monster begins terrorizing a politically-fraught kingdom, Vesemir finds himself on a frightening adventure that forces him to confront the demons of his past.

(15) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. Dr. Brian Keating, Co-Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, who also is a member of the Galileo Project’s Advisory Board, is joined by Harvard University Professor Avi Loeb to chat about the Galileo Project in “Extraterrestrial Technology: The Situation Has Changed!” on YouTube.

Huge news out of Harvard: In 2017, the world for the first time observed an interstellar object, called ‘Oumuamua, that was briefly visiting our Solar system. Based on astronomical observations, ‘Oumuamua turned out to have highly anomalous properties that defy well-understood natural explanations. We can only speculate whether ‘Oumuamua may be explained by never seen before natural explanations, or by stretching our imagination to ‘Oumuamua perhaps being an extraterrestrial technological object, similar to a very thin light-sail or communication dish, which fits the astronomical data rather well.

After the release of the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), the scientific community now needs the determination to systematically, scientifically & transparently look for potential evidence of extraterrestrial technological equipment. The impact of any discovery of extraterrestrial technology on science & on our entire worldview would be enormous.

Given the recently discovered abundance of Earth-Sun systems, the Galileo Project is dedicated to the proposition that humans can no longer ignore the possible existence of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs), and that science should not dogmatically reject potential extraterrestrial explanations because of social stigma or cultural preferences, factors which are not conducive to the scientific method of unbiased, empirical inquiry. We now must look through new telescopes, both literally and figuratively. The Galileo Project aims to identify the nature of UAP and ‘Oumuamua-like interstellar objects using the standard scientific method based on a transparent analysis of open scientific data to be collected using optimized instruments.

The Galileo Project follows three major avenues of research:

1. Obtain High-resolution, Multi-detector UAP Images, Discover their Nature: This goal will be accomplished by searching for UAP with a network of mid-sized, high-resolution telescopes and detector arrays with suitable cameras and computer systems, distributed in select locations. The data will be open to the public and the scientific analysis will be transparent.

We anticipate extensive Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning (AI/DL) and algorithmic approaches to differentiate atmospheric phenomena from birds, balloons, commercial or consumer drones, and from potential technological objects of terrestrial or other origin surveying our planet, such as satellites. For the purpose of high contrast imaging, each telescope will be part of a detector array of orthogonal and complementary capabilities from radar, Doppler radar, and high-resolution synthetic aperture radar to high-resolution, large camera visible range and infrared band telescopes. If an ETC is discovered to be surveying Earth using UAP, then we have to assume that the ETC has mastered passive radar, optical and infrared technologies. In such a case, our systematic study of such detected UAP will be enhanced by means of high-performance, integrated and multi-wavelength detector arrays.

2. Search for and In-Depth Research on ‘Oumuamua-like Interstellar Objects:  

The Galileo Project research group also will utilize existing and future astronomical surveys, such as the Rubin Observatory, to discover and monitor the properties of interstellar visitors to the Solar system. We will conceptualize and design, potentially in collaboration with interested space agencies or space ventures, a launch-ready space mission to image unusual interstellar objects such as ‘Oumuamua by intercepting their trajectories on their approach to the Sun or by using ground-based survey telescopes to discover interstellar meteors.

3. Search for Potential ETC Satellites: Discovering potential 1 meter-scale or smaller satellites that may be exploring Earth, e.g., in polar orbits a few hundred km above Earth, may become feasible with VRO in 2023 and later, but if radar, optical and infrared technologies have been mastered by an ETC, then very sophisticated large telescopes on Earth might be required. We will design advanced algorithmic and AI/DL object recognition and fast filtering methods that the Galileo Project intends to deploy, initially on non-orbiting telescopes. 

(16) PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. The Expanse was a Jeopardy! clue. I can prove it. (Do we still call this a screenshot?)

(17) TRAILER FOR A PROMISED FAN FILM. Strap in for a fun Star Wars fan film from writer/director Anthony Ferraro, Forsaken Mandalorian and the Drunken Jedi Master. “The goal was to make a fan film driven by dramatic performances rather than winks and nods to the franchise. But not to worry, we do some winking and nodding,” Ferraro promises. The video launches August 6 on the Create Sci-Fi YouTube channel.

Hope hinges on two men with no hope.

A forsaken Mandalorian hunts down a Hutt Courier to recover an asset that unexpectedly leads him to team up with an outcast drunken Jedi Master to fulfill his sworn duty.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, N., Jake, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 6/10/21 Revenge Of The Unknown Knowns

(1) SHIPPING NEWS. The New York Times tells how “’Ships of the Northern Fleet,’ a crowdsourced sci-fi project, navigated from TikTok all the way to the convention circuit,” in “The Show Is Fake. The Fandom Is Real.”

…Maybe you remember it, too — but it’s much more likely that you don’t. That’s because “Ships of the Northern Fleet” isn’t real. It’s fabricated. Fake. A nonexistent TV series.

Its fan base, however, very much exists. “Fleeters,” as they’re known, congregate on Discord and TikTok to talk about their favorite “memories” of the adventures of the ship crews of the Four Fleets. Popular discussion topics include the Cog Hogs, small clockwork hedgehogs that are cuter than the Porgs of “Star Wars” fame, and the majestic Sky Whales, giant beasts who flew in the sky next to the pirates’ soaring airships.

Fans debate the merits of the ships’ various captains, including Captain Neil Barnabus (the leader of the True Winds fleet, named after the fantasy writer Neil Gaiman) and Captain George Hellman (who is “played” by Nathan Fillion, a fixture of the sci-fi genre; he wrote in an email that though he hadn’t heard of the show, he is “all for it”).

So, how exactly did “Ships of the Northern Fleet” come into semi-existence? It started, like so many other dramatic arcs online, with a throwaway post on social media.

A Show Is Born

In early February, in a video on TikTok, the video game writer Tyler James Nicol encouraged his viewers to “participate in a hallucinatory experience” by sharing their favorite memories and moments from a show “that will and has never existed,” and that, according to the proposed imaginary construct, had been canceled before its time.

The fake “steampunk sky pirate show,” would be called “Ships of the Northern Fleet” after the name of a novel that Mr. Nicol, 36, had once planned to write.

He never got around to the manuscript, but he did have the title, a TikTok account and an idea to crowdsource its plot and fictional lore.

It took off quickly. Mr. Nicol, Mx. Osborn and four others — Patrick Loller, Erik Tait, Gary Hampton and Logan South — connected on TikTok and started streaming together on Twitch, where they performed improv in character, riffing on questions fans asked them via chat about “working” on the show.

Enthusiasts banded together to create a subreddit, a Discord server and a wiki with over 300 entries. They’ve also produced fan art, songs and a “Ships” tabletop game. There’s knockoff merchandise out there, too, though fans can buy “real” merch from Mr. Nicol; he donates all his earnings from those sales to the Trevor Project….

(2) KAFKA COLLECTION. “Max Brod’s Franz Kafka Archive Digitized”Smithsonian Magazine has the story.

During his lifetime, the celebrated Czech Jewish author Franz Kafka penned an array of strange and gripping works, including a novella about a man who turns into a bug and a story about a person wrongly charged with an unknown crime. Now, almost a century after the acclaimed author’s death, literary lovers can view a newly digitized collection of his letters, manuscripts and drawings via the National Library of Israel’s website.

As Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports, the collection contains around 120 drawings and more than 200 letters owned by Max Brod, a friend and fellow writer who served as Kafka’s literary executor. Instead of destroying the author’s papers as he had requested, Brod chose to publish and preserve them….

(3) AFROFUTURISM BUNDLE. StoryBundle is offering The Afrofuturism and the Black Fantastic Bundle curated by Tenea D. Johnson.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Slay by Nicole Givens Kurtz
  • Talk Like a Man by Nisi Shawl
  • Dominion by Zelda Knight and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
  • The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan by Zig Zag Claybourne

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus six more books and a fiction album! That’s a total of 11!

  • New Worlds, Old Ways edited by Karen Lord
  • Queen of Zazzau by J.S. Emuakpor
  • Baaaad Muthaz by Bill Campbell, David Brame and Damian Duffy
  • How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda D. Addison
  • Reenu-You by Michele Tracy Berger
  • Frequencies by Tenea D. Johnson
  • Afro Puffs Are the Antennae of the Universe by Zig Zag Claybourne

(4) FROM SCOTLAND TO THE BORGO PASS. At CrimeReads, Laurie R. King profiles Emily Gerard, whose travels in Transylvania provided Bram Stoker with a lot of inspiration and ideas when he was writing Dracula – “The Scottish Anthropologist Who Inspired Dracula”.

… When she was in her thirties, mother of two young sons, her husband took up a position in the far corner of Transylvania. Gerard was a writer by this time, having published stories, reviews, and a few novels in collaboration with her sister, so her imagination was roused by this fascinating and utterly unknown part of the world. Apparently fearless—“Nonsense!” she says, when her young son urges her to take her revolver on a solitary trek—and fluent in several languages, she would merrily set off on an “easy” walk (“not more than two hours off”) to a spot on a map far from any road, or to a ragged tent she’d spotted on waste-land. There she would watch, and listen, and ask all manner of questions about the work, beliefs, rituals, and lives of the residents.

From these experiences, Gerard wrote an essay on “Transylvanian Superstitions,” which was accepted for publication in one of Britain’s most widely respected journals….

(5) EREWHON AND ELSEWHERE. “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans” Episode 14 is a visit with Liz Gorinsky.

Friend of the podcast Liz Gorinsky arrives to share her experiences as an editor, from her early days of reading comic books, to her work at Tor.com, and finally starting Erewhon Books. Mary Anne and Ben inquire about the technical and career aspects of editing, as well as the importance of grappling with their internal editor in their own writing process.

(6) DINOS RETURNING. And SYFY Wire has the new poster: “Jurassic World: Dominion prologue before IMAX F9 screenings, first teaser image”.

Jurassic World: Dominion is finally ramping up its larger-than-life marketing campaign with an extended preview that will play before IMAX screenings of F9 (out in North America Friday, June 25)….

Described as “a prologue” to the main story, the 5-minute sneak peek is set 65 million years ago in the Cretaceous period when…*clears throat*…DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH. Mr. DNA is on vacation, but Michael Giacchino’s score will be there to guide viewers through the origin story of a lone mosquito that decides to slurp up some tasty dino-blood. The release also promises (count em’) SEVEN new species never before glimpsed within the Jurassic franchise. And just before you think it’s all over, the preview excavates “some real trademark Jurassic surprises with dinosaurs later roaming an Earth that is decidedly less theirs alone,” reads the synopsis.

(7) GRAYSKULL IS BACK. Netflix dropped a trailer forKevin Smith’s Masters Of The Universe:  Revelation.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 10, 1955 — On this day in 1955, This Island Earth premiered in New York City. It was produced by William Alland, and directed by Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold. It  Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue and Rex Reason. It was based on the novel by Raymond F. Jones, which was first published in the Thrilling Wonder Stories as three novelettes: “The Alien Machine” in the June 1949 issue, “The Shroud of Secrecy” in December 1949 issue, and “The Greater Conflict” in February 1950 issue.  Critics in general loved it, it did very well at the box office but currently the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not great forty-four percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 10, 1918 — Barry Morse. He was Prof. Victor Bergman on Space: 1999, a show I never did quite cotton to, and he also appeared on the Twilight Zone , Outer Limits, The InvadersTekWarThe Martian ChroniclesRay Bradbury TheaterSpace Island OneMemory RunThe Shape of Things to Come and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1918 – Frank Hamilton.  He didn’t invent the Shadow, or Doc Savage, but he illustrated them excellently.  Here is an FH Shadow on the cover of Frank Eisgruber’s Gangland’s Doomhere is the FH cover for a Doc Savage tribute; both with lots of interiors.  Here is a note from ThePulp.net with a 1982 FH self-portrait; here is a note from “The Shadow” wiki.  Find, if you can, his Amazing Pulp Heroes (with Link Hullar’s text).  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1922 – Judy Garland.  For us this star shines in the MGM Wizard of Oz (Thorpe, Fleming, Vidor dirs. 1939) – winning her only Academy Award.  I love the Oz Frank Baum wrote; in the MGM version much is right, and otherwise, as a law-school professor of mine said – of a major figure with whom he disagreed vigorously – There is a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.  The rest of JG’s career was such a tragedy because there too she earned such glory.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1928 — Maurice Sendak. In Seattle many years ago, I saw the painted flats he did for The Nutcracker. Truly stunning. Of course, he’s known for Where the Wild Things Are which I think is genre adapted into other media including a film by Spike Jonze. In the Night Kitchen might be genre and it is often on Banned Books lists. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born June 10, 1935 – Tatsumi Yoshiro.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  He coined gekiga for a development of manga he preferred; see here.  I can’t go along with calling it more realistic, or saying that’s better – I had this quarrel with people when Watchmen first appeared – but Tatsumi-san was a genius, and we could stand knowing more about SF and related art of Japan.  Here is the cover for his memoir of 1945-1960 A Drifting Life (English version); here is a Wikipedia article about it; here is an article about gekiga and mangahere is an article in the Lambiek Comiclopedia with panels showing his work.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1937 — Luciana Paluzzi, 84. She is best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. She also appeared in Hercules as Iole’s maid, The Green Slime as Doctor Lisa Benson, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City as Mala and The Six Million Dollar Man: The Solid Gold Kidnapping as Contessa DeRojas. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1951 — Charles Vess, 70. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to about a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did as it’s amazing. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker. I never met her but we had a decade-long conversation via email and once in a while via phone. We were supposed to write a Company concordance for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Katheleen. The two of them were also frequent attenders of Ren Faires were they set up a tavern (John Hertz knew her that way) and sold various ales. Kage had a deep fascination with Elizabethan English and Harry Flashman as well who she incorporated into her novels effectively. (Died 2010.)(CE)
  • Born June 10, 1953 – Don Maitz, age 68.  Two hundred thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors from this luckily prolific artist; two Hugos, one Worldcon committee special award, eight Chesleys; World Fantasy award; Society of Illustrators Silver Medal. Two artbooks, First Maitz (he created the image of Captain Sir Henry Morgan 1635-1688 for Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum) and Dreamquests; two sets of DM Fantasy Art Trading Cards.  Guest of Honor at Boskone 18, Lunacon 28, Loscon 19, Minicon 49, Balticon 27, and Lonestarcon 2 the 55th Worldcon.  Here is his cover (with his wife Janny Wurts) for The Darkest Road.  Here is his cover for his Worldcon’s Souvenir Book.  [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1962 –  Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, M.D., Ph.D.  Author, physician, Professor of Medicine.  Two hundred books in both Egyptian and Classical Arabic; also in Web-based magazines. Refaat Ismael of his Beyond Nature series is a retired bachelor doctor with a sarcastic attitude who keeps having paranormal adventures.  In Utopia Egyptians live in a dystopian and utopian (or as I should say cacotopian and eutopian) society separated by walls.  Cheryl Morgan interviewed AKT in Locus 614.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1964 — Andrew M. Niccol, 57. Screenwriter / producer / director who wrote and produced one of my favorite genre films, The Truman Show. The film won him a Hugo at Aussiecon Three.  He also involved in GattacaThe TerminalIn TimeThe HostThe Minutes short videoand Anon. Sort of genre adjacent is that he‘s been announced as the screenwriter for a live version of the Monopoly game but it still in development.  Personally I think it’s in the games section of The Library in The Dreaming. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1986 – Amanda Havard, age 35.  In The Survivors and two sequels Sadie Matthau searches for answers about her family who survived the Salem witch trials through supernatural abilities; on an Immersedition interactive book application are AH’s original music, and maps, photos, background, commentary; a syndication at Wattpad.com has had 5 million readers.  Independent Publisher’s Editor’s Choice award, eLit bronze medals for Fantasy – Science Fiction and Young Adult.  [JH]

(10) BONUS BIRTHDAY. A.V. Club also reminds us: “Today’s the birth date of the miracle replicant baby in Blade Runner 2049”.

It’s a happy day on both Earth and the off-world colonies alike, at least for high-level replicants who haven’t been “retired” yet. That’s because today, June 10, 2021, is the date repeatedly shown in Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 as the birth date of the miracle replicant messiah baby conceived by Nexus-7 replicant Rachael and Blade Runner Rick Deckard (who is also probably a replicant). The birth should’ve been impossible, because replicants are definitely just pieces of machinery who don’t have thoughts or feelings of their own and shouldn’t be capable of having children, because then it would be harder to argue that they’re not normal people and humans might start feeling bad for how they treat them (humans are the worst). That’s what makes this miracle messiah baby so important to the distinctly Jared Leto-like creep Niander Wallace, who wants to use the miracle baby to figure out how he can make more miracle babies and satiate his enormous god-complex…. but that hasn’t happened yet, because it’s still only 2021….

(11) BLESS THEIR HEARTS. ScreenRant pulled up a 1977 video interview where “Stan Lee Admitted Marvel Trolled DC In The Most Hilarious Way”.

…In an interview in the late ’70s, the former Marvel editor-in-chief was asked about his competition at DC Comics. Without hesitation, Lee said “bless their little innocent hearts,” before admitting that they had “fun with them” after they started selling more comics. According to Lee, DC studied Marvel’s covers in an effort to try to emulate their success. Lee said DC noticed the use of red on their comics and started doing their own red covers. He added DC did the same thing with dialogue on the covers. In response, Marvel took “all the red” and dialogue off their covers, which Lee revealed still led to their books still selling better. Lee said it drove DC “crazy.” (Lee’s answer begins around the 8-minute mark of the YouTube video below)….

(12) STORMBRINGER. Spoilerverse carries “Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse: From Melniboné to Hollywood”, a podcast with Andrew Sumner conducting the interview.

Sumner welcomes the world’s greatest living fantasy author, Michael Moorcock, to Hard Agree for the first in an ongoing series of conversations about Michael’s life and work. In this debut episode, Sumner & Moorcock discuss Michael’s parents, his Dad’s regard for Arthur C Clarke, completing the latest Elric of Melniboné novel (due for release in Fall 2022), the beginnings of Jerry Cornelius, Michael’s great friendship with feminist author Andrea Dworkin – and they begin a discussion of Michael’s wild ride through Hollywood that will roll into our next episode.

(13) MONEY SHOULD FLOW TO THE WRITER. Max Florschutz breaks down “Why You Won’t Be Seeing My Work on Serial Story Sites” at Unusual Things.

…See, story services like this are based off of similar setups that come from Asia that started with mangas. And from a business perspective, they’re designed to be explotative.

See, the idea is that the site itself exists to gather as many content creators as possible and then create a microcosm of a “free market,” where everyone is competing with everyone else. Except it’s not really that “free” since it’s controlled by a single entity who runs the service. And they can therefore manipulate how it functions to their advantage.

And oh, do they ever. These services are designed to maximize their profits … at the expense of those who flood them with content.

For instance, there’s an upper limit on how much you can release with each post. Vella, for instance, has a limit per chapter of 5000 words. You can’t release anything larger. Why? Because it maximizes the volume of content readers must click through or pay for, increasing ad and subscription revenue. What would be one chapter becomes two or even three, which means 2-3 times the revenue per reader. Tricky … but effective.

But worse, they actively design the system to produce free content the site runners earn revenue off of for free. When you start at these places, you start at “the bottom.” IE for a lot of the founding originators of this idea, you earned nothing… 

(14) ROUNDUP TIME. In Petréa Mitchell’s “Anime roundup 6/10/2021: It Gets Real” at Amazing Stories.

ODDTAXI #10 – Odokawa attempts to recruit Yamamoto into his scheme to upset the heist, only to wind up setting himself up to be conveniently murdered. It is only thanks to Shirakawa that he survives long enough to meet up with Dobu again for a sketch of Dobu’s plan and the long-awaited title drop.

It’s an excellent moment when Shirakawa finally gets to use her capoeira skills in anger, but it leads to the question: how did she happen to be hanging around in the very construction site where Yamamoto was planning to dispose of Odokawa in the middle of the night?…

(15) HE REVIEWS THOSE THEWS. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda gives an introduction to the fiction of Robert E. Howard as well as biographical and critical works about him. “Robert E. Howard became famous for creating Conan. But that warrior was only the beginning.”

As a reviewer, I’ve always regarded myself as a generalist, lurching from a novel this week to a biography or work of history the next, occasionally interspersing an essay or rediscovering a neglected classic. But every so often, I feel the need to be much more — what’s the right word? — serious, intense, almost scholarly. I yearn to immerse myself in the works of a single author, to spend time reading as much of his or her writing as possible. During these literary sprees, I even undertake actual research, scribble notes, talk to experts.

Last month, I realized that this column would coincide with Robert E. Howard Remembrance Days in Cross Plains, Tex. There, the writer’s fans gather each June 11 — the day the 30-year-old shot himself in 1936 — for talks, barbecue and camaraderie. This year’s guest of honor is Roy Thomas, who wrote the 1970s Marvel comics which — along with Lancer paperbacks featuring brutal and sensual cover art by Frank Frazetta — created a new audience for Howard’s best-known character, the greatest warrior of the ancient Hyborian age.

We first learn his name in the soul-stirring epigraph of “The Phoenix on the Sword”: “Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.”…

(16) COVER YOURSELF. The Retro Science Fiction Collage Hawaiian Shirt is an eye-catcher.

(17) A BEAUTY AND SOME BEASTS. Enchanted Living Magazine introduces readers to “The Magical Beasts of Anastasiya Dobrovolskaya”.

… Dobrovolskaya’s first shoot with Stepan took place in January, and she says, “it was a wonderful experience thanks to which we made amazing photos.” She describes Stepan as “the cutest bear in the world: very loving and delicate,” and says that his story “is an example of an endless love between people and an animal. When I saw him for the first time I could not hold back the tears because I saw such a huge love between this animal and his people. I wish that all people treated their pets like Stepan’s family have been treating him.”

Dobrovolskaya has always loved and cared for animals. “As a child I brought home puppies and kittens that had been thrown out,” she said. “On??, I brought a baby raven whose wing was broken. Nothing has changed. I still love animals with all my heart and am always trying to help those in trouble.” She first incorporated animals in her photography by chance in 2018. She’d been taking portraits for a few months when she received a message from a woman who organizes photo shoots in Moscow, offering Dobrovolskaya the opportunity to participate in a shoot with a chicken and a mini pig. How could she resist?

She found a model, plucked a dress from her  own closet, and went—but didn’t know what to do.  “Should the chicken be on the floor? Or should I put him on the fence? The pig suddenly fell asleep—was it okay to wake her up? The only thing I knew was that I wanted those photos to look like fashion ones.” So she told her model Margo, “Imagine that we’re making content for Vogue.” The photos turned out smashingly and even went on to be recognized in the huge international photo contest 35 AWARDS 2018.

As it turned out, the couple who owned the chicken and the mini pig took care of other animals too, including a baby fox cub and an owl. Dobrovolskaya asked if it were possible to take photos with them as well, though she was “very worried that it was stressful for the animals.” The owners assured her it was okay, and to Dobrovolskaya’s surprise, “both the fox and owl were very happy to have an additional walk in a park and didn’t even notice the paparazzi.”…

(18) GOOGLE FOR DUMBOS. Scientific American is there when “The First ‘Google Translate’ for Elephants Debuts”. [Via Slashdot.]

When a male African savanna elephant folds his ears while simultaneously waving them, he’s ready for a fight. When a female folds her ears and accompanies the action with an ear flap, that means she’s also issuing a serious threat. But when elephants come together and fold their ears while also rapidly flapping them, the animals are expressing a warm, affiliative greeting that is part of their bonding ceremonies.

Elephants possess an incredibly rich repertoire of communication techniques, including hundreds of calls and gestures that convey specific meanings and can change depending on the context. Different elephant populations also exhibit culturally learned behaviors unique to their specific group. Elephant behaviors are so complex, in fact, that even scientists may struggle to keep up with them all. Now, to get the animals and researchers on the same page, a renowned biologist who has been studying endangered savanna elephants for nearly 50 years has co-developed a digital elephant ethogram, a repository of everything known about their behavior and communication….

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

Pixel Scroll 6/3/21 An Iron Pixel In A Velvet Scroll

(1) LAFFERTY FANS. LAFFCON, the annual celebration of science fiction author R. A. Lafferty, returns June 12, 2021. LAFFCON is a free event and open to the public. This year’s conference will be held online via Zoom. Register now.

(2) STORYBUNDLE. The 2021 Pride Bundle, curated by Catherine Lundoff and Melissa Scott, Includes our Heather Rose Jones’ 3rd Alpennia book. (Available for another 28 days.)

We’re back again with another queer-themed bundle for Pride — five books in the main bundle and a generous eleven in the bonus, for a total of sixteen if you spring for the bonus. As has become usual, we were spoiled for choice: there are just so many writers out there for whom intelligent, nuanced queer writing is their default mode. There is never an easy way to winnow things down to a manageable number.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • No Man’s Land by A.J. Fitzwater
  • Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff
  • Dropnauts by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • Burning Bright by Melissa Scott
  • Highfeil Grimoires by Langley Hyde

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular books, plus eleven more books! That’s a total of 16.

  • The Four Profound Weaves by R. B. Lemberg
  • Succulents and Spells by Andi C. Buchanan
  • City of a Thousand Feelings by Anya Johanna DeNiro
  • Mother of Souls by Heather Rose Jones
  • Blood Moon by Catherine Lundoff
  • Spellbinding by Cecilia Tan
  • Glitter + Ashes edited by Dave Ring
  • Queens of Noise by Leigh Harlen
  • Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar
  • Skythane by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • Stories to Sing in the Dark by Matthew Bright

(3) DERN’S LATEST PROFILE ABOUT AN EE WHO WRITES SFF. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I’ve been doing a bunch of these (monthly), including Bruce Schneier (who’s directly sfnal via his crypto algorithm and appendix for Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon). My latest, just up a week or so ago, is on S. B. Divya: “S.B. Divya: How This EE Combines Engineering With Writing Some of the Best Sci-Fi Around”, IEEE Spectrum, (online) May 21, 2021 (online); page 19, June 2021 issue.

Engineers often find themselves in the role of turning ideas that used to be science fiction into reality. So it’s natural that some of them turn the flow of ideas in the other direction, and become authors of science fiction. One such engineer-turned-writer is Divya Srinivasan Breed, who writes her science fiction as S.B. Divya, and whose stories have been nominated for Hugo and Nebula awards.

“In my novella Runtime (2016), my main character was putting together exoskeletons, hacking firmware, people were embedding chips in their bodies…. And my novel Machinehood (2021) reflects my understanding of where we are today and where we are headed in terms of machine intelligence, and where some of the trouble spots are, socially, for labor, economics, humanity, and ethics,” says Divya. All the engineering aspects “were things I had studied or done at my jobs.” …

(4) WIDE WORLD OF SFF. The Best of World SF: Volume 1 is editor Lavie Tidhar’s “The Big Idea”, as he explains to Whatever readers today:

…I set out to do this book because I didn’t think anyone would do it for me. I hunted for stories far and wide—picking up horror collections in Malaysia, getting writer friends in China to send me rough translations, translating stories myself from Hebrew, begging and cajoling to find writers in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe… And I pitched the first Apex Book of World SF to Jason Sizemore in 2008, by telling him it wasn’t going to make him any money but it was a good thing to do.

Improbably, he agreed….

(5) REVIVING CURIOSITY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] David Marchese has an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson in the April 24 New York Times Magazine.  Topics include how to get the public interested in science, how he got his points across when being interviewed by Colbert and Jon Stewart, and, if the footnotes come through in the web version, why the proportions of Elsa in Frozen are all wrong. “Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks Science Can Reign Supreme Again”.

In your work, you often bring up wanting to inculcate in people a scientific mind-set, which is a way of thinking that would help navigate misinformation. But we don’t always recognize misinformation for what it is. So what questions should people be asking themselves when they encounter material that’s skeptical about mainstream science? 

Let me first offer a transition from your question: I’ve gotten simultaneously famous and infamous for commenting on Twitter  on films and whether they get their science correct.

If something lands awkwardly, I ask myself, Could they have done that better or differently? Then later I comment. My defense is, if you are watching a period piece that takes place in the 1950s in L.A., and there’s a 1962 Chevy Bel Air on the road, and the person you see the movie with is a car buff and says, “That car wasn’t made yet,” you say, “That’s pretty good that you noticed that.” Or if you’re watching a Jane Austen period piece: The carriage rolls up, and somebody is wearing a derby instead of a top hat. If you’re a costume designer, you would cry foul. Those people aren’t criticized for making those observations. Because I’m bringing science to that table, people reject it unfairly. Now getting back to your point: What’s behind all this? The missing link is curiosity. Without curiosity you’re no longer probing for what is true. If someone says, “I saw Bigfoot the other day,” there are people who say, “Yeah, that’s great!” And people who say, “No, you’re full of [expletive]” — both of those responses require no brain work. What is the brain work I would like to see more of? It’s: Tell me more. When did you see this? Where did you see it? Did you find other evidence? You start probing. It’s the absence of curiosity that concerns me.

(6) PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS. James Davis Nicoll knows the one thing that ruins even the best-designed plans: “Would-Be Utopias: Five Books Featuring Arcologies and Domed Cities”.

Strength of Stones by Greg Bear (1981)

Rather than settle their new world willy-nilly, the hopefuls who migrated to the planet they dubbed God-Does-Battle decided to start with a clear vision made into manifest reality. They hired Robert Kahn, humanity’s greatest architect, to design perfect cities, which they then built. Utopia could only result!

To quote Sartre, “Hell is other people.” Utopias tend to fell apart as soon as humans are introduced. Kahn’s cities had a simple solution: They expelled all the humans, to survive or not, as fate decreed on, the surface of God-Does-Battle. The arcologies were now free to operate without human complications.

A thousand years later, Kahn’s creations are beginning to run down, which may give the starvelings outside a chance to reclaim their lost homes.

(7) YOU ARE THERE. Galactic Journey livetweeted today’s (in 1966) Gemini 9 mission — There’s a concept for you!

(8) LISTEN TO THIS. “APA Says Audiobook Sales Rose 12% in 2020”Publishers Weekly has the numbers.

The Audio Publishers Association’s annual review of the audiobook market found another year of double-digit sales increases as well as a profound shift in listening habits.

In 2019, 43% of listeners said they most often listened to audiobooks in their car, a percentage that fell to 30% last year when work-at-home orders kept people from commuting to the office. The percentage of people who took part in the APA survey who said home was their preferred listening spot jumped to 55% in 2020, from 43% in 2019.

Despite concerns early in the pandemic that the plunge in commuting would lead to a drop in sales, the APA found that sales from the 27 companies that report results to the APA sales survey increased 12%, to $1.3 billion. The sales gain is in keeping with data from the AAP, whose preliminary figures also show a double-digit increase in audiobook sales.

The consumer part of the survey found that 67% of audiobook consumers said that one of the reasons they enjoy listening to audiobooks is to reduce screen time….

(9) NOT JUST A BABBLING BROOK. Radio Times’ Tom Chapman declares that “Doctor Who’s River Song is the best companion of all time”.

Since the BBC relaunched Doctor Who in 2005, there’s been a colourful cast of fan-favourite companions that have joined the time-travelling Time Lord. From the early days of Rose Tyler through to Martha Jones, the Ponds, Yasmin Khan and all the rest, each has brought something different to the table.

However, all of the above pale in comparison to a certain River Song, aka the wife of the Doctor, who first debuted in the series to acclaim 13 years ago today. (Don’t get too attached though – Steven Moffat claims she’s been married 428 times.)

While naming River so definitively as the greatest companion of all time is sure to spark a debate hotter than the Satan Pit, she rightly earns her place at the top thanks to her flirty and fearsome attitude – and a few other qualities that have helped her unlock more than just the door to the TARDIS. Though before we get into all that, it’s time for a trip down memory lane…

(10) GRAB YOUR BRICKS. The first ever LEGO CON is happening online June 26.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 3, 1991 — On this date in 1991, The Guyver premiered in the United States. Directed by Screaming Mad George (really) and Steve Wang, it was produced by Brian Yuzna from the screenplay by John Woo Jr.  It starred Mark Hamill, Vivian Wu, David Gale, Linnea Quigley, Michael Berryman and many others. The critics really, really didn’t like it and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rating of just thirty-six percent. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 3, 1809 – Margaret Gatty.  Capable marine biologist; British Sea Weeds (1872) took 14 years, described 200 species, still used in the 1950s.  Also that year The Book of Sun-Dials, with 350; there’s a 2010 paperback reprint.  For us, founded and edited Aunt Judy’s Magazine with contributions by Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, CaldecottCruikshank; books of parables and tales – Legendary Tales was illustrated by Phiz.  (Died 1873) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1861 – Sophie Jewett.  Poet, translator; taught at Wellesley.  Rendered The Pearl in its original meter.  (Died 1909) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1929 – Brian Lewis.  Ninety covers for New Worlds (here’s one), Science Fantasy (here’s one), Science Fiction Adventures (here’s one), for a few books, sometimes realistic, sometimes surrealistic; fifty interiors; also comics.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1946 — Dame Penelope Alice Wilton DBE, 75. She played the recurring role of PM Harriet Jones in Doctor Who and became one of the most popular characters in it. She also played Homily in The Borrowers and The Return of the Borrowers as Shaun of the Dead as Barbara and The BFG as The Queen. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1948 – Dale Payson, age 73.  Here is her cover for The Silver Crown.  Here is her frontispiece for The Sleepy Time Treasury.  Here is On Reading Palms.  Here is The Pop-Up Magic Castle Fairytale Book.  Outside our field, applauded for still-life and relatively-still  life paintings.  [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1950 — Melissa Mathison. Screenwriter for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Spielberg credits the line “E.T. phone home” line to her. (She’s Eliot’s school nurse in the film.) She also wrote the screenplays for The Indian in the Cupboard and BFG with the latter being dedicated in her memory. And she wrote the “Kick the Can” segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born June 3, 1958 — Suzie Plakson, 63. She played four characters on Trek series: a Vulcan, Doctor Selar, in “The Schizoid Man” (Next Gen); the half-Klingon/half-human Ambassador K’Ehleyr in “The Emissary” and “Reunion” (Next Gen); the Lady Q in “The Q and the Grey” (Voyager); and an Andorian, Tarah, in “Cease Fire” (Enterprise).  She also voiced Amazonia in the “Amazon Women in the Mood” episode of Futurama. Really. Truly. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1960 – Daniel Horne, age 61.  Ten dozen covers, twoscore interiors.  Here is the Jan 89 Amazing.  Here is Spectrum 9.  Here is the Winter 2016 Baum Bugle (that’s King Rinkitink, about whom much in this issue).  Here is Vincent Price as Edward Lionheart in Theater of Blood.  Here is Arcadia.  Outside our field, here is President Lincoln.  [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1964 — James Purefoy, 57. His most recent genre performance was in the recurring role of Laurens Bancroft in Altered Carbon. His most impressive role was I think as Solomon Kane in the film of that name. He was also in A Knight’s Tale as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales/Sir Thomas Colville. He dropped out of being V in V for Vendetta some six weeks into shooting but some early scenes of the masked V are of him. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1992 – William Broom, age 29.  Half a dozen short stories, two in Aurealis, two in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  Here is a note last year at Rocket Stack Rank.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows why a certain Marvel superhero movie horrified this audience.
  • Rhymes with Orange shows what you might find in a used time machine.
  • Macanudo suggests a corporate symbol that might represent a particularly alluring vampire meal:

(14) SPACEDOG. “Owl! at the Library” is here to surprise us with the fact that One Hundred and One Dalmatians, the novel, has a sequel called The Starlight Barking. I haven’t read it yet and already there are tears in my eyes… Thread starts here.

(15) RED FLAGS. Here’s your opportunity to learn from a professional why he’s self-rejecting from these short fiction markets. Joe Vasicek “Navigating Woke SF, Part 2: When Is It Not Worth Submitting?”

“Woke” is a slang term describing a basket of socioeconomic and political ideologies that are incompatible with and antithetical to individual rights and liberties. Taken to their logical conclusion, they end in the sort of totalitarian horrors the world saw in the 20th century (and continues to see today in communist China)….

.. So now, with a working definition of “woke” (promoting ideologies incompatible with and antithetical to individual rights and liberties) and the determination that wokeness is toxic in any degree, how can I tell if a market has gone truly woke?

…So with that in mind, what are the red flags?

1) Has the market won any awards that have gone completely woke?

Specifically, I’m thinking here of the Hugo Awards. They were trending to the left for a very long time, but 2015 was the year that they specifically went woke by voting “no award” over several deserving authors and editors. The transformation was completed in 2017, when the new rules shut out the Sad and Rabid Puppies, and both of those movements died out.

Therefore, if a short story market has won a Hugo since 2015 or been nominated for a Hugo since 2017, I’m not going to bother submitting to them. And if a market has had stories that have won or been nominated for a Hugo in those years, I’m going to ignore the market as well, unless it appears to be a fluke or a one-off.

2) Does the market have an explicit diversity statement in their submission guidelines?

…Therefore, if a market has an explicit diversity statement that contains woke signaling language, it’s going on the blacklist. Even if the market only put out a diversity statement to keep the woke mob from descending upon them, that’s still a sure sign that they’ve bent the knee….

3) Does the market publish content that is explicitly woke?

Editors always say that the best way to know what they’re looking for is to read a couple of issues or listen to a couple of episodes or stories. That seems like a reasonable standard, so I see no reason why I shouldn’t hold them to it.

Do the editors ever go off on explicitly woke political rants, or try to explain the message of the story in woke ideological terms? Do the author bios read like a checklist of woke intersectional identities? Are the stories themselves often thinly veiled rants about woke issues? Again, it’s important to apply the benefit of the doubt here, but you can tell a lot about a market by what they choose to publish. I won’t be wasting my time with the markets that regularly publish any of those things….

Vasicek also predicts a backlash is coming “that will shock the people who are too deeply ensconced in their echo chambers.” (Before you read that you didn’t know that Joe thought echo chambers were a bad thing, did you?)

(16) VENUS IF YOU WILL. Some like it hot: “NASA picks Venus as hot spot for two new robotic missions”AP has the story.

The space agency’s new administrator, Bill Nelson, announced two new robotic missions to the solar system’s hottest planet, during his first major address to employees Wednesday.

“These two sister missions both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface,” Nelson said.

One mission named DaVinci Plus will analyze the thick, cloudy Venusian atmosphere in an attempt to determine whether the inferno planet ever had an ocean and was possibly habitable. A small craft will plunge through the atmosphere to measure the gases.

It will be the first U.S.-led mission to the Venusian atmosphere since 1978.

The other mission, called Veritas, will seek a geologic history by mapping the rocky planet’s surface….

(17) HOT SHIRT. You can see Venus here, too. High Seas Trading Company has a new Planets / space themed Hawaiian shirt on offer, “A beautiful illustration of planets orbiting the sun.”

(18) SUPERSONIC AIR TRAVEL RETURNING? USA Today reports United Airlines has a deal to acquire the new aircraft if they make it over all the hurdles: “United Airlines: Concorde-like supersonic jet will halve travel time”.

…Overture, which is billed as an environmentally-friendly aircraft running only on up to 100% sustainable aviation fuel, is not expected to be introduced until 2025 and won’t fly until 2026. The first passengers won’t board until 2029, the companies said. Last year, Boom rolled out XB-1, a test aircraft.

The New York Times also reports that “United Airlines Wants to Bring Back Supersonic Air Travel”.

…United and Boom would not disclose financial details, including the cost of each plane, but Mr. Leskinen said the economics should be about the same as a new Boeing 787, a wide-body plane that airlines typically use on international routes. United has committed to buying the planes if Boom manages to produce them, secure regulatory approvals and hit other targets, like meeting its sustainability requirements.

Boom also plans to make planes for Japan Airlines, an investor in the company.

What is not clear is whether Boom has solved the problems that forced British Airways and Air France to stop using the Concorde on trans-Atlantic flights — high costs, safety concerns and flagging demand.

“There was no airline interest,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and consultant, said about why supersonic flights languished. “And a big part of the lack of airline interest was there were no engines that were commercially available that would allow a supersonic jet to be economically viable.”

Two decades later, some start-up companies, including Boom and Spike Aerospace, are pushing ahead with new designs and plans.

Boom, which is working with Rolls-Royce, the British jet engine maker, said its plane would be more efficient than the Concorde; United estimates it will be 75 percent more efficient. Boom’s planes will not be as noisy as the Concorde because their engines will create a sonic boom only when flying over water “when there’s no one to hear it,” said Boom’s chief executive, Blake Scholl, who previously worked at Amazon and Groupon.

(19) WATCH THE WATCH. Hypebeast thinks you should wind up with a “Sonic the Hedgehog x Seiko 30th Anniversary Watch”.

The watch dial references the Green Hill Zone from the SEGA game with an image of Sonic chasing golden ring hour markers at the four o’clock position. The inner bezel sees the game’s pixelated green grass along with other details like satin-blue finishing, a star second hand, a 1/20-second chronograph at 12 o’clock, a date function, and a commemorative box and card.

Limited to 3,000 pieces, the Sonic x Seiko 30th-anniversary quartz watch is priced at ¥49,800 JPY (approximately $450 USD) and is expected to be delivered in mid-August.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Robert Quaglia explains how this Bradbury conversation came to be.

Robert Sheckley speaks via teleconference with Ray Bradbury in the occasion of Bradbury’s 80th birthday. This happened in Bergamo in July 2000. But why actually in Bergamo? During his “genovese” period, when Robert Sheckley was living in Italy as a guest of Roberto Quaglia, suddenly Ray Bradbury became 80 years old, and people of Bergamo, Italy, had earlier invited Bradbury to Bergamo. But in the last moment Bradbury didn’t go, and knowing that Sheckley was in Italy, people of Bergamo decided to invite him so that Bradbury could speak with someone in a videoconference. This is the video of that unique – and to some extent bizarre – event. The moderator of the event is Corrado Augias.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Owen, Lise Andreasen, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 2/10/21 You Spin Me Right ’Round, Breqi, Right ’Round Like Radchaai, Breqi

(1) ROBOT IN MY I. Louder revisits the Seventies to find out “How Alan Parsons made I Robot, his science fiction masterpiece”.

It was June 1977, and the US was being invaded by robots. Leading the charge were R2-D2, C-3PO and the glass-domed dynamo that stared from the cover of the Alan Parsons Project’s album I Robot

“It was impeccable timing by George Lucas,” Parsons recalls with a chuckle, “to be so considerate to bring out Star Wars at the same time as our album.” The previous year, Parsons, the audio engineer behind Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon, had turned auteur, mining the works of Edgar Allan Poe on his debut album Tales Of Mystery And Imagination (“It didn’t set the world alight,” Parsons says). 

Now, Parsons and his creative partner Eric Woolfson had found literary inspiration in Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. The sci-fi writer’s morality-based story collection was built around his Three Laws of Robotics – robots must obey, protect and never harm humans. 

Woolfson had a “pleasant conversation” with Asimov, who loved the idea of musicalising his book. Unfortunately the author had already sold the rights to a film/TV company. Undeterred, the duo dropped the titular comma, then wrote their own version…. 

(2) FIRST REDWALL MOVIE. “’Redwall’ Animated Feature & Series Questing to Netflix”Animation Magazine says it’s in development. My daughter read the whole series.  

Brian Jacques’ Redwall fantasy book series will be reimagined in animation thanks to a rights deal between Penguin Random House Children’s U.K. and Netflix: A feature film based on Jacques’ first book in the series, Redwall, is currently in development with writer Patrick McHale (Over the Garden Wall, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio), as well as an event series based on the character of Martin the Warrior.

The deal marks the first time that the film rights to the entire book series have been held by the same company and the first time a feature film of any of Jacques’ works will be made….

(3) SFWA STORYBUNDLE.  The Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) released its newest StoryBundle, Expansive Futures, a curated collection of books offered at a steeply discounted price. Readers who purchase Expansive Futures can opt to donate part of their purchase price to support SFWA’s ongoing work. The Expansive Futures StoryBundle will be available from February 10 to March 4, here.

Readers choose what price they want to pay for the initial five books. Spending $15 unlocks thirteen more books that they can receive with their purchase. Further details about how StoryBundle operates are available here

The books in the bundle are:

  • Starship Hope: Exodus by T.S. Valmond
  • Raptor by John G. Hartness
  • The Chiral Conspiracy by L.L. Richman
  • Ganymede by Jason Taylor
  • The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • Eternity’s End by Jeffrey A. Carver
  • When You Had Power by Susan Kaye Quinn
  •  Annihilation Aria by Michael R. Underwood
  • The Solar Sea by David Lee Summers
  • The Cost of Survival by J. L. Stowers
  • Claiming T-MO by Eugen Bacon
  • The Hammer Falls by Travis Heermann
  • Warrior Wench by Marie Andreas
  • Glitch Mitchell and the Unseen Planet by Philip Harris
  • Iron Truth by S.A. Tholin
  • Knight Errant by Paul Barrett & Steve Murphy 
  • A Fall in Autumn by Michael G. Williams
  • Two Suns at Sunset by Gene Doucette

(4) COMEDY COMPANION. “Doctor Who’s Chris Chibnall: ‘John Bishop brings a different flavour’”, as he explains to Radio Times.

Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall has praised comedian and actor John Bishop for “bringing a different flavour and a different humour” in his role as companion Dan in series 13 of the BBC sci-fi show.

Bishop was unveiled in a special teaser at the end of New Year’s special Revolution of the Daleks on January 1st and, according to the BBC, his character will become “embroiled in the Doctor’s adventures” in the now-filming series 13, where he’ll “quickly learn there’s more to the Universe(s) than he could ever believe”.

Explaining why he cast Bishop in the new series, Chibnall told Doctor Who Magazine: “I’ve always got my eye out for performers who are loved, and wondering how good they might be as actors. There’s such a great history of performers who start out as comedians transitioning into becoming terrific actors – the best example being Robbie Coltrane in Cracker. John’s somebody I’ve been keeping a beady eye on for years….”

(5) D&D SURPASSED. “Horror RPG Call of Cthulhu is bigger than D&D in Japan”Dicebreaker delves into the numbers.

Horror roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu has overtaken Dungeons & Dragons’ popularity in Japan, with its success driven by an explosion in interest among younger fans and a growing audience of female players over the last decade….

According to the game’s production studio Arclight, most Call of Cthulhu players in Japan are women aged between 17 and 35. By way of comparison, Wizards of the Coast revealed last year that most Dungeons & Dragons players are under 30, with 40% aged 24 or younger and around a fifth aged between 30 and 34. The majority of D&D players – more than three-fifths – identified as male, with 39% identifying as female. Players who identified as non-binary or “other” comprised less than 1% of the audience.

(6) FOR THIS THEY GET PAID. Fox Meadows lights into Locus reviewer Katharine Coldiron in “Sequel Rights: A Review of Locus Reviews”.

… The absolute gall of any reviewer to start with the second book in a series and then complain that they don’t understand what’s going on, as though this is somehow the fault of the text! It shouldn’t need to be said, but I’ve read The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, a book whose plots and politics are both deep and intricate – as, indeed, one might expect from the first book of a projected series! Of course Coldiron had no idea what was going on. Which begs the question: why, if she had no intention of reading the first book in the series, did Coldiron feel the need to review the sequel – and why, even more pressingly, did Locus decide such an abysmal review was worth publishing in the first place?

With such a terrible starting point, it’s hardly a surprise that the full review – which is not yet available online – gets worse as it goes on. That Coldiron repeatedly gets a main character’s name wrong (Rayyan instead of Rayyal) is a minor sin in comparison to describing a book whose setting is explicitly based on the pre-colonial Philippines as a “richly imagined world [that] resembles England before the Norman Conquest.” That Coldiron somehow made this error this despite the customs, nomenclature and general everything about Villoso’s world is bizarre; to quote a different review, “This world isn’t your pseudo-medieval European world. It’s unequivocally Filipino with inspiration from other sources in Southeast Asia. Not once does Villoso allow you to believe this is anything but a fantasy set in a world inspired by the Philippines.”

Over and over, Coldiron talks about how difficult it is to keep track of various details of a narrative which – and I cannot stress this enough – is the sequel to a book she has not read, without ever stopping to consider that this is her problem rather than the author’s…. 

After Meadows analyzes several more examples of Coldiron’s reviews, Meadows says:

… If Coldiron was posting her reviews on a private blog, or at any venue less esteemed than Locus, it’s doubtful that I’d have bothered to write this piece; or at the very least, to have written this much. The real problem, though, is not Coldiron herself: it’s that Locus has failed to notice the regularity with which her reviews rebuke POC for things she either praises or lets pass when written by white authors; has allowed the inclusion of racism and microaggressions within her work without apparent editorial oversight; and has now seen nothing wrong with publishing a wildly unprofessional review that blames a sequel volume for the reviewer’s failure to have read the first instalment. It’s maddening and upsetting in equal measure, and at a time when both SFF and the wider literary community are ostensibly trying to do better by marginalised writers, it’s a sign of how thoroughly white privilege still blinds so much of the industry to its failings, even among those who consider themselves well-intentioned.

(7) EIGHT GREAT. Radio Times unveils the “RadioTimes.com Awards 2021 – Vote for the Best Sci-Fi Show”. Voting is open until February 14. The results of the RadioTimes.com Awards will be announced on 7th March 2021.

The choices on the ballot are —

  • Devs – BBC
  • Doctor Who – BBC
  • His Dark Materials – BBC
  • Lucifer – Netflix
  • The Boys – Amazon
  • The Haunting of Bly Manor – Netflix
  • The Mandalorian – Disney Plus
  • The Umbrella Academy – Netflix

(8) PLENTY OF DOOMS TO GO AROUND. James Davis Nicoll singles out “Five Books Showcasing Humanity’s Talent for Self-Extinction” for Tor.com.

…To put it more simply, perhaps the Great Silence isn’t due to galactic civilizations shunning us, but rather due to the sad probability that no civilizations last long enough to communicate before they find some innovative way to remove themselves from the playing board….

Even the perennially upbeat Clifford Simak can see how it might happen!

City by Clifford Simak (1953)

Humanity at the beginning of the 21st century had so much promise. Famine and energy shortages were vanquished; humans had acquired the basic toolkit to construct a utopia. Yet a handful of centuries later, humans were all but extinct, save for one small, irrelevant city of dreamers in suspended animation. Between those two moments lies an endless cavalcade of good intentions gone horribly awry, each one leading well-intentioned humans towards total extinction.

(9) PRO TIPS. “Interview: Guest Lecturer Melissa Scott” at the Odyssey Writing Workshop Blog.

You have collaborated with several authors. What advice do you have for writers who are interested in collaborating on fiction? What pitfalls are there to avoid?

First, the obligatory practical advice: if you’re going to collaborate, get the terms of the collaboration down in writing. Assume that one or both of you will drop dead, and your heirs will hate each other, and put your arrangements into at least a letter of agreement that all parties involved sign. I have only had to invoke this once, and it was utterly crucial to have the signed letter. It made what could have been a protracted legal mess merely unpleasant and saved the project. Get things in writing. Always.

Beyond that, my most successful collaborations have been with people who shared the same approach toward storytelling. I focus on story and character over theme or message; I get excited about my work and can spend hours making notes on the possible plot(s) and figuring out the connections among the characters and the ways they work in their worlds. I work best with people who share that interest in story and character, and with people who are also enthusiasts. (For me, there’s nothing better than getting an email from a collaborator with six links to videos of reconstructed Renaissance transitional fencing styles to illustrate a point. Your mileage may vary.) It’s basically a matter of understanding your own working style and trying to find a collaborator whose style meshes well with yours.

(10) ONE-MINUTE READ. “‘I basically had a midlife crisis’: Author N.K. Jemisin explains why it’s never too late to quit your day job” at Fast Company.

I didn’t try to publish anything until I was 30, when I basically had a midlife crisis. I was in a city I didn’t like, had not reached various milestones I wanted to reach, and was in student loan debt up to my eyeballs…

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2001 — Twenty years ago, China Miéville ‘s Perdido Street Station wins the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The other nominees that year were Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Talents, Mary Gentle’s Ash: A Secret History, Ken MacLeod’s Cosmonaut Keep, Alastair Reynolds’s Revelation Space and Adam Roberts’ SaltPerdido Street Station would also win a BFA and be nominated for the BSFA, Otherwise and Nebula Awards.  (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 10, 1904 – Lurton Blassingame.  Literary agent to John Barth, Robert A. Heinlein, Frank Herbert, William F. Nolan.  More letters to him in Grumbles from the Grave than anyone else; some from him too.  Loved fishing, hunting, playing bridge, watching opera and ballet.  After half a century his firm sold to Eleanor Wood’s Spectrum Literary Agency, 1979.  His wife died the next year.  His papers are at Univ. Oregon.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1906 Lon Chaney Jr. I certainly best remember him as  playing Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man but he has a lot of other roles as well: The Ghost of Frankenstein as The Monster (look, correct billing!), The Mummy’s Tomb as The Mummy Kharis or Son of Dracula as Count Dracula, he played all the great monsters, often multiple times. (Died 1973.) (CE) 
  • Born February 10, 1920 Alex Comfort. No smirking please as we’re supposed to be adults here. Yes he’s the author of The Joy of Sex but he did do some decidedly odd genre work as well. Clute at EoSF notes  that his “first genuine sf novel, Come Out to Play (1961), is a near-future Satire on scientism narrated by a smug sexologist, whose Invention – a potent sexual disinhibitor jokingly called 3-blindmycin (see Drugs) – is accidentally released over Buckingham Palace at the Slingshot Ending, presumably causing the English to act differently than before.” ISFDB lists only a few genre works by him but EoSF has a generous lists of works. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born February 10, 1920 – Robert P. Mills.  Edited The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (managing editor since F&SF began; editor, after Tony Boucher; succeeded in turn by Avram Davidson) and Venture.  Ten years managing editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.  Five F&SF anthologies: Best of F&SF 9th, 10th, 11th Series; A Decade of F&SFTwenty Years of F&SF (with Edward Ferman).  Also The Worlds of SF.  Three Hugos (Best Magazine to F&SF under RPM).  One short story.  After F&SF, a literary agent; sold firm to Richard Curtis, 1984.  Papers at Univ. Texas.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1934 – Fleur Adcock, age 87.  Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.  Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.  Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.  Fellow, Royal Soc. Literature. Cholmondely Award.  One short story for us.  A score of poetry collections; tr. The Virgin and the Nightingale (medieval Latin poems); ed. (with Jacqueline Simms) The Oxford Book of Creatures (verse & prose).  [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with  Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelization of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short lived BBC series that I’ve never heard of. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born February 10, 1953 John Shirley, 68. I’m not going to even attempt a complete précis of his career. I read and much enjoyed his first novel City Come A-Walkin and oddly enough his Grimm: The Icy Touch is damn good too in way many of those sharecropped novels aren’t. I see that to my surprise he wrote a episode of Deep Space Nine, “Visionary” and also wrote three episodes of the ‘12 series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (CE)
  • Born February 10, 1953 – Tom Whitmore, age 68.  Three decades a partner in “The Other Change of Hobbit” bookshop.  Chaired Potlatch 2, SMOFcon 2 (SMOF is Secret Master Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke); co-chaired ConJosé the 60th Worldcon, Fan Guest of Honor at Denvention 3 the 66th; also Fan GoH at Westercon 36, Loscon XIV, Boskone 26 (as Special Guest, Boskone has no Fan GoH; anyway, see Debbie Notkin’s appreciation), Capclave 2006.  Book reviews in Locus.  Morris dancer.  [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1967 Laura Dern, 54. I’m going to note she’s in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet as Sandy Williams which is not genre but which is one fucking weird film. Jurassic Park where she is Dr. Ellie Sattler is her first SF film followed by Jurassic Park III and a name change to Dr. Ellie Degler.  Such are the things movie trivia is made of. Star Wars: The Last Jedi has her showing as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo.  I think her first genre appearance was on Shelley Duvall’s Nightmare Classic. (CE)
  • Born February 10, 1970 – Robert Shearman, age 51.  Fourscore short stories.  Two of them Doctor Who; ed. The Shooting Scripts (with Paul Cornell, Russell Davis, Mark Gatiss); Rob and Tony’s Marathon Watch of “Doctor Who” vols. 1-2 (with Toby Hadoke).  Interviewed in Nightmare.  [JH]
  • Born February 10, 1976 Keeley Hawes, 45. Ms Delphox/Madame Karabraxos in the most excellent Twelth Doctor story “Time Heist”.  It wasn’t her first genre role as that would’ve been Tamara in that incredibly awful Avengers film. She also played Zoe Reynolds in MI5 which is at least genre adjacent given where the story went. She has also provided the voice of Lara Croft in a series of Tomb Raider video games.  (CE)
  • Born February 10, 1987 – Cody Martin, age 34.  Four novels, three shorter stories, with Mercedes Lackey (whose name, incidentally, means servant of mercy); five novels and a shorter story in the Secret World Chronicles (which is also a podcast) with Lackey, Veronica Giguere, Dennis Lee, Steve Libby.  Eagle Scout.  Gamer.  “After I started writing him, John Murdock drifted away from me….  It surprised me, pleasantly.”  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) MILESTONES. In “The Animation That Changed Cinema” on YouTube, Lewis Bond and Luiza Liz Bond look at how great artists like Lotte Reininger, Jan Svankmajer, and Brad Bird changed and improved animation.

(15) WORLD OF TOMORROW KICKSTARTER. Don Hertzfeldt’s Kickstarter to fund “World of Tomorrow: The First Three Episodes” on Blu-ray has raised $218,446 of its $30,000 goal in the first two days. People who pledge $20 get a copy. There are incentives for higher pledges.

WHAT WILL BE ON THE NEW BLU-RAY?

  • the first three episodes of the series: “world of tomorrow”, “world of tomorrow episode two: the burden of other people’s thoughts”, and “world of tomorrow episode three: the absent destinations of david prime”
  • “intro”, a short cartoon that was created for the 2017 tour and has only ever been seen in theaters
  •  a 32 page booklet, including brand new liner notes for all the titles
  •  additional bells and whistles TBD 

(16) HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD. “Wynonna Earp: New trailer shows her back on the hunt in Purgatory”: SYFY Wire sets the frame:

…“All I want is to stop feeling guilty for what I am, when what I am is necessary,” Wynonna, played by Melanie Scrofano, says at the beginning of the clip. The trailer then goes on to show Wynonna on a bit of a bender — killing demons, getting drunk, hooking up, and passing out, all with Peacemaker back by her side.

(17) DERAILED BY DISNEY DEAL. Disney bought the studio, Blue Sky, that was making the Nimona cartoon (and other things) and has fired all the staff on Nimona and other projects. “Nimona Movie Cancelled by Disney Less Than a Year Before Release”Comicbook.com has the story.

Fans of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power creator Noelle Stevenson and her original comics were saddened today when news came that Disney is shutting down the former 20th Century Fox animation studio Blue Sky and with it cancelling their feature film adaptation of Stevenson’s Nimona. The movie was less than a year away and had been in development since around 2015, with a release date already scheduled for release on January 14th of 2022. According to The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit, sources indicated that the movie was “about 75% complete” and theorized that perhaps another studio could step in and finish the project.

… This marks the latest project that was in development at Fox or one of its subsidiaries that had fans excited and was subsequently cancelled by Disney….

(18) WOULD YOU LIKE FRIES PRINTED WITH THAT? In the Washington Post, Laura Reiley says that Israeli firm Aleph Farms says it has a process for 3-D printing steaks, and discussed other companies that are coming up with “cultivated: meat and fish. “The world’s first lab-grown rib-eye prompts questions about how cultivated meat will be regulated”.

… Aleph Farms’ new 3-D bioprinting technology— which uses living animal cells as opposed to plant-based alternatives — allows for premium whole-muscle cuts to come to market, broadening the scope of alt-meat in what is expected to be a rich area of expansion for food companies.

Several other companies are sprinting to capture what is expected to be a robust appetite for what is often called “cultivated meat.” San Diego-based BlueNalu has announced its intent to bring cell-based seafood products to market in the second half of this year; Israel-based Future Meat Technologies and Dutch companies Meatable and Mosa Meat aim to have cultivated meat products in the market by 2022, each with proprietary methods of growing meat tissues from punch biopsies from live or slaughtered animals.

But the lack of a regulatory framework could stymie the companies’ race to market. In December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the world’s first head of state to eat cultivated meat, and that same month Singapore became the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval for the sale of cultivated meat. It remains unclear when other countries will follow suit. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has not set a date for when it will rule on the matter….

(19) AREN’T YOU SHORT FOR AN IMPERIAL WALKER? SYFY Wire shows “Walking car proven possible by Hyundai TIGER concept”.

It’s probably safe to say that Hyundai is betting big on the future of transportation. Last week, we got wind of their plan to build the world’s smallest airport for flying cars, and then yesterday, the South Korean company just went even more futuristic by presenting its “walking car” concept, TIGER, aka the transforming intelligent ground excursion robot.

Branded as the company’s first uncrewed ultimate mobility vehicle (UMV), TIGER is meant to transform from a four-wheel drive vehicle to a four-legged walking machine….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Betsy Hanes Perry, James Davis Nicoll, John Hertz, JJ, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 8/20/20 The Pixel Came Back From Nothing At Scroll

(1) NASFIC FAN FUND AUCTION. Michael J. Lowrey makes a last-minute appeal: We still need items for auction pretty desperately: books, fanzines, tuckerizations, fannish memorabilia, whatever, for the Virtual FanFund Auction at the virtual NASFIC on Facebook.” Post items there. The auction starts Friday. Lowrey says — 

An auction item post should include the following:

Item Name
Description
Minimum Bid

Please note that if your Fan Fund Auction Donation requires shipping, you are expected to pay for that shipping as an additional donation. If you wish to restrict shipping to your home country, say so up front.

This is a Silent Fan Fund Auction, to be held on behalf of TAFF (the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund, http://taff.org.uk/), GUFF (the Get Up-and-over Fan Fund, https://taff.org.uk/guff.html), DUFF (the Down Under Fan Fund, https://downunderfanfund.wordpress.com/), and LAFF (The Latin American Fan Fund). These funds serve to enable fans to travel to other countries and continents to attend their major conventions and meet the local fans, people they may know only from letter columns, email, or chatty websites. And to get it all done, the funds depend on contributions of fans like you… and, of course, benefit auctions.

This is your chance to pick up any number of interesting things… art, books, fanzines, pulp magazines, t-shirts, things that somehow involve cats… the opportunity to be “Tuckerized” into a work of fiction… or other peculiar or “fannish” stuff.

Donations for the fan fund auction will be accepted via posts to this event, and we also accept monetary donations via paypal to n.a.taff.2020@gmail.com. If you would like the proceeds from your auction donation to go to a particular fan fund, indicate that in your post. The proceeds from donations without designations will be evenly split between the fan funds.

(2) SHIELDS UP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Chris Lindahl, in the Indiewire story “Embroiled In A Legal Battle, Nichelle Nichols’ Family Seeks GoFundMe Help For Star Trek Icon”, says that Nichols’s son, Kyle Johnson, is suing her manager, Gilbert Bell, saying that Bell is taking advantage of Nichols’s infirmity to abuse her fortune.  Nichols was diagnosed with dementia in 2013 and had a stroke in 2015.  The GoFundMe campaign which has raised $64,760 of its $100,000 goal is under “Shields Up Nichelle Nichols.”

Now allegedly suffering from dementia, Nichelle Nichols, 87, who played Uhura on the original “Star Trek” in the late 1960s, is embroiled in an ongoing legal battle involving her manager, Gilbert Bell. Alleging Bell took advantage of Nichols over the last decade, Nichols’ family has taken to GoFundMe to help raise money for the icon’s legal battle.

The most recent court action came earlier this month, when Kyle Johnson, Nichols’ son, filed a cross complaint against Bell. The complaint is in response to a 2019 lawsuit filed by Bell against Johnson, where Bell alleges that it is Johnson’s actions that are harming Nichols — while Bell has always had her best interests in mind.

Johnson has denied Bell’s allegations of wrongdoing against him. Bell has not yet responded in court to Johnson’s allegations. IndieWire has reached out to lawyers for Johnson, Bell, and a representative for Nichols….

(3) THE CAISSONS KEEP ROLLING ALONG. I would like to contest the claim in Steve Davidson’s title “The Science Fiction Cannon is Not a Thing; Canon is.”

…There’s also the contention that Science Fiction is a continuum, an on-going, centuries old dialogue of call and response, writers reacting to published works and offering up variations, counter-arguments, expansions in response. “We stand on the shoulders of giants” is an expression often used to acknowledge that without the work perfomed by previous generations of authors, editors, publishers, artists and fans, contemporary SF would not be where it is today.

That latter is often negatively receieved these days, and it shouldn’t be. Much is made about contemporary SF rejecting the all white heterosexual european male colonialist based SF of the 40s, 50s and 60s – but of course without the existence of such a body of work, there would be nothing to react to or reject. Call it a benign correction as the field expands to incorporate diverse voices or call it a war against patriarchy, in both estimations there is something that is being addressed and re-evaluated (if not pushed back against and excoriated).

Is there an SF Canon? Yes. But is it a moving scale? Is it inviolate? Is it mandatory?

No, no and no.

(4) CASTING THE CANON. And Doris V. Sutherland cannot resist trying to answer the question for another genre, “What is the Horror Canon?”

…Picture a bookshelf, completely empty and ready to have a tidy set of volumes lined up on it. Now imagine that someone has decided to fill it with the canonical works of horror literature. What would they start with? Frankenstein and Dracula would be obvious choices. These may well be followed with reasonably-sized collections of Poe and Lovecraft stories. Next, let’s add the complete ghost stories of M. R. James.

Now pause for thought. That’s five books – and already we’ve covered a pretty substantial chunk of the most influential horror fiction in the English language. Regardless of what else we put on the shelf – and it’s easy enough to think of further titles, from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to The Exorcist – it’s hard to deny that those above five books will cover a pretty big percentage of whatever horror canon we end up with.

Now try to imagine a bookshelf with the science fiction canon. It’s a taller order: off the top of my head, we’d have at least four books if we wanted to represent Isaac Asimov alone (I, Robot and the Foundation trilogy). When we factor in Verne, Wells, Heinlein, Clarke, Bester, Ellison, Le Guin… well, let’s just say we’re going to end up with more than five books.

So, the horror canon is smaller than the science fiction canon – or, to phrase that differently, more tightly-focused. Thinking about it, this makes sense. Horror is a genre where less is more – look at how many classics of horror fiction are short stories rather than novels, for one. And when I look back at our hypothetical bookshelf of canonical horror, I have to wonder if those books might be better described not as a horror canon, but as a set of horror archetypes.

(5) SPIRITUAL FORMATION. John Scalzi enters the confessional at Whatever and gets it all off his chest: “Okay, Sure, It’s My Fault Science Fiction is the Way It Is Right Now”.

The dimwitted bigot brigade finally came across my piece about the Science Fiction canon from a couple of weeks ago and had a predictable spasm about it, asserting how it was evidence that (I’m paraphrasing from various sources, here) a) science fiction and fantasy was dying, b) traditional publishing (the sf/f parts of it anyway) is dying too, c) I’m responsible in some measure for a) and b), despite d) the fact that apparently I don’t actually sell and/or only sell through byzantine sleight of hand by the publishing industry for reasons and also e) I suck, f) which is why I don’t want people to read older works because then they would realize that, and while we’re at it g) modern sf/f is infested with terrible work from people who aren’t straight white dudes, h) which I, a straight white dude, am also somehow responsible for, and so in short, i) everything is my fault, and j) I am simultaneously a nobody and also history’s worst monster.

It’s a lot! I think it must be tiring to be a dimwitted bigot, thinking about me….

(6) I’M BATMAN. Will there be as many of them as there were of Spartacus? Yahoo! Entertainment reports “Ben Affleck To Return As Batman In Upcoming ‘Flash’ Movie That Also Will Feature Michael Keaton As Dark Knight”.

…Affleck reportedly got the script for The Flash at the end of last week and agreed to board the project.

“He’s a very substantial part of the emotional impact of the movie. The interaction and relationship between Barry and Affleck’s Wayne will bring an emotional level that we haven’t seen before,” Muschietti tells Vanity Fair who broke the news. “It’s Barry’s movie, it’s Barry’s story, but their characters are more related than we think. They both lost their mothers to murder, and that’s one of the emotional vessels of the movie. That’s where the Affleck Batman kicks in.”

Another reason feature mythology-wise why Affleck’s Batman is coming back to The Flash, and that’s that Miller’s Flash considers him to be the original Dark Knight, the guy he fought alongside in Justice League. Hence, per Muschietti, it was necessary to have Affleck’s Batman as a starting point: “He’s the baseline. He’s part of that unaltered state before we jump into Barry’s adventure…There’s a familiarity there,” he further tells Vanity Fair.

(7) STORYBUNDLE. Available for the next three weeks: The Exclusive Dark Fantasy and SF Bundle – Curated by Douglas Smith.

2020 has been a scary year. Like some dark fantasy or horror story. Or a dystopian tale about the end of the world.

Why not embrace that spirit? Show this year from hell that you can take whatever it dishes out, because you know what dark fantasies and horror stories are really like. And you’ve seen more ends of the world than 2020 could even dream of.

…Read about curses and ghosts, about Norse gods on the Canadian prairies and what happens after Ragnarök and the end of the world. Read how life on Earth may end if we don’t stop killing our planet. Read twenty-one tales of personal apocalypses (because someone’s world is always ending), and stories from a very special and very strange bookstore. Read about post-human biopunk and day-after-tomorrow climate change adventure. Read about the boy who is either a scrawny, bullied, neglected son of insane parents or the imprisoned leader of a death cult dedicated to the goddess of discord.

…For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Picking Up the Ghost by Tone Milazzo
  • Wasps at the Speed of Sound by Derryl Murphy
  • The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumière
  • Tombstone Blues by Chadwick Ginther

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SEVEN more books, for a total of eleven!

  • Bullettime by Nick Mamatas
  • It’s Not the End and Other Lies by Matt Moore
  • Chimerascope by Douglas Smith
  • Over the Darkened Landscape by Derryl Murphy
  • Objects of Worship by Claude Lalumière
  • Too Far Gone by Chadwick Ginther
  • Wikiworld by Paul Di Filippo.

(8) DESEGREGATION DRAMATIZED. Series developers include Black Panther’s lead actor and the creator of The Orville: “Chadwick Boseman, Seth MacFarlane, Eisa Davis team up to develop series about Little Rock Nine”THV11 has the story.

Chadwick Boseman and Seth MacFarlane are teaming up with Eisa Davis to develop a drama based on the Little Rock Nine’s efforts to end racial segregation at Central High School in 1957.

Deadline reported the three will work on developing the project, based on Carlotta Walls LaNier’s memoir A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High.

The series will look at the desegregation of the high school and how 14-year-old LaNier and eight other students became the first Black people to attend the all-white school.

In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that segregated schools were unconstitutional and called for the integration of all schools.

The nine students, along with Daisy Bates, became civil rights icons as they risked their lives to combat the racist school segregation policies in Arkansas.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • This week in 1950Dimension X aired a story out of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles in which a Martian named Eala dreams of a visitor from a planet, Earth, where they know life is impossible. This episode was unusual in that Bradbury hosted it instead of the usual Dimension X host. The story was later renamed “Ylla” which is considered the canonical title for this story but it was first published as “I’ll Not Ask for Wine” in Maclean’s, January 1, 1950. Listen here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 20, 1883 Austin Tappan Wright. Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his fifteen hundred page manuscript for publication, and following her own death in 1937 their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut the text yet more; the resulting novel, shorn of Wright’s appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material. Is there a full, unedited version? (Died 1931.) (CE)
  • Born August 20, 1906 – Sheila Hawkins.  Wrote and illustrated fifty children’s books in the United Kingdom and Australia, many with animals, many fantastic.  Here is The Singing Chameleon.  Here is Taliesin.  Here is an interior for Long Ears.  Here is Wish and the Magic Nut, which won Picture Book of the Year.  Also landscapes and abstracts.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born August 20, 1909 André Morell. Best remembered as Professor Bernard Quatermass in the Quatermass and the Pit series, and as Doctor Watson in the Hammer Film Productions version of The Hound of the Baskervilles which is quite excellent.  It’s also worth noting that he played O’Brien in BBC’s 1954 Nineteen Eighty-Four, opposite Peter Cushing as Winston Smith. (Died 1978.) (CE)
  • Born August 20, 1915 – Arthur Porges.  For us a hundred short stories, some under other names; half a dozen posthumous collections.  Many more for others e.g. detective fiction.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish.  Here he is on the cover of the Sep 60 Fantastic (i.e. his story “The Shadowsmith”; cover artwork by John Duillo).  This Website is about AP and his brother Irwin.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born August 20, 1942 – Joe Mayhew, F.N.  One of our finest fanartists; two Hugos for that.  Five short stories published, in AberrationsAboriginal, and Tomorrow; a score of reviews in Absolute Magnitude, more in the Washington Post.  A hundred seventy drawings in Asimov’sFlagFOSFAXThe Frozen FrogIt Goes on the ShelfJourney PlanetMimosaNY Rev. of SFPLOKTASquiggeldy HoyVojo de Vivo; various Worldcon and other con publications.  Radio-style plays for Disclaves and Boskones.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Chaired the 1987 Disclave.  Library of Congress Recommending Officer for SF.  Fan Guest of Honor at Novacon II, Albacon 3; Ghost of Honor at Capclave 2001, Balticon 49.  Here is his cover for the Nov 98 WSFA Journal (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n).  Here is an illustration from Mimosa 17.  (Died 2000) [JH] 
  • Born August 20, 1943 Sylvester McCoy, 77. The Seventh Doctor and the last canon Doctor until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors when they revised canon. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go.  (CE)
  • Born August 20, 1951 Greg Bear, 69. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award for Best Novelette and a Hugo Award at L.A. Con II for Best Novelette is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. I confess that I’ve not read him over the past few decades. What’s he done as of late that I should consider reading? (CE) 
  • Born August 20, 1961 Greg Egan, 59. Australian writer who exists though he does his damnedest to avoid a digital footprint. His excellent Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award  and “Oceanic” garnered a Best Novella Hugo at Ausiecon Three. I assume he wasn’t there given his stance against attending Worldcons? (CE) 
  • Born August 20, 1961 – Jim Clemens, 59.  Three dozen novels for us, half a dozen shorter stories, some with Rebecca Cantrell; action-adventure books under another name, some with Grant Blackwood; certified SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) diver; Doctor of Veterinary Medicine under yet another name – if he wants to keep these careers separate, why shouldn’t we?  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian.  [JH]
  • Born August 20, 1962 Sophie Aldred, 58. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures. (CE)
  • Born August 20, 1969 – Christina Diaz Gonzalez, 51. Three novels for us, three others.  Many awards for historical fiction The Red Umbrella (also in Spanish).  Born in Florida to Cuban parents.  Took a law degree, practiced law awhile.  Lives in Miami with husband, sons, a dog that can open doors.  [JH]
  • Born August 2, 1972 – Carolyn Cohagen, 48.  Four novels.  Conducts Girls With Pens, creative writing for girls 8-14.  Earlier, a stand-up comic in New York, Chicago, London, Amsterdam; studied physical theater at École international de théâtre Jacques Lecoq, Paris.  Ranks The Phantom Tollbooth about the same as Slaughterhouse-Five.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTON.

(12) HORRIBLE EXAMPLES. Earlier this month Titan Comics was handed a golden opportunity to publicize their collection of The Best of Hägar The Horrible by Dik Browne.

Joe Biden recently announced his choice of Kamala Harris as running mate, and in the official photograph by Adam Schultz also revealed that he keeps a framed cartoon strip on his desk – from Titan’s own Hägar the Horrible!

Bleeding Cool reported on the story, as well as quoting Biden saying that the strip had helped him through personal tragedies by reminding him “a lot of people are going through a lot worse than you’re going through, and the way they get through it is … they have people reach out, touch them, give them solace.”

This is the strip on Biden’s desk:

And here are some other examples Titan shared in its press kit, several with genre jokes.

(13) NINETEEN MINUTES OF FAME. At least, the nineteen-minute mark is where fame summons James Davis Nicoll in Isaac Arthur’s video The Fermi Paradox: Galactic Disasters. James notes, “He mispronounced my name but I am the Nicoll in Nicoll-Dyson Laser, which can reduce an Earth-sized world to vapour in a week at distances of up to a million light years.”

If anything, this video makes Cixin Liu’s Death’s End sound too cheerful.

(14) THE NAME OF MY LAST BAND. Just released on YouTube today — Live From the Space Stage: A HALYX Story is a full-length documentary.

For one glorious summer, an experimental, sci-fi band rocked Disneyland’s space stage. With a bass-playing Wookiee and an acrobatic frog, the band’s existence is nearly unbelievable, and the story behind its creation is just as incredible.

(15) TIME TO BREAK INTO THE PIGGY BANK. At Heritage Auctions, bidding is up to $180,000 for Frank Frazetta A Princess of Mars Painting Original Art (1970).

Possibly the most famous of all of the John Carter of Mars covers by Frazetta, the artist actually painted two versions in 1970, with the first being published as a Doubleday hardback dustjacket cover. Fearing that the original art would not be returned from the publisher, Frazetta immediately painted a version for himself – the stellar painting we’re offering – since he was so proud of the image. Frazetta personally related to Joe and Nadia Mannarino (see below), and presumably others, that he loved this second painting even more than the original (which he actually sold in the early 1970s). We’re showing the two paintings side-by-side online for review. Regardless of which version you prefer, both represent the quintessential heroic fantasy image, with the bold, strong hero, the voluptuous female at his legs, and surrounded by a dangerous alien environment.

(16) THE DOCTOR’S MONSTER. BBC shares some “Surprising secrets of writers’ first book drafts”.

…When Frankenstein first appeared in print in 1818, anonymously but with a preface by Percy Bysshe Shelley, plenty of readers assumed that the poet was its author. In Mary Shelley’s introduction to the 1831 edition, she wrote that people had asked her “how a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?” In keeping with the story’s eerie origins – the stormy nights and sunless summer days beside Lake Geneva – she put it down to a kind of visitation, the result of “imagination, unbidden, possessed”. Yet as the manuscript reveals, inky-fingered graft played a big role in allowing the doctor’s monster to evolve into the more tragic, nuanced creature that’s haunted our imaginations ever since. In fact, “creature”, Mary’s initial description, is later replaced by “being”, a being who becomes still more uncannily human thanks to other tweaks such as replacing the “fangs” that Victor imagines in his feverish delirium with “fingers” grasping at his neck.

Sadly, the refusal to believe that a woman barely out of girlhood could possibly have authored this transcendent Promethean fable has never quite gone away, and Percy’s notes on the manuscript have been used to bolster the theory that he at least co-authored Mary’s novel. While he’s certainly an astute line editor, the chief revelation here is domestic: the radical Romantic was a supportive, affectionate partner.

(17) FLUSHED WITH PRIDE. “Transparent Public Toilets Unveiled In Tokyo Parks — But They Also Offer Privacy”.

The idea of using a public bathroom with see-through walls may sound like the stuff of nightmares. But a famous Japanese architect is hoping to change that view, using vibrant colors and new technology to make restrooms in Tokyo parks more inviting.

“There are two things we worry about when entering a public restroom, especially those located at a park,” according to architect Shigeru Ban’s firm. “The first is cleanliness, and the second is whether anyone is inside.”

Transparent walls can address both of those worries, Ban says, by showing people what awaits them inside. After users enter the restroom and lock the door, the powder room’s walls turn a powdery pastel shade — and are no longer see-through.

“Using a new technology, we made the outer walls with glass that becomes opaque when the lock is closed, so that a person can check inside before entering,” the Nippon Foundation says.

The group is behind the Tokyo Toilet project, enlisting world-famous architects to create toilets “like you’ve never seen.”

(18) NOT COSPLAY. You couldn’t make this up: “Ninja museum: Thieves carry out heist at Japanese site”.

A ninja museum has been raided in Japan, with thieves making off with more than a million yen (£7,100).

The Iga-ryu Ninja Museum in central Japan is dedicated to the history of the famous Iga clan of ninja.

Police were called after an alarm was set off at 01:30 local time on Monday (16:30 GMT on Sunday), the museum said on Thursday.

Officers found the office door had been forced with what is thought to be a crowbar and the 150kg safe was missing.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Someone with time on their hands turns 2001 into 2020.

2020: an isolation odyssey is a reenactment of the iconic finale of 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968). Restaged in the context of home quarantine, the journey through time adapts to the mundane dramas of self-isolation–poking fun at the navel-gazing saga of life alone and indoors.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Andrew Porter, Michael J. Walsh, Linda Deneroff, Chip Hitchcock, Paul DiFilippo, John A Arkansawyer, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Simon Bisson.]

Pixel Scroll 7/15/20 Who Would Open This Can Of Words?

(1) ONE WEEK LEFT TO VOTE FOR HUGOS. CoNZealand today reminded members the deadline is nearing – voting closes Wednesday, July 22 at 23:59 PDT (UTC-7), which in New Zeland is Thursday, July 23 at 18:59 NZST (UTC+12).

(2) PEAKE ARCHIVE PRESERVED. The British Library has acquired the Visual Archive of writer, artist and illustrator Mervyn Peake, best known for his series Gormenghast.

.. Mervyn Peake’s Visual Archive comprises over 300 original illustrations, including drawings from his critically acclaimed Gormenghast series, together with original illustrations for his own books for children Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor and Letters From a Lost Uncle and other classic works of English literature, such as Treasure IslandThe Hunting of the Snark, Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm,and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Also included are unpublished early works, preliminary sketches, and drawings of famous literary, theatrical and artistic figures such as Laurence Olivier and W.H. Auden. This acquisition brings Peake’s archive together in one place, making it fully accessible to the public for the first time.

Mervyn Peake was an English writer, artist and illustrator, best known for creating the fantasy trilogy Gormenghast. A Royal Academy trained artist of great versatility and inventiveness, he has been seen as arguably the finest children’s illustrator of the mid-20th century. Combining technical mastery with an innate ability to evoke fear, delight and wonderment in young readers, he redefined the cosy nature of children’s book illustrations.

Despite his originality, Peake’s fondness and respect for the work of other artists is evident in the archive, from the influence of Hogarth, Doré and Blake to Dickens’ illustrator Phiz and Boys’ Own artist Stanley L. Wood.

The archive is notable for Peake’s exquisite Treasure Island illustrations from 1949, which remain some of his finest work, described by critics as ‘tense, eerie and dramatic’ and ‘one of the few editions which have come near to meeting the demands of the author’s text’. Treasure Island was Peake’s favourite book and his love for the story is evident in the archive from the watercolour illustrations he painted aged 15, to the large number of preliminary sketches and annotated proofs which show his commitment to perfecting the 1949 edition.

(3) STORYBUNDLE. Available for the next three weeks: “The Glitter and Hope Bundle – Curated by Cat Rambo”.

I think I speak for all of us when I say that 2020 has not gone exactly how I expected it to, and this StoryBundle has been no exception. I originally conceived of it as a hopepunk centered bundle, but as I sorted through possibilities, I found less punk than plenty of hopeful stories that reminded me that hope comes in all sorts of forms, not all of them as in your face as hopepunk.

Hope can find its origin in friendship, whether on an alien planet or a New York street corner. It can come from writing, in a myriad shades as multi-colored as the ink in which it’s inscribed. It glitters at the bottom of Pandora’s box, waiting to escape. Waiting to provide comfort and lightand renewed vigor for the fight….

… For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Diamondsong – Escape 01 by E.D.E. Bell
  • The Burglar of Sliceharbor by Jason A. Holt
  • Modern Surprises by Joan Marie Verba
  • The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus by Alanna McFall

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus seven more more books, for a total of eleven.

  • Diamondsong – Capture 02 by E.D.E. Bell
  • Tales of the Captain Duke – Vol. 1-4 by Rebecca Diem
  • The Voyage of the White Cloud by M. Darusha Wehm
  • Community of Magic Pens by Atthis Arts Anthology
  • Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo
  • Missing Signal by Seb Doubinsky
  • The Legacy Human – Singularity 1 by Susan Kaye Quinn

(4) SCIENCE FICTION IS NEVER ABOUT THE FUTURE. (William Gibson and Margaret Atwood have both said so; the name of the person who actually said it first escapes me at the moment.) Abigail Nussbaum’s “The Political Hugo” discusses “the nominees on this year’s Hugo ballot that feel most relevant to our crazy, confusing political moment, and why I’d like them to win.” She advocates that the Hugo should be appropriated as an award for topical fiction.

….We’re coming off a decade in which the Hugo struggled with its own definition, and with a troupe of interlopers who claimed to want to save it from those who would “politicize” it. It’s a decade in which the award’s diversity has advanced considerably, with more women, POC, and LGBT people being recognized than ever before. And yet at the same time, the Hugo can be inward-looking (some might say that this is inevitable, given its nature and voting system). Its politics are often internal politics–as much as it reflected trends in the broader political discourse, the Puppy debacle was the ultimate in inside baseball. I would like this year’s winners to be more outward-looking, to reflect the upheaval in the world and the simple fact that we are all participating in that upheaval, whether we want to or not. What I want to write about in this post are the works on this year’s Hugo ballot that, besides being excellent examples of their type, speak to some of the issues we’ve been seeing in the real world. 

(5) A VELDT OF THEIR OWN. “Why Exposing Kids To Horror Might Actually Be Good For Them” – that’s what Stephen Graham Jones contends in a post for CrimeReads.

…But, I know: horror? Don’t kids need “safe” programming, not nightmare fuel? My take is . . . no. Childhood already has a lot of the hallmarks of a horror movie, I think. Kids are small in a big place, they have no real power, they don’t know how even the simplest parts of the world work. Doors stretch dauntingly high, shadows can hold anything. Parents say one thing, mean another, and then take it all back anyway, change the rules for no reason other than that they “say so.” And everyone is always telling kids that the minute they’re alone, without tether to a trustworthy adult, that’s when the predators of the world will pounce, spirit them away to a place they never come back from.

Pretty terrifying, right?

My take is that when kids engage horror stories, they kind of . . . recognize that feeling, that terror, that uncertainty, that unfairness, and they maybe even understand that they’re not alone in feeling it. They’re not “weird,” they’re just human. Fear is our default setting. It’s what happens when you evolve on a savanna where everything wants to eat you.

(6) BEATTS AND BORDERLANDS BOOKS UPDATE. “Authors, Customers Demand Borderlands Books Owner Divest from Store”Publishers Weekly does a roundup.

…  Some sponsors have publicly denounced Beatts on Twitter, including several who have reached out privately to PW to confirm that they will not renew their sponsorships.

One of the authors expressing such sentiments was children’s book author Maggie Tokuda-Hall, who has cohosted several “lovely” literary events there, including a May fundraiser with Rebecca Roanhorse and N.K. Jemisin that netted $6,000 for the store. In an email to PW, Tokuda-Hall wrote that it is her “dearest hope that Alan will divest from the store, and allow the staff and community to reclaim the space. The staff does not deserve to be associated with these allegations.”…

…Mary Robinette Kowal, who is the president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, told PW last week that a Tor representative called her and asked if she wished to cancel a scheduled July 23 virtual event for her new release, Relentless Moon.

“If your publisher comes to you and asks if you still want to do an event…maybe not,” Kowal said, adding that she was not “100% convinced” that she had made the right decision. “I don’t like the ripple effects,” she explained: canceling the event also “punishes” the store’s general manager, Jude Feldman, and its four other employees. “The decision an author has to make is a lot messier than the decision an individual customer has to make,” Kowal added. “It’s the thing we’re doing because it’s the only tool we have.”

Kowal disclosed that she sent an email to Beatts before Tor canceled the event, writing that “I needed him to step back from the store and to address his drinking.” Most of the other sources PW spoke to also referred to Beatts’ drinking habits; a former employee described the store to PW as having a “heavy drinking culture.”

In her capacity as SFWA president, Kowal said that it would be “inappropriate” for the organization to address these specific allegations, but that it has been discussing “the larger problem” of how to report unethical or abusive behavior within the science fiction and fantasy community. SFWA has recently implemented a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee, which will, among other tasks, explore ways to deal with such situations in ways that are “sustainable and safe.”

… Beatts dismissed the suggestion that he divest himself from the store by transferring ownership to [Jude] Feldman. “I cannot see any way in which Borderlands can possibly operate without me,” he wrote. “I’ve discussed this with Jude and she agrees. That is not an option.” Feldman, in addition to being the store’s general manager for 19 years, has been Beatts’s significant other for about 20 years….

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • July 1997 — Christopher Golden’s The Lost Army was released by Dark Horse Comics. The first of seven Hellboy novels that Golden would write for Dark Horse over the next decade, it bore a cover done by Mike Mignola who also provided interior illustrations. It would have French and Spanish editions as well. It was the very first of the twelve original Hellboy novels done by Dark Horse over a twenty year period. If you’re interested all of them are available from the usual digital suspects. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 15, 1606 – Rembrandt van Rijn.  Draftsman, painter, printer.  Among the greatest visual artists.  Master of light, texture, portraiture.  We can claim his mythological pictures; perhaps also his Biblicals, at least when like The Evangelist Matthew and the Angel showing, besides what believers would deem historical, some element that could only be imagined.  Here is The Sacrifice of Isaac.  Here is Pallas Athena.  Here is The Abduction of Persephone.  See what he could do with a few lines.  (Died 1669) [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1779 – Clement Moore.  He was a Professor of Biblical Learning.  “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was published anonymously; for twenty years he did not acknowledge it; some scholarship indicates he was not the author; and it must be said he owned slaves and opposed Abolition.  But consider the poem as an achievement of fantasy – particularly since St. Nicholas was a 4th Century bishop in what is now Turkey.  (Died 1863) [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1917 – Robert Conquest, Ph.D.  For us, a novel, a few shorter stories, a few poems; five Spectrum anthologies with Kingsley Amis.  Many other writings.  Politically a conservative, and a brilliant one, which is a pain or a joy depending on your point of view (note that I put pain on the left and joy on the right).  He might not like being remembered most for this, but we do: “SF’s no good, they bellow till we’re deaf.  But this looks good.  Well then, it’s not SF.”  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1918 Dennis Feltham Jones. His first novel Colossus was made into Colossus: The Forbin Project. He went on to write two more novels in the series, The Fall of Colossus and Colossus and the Crab, which in my opinion became increasingly weird. iBooks and Kindle have the Colossus trilogy plus a smattering of his other works available. ((Died 1981.) CE)
  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler. Pulp author. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titanic, possibly also Vixen 03. His real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the civil war. (Died 2020.) (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley which somehow I’ve avoided seeing so far. Is it worth seeing? Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women. (Don’t ask.) As Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1957 Forest Whitaker, 63. His best-known genre roles are Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ker in Battlefield Earth for which he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was, and Host of Twilight Zone. (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1958 – Pat Molloy, 62.  Chaired ConCave 1980-1982, Con*Stellation IV & VII, DeepSouthCon 25 (some use Roman numerals, some don’t); Fan Guest of Honor at DSC 27, 52.  After twenty years of the Rebel Award, co-founded and named the Rubble Award; punished by being given the Rebel Award.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate (with Naomi Fisher), attended the 2001 Australian nat’l convention.  [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 57. Red Sonja! What a way to launch your film career. Mind you her next genre were 976-Evil II and Galaxis… She starred as the Black Witch in the Nineties Italian film series Fantaghiro, and played the Amazon Queen in the Danish Ronal the Barbarian. (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1964 – Elspeth Kovar, 56.  Wrote the Joe Mayhew memorial for the Chicon 6 Souvenir Book (58th Worldcon); see her con report in File 770 137, p. 28 (PDF).  Chaired Capclave 2006.  Active in WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n).  Not true that one of her cats was in an iron lung and on dialysis. [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 53. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was most excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel. (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1983 – Tristan Tarwater, 37.  Author of fantasy, comics, and RPG (role-playing games) bits.  Six novels, recently The Marauders’ Island, laced with coconut wine, salt, and magic; a few shorter stories.  Among her books read are the Vinland Saga (i.e. Makoto Yumimura’s), The Fifth SeasonBlake’s Complete Illuminated Books, and The Glass Bead Game.  Website here.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) BILL’S BIOPIC. Will this film be called The Shat Story? “William Shatner Wants Chris Pine To Play Him In Future Biopic” says We Got This Covered.

Shatner recently appeared as a guest via virtual chatroom at this year’s Galaxy Con, and given the prolific career he’s enjoyed in his 89 years, the idea of bringing his story to the big screen was sure to be on the minds of the collective Star Trek fandom.

“I want to play myself. I don’t want to die!,” Shatner said when asked who he’d like to have star in such a feature. “I don’t know. Chris Pine? Why doesn’t he play me? A good looking, talented guy,”

(11) SEEMS LEGIT. Another LEGO collectible.

(12) IT’S DEAD, JIM. LitHub revisits 1965 and “What Our First Close Look at Mars Actually Revealed” – tagline: “The Disappointment of a Blighted Planet.”

…Scarcely anyone had been prepared for what frame seven revealed, much less what they saw in the next dozen images. “My God, it’s the moon,” thought Norm Haynes, one of the systems engineers. There were craters in the image, all perfectly preserved, which meant the planet was in bleak stasis. The crust hadn’t been swallowed by the churn of plate tectonics, but, more important, the surface hadn’t been worn down by the ebb and flow of water. Preserved craters meant there had been no resurfacing, no aqueous weathering of any kind resembling that of the Earth. As with the moon, it appeared there had never been any significant quantity of liquid water on the surface—no rainfall, no oceans, no streams, no ponds.

Stunned, the Mariner 4 team didn’t publicly release the images for days as they tried to understand the implications of what they were seeing.

(13) GREEN CHEESE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]  I think the cheesy commercial for this is news

Second only to seeing @TheGreenKnight in theaters: playing The Green Knight RPG at home.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/24/20 He Was A Bug-Eyed, Lizard-Gorn, Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

(1) VIRTUAL BALTICON IN-PROGRESS REPORT. The Sunday Edition of the Virtual Balticon 54 Newsletter Rocketmail, which can be downloaded here, says the total unique attendance on Zoom for all of Friday was 1,343 and on Saturday 2,787 people. This does not count the fans participating on other platforms. The newsletter also contains Masquerade participant info, and fundraising totals.

Balticon runs through tomorrow, and you can access it in a variety of ways. Dale S. Arnold explains:

You can of course continue/start enjoying the Virtual Balticon 54 by going to WWW.balticon.org and choosing links off the schedule and or links on the platform page. You can ghost by just watching the YouTube and Twitch feeds which stream the items each hour that the most people signed up for participating on that item in zoom if you prefer not to register on zoom as well…. Programs continue all the way through Monday…

However, they are running a GoFundMe to pay the virtual freight.

For the record as of 5:20 AM on 5/24/20 the total GoFundMe donations are at $11,065.00 gifted by the generous fans that are making Virtual Balticon 54 possible. An additional $495.00 has come into the BSFS paypal account during the GoFundMe campaign by folks who did not want to use GoFundMe using the http://www.bsfs.org/donate.htm link. The BSFS treasurer reports that “almost” $2,000.00 has also been received as checks and or people donating their B45 memberships instead of taking a refund.

(2) FANFIC DISPUTE GOES TO COURT. There’s a lawsuit in progress over reuse of fanfic tropes in commercial genre fic. It could have repercussions well beyond hyper-niche erotica. The New York Times devotes a long article to the litigation: “A Feud in Wolf-Kink Erotica Raises a Deep Legal Question”.

…Then, in 2018, Ms. Cain heard about an up-and-coming fantasy writer with the pen name Zoey Ellis, who had published an erotic fantasy series with a premise that sounded awfully familiar. It featured an Alpha and Omega couple, and lots of lupine sex.

…Ms. Cain urged Blushing Books to do something. The publisher sent copyright violation notices to more than half a dozen online retailers, alleging that Ms. Ellis’s story was “a copy” with scenes that were “almost identical to Addison Cain’s book.” 

… “You have to make sure you use the tropes of Omegaverse in order to be recognized by fans of the genre,” Ms. Ellis said. “Crave to Conquer” and its sequel, “Crave to Capture,” were published in early 2018 by Quill Ink Books, a London company she founded. Readers gave the series glowing reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, calling it “sensational new Omegaverse!” and the “best Omega yet.”

In late April 2018, Ms. Ellis got an email from a reader who had ordered one of her books from Barnes & Noble, then learned that it wasn’t available anymore. She soon discovered that all of her Omegaverse books had disappeared from major stores, all because of a claim of copyright infringement from Ms. Cain and her publisher. Ms. Ellis found it bewildering.

“I couldn’t see how a story I had written using recognized tropes from a shared universe, to tell a story that was quite different than anything else out there commercially, could be targeted in that way,” Ms. Ellis said. “There are moments and scenarios that seem almost identical, but it’s a trope that can be found in hundreds of stories.”

A lawyer for Ms. Ellis and Quill filed counter-notices to websites that had removed her books. Some took weeks to restore the titles; others took months. There was no way to recover the lost sales. “As a new author, I was building momentum, and that momentum was lost,” Ms. Ellis said. And she worried that the “plagiarist” label would permanently mar her reputation.

Ms. Ellis decided to sue. “Everything would have been in question, my integrity would have been questioned, my ability to write and tell stories — all of that would have been under threat if I didn’t challenge these claims,” she said.

In the fall of 2018, Quill Ink filed against Blushing Books and Ms. Cain in federal court in Oklahoma, where Ms. Ellis’s digital distributor is based, seeking $1.25 million in damages for defamation, interfering with Ms. Ellis’s career, and for filing false copyright infringement notices. In the suit, Quill’s lawyers argued that “no one owns the ‘omegaverse’ or the various tropes that define ‘omegaverse.’”

Ms. Ellis’s lawyers thought they had a strong position. But they struggled to find a prior case that addressed whether fan fiction tropes could be protected by copyright….

The biggest development in the case so far is that Blushing Books has left Ms. Cain to contest the matter alone. Last year, the publisher conceded that no plagiarism or copyright infringement had occurred, and a judgment was entered against the company, which paid undisclosed monetary damages to Quill and Ms. Ellis. (Ms. Cain is now self-publishing.)

Ms. Ellis and her publishing company filed a new civil suit against Ms. Cain in her home state of Virginia, arguing that she maliciously directed her publisher to send false copyright infringement notices to retailers. Ms. Cain’s lawyers have denied the claims, and have lined up authors, bloggers and readers as witnesses.

If the judge, or a jury, finds Ms. Cain in the wrong, the case would send a message to overzealous genre writers that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is not to be abused. By the same token, authors of genuinely original stories might find they have one fewer legal lever to protect their work. And a victory by Ms. Cain could encourage a free-for-all, emboldening authors to knock back competitors and formally assert their ownership of swaths of the fan fiction universe and common tropes in genre fiction.

Discovery is ongoing, and a pretrial conference before a judge is scheduled for June. In the meantime, the Omegaverse continues to thrive. This year, more than 200 new books from the genre have been published on Amazon.

The latest batch draws on virtually every genre and trope imaginable: paranormal shifter romances, paranormal Mpreg romances, reverse harem romances, sci-fi alien warrior romances. There are fantastical Alpha-Omega stories featuring witches, unicorns, dragons, vampires, wolf-shifters, bear-shifters, and wolf-shifters versus bear-shifters. There are comparatively pedestrian Omegaverse romances about celebrity chefs, dentists, frat boys, bakers, bodyguards and billionaires. In a teeming multiverse of stories, the tropes are still evolving, inexhaustible.

(3) MEXICANX INITIATIVE REMEMBERED. This San Antonio Current story shows John Picacio, winner of SFWA’s 2020 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, is also a hometown hero: “San Antonio Science Fiction Artist John Picacio Wins Award for Opening Door to Mexicanx Talent”.

… “Many of the folks I selected were rising stars such as David Bowles, Julia Rios and Marcela Davison Aviles,” Picacio said. “The Initiative enhanced their networks, but the vast majority of my picks were much newer talents to the field. The industry badly needs their cultural perspective and their voice right now.”

(4) AFRICAN SFF AT STORYBUNDLE. The “African Speculative Fiction Bundle curated by Ivor W. Hartmann” is available from StoryBundle. Same deal as always – “Support awesome authors by paying however much you think their work is worth!”

This is the most comprehensive collection of African speculative fiction authors ever assembled. With the complete bundle containing nearly 100 authors and over 145 works it stands both as an excellent introduction to the rapidly evolving canon of African SF and a unique one-time collection of their works. From established stars you might know such as Nnedi Okorafor, Tade Thompson, and Sarah Lotz, to upcomers like Wole Talabi, Chinelo Onwualu, Nerine Dorman, Dilman Dila, and so many more.

The road to this bundle has been paved by the work of countless African writers, editors, publishers, and most importantly readers. For too long was the African experience, imagination, and insight, held captive and until relatively recently only glimpsed through the thick lens of other cultures and their inherent biases. In a big way this is what the new wave of African Speculative Fiction is about: telling our own stories, revealing our vibrant cultures from within, sharing our unique perspectives, and writing ourselves into futures that for so long seemed to spell our doom by virtue of our absence.

(5) CLASSIC RETURNING. “Battlestar Galactica Reboot Producer Sam Esmail Teases the New Series” at Comicbook.com.

[Sam] Esmail says he never planned to helm the series himself. “I’m a huge fan of Ronald Moore’s Battlestar, but I don’t know if I’m great at hard sci-fi like that,” he says. “I love it. I’m a fan of it. But I knew early on that we were going to have to bring somebody in to run the room and to write the scripts.”

He went to explain why the job went to Lesslie, who is best known for the miniseries The Little Drummer Girl. “He’s just a fantastic writer,” Esmail says. “I loved his series, Little Drummer Girl, and the one thing that really struck me about him and his take for Battlestar, one of the reasons I even wanted to do Battlestar, was that the way Ron Moore, what he did with his remake in the early 2000s where it was this sort of hard sci-fi series with lots of action set pieces and really this exciting sci-fi adventure but purely grounded in an allegory of what was going on at the time, which was post-9/11. And it wasn’t that subtle, the links, I would say. But because he was also attuned to the sci-fi nature of the show, you didn’t feel it.

“When I was approached to do Battlestar now, it has to have that same sort of dynamic. It can’t be just a retread of what he already did so masterfully back then. What are we saying about today’s world? And Mike just had this great take, and I’m not going to go into it because obviously, I don’t want to spoil it for fans, but you kind of see it a little bit in Little Drummer Girl where politics plays a big part in it but without compromising the entertainment value, because in my opinion, you’ve got to have that….” 

(6) SUPER RESOURCE. There’s always a ton of news at the Superman Supersite about the iconic Kryptonian and those who keep the legend going. It’s where I found out about this new series: “’Superman & Lois’ Detailed Synopsis and Premiere Announced”.

The CW Network has announced that “Superman & Lois” will officially premiere in January, 2021 when the network launches its new season.

…In “Superman & Lois”, after years of facing megalomaniacal supervillains, monsters wreaking havoc on Metropolis, and alien invaders intent on wiping out the human race, the world’s most famous superhero, The Man of Steel aka Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin, “Teen Wolf”) and comic books’ most famous journalist, Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch, “Grimm”), come face to face with one of their greatest challenges ever – dealing with all the stress, pressures and complexities that come with being working parents in today’s society. Complicating the already daunting job of raising two boys, Clark and Lois must also concern themselves with whether or not their sons Jonathan (Jordan Elsass, “Little Fires Everywhere”) and Jordan (Alexander Garfin, “The Peanuts Movie”) could inherit their father’s Kryptonian superpowers as they grow older.

Returning to Smallville to handle some Kent family business, Clark and Lois are reacquainted with Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui, “Entourage”), a local loan officer who also happens to be Clark’s first love, and her Fire Chief husband Kyle Cushing (Erik Valdez, “Graceland”). The adults aren’t the only ones rediscovering old friendships in Smallville as the Kent sons are reacquainted with Lana and Kyle’s rebellious daughter, Sarah (Inde Navarrette, “Wander Darkly”). Of course, there’s never a dull moment in the life of a superhero, especially with Lois’ father, General Samuel Lane (Dylan Walsh, “Nip/Tuck”) looking for Superman to vanquish a villain or save the day at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, Superman and Lois’ return to idyllic Smallville is set to be upended when a mysterious stranger (Wolé Parks, “All American”) enters their lives.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 24, 1957 Quatermass 2 premiered In the U.K. It was produced by Anthony Hinds, and directed by Val Guest. It’s a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment. Screenplay was by Nigel Kneale and Val Guest.  It stars Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, Vera Day, and William Franklyn. Like the first film, some critics thought it was a lot of fun, some were less than impressed. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a respectable sixty percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz!]

  • Born 24 May 1794 – Rev. Dr. William Whewell.  Pronounced “hew-ell”.  Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1841-1866. Crater on the Moon named after him.  Mathematician, Anglican priest, historian of science.  Coined the words scientistphysicistlinguisticsosmosisionastigmatism.  Royal Medal for organizing thousands of volunteers internationally to study ocean tides.  Clifton Fadiman put him here by anthologizing in Fantasia Mathematica this poem.  (Died 1866) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1917 – Irving Cox.  Five dozen stories in AmazingAstoundingCosmosFantasticFutureIfImaginationOrbitRocket StoriesSaturnSF AdventuresSF QuarterlySF StoriesUniverse – and that’s just some of the prozines we’ve had – translated into French, German, Italian.  You can read ten of his stories from 1953-1960 here.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s known as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher), Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1928 – William Trevor.  Whitbread Prize for The Children of Dynmouth, reviewed by Elaine Cochrane in SF Commentary 60/61, p. 26 [PDF]; two more Whitbreads; Hawthornden Prize; Saoi; four O. Henry Awards (not limited to U.S. authors since 2002).  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born 24 May 1930 – Terri Pinckard.  Stories in Fantasy BookVertex; wrote the Introduction to Womanthology (F. Ackerman & P. Keesey eds. 2003).  Told the L.A. Times (3 Jun 99) that when we landed on the Moon “I cried.  Science fiction writers were the ones who dreamed it.”  With husband Tom hosted the Pinckard Salon; Big Heart Award to both, 1984; the Salon drew Ackerman, Bloch, Bradbury, Daugherty, George Clayton Johnson, C.L. Moore, Niven, Pournelle, Roddenberry, Spinrad, and like that.  Dian Girard dedicated Tetragravitron (as by J.D. Crayne) to “Members of the Pinckard Salon”.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best I’d say known for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says they are. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s era as the Fourth Doctor. He’d write a novelization of his story, The Nightmare Fair, developed as a Sixth Doctor story but never filmed when Colin Baker’s contract was terminated. He would die at home of an accident gunshot wound. (Died 1990) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 71. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1960 Michael Chabon, 60. Author of the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but will be Executive Producer for the upcoming season. (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 60. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s  in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and Commander Saru on Discovery
  • Born May 24, 1965 – Shinichirô Watanabe.  Co-directed Macross Plus; directed Cowboy Bebop, alternative-history Samurai ChamplooSpace DandyCarole & Tuesday.  Blade Runner – Black Lotus is in the works.  Don’t ask me why my host’s daughter at the Yokohama Worldcon was rehearsing The Magic Flute but I don’t know any of my fellow gaijin rehearsing Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees.  [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1985 – Isabelle Melançon.  Drawings in Oziana and The Baum Bugle.  Oz found its way into the Webcomic that Isa co-authors, Namesake – or vice versa.  Here’s a sketch for Quibbling and even one for Hamilton – will this man write The Federalist?  [JH]

(9) SUPERERO GENESIS. In the Washington Post, African-American author Tre Johnson discusses how he is using the language and ideas of superheroes to enable him to cope with the pandemic. “The coronavirus has made the waking world into a dreamscape”.

A more perfect origin story would’ve had a superheroic tinge. Maybe I’d be sitting in my apartment, on the couch, contemplating how to move safely about Philadelphia when a clatter of glass would erupt and a ball of coronavirus — the size of a grapefruit with the spiny ridge of a porcupine — would bound through my window, roll to my feet and pulse with exhaustion. I’d stare at it and think Yes, father, that is what I will do, I will become an anti-virus. And that would be the reason to don the mask that I now wear daily when I walk my neighborhood.

(10) BAKE ME A CAKE AS FAST AS YOUR CAN. And mark it with a “C” – for corona. “Pandemic-Baking Britain Has an ‘Obscene’ Need for Flour” – the New York Times has a full accounting.

A week before Britain came to a standstill in mid-March, the Wessex Mill found itself fielding nearly 600 calls a day requesting one of the country’s hottest commodities: flour.

The mill in Oxfordshire has produced nearly 13,000 small bags of flour each day during the coronavirus pandemic, a fourfold increase. Demand led Emily Munsey, a flour miller who runs the business with her father, to hire more staff and add afternoon and night shifts to keep the mill running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the first time in its 125-year history.

“It’s been very challenging as a company. The amount of work we’ve all had to do has increased a huge amount,” said Ms. Munsey, who has since scaled back to five days a week, though still around the clock, to give employees a weekend break. “Demand remains consistently obscene.”

Commercial mills produce nearly four million tons of flour each year in Britain, according to the National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers. With much of the country stuck at home, baking has surged, and retail-size flour bags have become scarce on grocery shelves.

The coronavirus outbreak has flooded social media with #coronavirusbaking and #quarantine cookies. Yeast is in short supply, and butter sales have soared. In April, Google searches for cake, bread and flour skyrocketed….

(12) CURTAIN CALL. [Item by JJ.] Anthropomorphic phone — I’m calling it genre.

(13) READING IN THE NEW CAPTAIN. Ted Anthony, in the Associated Press story “Kirk 2.0:  Capt. Pike of the New ‘Star Trek’ A Welcome New Icon” says he welcomes Christopher Pike as the captain of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds because he sees James T. Kirk as “an interstellar Don Draper–brooding, arrogant, a top-down manager who earned his privilege but often presumed it” and thinks Pike will be a more responsible captain.

…It’s not accidental that Pike is the son of a father who taught science AND comparative religion — an embodiment of the empiricism-faith equation that “Star Trek” and its captains have always espoused. In many ways, in fact — even more so than Chris Pine in the movie reboots — Pike functions as James T. Kirk 2.0.

(14) COSMIC CREEPOUT. “Every ‘I Have A Bad Feeling About This’ In Star Wars Movies”: ScreenRant tries to round up every time someone said they had a bad feeling about something.

…However, George Lucas’ wonderful world of science fiction space opera has also provided the world with a series of timeless movie quotes. “May the Force be with you” has taken on a life of its own and “I am your father” is now a staple of Father’s Day greetings cards. In more recent years, less prominent quotes have come to the fore thanks to the onset of meme culture, “it’s a trap!” being the most famous. Now The Mandalorian is getting in on the act with “this is the way” and “I have spoken.

But undoubtedly one of the most famous utterances in the Star Wars universe is “I have a bad feeling about this,” …

(15) A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME. As reported last month (item 13), Lou Antontelli is running for Congress in Texas. But this week the district’s Republican incumbent John Ratcliffe resigned his seat to accept appointment as director of National Intelligence. With no incumbent to run against, shit just got real! And at least one Texas paper (besides the one owned by the candidate himself) thinks it’s terrific that Lou Antonelli is running: “Libertarians field viable candidate for District 4 seat”. The question is how well these pearls of wisdom will play with the locals:

… Antonelli said his goal running as a third party candidate is to inject original ideas into the discussion, and push for the Libertarian Party to become the second party in the district, displacing the Democrats.

“Can you imagine how much better our political system would be if the two major parties were the Republicans and Libertarians, instead of the Republicans and Democrats?” Antonelli asked. “Libertarians are the loyal opposition, as opposed to the Democrats, who are the disloyal opposition.”

Antonelli said Libertarians stand for hacking away strangling bureaucracy at all levels of government, and returning as much authority as possible to individuals.

“Thanks to the Covid pandemic, we have all gotten a free trial of socialism,” he said. “How do you like it?”

(16) ON YOUR MARK: “Nasa SpaceX launch: Astronauts complete rehearsal for historic mission”

Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have completed their dress rehearsal for Wednesday’s flight to the International Space Station.

The mission, the first crewed outing from American soil in nine years, will see the pair ride to orbit in a SpaceX Falcon rocket and Crew Dragon capsule.

It’s a demonstration of the new “taxi” service the US space agency will be buying from the Californian firm.

Lift-off on Wednesday is timed for 16:33 EDT (20:33 GMT / 21:33 BST).

The weather around the Kennedy Space Center in Florida may have other ideas, however.

A forecast released on Saturday by the US Space Force 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron predicted just a 40% chance of favourable conditions come launch time.

There is a strong possibility the Kennedy complex could see thick cloud, rain and even thunder.

If controllers are forced to scrub, everyone will come back on Saturday for a second try.

Hurley and Behnken are now all but done with their preparations.

The weekend “Dry Dress” rehearsal saw the pair don their made-to-measure spacesuits, walk out to a Tesla, and then make a 6km drive down to Kennedy’s famous Launch Complex 39A.

(17) GET SET: “Nasa SpaceX launch: Who are the astronauts?”

On 27 May, two US astronauts will achieve a world first when they launch to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a spacecraft built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Here, BBC News profiles the astronauts who will make the historic journey.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are about to break a nine-year hiatus for Nasa, becoming the first astronauts to launch from US soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

…”It’s well past time to be launching an American rocket from the Florida coast to the International Space Station and I am certainly honoured to be a part of it,” Hurley, 53, said earlier this month.

Behnken, 49, added: “On my first flight… I didn’t have a son, so I’m really excited to share the mission with him.”

Nasa has chosen two of its most experienced astronauts to help California-based SpaceX ready the Crew Dragon for launch. The two are also longstanding friends.

“Being lucky enough to fly with your best friend… I think there’s a lot of people who wish they could do that,” says Hurley.

When they blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket, their spouses will know exactly what they are going through. That’s because they’re astronauts too.

(18) GO: “Nasa SpaceX launch: What’s the mission plan?”

On Wednesday, the California company SpaceX will launch a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It’s something the firm has done many times before, taking cargo to the sky-high laboratory. But on this occasion, the firm will be transporting people.

It’s one of those seminal moments in the history of spaceflight.

When Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken lift off atop their Falcon-9 rocket, inside their Crew Dragon capsule, it will mark the first time humans have left US territory to reach low-Earth orbit in almost nine years.

But more than that, it sees a shift to the commercialisation of human space transportation – of companies selling “taxi” rides to government and anyone else who wants to purchase the service.

This page details the key phases in the mission sequence.

Launch will occur from the Kennedy Space Center’s Complex 39A. This is the famous Florida pad from where the Apollo 11 moonwalkers and the very first shuttle, Columbia, also began their missions.

(19) CLASSIC OR STINKER? In the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The ‘Lost’ finale at 10: Why viewers loved and hated ‘The End'”, Ethan Alter says even though it was 10 years since Lost ended, controversy continues over whether the ending of the show was brilliant or stupid. UH, SPOILERS, I GUESS?

…What the duo decided to do was to design a finale that emphasizes character over mystery. “The End” plays out in two realities: the mysterious island where mystical forces and weird science live side-by-side, as well as the “Flash sideways” timeline where Jack and the rest of the castaways were back in the real world, albeit leading different lives than what we saw in the flashback sequences that were a major part of previous seasons. The island-based sequences are explicitly devoted to tying up some, though not all of the loose ends: Jack has a final confrontation with the Man in Black, currently housed in the body of John Locke (Terry O’Quinn); Hurley (Jorge Garcia) becomes the new protector of the island, with Ben Linus (Michael Emerson) as his sidekick; and pilot Frank Lapidus (Jeff Fahey) gets everyone else — including Kate (Lilly), Sawyer (Holloway) and Claire (Emilie de Ravin) — the heck out of dodge. As the plane soars away from the island, a mortally wounded Jack watches it depart from his final resting place as his eyes close, a direct nod to the first shot of the first episode….  

(20) WHO SAW IT COMING? Usually we’re filling in this blank with Philip K. Dick’s name. See how bad things have gotten, that PKD isn’t the answer! “2020 Is One Great Big George Saunders Story” says InsideHook.

…But there is one author who predicted these dumb and absurd times: George Saunders. 

The MacArthur “Genius” and Booker Prize-winning Saunders has been publishing darkly hilarious visions of America since the early 1990s. Zadie Smith has said “not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny” while The New York Times noted “no one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised.” Perhaps the archetypal Saunders story is “Sea Oak,” which follows a trod-upon worker at an aviation-themed male strip club called Joysticks: “Guests rank us as Knockout, Honeypie, Adequate, or Stinker. Not that I’m complaining. At least I’m working.” At home, his family lives in a dangerous neighborhood and anesthetizes themselves with reality TV shows like How My Child Died Violently while fantasizing about the American dream, summarized by one character as “you start out in a dangerous craphole and work hard so you can someday move up to a somewhat less dangerous craphole. And finally maybe you get a mansion.”

(21) JANELLE MONÁE. On Late Night with Seth Meyers Janelle Monáe talks about David Byrne using one of her songs in his musical American Utopia, a musical she wrote as a child and her efforts to help communities during the pandemic.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/17/19 After the Police Bread, What Can You Expect?

(1) DESPITE CODES OF CONDUCT. In a post for Medium, Erica Friedman and J. Lynn Hunt count off the many reasons “Why Anime Conventions Are Still Inviting Sexual Predators As Guests”. They hit a lot of familiar problems, and explain them concisely.

…Here’s why.

1)Lack of Training
2) Policies Without Procedures
3) Lack of Organizational Memory
4) Tribalism
5) Misogyny
6) Financial Incentive

Let’s look at each of these in order.

Lack of Training
Con chairs are usually mostly-untrained volunteers with a staff of untrained volunteers. Even the largest cons tend to draw chairs from their own volunteers, so there’s no competence required beyond years of experience and your team of volunteers not walking out on you. No one receives training in sexual harassment policies, or, frankly, anything. Worse, many of the leadership structures in conventions encourages those seeking power and rewards those willing to be assholes. In our experience, we’ve seen volunteers who exploit or abuse their staff allowed to continue because no one feels comfortable removing them from that position. As people around them leave, they rise in the ranks, filling holes they cause. Abusive and exploitative leaders report to no one, especially at small conventions that are privately funded. AnimeMidwest is a perfect example of this. Having been banned from one con, [Ryan] Kopf created his own. Who will be in a position to police him? No one….

(2) TOMORROW THROUGH THE PAST. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll introduces the panel to “A Matter of Proportion” by Ann Walker and gets a good range of responses.  

In general, classic SF wasn’t particularly interested in fiction about the disabled, except perhaps as a first step towards a new life as brain-a-jar piloting a space ship or a cyborg covert operative, or to justify testing Phillips’ experimental regeneration treatment on a Lensman. In A Matter of Proportion, Walker focuses on the challenges facing a disabled individual in a world not particularly invested in accommodating their needs. Anne Walker is an author new to me, one I discovered thanks to Rediscovery, Volume 1. This story convinced me I need to seek out more of her work.

(3) TOY LAUNCH. BBC serves up a slice of genre marketing history: “Star Wars: The Leicestershire factory at the centre of a toy galaxy”.

…But initially, with no guarantee that the first film would be a box office success, let alone spawn a smash-hit series, and with no actual toys or market data to show potential buyers, Palitoy had a tough job to convince retailers to invest.

“You have to remember, this was a film people weren’t sure about… they were reluctant to take stuff because it was what they thought was a B-movie – you know, science fiction, all that business,” said Bob Brechin, the firm’s chief designer.

Salvation came in the form of Action Man. Retailers were offered discounts on the firm’s hugely popular soldier figures if they would take Star Wars toys.

Sales manager John Nicholas recalled how one chain’s whisky-loving buyer was handed a bottle of Scotch and asked how many Star Wars figures he wanted.

About half an hour later, and with a third of the bottle gone, he had decided. He would take a million.

“Well, it was my biggest order ever. I’ve never taken an order for that, and, you know, when Woolworths came along and said, ‘All right, I’ll have 100,000’, it was ‘Oh, is that all?’.”

(4) SPEAKING OF CREDENTIALS. I’d love to get another Cats Sleep on SFF entry to see the year out!

(5) THE RESISTANCE. Philip Pullman not only discusses the poem, but interrogates what prevents many people from enjoying poetry in general: “The Sound and the Story, Exploring the World of Paradise Lost” at The Public Domain Review.

A correspondent once told me a story — which I’ve never been able to trace, and I don’t know whether it’s true — about a bibulous, semi-literate, ageing country squire 200 years ago or more, sitting by his fireside listening to Paradise Lost being read aloud. He’s never read it himself; he doesn’t know the story at all; but as he sits there, perhaps with a pint of port at his side and with a gouty foot propped up on a stool, he finds himself transfixed.

Suddenly he bangs the arm of his chair, and exclaims “By God! I know not what the outcome may be, but this Lucifer is a damned fine fellow, and I hope he may win!”

Which are my sentiments exactly.

I’m conscious, as I write this essay, that I have hardly any more pretensions to scholarship than that old gentleman. Many of my comparisons will be drawn from popular literature and film rather than from anything more refined….

(6) WATCHMEN EFFECTS FEATURETTE. I don’t know if there are any spoilers – caveat emptor!

The visual effects on Watchmen are a thermodynamic miracle. See how we brought you squid attacks, clones, and Europa

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 17, 1973 Sleeper premiered. Directed by Woody Allen, starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, and written by him, it was made as a tribute to Groucho Marx and Bob Hope. Sleeper was awarded the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II. It was equally well received among critics and reviewers, indeed it currently holds a hundred percent rating among the latter at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 17, 2010 Tron: Legacy premiered. It was directed by Joseph Kosinski, in his feature directorial debut, from a screenplay written by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, based on a story by Horowitz, Kitsis, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. It is a sequel to Tron, whose director Steven Lisberger returned to produce. The cast includes Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprising their roles as Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley.  It did decently at the box Office, got deciedly mixed reviews among critics and currently holds a 51% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 17, 1903 Erskine Caldwell. He’s listed by ISFDB as having only two SFF pieces, both short stories, of which one, and no I’m kidding, is titled “Advice About Women”. It was published in The Bedside Playboy as edited by a certain Hugh Hefner and published of course on Playboy Press in 1963. Fredric Brown, Ray Bradbury, Avram Davidson, Richard Matheson and Robert Sheckley were the SSF writers present therein. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As Barbara Wright, she was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) She’d play another character later in the series. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazinetheSF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton whose Birthday was noted here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed? I find it really impressive that he attended every WorldCon from except one, from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (Died 2005.)
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 73. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film. Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of films including Leviathan, Shark Attack, Hood of Horror, Dragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume!, as he voiced Lucius Fox in Batman: Bad Blood.
  • Born December 17, 1953 Bill Pullman, 66. First SF role was as Lone Starr in Spaceballs, a film I’ll freely admit I watched but once which was more than enough.  He next appears in The Serpent and the Rainbow which is damn weird before playing the lead in the even weirder Brain Dead. Now we come to Independence Day and I must say I love his character and the film a lot.   Post-Independence Day, he went weird again showing up in Lake Placid which is a lot of fun and also voiced Captain Joseph Korso in the animated Titan A.E. film. Which at least in part was written by Joss Whedon.   He reprises his Thomas J. Whitmore character in Independence Day: Resurgence which I’ve not seen. 
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 46. Director responsible for the superb Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi  and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. 
  • Born December 17, 1974 Sarah Paulson, 45. She’s most likely best known for being Bunny Yeager in The Notorious Betty Paige, but she has solid genre creds having acted in Serenity, The Spirit, Bird Box, Abominable, American Gothic and Glass. She was in seven series of American Horror Story playing at least fifteen different characters. And she’s Nurse Ratched in the upcoming Ratched series.
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 44. First SFF appearence was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me when I watch it. She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is five films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Miliday de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy. 
  • Born December 17, 1993 Kiersey Clemons, 26. There’s a Universe in which films exist in which performers actually performed the roles they were hired for. Case in point is her who was Iris West is Justice League but all her scenes were deleted. You can see hose scenes in the extras of course. She has other genre creds including being in the reboot of Flatliners (saw the original but this one), in the live action version of Lady and the Tramp which is at least genre adjacent, and Lucy in Extant, a series produced by Steven Spielberg. 

(9) GET IN ON THE DRAWING. Standback is so enthusiastic about “The Outspoken Authors Bundle, curated by Nick Mamatas” for Storybundle that he’s organized his own giveaway.

(10) EAT YOUR VEGGIES, OR VICE-VERSA. Plants in Science Fiction: Speculative Vegetation – I love the title. The essay collection, edited by Katherine E. Bishop, will be released by the University of Wales Press in May 2020.

Plants have played key roles in science fiction novels, graphic novels, and film. John Wyndham’s triffids, Algernon Blackwood’s willows, and Han Kang’s sprouting woman are just a few examples. Plants surround us, sustain us, pique our imaginations, and inhabit our metaphors – but in many ways they remain opaque. The scope of their alienation is as broad as their biodiversity. And yet, literary reflections of plant-life are driven, as are many threads of science fictional inquiry, by the concerns of today. Plants in Science Fiction is the first-ever collected volume on plants in science fiction. Its original essays argue that plant-life in SF is transforming our attitudes toward morality, politics, economics, and cultural life at large; questioning and shifting our understandings of institutions, nations, borders, and boundaries; erecting – and dismantling – new visions of utopian and dystopian futures

(11) IN MEALS TO COME. Coincidentally, the journal Science asked young scientists to write an advertisement that answers this question: “How will food options, food availability, and individuals’ food choices change in the future?” Their answers were decidedly SFnal. “Foods of the future” [PDF file.] For example —

Health food

Tired of managing your diet? Health Capsule provides non-invasive, cognitive control of your hunger, satiation, and weight. Made possible by deep brain stimulation and neuromodulation technology, this environmentally sustainable capsule will keep you healthy and fit while satisfying all your cravings. Put calculating your calories and carbon footprint behind you!

Saima Naz

 Pakistan.

Personalised diet

Send us your DNA, and we will predict your food preferences! Receive your personalized food basket, with a day-by-day diet program. We will send you full meals and personalized smoothies based on your genetic taste predisposition. We know what you love; it’s in your DNA.

Ada Gabriela Blidner

Laboratorio de Inmunopatología,

Argentina.

(12) EMPLOYEE THEFT! From Jimmy Kimmel Live, “Star Wars Cast on Premiere, Stealing from Set & Gifts from J.J. Abrams.”

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie & Keri Russell talk about the premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, gifts that J.J. gave them, what they stole from set, and they surprise the audience with IMAX movie tickets.

Followed by —

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell & Chewbacca from the cast of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker play #ForceFamilyFeud!

(13) WINDOW ON TRAVEL INTO CHINA. [Item by Bill.] Bunnie Huang is a well-known hardware hacker.  He goes to China annually with a group of MIT students to show them where the products they design will be built, and has written a “how-to” guide for navigating the Shenzen electronics district.  Most of it is specific to the electronics markets, but there is good information on getting around in China generally – internet limitations and work-arounds (p. 19), local customs (dress, tipping, etc.) (p. 20),  point-to-translate written material for getting around (p. 67), visas and border crossing (p. 84), etc. With all the recent discussion about China’s Worldcon bid, it might be a useful introduction. The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen [PDF file].

(14) ARCHAEOLOGICAL SUPERFUND SITE? In this case, we know why it was buried. “Israelis find rare Roman fish sauce factory”.

Israeli archaeologists have discovered the well-preserved remains of a 2,000-year-old factory for making garum, the fabled fish sauce that the Romans took with them on all their journeys of conquest.

The Israel Antiquities Authority came across the small cetaria, or factory for making the prized sauce, while inspecting the site of a planned sports park on the outskirts of the southern city of Ashkelon, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reports.

The dig was funded by the local authorities, and young people and school children from the Ashkelon area came to help out.

It is one of the very few garum factories found in the eastern Mediterranean, despite the Romans’ long presence in the area and the premium they put on the pungent fermented sauce.

Most surviving examples are to be found in the Iberian Peninsula and southern Italy.

“We have something really unusual here,” Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Dr Tali Erickson-Gini told The Times of Israel, as the Romans added garum to almost all their dishes to give them a salty savoury kick.

“It’s said that making garum produced such a stench that cetariae were located some distance from the towns they served, and in this case the factory is about two kilometres from ancient Ashkelon,” Dr Tali Erickson-Gini said, according to Kan.

(15) FACIAL RECONSTRUCTION. “DNA from Stone Age woman obtained 6,000 years on” – image at the link.

This is the face of a woman who lived 6,000 years ago in Scandinavia.

Thanks to the tooth marks she left in ancient “chewing gum”, scientists were able to obtain DNA, which they used to decipher her genetic code.

This is the first time an entire ancient human genome has been extracted from anything other than human bone, said the researchers.

She likely had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

Dr Hannes Schroeder from the University of Copenhagen said the “chewing gum” – actually tar from a tree – is a very valuable source of ancient DNA, especially for time periods where we have no human remains.

“It is amazing to have gotten a complete ancient human genome from anything other than bone,” he said.

What do we know about her?

The woman’s entire genetic code, or genome, was decoded and used to work out what she might have looked like. She was genetically more closely related to hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe than to those who lived in central Scandinavia at the time, and, like them, had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

(16) ECUMENICAL. “Gloas and Cruinlagh: Planet and star become first with Manx names” reports BBC.

A star and planet will be given Manx Gaelic names for the first time after being chosen in an international competition.

The star WASP-13 will be known as Gloas (which means ‘to shine’) and the planet WASP-13b as Cruinlagh (‘to orbit’).

A class of Manx eight and nine-year-olds came up with the names for a competition run by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Professor Robert Walsh said they had made their “mark on the universe”.

The names were chosen due to their “sense of mystery” after taking 20% of 15,000 votes cast by members of the public.

(17) LINE ITEM. Popular Mechanics proclaims “The Space Force Will Become the Sixth Branch of the U.S. Military”. Will it be the right kind of smoke and mirrors?

It’s really happening. A bipartisan budget agreement for 2020 will see the creation of a new branch of the military specifically oriented towards space. The United States Space Force will be the first new service branch in more than 60 years, tasked to ensure America’s freedom to operate in outer space—or take space away from somebody else.

According to a draft of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Agreement, also known as the 2020 U.S. defense budget, the Pentagon will redesignate the U.S. Air Force’s Space Command the U.S. Space Force, spinning it off from an arm of the Air Force into a separate service.

The service will be headed by a Chief of Space Operations, similar to how the U.S. Navy is headed by a Chief of Naval Operations and consist of “the space forces and such assets as may be organic therein.” That’s pretty ambiguous language but probably means most of the Air Force’s space assets, from satellite launching facilities like Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to spacecraft ground control bases like Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. It’ll also include america’s network of GPS satellites, the X-37B spaceplane, and other military space assets. The Space Force will also likely strip away a smaller number of assets and personnel from the U.S. Army and Navy.

(18) A FEW WOODS FROM OUR SPONSOR. Somebody has taken care of making a bunch of cute sequels to these commercials: “Geico makes sequels to popular Pinocchio, racoons and woodchucks ads” at The Drum.

…Six humorous spots from The Martin Agency continue where the originals left off. Pinocchio continues his lying ways in two spots. One finds him pulled over by a cop and his nose grows as he tries to fib his way out of a ticket to no avail. The other finds his lengthening wooden nose becoming a problem as he lies on a first date he booked on a dating app….

You can access the playlist if you click through this video to YouTube.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Bill, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 7/3/19 These Are The Pixels That Try Men’s Scrolls

(1) IN OPINIONS YET TO COME. Brooke Bolander is the latest sff author to pen a futuristic op-ed for the New York Times.

As Tor.com puts it –

Asking “Who Should Live in Flooded Old New York?” Bolander imagines a time in which it’s illegal to live in the flooded remains of NYC, with the only residents being those who are too poor to move elsewhere. In this future, Mr. Rogers’ theme song has turned into an “old folk song,” and “draconian federal regulations” punish those remaining, while millionaires running illegal tourism schemes in the city get off scot-free.

(2) WHAT TOR LEARNED FROM LIBRARY SALES EMBARGO. Jason Sanford’s analysis, “Does library ebook lending hurt book sales? Tor Books experiment reveals answers, may lead to new ebook lending terms”, is a free post at his Patreon page. 

Sanford interviewed Fritz Foy, president and publisher of Tom Doherty Associates, the unit of Macmillan that includes Tor, who shared “an unprecedented look at their embargo test….”

…To discover if library ebook lending was indeed hurting sales, Macmillan used their Minotaur imprint as a control group and Tor Books as an experimental group. The two groups have books which sold in similar patterns along with authors and book series which drove steady sales from year to year.

For the experiment Tor prohibited ebook sales to libraries until four months after a book’s release. After that date libraries could purchase the Tor ebooks. The control group Minotaur instituted no such restriction. (As a side-note, Foy said the there was never a plan to do a six-month embargo on ebook sales to libraries, as reported in that Good e-Reader article.)

Foy was surprised by the experiment’s stark results.

“All but one title we compared (in the Tor experiment group) had higher sales after the four month embargo on ebook sales to libraries,” he said. “And the only title where we didn’t see this happen had bad reviews. And when you looked at the control group, sales remained the same.”

(3) LOTR DIRECTOR. “‘The Lord Of The Rings’: J.A. Bayona To Direct Amazon Series”Deadline has the story.

Amazon Studios’ high-profile The Lord of the Rings TV series has made a key hire. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director Juan Antonio (J.A.) Bayona has been tapped to direct the first two episodes of the big-scope fantasy drama, following in the footsteps of Peter Jackson, who directed the feature adaptations of the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novels.

…Bayona’s first feature film, critically acclaimed thriller The Orphanage, executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, premiered to a 10-minute standing ovation at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and later won seven Goya Awards in Spain, including best new director.

Bayona most recently directed Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which grossed more than $1.3 billion worldwide last year. He also directed the features The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, and A Monster Calls, starring Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson and Felicity Jones, as well as the first two episodes of Showtime’s hit series Penny Dreadful.

(4) LOTR LOCATION. And where will the series be filmed? Probably where you’d have predicted it would if you never heard about the plan for Scotland. Yahoo! Movies reports “Scotland loses out on lucrative ‘Lord of the Rings’ shoot over ‘Brexit uncertainty’, claims new report”.

Amazon’s $1.5 billion (£1.19bn) Lord of the Rings series looks set to begin filming in New Zealand this month, after producers reportedly got cold feet about shooting in Scotland.

The NZ Herald reports that a “huge” part of the series, said to be the most expensive TV show ever made, will be produced in Auckland, specifically at the Kumeu Film Studios and Auckland Film Studios, with an official announcement coming this month. The report states that pre-production on the Amazon show has been based at the two studios for the last year.

Producers were also said to be considering Scotland as a production base, but New Zealand’s public-service radio broadcaster Radio New Zealand (Radio NZ), claims “the tumultuous Brexit situation hindered Scotland’s pitch”.

(5) RESNICK RETURNS TO FB. Mike Resnick gave Facebook readers a medical update about his frightening health news:

Sorry to be absent for a month. 4 weeks ago I was walking from one room to the next when I collapsed. Carol called the ambulance, and 2 days later I woke up in the hospital minus my large intestine. Just got home last night.

I don’t like growing old.

(6) TIDHAR PICKS BUNDLED. Storybundle announced the The 2019 World SF Bundle, curated by Lavie Tidhar:

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Afro SF V3 by Ivor W. Hartmann
  • The Apex Book of World SF 5 by Cristina Jurado and Lavie Tidhar
  • Nexhuman by Francesco Verso
  • Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SIX more!

  • Escape from Baghdad! by Saad Z. Hossain
  • After the Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun
  • The Thousand Year Beach by TOBI Hirotaka
  • Slipping by Lauren Beukes
  • Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson
  • The Vanishing Kind by Lavie Tidhar

This bundle is available only for a limited time.

(7) JAMES WHITE AWARD. The judges for the 2019 James White Award will be Justina Robson, Chris Beckett and Donna Scott.

The competition is open to original, unpublished short stories of not more than 6,000 words by non-professional writers. The award, established in 2000, offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading sf magazine. The deadline for submissions was June 28. The winner will be announced in August.

(8) JUMANJI. The next sequel will be in theaters at Christmas.

In Jumanji: The Next Level, the gang is back but the game has changed. As they return to Jumanji to rescue one of their own, they discover that nothing is as they expect. The players will have to brave parts unknown and unexplored, from the arid deserts to the snowy mountains, in order to escape the world’s most dangerous game.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 3, 1958 Fiend Without A Face premiered.
  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future was released.
  • July 3, 1996 Independence Day debuted in theaters.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 3, 1898 E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, also angered many Southern readers. (Died 1998.)
  • Born July 3, 1926 William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well, that is his bio. Rotsler was a four-time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a “Retro-Hugo” for his work in 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He responsible for giving Uhura her first name, created “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”, popularized the idea fans wore propeller beanies and well, being amazing sounding. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Tim O’Connor. He was Dr. Elias Huer in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century for much of its run. Other genre appearances were on The Six Million Dollar ManThe Twilight Zone, The Outer LimitsWonder WomanKnight RiderStar Trek: The Next Generation and The Burning Zone. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Ken Russell. Altered States is his best known SF film but he’s also done The Devils, an historical horror film, and Alice in Russialand. Russell had a cameo in the film adaptation of Brian Aldiss’s novel Brothers of the Head by the directors of Lost in La Mancha. And, of course, he’s responsible for The Who’s Tommy. (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 3, 1937 Tom Stoppard, 82. Screenplay writer, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead which is adjacent genre if not actually genre. Also scripted of course Brazil which he co-authored with Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeow. He also did the final Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade final rewrite of Jeffrey Boam’s rewrite of Menno Meyjes’s screenplay. And finally Shakespeare in Love which he co-authored with Marc Norman.
  • Born July 3, 1943 Kurtwood Smith, 76. Clarence Boddicker in Robocop, Federation President in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and voiced Kanjar Ro in Green Lantern: First Flight. He’s got series appearances on Blue ThunderThe Terrible ThunderlizardsThe X-FilesStar Trek: Deep Space NineStar Trek: VoyagerMen in Black: The Series3rd Rock from the SunTodd McFarlane’s Spawn, Judtice League, Batman Beyond, Green Lantern and Beware the Batman. His last role was as Vernon Masters as the superb Agent Carter.
  • Born July 3, 1962 Tom Cruise, 57. I’m reasonably sure his first genre role was as Jack in Legend. Next up was Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire followed by being Ethan Hunt in the first of many Mission Impossible films. Then he was John Anderton in the abysmal Minority Report followed by Ray Ferrier in the even far more abysmal War of The Worlds. I’ve not seen him as Maj. William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow so I’ve no idea how good he or the film is. Alas then Nick Morton in, oh god, The Mummy

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) IT DON’T PAY TO BE IGNORANT. Not on Jeopardy! as Andrew Porter witnessed tonight:

In the category American Writers, the answer was, “In a story by this sci-fi master, ‘I Sing the Body Electric!’ is the title of a pamphlet for a robot grandmother.”

Wrong questions: “Who is Isaac Asimov?” and “Who is Robert Heinlein?”

(13) AURORA AWARDS. The 2019 Aurora Awards Voter Package is online, available to members of the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association.

The purpose of the Aurora Awards Voter Package is simple. Before you vote for the Aurora Awards this year, we want you to be able to read as much of the nominated work as possible, so you can make and informed decision about what is the best of the year. Please note: the package is only available while voting is open. Remember voting ends September 14, 2019 at 11:59:59 EDT!

The electronic versions of these Aurora Award nominated works are made available to you through the generosity of the nominees and publishers. We are grateful for their participation and willingness to share with CSFFA members. If you like what you read, please support the creators by purchasing their works, which are available in bookstores and online.

(14) EN ROUTE. John Hertz, while packing for his journey to Spikecon, paused to quote from the classics:

Farewell my friends, farewell my foes;
To distant planets Freddy goes;
To face grave perils he intends.
Farewell my foes, goodbye my friends.

(15) MORE BOOKS I HAVEN’T READ. At Tor.com, Gabriella Tutino publicized a list compiled by Reddit User einsiboy, creator of the TopRedditBooks site: “Here are the 100 Most Discussed Fantasy Books on Reddit”.  The Reddit link is here. I’ve only read 19 of these – what a disgrace!

(16) JDA REAPPLIES TO SFWA. Mary Robinette Kowal took office as SFWA’s new President at the start of the month. Jon Del Arroz says his latest application for membership is already in her inbox: “A New Dawn For SFWA!” [Internet Archive link].

Things are changing at SFWA as my friend Mary Robinette Kowal has been installed as president, after I endorsed her candidacy early on.

…As she has featured my books on her blog not once, but twice, I know that Ms. Kowal’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity is important to her, and she will be doing everything she can to change the perception that SFWA is a place where Conservatives and Christians are not welcome to be called professional authors.

As such, I have reapplied to SFWA as of yesterday, and let Ms. Kowal know, so we can begin the long journey of working together to ensure equality for Conservative and Christian authors. I’ve offered my services as an ambassador to the community, so she will directly be able to hear the grievances of such authors who have been treated as second class citizens — dare I say, 3/5ths of a professional author — for so long now within the science fiction community.

(17) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE INTERNET. Shades of Cryptonomicon. Futurism.com thinks that the “Russian Sub That Caught Fire Possibly Sent to Cut Internet Cables”

Fire Down Below

On Monday, a Russian submarine caught fire during a mission, killing 14 sailors on board.

But the public didn’t find out about the incident until the next day, when Russia finally released a statement about the accident — though two days after the event, the nation still wouldn’t say exactly what kind of sub caught fire or whether it was nuclear-powered.

A possible reason for Russia’s caginess? Multiple sources are now claiming the sub was an AS-12 “Losharik,” a nuclear-powered submarine some speculate was designed to cut the undersea cables that deliver internet to the world.

(18) FOUR FOR THE FOURTH. For the holiday, James Davis Nicoll has lined up “4 SF Works Featuring a Far-Future U.S.A.” at Tor.com.

In Joe and Jack C. Haldeman’s There Is No Darkness, English is an obscure language, spoken only on backwater worlds and a few places on Earth. We don’t know exactly when the book takes place, as year zero has been set to the founding of the (future) Confederacion. We are told the year is A.C. 354.

What we see of a future Texas suggests that it’s still as recognizably American as Justinian’s Constantinople would have been recognizably Roman. While the region seems a bit down at heel, it’s also one of the more optimistic takes on a future America.

(19) SCALZI GIVEAWAY. Or maybe Christmas will come early and you can read this:

(20) IF IT E-QUACKS LIKE A DUCK. Thomas has found a place where “Robots Replace Ducks in Rice Paddy Fields”.

Aigamo is a Japanese farming method that uses ducks to keep unwanted plants and parasites out of rice paddy fields. This duck crossbreed is able to keep the paddy clear without the use of herbicides or pesticides, and the fowls’ waste actually works as a pretty good fertilizer.  

The method was first introduced in the 16th century but soon fell out of favor. It wasn’t reintroduced as a natural farming method until 1985 and it quickly became popular across the country as well as in China, Iran, France, and other countries. 

About 15 ducks can keep a 1,000-square-meter area clear of insects, worms, and weeds, and they even enrich the water with oxygen by constantly stirring up the soil. But as humans are prone to do, an engineer from Nissan Motor, needed to build a better mousetrap, although this one may not have too many beating down a path to his door. 

Created as a side project, the Aigamo Robot looks less like its namesake and more like a white, floating Roomba with eyes. While the ducks can be trained to patrol specific areas, the robot employs Wi-Fi and GPS to help the robot stir up the soil and keep bugs at bay, though no word yet on how much ground it can cover in a single day. 

(21) SPIDER TO THE FLIER. Have you seen “United–Fly Like a Superhero” on YouTube? The Spider-Man version of the United Airlines safety video? Too bad it’s not as much fun as the Air New Zealand hobbit videos.

(22) STRANGE VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “9 Ways To Draw A Person” on Vimeo, Sasha Svirsky offers a strange video that doesn’t actually tell you how to draw a person.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jason Sanford, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 5/29/19 Los Scrollitos Dicen Pixelo Pixelo Pixelo

(1) SURVEY SAYS. The Stephen Follows Film Data and Education blog asks “Are video game movies the worst type of adaptations?”

The recent release of Pokémon Detective Pikachu has prompted some readers to get in touch and ask about the quality of movies based on video games.

Most of the questions were variations of: “Are video game movies the worst type of movie adaptations?

To answer this, I looked at all movies released in US cinemas between 1993 and 2018, inclusive. (See the Note section for a more detailed explanation of the dataset and sources).

I’m going to use the Metacritic score and IMDb rating to serve as measures of quality from the perspective of film critics and film audiences, respectively.

The answer, supported by all kinds of statistics and graphs is — yes! 

(2) FUTURE TENSE. Elizabeth Bear’s “No Moon and Flat Calm” is the latest installment in the Future Tense Fiction series. In it, author Elizabeth Bear imagines a crew of safety engineers on a routine trip to a space that are thrown into sudden disaster onboard the station. How will real future humans react to calamity when we’re millions of miles away from home? And how much can training for such potential crises override our natural instincts?

…It was a tiny, artificial world called Waystation Hab, and my four classmates and I were approaching it in a shuttle we’d been crammed into for four months. My classmates and I were all postgraduate apprentices in the safety engineering internship program….

In a response essay, “How Will People Behave in Deep Space Disasters?”, Amanda Ripley, journalist and author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why, tackles these questions—and what they might mean for those striving to send humans to Mars and beyond.

(3) DEFYING DOOMSDAY AWARD. Nominations for the D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award are being taken until July 31. The award grants one winner per year a cash prize of $200 in recognition of their work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

This award is possible thanks to D Franklin, our wonderful Patron of Diversity who pledged the top pledge in our Pozible campaign, back in 2015. This allowed the funding of the award for three years, meaning that this will be the last year the award is given, although we hope the recognition helps those awarded in some small way.

The 2016 winner was Disability in Kidlit, a website and resource for discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature.

The 2017 winner was the Kickstarter campaign for Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, a special issue of Uncanny Magazine.

The Defying Doomsday Award jury comprises Twelfth Planet Press publisher, Alisa Krasnostein, and Defying Doomsday editors, Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench.

Eligible works include non-fiction or related media exploring the subject of disability in SFF literature. Works must have been published in 2018. Use this form to submit nominations.The winner will be announced in September 2019.

(4) SATIRE STORYBUNDLE. You have three weeks left to purchase The Science Fiction and Fantasy Satire Bundle, curated by Nick Mamatas.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Jesus and the Eightfold Path by Lavie Tidhar
  • A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer
  • The People’s Republic of Everything by Nick Mamatas
  • TVA Baby by Terry Bisson

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus EIGHT more!

  • Koontown Killing Kaper by Bill Campbell
  • The Good Humor Man by Andrew Fox
  • Scorch by A.D. Nauman
  • The Anarchist Kosher Cookbook by Maxwell Bauman
  • Nightmares and Geezenstacks by Fredric Brown
  • Broken Piano for President by Patrick Wensink
  • Leech Girl Lives by Rick Claypool
  • The Word of God by Thomas M. Disch

(5) THE BRIGHT SIDE. James Davis Nicoll bucks the trend of fans who gripe about incomplete series — “Hope Springs Eternal: Five Unfinished Series That Remain a Joy to Read” at Tor.com. Being “of a certain vintage,” as soon as I saw James’ title this very series did, in fact, spring to my mind –

Of course, if one is of a certain vintage, one will have lived through Alexei Panshin’s annus mirabilis. In 1968, Panshin published three novels, two of which (Star Well and The Thurb Revolution) focused on wandering interstellar remittance man Anthony Villiers, who righted wrongs with wit and panache. 1969 saw the release of the third volume, Masque World, which raised what seemed at the time reasonable expectation of a new Villiers book every year or so. As it turns out, it has been (counts on fingers) half a century since the third book was published. Hope springs eternal.

There are footnotes at the end of the article, in which the final line is –

Ditto Pratchett’s Discworld. I’d like more, but I’m not dissatisfied.

Well said.

(6) GOOD OMENS GETS THEATRICAL DEBUT. BBC has the story — “Good Omens: Seat reserved for Terry Pratchett at world premiere”.

There was an empty seat in the front row when Good Omens had its world premiere in London on Tuesday.

But that’s not because organisers had trouble filling the gigantic (and newly reopened) Odeon in Leicester Square – quite the opposite, the event was packed out.

In fact, a seat was deliberately kept vacant for Terry Pratchett, the co-writer of the original novel, who died in 2015.

As a tribute, his trademark hat was placed in the front row as the premiere got under way.

As Peter White noted in Deadline, it’s highly unusual for a TV series such as Good Omens to “receive a glitzy world premiere in Leicester Square” as that’s “a feat usually reserved for big-budget superhero movies”.

Refresher for anyone not familiar with the long history: “Good Omens: How Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett wrote a book” by Neil Gaiman.

(7) LEM DISCOVERY. Read “’The Hunt’: Stanislaw Lem’s Unknown Story”, translated into English, at “Przekrój” Quarterly.

A previously unknown yet print-worthy work by Stanis?aw Lem (unearthed from his immense archives; combed through by his son Tomasz and the author’s personal secretary Wojciech Zemek for the last 16 years) is truly a rare find. This is because the author of The Cyberiad unceremoniously burnt any and all of his own writings that he was not pleased with, in a bonfire at his home in the Kraków suburb of Kliny. He cast quite a lot of texts into the flames there, given that he wrote with such great ease. By what miracle did “The Hunt” manage to avoid the fate of other works that went up in smoke?

(8) ETCHISON OBIT. Horror author Dennis Etchison (1943-2019) died during the night on May 29 reports his Facebook page. File 770 obituary here. Andrew Porter has two photos of him taken earlier in his career, at the Nebulas in New York City, and at a British Fantasy Convention, holding an award.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 29, 1906 T. H. White. Best known obviously for the wonderful The Once and Future King which I read a long, long time ago. Back in the Thirties, he wrote Earth Stopped and its sequel Gone to Ground, sf novels. Gone to Ground contains several fantasy stories which were later reprinted in The Maharajah and Other Stories. ISFDB also lists Mistress Masham’s ReposeThe Elephant and the Kangaroo and The Master as the other novels by him, plus the aforementioned story collection. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 29, 1909 Neil R. Jones. Early pulp writer who some claim coined the word “ astronaut” which appeared in his first story, “The Death’s Head Meteor”, which was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930. His stories taken together fit within the idea of a future history like those of Smith and Heinlein. (Died 1988.)
  • Born May 29, 1930 Richard Clifton-Dey. Illustrator of many SF book covers including The Wizard of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He did not sign many of his originals so his widow has the final say what is an original and what is not. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 29, 1952 Louise Cooper. She wrote more than eight works of fantasy and was best known for her Time Master trilogy. Most of her writing was in the YA market including the Sea Horses quartet and the Mirror, Mirror trilogy. (Died 2009.)
  • Born May 29, 1953 Danny Elfman, 66. Ok, pop quiz time. How many genre films can you name that he composed the music for? I came up with BeetlejuicePee-wee’s Big Adventure, Batman, Mars Attacks!Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns and the Men in Black films. And I’d forgotten he was in Oingo Boingo, a truly great pop band. 
  • Born May 29, 1958 Annette Bening, 61. Barbara Land in Mars Attacks!, Susan Anderson in What Planet Are You From?, and the Supreme Intelligence / Dr. Wendy Lawson in Captain Marvel
  • Born May 29, 1960 Adrian Paul, 59. Duncan MacLeod on Highlander. And yes, I watched the whole bloody series. His first appearance in genre circles was as Dmitri Benko in the “Ashes, Ashes” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series. He shows up next as Prospero in Masque of the Red Death. He’s got several series before Highlander, War of the Worlds (not bad at all) where he was John Kincaid, a short-lived role as Jeremiah Collins on Dark Shadows and an even shorter-lived rolled on Tarzán as Jack Traverse. His first post- Highlander Sf series is Tracker where he plays alien shapeshifter Cole / Daggon.  A decade ago, he returned to a familiar role in Highlander: The Source. His last series role was playing Dante on Arrow.  Note: this is not a complete list. 
  • Born May 29, 1987 Pearl Mackie, 32. Bill Potts, the companion to the Twelfth Doctor. The first openly gay companion in the history of the series. She’s got a podcast called Forest 404 which the BBC calls an “immersive sci-fi drama”.  And finally she’s in the BBC Radio’s The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James as Mika Chantry. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds Gaiman fans in the most unexpected places.

(11) THESE ARE THE TOURISTS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. Mashable thinks it’s going to work this way: “Stormtroopers will enforce four-hour time limit at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the $1-billion Disneyland attraction set to open May 31, will employ Stormtroopers to enforce a strict time limit on visitors. The Los Angeles Times reports that the four-hour rule is only one part of the park’s efforts to avoid overcrowding and a situation that feels as claustrophobic as being stuck in an Imperial trash compactor with a wookiee. 

During the first three weeks after opening, guests will be required to make reservations and wear colored wristbands that designate their time slot. Once that four hours expires, the Galactic Empire forces will escort visitors out in a way likely more polite than normal Stormtrooper protocol.

(12) AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT ON AMAZON STREET. ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman sent the link because he doesn’t want Filers to miss a new literary work that navigates the space created by his legal victory over Doctor Seuss Enterprises: “Oh, That Book Of Chuck’s, Though!”

There’s really no way not to feel pioneering
when Chuck Tingle‘s collection makes us feel like cheering.
We hope DSE will not try now to state
that this was a market they could– penetrate.
Perhaps they have learned to keep their case shut.
You limit fair use… you’ll get slammed in the butt.

More details on Tingle’s website:

Have you ever considered how handsome a sentient, physically manifested state was? Or dreamed about traveling abroad and having a fling with some charismatic living continent? This love of locations is an erotic fantasy as old as time, and who better to bring it to life than the world’s greatest author, two-time Hugo Award finalist Dr. Chuck Tingle. 

(13) TECH TESTIMONY. Fast Company has assembled “An oral history of USB, the port that changed everything”: “Ajay Bhatt was struggling to upgrade his computer when he began to see the need for one plug to rule them all.”

AB: I didn’t get any positive response, so I decided to make a lateral move within the company to a sister group, and that’s when I started working for a gentleman named Fred Pollock. At that time, there were a handful of Intel Fellows in the company. These are the topmost technical folks at Intel. He’s an incredibly smart person and one of the top computer scientists. I spoke to him, and his view was, “I don’t know. You know what? Go convince yourself.” That’s all I needed. I needed somebody who would be open-minded enough to allow me to take this risk.

I didn’t just rely on him. I started socializing this idea with other groups at Intel. I talked to business guys, and I talked to other technologists, and eventually, I even went out and talked to Microsoft. And we spoke to other people who ultimately became our partners, like Compaq, DEC, IBM, NEC, and others.

Basically, I had to not only build a life inside the company, but we had to ally with people outside, and obviously, each company or each person that I spoke to had their own perspective on what it ought to be. One thing that was common was that everybody agreed that PCs were too hard to use and even hard to design around. Something had to be done, and that’s where it all began.

(14) MANHATTANHENGE. Wow, this is news to me! From the New York Times: “Manhattanhenge 2019: When and Where to Watch, If It’s Not Too Stormy”.

New Yorkers, get ready for another chance to marvel at Manhattanhenge.

For two days every spring and summer, the sunset lines up with Manhattan’s street grid, creating a gorgeous celestial spectacle. For a brief moment, the sun’s golden rays illuminate the city’s buildings and traffic with a breathtaking glow.

“It’s the best sunset picture of the year that you will have in this beautiful city,” Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History said to The Times in a 2017 interview. “Sometimes they call it the Instagram holiday.”

Manhattanhenge’s name is a homage to Stonehenge, the monument in England believed to have been constructed by prehistoric people and used in rituals related to the sun. During the summer solstice, the sunrise there is perfectly framed by its stone slabs.

… Some 200 years ago, the architects who created the plan for modern Manhattan decided to build it using a grid system with avenues that run north and south and streets east and west. That choice inadvertently set the stage for Manhattanhenge, according to Dr. Faherty.

(15) ONLY YOU CAN OUTRUN FOREST FIRES. Science Alert reports “Wild New Study Links Humans Walking Upright to Exploding Stars Millions of Years Ago “

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. According to a hypothesis astronomers have laid out in a new paper, the exploding stars at the end of their lives – supernovae – could have bathed Earth in cosmic radiation, beginning around 8 million years ago, and peaking around 2.6 million years ago.

This radiation would have ionised the lower atmosphere, likely resulting in an increase in cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. This, in turn, could have increased forest fires – eradicating the forests of Africa, where early humans are thought to have originated, and allowing the savannah to take their place.

You see, bipedal locomotion confers a number of advantages to human species, especially in the African savannah where height increases visibility.…

“Not as crazy as it sounds” – but maybe “not as convincing as you’d like,” too.

(16) HUGO FINALISTS. Garik16 continues with “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: Best Novelette”.

In this post, I’ll be going over the nominees for Best Novelette.  Novellettes are defined by the Hugos as works between 7,500 and 17,500 words, so these are stories that can be read in a single sitting, although, they still require a little bit of time to do that (for the longer end stories).  I’m generally not the biggest reader of shorter fiction, so most of the nominees here were new to me (I’d only read 2 of the 6 nominated stories prior to the packet being released).  Still, I really enjoyed pretty much all of the nominees – so I think all of these six are award worthy, and choosing how to rank them was not particularly easy….

(17) BOOKSTORE BLUES. “WH Smith ‘worst’ retailer in UK, says Which? survey”.

WH Smith has been ranked the UK’s worst High Street retailer for the second year in a row, according to a Which? survey of 7,700 shoppers.

…The poll, which covered 100 retailers, rated the chain “very poor” for value for money and in-store experience.

Last week, outgoing boss Steve Clarke admitted it was an issue, telling the BBC it was the “most painful aspect of my job”.

He said for some stores, there was a trade-off between being profitable or redecorating.

(18) NOT ALL IN YOUR HEAD. BBC investigates “Why you shouldn’t trust your food cravings”.

…Most of us know what it feels like to experience food cravings. We usually crave higher calorie foods, which is why cravings are associated with weight gain and increased body mass index (BMI). But the story we tell ourselves about where these cravings come from could determine how easily we give into them.

It’s widely believed that cravings are our body’s way of signalling to us that we’re deficient in a certain nutrient – and for pregnant women, their cravings signal what their baby needs. But is this really true?

Much of the research into cravings has instead found that there are probably several causes for cravings – and they’re mostly psychological.

…There is evidence suggesting that the trillions of bacteria in our guts can manipulate us to crave, and eat, what they need – which isn’t always what our body needs.

This is because microbes are looking out for their own interests, says Athena Aktipis, assistant professor at Arizona State University’s department of psychology. And they’re good at doing this.

“The gut microbes that are best at surviving inside us end up being more frequent in the next generation. They have the evolutionary advantage of being better at affecting us in ways that get us to preferentially feed them,” she says.

(19) MOOD RING FOR MILLENNIALS? BGR: “Amazon reportedly developing a wearable that recognizes human emotions”. Mike Kennedy says, “I don’t think anything needs to be said past, ‘Gee, what could go wrong with that?’”

In its latest effort to be involved in every aspect of our lives, Amazon is reportedly working on a new voice-activated wearable device that is capable of recognizing human emotions. According to Bloomberg, the wearable will be worn on the wrist, like a watch, and is described as a health and wellness product in internal documents. Lab126, the team behind the Echo and Fire Phone, is working on the device alongside the Alexa voice team…

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In The Quintet of the Sunset on Vimeo, Jie Weng looks at how five cats, including Business Cat, Workout Cat, and Race Car Cat, view their owner.

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