2021 Mythopoeic Awards

The 2021 Mythopoeic Award winners were revealed October 17 in a virtual ceremony. The winners’ acceptance speeches (including an appearance from Oor Wombat!) can be seen in the video below.

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth & Fantasy Studies

  • Fantasies of Time and Death: Dunsany, Eddison, Tolkien by Anna Vaninskaya

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies

  • Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer by John M. Bowers

Mythopoeic Fiction Award in Children’s Literature

  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher

Mythopoeic Fiction Award in Adult Literature

  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune

Pixel Scroll 10/10/21 The Lone And Level Pixels Stretch Far Away

(1) SAINT OF STEEL CONTINUES. Oor Wombat has a third Paladin book out today, written in her guise as T. Kingfisher.

Piper is a lich-doctor, a physician who works among the dead, determining causes of death for the city guard’s investigations. It’s a peaceful, if solitary profession…until the day when he’s called to the river to examine the latest in a series of mysterious bodies, mangled by some unknown force.

Galen is a paladin of a dead god, lost to holiness and no longer entirely sane. He has long since given up on any hope of love. But when the two men and a brave gnole constable are drawn into the maze of the mysterious killer, it’s Galen’s job to protect Piper from the traps that await them.

He’s just not sure if he can protect Piper from the most dangerous threat of all…

Here are some early returns from the readers on Twitter:

(2) BARRELLING OVER LEVIATHAN FALLS. In “The Expanse Saga Takes Its Final Space Flight”, Publishers Weekly interviews authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck about how they created the story arc.

…Their aspirations were extremely modest initially. “The original concept for this was we would write Leviathan Wakes and sell it for pizza money,” Abraham said.

Franck added, “We didn’t have high expectations for it being a big new title or anything. And that’s what Daniel means by pizza money—you know, you could sell it for a few thousand bucks, and high-five each other, and that’d be the end of it.”

They did have a firm idea of where their story could continue after that first novel, however. “When we sent it out, we wrote one-paragraph outlines of what the next two books would be,” Franck said. “We sent that to the publisher too. And they bought three books based on one complete book and two one-paragraph blurbs. It was when we started writing the second book that we actually sat down and said, ‘Let’s have a good plan for this. Let’s figure this out.’ And that was when we really started to plan out what the longer story would be.”

The plan, inevitably, changed a bit. While the authors once contemplated writing 12 books, they cut out three after realizing their ideas for what would have followed the sixth book, 2016’s Babylon’s Ashes, were just a “boring rehash.” Instead, the seventh book, 2017’s Persepolis Rising, featured a dramatic time jump that allowed the authors to give the solar system time to stabilize after the events of the prior book.

Not much else changed, though. Franck said he had pitched “the last scene and the last line of the last scene” of Levithan Falls to his colleague around 2012.

The Expanse has sold a total of four million copies in North American and has been translated into 21 languages, according to Orbit, its publisher. Interest in the series has continually grown and Levithan Falls has a first printing of 125,000 copies….

(3) SUPERSAVER. “How ‘Adventures of Superman’ star Jack Larson saved a piece of Charlie Chaplin history and met Seinfeld”Decades has a memory about the actor who played Jimmy Olsen.

… [In 1955] Chaplin had sent for his films and memorabilia to be shipped to Europe.

But Chaplin only kept certain costumes and props. Other props lying around Chaplin Studios were being tossed in the trash. One prop that was about to end up in the garbage can was a rubber wrench that Chaplin used to great effect in the classic film Modern Times.

While working on Superman, Larson saw this cinematic crime about to happen and couldn’t sit still. He begged them to let him have it. They thought he was nuts for asking for this piece of rubber….

(4) TRANSLATING TOLKIEN. The virtual Tolkien Society Autumn Seminar with the theme “Translating and Illustrating Tolkien will take place November 6. It is free, sign up at the link.

Tolkien’s appeal has led to his fiction and non-fiction being translated into over fifty languages. The art of translation is immensely complex and when discussing the Dutch translation of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien himself saw the task as “formidable”, offering his own supportive intervention to achieve a satisfactory result. The author’s invented names and languages prompt the question of how the translator should approach Tolkien’s immense mythology. Recent scholarship has emphasised the need for a wider range of Tolkien’s work to be translated in order for readers to gain a fuller understanding of Arda and the author’s development. But with a wealth of translated texts existing already, this seminar hopes to spark new interpretations about old texts and for unacknowledged translations to be brought to light and examined….

(5) TAFF REPORT AVAILABLE. Anna Raftery’s report of her TAFF trip to MidAmeriCon II (the 74th Worldcon) in 2016, Cuttlefish and Cake, can now be acquired for a donation of £5 at the link. Purchase will give you access to the PDF and MP3 versions of the report. All proceeds will go to TAFF.

(6) NEWS, GOOD AND OTHERWISE. David Brin has rounded up a bunch of interesting science links “Gravitational waves, Snowball Earth … and more science!” at Contrary Brin.

…A fascinating paper dives into the SFnal question of “what-if” – specifically if we had been as stupid about the Ozone Layer as we are re climate change. The paper paints a dramatic vision of a scorched planet Earth without the Montreal Protocol, what they call the “World Avoided”. This study draws a new stark link between two major environmental concerns – the hole in the ozone layer and global warming – and how the Montreal Accords seem very likely to have saved us from a ruined Earth.

Going way, way back, the Mother of Modern Gaia Thought – after whom I modeled a major character in Earth – the late Lynn Margulis, has a reprinted riff in The Edge – “Gaia is a Tough Bitch” – offering insights into the kinds of rough negotiations between individuals and between species that must have led to us. Did eukaryotes arise when a large cell tried and failed to eat a bacterium? Or when a bacterium entering a large cell to be a parasite settled down instead to tend our ancestor like a milk cow? The latter seems slightly more likely!

Not long after that, (in galactic years) some eukaryotes joined to form the first animals – sponges – and now there are signs this may have happened 250M years earlier that previously thought, about 890 Mya, before the Earth’s atmosphere was oxygenated and surviving through the Great Glaciation “Snowball Earth” events of the Kirschvink Epoch….

(7) EXPANSE REACHES ITS LIMIT. The Expanse’s sixth and final season arrives December 10 on Amazon Prime.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2008 – Thirteen years ago this October, G. Willow Wilson’s most excellent Air series would see its first issue on Vertigo, an imprint of DC comics, published. It’s illustrated by Turkish artist M. K. Perker, and it tells the story of Blythe, an acrophobic flight attendant, who gets involved with a terrorist from a country that doesn’t exist. Amelia Earhart and Quetzalcoatl are crucial characters. Reception was sharply divided with folks within our community such as Neil Gaiman and Gail Simone loving it but with mainstream critics pretty much dismissing it for both for the story and the artwork. It would last but twenty four issues before being cancelled due to low sales. It’s not available digitally but is easily had in the four trade paper collections for reasonable prices at online sellers. Oddly enough, it’s not listed on ISFDB even though it’s clearly fantasy, but then neither is her graphic novel Cairo which is also quite excellent.  Does ISFDB have a bias against graphic novels? 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 10, 1924 Ed Wood Jr. Though best remembered for Plan 9 from Outer Space which inexplicably has a sixty-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, he did a lot of terribly bad genre films including Night of the Monster and Bride of The Ghouls. (Died 1978.)
  • Born October 10, 1927 Dana Elcar. Most of you will remember him as Peter Thornton on MacGyver, but he has a long genre history including Russ in Condorman which was inspired by Robert Sheckley’s The Game of X. He also played Sheriff George Paterson in Dark Shadows, and showed up in 2010 as Dimitri Moisevitch. (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? The Bulldance is at least genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase”, a Second Doctor story. In the Seventies, he wrote the BBC Doctor Who and the Pescatons audio drama which I remember hearing. It was quite excellent. (Died 2007.)
  • Born October 10, 1941 Peter Coyote, 70. He actually did two genre films in 1982 with the first being Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann in which he appeared as Porter Reese and the second being E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which he’s Keys, the Agent hunting E.T. down. (Not so named in the film but in the novelization.)  Sphere in which he’s Captain Harold C. Barnes is his next SF outing followed by The 4400 and FlashForward series being his next major genre involvements.
  • Born October 10, 1966 Bai Ling, 55. She’s Miss West in that wretched Wild West West and the Mysterious Women in the exemplary Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, she has a major role as Guanyin in The Monkey King which aired on Syfy. Nope, not seen that one. Her last genre role was Zillia in Conjuring: The Book of the Dead, a horror film riffing off Alastair Crowley. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) NEVERENDING STORY. Read the first chapter of Douglas Wolk’s All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told at Entertainment Weekly.

The twenty-seven thousand or so superhero comic books that Marvel Comics has published since 1961 are the longest continuous, self-contained work of fiction ever created: over half a million pages to date, and growing. Thousands of writers and artists have contributed to it. Every week, about twenty slim pamphlets of twenty or thirty pages apiece are added to the body of its single enormous story. By design, any of its episodes can build on the events of any that came before it, and they’re all (more or less) consistent with one another….

(12) BEFORE AND BEHIND THE CAMERA. A profile of Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the October 2 Financial Times notes she is involved in two franchises: she co-wrote No Time To Die and is an actor in Indiana Jones 5. (I had to take a three-question survey about underwear brands to get free access to the article – make sure your drawers are in order.) “Phoebe Waller-Bridge: the writer making James Bond ‘a little bit twisted’”.

…The marriage between quirky creativity and mega budgets can be fraught. Waller-Bridge, who stars opposite Harrison Ford in the fifth instalment of Indiana Jones, has been coy about her contributions to the latest Bond film. Those hoping to find Fleabag will be disappointed. The secret agent retains some of his old cheesiness. Yet the central speech by sinister villain Lyutsifer Safin contained a reminder of Waller-Bridge’s protagonist: “I just think I want someone to tell me how to live my life?.?.?. because so far I think I’ve been getting it wrong.”…

(13) TRIPPING. Victoria Silverwolf finds a clever lead for a review of the latest (in 1966) issue of Worlds of Tomorrow at Galactic Journey: “[October 10, 1966] Let’s Take A Trip (November 1966 Worlds of Tomorrow)”.

… Until this month, this hallucinogenic drug [LSD] was legal everywhere in the USA. On October 6, it became illegal in the state of California. In response to the new law, on the same day thousands of people showed up for a so-called Love Pageant Rally in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. They enjoyed music from local artists, and many took doses of LSD in defiance of the law….

Even if you live in California, you can enjoy a trip deep into your imagination in a perfectly legal manner, simply by opening the latest issue of Worlds of Tomorrow. Fittingly, almost all the fiction takes place in the far reaches of interstellar space….

(14) INSIDE TZ. Marc Scott Zicree is doing full episode commentaries on over 100 Twilight Zone episodes that will supplement those he did for the official disc set. To find out how to buy them, look at Twilight Zone Commentaries.

The official Twilight Zone BluRay set contained 54 full-length detailed, informative, and entertaining commentaries by Marc Scott Zicree. And now, Marc continues where that left off, with commentaries of the remaining 102 Twilight Zone episodes delivered in a convenient app on your phone, tablet, laptop, SmartTV, or other device.

(15) FOUNDATION GARMENT. You’ve read the series – now buy the shirt that looks as old as it is — Foundation unisex book t-shirt from Out of Print.

The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov received the 1966 Hugo Award for Best All-Time series, beating out the Lord of the RingsFoundation is the first book in that trilogy.

Each purchase helps to fund literacy programs and book donations to communities in need.

(16) ASTRO’S COUSINS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Also in the Financial Times, columnist John Gapper, in a column about the Amazon Astro, made a Doctor Who reference that was news to me.

There is a well-known Punch cartoon of some Daleks from Dr Who at the foot of a staircase, cursing that their plans to conquer the universe are ruined.  This machine (the Astro) suffers from similar limitations:  It can navigate apartments but would be stymied by a two-storey house.

(17) READY FOR EVERY EMERGENCY. “Star Trek: Prodigy Gives Extended Look at Captain Janeway Hologram” at CBR.com.

… At Prodigy‘s panel at New York City Comic-Con, the show debuted a minute-long clip from the show’s pilot episode. In it, the hologram introduces herself to the ragtag group of young aliens, announcing she is the Emergency Training Hologram for the USS Protostar. Little does she know that everything is far from routine on this ship.

After making her introductions, Tellurite Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas) criticizes her looks, prompting a snippy response to show that Janeway’s snark made its way into the programming. The crew does no better job after that first impression to show that they have any idea what they’re doing. Shy Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui) doesn’t even know what a Federation is.….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, John Coxon, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

T. Kingfisher Wins 2021 WSFA Small Press Award

The Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA) announced October 2 that T. Kingfisher has won the 2021 WSFA Small Press Award for best short fiction published by a small press in 2020.

“Metal Like Blood in the Dark” by T. Kingfisher, Uncanny Magazine, (September/October 2020) ed. by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, is the winning story.

The other finalists for the 2021 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction were:

  • “Foster-Child of Silence and Slow Time” by Brian Hugenbruch, My Battery Is Low And It Is Getting Dark, ed. by Crystal Sarakas and Joshua Palmatier, Zombies Need Brains LLC (July 2020);
  • “Guest Athletes” by Jennifer R. Povey, The Phantom Games: Dimensions Unknown Vol. III ed. by John Paul Catton, Excalibur Books (October 10, 2020); 
  • “Heritage Hill” by Matthew R. Davis, Outback Horrors Down Under: An Anthology of Antipodean Terrors, ed. By Steve Dillon, Things in the Well, (October 2020);
  • “The Longest Season in the Garden of the Tea Fish” by Jo Miles, Strange Horizons (April 2020) ed. by Gautam Bhatia, Rasha Abdulhadi, et al.;
  • “Memories Taste Best When Marinated With Sadness” by Feng Gooi, Hexagon Magazine, Issue 2 (Fall 2020) ed. by J.W. Stebner;
  • “Myself” by Rebecca Enzor, DreamForge, Issue 7 (December 2020) ed. by Scot Noel;
  • “Open House on Haunted Hill” by John Wiswell, Diabolical Plots (June 15, 2020) ed. by David Steffen;
  • “Reformed” by Caias Ward, Mysterion, (March 23, 2020), ed. by Donald S. Crankshaw and Kristin Janz.

The award honors the efforts of small press publishers in providing a critical venue for short fiction in the area of speculative fiction.  The award showcases the best original short fiction published by small presses in the previous year (2020). An unusual feature of the selection process is that all voting is done with the identity of the author (and publisher) hidden so that the final choice is based solely on the quality of the story.

The winner was chosen by the members of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was presented at their annual convention, Capclave.

Writing Against the Grain: T. Kingfisher’s Feminist Mythopoeic Fantasy

By Robin Anne Reid. Presented at MythCon 2021:

Writing Against the Grain: T. Kingfisher’s Feminist Mythopoeic Fantasy

WARNING: Spoilers for Clockwork Boys, Paladin, and White Rat series

The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes.

In “On Fairy Stories,” J. R. R. Tolkien defines and defends a sub-genre of fantasy by explicating his poem, “Mythopoeia.” Necessary characteristics for a mythopoeic text include structural, or textual, elements but also reception, or reader response. At heart, a mythopoeic fantasy is set in a secondary world that is internally consistent; the “magic” must “be taken seriously,” and the best in the genre involves “the Consolation of the Happy Ending” (32-33;75). Readers who appreciate the genre experience recovery, escape, and consolation.

Tolkien’s theory has been applied to his own fiction, but, increasingly, scholars are also applying it to films and contemporary fantasy fiction (Croft, Holdier, MacLachlan). However, I have found minimal scholarship on feminist mythopoeic fiction: in a 1989 essay published in Mythlore, Patrick Murphy argues that feminist poets incorporate “high and low fantasy” elements to create what he calls a “(re) mythopoeia, “or ” an alternative heritage” drawing on theories of a “pre-patriarchal goddess” (26). Murphy does not mention the sub-genre of women’s fantasy which draws on the traditions of a goddess worship aligned with strong ecological themes and explorations of psychic and spiritual powers. Scholarship on those writers, such as Janice C. Crosby’s Cauldron of Changes: Feminist Spirituality in Fantastic Fiction, is not concerned with Tolkien’s theory.

In order to think about the question of feminist mythopoeic fantasy, I draw on Faye Ringel’s essay, “Women Fantasists: In the Shadow of the Ring.” Ringel adapts the concept of what Harold Bloom calls the “swerve” in his Anxiety of Influence which he defines as how male poets deal with the influences of earlier male writers on their work through a process of “poetic misreading or misprison proper.” Performing her own feminist swerve on Bloom’s theory, Ringel argues that while “women fantasists accept some of Tolkien’s premises, they differ strongly with him on the subject of women’s roles” (165) which is, of course, one of the purposes of the feminist movement.

In this presentation, I focus on five novels, in three series, published under the pen name that Ursula Vernon uses for her adult fantasy, T. Kingfisher: the completed Clockwork Boys duology, and two ongoing series: the Saint of Steel planned trilogy with one novel in print; and the Temple of the White Rat trilogy with two completed novels. And yes, I am waiting very very VERY impatiently for the next books to be published although luckily for me, she is currently publishing new fantasies fairly quickly.

Three disclaimers. First, I am not able to do justice to the scope, complexity, and sheer wonderfulness of Kingfisher’s work in this short presentation. If you have not read her work, I strongly recommend you do. Second, by identifying these novels as feminist mythopoeic fiction, I am not excluding Kingfisher’s other work from this genre. She has already won two Mythopoeic awards–the first for her graphic novel, Digger, in 2013, and the second for her YA novel, Castle Hangnail, in 2016. I focus on these series because they are set in the same world, as opposed to her stand-alone fantasy and horror novels, and show more of what Liz Bourke calls Kingfisher’s “energetic and atmospherically weird approach to world-building” (Review, Strength). The world of the novels is Archenhold which has different cities: Archen’s Glory, Anuket City, and Rutger’s Howe. In addition, several supporting characters appear in two of the series.

Third, my argument does not require evidence of direct influence by Tolkien. I do not know whether or not Kingfisher has read Tolkien although I strongly suspect she has. Her fiction and essays show a long and deep engagement with fairy tales, fantasy fiction, and games based on medievalist sources. For instance, in her epilogue to Swordheart, Kingfisher describes ranting to her husband about how annoying she finds Michael Moorcock’s Elric because he is constantly whining, and that “the real victim was his sword Stormbringer” who could not escape him. Swordheart was thus written to explore what happens when a “beleaguered magic sword [is] saddled with an inept wielder.” In another self-described rant on Twitter titled “Ursula’s Paladin Rant, or ‘Crapsack Jedi With Guilt Issues,’ she posts about her dislike for the D&D the rules for Paladins which have influenced fantasy fiction and games. Identifying the Paladin class as “broken,” she argues that how the “rules” too often play out leads to a convention of characters who “[screw] up royally [and then] collapse into a wreckage of NOW I MUST EMBRACE EVIL” which “is really counter-productive” and also lacks awareness of how religions include “mechanisms for forgiveness and repentance because if it’s one strike and you’re out, pretty soon everybody’s out.” In both cases, Vernon is clear in this epitextual and paratextual material that one purpose of writing at least some of her novels is to critique not only genre conventions generally but specific authors’ and creators’ use of them. When it comes to the paladins (who are not limited to male characters), other characters who have to deal with them most often are not shy about expressing their opinions as Bishop Beartongue does at the end of Paladin’s Grace: “‘ Yes, yes, you’re a paladin, wallowing in guilt over how you are the very worst person ever is part of the job'” (329).

So, a quick recap: Tolkien’s mythopoeic elements are an internally consistent secondary world; magic that is taken seriously; and eucatastrophe, with readers responding by feeling recovery, escape, and consolation (32-33;75), Ringel’s feminist elements are accepting Tolkien’s sense of the importance of ‘ordinary’ rather than traditional epic characters (including Paladins!) while rejecting both his “medieval ideals of kingship and class structure” (165-166), and his portrayal of women’s roles. Kingfisher emphasizes ordinary people rather than kings and nobles in all her work: minimal narrative time, if any, is given to the rulers, and when they are mentioned, in at least two cases, they are women, holding the title of Dowager. In a third case, a man holds the elected office of Archon.

In two of the three series, a Kingfisherian version of Faërie, called the Vagrant Hills, plays a significant role, and in all three series, her system of magic, called “wonderworking” exists alongside a polytheistic belief system without major conflicts. The gods who have been identified in the series so far are: The Dreaming God, The Four-Faced God, The Forge God, The Hanged Mother, The Lady of Grass, The Many-Armed God, The Saint of Steel (who, despite the name is definitely a god) and the White Rat. More information about The Dreaming God and the White Rat has been given so far, but each God has their own church or temple system with priests, nuns, and paladins as well as support staff. Each God seems to have their own specialization–the Dreaming God empowers paladins to identify and destroy demons while the White Rat’s hierarchy provides legal and material support for people who need help. According to Zale in Swordheart, these different and autonomous churches exist without major conflict except for the Hanged Mother’s priesthood, called the Motherhood, which attempt to control or destroy all other groups. In the Paladin series, the churches in Archon’s Glory cooperate to make sure that the Motherhood, who are favored by the Archon, are restrained from gaining too much secular power.

The churches play a larger narrative role in the Paladin’s and White Rat series than in Clocktaur Boys, especially the Temple of the White Rat, and some of those called to the gods’ service are granted powers (becoming, in most cases, paladins). But the powers of the church have failed to suppress or control Kingfisher’s Faërie, the Vagrant Hills: according to Zale and Halla, the various churches’ attempts to “burn out bits of the Hills ages ago” led to a number of unhappy songs (Swordheart).

The Hills, which feature significantly in the Clockwork Boys and Swordheart series, have not so far played any part in White Rat series. They are an area of unknown/unknowable dimensions that seem to move or are able to pull characters who are nowhere near the Hills into them without warning. The descriptions of how characters enter the Hills are similar to traditional folktale images of the way to Faerie. In Swordheart, the major characters find themselves in a “hollow way” in the middle of an acorn wood: “Trees leaned over the road, their bare branches laced tightly across the sky. ‘It’s a hollow way,’ said Zale. ‘One of the old, old roads.’. . . .They reached the end of the hollow way and emerged, blinking, into the sunlight. They were no longer in the acorn wood. They were halfway up a hillside, near a drop-off.”

In The Clockwork Boys, characters find themselves on “a narrow path, barely a lane, and badly overgrown. It did not look like the hard-packed smugglers’ road. Between patches of grass and horsetail rushes, the mud and packed pebbles glittered like the reticulated hide of a lizard. ‘This isn’t our road,’ said Caliban (197).

The Vagrant Hills are home to a number of magical non-humanoid species such as rune (speculated to be the descendants of “stag men and dryads”), but also to talking rabbits, aggressive mandrake roots, a large stone fish swimming upstream to spawn, and parasitic predators that are described as translucent “sky-swimmers,” beautiful but deadly. Various characters make it clear that nobody knows enough about the Hills to be sure of what exists in them, nor is it possible to study them. Travelers caught by the Hills have no more control over when or how they leave than they did in how the entered, and not all travelers survive to leave. The reason that characters are drawn into the Hills seems to be that they have a strong connection to magic or other types of supernatural power–Caliban in the Clockwork Boys carries the remnants of the dead demon that possessed him and could not be fully exorcised, and Sarkis in Swordheart exists within a magical sword and belongs to whoever owns it.

The other strange nearly unexplored country in Kingfisher’s mythopoeic fiction is the relationships between her female protagonists and the broken warrior. Ringel pointed out that the fantasy writers she interviewed rejected Tolkien’s marriage plots to show female protagonists living as witches, wizards, or warriors, not wives (167). Kingfisher goes a step further in writing mature romance plots that do not always involve marriage. At the start of the novels, her female protagonists are older and sexually experienced but have left unhappy or abusive relationships (sometimes but not always marriage) to support themselves. During the course of the story, they enter into sexual (and sometimes marital) relationships with male characters that swerve from the typical warrior-hero protagonist of fantasy through a process of feminist deconstruction.

The female protagonists are Slate, a forger (Clockwork); Grace, a perfumer (Paladin’s Grace); Clara (a nun of the convent of St. Ursa and a werebear); and Halla (a housekeeper). The male characters are three paladins and one magicked mercenary. Caliban (Clockwork Boys) was a paladin of the Dreaming God who was possessed by a demon and murdered eleven novices and nuns. Stephen and Istvahn were holy berserkers for the Saint of Steel and were among the few survivors of their God’s death which nearly destroyed the order. Although they have survived, the death of the Saint of Steel means that they are at risk for entering the berserker state without the God ensuring that they do not harm the innocent. Sarkis was a mercenary punished for betraying the city he and his troop were hired to protect by being killed and trapped in an enchanted sword five centuries earlier. All the male characters consider themselves, to varying degrees, to have failed, but in Kingfisher’s world, such failures do not lead to the simplistic result that Vernon describes as “Crapsack Jedi with Guilt Issues,” that is immediately turning to the dark side. Instead, the world of the series through the social support systems provided primarily by the Temple of the White Rat and their relationships with the female protagonists offers a range of “mechanisms for forgiveness and repentance” including Kingfisher’s own version of quests which are another example of swerving from the conventions of fantasy established by Tolkien. I should note that the female characters are not presented simplistically as saviors: they also consider themselves failed in many ways, often blaming themselves for the failure of their past relationships.

These swerves from Tolkien’s definition strengthen my experience of recovery, escape, and consolation as a reader, responses that grew stronger during my re-reading of her work during the first year of the pandemic. A number of the readers who review her work report similar experiences, including multiple readings of favorite books in the series. Thinking about her work in the context of Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fantasy raises questions about what a “feminist mythopoeic” work might be that I’ll be thinking more about in the future.


Working Bibliography

Bourke, Liz. Liz Bourke Reviews Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher. Locus, April 21, 2021.

Croft, Janet Brennan. “Tolkien’s Faërian Drama: Origins and Valedictions.” Mythlore, 32.2, Spring/Summer 2014, pp. 31-44.

Crosby, Janice C. Cauldron of Changes: Feminist Spirituality in Fantastic Fiction. McFarland, 2000.

Holdier, A. G. “On Superhero Stories: The Marvel Cinematic Universe as Tolkienesque Fantasy.” Mythlore, vol. 36, iss. 2, Spring-Summer 2018, pp. 73-88.

Kane, Douglas Charles. “A Modern Fairy-story: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Seen Through the Prism of Tolkien’s Classic Essay.” Mythlore, vol. 37, no. 1, Fall-Winter 2018, pp. 133-45.

Kingfisher, T. Clockwork Boys. Clocktaur War: Book One. Argyll, 2018.
—. The Wonder Engine. Clocktaur War: Book Two. Argyll, 2018.
—. Paladin’s Grace. The Saint of Steel: Book One. Argyll, 2020.
—. Paladin’s Strength. The Saint of Steel: Book Two. Argyll, 2021.
—. Swordheart. Argyll, 2020.

MacLachlin, Christopher. Chapter 8 “‘On Fairy Stories’ and Tolkien’s Elvish Tales.” New Fairy Tales: Essays & Stories. John Patrick Pazdziora and Defne Cizakca, eds. Unlocking Press, 2013. pp: 147-66.

Murphy, Patrick D. (1989) “The High and Low Fantasies of Feminist (Re)Mythopoeia.” Mythlore, vol. 16, no. 2, article 5. Available at: https://dc.swosu.edu/mythlore/vol16/iss2/5

Ringel, Faye. “Women Fantasists: In the Shadow of the Ring.” J. R. R. Tolkien and his Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth. George Clark and Daniel Timmons, eds. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, no. 89. C. W. Sullivan III, Series Adviser. Greenwood Press, 2000. Pp. 159-71.

Tolkien, J. R. R. “On Fairy-Stories.”Tolkien On Fairy-stories. Expanded edition. Verlyn Flieger and Douglas Anderson, eds. Harper Collins, 2014.

Vernon, Ursula. “Ursula’s Paladin Rant, or ‘Crapsack Jedi With Guilt Issues.'” Twitter. Oct. 13, 2017.

Pixel Scroll 10/19/20 We Keep Our Cats As Happy As We Can

(1) OOR WOMBAT KNOWS HOW TO WRITE HORROR. Kansas City’s The Pitch has Nick Spacek “Asking author Ursula Vernon to reveal what hides in The Hollow Places.

…Part of what makes Vernon’s books so terrifying is that they’re quite relatable. Told in the first person by rather chummy narrators who immediately become something like your best friends, The Twisted Ones‘ Mouse and The Hollow Places‘ Kara feel like folks you’d love to get to know better, making each page in both books an absolute treat.

“Horror is sufficiently immediate and visceral that you spend a lot of time thinking, ‘What would I do in this situation?’” Vernon explains her style. “It has to be very immediate, so that the reader isn’t yelling, ‘Don’t go in there!’ when they’re about to open the door. You don’t want that. You want people to relate to why they’re making these choices. You need a pressing reason why they will stay in this situation that is obviously bad. Things are going down, so it has to be a believable reason.”

She points to the fact that in The Twisted Ones, Mouse doesn’t want to leave her dog behind, and I concur, pointing to the fact that much of The Hollow Places is due to the fact that Kara’s Uncle Earl is still recovering and Kara doesn’t want to abandon him.

“That’s why people stay in scary situations,” Vernon agrees. “I think that’s a more relatable reason than something I don’t actually believe. People stay in situations either because they’re too poor to leave, they have nowhere to go, or there’s someone they just can’t bear to leave behind. You got to have the personal stakes.”

 (2) MARS MY DESTINATION. Tesmanian listens in as “Elon Musk shares SpaceX Starship plans at the Mars Society Convention”.

SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk was a guest at a the virtual International Mars Society Convention on Friday, October 16 (full video below). During the conference, he held a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. –“I think we want to be on track to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, in order to […] ensure the continuance of consciousness as we know it,” Musk told Zubrin. “… As far as we know… we could be the only life.”

When Zubrin asked about Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle, Musk said he will manufacture many iterations of the vehicle. Starship will be capable of transporting tons of cargo and one hundred passengers to space destinations. It is actively under development at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. Musk talked about the challenges SpaceX faced to develop the Falcon rocket, stating that he expects to have Starship failures throughout its development before reaching orbit.

Musk told Zubrin that Starship is being designed to enable a self-sustaining ‘city’ on Mars. “If the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?…” he said. So, Starship must be reusable and capable of carrying all the resources needed to aid humans’ survival on the Red Planet. Musk stated SpaceX’s goal is to get enough people and tonnage to the Martian surface ‘as soon as possible’, –“Are we creating a city on Mars … before any possible World War three… […]” — He told Zubrin he hopes to takes humans to Mars before any nuclear war, asteroid strike, any potential disaster threatens humanity’s existence.

(3) ANTE AND DEAL. If you didn’t catch it live, here’s a video of the latest Wild Cards panel.

Join five of the Wild Cards authors as they discuss what it’s like to write in a shared universe series and how exactly the Wild Cards Consortium works. Featuring Melinda Snodgrass, Paul Cornell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and David Levine.

(4) EMPLOYMENT IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC. “‘I worked in horror films. Now I’m an undertaker’: arts workers who had to find new jobs”The Guardian tells how entertainment industry workers are adapting.

For many workers who would ordinarily be earning a living in theatres, live music venues and nightclubs, which largely still remain closed in the UK, however, retraining has been a harsh reality since they lost their jobs in March. Countless creatives have already been forced to find other income to make ends meet, while a recent report found that 34% of musicians alone had thought about hanging up their instruments for good. Here we meet some of the people who’ve added some unusual strings to their bow during the pandemic …

‘In undertaking, you get to drive luxury cars’

Paris Rivers: SFX technician turned undertaker
Paris Rivers is on the phone from a cemetery in London, where he has just done a cremation. Formerly a special effects technician in film and TV, as well as a cabaret performer, he became an undertaker at the start of lockdown. Last week, he had to help dress the body of a man who had died from stab wounds. Even more shocking was seeing a child’s brain. “I’m doing a job that most people wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole,” he says. “But a lot of us didn’t have any alternatives.” Besides, he adds, “when people ask, ‘What did you do during 2020?’ I can say I was there on the frontlines.”

Rivers, 31, was “really scared and desperate for work” when Covid-19 hit and by chance, had a friend who was working in one of the temporary morgues set up at the beginning of the pandemic. After working there for two months, he contacted funeral homes to see whether anyone would take him on as a funeral service operator. He’s been transporting ashes, cadavers and coffins ever since. Compared with being on a film set, he says, the job is relatively “stress-free”.

“It’s strangely relaxing,” Rivers explains. “You get to go to beautiful cemeteries, wear a nice suit, drive luxury cars. Some people are shocked by the ick factor, but I started in horror films, so I find this fascinating. And how many people who work in horror films have actually worked around death? I feel this will be helpful for me in the long run.”

Even when the film industry starts back up properly, Rivers says, he’ll continue as an undertaker part-time. The job has inspired him in other ways, too. “I’m developing an Elvira-esque cryptkeeper,” he says of a character that he plans to bring to the stage. There will, of course, be “lots of black humour”.

(5) WIZARDS SUED. “Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman sue Wizards of the Coast after it abandons new Dragonlance trilogy” reports Boing Boing.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, creators of the Dragonlance fantasy mythos, are suing Wizards of the Coast after the company ditched a licensing deal for the latest books in the long-running series.

Filed in district court in Seattle, the lawsuit [Scribd, PDF] was first reported by Cecilia D’Anastasio. The lawsuit claims that WoTC breached their contract without explanation and in “stunning and brazen bad faith”, despite having been intimately involved in the development of the new work, approving a trilogy’s worth of characters, storylines and scenes and signing with a publisher, Penguin Random House.

The lawsuit claims $10m in damages.

Weis and Hickman created Dragonlance, set within the broad ambit of WoTC’s Dungeons & Dragons role-playing franchise, in the 1980s. Its lively mix of colorful heroes and epic drama was a hit with gamers and readers, growing into a sprawling shared universe fleshed out by many authors, artists and designers. According to the lawsuit, Weis and Hickman agreed with Wizards of the Coast to produce the new novels in 2017, capping off the series and giving fans a final sendoff.

But the company pulled the plug in August 2020—and Weis and Hickman blame controversies at WoTC itself….

(6) TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN TV SHOW. This sff production went more quietly. NPR delivers the eulogy: “‘The Venture Bros.’ Creators On The Show’s Legacy, Its Fans — And Its Cancellation”.

An era of American television ended in September.

Its death came quietly, with news of its passing drowned out from all sides by crumbling institutions, environmental disasters, a historic pandemic and pervasive social unrest. As with all matters of public interest in 2020, its demise was announced via Twitter.

After spanning three presidencies and surviving several cultural sea changes, The Venture Bros. was cancelled after 17 years on the air.

If you’ve never heard of the animated series despite its longevity, you’re far from alone: Neither the half-hour comedy nor its home, Cartoon Network’s late night programming block Adult Swim, are often mentioned in the same breath as HBO and AMC or what’s conventionally viewed as “prestige TV.”

The Venture Bros. began airing its first season in 2004. It followed Dr. Thaddeus S. “Rusty” Venture, his sons Hank and Dean — the titular brothers of the program — and bodyguard Brock Samson on episodic romps in the action-adventure and science fiction vein…

(7) EARLY WARNING. The New York Times tells how Disney unabashedly apologizes and monetizes when it comes to some of its animated classics: “Disney Adds Warnings for Racist Stereotypes to Some Older Films”.

The 1953 film “Peter Pan” portrays Indigenous people “in a stereotypical manner” and refers to them repeatedly with a slur, according to Disney.Disney

They are classic animated films like “Dumbo” (1941) and “Peter Pan” (1953), but on Disney’s streaming service they will now get a little help to stand the test of time.

Before viewers watch some of these films that entertained generations of children, they will be warned about scenes that include “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.”

The 12-second disclaimer, which cannot be skipped, tells viewers, in part: “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

In addition to “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” the warning plays on films including “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Aladdin” (1992), and directs viewers to a website that explains some of the problematic scenes.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • October 19, 2010 — On this day in 2010 in the United Kingdom, the BBC’s adaption of H.G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon premiered on BBC Four. This film was written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Damon Thomas, it stars Gatiss as Cavor and Rory Kinnear as Bedford, with Alex Riddell, Peter Forbes, Katherine Jakeways, Lee Ingleby and Julia Deakin. It ends with a tribute to Lionel Jeffries, who played Cavor in the 1964 feature film, and who died earlier that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a so-so forty five percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 19, 1889 – Miguel Asturias.  A novel and a few shorter stories for us, maybe more; nine novels all told, story collections, poetry.  A Kind of Mulatto (tr. English as Mulatto and Mr. Fly) called “a carnival incarnated….  a collision between Mayan Mardi Gras and Hispanic baroque”.  In Men of Maize (Eng. in UNESCO Collection of Representative Works) a postman turns into a coyote, his people into ants, “written in the form of a myth….  experimental, ambitious, and difficult to follow.”  Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1909 Robert Beatty. He’s best known for being in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. He played General Cutler in “The Tenth Planet,”  a Third Doctor story, and was General Halstead in The Martian Chronicles. He was in Superman III and Superman IV, respectively playing a tanker captain and the U.S. President. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 80. Actor on stage and screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films), but also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1943 – Peter Weston, F.N.  Founded Birmingham SF Group.  Fanzines Zenith, renamed SpeculationProlapse, renamed Relapse.  Reviewed fanzines for Vector as “Malcolm Edwards”, confusing when a real ME appeared later, indeed each chairing Worldcons (PW the 37th).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Doc Weir Award (British; for service).  Fan Guest of Honor at Boskone 37, Eastercon 53, Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lifetime Achievement Award at Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  His foundry cast the rockets of the Hugo Awards trophies.  (Died 2017)
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 75. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. He was on television’s Third Rock from the Sun for six seasons. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1943 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 77. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 74. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billie Piper-led series,  far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1948 – Jerry Kaufman, 72.  New York fan, then Seattle.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Fanzines with Suzanne Tompkins, The Spanish InquisitionMainstreamLittlebrook.  Also Sweetmeats (Sandra Miesel collection); The Best of Susan WoodThe Portable Carl Brandon; final issue of Innuendo (with Robert Lichtman).  Frequent loccer (loc = letter of comment) to fanzines.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 10, Rustycon 1, Minicon 26, Westercon 44, Boskone 34.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1961 – Mike Manley, 59.  Draws The Phantom (daily since 30 May 16; Sundays by Jeff Weige), also Judge Parker (since 23 Feb 10).  Worked at Marvel (Spider-Man; co-created Darkhawk), DC (Batman, did 500th issue; Superman), Warner Bros. (Kids WB BatmanSuperman).  Plein air painter.  Teacher.  See his Weblog Draw!  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1964 – Kathleen Cheney, 56.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for her own collection Shared Dreams.  Taught math through calculus, coached the Academics and Robotics teams, sponsored the chess club.  Fences with foil and saber.  Gardener.  Two large hairy dogs.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1966 Roger Cross, 54. Actor from Jamaica who moved to Canada. He played a lead role in the series Continuum and has had parts in genre films The Chronicles of RiddickWar for the Planet of the Apes, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood StillX2Doomsday RockVoyage of TerrorThe Void, and the adaptations of Dean Koontz’ Hideaway and Sole Survivor. (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1982 – Jenny Bellington, 38.  One novel so far, about a boy whose gift is making maps.  More in the works.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GOOD NEWS, FEATURING BABY YODA. The Washington Post traces the beginnings of a legend: “A boy gave a Baby Yoda to crews battling Oregon wildfires. They lovingly passed it among firefighters, across state lines.”

Sasha Tinning took her 5-year-old grandson, Carver, grocery shopping earlier this month to buy granola bars and other snacks to contribute to a donation drive for firefighters battling wildfires in Oregon.

But when Tinning ended up in the toy aisle that day, Sept. 12, her eyes — and Carver’s — were drawn to a Baby Yoda doll, the last one on the shelf.“I said, ‘The firefighters could use a friend, couldn’t they?’ ” said Tinning, 54, who lives in Scappoose, Ore., about 20 miles north of Portland.

“He would be a very good friend for them,” she recalled Carver saying.

They agreed that volunteer firefighters needed “The Force” more than anyone. So instead of buying granola bars and nuts, they picked up Baby Yoda — also known as the Child — from the popular Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.”

On their way home, they stopped by a donation tent for firefighters with the big-eyed, pointy-eared doll in hand. Tinning helped Carver write a quick note on a piece of scrap paper she found in her car trunk:“Thank you, firefighters,” it read. “Here is a friend for you, in case you get lonely. Love, Carver.”

Tyler Eubanks, a 34-year-old horse dental technician who was working in the donation booth that afternoon, showed the note and Baby Yoda to a few other volunteers. They all started crying, she said.

“The fires were close to us, and everyone was really high on emotion,” said Eubanks. “We were all really touched that Carver wanted to give a companion to the men and women who were out there risking their lives to fight the wildfires.”

Eubanks brought Baby Yoda to some firefighters who were helping in the effort to contain the 25-acre Unger Road Fire near Colton, Ore. She snapped a few photos of the fire crew with the doll so that she could send them to Carver, and thought that would be the end of it.

“But then the firefighters said, ‘We want to take him with us,’ ” Eubanks said.

So they did. And when they came upon other fire crews and showed off their Baby Yoda, those firefighters asked if they could have him for a while. The answer was yes.

“Before I knew it, Baby Yoda was out there traveling the universe,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks quickly came up with the idea to start a Facebook page — Baby Yoda Fights Fires — to chronicle the adventures of the Child.

More than 26,000 people now follow the page, which is full of photos of Baby Yoda hanging out with firefighters on the front lines of wildfires in Oregon and Colorado, and relaxing in fire base camps.

(12) HANGING OUT WITH THE DEAD. BBC Radio 4’s series A Natural History of Ghosts kicks off with an episode about “Ancient Ghosts”

‘When was the first time a human felt haunted?’

Kirsty Logan travels back to the world’s earliest civilisations to uncover where tales of ghosts first emerged.

From the earliest evidence of belief in an afterlife, seen in decorated bones in early grave sites, to Ancient Egyptian letters to the dead, and predatory Chindi unleashed to wreak deadly vengeance in the snowy wastes of North America, Kirsty tells the tales of the spirits that haunted our most ancient forebears, and became the common ancestor for ghost stories across all of human history.

(13) HARD CHARGING. “Die Hard’s Bruce Willis reprises John McClane role for unusual commercial”Digital Spy has the story.

…Now Bruce Willis has reprised the role once again, only this time it’s for… a car battery commercial?

The ad, for the DieHard Battery from Advance Auto Parts, sees John McClane crash through a window, escape through an air vent and face off against the villainous Theo, played by a returning Clarence Gilyard Jr.

De’voreaux White also reprises his role as driver Argyle, and steals the “yipee ki yay” line from Willis, who is probably glad that he didn’t have to say it.

(14) THE UNFORSEEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: How ‘The Simpsons’ creators added COVID-19 masks to this year’s ‘Treehouse of Horror'” says Simpsons writers were already planning an election segment for this year’s Treehouse of Horror, but added jokes about masks (which everyone in Springfield wears except for Homer).  Next year’s Treehouse is already in development, and will include a segment based on the Oscar-winning film Parasite.

When the staff of The Simpsons sat down to write the thirty-first edition of the show’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween anthology in 2019, they knew that the 2020 Presidential election would be the scariest subject they could tackle. That’s why “Treehouse of Horror XXXI,” which airs Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. on Fox, opens with an election parody that’s not for the faint of heart. “We predict what will happen on January 20 if people like Homer don’t smarten up a little,” longtime Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean, teased during the all-star The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror at Paley Front Row 2020. “Amazingly, most of it was written a year ago, and all of it still seems true!” (Watch the panel above.)

Simpsons fans know that the show has a knack for seeing into the future, whether it was predicting President Donald Trump back in 2000 or calling the winners of multiple Super Bowls. But there’s one thing that the writers didn’t predict while writing their own 2020 election parody: that Americans would be casting ballots for either President Trump or Vice President Joe Biden during the midst of a deadly pandemic….

(15) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Food & Wine found a portal story in the candy section of the store: “Reese’s Created a Roving, Remote-Controlled Door to Help Make Trick-or-Treating Safer This Halloween”.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, this year’s Halloween celebrations will look significantly different than they did in 2019. Trick-or-treating, specifically, is problematic as attempting to visit as many neighbors as possible in a single night is pretty much the opposite of staying “bubbled.” But major candy brands are doing what they can to keep the Halloween spirit alive with interesting interpretations on how to make trick-or-treating coronavirus-friendly.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a Halloween favorite, and for 2020, the always inventive brand is introducing an over-the-top new candy delivery system: the Reese’s Trick- or-Treat Door. This robotic door uses voice-recognition technology to deliver candy hands-free. When the remote-controlled, nine-foot-tall front door (lamps and all!) uses its three motors to lumber your way, simply say “trick-or-treat,” and a Bluetooth speaker should know it’s time to spit out a king-size Reese’s candy bar via a retractable shelf in the mail slot.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill Wagner, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 9/25/20 The Scrollwave Pixel

(1) GUIDING LIGHTS. “Personal Canons: Young Wizards” is Erin Maier’s guest post in a series at Sarah Gailey’s blog.

…Here Young Wizards says: it’s never too late to change. Diane Duane comes back to this idea again and again throughout the series. Wizardry is always about choosing to change or not, in one way or another. Of course, change is never without a price: wizardry gives only so much as it is given. But if you are willing, if you choose, you can change more than you ever dreamed.

“This is a business for saints, not children!” Nita’s father exclaims to Tom and Carl in High Wizardry, upon learning Nita’s younger sister Dairine has also become a wizard. “Even saints have to start somewhere,” they tell him. The youngest wizards have the most power, because they aren’t yet so confined by the idea of “possible.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman says “Uh-oh! It’s Spider-Man SpaghettiOs with comics writer/editor/historian Danny Fingeroth” in Episode 128 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Danny Fingeroth

I’ve known that guest, Danny Fingeroth, for more than 40 years. A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee, his biography of “The Man,” has just been released in paperback. That’s but the latest of his many accomplishments since he started in comics back in the ’70s as an assistant at Marvel to previous guest Larry Lieber.

Danny went on to become group editor for all the Spider-Man titles, and writer of the Deadly Foes of Spider-Man and Lethal Foes of Spider-Man mini-series, plus long runs on Dazzler and Darkhawk. His other books in addition to that Stan Lee bio include Superman On The Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Society and Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero.

As for dinner … our multi-course meal was made up of nothing but Marvel-branded food — which clearly should be ingested for their novelty value only — about which you’ll hear us kibitz during our conversation.

We discussed his start (like mine) in the Marvel British reprint department, what was wrong with the early letters he wrote to comics as a kid, his admittedly over-generalized theory that there were only two kinds of people on staff at Marvel, our differing reactions to the same first comic book convention in 1970, our somewhat similar regrets about the old-timers we worked beside during our early days in comics, the reason working in comics was wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time, why he wanted to be not only Stan Lee, but both Stan and Jack Kirby, how he was able to interview “The Man” and get him to say things he’d never said before, why comics was the perfect medium for Stan Lee, and much more.

(3) IT’S NO SECRET. Mythaxis casts their “Editor Spotlight on Ellen Datlow”.

DSW: What’s your secret to being so successful as an editor of anthologies?

ED: It depends on what one means by success. I’ve been lucky to continue to propose anthologies that are of interest to enough publishers and readers that they sell OK (usually, but not always).

But basically I only edit anthologies on themes that are broad enough that I can get the writers I solicit stories from to push the envelope of that theme. I’ll be living with the “theme” for at least two years from conception to publication so I have to love it.

I’d very much like to edit more non-themed anthologies but they’re a very hard sell.

(4) THE BOMB PICTURE BOOM OF 1947. Leonard Maltin rolls out his list of “New And Notable Film Books  September 2020”.

THE BEGINNING OR THE END: HOW HOLLYWOOD—AND AMERICA—LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB by Greg Mitchell (The New Press)

A letter to Donna Reed from a former schoolteacher led to MGM making the first film about the development of the atomic bomb. That’s the first nugget in this scrupulously researched tale of The Beginning or the End (1947), a film that tried to keep everyone from J. Robert Oppenheimer and President Harry S. Truman happy and wound up pleasing almost no one. Author Greg Mitchell appears shocked—shocked!—that Washington exerted such power over a movie studio, but threads his story with documentation that is beyond dispute. An experienced author and researcher (whose earlier book The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair’s Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics is a longtime favorite of mine) he reveals his ignorance of old movies when he badly summarizes the career of Brian Donlevy—who was chosen to play General Leslie Groves in this film—but stays on solid ground when he details the endless negotiations that won the government’s approval of the finished picture. It’s an interesting saga that has particular relevance as we reevaluate the consequences of the bombs that dropped on Japan 75 years ago.

(5) HOSTS OF GHOSTS. Amy Shearn analyzes “How Literary Ghosts Can Help Us All Be a Little More Human” at LitHub.

…Or, okay, at the very least, we can all agree that hauntings are a very useful metaphor. “Whether or not ghosts are real,” writes Erica Wright, “their stories give us inspiration, a way to live more alert to possibilities.” A ghost in a story can deliver information living characters lack access to, so it’s no wonder spirits have apparated throughout Western literature, from Hamlet’s truth-telling father to the psychological spirits of Henry James’s The Turn of the ScrewA literary ghost can also be a neat way to link a story’s present with the past, a seductive trick for the expansively-minded novelist. The contemporary American ghost tends to be a little more complicated, however, than a Dickensian Ghost of Christmas Past rattling around in a nightgown. As Parul Sehgal writes in the New York Times, “The ghost story shape-shifts because ghosts themselves are so protean—they emanate from specific cultural fears and fantasies… They are social critiques camouflaged with cobwebs; the past clamoring for redress.” She notes that America is a haunted country, despite, or maybe because of, our “energetic amnesia.”

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty-five years ago, Greg Bear’s Moving Mars, the third novel in his Quantum Logic series, won the Nebula Award beating out works by Octavia E. Butler, Jonathan Lethem, James K. Morrow, Rachel Pollack, Kim Stanley Robinson and Roger Zelazny. It would also be nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. It would lose in the Hugo race for Best Novel at ConAdian to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Green Mars.  (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 25, 1919 – Betty Ballantine.  With husband Ian (1916-1995) established Bantam Books, then Ballantine Books which they led to a fine SF publishing history: Blish, Bradbury, Clarke, Kornbluth, Leiber, Niven, Pohl, Tolkien; a hundred covers by Richard Powers, a distinctive genius.  SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) President’s Award; Special Committee Award from the 64th Worldcon; World Fantasy Award for life achievement; SF Hall of Fame (Betty & Ian jointly).  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1930 – Shel Silverstein.  Cartoonist, journalist, poet, songster.  Introduced to most by the Ballantines.  Here is one of his collections.  Here is another.  Is he jolly, or melancholy?  Have you sung “The Boa Constrictor”, by golly?  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1932 J. Carol Holly. Her various book dedications showed she had a strong love of cats. I’ve not encountered her novels but she wrote a fair number of them including ten genre novel plus The Assassination Affair, a novel in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. franchise. Only The Flying Eyes novel by her is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.) (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1946 – John D. Owen, 74.  Fanziner noted particularly for Crystal Ship, which you can see here, and Shipyard Blues, which you can see here (both in archived copies).  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1951 Mark Hamill, 69. I’ll confess that my favorite role of his is that he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even been doing on other such series as well. Pure comic evilness! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1957 – Christine Morton-Shaw, 63.  Two novels for us; a half dozen picture books for young children which have been found fun.  You may already know her teen fantasy The Riddles of Epsilon.  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1960 – Kristin Hannah, 60. Lawyer and fictionist.  Two novels for us; a score of others (historical fiction The Nightingale sold 2 million copies).  “The mall?  I live on an island.”  Website.  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1961 Heather Locklear, 59. Her first genre role was Victoria ‘Vicky’ Tomlinson McGee in Stephen King’s Firestarter followed by being Abby Arcane in The Return of Swamp Thing. She was also Dusty Tails in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. She’s had one-offs in Tales of the UnexpectedFantasy IslandMuppets Tonight and she voiced Lisa Clark “Prophecy of Doom” on Batman: The Animated Series. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1962 Beth Toussaint, 58. She was Ishara Yar in the “Legacy” episode of Next Gen and she’s been in a lot of genre series and films including BerserkerBabylon 5, the Monsters anthology series, the very short-lived Nightmare CafeMann & MachineProject Shadowchaser IILegend and Fortress 2: Re-Entry. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1964 Maria Doyle Kennedy, 56. She was Siobhán Sadler in Orphan Black, and currently is Jocasta Cameron in Outlander. She’s been cast as Illa in the soon to be filmed The Wheel of Time series. (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1969Catherine Zeta-Jones, 51. Her first role ever was as Scheherazade in the French short 1001 Nights. The Daily Telegraph noted it’s remembered only for its “enjoyable nude scenes”.  Her next role was Sala in The Phantom. Does Zorro count as genre? If go, she appeared as Eléna Montero in The Mask of Zorro and Eléna De La Vega in The Legend of Zorro. She was Theodorain The Haunting, a riff off of The Haunting of Hill House. And finally she was in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Maya in “Palestine, October 1917”. (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1989 – Élodie Serrano, 31.  Two novels, collection The Die Is Cast, twenty more stories (e.g. “Muse for Sale, Accepts Souls”, “The Word Thief”, “At the Heart of Plants”), in French.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) TAKING FLIGHT. Lyles Movie Files reports “Aldis Hodge joins Black Adam cast to play Hawkman”.

If you’ve been reading my comic book reviews, you know Hawkman is one of my favorite comics out right now. Robert Venditti has written an excellent take on the character and he’s reached new heights (sorry) of what’s possible with him.

It was kind of fitting then that I saw the news about Aldis Hodge (The Invisible Man) being cast as Hawkman in the Black Adam movie from Venditti’s Twitter feed….

Hodge joins Dwayne Johnson, who plays the title character Black Adam, and Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) who will be Atom Smasher. The Black Adam version of the JSA is small with only Doctor Fate and Cyclone revealed although their casting have yet to be announced.

(10) LEARN WHILE YOU BURN. James Davis Nicoll pulled from the shelf “Five Fantasy Novels Starring Self-Taught Protagonists” at Tor.com. One of them is –

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher (2020)

Riverbraid prides itself on its toleration of magickers, even minor ones like Mona, whose talents are limited to baked goods. Because Mona is poor and her magic has no obvious military applications, she’s left to work in her aunt’s bakery. It’s not a bad life, really. Everything changes the morning that Mona finds a corpse sprawled on the floor of the bakery.

The victim is a another magicker. It soon becomes apparent that someone is hunting down the magically talented. Mona’s attempts to unravel the mystery involve her in a desperate resistance against high-level scheming and barbarian invasion. Only a baker can save the day.

(11) ROAMING CHARGES. LitHub reports “$3.2 million worth of rare stolen books have been found under a house in rural Romania.”

When a group of thieves stole $3.2 million worth of rare books from a London warehouse in 2017, including seminal scientific texts by Isaac Newton and Galileo, they shocked the antiquarian book world and inspired a number of theories about what had happened. Who would target such rare titles—including a 1566 edition of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres by Nicolaus Copernicus, worth $268,000—that they would be essentially impossible to sell on the black market?

An anonymous source told The Guardian that the heist “must be for some one specialist. There must be a collector behind it.” One source, in Smithsonian, said that “a wealthy collector known as ‘The Astronomer’ may have hired the thieves to steal the books for him.” Other texts in the collection included those by Leonardo da Vinci and a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy from 1569.

Now, British, Romanian, and Italian investigators working together have found them: they were “in a concealed space under a house in rural Romania,” the Associated Press reports. The main suspects are members of a Romanian organized crime group, and police have already arrested 13 people in connection with this heist and a string of other high-profile burglaries.

(12) RUSSIAN VACCINE DATA SUSPICIOUS SAY RESEARCHERS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Putin is rushing out a vaccine – Sputnik V – against SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-9 but it has not had mass testing, though it has had a small trial on 76 volunteers. The immune response of this small trial has been reported in The Lancet.

This rushed approval (by Russia only – as the approval does not meet international standards) has previously been criticised.  However, now, the Russian paper in The Lancet reporting the trial has also been criticised in an open letter by 40 biomedical research scientists.

The Lancet paper does not include in the on-line version the underlying data. Conversely, the Oxford University and Astra Zeneca vaccine paper previously published in The Lancet had the underlying data included.  Without it, it is impossible to check the headline data in the paper.

Further, in the headline data that was included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper in The Lancet, there were seeming repetitions. While these repetitions could be purely coincidence, they are unlikely.

The journal Nature became intrigued and their news team investigated. The Russian researchers  are standing by their paper and have not responded to Nature’s news team’s queries.  Nor has The Lancet commented why it failed to insist that the underlying data be included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper as it was for the British vaccine.

The news article in Nature is open access and can be found here: “Researchers Question Russian Covid Vaccination Trial Reults”.

(13) ANTARCTICA IS CLOSE TO THE POINT WHERE FURTHER WARMING WILL SEE A COMMITMENT TO ICE SHEET COLLAPSE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Researchers have looked at how the Antarctic has responded in the past and compared this with an ice sheet model that includes a number of feedbacks.  For example, with ice surface melt, the surface becomes less reflective and so absorbs more sunlight. So enhancing future warming. Also with surface melt, the melted ice drains away lowering the surface and low altitude surfaces are warmer.  There are other feedbacks, both positive and negative.

We have already warmed the planet by 1.25°C above pre-industrial era temperatures. The researchers have found that up to 2°C above pre-industrial  there is some stability in both the West and East Antarctic ice sheets.  However, above 2°C warming (which we are currently on track to reach before the mid-21st century) the West Antarctic ice sheet becomes committed to partial collapse. Also, above 2°C warming sea level rise from Antarctic melt almost doubles to 2.4 metres per degree of warming.  Above 6°C, melt soars to 10 metres per degree of warming up to 9°C above pre-industrial.

Worse, once each threshold level is reached, it is harder to reverse.  That is to say cooling to temperatures back to the threshold point will not reverse matters: still further cooling is required.

The paper’s abstract is here. (The full paper is behind a pay wall.)

(14) SHIP AHOY. Gizmodo effuses that “The Mandalorian’s Razor Crest Is Hasbro’s Next Magnificent Crowdfunding Toy”.

With a handful of successfully funded projects under its belt, including a towering X-Men Sentinel robot, Hasbro’s HasLab crowdfunding platform is returning to its Star Wars roots with another Vintage Collection spaceship: an incredibly detailed, 30-inch long replica of the Razor Crest from The Mandalorian. Now this is the way.

Designed to be perfectly scaled to Hasbro’s 3.75-inch action figures, the Star Wars: The Vintage Collection Razor Crest also measures in at an impressive 20-inches wide and 10.5-inches tall when perched on its functional retractable landing gear…. 

(15) OVER THE RIVER. A comedy mini-series earns raves from The Guardian: “Zomboat! A surprisingly clever and refreshingly upbeat zombie apocalypse”.

If you’re craving a zombie series that ditches the cynicism and has some good old-fashioned fun with the idea, then allow me to introduce you to Zomboat!, a short, six-episode British comedy with a silly title but a surprisingly clever premise.

The series follows sisters Kat and Jo (Leah Brotherhead and Crazyhead’s Cara Theobold) after they wake up one Sunday to find Birmingham under attack by zombies. As a gamer nerd who knows her zombie lore, Kat already has a plan for this scenario – steal a canal boat and escape to Eel Pie Island in London, because zombies can’t swim. And, as Kat puts it, “The Walking Dead would have been over in one season if Rick Grimes had gone to the Everglades.”

After stealing said canal boat, the sisters find two stowaways in the bathroom: misanthropic Sunny (Hamza Jeetooa) and his sensitive gym bro buddy Amar (Ryan McKen), who are stranded in the city after a stag weekend. Though they clash at first, the group decides to team up for survival, leading to plenty of bickering, bonding and snogs. As a result, the series avoids falling into the same style-over-substance trap that spoiled other recent zombie comedies (like Netflix’s Daybreak); instead, it benefits from the kind of found-family warmth that made Zombieland so charming.

(16) COMPOUND INTEREST. “A Student Just Proved Paradox-Free Time Travel Is Possible” – but why am I learning about this from Yahoo! Finance?

…In a new peer-reviewed paper, a senior honors undergraduate says he has mathematically proven the physical feasibility of a specific kind of time travel. The paper appears in Classical and Quantum Gravity….

The math itself is complex, but it boils down to something fairly simple. Time travel discussion focuses on closed time-like curves (CTCs), something Albert Einstein first posited. And Tobar and Costa say that as long as just two pieces of an entire scenario within a CTC are still in “causal order” when you leave, the rest is subject to local free will.

“Our results show that CTCs are not only compatible with determinism and with the local ‘free choice’ of operations, but also with a rich and diverse range of scenarios and dynamical processes,” their paper concludes….

(17) ATTENTION ELEANOR CAMERON FANS. Lehman College Multimedia Music Theater and Dance department presents Wonderful Flight To The Mushroom Planet. A musical composed by Penny Prince.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michal Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Rich Horton, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

2019 Cóyotl Awards

The Furry Writers’ Guild announced the winners of the 2019 Cóyotl Awards via Periscope on July 8. 

The awards are given for the best anthropomorphic fiction of the past year.

Best Short Story

  • “Pack” by Sparf (Patterns in Frost: Stories from New Tibet)

Best Novella

  • “Minor Mage” by T. Kingfisher

Best Novel

  • Fair Trade by Gre7g Luterman

Best Anthology

  • Patterns in Frost: Stories from New Tibet edited by Tim Susman

Congratulations to T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon) for winning Best Novella.

And kudos to Gre7g Luterman for scoring a trifecta this year by winning a Cóyotl Award, Ursa Major Award and  Leo Literary Award for his novel Fair Trade.

Pixel Scroll 2/20/20 Rotating PixelScrolls And The Possibility Of Global File Violation

(1) CON CANCELLED. MediaWest*Con 40 will not be held – the pioneering sf/media con in Lansing, MI declares it’s the “End of an Era”. The con had been scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend in May.

…Sadly, despite our best efforts to increase membership to a sustainable level, advance memberships are at an all-time low and show no sign of improving. Even with repeating the function space downsizing we instituted last year, this year it does not appear we would make the minimum number of hotel reservations needed to avoid thousands in hotel penalties. Therefore, we have no choice but to cancel MW*C 40 and notify attendees so that they can cancel their travel and hotel reservations in a timely fashion.

We hope people will understand that this is not an easy decision for us, and that it does NOT mean MediaWest*Con is dead. Rather, it gives us time to consider how MW*C may continue in some form.

Obviously, the myriad causes are nothing new — the graying of fandom, dwindling interest in fanzine culture, technology that makes face-to-face meetings seem superfluous, ever increasing travel expense and inconvenience, and SF/Media going mainstream, to name but a few. All have contributed to declining membership and participation in suggesting panel topics, Fan Q nominations, etc.. Nor are many of these issues unique to us, as other cons have suffered as well with no solution in sight.

(2) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 1632. Eric Flint posted a 20-year retrospective of 1632 and the book series it proved to be a launching point for: “Tempus Fugit”.

…I’ve lost track of how many authors have been involved in the Ring of Fire universe, and how many words have been written in the series. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 authors, and we’re now well beyond 10,000,000 words—of which at least 5,000,000 have been produced in paper as well as electronic format. To put that in perspective, that’s more than twenty times as long as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and sixteen times as long as Tolstoy’s War and Peace. And—wait for it! wait for it!—it’s now much longer than the Bible. (Which comes in at 783,137 words, in the King James edition.)

There are now at least two million copies of the 1632 series books in print. And—this is where grubby scribblers chortle with glee—the royalties earned by the authors have just gone over the $2,000,000 mark. Yay for us!

(3) FOR YOUNG WOMEN COLLECTORS. “Announcing the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize”Literary Hub is taking submissions.

Literary Hub is pleased to announce that submissions are now open for the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize, which awards $1,000 to an outstanding book collection conceived and built by a young woman, aged 30 or younger, who lives in the United States.

According to the guidelines, “the winning collection must have been started by the contestant, and all items in the collection must be owned by her. A collection may include books, manuscripts, and ephemera; it may be organized by theme, author, illustrator, publisher, printing technique, binding style, or another clearly articulated principle. The winning collection will be more than a reading list of favorite texts: it will be a coherent group of printed or manuscript items, creatively put together. Collections will not be judged on their size or their market value, but on their originality and their success in illuminating their chosen subjects.”

…The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2020. You can see the full requirements and apply here. The winner will be announced in September. The prize is sponsored this year by BiblioSwann Galleries, and Ellen A. Michelson.

(4) NEBULA ANALYSIS. Cora Buhlert delivers “Some Comments on the 2019 Nebula Award Finalists”.

Best novelette:

Again, we have a strong ballot in this category. G.V. Anderson is certainly one of the best short fiction writers to have emerged in recent years. Her novelette “A Strange Uncertain Light” is also the only Nebula finalist to have originated in the print magazines. “For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll is a lovely little story and I’m happy that it made the ballot. Sarah Pinsker and Caroline M. Yoachim are both excellent writers of short fiction, though I haven’t read these particular stories. I also must have missed “His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light” by Mimi Mondal, even though I usually read the Tor.com stories. However, I have enjoyed other stories by Mimi Mondal that I read. Finally, I’m very happy to see Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo on the Nebula ballot and not just because we featured it at the Speculative Fiction Showcase last year. This is the first Nebula finalist we’ve featured at the Speculative Fiction Showcase, by the way, though we have featured finalists and even winners of the Bram Stoker and Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

Diversity count: Six women, two international writers, two writers of colour

(5) SEE THE FRONT OF A BOOK YOU’LL WANT TO READ. Tor.com has done a cover reveal for The Hollow Places, Oor Wombat’s follow-up to The Twisted Ones: “Check Out the Cover for The Hollow Places, T. Kingfisher’s Folk Horror Follow-up to The Twisted Ones.

(6) SHRINKING FANDOM. And I don’t mean it’s getting smaller: Gavin Miller opines at The Conversation: “Fan of sci-fi? Psychologists have you in their sights”.

Science fiction has struggled to achieve the same credibility as highbrow literature. In 2019, the celebrated author Ian McEwan dismissed science fiction as the stuff of “anti-gravity boots” rather than “human dilemmas”. According to McEwan, his own book about intelligent robots, Machines Like Me, provided the latter by examining the ethics of artificial life – as if this were not a staple of science fiction from Isaac Asimov’s robot stories of the 1940s and 1950s to TV series such as Humans (2015-2018).

Psychology has often supported this dismissal of the genre. The most recent psychological accusation against science fiction is the “great fantasy migration hypothesis”. This supposes that the real world of unemployment and debt is too disappointing for a generation of entitled narcissists. They consequently migrate to a land of make-believe where they can live out their grandiose fantasies.

The authors of a 2015 study stress that, while they have found evidence to confirm this hypothesis, such psychological profiling of “geeks” is not intended to be stigmatizing. Fantasy migration is “adaptive” – dressing up as Princess Leia or Darth Vader makes science fiction fans happy and keeps them out of trouble.

But, while psychology may not exactly diagnose fans as mentally ill, the insinuation remains – science fiction evades, rather than confronts, disappointment with the real world….

(7) TRACING A SUBGENRE WITH AN ASSIST FROM SFF. In “The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs” at CrimeReads, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who is about to publish her first crime novel, cites Joanna Russ and Terry Carr as she explains how the Gothic romance evolved into today’s domestic noir novel.

Whatever happened to that girl? You know the one I mean: long hair, old-fashioned dress, with a dark, looming house in the distance and a look of anxiety on her face. She’s most often running from said dark house.

The girl from the Gothic novels.

I’m talking about the mid-20th century Gothic novels, not the original crop of Gothic books, like The Castle of Otranto or The Mysteries of Udolpho. No, it’s that second wave of Gothics—termed Gothic romances—that were released in the 1960s in paperback form that I’m referring to. This was a category dominated by authors such as Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, and their covers fixed in the minds of a couple of generations what ‘Gothic’ meant….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1955 Tarantula premiered. It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold. It stars John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold, which was in turn was based on by Fresco’s script for the Science Fiction Theatre “No Food for Thought” episode  which was also directed by Arnold.  It was a box office success earning more than a million dollars in its first month of release. Critics at the time liked it and even current audiences at Rotten Tomatoes gives at a sterling 92% rating. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 20, 1906 Theodore Roscoe. A mere tasting of his pulp stories, The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh, which are sort of based of a member of the French Foreign Legion, and was published by Donald M. Grant. The complete stories, The Complete Adventures of Thibaut Corday and the Foreign Legion, are available digitally in four volumes on Kindle. The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh only contains four of these stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 20, 1912 Pierre Boulle. Best known for just two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes. The latter was La planète des singes in French, translated in 1964 as Monkey Planet by Xan Fielding, and later re-issued under the name we know. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty-five years later Images was a full blown horror film. And, of course, Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard  Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana  Paxson, 77. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material.
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 66. Perhaps best known as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Opera as Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Born February 20, 1964 Rodney Rowland, 56. His best remembered roles to date are 1st Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes in Space: Above and Beyond and P. Wiley in The 6th Day. He’s also Corey Mahoney in Soulkeeper, a Sci Fi Pictures film that frankly sounds horrid. He’s got one-offs in X-Files, Welcome to Paradox, Dark Angel, Seven Days, Angel, Charmed and Twin Peaks.
  • Born February 20, 1967 Lili Taylor, 53. Her most recent role was as Captain Sandra Maldonado in the short lived Almost Human series, with her first genre role being in The Haunting off Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

(11) ARE WE STILL ALLOWED TO LAUGH? Art Spiegelman reviews SCREWBALL!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny by Paul C. Tumey, and a museum exhibition of Rube Goldberg’s art, in  “Foolish Questions” at the New York Review of Books.

…Now that comics have put on long pants and started to strut around with the grownups by calling themselves graphic novels, it’s important to remember that comics have their roots in subversive joy and nonsense. For the first time in the history of the form, comics are beginning to have a history. Attractively designed collections of Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, Thimble Theater, Barnaby, Pogo, Peanuts, and so many more—all with intelligent historical appreciations—are finding their way into libraries.

Paul Tumey, the comics historian who co-edited The Art of Rube Goldberg book seven years ago, has recently put together a fascinating and eccentric addition to the expanding shelves of comics history.3 The future of comics is in the past, and Tumey does a heroic job of casting a fresh light on the hidden corners of that past in Screwball!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny. It’s a lavish picture book with over six hundred comics, drawings, and photos, many of which haven’t been seen since their twenty-four-hour life-spans in newspapers around a century ago. The book is a collection of well-researched short biographies of fifteen artists from the first half of the twentieth century, accompanied by generous helpings of their idiosyncratic cartoons. Goldberg—whose name schoolchildren learn when their STEM studies bump into chain reactions—is the perfect front man to beckon you toward the other less celebrated newspaper cartoonists who worked in the screwball vein that Tumey explores.

(12) TICKLE-ME YODA? CBR.com scopes out the product: “The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda Comes to Life in Actual-Size Animatronic Toy”. (And, good lord, the photo at Lyle Movie Files shows a version that comes complete with Baby Yoda’s lunchpail – and a frog! Can that be legit?)

The Force is strong with Hasbro’s new animatronic Baby Yoda toy.

The actual-sized figure of The Mandalorian‘s The Child comes to life with animatronic motions and sounds taken directly from the hit Disney+ series. Arriving in Fall 2020, this lifelike recreation of The Asset will retail for $59.99 and is intended for ages four and up. He also comes with the Mandalorian’s pendant, as given to him by his mentor Din Djarin.

(13) NEEDED IN DC? BBC reports “Human brain seized in mail truck on US-Canada border”.

US customs officers made an unusual discovery when they carried out a spot check on a Canadian mail truck – a human brain inside a jar.

The brain was found at the Blue Water Bridge crossing, between Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, on 14 February, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said.

It was inside a shipment labelled “Antique Teaching Specimen”.

The shipment originated in Toronto and was destined for Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“Upon opening the shipment, CBP officers found the package to contain a human brain specimen inside of a clear glass mason jar without any paperwork or documentation in support of its lawful entry into the United States,” the agency said in a statement.

(14) CLIFFHANGERS. This week’s Nature includes a review of some key end-of-society books of recent years. “Panicking about societal collapse? Plunder the bookshelves”.

In case you missed it, the end is nigh. Ever since Jared Diamond published his hugely popular 2005 work Collapse, books on the same theme have been arriving with the frequency of palace coups in the late Roman Empire. Clearly, their authors are responding to a universal preoccupation with climate change, as well as to growing financial and political instability and a sense that civilization is lurching towards a cliff edge. Mention is also made of how big-data tools are shedding new light on historical questions. But do these books have anything useful to share?

The upside of societal collapse is that while it may be the end of the world for them, it can help with innovation and renewal, if not there then elsewhere.  Also, even if the end of the world cannot be prevented, learning from past societal collapses may help us soften the blow. 

(15) BE A SCIENCE REPORTER. Andrew Porter advises “Print it out, put it in your wallet! (Put your own name over the one that’s there.)” Was this what he used to get in and cover events for SF Chronicle?

(16) NOT TOYS. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] Not quite the scale of the rocket built at LoneStarCon 3, but more practical: “Woman solves wheelchair access problem – with Lego” – video.

Rita Ebel, 62, has come up with a novel way of helping wheelchair users like herself enjoy their shopping experiences in the western German town of Hanau.

Rita, who has been using a wheelchair since a serious car accident 25 years ago, has been building ramps from Lego and distributing them around town.

(17) SCIENTISTS GRASP THE OBVIOUS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Horror films make you scared.  It’s official. Shock, horror, drama, probe!!!! Psychologists in Finland used functional magnetic resonance imaging on 37 subjects watching horror films to see their ‘hemodynamic brain activity’, which is a psychologist’s poncy way of what we biologists call ‘blood flow’. (Why use two words when you can use three longer ones).  Different parts of the brain were stimulated when another group was shown non-horror films.  Or in the psychologists’ words: “[Their] main finding was that acute fear elicited consistent activity in a distributed set of cortical, limbic, and cerebellar regions, most notably the prefrontal cortex, paracentral lobule, amygdala, cingulate cortex, insula, PAG, parrahippocampus, and thalamus.”

Their work is published in the journal Neurolmage: “Dissociable neural systems for unconditioned acute and sustained fear”

…Here we studied the brain basis of sustained and acute fear using naturalistic functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) enabling analysis of different time-scales of fear responses. Subjects (N ?= ?37) watched feature-length horror movies while their hemodynamic brain activity was measured with fMRI….

(18) JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR, PART N: “It’s ‘game over’ for Sony at PAX East 2020” — note, the Boston Globe story may be paywalled.

…Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony said Wednesday that it will not participate in next week’s PAX East gaming exposition at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Sony announced its decision in a post on its PlayStation blog:

“Today, Sony Interactive Entertainment made the decision to cancel its participation at PAX East in Boston this year due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as “novel coronavirus”). We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily. We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.”

In response, PAX East organizers vowed that the show would go on, but with extra precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are working closely with the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and following local, state, and federal public health guidelines,” the organizers said on the PAX website. “While we are saddened that Sony will no longer have a presence at PAX East 2020, we look forward to welcoming our friends at Sony to future PAX events and are focused on making PAX East 2020 a successful and enjoyable event for all attendees and exhibitors.”

(19) FAKE VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Verge quivers and quails as “This disturbingly realistic deepfake puts Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in a Star Trek episode”.

A new deepfake puts Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in the pilot episode of the original Star Trek, “The Cage” — and I kind of love it. In this particular AI-powered face swap, Bezos plays a Talosian alien with a huge bald head, while Musk plays Captain Christopher Pike (who is the captain of the USS Enterprise before James T. Kirk).

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Nina Shepardson, Karl-Johan Norén, Bill Wagner, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 12/10/19 Mean Old Pixels, Taught Me To Weep And Scroll

(1) BUILDING WITH STEEL. Juliette Wade brings “Paul Krueger and Steel Crow Saga” to Dive into Worldbuilding. Read the synopsis watch the video, or do both!

We had a great time talking with guest author Paul Krueger about his novel, Steel Crow Saga. Paul describes it as a love letter to Pokémon, and also as what would happen if Pokémon and Full Metal Alchemist had an anti-colonialist baby. He said he went way out on a limb with the book, using a different world with situations in it that are not average, and that it meant he had to draw on a lot more personal things in order to make it real and relatable.

… Paul told us that what really brought the book together was when he realized he was interested in the idea of forgiveness. Can you do the unforgiveable? Can you then forgive yourself afterwards? Returning to these questions kept him going.

He also said he believes in the forensic principle that all things that come in contact with each other leave traces behind. He applies this to characters. Watch what happens when two pairs of characters come in close proximity to each other. What happens if they switch “dance partners” for a while?

… I asked Paul about something he’d said online about fan art. Paul told us that his first book, Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, didn’t have any fan art. When he whined about it, he was told he’d only vaguely described the characters. In Steel Crow Saga, therefore, he made sure that each character had colors and symbols, their own animal, and distinct physical traits. Paul said, “I went really overboard with visual cues.” The good news is, he’s gotten lots of fan art this time! Paul says being friends with artists has made him a better writer. He listed Victoria Schwab and Erin Morganstern as writers with great visuals.

(2) SOUND OF SKYWALKER. Disney has created an entire ”for your consideration” website to recommend six films for awards – all of which happen to be genre-related.

As part of it, they have publicly shared 23 tracks of John Williams’ score for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

(3) LOCKED AND LOADED. There’s a vein of alternate history stories that dates back even farther than I was aware. Library of America’s story of the week, “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” by James Thurber, is part of it —

At the end of 1930 Scribner’s Magazine began publishing what would prove to be a short-lived series of “alternative history” pieces. The first installment, in the November issue, was “If Booth Had Missed Lincoln.” This was followed by a contribution from none other than Winston Churchill, who turned the concept on its head. It was bafflingly titled “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg”—but, as we all know, Lee didn’t win the Battle of Gettysburg. Instead, Churchill’s essay purported to be written by a historian in a world in which Lee had won not only the battle but also the entire war. This fictional historian, in turn, speculates what might have happened if Lee had not won the battle. This type of dizzying zaniness brought out the parodist in Thurber, who published “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” in The New Yorker in December. The next month Scribner’s published a third essay (“If Napoleon Had Escaped to America”) before bring the series to an end. All three pieces were soon forgotten, but Thurber’s parody became one of his most famous and beloved works.

The story can be read free at the link,

 (4) FATE OF FAN NEWS SITE TO BE DETERMINED. The editor of EUROPA SF (The Pan-European Speculative Fiction Portal) went on Facebook today intending to announce that it is “TIME TO SAY GOODBYE!”

Dear friends, after 7 years dedicated to the European Speculative Fiction, it’s time to say goodbye.

www.scifiportal.eu) will close on the 20th of December 2019.

If someone is interested to take over the portal and the domain’s name, kindly let us know. Thank you all of you !

Ukranian fan Borys Sydiuk immediately raised his hand – so perhaps the site will be kept online after all. Stay tuned.

(5) LAST CHANCE. Tim Szczesuil of the NESFA Press says they’re about to run out of two titles by popular sff writers:

This is an informative notice that we are getting low on The Halycon Fairy Book by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon). At the rate it’s selling I expect to be out by the end of the month. If you’ve delayed getting a copy, this may be your last chance, since there are no plans to reprint.

On a similar note, we’re also getting low on Velveteen vs the Junior Super Patriots by Seanan McGuire. In this case, we do not have the rights to reprint, and Seanan is not disposed to grant anyone these rights. So, when they’re gone, that’s it.

You can order here.

(6) NO SPEAK WITHOUT NEWSPEAK. K.W. Colyard’s post “Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka and the Use of Language in Dystopian Science Fiction” for Tor.com shows the application of a linguistic claim to the field of science fiction.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is the most prominent example of this, by far, but the strict, legal regulation of language pops up in various science fiction novels and stories that follow Orwell’s. Inhabitants of Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Green-sky have no means of expressing the negative emotions they feel, and are treated as social pariahs for being “unjoyful.” Ascians in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun do not understand any sentence constructions that do not appear in their government-issued manuals on “Correct Thought.” Lois Lowry’s The Giver portrays a society whose emotional range has been stunted by its insistence on “precise speech.”

First published in Sweden in 2012, Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka offers up a new, much more material take on language restriction—a world in which every object, from a chair to a pot of face cream, must be verbally told what it is and visibly labeled as such….

(7) IT NEVER ENDS. Paste Magazine came up with another list — “The 25 Best TV Episodes of 2019” – but this one has a solid genre showing. In the order Paste ranked them, here they are from lowest to highest.

  • “Adriadne,” Russian Doll
  • “Hard Times,” Good Omens
  • “Episode 4,” Years and Years
  • “Séance & Sensibility” Legends of Tomorrow
  • “Twin Cities,” Counterpart
  • “Pandemonium,” The Good Place
  • “The Trial,” What We Do in the Shadows
  • “Time to Make … My Move,” The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
  • “Vichnaya Pamyat,” Chernobyl

20. “Hard Times,” Good Omens

Good Omens is a series that tackles more than its fair share of deep philosophical issues, telling a story about hope, love and faith in one another during the literal end of the world. But despite the somewhat pressing nature of the impending Apocalypse, Good Omens spends most of its third episode exploring the complicated pair at the heart of story: prissy angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and snarky demon Crowley (David Tennant).

…Not bad for a sequence that, technically shouldn’t exist. None of these flashbacks appear in the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett novel on which the show is based and were specially written for the Amazon series. God—or Gaiman himself in this case— does indeed work in mysterious ways. —Lacy Baugher

(8) SQUIRRELED AWAY? Jason Kottke figured out why he didn’t immediately burn through the entire catalog of works by writers he loves: “My Strategic Book Reserve – Banking Unread Books from Favorite Authors”.

… Part of it is that I’m a restless and then forgetful reader. Even after finishing an amazing book, I often want to switch gears to something different and then I fail to return to something else by the amazing book’s author. But mainly I do this on purpose. I like the feeling of looking forward to a sure thing, the comfort of a story I haven’t heard but I know will be good.

(9) BREAKFAST WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. Melinda Snodgrass posted a photo on Facebook of the Death Star toaster she got for her birthday in November. It’s supposed to brand little Tie fighters on the bread.

(10) THE WITCHER CHARACTER INTRODUCTIONS. You can’t outrun destiny just because you’re terrified of it. The Witcher arrives December 20.

  • Henry Cavill is Geralt of Rivia.
  • Freya Allan is Princess Cirilla.
  • Anya Chalotra is Yennefer of Vengerberg.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 10, 1815 Ada Lovelace. Lovelace was the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron and his wife Lady Byron. She was an English mathematician and writer, principally known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Genre usage includes Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine, Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers and Crowley’s Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land. (Died 1852.)
  • Born December 10, 1824 George MacDonald. His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors Including Tolkien and Lewis, Gaiman and L’Engle, Beagle and Twain to name but a few. I’d single out. The Princess and The Goblin and Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women as particularly fine reading. (Died 1905.)
  • Born December 10, 1918 Anne Gwynne. One of the first scream queens because of her numerous appearances in horror films such as The Strange Case of Doctor Rx, Weird Women (with Lou Chaney) and The House of Frankenstein (Chaney and Karloff).  And she also was one of the most popular pin-ups of World War II. She’s Chris Pine’s grandmother. (Died 2003.) Photo is from a set of twenty four trading cards. 
  • Born December 10, 1927 Anthony Coburn. Australian writer and producer who spent most of his career living and working in the U.K.  He was closely involved in the earliest days of Who to the extent that it’s believed it was his idea for the Doctor’s travelling companion, Susan, to be The Doctor’s granddaughter.  He wrote four scripts for the show, of which only An Unearthly Child was used. (Died 1977.)
  • Born December 10, 1928 John Colicos. You’ll recognize him as being the first Klingon ever seen on classic Trek, Commander Kor in “Errand of Mercy” episode. (He’d reprise that role as the 140-year-old Kor in three episodes of Deep Space Nine.) He’ll next show up as Count Baltar in the original Battlestar Galactica continuity throughout the series and film. He’ll even show up as the governor of Umakran in the Starlost episode “The Goddess Calabra”. (Died 2000.)
  • Born December 10, 1933 Mako. It’s sounds weird but I mostly remember him in Robocop 3 as Kanemitsu and in a role on the Lovejoy series that only lasted two episodes. He’s had one-offs on I-Spy, I Dream of Jeannie, Green Hornet, Time Tunnel, Fantasy Island and quite a bit more. Among his genre film appearances, I think I’ll just single out Conan the Destroyer in which he plays Akiro the Wizard. (Died 2006.)
  • Born December 10, 1946 Douglas Kenney. He co-founded National Lampoon in 1970 along with Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman. With Beard alone in 1969, he wrote Bored of the Rings. (Died 1980.)
  • Born December 10, 1960 Kenneth Branagh, 59. Oh, Branagh, I feel obligated to start with your worst film, Wild Wild West, which, well, had you no shame? Fortunately, there’s much better genre work from you as an actor including as Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As a Director, I’m only seeing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Thor — Anyone know of anything else genre related? Is Hercule Poirot genre adjacent?
  • Born December 10, 1984 Helen Oyeyemi, 35. I like it when a Birthday results in my adding to my audiobook listening list. She’s resident in Prague now and her take on European folktales that surround her there is particularly sharp in her latest, Mr. Fox, off of that well known tale. And White is for Witching has all the makings of a damn fine haunted house story.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest indirectly prove the benefits of being young – because with luck you may not be old enough to remember the commercial that sets up this pun.

(13) CONNIE WILLIS AT CHRISTMAS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] For a few years, I’ve been invited onto a podcast to speak about Christmas movies. This year, I took the opportunity to talk about how great Connie Willis is by suggesting the (*very bad*) Christmas movie Snow Wonder which was based on Willis’ (*very good*) novella Just Like The Ones We Used To Know. Even though the movie’s a relatively faithful adaptation, it’s shocking how much life they manage to drain from Willis’ work. The Movie Jerks — Episode 372 – Olav Rokne, The Christmas Prince Royal Baby and Snow Wonder

Olav Rokne is back to talk about for his yearly Christmas film review. This time we may have broke our guest, as we discuss the television film “Snow Wonder” and the third installment in the “Christmas Prince” series. 

(14) VARIABLE PRICING TEST. The Hollywood Reporter’s article “‘Playmobil’: Anatomy of an Epic Box Office Bomb” is more of an autopsy than an anatomy.

Not even $5 tickets could save STXfilms’ animated pic, which is being called the biggest test to date of variable pricing by U.S. movie theaters.

… STXfilms is hardly alone in urging exhibitors to consider variable pricing as a means of supporting titles that aren’t major event pics.

However, box office analysts say Playmobil isn’t an accurate barometer, noting that only a minimal $3 million was spent on marketing the movie, far from enough to ignite widespread awareness.

(15) DNA CHAOS. It’s in the New York Times, but it’s not “Dear Abby” — “When a DNA Test Says You’re a Younger Man, Who Lives 5,000 Miles Away”.

Three months after his bone marrow transplant, Chris Long of Reno, Nev., learned that the DNA in his blood had changed. It had all been replaced by the DNA of his donor, a German man he had exchanged just a handful of messages with.

He’d been encouraged to test his blood by a colleague at the Sheriff’s Office, where he worked. She had an inkling this might happen. It’s the goal of the procedure, after all: Weak blood is replaced by healthy blood, and with it, the DNA it contains.

…The implications of Mr. Long’s case, which was presented at an international forensic science conference in September, have now captured the interest of DNA analysts far beyond Nevada.

The average doctor does not need to know where a donor’s DNA will present itself within a patient. That’s because this type of chimerism is not likely to be harmful. Nor should it change a person. “Their brain and their personality should remain the same,” said Andrew Rezvani, the medical director of the inpatient Blood & Marrow Transplant Unit at Stanford University Medical Center.

He added that patients also sometimes ask him what it means for a man to have a woman’s chromosomes in their bloodstream or vice versa. “It doesn’t matter,” he said….

But for a forensic scientist, it’s a different story. The assumption among criminal investigators as they gather DNA evidence from a crime scene is that each victim and each perpetrator leaves behind a single identifying code — not two, including that of a fellow who is 10 years younger and lives thousands of miles away. And so Renee Romero, who ran the crime lab at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, saw an opportunity when her friend and colleague told her that his doctor had found a suitable match on a donor website and he would be undergoing a bone marrow transplant.

(16) COLLECTING BUSINESS. One thing’s for sure – I don’t own any of these valuable editions: “Signed Harry Potter book bought for 1p ‘could fetch thousands'”.

A collector with more than 1,000 Harry Potter books is hoping to fetch thousands of pounds by auctioning off some of his rarest items.

Mark Cavoto began trading books from the series after noticing how well they sold on online auction site eBay.

Among the books being sold by Mr Cavoto is a first edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets signed by author JK Rowling, bought for 1p plus postage.

The auction takes place at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire on Thursday.

The signed book is expected to fetch from £1,800 to £2,500, with other first editions expected to collect hundreds of pounds each.

Mr Cavoto, 51, from Buxton in Derbyshire, said he saw a “business opportunity” when he sold some of his daughter’s old Harry Potter books on eBay.

“I checked the ISBN numbers and sourced the same three books second-hand on Amazon, bought them for a penny each plus postage and sold them in minutes for £9.99 each on eBay,” he said.

Mr Cavoto began buying books from the series “for next to nothing at charity shops and online”, which led him to discovering signed copies and first editions.

(17) BOOK BURNING. According to Quartz, “A Chinese library’s book-burning orgy echoes dark chapters in the country’s history”.  

In a photo that circulated on Chinese social media on the weekend, workers at a library located in Zhenyuan county in north-central Gansu province were shown burning books in an act the library described (link in Chinese) as a “quick and comprehensive” filtering and destruction of “illegal” publications, including books related to religion. The library said it wanted to enhance its function as a major propaganda tool in terms of promoting mainstream Chinese values. The post, which was originally published on Oct. 22, has since been deleted.

In total, the library destroyed 65 books under the supervision of officials from the Zhenyuan culture affairs bureau, according to the post. Zhenyuan’s propaganda department told a local Chinese publication (link in Chinese) that it was looking into the incident.

Under Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s tightening grip on the freedom of speech, religion, and ideas, authorities have been conducting a large scale clean-up of books in libraries in elementary and middle schools since October, according to a notice (link in Chinese) published by the Ministry of Education. The ministry ordered schools to remove books deemed “illegal” or “inappropriate,” including those that are “against the ideologies of the party,” “describe the party, the nation, or the military’s history in a mocking way,” or “promote religious doctrine, theory, and rules.”

The episode stirred an unusual backlash on Chinese social media, with many saying that it reminded them of the country’s painful history of repressing intellectuals and academic freedom. Many cited the example of the tyrannical emperor Qin Shihuang, who unified China more than 2,000 years ago and directed the “burning the books and burying the scholars” …movement which led to some 460 Confucian scholars being buried alive for their opposition against imperial policies.

(18) WOUND. “Seafloor scar of Bikini A-bomb test still visible”.

The date was 25 July 1946. The location – Bikini Atoll. The event – only the fifth A-bomb explosion and the first-ever detonation under water.

The pictures we’ve all seen: A giant mushroom cloud climbing out of the Pacific, sweeping up ships that had been deliberately left in harm’s way to see what nuclear war was capable of.

Now, 73 years later, scientists have been back to map the seafloor.

A crater is still present; so too the twisted remains of all those vessels.

“Bikini was chosen because of its idyllic remoteness and its large, easily accessible lagoon,” explains survey team-leader Art Trembanis from the University of Delaware.

“At the time, [the famous American comedian] Bob Hope quipped, ‘as soon as the war ended, we found the one spot on Earth that had been untouched by the war and blew it to hell’.”

(19) FAMILY AFFAIR. “Grandmother killer whales boost survival of calves” – BBC has the story.

Grandmother killer whales boost the survival rates of their grandchildren, a new study has said.

The survival rates were even higher if the grandmother had already gone through the menopause.

The findings shed valuable light on the mystery of the menopause, or why females of some species live long after they lose the ability to reproduce.

Only five known animals experience it: killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, belugas, narwhals and humans.

With humans, there is some evidence that human grandmothers aid in the survival of their children and grandchildren, a hypothesis called the “grandmother effect”.

These findings suggest the same effect occurs in orcas.

(20) THE LONG AND WINDING FILM. The Criterion Collection has available Wim Wenders’ director’s cut of Until the End of the World, the 1991 French-German science fiction drama film.

Conceived as the ultimate road movie, this decades-in-the-making science-fiction epic from Wim Wenders follows the restless Claire Tourneur (Solveig Dommartin) across continents as she pursues a mysterious stranger (William Hurt) in possession of a device that can make the blind see and bring dream images to waking life. With an eclectic soundtrack that gathers a host of the director’s favorite musicians, along with gorgeous cinematography by Robby Müller, this breathless adventure in the shadow of Armageddon takes its heroes to the ends of the earth and into the oneiric depths of their own souls. Presented here in its triumphant 287-minute director’s cut, Until the End of the World assumes its rightful place as Wenders’ magnum opus, a cosmic ode to the pleasures and perils of the image and a prescient meditation on cinema’s digital future.

(21) FREE DOWNLOAD. “New NASA eBook Reveals Insights of Earth Seen at Night from Space”.

Earth has many stories to tell, even in the dark of night. Earth at Night, NASA’s new 200-page ebook, is now available online and includes more than 150 images of our planet in darkness as captured from space by Earth-observing satellites and astronauts on the International Space Station over the past 25 years.

The images reveal how human activity and natural phenomena light up the darkness around the world, depicting the intricate structure of cities, wildfires and volcanoes raging, auroras dancing across the polar skies, moonlight reflecting off snow and deserts, and other dramatic earthly scenes.

…In addition to the images, the book tells how scientists use these observations to study our changing planet and aid decision makers in such areas as sustainable energy use and disaster response.

  • Kindle readers: MOBI [42 MB]
  • All other eBook readers: EPUB [45 MB]
  • PDF readers: PDF [39 MB]

(22) FORMATION FLYING. Amazon is going all-out to advertise The Expanse Season 4.

The Expanse drone space opera lit up the sky at the 2019 Intersect Festival in Las Vegas.

There’s also a 6-minute version shot at ground level here.

(23) DIY AT HOME. Jimmy Kimmel Live showed everyone the way to “Make Your Own Baby Yoda.” (He’s kidding, okay? Just kidding!!)

Baby Yoda is a very cute and popular character from “The Mandalorian,” but according to Disney, which owns Star Wars, Baby Yoda toys will not be available for Christmas. However, if you want a Baby Yoda for your kid or your adult nerd help is on the way. Guillermo demonstrates a simple way for anyone to make their own little Yoda at home.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, N., Bill, Juliette Wade, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 3/7/19 By Thy Long Grey Pixel And Glittering Scroll

(1) ANOTHER ESCAPEE FROM LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS. Haffner Press will release as a chapbook Manly Wade Wellman’s unpublished story “Not All a Dream,” originally commissioned for Harlan Ellison’s never released anthology The Last Dangerous Visions,

“Not All a Dream” opens with poet/politician Lord Byron (1788-1824) musing over the status of his literary canon in years to come. Admiring the lasting legacy of John Milton, Byron accepts an offer to learn the truce place of his works in centuries hence—a nightmare vision gained by traveling into a dangerous future . . .

How can you get a copy of this story? By preordering Haffner Press’ two-volume omnibus of Manly Wade Wellman’s The Complete John the Balladeer between now and its release on October 31, 2019 at the World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles. Those who do will receive the exclusive 32-page chapbook of “Not All a Dream” at no additional charge. See details here.

(2) WAR GOATS? Ursula Vernon, writing as T. Kingfisher, has a four book deal with Tor.

(3) BIOPIC. A second trailer for Tolkien is out. The movie arrives in theaters May 10.

TOLKIEN explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school. This takes him into the outbreak of World War I, which threatens to tear the “fellowship” apart. All of these experiences would inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-Earth novels.

(4) CARDS REQUESTED. Martin Morse Wooster writes, “Long-time fan Ellen Vartanoff is receiving hospice care at home and would welcome humorous cards.  Her address is 4418 Renn Street, Rockville, Maryland 20853.”

(5) ZENO’S THEOREM. Sometimes the arrow doesn’t go all the way — “‘Arrow’ to End With Abbreviated Season 8 on The CW”.

Arrow, the first of the network’s current roster of DC Comics dramas, will end with its previously announced eighth season. The final season of the Stephen Amell-led drama from executive producer Greg Berlanti and Warner Bros. TV will consist of a reduced order of 10 episodes and air in the fall. The final season will air during the 2019-2020 broadcast calendar.

The decision to wrap the series arrives as CW president Mark Pedowitz was open about needing to make way for a possible second phase of DC Comics-inspired series on the network. “Things will age and we want to get the next generation of shows to keep The CW DC universe going for as long as possible,” the executive told reporters in January at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.

What Culture thinks they know the reason why:

(6) REASONS TO VOTE. Find out what Abigail Nussbaum is putting on her Hugo ballot in the media categories. Not just a list, but a substantial discussion about each choice. For example, under Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:

Sorry to Bother You (review) – The most original, boundary-pushing SF film of 2018 by far, not only because of its gonzo third act twist, but because of its focus on matters like labor rights and organization.  One of the things I’ve noticed in writing A Political History of the Future is that we’re seeing more and more SF addressing the future of work, from the issue of automation to the question of how labor organizing might work in space.  Sorry to Bother You fits perfectly in that tradition, as a movie in which unionizing is an important, necessary step towards building a better world.  As important as it is for the Hugos to recognize works like Black Panther, I think it’s equally vital for them to acknowledge Sorry to Bother You as a major work of science fiction film.

(7) LA FESTIVAL OF BOOKS. Hundreds of authors will participate in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books from April 13-14 on the University of Southern California campus. Here are some of the names that jumped out at me from the announcement —

(8) PORK CHOP. “Cern cuts ties with ‘sexist’ scientist Alessandro Strumia” – BBC has the story.

The European particle physics research centre Cern has cut ties with the scientist who said that women were less able at physics than men.

Cern has decided not to extend Professor Alessandro Strumia’s status of guest professor.

The decision follows an investigation into comments, first reported by BBC News, made by Prof Strumia at a Cern workshop on gender equality.

(9) ALIEN AT 40. Martin Morse Wooster, our designated reader of the Financial Times, reports from behind the paywall:

In the February 25 Financial Times Nigel Andrews, the newspaper’s film critic, has a piece on the 40th anniversary of Alien.  Andrews, collaborating with Harlan Kennedy, reported on the production of the film for American Film magazine and reprints what people involved in the film told him about the production in 1978,

Ridley Scott in 1978 said, “The story is Conradian, in the sense that you can compare the situation in Nostromo (the novel) with the situation of any group of human beings trapped in an enclosed world.  The way the same environment and events affect different people.  As for the horror, the reason I got interested in the script was that it was so simple, so linear.  It took me 40 minutes to read it.  I usually take about four days, but here it was just bang, whoomph, straight through.”

H.R. Giger in 1978 said, “They asked me to design something which could not have been made by human beings.  I tried to build it up with organic-looking parts–tubes, pipes, bones.  Everything I created in the film used the idea of bones.  I mixed up technical and organic things.  I made the alien landscape with real bones and put it together with Plasticine, pipes, and little pieces of motor.”

(10) BATMAN AT 80. The Hollywood Reporter shares “Batman 80th Anniversary Plans Unveiled by DC and Warner Bros.”

With Bruce Wayne’s alter ego celebrating his 80th year of crime-fighting this month, Warner Bros. and DC have unveiled a slate of celebratory events and publications for the Bat-versary, including live events, convention plans and the publication of the landmark 1000th issue of Detective Comics.

The celebration of Batman’s 80th, which will be marked online with the hashtag #LongLiveTheBat, will launch at SXSW in Austin, Texas, with the release of new exclusive merchandise, photo opportunities and the unveiling of a mural by a local artist. The festival will also feature a special event on March 15, when more than 1.5 million bats will fly over the city’s Congress Bridge.

Immediately following, DC will release two special anniversary comic books: the hardcover Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman — The Deluxe Edition on March 19, and the extra-length Detective Comics No. 1000, on March 27. Three days after the latter, Anaheim’s WonderCon will play host to a “Happy Birthday, Batman!” panel….

(11) THERE’S NO I IN COSPLAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] No matter how many times the story uses the “i” word, these cosplayers are not really achieving the impossible… but they do achieve a very high difficulty factor (ScreenRant.com: “18 Impossible Star Trek Cosplays That Fans Somehow Pulled Off”). There seem to be several criteria in ranking the selections, you can judge for yourself if they’re in the “proper” order.

Star Trek has been a massive cultural institution since the first episode aired back in the late-1960s. Since that time, the series expanded beyond the Original Series into an animated continuation, multiple spinoff series, prequels, comics, graphic novels, books, and more than a dozen movies. Ever since the series first began, people were quick to create costumes honoring their favorite characters. In the beginning, the costumes weren’t incredibly elaborate due to the limited budget on the series, but as things progressed with Star Trek: The Next Generation and additional feature films, the aliens got more impressive and difficult to emulate. While there are thousands of cosplayers and fans who have thrown on a Starfleet uniform or two over the years, it takes a lot of work and time to manage a cosplay of some of the more detailed and impressive aliens.

Cosplayers who put in the time, money, and creativity to emulate their favorite characters deserve recognition for their efforts. To honor their work, we thought it would be fun to dig around the Internet and find some of our favorite cosplayers’ creations devoted to all things Star Trek. You won’t find a simple recreation of Captain Kirk on this list, but those costumes that pay homage to specific moments in Trek history or manage an approximation of an alien that requires a great deal of makeup and prosthetics will likely have made the cut. Here are our all-time favorite Star Trek cosplayers and their various creations in this list of [18] impossible Star Trek cosplays that fans somehow pulled off

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 7, 1934 Gray Morrow. He was an illustrator of comics and paperback books. He is co-creator of the Marvel Comics’s Man-Thing with writers Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, and co-creator of DC Comics’ El Diablo with writer Robert Kanigher. If you can find a copy, The Illustrated Roger Zelazny he did in collaboration with Zelazny is most excellent. ISFDB notes that he and James Lawrence did a novel called Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.  No idea if it was tied into the series which came out the next year. (Died 2001.)
  • Born March 7, 1942 Paul Preuss, 77. I know I’ve read all of the Venus Prime series written by him off the Clarke stories. I am fairly sure I read all of them when I was in Sri Lanka where they were popular.  I don’t think I’ve read anything else by him. 
  • Born March 7, 1944 Stanley Schmidt, 75. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing fear by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013.  He’s also an accomplished author with more than a dozen to his name. I know I’ve read him but I can’t recall which novels in specific right now. 
  • Born March 7, 1955 Michael Jan Friedman, 64. Author of nearly sixty books of genre fiction, mostly media tie-ins. He’s written nearly forty Trek novels alone covering DS9Starfleet AcademyNext GenOriginal Series and Enterprise. He’s also done work with Star Wars, Aliens, PredatorsLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanBatman and Robin and many others. He’s also done quite a bit of writing for DC, mostly media-ins but not all as I see SupermanFlash and Justice League among his credits.
  • Born March 7, 1959 Nick Searcy, 60. He was Nathan Ramsey in Seven Days which I personally think is the best damn time travel series ever done. And he was in 11.22.63 as Deke Simmons, based off the Stephen King novel. He was in Intelligence, a show I never knew existed, for one episode as General Greg Carter, and in The Shape of Water film, he played yet another General, this one named Frank Hoyt. And finally, I’d be remiss to overlook his run in horror as he was in American Gothic as Deputy Ben Healy. 
  • Born March 7, 1961 Ari Berk, 58. Folklorist, artist, writer and scholar of literature and comparative myth. Damn great person as well. I doubt you’ve heard of The Runes of Elfland he did with Brian Froud so I’ve linked to the Green Man review of it here. He also had a review column in the now defunct Realms of Fantasy that had such articles as “Back Over the Wall – Charles Vess Revisits the World of Stardust”.
  • Born March 7, 1970 Rachel Weisz, 49. Though better known for The Mummy films, her first genre film was Death Machine is a British-Japanese cyberpunk horror film. I’ve also got her in Chain Reaction and The Lobster
  • Born March 7, 1971 Matthew Vaughn, 48. Film producer, director, and screenwriter who is best known for Stardust, Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, X-Men: First ClassX-Men: Days of Future PastFantastic FourKingsman: The Secret Service, and its sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
  • Born March 7, 1974 Tobias Menzies, 45. He was on the Game of Thrones where he played Edmure Tully. He is probably best known for his dual role as Frank Randall and Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall in Outlander” Randall in Outlander. Am I the person who has never seen either series? He was in Finding Neverland as a Theatre Patron, in Casino Royale as Villierse who was M’s assistant, showed up in The Genius of Christopher Marlowe as the demon Mephistophilis, voiced Captain English in the all puppet Jackboots on Whitehall film and played Marius in Underworld: Blood Wars

(13) STAND BY FOR ADS! I received a press release which evidently is calling on me to publicize a forthcoming publicity campaign. Maybe we’ll get to the books later! Their headline is amusing –

GREAT POWER. NO RESPONSIBILITY.

Tom Doherty Associates is proudly launching the Magic x Mayhem campaign, on the heels of the 2018 Fearless Women campaign. 2018 was a year for breaking though barriers of gender and sex—but 2019 is the year for breaking all the rules. Gone are the days of simple good-versus-evil narratives; these are complicated times that call for complicated characters. From Game of Thrones to The Haunting of Hill House, pop culture has clearly shifted its attention to the messy, the morally ambiguous, and the weird. In short, fans want magic, and they want mayhem. The Magic x Mayhem campaign features an eclectic mix of daring new speculative fiction by fan favorite authors and new voices from the Tor Books and Tor.com Publishing imprints.

Magic and mayhem don’t just live on the pages of books; they’re doled out in fantasy realms and the real world alike by this impressive array of writers. Featured authors include Seanan McGuire (Middlegame), Cate Glass (An Illusion of Thieves), Sarah Gailey (Magic for Liars), Duncan M. Hamilton (Dragonslayer), Tamsyn Muir (Gideon the Ninth), Brian Naslund (Blood of an Exile), Saad Z. Hossain (The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday), JY Yang (The Ascent to Godhood) and more. This illustrious group of wordslingers includes bestsellers, award-winners, scholars, and influencers. Through this campaign, the authors will have a combined organic reach of 400,000, and they’re truly a rebel force to be reckoned with.

The campaign will include extensive outreach to social media influencers, a robust marketing and advertising campaign with outlets like Den of Geek and The Mary Sue, exclusive content from select participating authors, Magic x Mayhem branded events at BookExpo, BookCon, New York Comic Con and more. Follow the chaos with #magicXmayhem.

(14) THEY ALL FALL DOWN. “Penn and Teller and Mischief Theatre to produce Magic Goes Wrong” According to Chip Hitchcock, “The Play That Goes Wrong (on tour in the US) was even funnier to a former theater techie like me — my first reaction was that I wanted to have worked on all of those gimmicks. Now I’m hoping this show will also travel.”

If you went to see a show at the theatre where actors forgot their lines, props went missing or scenery collapsed, you’d probably ask for a refund.

But plays going wrong has proved to be a recipe for huge West End and Broadway success for British company Mischief Theatre.

Their current crop of shows – including The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery – are set the be joined by a new production later this year.

Magic Goes Wrong has been created by Mischief together with US magicians Penn and Teller – whose fame in the magical world is perhaps second only to Harry Potter’s.

(15) FAST FOOD. Here’s a place “Where you must catch your meal with chopsticks”.

In nagashi somen, one of Japan’s most delightful summertime food rites, noodles are sent down a bamboo chute ‘waterslide’ and you must catch your meal with your chopsticks.

It’s a sunny July day on a mountainside restaurant terrace on the island of Kyushu, Japan. A polo-shirted, 40-something Japanese businessman, a long-time friend of mine, is holding a clump of somen – thin, white wheat noodles – aloft in one hand, and beaming at me and his two foodie colleagues, who have joined us for this feast.

“Ii desu ka?” Are you ready?

“Ichi, ni, san – iku yo!”One, two, three – here they come!

He releases the noodles into a stream of water that is flowing down a 1.5m-long bamboo chute. We three are seated at the opposite end, and, as the noodles slide swiftly toward us, we plunge our chopsticks into the stream, trying to grab the slippery threads.

“Hayaku, hayaku!” – Quickly, quickly! – prim, pearl-necklaced Kimiko-san on my right exhorts herself. “Ahhh, dame da!” – Oh, missed it! – black-suited Eishi-san across from me groans. As more clumps of noodles flow toward us, we gradually lose all reserve, stabbing and laughing as we chase the elusive strands. Eventually we all raise our chopsticks, triumphantly displaying our glistening catch.

(16) WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY. BBC poses the question: “Would you want to stay in a space hotel?” “You” defined as someone with a lot of money…

Aurora Station plans to become the first hotel in space. But how likely is it we’ll be able to holiday in orbit around the Earth?

It was intended to set the travel world on fire: Aurora Station, the world’s first in-orbit hotel. The official announcement took place last April during the Space 2.0 Conference in San Jose, California. Housed aboard a structure about the size of a large private jet, guests would soar 200 miles above the Earth’s surface, enjoying epic views of the planet and the northern and southern lights.

A jaunt won’t be cheap: the 12-day-journey aboard Aurora Station, scheduled to be in orbit by 2022, starts at a cool $9.5m (£7.3m) per person. Nevertheless, the company says the waiting list is booked nearly seven months ahead.

“Part of our experience is to give people the taste of the life of a professional astronaut,” says Frank Bunger, founder and chief executive officer of Orion Span, the firm which is behind Aurora Station. “But we expect most guests will be looking out the window, calling everyone they know, and should guests get bored, we have what we call the ‘holodeck,’ a virtual reality experience. In it you can do anything you want; you can float in space, you can walk on the Moon, you can play golf.”

(17) NOT MAINLY IN THE PLAIN. “Climate change: Rain melting Greenland ice sheet ‘even in winter'”.

Rain is becoming more frequent in Greenland and accelerating the melting of its ice, a new study has found.

Scientists say they’re “surprised” to discover rain falling even during the long Arctic winter.

The massive Greenland ice-sheet is being watched closely because it holds a huge store of frozen water.

And if all of that ice melted, the sea level would rise by seven metres, threatening coastal population centres around the world.

The scientists studied satellite pictures of the ice-sheet which reveal the areas where melting is taking place.

And they combined those images with data gathered from 20 automated weather stations that recorded when rainfall occurred.

The findings, published in the journal The Cryosphere, show that while there were about two spells of winter rain every year in the early phase of the study period, that had risen to 12 spells by 2012.

(18) A PREVIOUS DELANY. At Fansided, Sarah Crocker details “20 legendary black science-fiction authors you need to know”.

…Even though some of the biggest sci-fi properties recognized today are all too often racially tone-deaf, black sci-fi authors have been producing work for well over a century. And, with the rise of more and more creators of color in sci-fi and beyond, there’s hope that the situation will get better.

What is “black science fiction”? Broadly, it’s sci-fi produced by black creators. Once you get more specific, though, it’s clear that there as many ways to write about science fiction as there are individual authors. Black sci-fi isn’t monolithic by any means. Some of the authors included here draw on American experiences, Caribbean folklore, Islamic history, modern international politics, and much, much more.

Please note that science fiction is a huge genre with many, many different subgenres, from cyberpunk, to space opera, to galactic westerns. Your own personal definition sci-fi may or may not line up totally with the one used here, but rest assured that, even if you want to quibble over particulars, these are all great works of fiction that you should read no matter what.

So, in honor of Black History Month, here are 20 incredible black science fiction authors who you should add to your reading list as soon as possible. Though this month is a good occasion to bring attention to black sci-fi and speculative fiction, don’t think this is a one-time thing. There are enough authors here to keep you reading for the rest of the year at least.

First on the list is Martin Delany:

…So, where does the science fiction come in? Starting in 1859, Delany published serialized portions of Blake, or the Huts of America, a utopian separatist novel (it wouldn’t be published in one volume until 1970). It follows Henry Blake, a revolutionary escaped slave who travels throughout the U.S. and Cuba in an attempt to organize a large-scale rebellion. The depiction of an active, intelligent, and driven black man was in strong contrast to more docile characters of the time.

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