TAFF Taking Nominations for 2019 Race

The 2019 TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) Race is now officially open for nominations for the North America to Europe leg. Nominations will be taken until November 22, 2018.

Voting to select the TAFF delegate will commence on December 1, 2018 and continue until April 22, 2019. The winning delegate will attend the 77th World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland (https://dublin2019.com/) from August 15 – 19, 2019, and assume the duties of the next North American administrator of TAFF upon returning home.

The TAFF administrators say:

If any North American fan is considering standing for the 2019 TAFF race, now is the time to line up your nominators and have them contact the administrators informing them of the nominators’ intentions.

Candidates will need three North American fans and two European fans known to the Administrators to nominate you: these people must contact the current Administrators by November 22, 2018 (American Thanksgiving Holiday), informing them of whom is being nominated. Potential delegates will also need to send an official statement of standing for TAFF to the administrators (contact information provided below) listing their nominators, plus a 101-word platform statement, and a $20 (USD) bond fee sent via PayPal to 2017taff2019@gmail.com.

More details about TAFF can be found at David Langford’s excellent website, taff.org.uk

If you are interested in standing for the 2019 TAFF Race or would like to nominate some deserving fan, please contact North American Administrator, John Purcell, at 2017taff2019 (at) gmail (dot) com or Johan Anglemark, the European Administrator, at EUTAFF (at) gmail (dot) com.

John Purcell
North American TAFF Administrator
3744 Marielene Circle
College Station, TX  77845
USA

2017taff2019@gmail.com

Johan Anglemark
European TAFF Administrator
Lingonv. 10
SE-74340  Storvreta
Sweden

EUTAFF@gmail.com

Pixel Scroll 9/9/18 I Can’t Get No Pixel Action When I’m Reading Pixel Scroll

(1) TAFF DATES ANNOUNCED. John  Purcell says it’s almost time to submit nominees for the 2019 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund race.

Since a lot of people have asked, European TAFF Administrator Johan Anglemark and I have established the following dates for the 2019 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund Race to send a North American fan to the World Science Fiction Convention to be held in Dublin, Ireland over August 15 – 19, 2019. Here you go, folks:

The actual nomination period will run from October 1st to November 22nd of 2018. Therefore, if anyone is interested in standing for TAFF, the month of September is the time to line up your nominators.

The actual voting period will start on December 1st, 2018, and end on April 22nd, 2019. The week between the end of nominations and the beginning of voting will give your humble and obedient administrators the time to prepare the proper and official ballot.

A much more informative, official 2019 TAFF Press Release shall follow Real Soon Now and will include procedures and related data potential candidates need to know. In the meantime, if you go to the TAFF website https://taff.org.uk/ maintained by that nice David Langford fellow, you can learn many of these details there.

This race should be a lot fun. If you have any questions, feel free to ask either Johan Anglemark or me, John Purcell, and we will answer them as quickly as possible.

(2) EARLY PROMO ART. Sotheby’s auctioned off a Revenge of the Jedi poster on August 28 (Original Film Posters Online). Note, that’s “Revenge,” not “Return.” They’d estimated it would go for £1,400–2,600. After 23 bids it sold for £23,000.

(3) NO SHEET. Jim C. Hines is on the case —

(4) GREAT AMERICAN READ. Voting at last is open for PBS’ The Great American Read, which has been mentioned here several times. Get clicking!

(5) CONSCIOUS SYNTHS. Abigail Nussbaum’s column for Lawyers, Guns & Money takes on the robotic TV show Humans: “A Political History of the Future: Humans”.

…One core difference between Humans and a lot of other science fiction shows about robots or despised minorities with special powers is that it doesn’t center violence—and, when violence does occur, it is used exclusively to horrifying, demoralizing effect. Synths are strong, quick, and agile, but there are hardly any badass robot fights in this show. On the contrary, it often seems as if synths are a great deal more fragile than humans, succumbing to beatings and abuses that a human might recover from (which makes sense if you consider that these are basically talking household appliances, the sort of thing you’d be expected to replace after a few years). Images of damaged and mistreated synths recur frequently throughout the show, as a reminder of both the danger that our main characters face in human society, and the fact that this is a story where problems will mostly be solved by talking (though some characters, like the belligerent, short-tempered Niska, find this incredibly frustrating). This is a role left primarily to Laura, who over the course of the show’s three seasons embraces the cause of synth rights, and Mia, who becomes a figurehead in the growing community of conscious synths.

It’s an approach that, paradoxically, allows Humans to address much heavier, darker subject matter than more high-concept executions of its premise, precisely because the show is so grounded in the familiar….

(6) WHERE THE MONEY IS. AV/TV Club handicaps the contenders to succeed GoT: “Game of Game Of Thrones thrones: 43 big upcoming fantasy and sci-fi shows”.

Since debuting in April 2011, HBO’s Game Of Thrones has slowly become the defining television phenomenon of this decade, dominating the pop culture conversation in a way no other show has since the glory days of The Sopranos. It was one of a number of shows angling to step into the mob drama’s place, along with Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, Sons Of Anarchy, Justified, and House Of Cards. HBO initially sold its adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic as “The Sopranos in Middle-earth,” hoping to transplant David Chase’s deeply American saga of violence, sex, family, and power to a sprawling, Tolkien-esque fantasy world. It managed to fulfill those expectations and then some, surpassing Sopranos viewership mid-way through its fourth season. Today it’s gone far beyond that: “Khaleesi” was a more popular name for baby girls in 2017 than “Brittany.”

But winter is coming. As Game Of Thrones heads into its final, six-episode season—slated to premiere sometime in 2019—it leaves a gaping hole in the television landscape. Everyone from Apple to FX has pined, sometimes publicly, for their “own Game Of Thrones,” and the model is clear: Find a nerd-culture tome, and throw money at it. Amazon has pledged to invest $1 billion on its prize-horse, a Lord Of The Rings prequel, but, as you’ll see below, this is a race with a lot of horses. There are dozens of such projects in the works, and even more if you factor in the game, film, and comic adaptations drawn in Thrones’ image, not to mention HBO’s own in-house heirs….

(7) HOW IT COULD HAVE ENDED. ScienceFiction.com says showrunner Ira Steven Behr’s idea for “The Original Series Finale For ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ Would Have Blown Viewers Minds!”

His vision was shot down but would have been a direct callback to one of the more interesting episodes in the series. Specifically, it would have directly gone back to “Far Beyond The Stars” from the sixth season. In it, Benjamin Sisko was given a vision of another life by the Wormhole Aliens where instead of being a Starfleet Captain he was actually Benny Russell who was a 1950s science fiction writer. As an author, he came up with the idea of Deep Space Nine in a story that not only dealt with racism but also was “about the dreamer and the dream and who is dreaming and what they are dreaming about.”

As for the potential series finale, it would have revisited the idea of Benny Russell:

“I did pitch to Rick Berman that the final episode would end up with Benny Russell on Stage 17 at Paramount, wandering around the soundstages, realizing that this whole construct, this whole series, that we had done for seven years, was just in Benny’s head. That is how I wanted to end the series. And Rick said “Does this mean The Original Series was in Benny’s head? Does this mean Voyager was in Benny’s head?” I said, “Hey man, I don’t care who is dreaming those shows, I only care about Deep Space Nine, and yes, Benny Russell is dreaming Deep Space Nine.” He didn’t go for it.”

(8) TREKIVERSARY. On the anniversary, SYFY Wire listed “Star Trek: 6 crazy things that nobody remembers about the first episode ever”. The first one thew into doubt just when the anniversary is —

Canada jumped the phaser and aired “The Man Trap” two days early

Famously, the anniversary of the first airing of Star Trek’s first episode is September 8th, 1966 on NBC, in America. But it turns out that the CBC in Canada aired the show two days early, on September 6th. This little-known fact emerged two years ago, surrounding the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the entire Trek franchise. Larry Nemecek, Trek historian and host of the podcast The Trek Files confirms this: “I was shocked that it took 50 years to penetrate us [Americans]! It’s apparently true. I’ve seen scans of Canadian newspaper TV listings that show it.”

(9) BREAKOUT MARVEL. NPR’s Emma Bowman says “Female Breakout ‘Captain Marvel’ Screenwriter Is Disrupting The Superheroine Trope”:

In a male-dominated industry, Geneva Robertson-Dworet is as rare as the female superhero characters she helps craft. The breakout action-genre screenwriter will be adding a historic project to her resume with Captain Marvel, Marvel’s first female-led movie, due out next year.

Robertson-Dworet, who penned the Tomb Raider blockbuster reboot, has also been tapped to work on Sherlock Holmes 3, Gotham City Sirens and the new Dungeons & Dragons adaptation.

In an interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro for Weekend Edition, the screenwriter praises the lengths Marvel took to recruit a female-heavy team — both on screen and behind the scenes — for the film, starring Brie Larson.

“Marvel really went above and beyond with Captain Marvel,” Robertson-Dworet says. “Not only did they have Anna Boden, who, along with Ryan Fleck is directing the movie … they had many female writers working on the project. They also had female producers in the room. And that is really rare to have that.”

(10) THE POWER. The Guardian says this job is not that f*ckin’ easy! “The YouTube stars heading for burnout: ‘The most fun job imaginable became deeply bleak’”.

…Professional YouTubers speak in tones at once reverential and resentful of the power of “the Algorithm” (it’s seen as a near-sentient entity, not only by creators, but also by YouTube’s own engineers). Created by the high priests of Silicon Valley, who continually tweak its characteristics, this is the programming code on which the fate of every YouTuber depends. It decides which videos to pluck from the Niagara of content that splashes on to YouTube every hour (400 hours’ worth every 60 seconds, according to Google) to deliver as “recommended viewing” to the service’s billions of users.

… As part of its Creator Academy, a vast online “school” covering everything from how to “enhance your channel’s search and discovery potential” to how to “make deals with brands”, YouTube recently commissioned a series of videos designed to teach its partners how to avoid fatigue. (Few of the people I speak to who run YouTube channels are aware of the resource.) The video on burnout has been viewed just over 32,000 times. It’s written and presented by 34-year-old Kati Morton. A licensed therapist based in Los Angeles, Morton has been posting videos to YouTube for eight years. As such, she is well placed to understand both the problem and the potential solution.

(11) DAILY OBIT. I Dream of Jeannie’s Bill Daily has died.

Actor Bill Daily, best known for his role as Roger Healey in the popular 1960s sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie,” has died at the age of 91, his son J. Patrick Daily said.

Bill Daily died at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Tuesday, publicist Patterson Lundquist wrote on Facebook.

Patrick Daily said his father “was a very happy man. He was happy with everything he did.”

…Daily played an Army captain, later a major, in the space program, the funny sidekick to Larry Hagman’s Air Force Maj. Tony Nelson, on “Jeannie.” The title character, a 2,000-year-old genie, was played by Barbara Eden.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

A salute —

(13) MOST IMPORTANT GENRE. If the proof of a fan’s intelligence is how closely they agree with you, a lot of people are going to conclude Harari is pretty bright, WIRED interviews him about “Why Science Fiction Is the Most Important Genre”.

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the best-selling books Sapiens and Homo Deus, is a big fan of science fiction, and includes an entire chapter about it in his new book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.

“Today science fiction is the most important artistic genre,” Harari says in Episode 325 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It shapes the understanding of the public on things like artificial intelligence and biotechnology, which are likely to change our lives and society more than anything else in the coming decades.”

(14) INSTRUMENTALITY. Cordwainer Smith is still in mid-career as Galactic Journey considers his story in the latest issue of Galaxy, “On the Gem Planet”: “[September 9, 1963] Great Expectations (October 1963 Galaxy)”.

On a world composed solely of precious stones, a lone horse wanders masterless through a crystal valley.  The Dictator of the planet and his beautiful heir entreat a young visitor, a crusading exile whose sole goal is to regain the throne of his home planet, for an explanation of how the horse came to his current condition.

Nothing more need be said of this piece save that it is another tale of the Instrumentality by the inimitable Smith, and it does not injure the reputation of the series or its writer.  Four stars.

(15) HOLD THAT APPLAUSE. Bastian’s Book Reviews is lukewarm about its latest subject: “Review: The Fairy’s Tale by F.D. Lee”.

The Fairy’s Tale is a humorous novel about Bea, a fairy who works to ensure that fairy tales go according to plan. Bea herself, meanwhile, dreams of being promoted from a watcher to a manager (i.e. a fairy godmother), allowed to interact with the characters (humans) rather than just being an unseen force that applies minor nudges….

(16) NAGATA PRAISED. However, at Black Gate Steve Case finds plenty of good things to say about a book: “A Celebration of the Wonder of the Universe Itself: Vast by Linda Nagata”

I’ll get right to it: Linda Nagata’s Vast is everything you want epic sci-fi to be: a huge scope in time and space, a compelling look at the horizons of human and technological evolution, and a celebration of the wonder of the universe itself. Vast provides all this, with some truly beautiful descriptions of stellar evolution thrown in for good measure. On top of all this, this scale and big ideas are woven alongside excellent character formation and a plot that builds tension so effectively that long years of pursuit between vessels with slow relative velocities still feels sharp and urgent.

I liked this book. A lot.

(17) DRY DOC. io9’s Julie Muncy found a video that demonstrates how “The Star Trek Universe Uses a Surprising Amount of Paper”.

YouTuber EC Henry has put together a fascinating little video chronicling the history of paper usage in the Star Trek universe, chronologically moving from the original series up through the timeline and noting how the use of paper changes as time passes. In Kirk’s time, fascinatingly, paper is everywhere, and is regularly used for military purposes, while by the time of The Next Generation such usages have almost entirely vanished.

 

(18) IN OBSERVATORY YET GREEN. Let Space.com tell you “How to See the Bright Green Comet 21P in Binoculars on Monday”.

Want to see a comet whizzing by Earth? A great chance to catch one of these celestial visitors is overnight tonight, when Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner will be best visible in binoculars or a telescope.

The comet, also known as “21P,” will make its closest approach to Earth at around 2:30 a.m. EDT Monday (630 GMT). The bright-green comet should reach a visual magnitude of 6.5 to 7, according to EarthSky.org. This makes 21P almost bright enough to see with the naked eye — but not quite. […]

To find Comet 21P in the night sky, look east and find the constellation Auriga sometime between midnight and dawn local time. The comet will still be visible even after tomorrow, but it will fade over the coming days. Its exact location from moment to moment is available in NASA’s ephemeris calculator.

(19) IT’S FEELING BETTER. According to Engadget, “Planet-hunting Kepler telescope declares that it is not, in fact, dead”.

At this point, most space enthusiasts and insiders have said their goodbyes to the Kepler spacecraft. We’ve known for months that it’s very low on fuel, and its planet-hunting replacement, TESS, has already launched. But Kepler has a mind of its own, apparently. Despite the fact that its level of fuel is now crippling, and it’s had its share of mechanical issues, the telescope is once again back to work collecting scientific data and looking for new exoplanets.

(20) CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. Variety reports “Michael K. Williams Still Wants to Be Part of ‘Star Wars’ Franchise”.

Michael K. Williams holds no grudges against “Star Wars.”

The actor’s role was cut from the standalone Han Solo film “Solo” after director Ron Howard’s reshoots conflicted with his schedule. Paul Bettany stepped in and the character was reimagined for the new casting.

“I have not had the chance to see ‘Solo’ but shout out to my cast mates,” Williams told Variety on Saturday at the HFPA and InStyle party at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Even though I didn’t make the final cut, they’re still my cast mates. I love you guys.”

He hasn’t seen ‘Solo’ yet, but “I’m quite sure I’ll get around to it but I’m more interested in getting another shot in being in that galaxy…I would love another opportunity to be in ‘Star Wars.’”

(21) STORM WARNING. Unlike the Mercury-Gemini capsule days, a splashdown here would not mean a happy ending. Ars Technica explains: “SpaceX to launch super-heavy payload, land in high seas Sunday night”

After slightly more than a month, SpaceX returns to the launch pad Sunday night to deliver the Telstar 18 Vantage satellite into orbit. The four-hour launch window opens at 11:28pm ET (03:28 UTC) for a mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The flight of a new Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 booster will seek to loft a large telecommunications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit. At 7,060kg, this is the second heaviest satellite SpaceX has flown; the heaviest is the Telstar 19 Vantage satellite in July. It weighed 15kg more.
SpaceX will seek to recover the booster, which may prove a challenge given the tropical activity raging across the Atlantic basin. Due to the heavy payload, the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket will land far out to sea, 660km downrange from the Florida spaceport. There, the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship will be waiting.

Provided the rocket launches on Sunday night, the growing storm Florence—which is likely to be a Category 2 or 3 hurricane by that time—should still be more than 1,000km away. However, another low-pressure system is relatively close by, and choppy wave conditions may make landing more challenging than normal. A delay of one or two days would likely only worsen conditions in the area as Florence gets closer

(22) CAMPBELL. Alis Franklin’s “Everything wrong with science fiction is John W. Campbell’s fault” takes stock of the late editor’s racism and other shortcomings. On the other hand, his immortal novella “Who Goes There?” did inspire this bizarre video:

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

Pixel Scroll 9/4/18 One Singularity Sensation

(1) WORKING MAGIC. In The Guardian, Philip Pullman says there are reasons “Why we believe in magic”.

But rationalism doesn’t make the magical universe go away. Possibly because I earn my living as a writer of fiction, and possibly because it’s just the sensible thing to do, I like to pay attention to everything I come across, including things that evoke the uncanny or the mysterious. Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto (I am human, I consider nothing human alien to me). My attitude to magical things is very much like that attributed to the great physicist Niels Bohr. Asked about the horseshoe that used to hang over the door to his laboratory, he’s claimed to have said that he didn’t believe it worked but he’d been told that it worked whether he believed in it or not. When it comes to belief in lucky charms, or rings engraved with the names of angels, or talismans with magic squares, it’s impossible to defend it and absurd to attack it on rational grounds because it’s not the kind of material on which reason operates. Reason is the wrong tool. Trying to understand superstition rationally is like trying to pick up something made of wood by using a magnet.

(2) COMPANIONS. Here’s a BBC teaser – a shot of the Thirteenth Doctor’s companions, Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yaz (Mandip Gill).

(3) THE NEXT TAFF RACE. Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund administrators John Purcell and Johan Anglemark say they will soon be taking nominations for the North America-to-Europe round – on Facebook.

Word up to all scientifictional fans out there: new European TAFF Administrator Johan Anglemark and I are very close to announcing the opening of nominations for the 2019 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund race to send a North American fan to the Dublin, Ireland World Science Fiction Convention next August. If anybody is considering standing for this, you might want to start lining up potential nominators. You will need two European and three North American fans known to the Administrators this time around.

Get involved and be prepared for taking a trip that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Stay tuned for more details Real Soon Now.

(4) AUDIOFILE PODCAST. Each weekday hear AudioFile editors Robin Whitten, Michele Cobb, Emily Connelly, and Jonathan Smith giving insider tidbits and highlighting their favorite clips with show host Jo Reed in the new podcast “Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine”. Download at iTunes.

Editors and reviewers from AudioFile Magazine give their recommendations for the best audiobook listening Monday thru Friday. Find your next great audiobook. Plus bonus episodes of in-depth conversations with the best voices in the audiobook world.

(5) VOYAGE OF REDiSCOVERY. James Davis Nicoll leads a tour through the winners of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in  “Who Are the Forgotten Greats of Science Fiction?” at Tor.com.

Time is nobody’s friend. Authors in particular can fall afoul of time—all it takes is a few years out of the limelight. Publishers will let their books fall out of print; readers will forget about them. Replace “years” with “decades” and authors can become very obscure indeed.

The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award was founded in 2001 to draw attention to unjustly forgotten SF authors. It is a juried award; the founding judges were Gardner Dozois, Robert Silverberg, Scott Edelman, and John Clute. The current judges are Elizabeth Hand, Barry N. Malzberg, Mike Resnick, and Robert J. Sawyer1.

I wish the award were more widely known, that it had, perhaps, its own anthology. If it did, it might look a bit like this.

(6) ANIMANIACS. The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles will host a Animaniacs Live! on September 6. Ticket info at the link.

The most zany, animany and totally insany Animaniacs are back! Animaniacs LIVE! in concert is coming to the GRAMMY Museum’s Clive Davis Theater on September 6th. Fans of the beloved Warner Bros. animated series are in for a treat as they get up close and personal with their favorite characters as songs from the pop-culture hit cartoon series are performed live on stage in the all-new Animaniacs LIVE! Randy Rogel, Emmy-winning composer of the original 1992-1998 show, teams up with Emmy-winner (1998, Pinky and the Brain) Rob Paulsen (Yakko Warner) to sing an evening of songs from the hit show. Clips from the series, and anecdotes from Rogel and Paulsen will run in between songs such as “Yakko’s World” and “Variety Speak.” If you are a fan who has been aching for something new pertaining to Animaniacs, this is your time! And whether you love live music, animation, or the original show, Animaniacs LIVE! is an experience you don’t want to miss.

(7) KGB READING SERIES. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Patrick McGrath & Siobhan Carroll on Wednesday, September 19, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Patrick McGrath

Patrick McGrath is the author of nine novels, including Asylum, an international bestseller, and Spider, which David Cronenberg filmed from McGrath’s script. He has also published three collections of short fiction, including most recently Writing Madness. He teaches a writing workshop at The New School and is currently at work on a novel about the Spanish Civil War. His most recent novel is The Wardrobe Mistress.

Siobhan Carroll

Siobhan Carroll is a Canadian author whose short stories have appeared in venues like Lightspeed and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. A scholar as well as a writer of speculative fiction, she typically uses the fantastic to explore dark histories of empire, science, and the environment. In 2018, she has short stories out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Ellen Datlow’s The Devil and the Deep anthology, and forthcoming in The Best of the Best Horror of the Year.

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.), New York, NY.

(8) BYUNICORNS. It’s a unicorn incubator – get it?

This 2018 BYU commercial spot celebrates BYU as a business incubator and the university’s ranking as a top school for producing business “unicorns.” In business, a unicorn is a private company worth a billion dollars or more. Hosted by comic actor Jon Heder (a graduate of BYU’s animation program), the original spot was created by BYU animation faculty, led by director Kelly Loosli, and talented students from BYU’s award-winning Center for Animation

 

(9) FORGOTTEN INFLUENCER. In “Night Vision” in The New Republic, Nicholson Baker discusses J.W. Dunne’s An Experiment in Time, published in 1927, which is “one big, clock-melting, brain squishing chimichanga of pseudoscientific parapsychology” that influenced, among others, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert A. Heinlein, and Jorge Luis Borges.

Dunne’s book, published in 1927, was called An Experiment With Time, and it went into several editions. “I find it a fantastically interesting book,” wrote H.G. Wells in a huge article in The New York Times. Yeats, Joyce, and Walter de la Mare brooded over its implications, and T.S. Eliot’s publishing firm, Faber, brought the book out in paperback in 1934, right about the time when Eliot was writing “Burnt Norton,” all about how time present is contained in time past and time future, and vice versa.

(10) MARQUEZ OBIT. Vanessa Marquez (1968-2018): US actress, died August 30, aged 49. Appeared in the horror movie Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993) and played one of the rebel pilots in Trey Stokes’ Star Wars spoof short Return of Pink Five (2006).

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 4, 1975 Space:1999 premiered on TV.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 4, 1905. Mary Renault. English born, South African resident writer of historical fiction still considered the gold standard for her depictions of Alexander the Great though her reliance on the work of Robert Graves in other Of her fiction is less appreciated. Also wrote Lion in the Gateway: The Heroic Battles of the Greeks and Persians at Marathon, Salamis, and Thermopylae.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • You’d be surprised what “everybody knows” – PvP Online.

(14) TOTO, WE’RE HOME — HOME. A pair of red sequined “ruby” slippers from The Wizard of Oz, stolen over a decade ago from a museum, have been recovered by the FBI. NBC News (Dorothy’s stolen ruby slippers from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ found by FBI after 13 years) reports:

There’s no place like home.

A pair of Dorothy’s ruby slippers stolen from the Judy Garland Museum 13 years ago will soon make their way back to their rightful owner after the FBI announced on Tuesday it had located the sequined shoes that followed the yellow brick road in “The Wizard of Oz” nearly 80 years ago.

…Several pairs are known to still exists, including a pair housed in the Smithsonian. But in August 2005, a pair vanished after a break-in at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota […]

A CNN report (Dorothy’s stolen ruby red slippers found 13 years later) adds:

On Tuesday afternoon, authorities intend to reveal details of the shoes’ recovery at the FBI Minneapolis headquarters. It’s unclear if anyone will be charged or where they could end up next.

…A 2017 tip to Detective Brian Mattson led to “connections outside of Minnesota,” the Grand Rapids Police Department said, explaining why the FBI took the lead in the probe.

The shoes were recovered in Minneapolis earlier this summer, Sgt. Robert Stein said in a statement, declining to provide details because the investigation remains active.

(15) THERE’S A HOLE IN THE BOTTOM OF THE SOYUZ. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A 2mm hole in a Russian spacecraft that caused an air leak from the International Space Station may have been there from before the launch, reports The Verge (“Russia is trying to figure out how a tiny hole showed up in its Soyuz spacecraft”). The Soyuz had been docked at the ISS since 8 June, but the leak wasn’t noticed (by ground personnel monitoring onboard pressure) until 29 August. This led to an initial assumption that the hole was caused by a micrometeorite. Once found and documented, the hole was sealed with epoxy and the ISS air pressure has since been confirmed to be stable.

A photo of the hole, posed on Twitter by NASASpaceFlight.com, though, appears to show evidence of a wandering drill bit and a hole that looks manmade.

Unofficial speculation is that either the insulation that was covering that part of the Soyuz interior or some accidentally introduced material blocked the leak until it became dislodged somehow. Alternately, a pre-flight repair could have been made that degraded with time and exposure to vacuum and eventually “popped out.” The Verge reports:

“We are considering all the theories,” said Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s Roscosmos state space corporation, according to TASS. “The one about a meteorite impact has been rejected because the spaceship’s hull was evidently impacted from inside. However it is too early to say definitely what happened.” Rogozin goes on to say that it looks like the hole was a “technological error” made by a specialist with a “faltering hand.” “There are traces of a drill sliding along the surface,” he said.

Roscosmos has since convened a State Commission to investigate the cause of the hole. Rogozin noted that understanding its origin was “a matter of honor” and that the investigators would figure out if the hole was the result of a defect or if it was made on purpose. “Now it is essential to see the reason, to learn the name of the one responsible for that. And we will find out, without fail,” he said, according to TASS. NASA declined to go into detail about the investigation. “NASA will support the commission’s work as appropriate,” the space agency said in a statement to The Verge.

In an AFP article (“Russia says space station leak could be deliberate sabotage”), speculation was even reported that this could have been sabotage once the craft was in space:

“There were several attempts at drilling,” Rogozin said late Monday in televised comments.

He added that the drill appeared to have been held by a “wavering hand.”

“What is this: a production defect or some premeditated actions?” he asked.

“We are checking the Earth version. But there is another version that we do not rule out: deliberate interference in space.”

Columnist Mike Wehner reports “That hole in the International Space Station was caused by a drill, not a meteorite, and the search is on for the culprit” at Yahoo!

Multiple unnamed sources have spoken with Russian media outlet RIA Novosti and hinted that an internal investigation at the corporation that builds the spacecraft, Energia, has already yielded results. According to those sources, the person has been identified and apparently explained that the hole was drilled by accident and not with malicious intent. A fabric seal was placed over the hole to hide the mistake, and it lasted a couple of months before eventually breaking open in space.

(16) FLAG FOOTBALL. The Hollywood hype machine grinds on: “Buzz Aldrin Makes His Stance Clear on First Man American Flag Controversy”.

More than a month before it’s officially released in theaters, Damien Chazelle’s moon landing drama First Man is already embroiled in political controversy. Its genesis? The fact that there is no scene in the movie explicitly showing our enterprising Americans firmly planting the stars and stripes into the gray lunar surface—though the flag is apparently included in several shots. Right-wing Twitter has feverishly renounced the film for its disgusting lack of patriotism, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio calling the omission “total lunacy” (get it?) after it was first reported by The Telegraph. And now, one of the guys who was actually there has offered his two cents.

Buzz Aldrin, the second human being ever to set foot on the moon, tweeted a pair of pictures on Saturday night…

(17) CITIUS, ALTIUS, FORTIUS, GLUTEUS. Not only are “Esports ‘too violent’ to be included in Olympics” – why would sitting on your ass playing a computer game be classified as a “sport” anyway?

The President of the International Olympic Committee says esports are too violent to be part of the Olympics.

Thomas Bach said the “so-called killer games” which promote violence or discrimination cannot be accepted into the Games.

“If you have egames where it’s about killing somebody, this cannot be brought into line with our Olympic values,” he said at the Asian Games.

(18) PANDA POWER. BBC visits “China’s giant solar farms”.

Fly over “Datong County”, a region in northern China, and you’ll see two giant pandas. One is waving at you. They are made of thousands of solar panels.

Together, and with the other adjacent panels included, they form a 100-megawatt farm covering 248 acres. It’s actually a relatively small solar park by China’s standards – but it is certainly patriotic.

“It is designed and built as the image of the Chinese national treasure – the giant panda,” explains a document from Panda Green Energy, the company that constructed the farm.

(19) IRISH BREW NEWS. Easing tourism: “Ireland passes craft brewery legislation”. Chip Hitchcock says, “Advantage for fans: breweries can now sell their own products to visitors without having to buy out a publican’s license — a big win for small craft breweries. And this one isn’t across salt water from the 2019 Worldcon.”

The Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Act 2018, enables craft breweries and distilleries to sell alcohol on their premises.

It means tourists being shown how beer and spirits are made can then buy them at the end of the tour.

There are craft breweries in every county in Ireland, whiskey distilleries in 22 counties and gin distilleries in 14.

(20) WHAT CONSTITUTES EXPERIENCE. “Author Neil Gaiman backs Ironheart writer Eve Ewing” — in response to complaints about her lack of experience, he points out that he’d written just 3 short stories when DC took a chance on him.

Author Neil Gaiman has come to the defence of a comic-book writer after some on social media questioned her experience.

Eve Ewing has been chosen to pen Marvel’s new Ironheart comic-book series but the writer is perhaps better known as an award winning poet and academic.

In response to a Twitter user who questioned how many stories Ewing had written, Gaiman replied: “I’d only published three short stories before I started writing comics. I wrote comics once and the poetry I’d written was more useful than the fiction.”

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

Where to Follow Johan Anglemark’s TAFF Trip

By John Purcell: Here are a couple updates on Johan Anglemark’s 2018 TAFF trip thus far.

First up, here is the blog address for Johan Anglemark’s 2018 trip:  www.taff2018.com The title is Westward, Hi! TAFF 2018.  The blog allows fans who are not on Facebook to follow his exploits. Currently he is on the way to Seattle; his plane should be landing there in approximately another two hours.

Here’s a sample:

I and John [Purcell] left Austin yesterday after a wee stroll through town, during which I bought physical artifacts with music for the first time in I don’t know how many years, but if there is a good record store, I say let’s support it. And Waterloo Records in Austin is that store.

We then took the 71 out of town and stopped by the Berdoll Pecan Candy store, so that we could take photos of ourselves standing by the gigantic squirrel statue they have there.

Secondly, here is what I wrote on TAFF’s Facebook page regarding the results of the ArmadilloCon 40 (Austin, TX, this past weekend) TAFF Auction and my “Busking for TAFF” musical adventure. It was supposed to be a combination concert/panel presentation, but ended up being very different from what we had originally planned. I will be writing this up for the next issue of Askew, definitely, which I would like to mail out #26 in the next week or so. But for now, here is this from the TAFF Facebook page:

Johan Anglemark and I far exceeded my expectations on what we would raise for TAFF this weekend. The TAFF portion of the Charity Auction Saturday afternoon was $146, which eclipsed the $100-125 range I expected. Then today I did an hour’s worth of “Busking for TAFF” and, with Johan’s help, we must have done something right because that raised an additional $94.85, plus items were donated for future sale for the fund. This is a total of $240.85 – which is twice as much as I had projected for ArmadilloCon 40, which had an estimated 375 attendance. Dang! Like I said in an earlier posting, the generosity of sf fans and pros this weekend had me feeling verklempt.

Thank you, ArmadilloCon fans, guests, and committee! Without you people, we could not have done this. From Johan and myself, thank you so much for supporting TAFF and helping it grow.

Words fail me. You people are the best!

Pixel Scroll 7/2/18 Bring Me The Pixel Of Scroll Charming!

(1) KLAATU BARADA UFO. The Independent celebrates World UFO Day with a roll-call of alien encounter films: “World UFO Day 2018: Top 10 alien encounter B-movies from the golden age of schlock sci-fi”.

World UFO Day is being observed around the galaxy on Monday.

The occasion is held on 2 July in memory of the US Army Air Forces weather balloon crash in Roswell, New Mexico, that many believe was really a flying saucer landing covered up by the Pentagon.

It is marked by sky-watching parties as keen ufologists survey the heavens in search of fresh evidence of alien life.

Others prefer to mark the day on 24 June, the date on which American aviator Kenneth Arnold reported spotting a fleet of nine spaceships over Mount Rainier, Washington, in 1947….

(2) HOT READS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak says these are “12 fantastic science fiction and fantasy novels that you should check out this July”.

July 10th

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik earned a Nebula Award for her fairy tale-inspired novel Uprooted. She’s back with an new book that similarly delves into folklore, Spinning Silver. In this book, a girl named Miryem is the daughter of moneylenders, but her family has fallen onto hard times. She takes their predicament into her own hands, turning silver into gold. Her abilities attract the attention of the Fey king of the Staryk, who gives her an impossible challenge, and accidentally spins a web that draws in the daughter of a local lord, angering the Tsar who had pledged to wed her.

Read an excerpt here.

Game of the Gods by Jay Schiffman

Set in the future, Jay Schiffman’s debut novel Game of the Gods follows a Federacy military commander named Max Cone, who just wants to be left alone. When war breaks out, he becomes an unwitting pawn in a global game to try to get him into the fight once again. He’s given a device that allows him to predict the future, and when his wife and children are kidnapped, he’s drawn in to rescue them, aided by a band of unlikely allies — a 13-year old girl with special abilities, a mathematician, a religious zealot, and a drug addict who was once a revolutionary

(3) SUPERHERO, SUPER REVIEWER. Luke Cage is back, and so is Abigail Nussbaum: “Five Comments on Luke Cage, Season 2”.

I don’t have that much to say about the second season of Luke Cage.  Which is actually a shame, because despite some problems, I’d say that it’s the strongest and most consistently entertaining season of television the Netflix MCU has produced since the first season of Jessica Jones.  It’s just that the things I’d have to say about it are basically a combination of my review of the first season, and my review of the second season of Jessica Jones.  The stuff that worked in season one is back here, but better–the strong visuals, the amazing music, the thrilling fight scenes, the palpable sense of place.  And like Jessica Jones, coming back for a second season seems to have freed Luke Cage from the burden of having to justify its own existence as a superhero show about X (a woman, a black man), and allowed it to simply tell a story in which most of the characters are people of color (and some of them have superpowers).  At the same time, a lot of the problems that plagued the first season, and suggested that the Luke Cage concept might not be as durable as we could hope, are back in force here, with little indication that the show is interested in addressing them.  Here are a few thoughts I had at the end of the season, though the bottom line is that it is definitely worth watching….

(4) TAFF RINGS THE REGISTER. Jim Mowatt has enriched the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund by completing his trip report Wherever I Lay My Hat!

I have recently sent copies of my 2013 TAFF report to SCIFI and FANAC and both happily paid 500 dollars each into the TAFF coffers, so helping us to keep sending more delegates across the ocean to strengthen the science fictional bonds that enhance our community. Many thanks to both these fine organisations for their encouragement and support for the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund

Find out how to get a copy here.

(5) HE’S NOT BUGGED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says you won’t demand your 2 hours back: “Flyweight: Wee, The People: ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp'”.

It’s fine.

Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s feather-light and perfectly forgettable Ant-Man, is just fine.

It does what it sets out to do, which, by all readily legible indicators, is to be … fine. Agreeable. Inoffensive. A good way to pass a couple of hours in air-conditioned darkness. Jokes. Car chases. Fight scenes. Michelle Pfeiffer, briefly, in a hoodie and a chalk-white wig and, for some reason, fingerless gloves. A gruff Michael Douglas, less briefly, as the resident goateed genius of this particular corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Tony Stark and Doctor Strange having their attentions turned elsewhere).

Also: Evangeline Lilly as badass superhero The Wasp, kickin’ thoraxes and takin’ names and even crackin’ the occasional joke, thank God. The always-winning Michael Peña as voluble sidekick Luis, whose presence in any given scene amps up its charm factor. Phrases like “We have to adjust the refractors on the regulator!” (LOTS of those.)…

(6) ADAMS OBIT.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The original time machine from the 1960 movie was sold at the MGM studio auction in 1971, the same auction that originally sold the Ruby Slippers (The Wizard of Oz (1939)). The winner of the auction was the owner of a traveling show. Five years later the prop was found in a thrift store in Orange, CA. Film historian Bob Burns purchased it for $1,000. Using blueprints his friend George Pal had given him years earlier, he and a crew of friends restored it. The restoration crew included D.C. Fontana script consultant and writer on Star Trek (1966) and Michael Minor art director on Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 2 – Margot Robbie, 28. The Legend of Tarzan was her first genre film (maybe) followed by Suicide SquadGoodbye Christopher Robin, an animated Peter Rabbit, more DCU announced films than bear thinking about and intriguingly she’s announced to be Marian in Marian, a telling of her life after the death of Robin.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian was surprised to see who is the pitchman for retirement plans in the Star Trek universe: Brevity.
  • Chip Hitchcock calls this one Arctic Circle meets Connie Willis.

(10) SUPERHERO CHOW. The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore boasts a ”DC Comics Superhero Café”. Here’s the real menu [PDF file.]

Dine in, take-away, save the day – at this immersive café-retail experience, home to the DC Comics universe.

Find apparel, accessories and gifts to unleash the DC super hero within you. Chill out at the Superman-inspired café; sip the Batman’s Late Night Summer Latte or get buzzed from The Flash’s Espresso. Grab a Green Lantern pizza to go.

At our Justice League tribute diner – eat-in for a serious scoffing of Batman’s epic Dark Knight charcoal-brioche-bun burger or battle out with The Flash Mushroom Linguine. Feeling villainous? Get your “just desserts” from the Joker.

(11) SEQUEL SUCCESS. Camestros Felapton finds time to “Review: The Incredibles 2”.

…At the time Pixar eschewed sequels (with the exception of Toy Story) and despite the implications of the end of the film, a second Incredibles movie seemed unlikely. Time moves on and Disney-Pixar is keen to capitalise on the IP it owns. Could a sequel possibly manage that same balance of action and character?

Absolutely….

(12) YOU HAVE TO WONDER. Given the 80’s setting of the upcoming Wonder Woman film, digital artist Bosslogic has populated his Instagram feed with reimaginings of the alter egos fo other superheroes as they might have looked if they were in 1984 continuity. Take a look for the   “WW84” posts scattered among the entries at Bosslogic. Here, for instance, is Henry Cavill as Clark Kent — if he were plopped down in 1984…

Credit to SYFY Wire for tipping us to this art with their story “B-Boy Batman Meets Superman’s Sweet Mullet in Awesome ’80S Fan Art for Wonder Woman 2”.

(13) INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. This job is not that f**king easy!

(14) FUTURE STUNTS. TechCrunch goes behind the scenes:  “Disney Imagineering has created autonomous robot stunt doubles”.

Disney it taking their robotics to new heights… at least for a few seconds. Born out of an experiment called Stickman, the new development “Stuntronics” can fling articulated robot figures into the air. The bots control their orientation and poses to nail the same tricks — such as a superhero pose — time after time after time. According to project personnel Tony Dohi (Principal R&D Imagineer) and Morgan Pope (Associate Research Scientist):

“So what this is about is the realization we came to after seeing where our characters are going on screen,” says Dohi, “whether they be Star Wars characters, or Pixar characters, or Marvel characters or our own animation characters, is that they’re doing all these things that are really, really active. And so that becomes the expectation our park guests have that our characters are doing all these things on screen — but when it comes to our attractions, what are our animatronic figures doing? We realized we have kind of a disconnect here.”

…“So often our robots are in the uncanny valley where you got a lot of function, but it still doesn’t look quite right. And I think here the opposite is true,” says Pope. “When you’re flying through the air, you can have a little bit of function and you can produce a lot of stuff that looks pretty good, because of this really neat physics opportunity — you’ve got these beautiful kinds of parabolas and sine waves that just kind of fall out of rotating and spinning through the air in ways that are hard for people to predict, but that look fantastic.”

…“One of our goals of Stuntronics is to see if we can leap across the uncanny valley.”

 

(15) EVIL DEAD AUCTION. Bloody Disgusting points the way: “The “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Prop and Costume Auction is the Coolest, Most Gruesome Auction We’ve Ever Seen”.

…A final attempt to make some money off the show, the official “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Series Finale Auction just launched this week, and it’s continuing through August 17. Don’t worry about showing up anywhere in person to get in on the bidding, as it’s taking place entirely online.

Modern technology, am I right?!

The auction features over 1,000 screen-used costumes, props, prosthetics and set decorations from all three seasons, all of them direct from the studio and coming with Certificates of Authenticity. If you saw it on the show, it’s probably up for grabs, with the auction including Ash’s chainsaw, the Season 3 demon baby, Ash’s wardrobe and TONS of gory practical effects.

Check out some highlights below and head over to VIP Fan Auctions to see more!

(16) FIRMIN RESUME. When SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie learned that Peter Firmin died, he rounded up some links to help me appreciate the loss: “His co-creations (with Oliver Postgate) of The ClangersNoggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine wowed generations of Brits.  Arguably worth checking out and if fans have young kids then sharing.”

  • The Clangers were an alien race who live on the Moon.

The Clangers are peacefully building a house. We hear a whistling sound and down comes something. The Clangers run for cover. The thing is a terrestrial space-probe vehicle with large initials on it.

  • Noggin the Nog was a fantasy series set in Viking times with dragons etc. (eat your heart out Martin).

  • Ivor the Engine was an almost living steam locomotive.

“Wonderful stuff,” Jonathan concludes.

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

June Moffatt (1926-2018)

Len and June Moffatt

Longtime LASFS member June Moffatt died May 31. June’s son Bob Konigsberg announced her passing on Facebook. She was 92.

June attended her first LASFS meeting 1947. By the time I joined in 1970 she was chair of the Board of Directors. Her maturity, compassion, and wisdom made her one of the club’s most admired and respected members.

June married Eph Konigsberg in 1949 and together they had three children Robert (Bob), Katie, and Jerry. June had little opportunity to visit the club for the next decade. After June and Eph divorced in 1964 she resumed going to LASFS meetings. That also was the year the club started APA-L, the weekly amateur publishing association, and June became a faithful contributor for decades.

Fred Pattenn and June Moffatt collating APA-L.

Len Moffatt, himself a LASFS member since 1946, married June in 1966. They both participated in club leadership, alternating terms on the LASFS Board of Directors, and serving in other offices.

Len and June were elected the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegates in 1973. Their TAFF trip report, The Moffatt House Abroad, which I mimeographed and slip-sheeted on the LASFS mimeo (!), for thirty years enjoyed the distinction of being the only full-length North American TAFF report completed and published.

Len and June also were active in mystery fandom. In 1965 they started publishing The JDM Bibliophile, about John D. MacDonald (who wrote in multiple genres, but was especially known for his Travis McGee detective series). And as Sherlock Holmes aficianados, they were members in the Blustering Gales of the SW and the Curious Collectors of Baker St.

In 1970, they co-founded Bouchercon, and chaired three of them. Today the convention is called Bouchercon: World Mystery Convention.

June in the 1970s. Photo by Bill Warren.

As part of another subfandom, she and Len were charter members of the Los Angeles SubERBs chapter of the Burroughs Bibliophiles.

They were jointly celebrated as guests of honor at Loscon 8 (1981), Bouchercon 16 (1985), and Tra-La-La Con (1997). LASFS gave them its Evans-Freehafer service award in 1994.

And at LASFS’s seventy-fifth anniversary in 2009, the couple presented “LASFS ALIVE AT 75!” in rhyme and prose.

JUNE:

In Nineteen Forty-Seven I got a treat
And was taken to the LASFS on Bixel Street.
I met Forry Ackerman, van Vogt and more
Science-fiction fans by the score.

Only a year later, Len predeceased her.

John Hertz and June Moffatt at the LASFS memorial for Len Moffatt.

After that June remained as active in the club as health permitted.

Following two hospitalizations in March of this year she entered hospice care. Her family reports that on May 31 she went peacefully. Her remains will be cremated.

[Thanks to Lee Gold for her help with this story – but any errors are mine!]

Pixel Scroll 4/29/18 First Step On Our New Homeworld. That’s One Small Pixel For A Fan, One Giant Scroll For Fankind

(1) AVENGERS KEEP THE REGISTER RINGING. The Hollywood Reporter has the numbers: “Box Office: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Passes ‘Star Wars: Force Awakens’ With Record $250M U.S. Bow”

Disney and Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War kicked off the summer box office in high style over the weekend, opening to a record-setting $250 million in North America and $380 million overseas for a global total of $630 million, the top worldwide debut of all time. The superhero mashup accomplished the feat without China, where it doesn’t unfurl until May 11.

(2) HAPPY CUSTOMER. Doc at Sci-Fi Storm praises the new MCU film: “Avengers: Infinity War breaks records, looks at $250M opening; Non-Review”.

There is very little I can say about the movie that isn’t a spoiler, so I’ll limit myself to what little there is that isn’t. This movie is practically non-stop, with powerful action sequences and emotional points throughout. There are so many characters we know I’m amazed they were given the amount of time that they could!

(3) END OF A LUCKY STREAK. Abigail Nussbaum tells Asking the Wrong Question readers why Avengers: Infinity War” doesn’t work for her.

…So even though I wouldn’t say that I walked into Avengers: Infinity War with high hopes, I had certain expectations from it.  I’m not a great fan of any of the MCU’s team-up movies–I think Avengers is more impressive for being attempted than for its limited success; I get more annoyed with Age of Ultron whenever I think about it; and though I praised Civil War when I first watched it, it has aged very poorly for me, and I now remember mainly its risible politics and the fact that it has made me dislike Steve Rogers.  But for all that, I still believed that the question aroused by the Infinity War concept–how can Marvel rope together dozens of characters from multiple storylines into a battle against a single universe-destroying villain, and make a successful and entertaining movie out of it?–would be answered with the same definitive success as previous ones.  I didn’t expect to love Infinity War, but I expected it to work.

Instead, it is barely even a movie.  The answer to “how can you give each of these lovingly crafted characters the space and attention they deserve” turns out to be “you can’t”….

(4) KERMODE ON AVENGERS. Mark Kermode’s review for the BBC is spoiler free. But IanP notes: “However as he is not a dyed in the wool comic fan he didn’t manage to fully engage emotionally with the film, while fully understanding while fans will. Overall I think he admired what they’d managed to do without it actually working for him.”

(5) ALONG FOR THE RIDE. A Blue Origin New Shepard space vehicle was launched Sunday on a suborbital hop carrying a dummy astronaut. His name?  Mannequin Skywalker. Cnet has the story: “Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin launch used rocket, and fleas, to space”.

After a number of delays Sunday morning, a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket blasted off from the west Texas desert just after noon Central Daylight Time, sending a crew capsule carrying a dummy named “Mannequin Skywalker” on a brief trip to space.

For the eighth time, Jeff Bezos’ commercial space company successfully tested the system it hopes to use to send paying passengers on suborbital flights in the coming months.

The spacecraft reached an altitude of 350,000 feet (106,680 meters), or about 5 percent higher than previous New Shepard test flights. That height sent the rocket beyond the internationally accepted boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, called the Karman Line.

(6) SATURN TESTS. In 1963, Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus wonders why it’s taking so long to get to the moon. Who knew we’d be asking that question again in 2018. “[Apr. 29, 1963] When a malfunction isn’t (the flight of Saturn I #4 and other space tidbits)”.

Enter the two-stage Saturn I, whose first stage has eight engines, like the Nova, but they are much smaller.  Still, altogether, they produce 1.5 million pounds of thrust — that’s six times more than the Atlas that will put Gordo Cooper’s Mercury into orbit next month.  The Saturn I’s second stage will likely also be the third stage on the Saturn V.

The Saturn I has had the most successful testing program of any rocket that I know of.  It’s also one of the most maddeningly slow testing programs (I’m not really complaining — methodical is good, and it’s not as if Apollo’s ready to fly, anyway).

(7) NEW VORKOSIVERSE NOVELLA ON THE WAY. Lois McMaster Bujold read part of this story on her last tour says ULTRAGOTHA – “The Flowers of Vashnoi bloom in May”.

I am pleased and somewhat surprised to report that a new Vorkosiverse novella is upcoming, probably in late May.

Title is “The Flowers of Vashnoi”, cover label is going to be “an Ekaterin Vorkosigan novella”, and the length is about 22,400 words, roughly the same as “Winterfair Gifts”.

As usual, no pre-order will be set up; you can just buy it when it goes live, at our usual three online vendors Kindle, iTunes, and Nook. I will certainly post the news when that occurs.

Final revisions are almost complete – it’s down to the stage where I spend all morning adding two sentences and all afternoon taking them back out, which is generally a sign to stop. The other part to be nailed down is the e-cover, still in development, so no sneak peek yet.

Possibly my shortest novella, this one has, oddly, taken the longest of anything to complete. My computer files claim I started the first draft back in November, 2011. (I could not even remember.) It ran along well for a while, then hit a brick wall and died on impact, I thought. I believed it was buried forever, but apparently it was just cryofrozen, because it came back to life a couple of months ago when I was trying and failing to boot up a new adventure for Penric and Desdemona. When my backbrain hands me a gift like that, I’ve found it’s better not to refuse it.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MOGUL

  • Born April 29, 1923  — Irvin Kershner. The Force was with him.

(9) MYTHIC CHOW. Atlas Obscura’s Anne Ewbank ponders “Why Do Fantasy Novels Have So Much Food?”.

Food in fantasy dates back to early myths and legends, which are full of symbolic, often menacing fare. The Greek goddess Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds in the underworld, consigning her to spend six months of the year with Hades, the god of death. European tales and poems abound with mystical fairies or elves using food to lure humans. In the poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” written in 1819 by Romantic poet John Keats, a knight falls in love with a fairy girl, who feeds him “roots of relish sweet, And honey wild, and manna-dew.” But one day, the knight wakes up to find himself abandoned and half-mad for what he lost. In 1859, poet Christina Rossetti wrote “Goblin Market,” about eerie, otherworldly creatures that sell fruit that, once tasted, drive people crazy for more.

The trope of dangerous fairy food still exists in modern fantasy, says Dr. Robert Maslen. Maslen is a senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow, where he founded one of the world’s first master’s degrees in fantasy literature. He gives two modern examples: the film Pan’s Labyrinth and Ellen Kushner’s novel Thomas the Rhymer. When food comes with consequences, it’s a sign that “we’re in a world where the rules are very different.”

(10) TAFF REPORT. Now you can pick up Jim Mowatt’s 2013 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund trip report – Where I Lay My Hat. Let Jim tell you about it —

After years of desperate procrastination the Taff report of my 2013 Taff trip to North America is now complete. It tells the tale of my visits to Toronto, Abingdon, Seattle, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Antonio (Worldcon) and New Orleans. It features art from (in order of appearance) Alan White, Al Sirois, Stu Shiffman, Carrie Mowatt, D. West, Taral Wayne, Brad Foster, Allison Hershey, Ulf Skei, Valeri Purcell, Julie McMurray and Anne Stokes. There are many fine full colour photos of frolicking fans and I’ve even shoved a few words in there. I’m recommending a donation to Taff of about 20 pounds (28 or 29 dollars) and you can donate using the Taff donations buttons at taff.org.uk. Email me,  jim (at) umor.co.uk or John Purcell at 2017taff2019 (at) gmail.com and we’ll post out a copy.

(11) CONTASTROPHE. Aja Romano’s “Great Con Disasters Of The Past: A Thread” begins here:

(12) DON’T BLOW YOUR CHANCE. Atlas Obscura shares “The Uncanny Delights of the World Balloon Convention”.

…This year’s WBC was held in mid-March, in San Diego, California. According to the official website, close to 900 people attended, from 52 countries. The best of the best participated in the Convention’s nine separate competitions, battling to take home titles in everything from “Large Sculpture” to “Balloon Hat.”

The competitors are incredibly skilled. (Most are “Certified Balloon Artists,” which means they have passed a qualifying exam.) Several categories require creating entire landscapes out of gas and latex. Incredible details are achieved with a limited palette of shapes. Sometimes the juxtapositions are funny: The winner of the “Fashion & Costume” category has reimagined a lightsaber as a long, floppy balloon. In the “Large Sculpture” winner, a tiger sports armor that, if you zoom in, looks like sausage links….

(13) APRIL SUMMATIONS BRING MAY FEATURES: Jason has summed Summation: April 2018 over at Featured Futures.

Ten of this month’s eleven noted stories (five recommended) come from the 50 (of just over 200,000 words) that I’ve read with a publication date between April 1 and April 28. Nature and Terraform had a good month with a recommended story and an honorable mention each. Some venues appeared for just the first or second time this year (Grievous Angel, On Spec (reviewed for Tangent), and Strange Horizons (with an especially strong story)), though some of the usual suspects (BCS, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed) also pitched in. Aside from unusual venues, this month’s wombat is a relatively large number of SF (and no fantasy) honorable mentions.

The eleventh noted story is another first-time appearance. It comes from Slate’s “Future Tense Fiction” department and coverage of that is one of three changes in Featured Futures to report. The latest “Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up” caught up on the stories already released this year and future stories will be continue to be covered there.

Meanwhile, Lightspeed and Nightmare have been covered in the “Wrap-Ups” but will be covered as monthly issues beginning in May.

Lastly, Featured Futures is going to the final frontier: coverage of  short fiction in books. So far, there are a couple of collections and maybe an anthology I’ll see about covering in May.

(14) SHARKTICLE. Another Shadow Clarke juror tells what they will be reading: “Negotiating Cartography by Samira Nadkarni”.

 …As a small cross-section: I started reading Sami Schalk’s Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)Ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction—whose introduction discusses Jasbir Puar whose work I’m following for another project on queerness and warfare— while waiting for Janelle Monàe’s Dirty Computer to drop. Monàe’s vehemently queer 44-minute emotion picture will locate itself around a technocratic society in which citizens are termed “computers,” a section of whom are now on the run from an authoritarian government. Based on what we’ve seen of the three tracks dropped so far, the project is also fiercely Black, and strongly rooted in the political. It’s impossible not to think back to Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures: The Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race (followed by a film of the same name starring Monàe, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer) which made evident the links between women (Black women in particular) and the history of computers. Knowing that early production units were called “kilo-girls” to denote the number of hours worked and that these women were called “computers,” Monàe’s choice of a return to “computers” as words for people in videos peopled almost exclusively by Black people, and heavily peopled by Black women in this futuristic melding of technology, activism, and talking back to an authoritarian regime feels poignant and part of an evolving expression of futurity located in historicity.

… All of this was with me when I sat down to make this shortlist. I’m hoping the explanation helps contextualise my interest in books that not only talk about power, but also may talk about the complications of power that may come even with resistance and reclamation.

(15) RON HOWARD EXPLAINS IT ALL. …In a new Solo: A Star Wars Story “Becoming Solo Featurette.”

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, ULTRAGOTHA, Mark Hepworth, Steve Bartlett, Jim Mowatt, Carl Slaughter, Jason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mister Dalliard.]

2018 TAFF Voting Stats

Johan Anglemark

The Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund administrators have released the vote counts from this year’s race which saw Swedish fan Johan Anglemark selected as the TAFF delegate to Worldcon 76.

TAFF’s voting system requires each candidate to get at least 20% of the total first preference votes from both North America and the UK/Europe to advance. Here is the breakdown of the voting results by first preference:

2018 TAFF Result

Swedish fan Johan Anglemark has been voted this year’s Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate to Worldcon 76 in San Jose over August 16-20, 2018.

TAFF co-administrator John Purcell described it as “a very close, highly contested race.” Complete voting result breakdowns will follow in an official TAFF Press Release within the next 24 hours which Purcell and Anna Raftery, the outgoing European TAFF Administrator, are preparing. “Anna and I congratulate Johan for this exciting win, and also thank candidates Fia Karlsson and Helena McCallum for making this campaign so much fun and a great success.”

TAFF News 3 Features Candidate Confessions

Need help deciding who to vote for in the 2018 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund race?

The third issue of TAFF News [PDF file] is available on the TAFF Website with the candidates’ answers to a questionnaire. Find out what Johan Anglemark, Fia Karlsson, and Helena McCallum had to say when they were asked these probative fannish questions —

1) Tell us something about yourself and fandom: where did it begin for you and when.

2) Are there any specific subgenres of Science Fiction & Fantasy you prefer? e.g., hard science, alternative history, steampunk, etc.

3) Describe your fannish activity: clubs you’ve been in, official roles (club president, or whatever), cons you’ve attended/worked on, and fanzines you’ve produced, and so forth.

4) What was the craziest or most fun thing you have ever done or experienced in fandom?

TAFF voting to pick a European delegate to the San Jose Worldcon is open until midnight EST of April 3, 2018. Get the ballot and voting information on the TAFF website.