Pixel Scroll 11/22/19 The Pixels Scrolled Too Greedily And Too Deep

(1) NYT’S PICKS OF THE YEAR. The editors of The NY Times Book Review choose the best fiction and nonfiction titles this year in “The 10 Best Books of 2019”. Ted Chiang’s collection Exhalation is one of them:

Many of the nine deeply beautiful stories in this collection explore the material consequences of time travel. Reading them feels like sitting at dinner with a friend who explains scientific theory to you without an ounce of condescension. Each thoughtful, elegantly crafted story poses a philosophical question; Chiang curates all nine into a conversation that comes full circle, after having traversed remarkable terrain.

The nonfiction selections include Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham.

(2) GENESIS. sisterMAG’s “The Beginnings of Science Fiction” leads off:

The beginning of modern science fiction lies in the age of Industrial Revolution, when the significance of science and technology steadily increased….

Daring, aren’t they?

(3) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LID. This week, The Full Lid turns 3! Alasdair Stuart’s preview of The Full Lid 22nd November 2019 hits the highlights:

To celebrate we’ve got thematically resonant Lego, some thoughts about Gary Oldman and Jackson Lamb, a look at Karen Gillen’s extraordinary directorial debut and an advanced review of Ryan Ferrier and George Kambadais’ excellent horror noir comedy, I Can Sell You A Body.

(4) THEY CALL THE WIND ANYTHING BESIDES MARIA. NPR speaks to the air apparent: “Disney Animation Chief Jennifer Lee Is The Queen Behind Elsa And Anna”.

In a windowless room at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif., supervising sound editor Odin Benitez plays different sound effects for the creative team of Frozen II. Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck are commenting on the wind sounds.

Wind — like water, air, earth and fire — is important to the story in Frozen II. Playful “Gale,” as she’s called, swooshes around an enchanted forest carrying with her a flurry of leaves that fly around to flute-like sounds. Angry Gale is loud and gusty and, at times, sounds almost like a “backwards inhale,” Lee says approvingly.

As Benitez plays different sounds, Buck and Lee talk about the importance of this anthropomorphic wind. When she’s angry, Buck says “she blasts that tree limb away from Anna.” When Gale interacts with Elsa, who has the power to make ice and snow, they need a sound that implies Gale is saying “You’re the magic,” Lee says.

Getting the sound effects for this short scene just right is a team effort, as is every other aspect of an animated Disney movie. “You go shot by shot, moment by moment, frame by frame, and discuss everything from the emotion to the effects to the camera,” Lee says.

Lots of make-believe Elsas and Annas are about to finally get their wishes when Frozen II hits theaters this weekend. The first Frozen melted young hearts around the world when it was released in 2013 — up until this year, it was the highest-grossing animated film worldwide. (The 2019 remake of The Lion King now holds the top spot.)

Also remarkable: Jennifer Lee co-directed and wrote the screenplays for both Frozen and Frozen II. She has since been named the chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios — the first woman to hold such a position.

(5) CREATING. A New York Times Q&A with artist Jim Kay: “How a Harry Potter Illustrator Brings the Magical to Life”.

When you’re drawing imaginary creatures that doesn’t exist, how do you make them look real?

You’re trying to get people to buy into an alternative world. The more you can seat it in apparent reality, the better it works.

On a more practical level, it’s much easier to draw if you have something in front of you. If it doesn’t exist, I make it. If there isn’t something in the wild or it’s not in a museum, I’ll try to make it out of clay or plasticene. I’m not one of those illustrators who can pull stuff out of my head, I’m afraid. I’m not that good.

“It’s much easier to draw if you have something in front of you. If it doesn’t exist, I make it,” Kay said.

(6) COLBERT AND PETER JACKSON. The comedy continues!

Stephen Colbert’s epic quest to become The Newest Zealander takes him to Peter Jackson’s top-secret Wellington studio, where Colbert convinces Jackson to direct a new trilogy centered around his character from “The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug.” Watch as the two debut the trailer for Stephen Colbert presents Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings series’ The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’s “The Laketown Spy” is Darrylgorn in Darrylgorn Rising: The Rise of Darrylgorn The Prequel to Part One: Chapter One.

(7) POLLARD OBIT. Actor Michael J. Pollard, best known for his work in the movie Bonnie and Clyde, died November 20 at the age of 80. As the Washington Post summed up: “The film remained the pinnacle of Mr. Pollard’s screen career, even as he continued working in dozens of films over the next five decades, playing all manner of eccentrics and creeps.” His TV work included episodes of Lost in Space, Star Trek, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and Superboy (“Mr. Mxyzptlk”), The Ray Bradbury Theater, and Tales from the Crypt.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

The first ever product to be purchased using a bar code was a 10-pack of Juicy Fruit gum at a Marsh supermarket in Ohio on June 26, 1974.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 22, 1968 Star Trek’s “Plato’s Stepchildren” featured what is said to be the first interracial kiss in prime time television in the kiss between Kirk and Uhura. Memory Alpha disputes this with a listing of previous kisses.
  • November 22, 1989 Back to the Future II premiered. Starring Michael J. Fox,  Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson, the critics gave it a mix response but it holds a solid 65% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 22, 1996  — Star Trek: First Contact premiered. Starring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Alice Krige, this film did well at the box office and currently holds an 89% approval among viewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It was Jonathan Frakes first directing effort. 
  • November 22, 1999 Donkey Kong 64 was released, an adventure platform video game for the Nintendo 64 console.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 22, 1932 Robert Vaughn. His best-known genre work was as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with other genre work being  in Teenage Caveman, Starship Invasions, The Lucifer Complex, Virus, Hangar 18, Battle Beyond the Stars, Superman III,  C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (seriously who penned that title?), Transylvania Twist and Witch Academy. God, did he do some awful films. Oh, and he wrote the introduction to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series companion that came out a generation after the series aired. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 22, 1940 Terry Gilliam, 79. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Tideland, The Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else. Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.  Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup.  He’s also co-directed a number of scenes.  Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one.  My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits.
  • Born November 22, 1943 William Kotzwinkle, 76. Fata Morgana might be his best novel though Doctor Rat which he won the World Fantasy Award for is in the running for that honor as well. And his short stories are quite excellent too.  Neither Apple Books or Kindle we particularity well stocked with his works. 
  • Born November 22, 1949 John Grant, 70. He’d make the Birthday list solely for being involved in the stellar Hugo Award winning Encyclopedia of Fantasy which also won a Mythopoeic Award.  And he did win another well-deserved Hugo Award for Best Related Work for The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective.  Most of his short fiction has been set in the Lone Wolf universe, though I see that he did a Judge Dredd novel too. 
  • Born November 22, 1958 Jamie Lee Curtis, 61. Can we agree that she was the best Scream Queen for her film debut in the 1978 Halloween film in which she played the role of Laurie Strode? No? Well that’s my claim. She followed up with yet more horror films, The Fog and Prom Night. In all, she’s the only character that survives. She would reprise the role of Laurie in four sequels, including Halloween H20,  Halloween: Resurrection, Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch.  She shows up in up of my fav SF films, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as Sandra Banzai but you’ll need to see the director’s extended version as she’s only there in that version.   Is True Lies genre? Probably not but for her performance, Curtis won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Saturn Award for Best Actress. Damn impressive I’d say. No, I’m not listing all her films here as OGH would likely start growling. [*growl*] Suffice to say she’s had a very impressive career.
  • Born November 22, 1967 Mark Ruffalo, 52. Dr. Bruce Banner and The Hulk in the MCU film franchise. (Some silly SFF sites only credit him as the former saying the latter is all CGI.) He was The Boyfriend in Where the Wild Things Are, and was in the most excellent Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as Stan. Early on, he played two different roles in the Mirror, Mirror horror anthology series.
  • Born November 22, 1979 Leeanna Walsman, 40. Spoiler alert. She’s best known as the assassin Zam Wesell from Attack of The Clones.  Being Australian, she’s shown up on Farscape, a Hercules series (but not that series), BeastMaster and Thunderstone series and Spellbinder: Land of the Dragon Lord
  • Born November 22, 1988 James Campbell Bower, 31. He‘s best recognized  for his roles in the Twilight franchise, the young Gellert Grindelwald in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Jace Wayland in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and playwright Kit Marlowe in the short-lived series and highly fictionalised Will.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Not SF (except for the talking rat!) but I think a lot of Filers will understand the sentiment in today’s Pearls Before Swine.

(12) SPOILER TOY WARNING. “Bootleg Baby Yoda Merchandise Bountiful as Fans Clamor For New ‘Star Wars’ Character” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Star Wars fans have made it clear: Baby Yoda (or whoever the cute little tyke actually is) is a massive hit. In fact, there is such a clamoring for the breakout star of Disney+ series The Mandalorian that bootleg merchandise has flooded the Internet, as nothing officially licensed has been released as of Friday. 

A quick search on eBay for Baby Yoda results in a plethora of items, including shirts, mugs and stuffed toys. “He protects. He attacks. He also takes naps,” a shirt reads. A coffee mug proclaims “Adorable he is. Protect him, I will.” 

(13) DOCTOR DOCTOR. “Doctor Who: Sheffield university honours cast and crew” – BBC has the story.

The cast and crew of a Doctor Who episode that was filmed in Sheffield have accepted honorary doctorates from one of the city’s universities.

The opening episode of series 11, The Woman Who Fell to Earth, featured Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor.

Chris Chibnall, showrunner and executive producer on the series, was awarded the honour of Doctor of Arts by Sheffield Hallam University.

He said it was a “massive team effort” and praised the people of Sheffield.

“From the moment we made the decision for the Doctor to fall out of the sky into the streets and homes of Sheffield in 2018, the residents and the city have treated us brilliantly, on screen and off.

(14) BEHIND THE GLASS. The Washington Post’s Sonia Rao interviews Tim Blake Nelson, who plays Looking Glass on Watchmen, and offers insights into his character and how the current version of Watchmen differs from Moore and Gibbons’s graphic novel: “‘Watchmen’ actor Tim Blake Nelson reflects on the ‘unspeakable trauma’ of Looking Glass’s youth”.

…“I can do what actors do, which is to use my imagination to trick myself into a reality, meaning that the mask is always reminding me . . . no one can really see what I’m doing with my face,” Nelson said. “If I play that reality, I get all the power and status that wearing a mask is meant to confer.

“There don’t need to be any histrionics, there don’t need to be any demonstrations of power. Everything can happen simply and quietly and with restraint, because the power is just there. What I’ve tried to do as a performer is just aggregate a stillness with Wade that I think is there in the writing.”

(15) [THERE WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE] AN EARTHSHATTERING “KABOOM!” “SpaceX Starship prototype blows its top”. BBC’s story includes a short video.

SpaceX’s Starship rocket prototype experienced a major failure during pressurisation testing on Wednesday.

A video from the scene in Texas showed the top part of the vehicle rupture.

Cryogenic propellants that were being loaded at the time dispersed across the Boca Chica facility in a huge cloud.

The US company bills Starship as an all-purpose transportation system of the future. It will be used to ferry people and cargo off Earth, and to destinations around the globe.

The Mk-1 prototype was due to begin practice flights to an altitude of 20km in the coming weeks.

In a tweet, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that could no longer happen and the ship would be retired.

Development work is already being directed at another prototype, labelled the Mk-3.

(16) TASTY SCIENCE. “Antarctic Research Takes The Cake In These Science-Inspired Confections”NPR has the story with lots of cool [sic] pictures.

When Rose McAdoo got back to New York after spending several months working as a sous chef in Antarctica, her friends had questions. Are there penguins? How do you get supplies? Are you, like, on an iceberg?

McAdoo set about answering their questions the best way she knows how: with cake.

“Cake is my canvas,” she says. “It’s my way of making big ideas literally digestible.”

The result was a series of descriptive desserts McAdoo developed to tell the story of life and work at McMurdo Station, a U.S.-run research station in Antarctica. She’s says she chose projects that showcase the diversity of the research that’s happening on the continent. She is now releasing photographs of the cakes, and the stories and science behind them, on her Instagram page.

See whiskmeawaycakes on Instagram.

[Thanks to Rich Horton, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kyra.]

Pixel Scroll 9/5/19 You Don’t Scroll On Pixelman’s Cape, You Don’t File In The Wind

(1) DID AMAZON CHEAT? The American Booksellers Association is on the warpath: “ABA Condemns Amazon for Breaking ‘Testaments’ Embargo”.

The fallout from Amazon violating Penguin Random House’s September 10 embargo of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood continues to roil the industry.

Late yesterday, the American Booksellers Association released a strongly worded statement condemning Amazon. The ABA disclosed that it had contacted PRH “to express our strong disappointment regarding this flagrant violation of the agreed protocol in releasing this book to the public.”

In a statement released to PW late Thursday morning, Amazon acknowledged it had unintentionally shipped some books ahead of the sale date. “Due to a technical error a small number of customers were inadvertently sent copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments,” the statement said. “We apologize for this error; we value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers.”

Before the broken embargo, the ABA was already working on initiatives that would put pressure on Amazon. In an organization-wide newsletter the ABA sent last week, ABA president Oren Teicher said the group is continuing its ongoing discussions with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission about looking into whether Amazon is violating antitrust laws. (ABA executives were in Washington, D.C., yesterday, when the news broke about Amazon’s violation of the PRH embargo.)

…The Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, NY, created a digital postcard that it posted on its website and on social media with the heading, “Loyal Customers and Supporters of Independent Bookstores: A Request.” In it, the store said Amazon had shipped pre-orders of The Testaments to customers a week early, in clear violation of the “legally binding” embargo that all retailers had to sign.

The store went to ask customers to “please pre-order your own copy at your local or nearby independent bookstore” or to visit a story “on Tuesday, Sept. 10, the day the book legally is on sale.” The post closed with a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale, the bestselling prequel to The Testaments: “Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

(2) MEANWHILE IN VIDEOLAND. The question is — “Handmaid’s Tale: Was it right to take the series beyond the book?” Warning for those who click through — Excerpt ends at point where spoilers start.

The second series of the Handmaid’s Tale came to an end on Sunday night.

Writing in iNews, Mark Butler calls the finale “a nail-biting conclusion to the season, with a controversial twist”, but Vanity Fair’s Sonia Saraiya termed the climax “a singularly frustrating end to a season that, despite its high points, often struggled to find its purpose”.

The series went beyond Margaret Atwood’s original novel – with her blessing – but how well did the show do in extending the novel beyond its intended lifecycle and how difficult is it to go beyond the book of an acclaimed author like Atwood?

“The novel ends quite ambiguously,” says Julia Raeside, who has written The Guardian’s episode-by-episode guide to series two of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Speaking to BBC News, she adds: “It’s really interesting when someone takes up the mantle of an unfinished story. If they’ve got something to say about what happens when you repress women for so long, then it’s something I welcome.”

The second series has been criticised by some for its brutal scenes, with some viewers switching off entirely due to what’s been termed by some as “needless torture porn”.

“I think the first couple of episodes were slightly misjudged,” says Raeside, “and I wonder how much brutality Atwood really agreed with.”

(3) GREAT LINES FROM SFF. Discover Sci-Fi is running a poll: “What are the best one-liners from sci-fi books?” There are 13 choices. I’d say about half of them shouldn’t even be under consideration. And it doesn’t include one of my all-time favorites, the line that opens E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman Series –

“Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other.”

I’m writing it in. So there.

(4) GAME HUGO? The Hugo Book Club Blog, in “Game Over”, casts doubt on the qualifications and capability of Worldcon members to choose a winner of a proposed Best Game Hugo. Here are some of the reasons they say the proposal should be rejected:

Ira Alexandre, who has been the driving force in arguing for a Best Game Hugo, has done their research. They looked at the amount of gaming content at Worldcons, examined the burgeoning field of interactive works, and made some significant arguments in favour of the suggested award.

But none of their work addresses the fact that gaming has never been a primary focus of Worldcon. Alexandre’s number-crunching even showed that the amount of gaming-related programming has never exceeded nine per cent of the convention — and is usually much smaller. We would suggest that the majority of Hugo voters are unlikely to have played a wide-enough and diverse-enough range of games and interactive experiences to make adequate nominations in a category dedicated to gaming. 


It’s already difficult enough for Hugo voters to get through a voting package with six works on the shortlist in 15 categories. Games and Interactive Works individually take up to 150 hours to play through – with a short time between the announcement of the shortlist and the voting deadline, it would be difficult to play through, and be able to adequately assess, even one such game.

(5) A CAT BY ANY OTHER NAME. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.]  Not sure if this is newsworthy, but a cheap laugh for others at my own expense is surely a good thing.

One of our rescue cats, Baldur, who we’ve had for about two years, came down very sick and has spent the last week at the vet’s. Recovering well, thankfully, but in the process we discovered something surprising about “him”. Tweeted it here:

In some follow-up tweets, I discussed a possible renaming for our newly-female cat:

Hope the tweets are amusing. I wouldn’t say “amused” for myself, but certainly bemused.

(6) SUPERBRAWL. Alyssa Wong has written all three issues of these Future Fight Firsts comics from Marvel.

Introduced in the Marvel Future Fight mobile game, White Fox, Luna Snow, and Crescent & Io recently made their Marvel comic book debut in War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas and now, because you demanded it, all three will have their origin stories revealed in Marvel Future Fight Firsts! Check out these gorgeous covers by In-Hyuck Lee and prepare yourselves for an up close look at these new fan-favorite characters!

Marvel Future Fight Firsts arrives in October in comic shops, on the Marvel Comics App, and on Marvel.com.

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: WHITE FOX #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by KEVIN LIBRANDA
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: LUNA SNOW #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by GANG HYUCK LIM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: CRESCENT AND IO

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by JON LAM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

(7) POLLY WANNA CONVERSATION? “The Great Silence” by Ted Chiang in Nautilus is a short story excerpted from Chiang’s new collection Exhalation.

The humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe.

But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices?

We’re a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?

(8) SOLUTION UNSATISFACTORY. Randall Munroe will soon be bringing us How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems. His book tour started this week.

For any task you might want to do, there’s a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally bad that no one would ever try it. How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems is a guide to the third kind of approach. It’s the world’s least useful self-help book.

It describes how to cross a river by removing all the water, outlines some of the many uses for lava around the home, and teaches you how to use experimental military research to ensure that your friends will never again ask you to help them move.

With text, charts, and stick-figure illustrations, How To walks you through useless but entertaining approaches to common problems, using bad advice to explore some of the stranger and more interesting science and technology underlying the world around us.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 5, 1936 Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played twin androids in I, Mudd, a classic Trek episode. Both appeared as policewomen in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. (Died 2009 and 2005.)
  • Born September 5, 1939 George Lazenby, 80. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film. 
  • Born September 5, 1939 Donna Anderson, 80. She was Mary Holmes in On The Beach, based on Neal Shute’s novel. She also appeared in, and I kid you not, Sinderella and the Golden Bra and Werewolves on Wheels
  • Born September 5, 1940 Raquel Welch, 79. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though her appearance in One Million Years B.C. with her leather bikini got her more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in BewitchedSabrina the Teenage WitchThe Muppet ShowLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy
  • Born September 5, 1951 Michael Keaton, 68. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! He also has the title roles of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. His most recent role is The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Born September 5, 1964 Stephen Greenhorn, 55. Scriptwriter who has written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series with Doctor Who star Alex Kingston. 
  • Born September 5, 1973 Rose McGowan, 46. Best known as Paige Matthews on Charmed. She played two different roles in the Grindhouse franchise, Cherry Darling in  Planet Terror and Pam in  Death Proof. She was Miss Kitty in Monkeybone, a very weird film indeed.

(10) MYTHBUSTING. The results of test purport to explain “Why phones that secretly listen to us are a myth”.

A mobile security company has carried out a research investigation to address the popular conspiracy theory that tech giants are listening to conversations.

The internet is awash with posts and videos on social media where people claim to have proof that the likes of Facebook and Google are spying on users in order to serve hyper-targeted adverts.

Videos have gone viral in recent months showing people talking about products and then ads for those exact items appear online.

Now, cyber security-specialists at Wandera have emulated the online experiments and found no evidence that phones or apps were secretly listening.

(11) IN A SNAP, IT’S GONE. “Trolls cause shutdown of official Jeremy Renner app” – BBC has the story.

Superhero Hawkeye may have helped defeat Thanos – but trolls have proved too tough a foe for him to best.

Actor Jeremy Renner, who plays Marvel’s eagle-eyed hero, has shut down his app after it was hijacked and used to harass people.

Abuse and harassment mushroomed after trolls found a way to impersonate the actor and others on the Jeremy Renner Official app.

Renner apologised for the shutdown in a post explaining what had happened.

Identity crisis

Created in 2017, the app, on which Renner regularly posted exclusive images and content and occasionally messaged users, also operated as a community hub where fans could post their own stories and communicate with each other.

In his explanatory post, Renner blamed “clever individuals” who had found a way to pose as other users.

(12) FRIENDLY (?) NIEGHBORHOOD SPIDER-DRONE. What flies through the air and snares its enemies in webs? CNN has the answer: “China says its drone can hunt like Spiderman”.

               China says it has developed a new hunter drone that can disable other drones — or even small aircraft — by firing a 16-square-meter (172 square feet) web at them.

               “Caught by the web, the hostile drone should lose power and fall to ground,” said a report on the Chinese military’s English-language website.

               Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, the drone can work alone but also can integrate with China’s defense system for small, slow and low-flying targets, according to the report.

The hexacopter drone can also perform surveillance and reconnaissance, it said.

(13) NECRONOMICON. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda gives a con report for Necronomicon, including the panels he enjoyed and the art and books he brought home: “Dispatch from a ‘horror’ convention: It began in a dark, candlelit room .?.?.”

… Because NecronomiCon runs a half dozen simultaneous tracks, you can’t help but miss wonderful-sounding panels and events. On Friday alone I would have liked to have heard “Unsung Authors,” “Pulp History,” “Providence in Weird Fiction,” “Children’s Horror Anthologies of the 1960s and 70s,” and a discussion of the lushly decadent fantasist Tanith Lee, which featured, among others, her bibliographer Allison Rich, science fiction writer and critic Paul Di Filippo and popular Washington author Craig Laurance Gidney.

Still, along with my friend Robert Knowlton — a Toronto book collector who has read more weird fiction than anyone else alive — I did catch the program devoted to the specialty publisher Arkham House. Its participants included Donald Sidney-Fryer, who in his youth got to know that most poetical of Weird Tales writers, Clark Ashton Smith. Donaldo, as he likes to be called, generously inscribed my copy of “The Sorcerer Departs,” his memoir of that friendship. Not surprisingly, among the many films shown during the con was Darin Coelho Spring’s superb documentary “Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams.”…

(14) PYTHON RECOVERIES. Not exactly SF but Monty Python does a surreal riff. The BBC in a two part series of just 15 minutes are revealing newly discovered material from the cutting room floor — Monty Python at 50: The Self-Abasement Tapes.

Part one here.

On the 50th anniversary of Python, Michael Palin hunts down lost sketches. This programme contains material never heard before, including the infamous Fat Ignorant Bastards sketch.

(15) DRESS FOR EXCESS. Jezebel claims “The Woman Who Wore a T-Rex Costume to Her Sister’s Wedding Is the Best Person in America”. Photo at the site.

…As chill as many soon-to-be-married couples pretend to be, weddings are all about control. This is why bridesmaids are forced to purchase matching dresses that make them look like bipedal draperies, often to the tune of several hundred dollars. But this wedding season, one woman had the courage to say “no” to wrapping herself in an ill-fitting puff of chiffon for her sister’s nuptials. Instead she went with an outfit she loved, something she knew she’d wear again and again: A T-rex costume….

(16) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Live Proms from the Royal Albert Hall, London: London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames in music from Sci-Fi films. On the BBC Sounds website: “Prom 27: The Sound of Space: Sci-Fi Film Music”. You can listen anytime.

A Late Night Prom with a futuristic spin brings together some of the best sci-fi film music. Excerpts from cult soundtracks come together with recent works by Hans Zimmer and Mica Levi. The award winning London Contemporary Orchestra – whose collaborators include Radiohead, Goldfrapp and Steve Reich – perform music from Under the Skin, Interstellar and the recent Netflix series The Innocents, among other titles, as well as from Alien: Covenant, whose soundtrack the LCO recorded.

  • Steven Price: Gravity 
  • Mica Levi: Under the Skin 
  • John Murphy: Sunshine 
  • Wendy Carlos: Tron (Scherzo) 
  • Carly Paradis: The Innocents 
  • Clint Mansell: Moon 
  • Louis and Bebe Barron: Forbidden Planet (Main Titles – Overture) 
  • Jed Kurzel: Alien: Covenant Jòhann Jòhannsson arr. 
  • Anthony Weeden: Arrival (Suite No 1) 
  • Hans Zimmer: Interstellar 

(17) SWEET. The Harvard Gazette calls it “Pancreas on a chip”.

By combining two powerful technologies, scientists are taking diabetes research to a whole new level. In a study led by Harvard University’s Kevin Kit Parker and published in the journal Lab on a Chip on Aug. 29, microfluidics and human, insulin-producing beta cells have been integrated in an islet-on-a-chip. The new device makes it easier for scientists to screen insulin-producing cells before transplanting them into a patient, test insulin-stimulating compounds, and study the fundamental biology of diabetes.

The design of the islet-on-a-chip was inspired by the human pancreas, in which islands of cells (“islets”) receive a continuous stream of information about glucose levels from the bloodstream and adjust their insulin production as needed.

“If we want to cure diabetes, we have to restore a person’s own ability to make and deliver insulin,” explained Douglas Melton, the Xander University Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology and co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). “Beta cells, which are made in the pancreas, have the job of measuring sugar and secreting insulin, and normally they do this very well. But in diabetes patients these cells can’t function properly. Now, we can use stem cells to make healthy beta cells for them. But like all transplants, there is a lot involved in making sure that can work safely.”

Before transplanting beta cells into a patient, they must be tested to see whether they are functioning properly. The current method for doing this is based on technology from the 1970s: giving the cells glucose to elicit an insulin response, collecting samples, adding reagents, and taking measurements to see how much insulin is present in each one. The manual process takes so long to run and interpret that many clinicians give up on it altogether.

The new, automated, miniature device gives results in real time, which can speed up clinical decision-making.

(18) BUT IT’S NOT RIGHT. BBC reports “Left-handed DNA found – and it changes brain structure”.

Scientists have found the first genetic instructions hardwired into human DNA that are linked to being left-handed.

The instructions also seem to be heavily involved in the structure and function of the brain – particularly the parts involved in language.

The team at the University of Oxford say left-handed people may have better verbal skills as a result.

But many mysteries remain regarding the connection between brain development and the dominant hand.

(19) HAVING A MELTDOWN. Global Meltdown:My Ice on YouTube explains what happens when the last man on Earth stands on the last piece of ice.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/6/19 Pixel First, Fix It In The Scroll

(1) DELANY ABOUT STONEWALL. Much about the country’s sexual history and his own informs “Stonewall, Before and After: An Interview with Samuel R. Delany” in the LA Review of Books.

…Years later, my mother and the downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Horn, whose kids had also gone to Camp Woodland, were talking about “The Jewel Box Revue,” which had returned to the Apollo Theater at 125th Street in New York. And my mother said, “You know, that’s Mary, that was Mary Davies, who was a counselor up at the summer camp.” And I realized I knew Stormé DeLarverie. And I suddenly realized this is not a person who is far away from me, this is somebody I sat next to on the piano bench, who helped me write a cantata and sat beside me at chorus rehearsal at Woodland — someone who had been very close to me.

Cut to Stonewall.

Stonewall happened when I was 27, so a decade later. And who was the person who was supposed to have thrown the first punch at Stonewall? Stormé DeLarverie!

(2) STAN LEE COMMEMORATIVE. Marvel Toy News doesn’t want you to miss this chance to spend your money: “Hot Toys Stan Lee GOTG Cameo Figure Up for Order!”

Just when it seemed as though the Toy Fair Exclusive Scarlet Spider sixth scale figure was a lock for “Fastest Hot Toys Sell-Out of 2019” after going to Wait List in under 12 hours, Hot Toys dropped a bombshell this week when they revealed an MMS that’s likely to blow poor Scarlet Spider’s sales out of the water! It’s so “out there” that many collectors never even considered it could happen, but the EXCLUSIVE Hot Toys Stan Lee in Spacesuit 1/6 figure is now up for order!

(3) WHERE THE FUR FLIES. Ursula Vernon reporting from the scene at Anthrocon. Thread starts here.

(4) THE GREAT FUR MIGRATION. “The origin of how Pittsburgh and furries fell in love with each other” is a fascinating article in the Pittsburgh City Paper.

…So, Anthrocon left Philadelphia and migrated to Pittsburgh in 2006. If there were any thoughts that the furries made the wrong choice, those were quickly assuaged the first day of the convention that year. People from Downtown restaurants, bars, and hotels all ascended to meet the furries at the convention center. [Sam Conway, the CEO of nonprofit Anthrocon] says they were there to welcome, greet, take pictures with, and even hug some of the furries.

“The city literally and figuratively ran out and gave us a hug,” says Conway.

Conway says Anthrocon and the furries have been in love with Pittsburgh ever since. He has been apologizing to Visit Pittsburgh for the last 14 years, saying he unfairly stereotyped the city of Pittsburgh. But he says that might have actually resonated stronger with furries, who have faced their own damaging stereotypes.

“Maybe that is why it resonated it,” says Conway. “We came here and realized, ‘Look at how wrong we were.’”

The TV coverage of this year’s con includes –

(5) ABOUT FANTASY. Well, when you put it that way —

(6) BERRY HARVEST TIME. John Scalzi probably doesn’t find these experiences funny, yet he is perfectly capable of treating them as the inspiration for amusing posts: “Endgames, Tinkerbell and Happily Ever After”.

In the wake of a recent mild uptick in people being angry at me for existing, a question in email, which I am paraphrasing for brevity:

What do you think these people are hoping for with these posts? What’s their endgame, and how do they think it will affect you?

…In the case of the alt-right dingleberry actively hoping for the collapse of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), which will presumably take me down with it: I think the plan there was reassuring the other dingleberries with whom he corresponds on social media that, yes, indeed, one day my virtue-signaling self will get mine, along with all of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), and what a glorious day that will be for them. As this particular alt-right dingleberry self-publishes on Amazon, there’s also the implication that upon the smoking ruins of traditional publishing (or at least Tor Books), and the dessicated bones of all the SJWs that toiled there, will come a new age where these alt-right dingleberries and their work will finally take their rightful place at the top of the science fictional heap, while I and my sort, I don’t know, maybe suck quarters out of vending machines to survive.

In case anybody cares which dingleberry is being discussed, in the Twitter thread version of this post, a redacted tweet could be traced to Brian Niemeier.

(7) SFF DISQUALIFIED AS LITERATURE? A long and interesting study of Ted Chiang’s fiction in the New York Review of Books: “Idea Man”. (Online version is behind a paywall.)

What fiction is made out of is a bit of a mystery, but an old bromide has it that ideas should not be a major component. T.S. Eliot praised Henry James for not having any in his fiction, which seems to accord with James’s own understanding of his work. “Nothing is my last word about anything,” he once wrote to a critic who had upset him by construing a particular portrait in one of his tales as a general statement. Along similar lines, George Orwell praised Charles Dickens for being “a free intelligence” who, in Orwell’s estimation, “has no constructive suggestions, not even a clear grasp of the nature of the society he is attacking, only an emotional perception that something is wrong.” Ideas, by virtue of their abstractness, are deprecated as too smooth and clean, deficient in the loam of contradictory specifics from which rich fiction grows, and the wish to demonstrate an idea is seen as dangerous because it might lead a writer to neaten her picture of the world, and thereby falsify it.

Some kinds of ideas probably should be kept out of literature. It’s understandable, for example, that Orwell dismissed political dogmas as “smelly little orthodoxies,” and that he celebrated Dickens for writing novels that were innocent of them. But does it make sense to exclude ideas drawn from science or math?

The challenge of science fiction is in its embrace of them….

(8) PILGRIMAGE. NPR reminds us that Slaughterhouse-Five  was published 50 years ago.

When it was published 50 years ago, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” was an instant hit, an anti-war novel that was searing, satirical, strange and darkly funny. It revolves around a controversial moment in World War II, the firebombing of Nazi Germany’s loveliest city.

(9) PONSOT OBIT. The late Marie Ponsot is celebrated by Samuel R. Delany:

Marie Ponsot, one of my early mentors, has passed away, well into her 90s. She was 98. She was the dedicatee of my book ABOUT WRITING, and when I was sixteen, she gave me my first hardcover copy of NIGHTWOOD, a book I read more times than any other single novel and taught again and again. 

She was a kind, generous, and wonderful poet. Her first book was True Minds, and her second was Admit Impediment. She was the pocket poet who lived on this side of the country and had known Ferlinghetti in France. Her French was excellent. Her daughter Monique remains my face book friend, and her son Antoine was the dedicatee of my third novel, The Towers of Toron. Sometime later she was the traveling companions of my wife, Marilyn Hacker.

Learn more in the Wikipedia article about her: Marie Ponsot

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 6, 1990Jetsons: The Movie premiered in theatres.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • July 6, 1916 Donald R. Christensen. Animator, cartoonist, illustrator, writer. He worked briefly at Warner Bros. studio, primarily as a storyboard artist for Bob Clampett’s animation unit.  After that, he worked for Dell, Gold Key and Western Publishing comic books, as well as Hanna Barbera, Walter Lantz Productions and other cartoon studios. He wrote and provided illustrations for such comic book titles as Magnus, Robot Fighter, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge. (Died 2006.)
  • July 6, 1927 Janet Leigh. Certainly best remembered as doomed Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. She would also be in with her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, The Fog and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. She’s also in the Night of the Lepus, a very odd 70s SF film. (Died 2004.)
  • July 6, 1945 Rodney Matthews, 74. British illustrator and conceptual designer. Among his many endeavors was one with Michael Moorcock creating a series of 12 large posters that showed scenes from Moorcock’s ‘Eternal Champion’ series. This is turned became the Wizardry and Wild Romance calendar. He also worked work with Gerry Anderson on the Lavender Castle series. 
  • July 6, 1945 Burt Ward, 74. Robin in that Batman series. He reprised the role in voicing the character in The New Adventures of Batman and Legends of the Superheroes , and two recent films, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face. The latter have the last work done by Adam West before his death. 
  • July 6, 1946 Sylvester Stallone, 73. Although I think Stallone made a far less than perfect Dredd, I think the look and feel of the first film was spot on for the film which was something the second film, which had a perfect Dredd in Keith Urban, utterly lacked. And Demolition Man and him as Sergeant John Spartan were just perfect. 
  • July 6, 1950 John Byrne, 69. A stellar comic book artist and writer. He’s done far too much to detail here so I’ll just single out that he scripted the first four issues of Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, was the writer and artist on the excellent Blood of the Demon from 1-17 and responsible for Spider-Man: Chapter One which took a great deal of flak. 
  • July 6, 1980 Eva Green,39. First crosses our paths in Casino Royale asVesper Lynd followed by Serafina Pekkala in The Golden Compass, and then Angelique Bouchard Collins in Dark Shadows. Ava Lord in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (weird films are those) with a decided move sideways  into being Miss Alma Peregrine for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And she was Colette Marchant in Dumbo. She’s got two series roles to her credit, Morgan Pendragon in Camelot and Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful.

(12) MY ULTIMATE PURPOSE. Seeing this tweet, I’m reminded of Sirens of Titan and how the Tralfamadorians directed the development of humanity simply to produce a needed spare part for a spaceship.

(13) BLIND BARD. Get a head start celebrating Heinlein’s birthday tomorrow by listening to the X-Minus One radio broadcast of “The Green Hills of Earth”:

“The Green Hills Of Earth”. The story of Rhysling, the blind folksinger of the spaceways! Great radio. The script was previously used on “Dimension X” on June 10, 1950 and December 24, 1950. + This is the story of Riesling, the singer of the space ways. Future generations of school children have sung his songs in English, French or German, the language doesn’t matter, but it was an Earth tongue. But the real story of Rhysling is not found in the footnotes of a scholars critique or a publishers biography. It is in the memories of the old time space men the pioneers who pushed the thundering old fashioned rockets to the far strange ports that are our common place heritage – these men know the true story of Rhysling.

(14) AWARD KERFUFFLE. Amanda Marcotte points to Slate’s coverage of the Staunch Book Prize, “Why an Award for Books Without Violence Against Women Is So Controversial”. Thread starts here.

The Slate article begins –

An award exclusively for novels that do not depict violence against women has come under fire for the second year in a row. British author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless launched the Staunch Book Prize in 2018 specifically to recognize thrillers “in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.” The prize drew controversy almost as soon as it was announced, with crime writers such as Val McDermid arguing that “not to write about [violence against women] is to pretend it’s not happening,” and CrimeFest, the Bristol-based festival for crime novelists, ultimately withdrawing its support.

Sophie Hannah, who writes psychological thrillers as well as the continuation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries, publicly announced that she would ask her publishers not to submit her books for the award. She also made the case in a lengthy Facebook post that the Staunch Book Prize muddies its message by taking an overt stand against one type of violence but not others: “If the Staunch Prize were to be awarded to a book in which a man is murdered, on the other hand, how could we avoid the conclusion that the prize, at worst, approves of this, or, at best, doesn’t disapprove of it all that much?”

(15) YOUR PLASTIC PAL. A BBC video reports “My date with a robot”:

In a place, like Japan, where workers are desperately needed, the government is hoping that robots could be the answer.

Some developers believe that instead of replacing us, robots could help get more people into work. But would you let a robot read you the news, look after your children, or even, take you on a date?

BBC’s Population Reporter Stephanie Hegarty went to Tokyo to meet them.

(16) A THOUSAND EYES. Funny bit about a peacock:

(17) NOT COMPETITION – ENVIRONMENT. “Amazon at 25: The story of a giant”

“There’s no guarantee that Amazon.com can be a successful company. What we’re trying to do is very complicated,” said Jeff Bezos in 1999, just five years after launching the online firm.

That the firm’s founder was so uncertain of its future seems surprising.

Today, 25 years on from when it started, Amazon is one of the most valuable public companies in the world, with Mr Bezos now the world’s richest man, thanks to his invention.

What started as an online book retailer has become a global giant, with membership subscriptions, physical stores, groceries for sale, its own smart devices and a delivery system which can get things to customers in just an hour.

So how has the Amazon empire been built?

(18) COUNTDOWN. BBC takes a look at “Apollo in 50 numbers: the technology”.

The Apollo programme pushed space and computing technology to its limit. Cutting edge at the time, some of the tech used seems alarmingly simple today.

74: Memory (ROM) of Apollo guidance computer, in kilobytes

Computer technology was one of the greatest – and long lasting – achievements of Apollo. From the solid-state microcomputer fitted to the lunar lander, to mighty IBM mainframes, with their flashing lights and banks of magnetic tape.

To navigate the Apollo spacecraft the quarter of a million or so miles to the Moon and then descend to a precise spot on the surface, astronauts used the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC).

Housed in a box around the size of a small suitcase, with a separate display and input panel fitted to the main spacecraft console, it was a masterpiece of miniaturisation.

Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the AGC was filled with thousands of integrated circuits, or silicon chips. Nasa’s order of this new technology led to the rapid expansion of Silicon Valley and accelerated the development of today’s computers.

(19) ON THE MOVE. In “Fairytales of Motion” on Vimeo, Alan Warburton explains how animators, with an emphasis on classic Disney films, use motion in their animation.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/27/19 You Have The Right To A Dragon. If You Do Not Have A Dragon, Or Cannot Afford One, One Will Be Provided To You Free of Charge.

(1) A DAY OBSERVED. At Book View Café, Diana Pharoah Francis marks the U.S. holiday: “Memorial Day”.

Today is the day we remember and honor those who’ve served in the military and those who continue to serve. Those who died in service to their country, and those who gave up more than any of us can possible know, even though they kept their lives.

This is the day we say thank you, paltry though that is. For me, it’s also the day to remember those who’ve fallen in service to others in all capacities. You give me hope.

(2) PLUS ÇA CHIANG. Ted Chiang authored “An Op-Ed From The Future” for the New York Times: “It’s 2059, and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning”. An editor’s note explains, “This is the first installment in a new series, “Op-Eds From the Future,” in which science fiction authors, futurists, philosophers and scientists write op-eds that they imagine we might read 10, 20 or even 100 years in the future…”

…We are indeed witnessing the creation of a caste system, not one based on biological differences in ability, but one that uses biology as a justification to solidify existing class distinctions. It is imperative that we put an end to this, but doing so will take more than free genetic enhancements supplied by a philanthropic foundation. It will require us to address structural inequalities in every aspect of our society, from housing to education to jobs. We won’t solve this by trying to improve people; we’ll only solve it by trying to improve the way we treat people….

(3) GAME OF FORKS. “4000 misplaced forks and knives became a cutlery throne” – translated from Swedish by Hampus Eckerman:

About 300 forks, knives and spoons are separated each day from the food remains of the Uppsala populace, by their local biogas plant. In order to, in a fun way, show how important it is to sort properly, Uppsala water has built a magnificent cutlery throne.

– We believe that the majority of cutlery comes from catering establishments and schools where cutlery is easier to get lost among leftovers. But we do not know for sure, says Jasmine Eklund, Communicator at Uppsala Water.

The cutlery throne consists of about 4,000 pieces of cutlery which corresponds to two weeks of cleaning. The cutlery has been washed and then welded together.

– We do not think that people have thrown the cutlery among the leftovers on purpose. Therefore, we hope that the throne will make people more aware of what they throw out and how they sort, says Jasmine Eklund.

“Great fun that people want to come here”

Until easter Thursday, anyone who wants to visit the Pumphouse in Uppsala can sample the huge glittering throne.

 – We have had many visitors this weekend, and hope for more during the Easter week. It is great fun that people want to come here and learn more about our work, says Jasmine Eklund.

 On Monday morning, Vilgot Sahlholm, 11 years old, visited Pumphouse with his brother, grandmother and grandfather.

 – I think the throne was pretty hard, so it wasn’t so comfy to sit in, he says.

 Cutlery Throne

 Weight: 120 kg.

Number of cutlery: About 4000 pieces.

So much cutlery is sorted out each year: 3,5 tons, which means around 100 000 pieces.

(4) LANGUAGE BUILDING. Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, weighs in with  “A Lesson for (and From) a Dystopian World” in the New York Times.

…Throughout his life, the American writer Russell Hoban produced a number of startlingly original novels. Perhaps the most startling of them all is “Riddley Walker,” first published in 1980. (Hoban died in 2011.) The book belongs to the dystopian genre that has become fairly popular in recent decades. What makes it unlike any other is its language — a version of English as it might be spoken by people who had never seen words or place names written down, an idiom among the ruins of half-remembered scientific jargon, folklore and garbled history. In the post-apocalyptic universe created by Hoban, words create ripples of meaning, echoes reaching into the heart of language and thought through a thick fog of cultural trauma and loss…

(5) DOES ANYONE READ THIS STUFF? Ersatz Culture has produced an ambitious set of “Charts showing SF&F award finalists and their rating counts on Goodreads”:

First off, I want to make it absolutely clear that there’s no agenda here about how awards should reflect popularity, or that awards that don’t meet someone’s personal perception of what is “popular” are bad/fixed/etc, or any similar nonsense. (Although I am more than happy to point out cases where claims of representing popular opinion aren’t backed up by the statistics.)

Award pages

(6) CLARKE AWARD. On Five Books, Cal Flyn interviews Arthur C. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter, who explains why the six Clarke nominees are worth reading.

Categorisation was something I wanted to touch on. Looking at the list of your previous finalists, I was interested to see books that I wouldn’t initially have considered to be sci fi. For example: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, which won in 2017. So I wonder if you might say a bit more about the definition of ‘science fiction’ and what you consider it to encompass.

Yes. Going right back to the beginning, to the award’s creation: one of Arthur’s stipulations was that it wasn’t to be an award for the best book-that-was-a-bit-like-an-Arthur-C-Clarke-book. He wanted it to be very broad in its definition. And science fiction is a phenomenally hard thing to define anyway. It’s one of those things, like: I know it when I see it. And it changes – going back to my previous point about how publishing’s view has changed.

(7) CLOSURE FOR D&D TV SERIES. Fans of the ‘80s Dungeons & Dragons TV series know that the series never truly ended. Well, Renault Brasil has decided to wrap things up in their new and rather impressive commercial for the KWID Outsider. Series creator Mark Evanier has given his blessing.

…Someone also usually writes to ask if there was ever a “last” episode where the kids escaped the D&D world and got back to their own…and occasionally, someone writes to swear they saw such an episode on CBS. No, no such episode was ever produced. One of the writers on the series later wrote a script for such an episode but it was not produced until years later as a fan-funded venture. I do not endorse it and I wish they hadn’t done that…but if you like it, fine.

The show is still fondly remembered and is rerun a lot in some countries. It’s popular enough in Brazil that the folks who sell Renault automobiles down there spent a lot of money to make this commercial with actors (and CGI) bringing the animated characters to life.

(8) WOULD HAVE BEEN 85. Adam Dodd of the Cleveland News-Herald is “Remembering Harlan Ellison: local writer and professional troublemaker”.

“I see myself as a combination of Zorro and Jiminy Cricket,” wrote Ellison, describing himself while writing the introduction to Stephen King’s ‘Danse Macabre.’ “My stories go out from here and raise hell. From time to time some denigrater or critic with umbrage will say of my work, ‘He only wrote that to shock.’ I smile and nod. Precisely.”

Ellison’s prickly attitude was typified by the manner in which he left Ohio State University in 1953 after only attending for 18 months. After a writing professor questioned his ability to craft a compelling story Ellison physically attacked him and was subsequently expelled.

(9) THORNE OBIT. Doctor Who News reports the death of Stephen Thorne (1935-2019) at the age of 84.

In the 1970s Stephen Thorne created three of the greatest adversaries of the Doctor, characters whose influence endures in the programme today.

His towering presence and deep melodious voice were first witnessed in the 1971 story The Dæmons, where he portrayed Azal, the last living Dæmon on Earth, in a story often cited as one of the most appreciated of the third Doctor’s era and story emblematic of the close-knit UNIT team of the time.

He returned to the series in 1972 playing Omega, the renegade Time Lord fighting The Three Doctors, a character that would return to confront the Doctor in later years. In 1976 he opposed the Fourth Doctor playing the male form of Eldred, last of the Kastrians in the story The Hand of Fear.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 27, 1894 Dashiell Hammett. No, the author of The Maltese Falcon did not write anything of a genre nature but he did edit early on Creeps by Night: Chills and Thrills. I note there are stories by H. P. Lovecraft and Frank Belknap Long among a lot of writers of writers less well known as genre writers. (Died 1961.)
  • Born May 27, 1911 Vincent Price. OK, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in the House of Horrors sketch they did. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted HillHouse of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions.  He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Expressand so forth. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 27, 1922 Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films.  His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun,  Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 27, 1935 Lee Meriwether, 84. Catwoman on Batman. (And if you have to ask which Batman, you’re in the wrong conversation.) Also, she had a turn as a rather sexy Lily Munster on The Munsters Today. And of course she had a co-starring role as Dr. Ann MacGregor on The Time Tunnel as well. And yes, I know I’m not touching upon her many other genre roles including her Trek appearance as I know you will.
  • Born May 27, 1934 Harlan Ellison. Setting aside the “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode”, I think I best remember him for the Dangerous Vision anthologies which were amazing reading. (Died 2018.)
  • Born May 27, 1958 Linnea Quigley, 61. Best know as a B-actress due to her frequent appearances in low-budget horror films during the 1980s and 1990s. Most of them no one remembers but she did play a punk named Trash in The Return of the Living Dead which is decidedly several steps up from  Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. She’s currently Joanie in the 86 Zombies series which streams pretty much everywhere.
  • Born May 27, 1966 Nina Allan, 53. Author of two novels to date, both in the last five years, The Race and The Rift which won a BSFA Award. She has done a lot of short stories hence these collections to date, A Thread of TruthThe Silver Wind: Four Stories of Time DisruptedMicrocosmosStardust: The Ruby Castle Stories and Spin which has also won a BSFA Award. Partner of Christopher Priest.
  • Born May 27, 1967 Eddie McClintock, 52. Best known no doubt as Secret Service agent Pete Lattimer on Warehouse 13, a series I love even when it wasn’t terribly well-written. He’s also in Warehouse 13: Of Monsters and Men which is listed separately and has the plot of ‘the Warehouse 13 operatives uncover a mysterious comic book artifact and must work together to free themselves from its power.’ He’s had one-off appearances in Witches of East EndAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Supergirl, but no other major genre roles to date.  

(11) HOME ON THE PULP RANGE. At Galactic Journey, Gideon Marcus tells why some big names are returning to genre (in 1964): [May 26, 1964] Stag Party (Silverberg’s Regan’s Planet and Time of the Great Freeze).

…A lot of authors left the genre to try their luck in the mainstream world.  That’s why we lost Bob Sheckley, Ted Sturgeon, and Philip K. Dick for a while.  But times are tough in the real world, too.  Plus, of late, sff seems to be picking up again: IF is going monthly, we’ve got a couple of new mags in Worlds of Tomorrow and Gamma, books are coming out at an increasing rate.  And so Dick is back in force, and others who have left the field are nosing their way back in….

Robert Silverberg is another one of the authors who wrote sff like the dickens back in the ’50s and then disappeared.  He’s still writing and writing and writing, but most of his stuff doesn’t end up on our favorite shelves or in our favorite magazines.

But sometimes…

(12) THINK WESTEROSILY, ACT LOCALLY. In “Name of Thrones:  Why Baltimore-Area Parents Are Naming Their Kids After Characters From the HBO Series”, the Baltimore Sun’s John-John Williams IV reports that a lot of babies in the Baltimore area have become named Arya, Emilia, Khaleesi, Maisie, Meera, and Daenerys because their parents love Game of Thrones.

…Kucharski said she wanted to name her daughter after another strong female. (Arya’s twin is named after Maya Angelou.) The character Arya Stark stood out to Kucharski because of the heroine’s strong-willed nature and the fact that she doesn’t take no for an answer.

“She was able to carve her own way,” Kucharski said…

(13) A STORY OF OUR TIMES. No idea if this is true. Have a tissue ready: “Valar Morghulis”.

Footnote – translation of “Valar Morghulis”.

(14) WHAT IS LIFE FOR. Joseph Hurtgen reviews “Holy Fire – Bruce Sterling” at Rapid Tramsmissions.

…By the way, Sterling is a master of juxtaposing the brightness of futurity with dark pessimism. And for presenting the wonder of the future and then darkening and wrecking that vision, Holy Fire might be Sterling’s apotheosis. Sterling’s analysis of the future in this novel is ahead of the curve in the spheres of tech, psychology, human culture, and art. The novel takes place in 2090, a hundred years from when he wrote it, and going on 25 years later, it still reads as if it occurs in a future several decades out. But the real beauty of the work is the pessimism about what some of the early attempts at radical life extension could look like–namely, lost souls, people shadows of their former selves living a second youth, this time more reckless because they’ve already lived a century of making good decisions, so why not?

(15) SPACE OPERA COMPANY. Paul Weimer weighs in about “Microreview [book]: The Undefeated, by Una McCormack” at Nerds of a Feather.

There are many ways to tell a Space Opera story. Big space battles with fleets of ships using their silicon ray weapons to destroy the enemy. Or perhaps a story of diplomatic intrigue, where the main character journeys to the heart of an Empire , using words as a weapon to direct, and divert the fate of worlds. Or even have an Opera company tour a bunch of worlds in a spacecraft of their own.

Una McCormack’s The Undefeated goes for a subtler, more oblique approach, by using the life story of a famous, award winning journalist, Monica Greatorex,, whose journey back to her home planet braids with not only the story of her planet’s annexation into the Commonwealth, but of the enemy who seeks in turn to overthrow that Commonwealth.

(16) BREW REVIVAL. The brew that made Macchu Picchu famous: “Beer Archaeologists Are Reviving Ancient Ales — With Some Strange Results”.

The closest that Travis Rupp came to getting fired from Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, Colo., he says, was the time he tried to make chicha. The recipe for the Peruvian corn-based beer, cobbled together from bits of pre-Incan archaeological evidence, called for chewed corn partially fermented in spit. So, Rupp’s first task had been to persuade his colleagues to gather round a bucket and offer up their chompers for the cause.

Once he got to brewing, the corn-quinoa-spit mixture gelatinized in a stainless steel tank, creating a dense blob equivalent in volume and texture to about seven bathtubs of polenta. Oops.

In another go, Rupp managed to avoid the brew’s gelatinous fate, but encountered a new problem when it came time to drain the tank. “It literally turned into cement in the pipes because the corn was so finely ground,” says Rupp. “People were a little cranky.”

These are the kinds of sticky situations that come with trying to bring ancient flavors into modern times.

A self-proclaimed beer archaeologist, Rupp has traveled the world in search of clues as to how ancient civilizations made and consumed beer. With Avery Brewing Co., he has concocted eight of them in a series called “Ales of Antiquity.” The brews are served in Avery’s restaurant and tasting room.

(17) TALL TERROR. BBC profiles “Javier Botet: Meet the actor behind Hollywood’s monsters”.

On first glance, you probably wouldn’t recognise Javier Botet.

Though not a household name, the Spaniard has a portfolio that many in the movie business would kill for.

Over the last few years, the 6ft 6in actor has starred in some of Hollywood’s biggest horror and fantasy productions.

From It to Mama to Slender Man – with a Game of Thrones cameo along the way – Javier has forged a reputation as one of the best creature actors in the industry.

…At one point, he went along to a special effects workshop. Both he and the tutor suggested his frame would be perfect to try out monster make-up on.

“I didn’t realise but I was born to perform,” Javier says.

(18) HOW’S THAT BEARD COMING ALONG? Norse Tradesman would be delighted to sell you the Viking Rune Beard Bead Set (24) – Norse Rings for Hair, Dreads & Beards.

(19) IT’S NOT THE REASON YOU THINK. Advice some of you globetrotters may be able to use: “Why You Should Fly With Toilet Paper, According to the World’s Most Traveled Man”.

And when I speak to people, I always put a roll of toilet paper on the podium and let them wonder about it till the end of my lecture. I’m given maybe five to 10 bottles of wine when I travel, so how do you pack wine so it doesn’t break? You put a toilet roll around the neck, because that’s where the bottle is going to break. I’ve never had one break.

(20) SINGULARITY SENSATION. Certifiably Ingame is here to help Trek fans with the question “Fluidic Space: What is it?”

Everything you need to know (but mostly stuff you didn’t) about about the home of Species 8472, the realm of Fluidic Space. This video is mostly theory-crafting about what exactly Fluidic space is as shown in Star Trek as there are no defined answers, but like most Science Fiction, it has may have a basis in reality. Or realities in this case. The laws of physics seem the same, as seen by crossing over, but the USS Voyager also get there by flying into a singularity made by gravitons because its Star Trek.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/19 Only The True Pixel Denies His Scrollability!

(1) KAY Q&A. “A Collision of History and Memory: Guy Gavriel Kay Discusses His New Novel A Brightness Long Ago at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

In a letter you wrote that was attached by the publisher to advance copies of A Brightness Long Ago, you note that we are psychologically and neurologically programmed to internalize the memories from our teens until our mid-twenties more intensely than any other time of life, a fact that is an underpinning to this book. Do you care to expand on that thought?
There’s a wry aspect to this, as my psychoanalyst brother (to whom this book is dedicated) mentioned this to me 15 or so years ago! When I started writing this novel, using as one of the point of view characters—a man looking back on events form his twenties that loom large for him—that conversation came back from my memory! I asked my brother and he sent some scholarship on the subject.

(2) WATCHMEN TEASER. Time is running out – but for what?

Tick tock. Watchmen debuts this fall on HBO. From Damon Lindelof, Watchmen is a modern-day reimagining of Alan Moore’s groundbreaking graphic novel about masked vigilantes.

(3) NEW RUSS PROFILE. Gwyneth Jones, winner of two World Fantasy Awards, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the SFRA Pilgrim award for lifetime achievement in SF criticism, will have a new book out in July — Joanna Russ (University of Illinois Press).

Experimental, strange, and unabashedly feminist, Joanna Russ’s groundbreaking science fiction grew out of a belief that the genre was ideal for expressing radical thought. Her essays and criticism, meanwhile, helped shape the field and still exercise a powerful influence in both SF and feminist literary studies.

Award-winning author and critic Gwyneth Jones offers a new appraisal of Russ’s work and ideas. After years working in male-dominated SF, Russ emerged in the late 1960s with Alyx, the uber-capable can-do heroine at the heart of Picnic on Paradise and other popular stories and books. Soon, Russ’s fearless embrace of gender politics and life as an out lesbian made her a target for male outrage while feminist classics like The Female Man and The Two of Them took SF in innovative new directions. Jones also delves into Russ’s longtime work as a critic of figures as diverse as Lovecraft and Cather, her foundational place in feminist fandom, important essays like “Amor Vincit Foeminam,” and her career in academia.

(4) ORIGINAL QUESTIONS. The Powell’s City of Books site scored an interview with Ted Chiang about his new collection — “Powell’s Q&A: Ted Chiang, Author of ‘Exhalation'”

What do you care about more than most people around you?
In the context of speculative fiction, I think I’m atypically interested in the question of how do the characters in a story understand their universe. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t care about the plausibility of an invented world as long as the characters are believable. To me these aren’t easily separated. When reading a story I often find myself thinking, Why has no one in this world ever wondered such-and-such? Why has no one ever asked this question, or attempted this experiment? 

(5) ALL ALPHABETS ARE OFF. R.S. Benedict, who’s made several quality appearances in F&SF, has a new podcast, Rite Gud, talking about writing issues. The first episode is: “This Garbage Brought to You By the Letters S-E-O: How Google Is Ruining Writing”.

If you’ve been on the internet for a while, you may have heard about SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization.” But do you know what SEO really is — and the effect it has on writing? While some SEO tips are good — like citing your sources with added external links! — others make writing stilted and awkward. (For example, have you noticed how many times “SEO” has appeared in this paragraph?)

We all want to be seen. One of the most important ways is via Google, is it worth it if it makes your writing stiff? And do you have any other options? Or are we all stuck on the same hamster wheel, using the same techniques to try to rise above the din?

(5b) TOP OF THE POLL. Congratulations to Michael A. Burstein, who has been re-elected to the Brookline (MA) Board of Library Trustees for a sixth term. He notes, “Although the race was uncontested, the unofficial results indicate that I came in first among the four of us running this year, for which I thank everyone who voted for me.”

(6) RUSCH KICKSTARTER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Kickstarter appeal for The Diving Universe funded the first day, now they’re raising money to meet the stretch goal. JJ got me reading these, so I had to chip in —

…Two years ago, I realized that before I could write the next book about Boss, though, I needed to figure out what happened in the past, long before any of my current characters were born. 

So…I started what I thought was a short story. It became a 260,000 word adventure novel called The Renegat, because I can’t do world-building without telling a story.

…Everyone who backs this Kickstarter at the $5 and above will receive an ebook of The Renegat

The Kickstarter also gave me an excuse to assemble two books of extras—unfinished side trails, some from The Renegat, and many from earlier books, along with some essays about the entire project.

Of course, backers at the higher levels will get the hardcovers of the series as we complete them. And there are some other fun things here as well. You can get some of the lectures I’ve done for WMG Publishing about writing, or you can join the monthly Ask Kris Anything sessions. Those are live webinars, and you can ask questions about Diving to your heart’s content.

If we make our $5,000 stretch goal, every backer will get a copy of the novella, “Escaping Amnthra,” which is a side story that couldn’t fit into the novel. (“Escape” stands alone as well.)

(7) ROMANCE AWARDS. An array of Romance Writers of America awards have been announced. The award recipients will be recognized at the 2019 RWA Conference in New York.

2019 RWA Award Recipients

  • RWA Lifetime Achievement Award: Cherry Adair
  • RWA Emma Merritt Service Award: Dee Davis
  • RWA Service Awards: Courtney Milan, Gina Fluharty, Barbara Wallace
  • RWA Vivian Stephens Industry Award: Mark Coker, Founder & CEO, Smashwords
  • RWA Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year: Stephen Ammidown, Manuscript & Outreach Archivist, Browne Popular Culture Library, Bowling Green State University
  • RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year: Michelle Mioff-Haring, Owner, Cupboard Maker Books
  • RWA Veritas Award:Meet The Women Who Are Building A Better Romance Industry” by Bim Adewunmi

Hey – I actually used the pop culture library at BGSU when I went there eons ago!

(8) ANCIENT CLONE. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination hosts “Neanderthal Among Us? Science Meets Fiction: A Discussion of the Motion Picture William” on May 13 at UCSD from 5:30-8:30 p.m. RSVP Required – full details here.

Join the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program, the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny, OnePlace, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination for a free screening of the film William, which tells the story of what happens when two scientists clone a Neanderthal from ancient DNA and raise him in today’s world. Following the film, a panel will explore the scientific and ethical questions the film raises.

About the Film William

Star academics Doctors Julian Reed and Barbara Sullivan, fall in love with each other and with the idea of cloning a Neanderthal from ancient DNA. Against the express directive of University administrators they follow through on this audacious idea. The result is William: the first Neanderthal to walk the earth for some 35,000 years. William tries his best to fit into the world around him. But his distinctive physical features and his unique way of thinking–his “otherness”–set him apart and provoke fear. William’s story is powerful and unique, but his struggle to find love and assert his own identity in a hostile world is universal–and timeless.

(9) TWO SCOOPS OF ALASDAIR STUART. Alasdair Stuart’s latest column for Fox Spirit, “Not The Fox News: Don’t Be Nelson”, talks about how emotional engagement, especially when so many major story cycles are starting to end, is both a good thing and to be encouraged.

About once a decade, everything lines up. A half dozen major cultural juggernauts all come into land at about the same time and some poor soul is paid to write the ‘GEEK CULTURE IS OVER. WE SHALL NEVER SEE ITS LIKE AGAIN’ piece. Hey if the check clears and the piece doesn’t hurt anyone, go with God. We’re in one of those times now. Game of Thrones has under half its super short final season to go. Avengers Endgame is all over theaters everywhere and the ninth core Star Wars movie has been confirmed as the end of the Skywalker saga. If this was a concert, we’d officially be into the ‘Freebird’, ‘Hotel California’, ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Single Ladies’ phase of the night.

These are emotional times….

Stuart has also joined the Ditch Diggers team with a new monthly column. The first one takes a look at the massive ructions in podcasting at the moment and the lessons writers can take from that. “Welcome to the Montage, Now Stare at a Test Tube”

…So let’s break this down. First off, Luminary is a new podcast streaming platform that launched a few months ago with a ton of exclusive titles and a ton of money, very little of which they seem to have spent on a public relations department. The idea is that they are ‘the Netflix of podcasts’, which presumably doesn’t mean:

‘We’re sustained by the physical library system that no one expected to live this long and it takes two years for us to get the new season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’.

Instead, the idea is that Luminary will feature forty or so podcasts which are only available through it’s app, most of which are fronted by celebrities.

How you feel about this really depends on how you feel about ‘famous person has some thoughts’ style shows.

(10) COHEN OBIT. The SFWA Blog announced that scientist Jack Cohen (1933-2019) died May 6.

Cohen primarily worked in the field of reproductive biology….  

As a science fiction fan, Cohen found himself advising many authors, including Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, David Gerrold, Jerry Pournelle, and Harry Harrison.  He teamed with Ian Stewart and Terry Pratchett wrote four volumes in the Science of Discworld series, the first of which earned the three authors a Hugo Nomination for Best Related Book.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1937 Thomas Pynchon, 82. Ok I’m confused. I’ve not read him so I’m not at all sure which of his novels can be considered genre. Would y’all first enlighten to which are such, and second what I should now read. ISFDB certainly doesn’t help by listing pretty much everything of his as genre including Mason & Dixon which though post-modernist isn’t genre.
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including Alien, The Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics, but I’ll let you detail those endeavours. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film, as was White Shark, which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death.  Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know most likely Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon Storm, Path of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017)
  • Born May 8, 1963 Michel Gondry, 56. French director, screenwriter, and producer of such genre as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  (love that film), The Green Hornet (on the other hand, I deleted this from my .mov files after watching fifteen minutes of it) and The Science of Sleep (which I had not heard but sounds interesting.) 
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 38. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few seasons of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Star Trek, Young Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough, thank you.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity crams several horrendous puns into this one-frame, LOTR-inspired cartoon.

(13) SPOILERS ASSEMBLE! The putative Endgame spoiler ban has been lifted by the Russo brothers, and Yahoo! Entertainment has a roundup of special tweets from the cast: “‘Avengers: Endgame’ cast reveals treasure trove of behind the scenes footage as spoiler ban lifts”.

The cast of Avengers: Endgame have had to sit on a ton of spoilers for years, with much of the filming on the Marvel mega-blockbuster dating all the way back to 2017.

Directing duo Joe and Anthony Russo have now lifted the ban on discussing spoilers from the film, so many of the cast members have been unveiling some of their illicit behind-the-scenes pictures and videos.

There are, of course, Avengers: Endgame spoilers ahead…

(14) ATWOOD. Tyler Cowen had Margaret Atwood on his Conversations With Tyler podcast: “Margaret Atwood on Canada, Writing, and Invention”. Atwood discusses Hag-Seed, her take on The Tempest, at the 10 minute mark.  She explains why she started writing The Handmaid’s Tale in West Berlin in 1984, and her love of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Audience questions coming in at the 55-minute mark about her Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments, coming in September, why she likes the YouTube video “At Last, They’ve Made A Handmaid’s Tale for men,” and how readers figured out Offred’s last name.

(15) THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON POKÉMON. Ars Technica reports players have unexpected anatomical development: “Pokémon characters have their own pea-sized region in brain, study finds”.

…It’s well known that human beings are remarkably adept at visually recognizing faces, words, numbers, places, colors, and so forth thanks to a constellation of regions—small clusters of neurons about the size of a pea—in the temporal lobe, located just behind the ears. Those regions show up in the same place in most people, despite differences in age, sex, or race. There’s even a so-called “Jennifer Aniston neuron,” (aka the “grandmother cell“) discovered by a UCLA neuroscientist in 2005, whose primary purpose seems to be to recognize images of the famous actress. Similar neurons have also been found for other celebrities like Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, and Kobe Bryant.

“This is quite remarkable, and it’s still an open mystery in neuroscience why these regions appear exactly where they do in the brain,” said co-author Jesse Gomez, a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, who conducted the experiments while a grad student at Stanford University. One way to answer this question, and determine which of several competing theories is correct, is to study people who, as children, had a unique experience with a new type of visual stimulus. If those people were shown to have developed a new brain region dedicated to recognizing that new object class, that would offer useful insight into how the brain organizes itself.

The catch: it would take many hours of laboratory practice with any new visual stimulus for there to be any measurable effect. But “I realized that the 1990s had already done it for me,” said Gomez. “I grew up playing Pokémon. The game rewards kids for individuating between hundreds of similar-looking Pokémon.” The game is also played primarily during childhood, a “critical window” period where the brain is especially plastic and responsive to experience. He reasoned it might be possible that passionate Pokémon players like his childhood self would have developed a new brain region in response to that experience. So he applied for a seed grant to test that hypothesis.

(16) BDP PLAYOFFS. Time is out of joint in Camestros Felapton’s review post, “Hugo 2019 Best Dramatic Long etc Round-up”.

…Bless its mega-crossover heart but Avengers: Infinity War is not a serious contender for the best science-fiction film of 2018. It is a notable bit of film making but it’s rather like what ends up on your plate when you* visit a really nice buffet — lots of tasty things but not a carefully constructed dining experience. I get why it’s here instead of Thor: Ragnarok but Thor 3 was a better contender as a sci-fi movie.

That leaves a face-off between Black Panther and Spider-Man. Both are visual treats. Spider-verse pulls off the remarkable feat of creating yet another reboot of Spider-Man as a film character in a way that makes me genuinely excited (doubly remarkable as the MCU version of Spidey was pretty good too)….

(17) HUGO REVIEWS, Here are links to three more sets of 2019 Hugo nominee reviews.

Steve J. Wright’s Best Novella Hugo Finalist reviews are online:

Bonnie McDaniel has completed her Best Novel Hugo Reviews at Red Headed Femme.

Peter Enyeart has posted a set of “2019 Hugo picks: Short stories” at Stormsewer.

(18) RISK. “Think Women Aren’t Big Risk Takers? These Chinese Girls Buck The Stereotype”NPR has the story.

Many studies have found that women aren’t as willing as men to take risks. And so they may shy away from riskier investments or career choices, missing out on the rewards that can come from taking big chances.

The perennial question: Why? Is it nature or nurture?

…Elaine Liu, an economist at the University of Houston, …and co-author Sharon Xuejing Zuo at Fudan University in Shanghai found that young girls from the Mosuo community in China, one of the few societies in the world run by women, were bigger risk-takers than boys from the same community. But after the Mosuo girls spent years in schools with boys and girls who came from patriarchal communities, the trend reversed: Older Mosuo girls took fewer chances.

(19) THE HOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT. BBC reports a “Missing part of Stonehenge returned 60 years on”.

A missing piece of Stonehenge has been returned to the site 60 years after it was taken.

A metre-long core from inside the prehistoric stone was removed during archaeological excavations in 1958.

No-one knew where it was until Robert Phillips, 89, who was involved in those works, decided to return part of it.

English Heritage, which looks after Stonehenge, hopes the sample might now help establish where the stones originally came from.

In 1958 archaeologists raised an entire fallen trilithon – a set of three large stones consisting of two that would have stood upright, with the third placed horizontally across the top.

During the works, cracks were found in one of the vertical stones and in order to reinforce it, cores were drilled through the stone and metal rods inserted.

The repairs were masked by small plugs cut from sarsen fragments found during excavations.

(20) BEST FOOT FORWARD. I’m telling you, this reminds me of a John Sladek story: “Botswana gives leaders stools made from elephant feet”.

Stools made from elephant feet have been presented to three African leaders by their host in Botswana during a meeting on the future of the mammals.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi handed over the gifts, covered in a blue patterned cloth, to his counterparts from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The countries, along with South Africa, are calling for the ban on the sale of ivory to be lifted.

They argue that money from the trade can be used for conservation projects.

Elephant poaching is a big issue across Africa and some estimates say 30,000 are killed every year. There are thought to be 450,000 left.

(21) ROCK OF AGES. In Air & Space Magazine’s article “Claimed Signs of Life in a Martian Meteorite” the tagline seems an understatement — “Like other previous claims, this one may not hold up.” Another scientist has claimed that a meteorite that originated on Mars contains signs of life. You may recall such a claim previously made based on analysis of ALH84001 (ALH stands for Allan Hills in Antarctica, where the rock was found) with the announcement made in 1996. The evidence was eventually judged inconclusive by most scientists.

Now a new paper by Ildikó Gyollai from the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences in Budapest, Hungary, and colleagues, claims that there might be clues to Martian life in another Allan Hills meteorite, this time ALH77005. They base their conclusions on morphological and geochemical indicators—including the presence of organic material—which lead them to speculate on the past presence of iron bacteria in this Martian rock. […]

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Jim Meadows, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 5/7/19 What The Pixel Saw, It Was Against The Law

(1) IT’S GONE, MAN. Those who view the episode on streaming services won’t be seeing it — “HBO Edits ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode to Remove Errant Coffee Cup” reports Variety.

HBO has quietly scrubbed the misplaced coffee cup out of the “Game of Thrones” episode that aired Sunday night.

The premium cabler acknowledged the gaffe Monday after fans spotted the takeout cup on a table in front of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in a scene in episode 4 of season 8 just before the 17:40 mark. It resembled a Starbucks cup but in fact came from the production’s craft services — and where someone left it behind in Winterfell.

“The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake. Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea,” HBO said in a statement.

As of Tuesday morning, the streaming version of the “GOT” episode available on HBO Now and HBO Go had removed the offending cup from the scene. A rep for HBO confirmed the coffee cup was deleted and that future airings of the episode, “The Last of the Starks,” would be of the updated version

(2) CHIANG COLLECTION. Joyce Carol Oates says “Science Fiction Doesn’t Have to Be Dystopian” in a brilliant review of Ted Chiang’s new collection Exhalation for The New Yorker.

…Indeed, irony is sparse in Ted Chiang’s cosmology. It is both a surprise and a relief to encounter fiction that explores counterfactual worlds like these with something of the ardor and earnestness of much young-adult fiction, asking anew philosophical questions that have been posed repeatedly through millennia to no avail. Chiang’s materialist universe is a secular place, in which God, if there is one, belongs to the phenomenal realm of scientific investigation and usually has no particular interest in humankind. But it is also a place in which the natural inquisitiveness of our species leads us to ever more astonishing truths, and an alliance with technological advances is likely to enhance us, not diminish us. Human curiosity, for Chiang, is a nearly divine engine of progress….

(3) MILES TO GO. Rudy Rucker’s entry for Whatever’s The Big Idea is really big!

Real-life road trips end before you want them to. You run into a coastline. The road stops. I wanted a road trip that goes on and on, with ever new adventures, and with opportunities to reach terrain never tread upon before. But how to do that in a car?

I peeled Earth like a grape, snipped out the oceans, shaped the flattened skin into a disk, and put a mountain range around it. Then I laid down a bunch more of these planetary rinds, arranging them like hexagonal tiles on a very wide-ranging floor. All set for a Million Mile Road Trip.

(4) CURRENCY EVENTS. The New York Times tells about an unexpected comics publisher in “Splat! Bam! It’s the Federal Reserve to the Rescue”.  The basic info is that the New York Federal Reserve bank produces comics as teaching tools, and all three have a scifi bent.

…In one scene, a group of itinerant monetary experts lands on Alpha-Numerica (“voted 3,675,927th best place to live”), where a severe recession is underway. Residents of the planet look like pencil erasers, gumdrops and other forms of geometrically sculpted goop. Unemployment is soaring, businesses are failing, and retirees are struggling to survive.

“This is not where I wanted to be at this point in my life,” says one resident, an old purple jelly bean who is sweeping a public square. “Tell me about it,” a younger resident says to itself. This individual, a green egg, wears a cap and gown. In one hand, it holds a diploma; in the other, a sign saying, “HIRE ME?”

The situation is dire but can be solved. What is needed is “expansionary monetary policy,” declares Glix, a green, lizardlike creature who likes to sing and wear capes.

Here is a link to the New York Fed’s download site for its comic books. 

The New York Fed’s Educational Comic Book Series teaches students about basic economic principles and the Federal Reserve’s role in the financial system.

Created for students at the middle school, high school, and introductory college levels, the series can help stimulate their curiosity and raise their awareness of careers in economics and finance. In addition, lesson plans created for each comic book meet national and state standards for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

The New York Fed has published comic books since the 1950s and is reintroducing this popular series with a modern spin. While the comic books are intended for a student audience, they are also available to the public.

(5) AGAINST THE HOUSE. ScienceFiction.com brings word that “Maisie Williams Is Currently Shooting Comic-Based Thriller ‘The Owners’”.

Filming of a new comic book adaptation, ‘The Owners’ has begun outside of London, in an isolated Victorian mansion in Kent.  Based on a Belgian comic book by award-winning artist Hermann (last name Huppen), and written by his son Yves H. ‘The Owners’ is being directed by Julius Berg (‘La forêt’), with a screenplay by Berg and Mathieu Gompel (‘The Dream Kids’).  The film’s producers, XYZ Films, are currently shopping the picture around at the Cannes Film Festival.

Heading up the cast is ‘Game of Thrones’ alum Maisie Williams.  Joining her are Sylvester McCoy, Rita Tushingham, Ian Kenny, Jake Curran, Andrew Ellis, and Stacha Hicks….

(6) HELP IS ON THE WAY. I bet readers of the Scroll can’t wait til I get this — “Microsoft Word AI ‘to improve writing'”. On the other hand, Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a skeptical comment, “I’ll believe it when the spellchecker starts handling context well enough to not make dumb corrections.”

A new feature in Microsoft’s Word aims to help improve writing beyond the usual grammar fixes.

Using artificial intelligence, Ideas will suggest rewrites for clunky sentences as well as changes to make sure language is gender inclusive.

It will help users lay out different parts of a document, including tables, and suggest synonyms and alternative phrases to make writing more concise.

It will be cloud-based and initially available to users of Word Online only.

A test version of Ideas will go live in June, becoming more widely available in the autumn.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 7, 1922 Darren McGavin. Carl Kolchak on Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have seen it? I’ve lost count. Yes it was corny, yes, the monsters were low rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 7, 1923 Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda and then Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985)
  • Born May 7, 1931 Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate FreedomThe Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun series. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 7, 1940 Angela Carter. She’s often said to be best known for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took took fairy tales and made them very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room as contains her original screenplays for the films The Company of Wolves and The Magic Toyshop, both of which were based on her own original stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 7, 1951 Gary Westfahl, 68. SF reviewer for the LA Times, Internet Review of Science Fiction and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of  Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films.
  • Born May 7, 1968 Traci Lords, 51. Yes, she did a number of reasonably legit genre appearances after her, errr, long adult acting career. She was for example in The Tommyknockers series along with the first Blade film. She’s also in the SF comedy Plughead Rewired: Circuitry Man II (I know, weird title that.) And finally, I should note she was Dejah Thoris in Princess of Mars which later re-released as John Carter of Mars. But the way her first post-adult film was a genre undertaking and that was Not of This Earth. Yes, it is a remake of Roger Corman’s 1957 film of the same name.
  • Born May 7, 1972 Jennifer Yuh Nelson, 46. She is the director of Kung Fu Panda 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, and The Darkest Minds. Yuh is the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio. The Darkest Minds is a dystopian SF film which RT gives a rating of 17% to. Ouch. 

(8) DRAGON AWARDS SEASON. Vox Day kicks off a “Dragon Awards discussion” [Internet Archive link] with his ideas about what comics published by his Arkhaven imprint ought to win Best Comic and Best Graphic Novel. Declan Finn jumps in to tell people which of his and his friends’ books should win the other categories, but meets resistance from a commenter who says he’d rather vote for Brian Neimeier (another Sad Puppy). There might not be enough kibble to go around!

(9) POP CULTURAL APPROPRIATION. “Viggo Mortensen: Vox ‘ridiculous’ to use Aragorn image” – BBC has the story.

Viggo Mortensen has denounced far right Spanish political party Vox after it tweeted a meme featuring the actor playing Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.

The meme, shared by the nationalist party’s official Twitter account in April, showed Aragorn lining up to face off against the assembled hordes of Vox’s apparent enemies, including the media, Catalan separatists and a small ghost wearing the colours of the rainbow flag typically used to represent LGBT pride.

“Let the battle begin,” the party tweeted.

In a letter to the editor of Spanish newspaper El Pais, published on Tuesday, Mortensen said Vox’s use of his image was “absurd”.

“Not only is it absurd that I, the actor who embodied this character for [Lord of the Rings director] Peter Jackson, and a person interested in the rich variety of cultures and languages that exist in Spain and the world, is linked to an ultra-nationalist and neo-fascist political party,” the actor wrote, “it is even more ridiculous to use the character of Aragorn, a polyglot statesman who advocates knowledge and inclusion of the diverse races, customs and languages of Middle Earth, to legitimise an anti-immigrant, anti-feminist and Islamophobic political group.”

(10) GO OUT, YOUNG HUMAN! The Washington Post: “Buzz Aldrin: It’s time to focus on the great migration of humankind to Mars”. In a WaPo oped, Buzz Aldrin advocates for not just returning to the Moon, but going to Mars. And sooner rather than later. He also calls for international cooperation with other countries to make it happen.

Last month, Vice President Pence announced that we are headed back to the moon. I am with him, in spirit and aspiration. Having been there, I can say it is high time we returned. When Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and I went to the moon 50 years ago this July, we did so with a mission. Apollo 11 aimed to prove America’s can-do commitment to space exploration, as well as its national security and technological superiority. We did all that. We also “Came in Peace for all Mankind.” More of that is needed now.

Today, many nations have eyes for the moon, from China and Russia to friends in Europe and Middle East. That is all good. The United States should cooperate — and offer itself as a willing team leader — in exploring every aspect of the moon, from its geology and topography to its hydrology and cosmic history. In doing so, we can take “low-Earth orbit” cooperation to the moon, openly, eagerly and collegially.

[…] As matter of orbital mechanics, missions from Earth to Mars for migration are complex. That said, human nature — and potentially the ultimate survival of our species — demands humanity’s continued outward reach into the universe. Call it curiosity or calculation, strategic planning or destiny. Put simply: We explore, or we expire. That is why we must get on with it.

In a world of division and distraction, this mission is unifying — for all Americans and for all humankind. So, I am personally glad we are headed back to the moon — and I thank President Trump and the vice p

(11) DECOROUS THEATERS. According to The Week:

The Roxy 8 multiplex in Dickson, Tennessee, is defending its decision to call the new HELLBOY movie HECKBOY in signs outside the theater.  Manager Belinda Daniel explained that the theater does not use ‘profanity’ on signs.  ‘We are located next to an elementary school and across from a church,’ she said.

(12) A DIFFERENT KIND OF GOOD TASTE. BBC introduces you to“The man who discovered umami”, long before it made news in the West.

For centuries, humanity lived with the concept of sweet, salty, bitter and sour – but another flavour was hiding on the sidelines

Kikunae Ikeda had been thinking a lot about soup.

The Japanese chemist had been studying a broth made from seaweed and dried fish flakes, called dashi. Dashi has a very specific flavour – warm, tasty, savoury – and through laborious, lengthy separations in a chemistry lab, Ikeda had been trying to isolate the molecules behind its distinctive taste. He felt sure that there was some connection between a molecule’s shape and the flavor perception it produced in humans.

But as it was just a few years past the turn of the 19th Century, there was not yet a great deal of evidence to support the idea.

Eventually, Ikeda did manage to isolate an important taste molecule from the seaweed in dashi: the amino acid glutamate, a key building block of proteins. In a 1909 paper, the Tokyo Imperial University professor suggested that the savoury sensation triggered by glutamate should be one of the basic tastes that give something flavour, on a par with sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. He called it “umami”, riffing on a Japanese word meaning “delicious”.

(13) LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR KIWI TOUR. Good news! Natural heated swimming hole available to visit on your CoNZealand2020 trip!

Bad News! May contain a staple of SciFi — The Brain-Eating Amoebas of Kerosene Creek

Kerosene Creek is a natural hot spring near Rotorua, on the North Island of New Zealand. And there have been official warnings for years: don’t put your head under water. It turns out that “brain-eating amoebas”, naegleria fowleri, are a real, if rare, thing.

[Thanks to Chris M. Barkley, JJ, Errolwi, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Tom Boswell, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 4/30/19 Pixel My Blue Suede Scrolls

(1) WEIGHING IN ON THE TOLKIEN MOVIE. In the Catholic Herald, Fr. Michael Ward’s verdict is that “This Tolkien biopic is woefully unconvincing”.

…This handsome, earnest, yet overstuffed and poorly paced film deviates frequently from the historical record. Most seriously, it ignores Tolkien’s devout Christian faith: there is no indication that he served Mass daily as a boy or ever even entered a Catholic church. His punch-ups with Wiseman and drunken night-time profanities are, in comparison, unimportant inventions.

But departures from reality are inevitable in dramatisations, and enumerating them can quickly devolve into captiousness. What’s more relevant is whether the artistic licence results in a successful story. One expects a biopic to sit somewhat loose to the facts, yet one hopes it will also hold the attention and make one care about the characters, however far from real life they may diverge.

A helpful comparison is Richard Attenborough’s Shadowlands, the story of CS Lewis’s late marriage. It’s worthless as an account of actual events, but works brilliantly as a movie: engaging, well-structured, powerful and poignant.

Here, with Lewis’s friend Tolkien, it’s a different story. Incidents come thick and fast, but are strangely uninvolving….

Ward is the co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to CS Lewis.

(2) A MODEST PROPOSAL. Daniel Dern is making an offer –

Our dead tree edition of the Sunday New York Times this week (here in the year 2019 – April 28) included a special 12-page section, consisting of (a version of) Ted Chiang’s story, “Better Versions of You,” adapted from his story “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom” from Chiang’s new (coming out May 7) collection Exhalation. Illustrations by Daehyun Kim/Moonassi.

According to social media, “The piece is PRINT ONLY.” (My brief searches don’t show otherwise; I’d been looking for it before I found this tweet.)

Once we’re done reading the story, I don’t feel the need to keep it. So I’m happy to pass it along to the first Filer who asks for it, via a comment to this post. (We’ll sort out snail addresses, etc. off-list. If need be, I’ll ask OGH to be the email-address intermediary.)

Beyond possibly the minor cost of mailing it, I’m not asking any $ for it.

OTOH, I’m happy if the recipient will in turn, once it’s arrived, make a modest (say, $10-$25) donation to some sf/fan related fund/fundraiser or other Good Cause (of their choice, e.g., the Gahan Wilson GoFundMe, or some WorldCon-related fundraiser — your choice, I don’t need to know what/who, how much, or whether). But this is an optional follow-through.

(I don’t see Chiang listed in the current ReaderCon Guests list, so you’d be on your own for trying to get it autographed.)

Let the clicking begin!

(3) BORDERLANDS CAFÉ CLOSES, BOOKSTORE STAYS OPEN. “After 10 years, Valencia Street’s Borderlands Cafe to shutter” reports Mission Local.

Owner Alan Beatts, also the owner of Borderlands Books — which will remain open on Valencia Street at least for the next year — said that the decision to shutter the cafe was, by and large, voluntary. He attributed the move to a confluence of factors, including staff retention, slumping sales, and his personal desire to focus on the bookstore….

(4) BLAME HIM FOR THANOS! Entertainment Weekly’s Christian Holub, in “Thanos Creator Jim Starlin Discusses His Avengers: Endgame Cameo And The Journey From Page To Screen”, has a profile of Jim Starlin, who created Thanos for Invincible Iron Man #55 in 1972, and says he enjoyed his cameo in the film and says the Thanos on screen is true to “the spirit of the character” he created.

“It’s more of a full circle than you realize,” Starlin says. “I got the assignment to draw Invincible Iron Man #55-56 because the regular penciller on it, George Tuska, had to go in for some elective surgery. So I did the first issue, which I plotted out with Mike Friedrich, and then the second one I worked with this writer Steve Gerber. We did a funny Iron Man issue, and Stan Lee hated it so much he fired both of us.”

(5) CAPTAIN AMERICA. “MIT students deck out dome with Captain America shield” – the Portland (ME) Press-Herald has the story.

MIT students over the weekend draped the university’s signature Great Dome with a giant cloth version of Captain America’s red, white and blue shield.

Their efforts drew a Twitter “Very cool!” from actor Chris Evans, the Massachusetts native who plays Captain America in “Avengers: Endgame.”

(6) HELP WANTED. Westercon bid chair Kevin Standlee posted the Tonopah [in 2021] Committee List. And they’re hoping to add more workers.

The Tonopah Westercon committee is a standing committee of San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. answerable to the corporation’s Board of Directors. Our organizing committee consists of the following people, with others helping on an ad hoc basis.

Chair: Kevin Standlee (Co-chair, 2002 Worldcon, San José CA)
Assistant to Chair/Hospitality Lead : Lisa Hayes
Treasurer: Bruce Farr (Chair, Westercon 45 (1992), Phoenix AZ)
Facilities: Mike Willmoth (Chair, Westercon 62 (2009), Tempe AZ)
Website Planning: Cheryl Morgan
Travel Coordinator: Sandra Childress

Other Committee Members Without Portfolio:
David W. Clark (Chair, 1993 Worldcon, San Francisco CA)
Lisa Detusch Harrigan (Chair, Westercon 40 (1987), Oakland CA)
Kevin Roche (Co-Chair, Westercon 66 (2013), Sacramento CA and Chair, 2018 Worldcon, San José CA)
Andy Trembley (Co-Chair, Westercon 66 (2013), Sacramento CA)

(7) IT’S HISTORY. “And she’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.” At Gizmodo/io9, last Thursday’s Morning Spoilers column drops the news that “At Least One of the Game of Thrones Spinoff Series Is Truly Dead” and the creator is done, at least for now, at HBO. Tidbits for a dozen or so shows are shared in the column.

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Bryan Cogman confirmed that his time with the franchise is over for now—because the spinoff series he was attached to is officially scrubbed…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 30, 1926 Cloris Leachman, 93. I’ve got grist in the genre in Young Frankenstein as Frau Blücher. (Strange film.) she does her obligatory mouse role when she voices Euterpe in The Mouse and His Child. Next up is being The Lord’s Secretary in The Muppet Movie. (Always a fun time.) Hmmm… she’s Millie Crown in Shadow Play, a horror film that I don’t plan on seeing. Not my cup of tea. Lots of voice work from there out and I will only note her as Mrs. Tensedge in The Iron Giant, a great film indeed. She in the live action and I assume disgusting Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse as Ms. Fielder. 
  • Born April 30, 1934 Baird Searles. Best- known for his long running review columns in Asimov’sAmazing Stories and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. For a time, he managed a genre bookstore in New York City’s Greenwich Village, the Science Fiction Shop, which is no longer in business. With Brian Thomsen, he edited Halflings, Hobbits, Warrows & Weefolk: A Collection of Tales of Heroes Short in Stature, and among other publication that he wrote was the Cliff Notes on Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 81. One of my favourites author to read, be Ringworld, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle, or the the Rainbow Mars stories, there’s always good reading there. What’s your favourite Niven story? 
  • Born April 30, 1968 Adam Stemple, 51. Son of Jane Yolen. One-time vocalist of Boiled in Lead. With Yolen, he’s written the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy TalesPay the Piper and Troll Bridge which are worth reading, plus the Seelie Wars trilogy which I’ve not read. He’s also written two Singer of Souls urban fantasies which I remember as engaging. 
  • Born April 30, 1973 Naomi Novik, 46. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won the Compton Crook Award for best first novel in the science fiction and fantasy category. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet her Spinning Silver, so opinions are welcome.
  • Born April 30, 1982 Kirsten Dunst, 37. Her first genre role was as Claudio in Interview with the Vampire. Later genre roles include Judy Shepherd in Jumanji, voicing Christy Fimple in Small Soldiers, voicing Becky Thatcher in The Animated Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man franchise,  voicing Kaena in Kaena: The Prophecy, and showing up on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Hedrilin in the “Dark Page” episode. She would have been nine years old in that episode! 
  • Born April 30, 1985 Gal Gadot, 34. Wonder Woman, of course, in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. She did play Linnet Ridgeway Doyle in the Kenneth Branagh of Murder on the Orient Express which is quite lovely but hardly genre… 

(9) POOH INSPIRATION BURNS. CNN brings word that “Winnie the Pooh’s real-life Hundred Acre Wood hit by forest fire”. Authorities do not think it was deliberately set.

An overnight fire ripped through a forest in England that provided the setting for the Winnie the Pooh children’s stories.

The blaze at Ashdown Forest, in East Sussex, started at around 9.30 p.m. on Sunday and affected an area of more than 35 acres, according to the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

Six fire crews were on the scene as flames fed on dry undergrowth in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne, who lived in nearby Cotchford Farm, Hartfield, drew inspiration from Ashdown Forest to write the popular series of children’s books in the 1920s….

(10) PACHYDERM IN FLIGHT. “Dumbo: How we made the visual effects” – BBC has a video.

Moving Picture (MPC) company’s Richard Stammers, the Overall VFX Supervisor for the Walt Disney film Dumbo, tells BBC Click how the digital effects for the movie were put together.

(11) SPOILER ALERT. “Game of Thones: Secrets behind Winterfell battle episode” – the secrets apparently include “11 weeks of night shooting,” “Too cold to snow.”

It’s taken eight years, 70 episodes and thousands of deaths to get us to this moment.

The epic fight between the living and the dead in Game of Thrones was shown in the UK on Monday.

The episode, called The Long Night, lasted 82 minutes and took viewers on a rollercoaster journey featuring our favourite characters…

HBO, makers of the fantasy drama, have also released a behind-the-scenes video giving some of the secrets of how it all came together.

(12) RETRO REVIEWS. Steven J. Wright has completed his Retro Hugo Novel finalist reviews:

Retro Novel

(13) BEAUTIFUL BOOK. Look at the gorgeous endpapers in the Russian edition of Goss’ novel:

(14) CELEBRATING THE RONDO WINNERS. Steve Vertlieb sends his regards:

I want to take a moment this morning to wish hearty congratulations to all of this year’s most worthy Rondo Award winners. As always, the nominated films, television shows, writers, and artists were strong and worthy contenders, and each winner was deservedly voted the absolute best in his or her field of endeavor. In particular, however, I’d like to pay respect and homage to Veronica Carlson, Caroline Munro, and Martine Beswick whose long overdue recognition by The Rondo Hall of Fame was enthusiastically welcomed, and for my lifelong friend and brother, Wes Shank, whose loss late last Summer shattered us all, and whose entry last night into “The Monster Kid Hall of Fame” was a most fitting tribute to a beloved friend and fan. My personal remembrance of Wes was posted on File 770. Congratulations once again to all of this year’s most deserving Rondo Award winners. 

(15) WHERE NO CAT HAS GONE BEFORE. Well, cremated cat, says Space.com: “RIP Pikachu: Ashes of Beloved Cat Will Launch to Space in Cosmic Burial”.

A cat lover and space fan is about to make history by launching the remains of a cat named Pikachu into orbit around the Earth. 

“Pikachu will have a final send-off like no cat has ever had before,” Steve Munt, Pikachu’s owner, wrote on a GoFundMe page dedicated to raising funds for Pikachu’s space memorial. Thanks to a company called Celestis — which also offers memorial spaceflights for humans — the orange tabby’s cremated remains will hitch a ride to space as a small secondary payload on a satellite launch sometime in the next 18 months, Munt told Space.com

(16) MICE IN SPACE. These mice, however, made it to orbit while still alive. Ben Guarino in “Up in space, mice found a new way to play” in the Washington Post, says a paper in Scientific Reports discusses what happened to mice that spent a month in the International Space Station on the NASA Rodent Habitat.

After more than a week in space, young mice began to psrint and glide, as though they were zooming inside invisible hamster wheels.  The scientists called this circling behavior, which they hadn’t seen before, ‘racetracking.’  Within a few days, other mice joined the fray.  As a group, they ran laps around the habitats, reaching speeds of about a mile an hour.  It’s strange to watch.

(17) HEDGEHOGGING THE ROAD. Sonic The Hedgehog is fast enough to create a blue shift.

He’s a whole new speed of hero. Watch the new trailer for Sonic The Hedgehog, in theatres this November

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

Pixel Scroll 12/25/17 When All Of A Sudden There Arose Such a Pixel

(1) STAR EXPLAINER. The New York Times profiles sf fan favorite Brother Guy Consolmagno in “Searching for the (Star) Light at the Vatican Observatory”.

Some 2,000 years ago, a celestial phenomenon is believed to have lit up the sky. Guiding the wise men of New Testament lore to the birthplace of Jesus, the star of Bethlehem has since become a planetarium and Christmas carol favorite.

What that star might have been — a comet, supernova, or the conjunction of planets, let alone whether it ever existed — is one of the recurring questions that Brother Guy Consolmagno is called on to answer even though, he noted dryly, “it has nothing to do with our work as scientists at the Vatican Observatory.”

“Too often people get distracted by the Star and forget to look at the Child! And yet I also have to admit I feel a certain joy in the story, and a joy that this story has been so popular for so many people over the centuries,” said Brother Consolmagno, since 2015, the director of La Specola Vaticana (which translates as Vatican Observatory). “Of course, we have no idea what Matthew was writing about. It doesn’t matter!”

The observatory is the only Vatican institution that does scientific research, and Brother Consolmagno, a former physics professor and later-in-life Jesuit, is the public face of an institution whose work “is to show the world that the church supports science.”

(2) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. And here’s what you can look forward to if you keep watching the skies – “Astronomy Calendar For 2018”

(3) TRACKING SANTA. It wasn’t an unlisted number after this happened: “NORAD’s Santa Tracker Began With A Typo And A Good Sport”.

This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup’s secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.

Shoup’s children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. “Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number,” she says.

“This was the ’50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States,” Rick says.

The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. “And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ ”

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” her sister says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’ And the mother got on and said, ‘You haven’t seen the paper yet? There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.’ Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus.”

(4) DIAGNOSIS GRINCH. The Washington Post’s Susan Svrluga, in “The Grinch needs a good cardiologist, and other holiday stories explained by scientists”, interviews area scientists who answer scientific questions posed by fictional works, such as why Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s nose glows.  (It could be because Santa’s sleigh crash-landed into the Red Sea and Rudolph got doused in glowing coral.)  Among the scientists interviewed was Johns Hopkins medical school cardiologist Dr. David Kass, who argues the reason why the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes in a day after he pigs out on Whoville food is that the Grinch is a snake and snake’s hearts expand after big meals.

(5) THE PERMANENT CAMPAIGN. Charles Stross, jockeying to keep his series eligible for a future year where he thinks there will be more UK voters to back him, asks —

Please do not nominate the Laundry Files for the best series Hugo award in 2018.

(Explanation below the cut.)

The rules for the best series Hugo award stipulate:

Previous losing finalists in the Best Series category shall beeligible only upon the publication of at least two (2) additional installments consisting in total of at least 240,000 words after they qualified for their last appearance on the final ballot and by the close of the previous calendar year.

This means that if series X is shortlisted in 2018 and loses, it won’t be eligible again until two more installments amounting to 240,000 words have been published in a subsequent year.

There is a significantly better chance of either series winning the award at a British—or Irish—worldcon, such as the one in Dublin in 2019, simply because the worldcon attendees will include more of my UK readers. However, a nomination in 2018 would probably lose (there are plenty of very good series works by American authors: consider Max Gladstone or Seanan McGuire, for example) and thereby disqualify me from eligibility in 2019.

(6) NOT TOO LATE. If you didn’t already get the gift you wanted this holiday season, maybe you can fill the void with the “Star Wars R2-D2 Coffee Press”. Or not – I keep visualizing giving R2 a sinus headache every time…

(7) OBITUARY.  Heather Menzies-Urich (1949-2017), best known for portraying Louisa von Trapp in the 1965 film The Sound of Music, died December 24 at the age of 68. Her main genre credit was starring as Jessica 6 in the TV series Logan’s Run (1977-78). She had an uncredited role in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969); other genre appearances include Sssssss (1973), The Six Million Dollar Man (one episode, 1977), Piranha (1978), Captain America (1979), Endangered Species (1982).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 25, 1980 Altered States first premiered in theatres.
  • December 25, 1999 Galaxy Quest opened.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • December 25, 1924 – Rod Serling

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) NAUGHTY. The Guardian’s research shows Home Alone atop the pyramid — “Data sketch: the most pirated Christmas movies”. It’s A Wonderful Life is listed, too – I thought it was in public domain now?

(12) CHIANG OP-ED REBUTTED. Tech Crunch’s Jon Evans mounts a defense: “Ted Chiang is a genius, but he’s wrong about Silicon Valley”.

Ted Chiang isn’t just one of the greatest science-fiction writers alive — he’s one of the greatest writers alive full stop. Which is why I was so saddened and disappointed by his recent excoriation of Silicon Valley in BuzzFeed. As the tech industry grows ever more powerful, we need brilliant minds critiquing and dissecting its many flaws. Instead we got a trenchant takedown of a Valley that only exists in the minds of especially shallow journalists.

To be clear, his larger point is dead on: that being that the worry about an AI which maximizes for the wrong thing, most famously one which is told to make paperclips and responds by turning the entire planet into paperclips, is a worry which applies perfectly and exactly to capitalism itself.

…But the thing Chiang doesn’t get is: Silicon Valley is actually not a home of paperclip capitalism. That’s Wall Street. That’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man-style neoliberal globalization. That’s not the tech industry. The Valley is a flawed and sometimes terrible place, true, but it’s a nuanced sometimes flawed and terrible place.

(13) WATER IS COMING. I don’t know if it would melt the Wall, but it wouldn’t do any good to the rest of the world — “This is what global warming would do to the ‘Game of Thrones’ planet”.

The warring inhabitants of Westeros — one of the four known continents in the Game of Thrones world — dread the planet’s long, unforgiving winters. But a global warming event there, stoked by an influx of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, would likely be even more dire.

Earlier this week, University of Bristol climate scientist Dan Lunt published a study that modeled the doubling of carbon dioxide on the Game of Thrones fantasy world. His results show that if these levels doubled over the course of a century, the average temperature on the planet would warm by over 2 degrees Celsius, or about 3.5 Fahrenheit. This climatic shift would make some areas nearly uninhabitable and unleash devastating natural disasters.

(14) A TOM LEHRER HOLIDAY. Mr. Sci-Fi renders the Science Fiction Christmas Song (recorded in 2014.)

Sci-Fi Ubergeek Marc Zicree sings Tom Lehrer’s Christmas song as great science fiction Christmas images from 1950s Galaxy Magazine and other sources flash by. Marc just recorded this song for Coast to Coast AM’s Christmas Album, with proceeds going to charity.

 

(15) THE DARTH VADER YULE LOG. A seasonal tradition (since 2015).

Gather the younglings for a centuries old family tradition the Darth Vader Yule Log. Sith Lords will be roasting on an open fire, as you sit back an enjoy some holiday classics.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/18/17 Scrolls For Industry! Scrolls For The Undead!

(1) CADIGAN NEWS. Congratulations to Pat Cadigan who told her Facebook followers today:

I am now allowed to say that I am writing both the novelisation for the forthcoming movie Alita: Battle Angel as well as the prequel novel, Iron City.

And this is why I’m in Deadline Hell.

That is all.

(2) STAR PEACE CORPS. In  “Star Wars Without the Empire”, Camestros Felapton conducts an awesome thought experiment inspired by Paul Weimer’s tweet.

In post-war Germany, a version of Casablanca was produced, re-edited and with a new script for the dubbing, that had no Nazis in it. As you can imagine, given the role Nazis play in the plot, they had to do a lot of work.

I was wondering if you could do the same to Star Wars Episode 4 – remove the Empire…

Star Not Wars Because They Aren’t Having a War With Anybody: A New Hope

A spaceship has broken down. Princess Leia finds a robot on the ship and gives it something. The robot (R2D2) finds an escape pod with its friend (C3PO). They leave the ship. We don’t see the ship again. It probably had engine trouble or something. Maybe the robots have gone off to get some fuel from a service station.

The robots land in a desert. After an argument, they split up. Later they each get caught by tiny people.

Meanwhile, young Luke Skywalker is unhappy being a farmer and living with his uncle. He’d rather be…doing something else I suppose.

(3) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. The Vintage Paperback Show returns to Glendale, CA on March 18.

(4) ROBOT ON PATROL. Tech Crunch reports “Security robots are being used to ward off San Francisco’s homeless population”:

Is it worse if a robot instead of a human is used to deter the homeless from setting up camp outside places of business?

One such bot cop recently took over the outside of the San Francisco SPCA, an animal advocacy and pet adoption clinic in the city’s Mission district, to deter homeless people from hanging out there — causing some people to get very upset.

The article quotes this tweet from Brianna Wu:

The SPCA deployed a robot from security startup Knightscope to deter crime and vandalism on their campus.

And, according to both the S.F. SPCA and Knightscope, crime dropped after deploying the bot.

However, the K9 unit was patrolling several areas around the shop, including the sidewalk where humans walk, drawing the ire of pedestrians and advocacy group Walk SF, which previously introduced a bill to ban food delivery robots throughout the city.

“We’re seeing more types of robots on sidewalks and want to see the city getting ahead of this,” said Cathy DeLuca, Walk SF policy and program director, who also mentioned S.F. district 7 supervisor Norman Yee would be introducing legislation around sidewalk use permits for robots in the beginning of 2018.

Last week the city ordered the S.F. SPCA to stop using these security robots altogether or face a fine of $1,000 per day for operating in a public right of way without a permit.

The S.F. SPCA says it has since removed the robot and is working through a permitting process. It has already seen “two acts of vandalism” since the robot’s removal.

(5) THE DIAGNOSIS. Ted Chiang says “The Real Danger To Civilization Isn’t AI. It’s Runaway Capitalism” in an article for Buzzfeed.

Speaking to Maureen Dowd for a Vanity Fair article published in April, Musk gave an example of an artificial intelligence that’s given the task of picking strawberries. It seems harmless enough, but as the AI redesigns itself to be more effective, it might decide that the best way to maximize its output would be to destroy civilization and convert the entire surface of the Earth into strawberry fields. Thus, in its pursuit of a seemingly innocuous goal, an AI could bring about the extinction of humanity purely as an unintended side effect.

This scenario sounds absurd to most people, yet there are a surprising number of technologists who think it illustrates a real danger. Why? Perhaps it’s because they’re already accustomed to entities that operate this way: Silicon Valley tech companies.

(6) CHEERS AND BOOS. Fanac.org has posted a 36-minute video of Robert A. Heinlein’s guest of honor speech at the 1976 Worldcon.

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976, with Robert A. Heinlein as Guest of Honor. With a warm introduction by Bob Tucker, this sometimes uncomfortable speech touches on Heinlein’s belief in the inevitability of atomic war and his belief that mankind will go to the stars. There are comments on Russia and China, the role of men, and more than a few very bad jokes. You will hear applause and you can hear disapproving boos. If you are one of “Heinlein’s Children”, or simply a reader of classic SF, this video is a rare opportunity to hear that legendary figure.

(More background about the booing is here.)

(7) UNCANNY DINOSAUR ISSUE. The submission window opens in March – read the pitch and complete details here: “Uncanny Magazine Dinosaur Special Issue Guidelines”.

As you may know if you followed the Uncanny Magazine Year 4 Kickstarter, Uncanny Magazine Issue 23 will be a Special Shared-Universe Dinosaur Issue! The planned solicited contributors are:

Do you want to join them? One of the stretch goals was adding two extra unsolicited stories to the issue! We will be open to submissions from March 1- March 15, 2018.

(8) CAPITOL TBR. Former congressman Steve Israel profiles members of Congress in the Washington Post about their favorite books of the year and found Rep. Ted Lieu of California enjoying the Nebula Awards anthology and Rep.Adam Schiff of California reading Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series — “A former congressman asked his old colleagues for book suggestions. Here’s their list.”

(9) TROLLING FOR CLICKS. At NBC News, Noah Berlatsky asks “Is Star Wars’ ‘The Last Jedi’ science fiction? It’s time to settle this age-old argument”. Will anybody take my bet that the argument will not be settled by his op-ed? Or maybe it will, by a kind of cinematic force majeure.

To figure out whether Star Wars is science fiction, you first need to figure out how to define the term — which is harder than you might think. Genres are notoriously difficult to pin down, which is why they spark so many arguments. Some country fans protested loudly when Beyoncé appeared at the Country Music Awards because she (supposedly) was not a country artist. Some critics similarly argued that Bob Dylan’s lyrics are not literature, though the Nobel committee disagreed.

Genre is a marker of quality and belonging, of seriousness and community. Science fiction in particular is often seen as more important or serious than fantasy, so it’s no wonder that there’s been some struggle over how to place the films. George Lucas himself declared that “Star Wars isn’t a science-fiction film, it’s a fantasy film and a space opera” in 2015. Others have also waded in over the years; Annalee Newitz included Star Wars in a list of 10 science-fiction works that are really fantasy at io9, while author Brian Clegg says Star Wars is only “low-grade science-fiction” — it’s not quite real science-fiction, so it’s not high quality.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 18, 1957 The Monolith Monsters premiered.
  • December 18, 1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opens in New York City.
  • December 18, 1985 — Terry Gilliam’s Brazil! was released.
  • December 18, 1996 — Wes Craven’s Scream hits theaters, and a Halloween mask was born.
  • December 18, 2009 – Director James Cameron’s Avatar premiered.
  • December 18, 2013Forbidden Planet (1956) is selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry.

(11) TODAY’S  BIRTHDAYS

  • Born December 18, 1939 – Michael Moorcock
  • Born December 18, 1941 – Jack Haldeman
  • Born December 18, 1946  — Steven Spielberg
  • Born December 18 — Steve Davidson

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy overheard Dilbert talking about a zombie apocalypse.

(13) I HAVE A LITTLE LIST. SyFy Wire’s Swapna Krishna names these as “The 10 best sci-fi and fantasy books of 2017”. People get upset if I say I haven’t heard of all the books on a “best” list, so let me say I have heard of many of these.

(14) THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS 2014. Everyone has their own way of celebrating the holidays. John King Tarpinian’s traditions include rewatching Thug Notes’ analysis of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

(15) THE BIG BUCKS. Speaking of stacks of cheddar — “Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes $450m on opening weekend”.

The movie dwarfed its nearest rival – the computer-animated comedy Ferdinand, which took $13m (£10m).

The total for The Last Jedi includes $220m (£165m) from box offices in the US and Canada, placing the film second in the all-time list for North America.

It trails behind the 2015 release Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opened with a record-breaking $248m (£185m).

(16) BREATHLESS TAKE. Chuck Wendig launches his review with a long stretch of onomatopoeia: “The Last Jedi: A Mirror, Slowly Cracking”. And how often do you get a chance to use that word?

This will be less a review of The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) than it will be… my thoughts? An analysis? Me opening my head like a flip-top Pac-Men and seeing what globs of brain-goo I can grab and hastily smack into the screen?

Spoilers follow the noises, Wendig warns.

(17) WHAT’S BREWING IN SHORT FICTION. Nerds of a Feather’s Charles Payseur serves “THE MONTHLY ROUND – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction, 11/2017”.

So please, take seat. The flavors on tap this month are perfect for those looking to unwind by the fire, to shed a tear for those who have not made it this far, and to reaffirm a commitment to pushing forward, into a future that is not mired by the same harms and dangers as the past. Each pint today comes with a special side of memories and a tendril of shadow creeping just out of view. The only remedy is to drink deep, and share the moment with those you care about, and look for ways to escape the familiar cycles of hate, loss, and fear—together….

Tasting Flight – November 2017

“An Unexpected Boon” by S.B. Divya (Apex)

Notes: Pouring a dark brown rimmed with gold, the first sip is deep, subtle and smoky like dreams burning, only to reveal newer, sweeter tones underneath, a future still bright despite loss and danger.

Pairs with: Honey Bock

Review: Kalyani is a young (probably autistic) girl who experiences the world quite differently from the rest of her family. It’s something that Aruni, her older brother, finds quite difficult to handle, especially when his parents have left him in charge while they are away. For Kalyani, though, it’s the rest of the world that doesn’t make as much sense, that overflows with threats and dangers…

(18) ON STAGE. It’s live! “The Twilight Zone returns to spook theatergoers”.

In 1959, a groundbreaking TV series began in the USA. The Twilight Zone came to be regarded as a classic of science fiction for the small screen. Now the Almeida Theatre in London is taking eight episodes to make a Twilight Zone for the stage.

(19) YA. A dystopia? Why, that’s just another day in a teenaged life: “Why Teens Find The End Of The World So Appealing”.

“The hallmark of moving from childhood to adulthood is that you start to recognize that things aren’t black and white,” says Ostenson “and there’s a whole bunch of ethical grey area out there.”

Which makes dystopian fiction perfect for the developing adolescent brain, says Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University.

“Their brains are very responsive to emotionally arousing stimuli,” he explains. During this time, there are so many new emotions and they are much stronger than those kids experienced when they were younger.

“When teenagers feel sad, what they often do it put themselves in situations where they feel even sadder,” Steinberg says. They listen to sad music — think emo! — they watch melodramatic TV shows. So dystopian novels fit right in, they have all that sadness plus big, emotional ideas: justice, fairness, loyalty and mortality.

This time in a kid’s life is often defined by acting out, but, Steinberg says, that’s a misguided interpretation of what’s happening. “It isn’t so much rebellion, but it is questioning.”

(20) BAD AIR. I remember breathing this stuff at the 2015 Worldcon: “California fires: Sentinel satellite tracks wildfire smoke plume”.

Europe’s new Sentinel-5P satellite has captured a dramatic image of the smoke billowing away from the devastating California wildfires.

It is a powerful demonstration of 5P’s ability to sense the atmosphere.

The plume is seen to sweep westwards out over the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles and then turn north towards the State of Oregon.

(21) JDA. Jon Del Arroz shares his vision of the controversies he’s engaged in this year with BayCon, Scalzi, Cat Rambo, Chuck Wendig, and some guy who scrolls pixels in “It’s Better To Be My Friend #JDAYourFriend”.

…Where they all screwed up, is that I’m a competent writer who works hard. I’m a competent businessman who markets hard. I don’t take my ball and go home and I’m not deterred from speaking the truth by some threats or someone’s bully pulpit.

And now I’ve got a platform. It’s one a lot of people read on a daily basis. It’s only going to grow bigger in 2018. I’m a well-respected journalist, I’m a multiple-award nominated author with an avid readership. I’m winning. Readers and audiences like winners. Yet not one of these people has come forward and said “you know what, Jon, I shouldn’t have attacked you, let’s be friends.”

(22) TO SMELL THE TRUTH. Hugo-winning editor Gordon Van Gelder had a famous father, Dr. Richard Van Gelder, who tried to stump the panelists on the episode of game show To Tell The Truth aired March 13, 1961. The chairman of the Department of Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, Van Gelder pere was specially touted as an expert on skunks. The real Van Gelder and two impostors appear at 17:00, and the truth is told right after the 23:00 mark.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/29/17 So What’s It Gonna Be, Kid? Calendrical Rot Or Diachronic Shear?

(1) TWEETS OF GENIUS. The winner of the internet today begins here –

(2) NEXT CHIANG ADAPTATION. A Ted Chiang story will be the basis for this new AMC show: “AMC is developing a sci-fi show from the writers behind Arrival”.

During the Television Critics Association press tour, AMC announced a slate of eight new shows that it’s putting into development, according to Deadline, which includes a project based on a story by Ted Chiang, whose novella Story of Your Life was the basis for Denis Villeneuve’s movie Arrival.

Liking What You See is being developed by Arrival’s screenwriter, Eric Heisserer, with Chiang as a consultant. It’ll be based on Liking What You See: A Documentary, which Chiang published in his collection, Stories of Your Life and Others in 2002. The story is set in the near future where members of a community called Saybrook undergo a procedure called calliagnosia, which prevents them from perceiving beauty. The story plays out like a documentary, and its characters discuss the pros and cons of this procedure in a media-saturated world.

(3) ALTSPACEVR CROAKS. A social media pioneer ran out of money, as they do – The Verge has the story: “The most famous VR social network is abruptly shutting down”.

AltspaceVR, the virtual reality social network that has hosted everything from stand-up comedy to presidential debate-watching parties, is shutting down next week. The community announced “with heavy hearts” last night that AltspaceVR would be closing August 3rd at 10pm ET, after “unforeseen financial difficulty.”

Spokesperson Gerard Gottheil provided more detail in an email to The Verge and other outlets. “We had a supportive group of investors that last gave us money in 2015. It looked like we had a deal for our next round of funding, and it fell through,” he said. “Some combination of this deal falling through and the general slowness of VR market growth made most of our investors reluctant to fund us further. We’ve been out fundraising but have run out of time and money.”

Currently, AltSpaceVR has around 35,000 active monthly users, who spend an average of around 35 minutes a day on the free platform.

(4) FUTURE FORESEEN. UploadVR says “Here’s A Look Back at How Sci-Fi Literature Predicted the Rise of Modern Virtual Reality”. Sure, but did sci-fi predict it would go broke?

With the introduction of top-end devices such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive as well as the simple ones such as Google Cardboard, Virtual Reality is the next digital frontier. While it’s a world that can now be practically realized, it’s not a new idea: Science Fiction has long been imagining virtual worlds within imagined ones.

From the early 1950s, authors had begun to experiment with stories involving simulated worlds. Ray Bradbury’s 1951 story The Veldt dealt with a pair of children and a virtual nursery, while Fredric Pohl’s 1955 short story The Tunnel Under the World told the story of a man who relived the same day over and over, only to discover that he was trapped in a cruel marketing simulation…..

(5) FAMOUS SF SERIES CONTINUES. C.J. Cherryh  announced in a public Facebook post that she and Jane Fancher are currently completing a new Alliance-Union book (titled Alliance Rising). It is set early in the universe’s timeline. At the moment, the book is being edited by Fancher and Cherryh has finished her edit.

It takes two people of similar style (check) and egos both strong enough and pliable enough (check) to see something you thought brilliant as fluid and changeable. In a profession as solitary as writing can be, it’s downright fun to sit down for a brainstorming session on the shared story. We’re already thinking about ‘next…’

(6) PRESTO. Camestros Felapton’s latest hilarious invention is the “Genre Shifter”.

Turns a single paragraph into different genres via the miracle of science!

(7) MORE MEMORIES OF JORDIN KARE. Bill Higgins of Fermilab recalls the science panels he did with Jordin Kare in their personas Fizz and Fuse.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 29, 1988 – George A. Romero’s Monkey Shines opens.
  • July 29, 1970 — The 1965-produced Invasion of the Astro-Monster finally found its way to a theatrical release in the United States.
  • July 29, 2002 Signs premieres in theaters.
  • July 29, 2011 — Director Jon Favreau spawned Cowboys & Aliens on this day in 2011.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 29, 1972 – Wil Wheaton

(10) COMIC SECTION R.I.P. The July 24 Financial Times has an article on D C Thomson, the Scottish publisher of “The Beano,” Briitain’s oldest comic (founded 1938), as they try to invent apps and short animations for tablets to keep kids interested an avoid the fate of another DC Thomson comic, “The Dandy” which died in 2012 after its circulation fell from 2 million in the 1950s to 7,500.  (“The Dandy” was supposed to move online, but hasn’t.)

(11) TIME TRAVEL. If you weren’t present in 1962 when Galactic Journey held its second tele-conference, thank goodness you have the means to go back in time whenever you want to watch Gideon Marcus and company present their predictions for the 1962 Hugo Science Fiction Awards.

(12) CONFEDERATE. The Hollywood Reporter’s Lesley Goldberg, in “HBO’s Casey Bloys Defends Slave Drama From ‘Game of Thrones’ Creators: ‘It’s a Risk Worth Taking'”, says that Bloys spoke at the Television Critics Association press tour and said Confederate was “weapons-grade material” but “If you can get it right, there is real opportunity to advance the racial discussion in America.”

If you can draw a line between what we’re seeing in the country today with voter suppression, mass incarceration, lack of access to public education and healthcare and draw the line to our past and shared history, that’s an important line to draw and a conversation worth having. [The producers] acknowledge this has a high degree of difficulty. It’s a risk worth taking.

(13) LATE SHOW. JJ admires these reviews by James Reid and wishes they’d been posted earlier so they could have been included in our roundup here. “I thought that the Campbell was the best eval (possibly the only one) for that category I’ve seen.”

Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, writen by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze

Wakanda is beset by internal strife, and it’s king is overwhelmed.

How does a good king rule when they’ve failed their kingdom, and how do they fight a rebellion that philosophically might be right?  Wakanda has been devastated by war, their elite warriors have become vigilantes and rebels, and a woman flames fear in the populous and drives them to rebellion using mystical powers.  What is most interesting in this book is the sympathy that Coates shows those rising up, rather than assume that because Black Panther tries to be a good ruler he should rule, it looks at the consequences of his actions, and the role of kings.  As a book, Black Panther lacks in neither action nor thought, but unfortunately, as merely the first volume in a longer arc never has a chance to answer the questions it poses.  This is a series that demands further reading, but as a volume is all set up.

As art, the landscapes and cities are evocative, creating a technocratic eden in the jungle.  In contrast the characters are highly stylised and angular, better in motion than standing still.

A good introduction to what promises to be a well thought out look at leadership and governance combined with superhero action.

(14) COVER STORY. Shorpy is back with another old newsstand photo from around November 1938. For this one you don’t even need to squint to see the science fictional goodies. Bill says he sees these stories:

The Astounding has stories by Hubbard and Simak, and a letter from Asimov. The Amazing Stories has “I Robot” by Eando Binder. The Weird Tales has a Kull poem by REH, and stories by August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch and Henry Kuttner. The Startling Stories has a novel (“The Black Flame”) by Stanley Weinbaum. The Argosy has a reprinted installment of “The Ship of Ishtar” by Merritt. The issue of Adventure Comics contains stories and art by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Siegel and Shuster, and Sheldon Moldoff.

Although I think for some of these identifications, Bill must be using x-ray vision.

(15) I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. We all scream… No, this isn’t a horror story, it’s a lyric: “Scoop! This Woman Tastes Ice Cream For A Living”.

Fast Company: How did you land that job, really?

Molly Hammel: It was a competitive process with dozens of applicants, but I’m not sure exactly how many people applied for this job.

One thing that really helped me stand out during the interview process was that I was on the dairy judging team in college. To participate in the team, I went through extensive training on how to judge dairy products (ice cream included). I came in second overall in the Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest in 2014 so that definitely helped as well. During my interviews, I also mentioned that I made up silly songs and walked around the office singing to get panelists to attend panels at my last internship. A couple of associates mentioned my songs to me after I was hired, so I think that helped me stand out.

(16) TIPPING THE SCALES. Only one can win! “Finalists to gather for Miss Mermaid United Kingdom pageant”.

The top mermaids in Great Britain will gather this weekend to determine who will earn the title of Miss Mermaid U.K.

Women from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were invited to compete in regional pageants and the finalists will gather at Billing Aquadrome in Northampton on Saturday.

The winner will be adorned with a special crown and receive the opportunity to compete in the Miss Mermaid International final in Egypt in November.

Participants in the pageant are required to be females between 18 and 32-years-old who live in the U.K. and have strong swimming skills.

(17) SHAKE IT FAR, FAR AWAY. Eclectic Method has created Star Wars video you can dance to, using only sounds from the 8 Star Wars Movies, no added sugars or samples.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bill, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, and Cat Rambo for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]