Pixel Scroll 7/11/20 Hello Pixel, Hello Filer, Here I Am At Camp 770

(1) COOL RUNNING. Archipelacon 2, the Nordic science fiction and fantasy convention in Mariehamn, Finland in 2025, is also a bid for Eurocon for 2025. (Cheryl Morgan added, “but not Worldcon, the venue is too small and they are much too sensible.”)

(2) PLAN B. Ian Sales, in “Reading diary 2020, #8” briefly gave some thought to reviewing the books on the Clarke Award shortlist before realizing it would be more interesting to tee off on US fandom.

…The Clarke commentary no longer takes place. An attempt to reinvigorate it several years ago with a shadow jury was loudly condemned by US fans who plainly didn’t understand what a shadow jury is and equally plainly hadn’t bothered to find out. Despite all claims to the contrary, fandom is not a community. Once upon a time, it was an emergent phenomenon of the stories’ existence. Now it’s just a part of the marketing machine, and, happily for the publishers, it costs them nothing. Five stars means less than one star. Giving a book five stars just makes you a fucking mug. And everything is dominated by the US, a nation which seems congenitally incapable of recognising that other countries exist and they do things differently there (yes, I know, that’s a time-based reference, not geographic one; but never mind). True, science fiction is an American mode of fiction, and the single largest market for its creations, so its dominance is hardly surprising. But us non-USians, while we may appreciate the genre output of the US – the stories, the novels, the films, the TV series – we don’t actually give a shit about what US fans think. Science fiction fandom is not one giant global family. It never has been. And it never should be. Vive la différence.

(There actually are bunch of good reviews in the post, once you get past this.)

(3) WINDYCON CANCELLATION. Chicago-area’s Windycon will not take place this year now that they’ve reached agreement with their facility.

Out of concern for the safety for our members, guests, and staff, Windycon 47 in 2020, originally scheduled for November 13-15 is cancelled for this year by mutual agreement with our hotel.

All room reservations will be automatically canceled by the hotel beginning Monday, 7/13.

If you have purchased a membership, dealer tables, or space in the art show for Windycon 47, we will refund your money or roll over your payments for Windycon 47 in 2021, per your preference.  Please contact us at registration@windycon.org to let us know.  Dealers, please contact dealers@windycon.org for your preferences, and artists, please contact artshow@windycon.org

If you haven’t contacted us by August 1, 2020, then memberships will be automatically refunded.

If you have a membership that was rolled over from Windycon 46, that membership will automatically be rolled over to the convention in 2021.

There may yet be some online activities which will be held during Windycon 47’s original timeframe.  Should this come to pass, information will be posted on the Windycon website and via social media channels.

Windycon 47 will now be held at the Westin in Lombard, Illinois on November 12-14, 2021, COVID-permitting, featuring all of the guests from 2020.

If you have any questions, please contact the ISFiC board at: board@isfic.org

(4) STORYGRAPH. Someone has invented a tool that could massively accelerate the growth of your Mount TBR, judging by Cole Rush’s “Interview with Nadia Odunayo, Founder of The StoryGraph” at The Quill To Live

Welcome to our special interview with Nadia Odunayo! Nadia is the founder of The StoryGraph, an online service that helps you find books to fit your mood. After you read the interview, head over to The StoryGraph to sign up and find your next read!

What is The StoryGraph and what does it do for readers?

The StoryGraph is a website that helps you to find perfect books for you based on your mood and the types of books you like to read.

Our magic feature is “Ordered for you.” Users fill out a short survey — it takes anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes to fill out — letting us know their favourite sorts of books to read, down to specific topics, types of authors, themes, genres etc. — and we order all of the books on our website for them based on how well they match their preferences.

Combine that with our filter menu, where you can filter down by moods, pace, genres, book size, and more, and you’re never more than a few clicks away from your next perfect book!

(5) DRIVE-IN FAVORITE. Did you see this coming? Deadline says it’s making the cash registers ring again: “‘Empire Strikes Back’ Leads At The Weekend Box Office Again, 23 Years After Sequel’s Special Edition”.

For the first time since the February 1997 reissue, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is leading at the box office this weekend after clocking an estimated $175K at 483 locations. Empire should end the weekend with a 3-day take in-between the high $400K and low $500K.

(6) DON’T PANIC. Huffpost urges, “Don’t Fall For The ‘Cancel Culture’ Scam”. And proceeds to document inaccuracies in the open letter signed by over 150 writers, including J.K. Rowling.

On Monday, 153 prominent writers, academics and public figures signed their names to a statement entitled “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate.” According to the signatories, “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.”

While the letter itself, published by the magazine Harper’s, doesn’t use the term, the statement represents a bleak apogee in the yearslong, increasingly contentious debate over “cancel culture.” The American left, we are told, is imposing an Orwellian set of restrictions on which views can be expressed in public. Institutions at every level are supposedly gripped by fears of social media mobs and dire professional consequences if their members express so much as a single statement of wrongthink.

This is false. Every statement of fact in the Harper’s letter is either wildly exaggerated or plainly untrue. More broadly, the controversy over “cancel culture” is a straightforward moral panic. While there are indeed real cases of ordinary Americans plucked from obscurity and harassed into unemployment, this rare, isolated phenomenon is being blown up far beyond its importance.

(7) CLARON CONVERSATIONS CONTINUE.  The next two installments of the Clarion Conversations are scheduled for July 15 and 16.

The Future is Queer – July 15, 5:30pm PT / 8:30pm ET (Register here.)

This week, our guests are José Iriarte, Jordy Rosenberg, and Nicasio Andrés Reed, moderated by Ellen Kushner. The conversation, named in honor of the Delany-Kushner-Sherman “The Future is Queer” scholarship for Clarion students, will explore speculative fiction through the eyes of these four writers whose work centers queer stories and experiences, the writers who inspired and paved the way for them, and what the future of the field looks like.

We encourage attendees of tonight’s conversation to make a contribution to the Delany-Kushner-Sherman/The Future is Queer Scholarship, which recognizes the continued work of Samuel R. Delany, Ellen Kushner, and Delia Sherman as active LGBTQ writers in the field of science fiction and fantasy, and their contributions as Clarion faculty members who have been particularly supportive of LGBTQ students over the years. The scholarship provides financial support for Clarion students who self-identify as part of the broader queer community. In addition, it recognizes the need for more queer representation in speculative literature, and the many hardships queer writers face due to employment, home, and financial discrimination. Our hope is that the Delany-Kushner-Sherman scholarship will help more queer writers attend the Clarion Workshop.

Remembering Octavia/Writers of Color at Clarion – July 16, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

This week, our guests are adrienne marie brown, Lisa Bolekaja, and Senaa Ahmad, moderated by Shelley Streeby (Clarion Workshop Faculty Director). The focus this week is to highlight the contributions of writers of color in the Clarion community, looking back to early student Octavia E. Butler and to the future through the eyes of these three writers, including two Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholars—a scholarship for Clarion students of color sponsored by the Carl Brandon Society.

The Carl Brandon Societyhas tirelessly dedicated itself to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction. We encourage attendees of tonight’s conversation to make a contribution to the Butler Scholarship Memorial Fund.

Videos of the first two panels are available on YouTube.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 11, 1997 Contact premiered. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis with production by him and Steve Starkey. It‘s  based off Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel of the same name with the screenplay by James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg. Jodie Foster is the protagonist with an extensive supporting cast of Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, Tom Skerritt, William Fichtner, John Hurt, Angela Bassett, Rob Lowe, Jake Busey and David Morse. Contact won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at BucConeer, beating out Men In Black, Gattaca and Starship Troopers. The rough consensus of the critics was that it had great ideas, quite flat characters. Box office wise, it never earned back what it cost to make. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 78% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 11, 1899 – E.B. White.  Essayist at Harper’s and The New Yorker.  Three revisions of Strunk’s 1918 Elements of Style (1959, 1972, 1979) which thus since 1959 has also borne White’s name.  Letters, 1976 (Winship Award); Essays, 1977; Poems & Sketches, 1981.  For us, Stuart LittleCharlotte’s Web(Newbery Honor), The Trumpet of the Swan.  Amer. Acad. Arts & Letters Gold Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Wilder Award, Nat’l Medal for Literature, Pulitzer Prize.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born July 11, 1913 – Harold McCauley.  Five dozen covers, a hundred interiors for AmazingFantasticImaginationOther WorldsUniverse.  Here  is a cover for the August 1940 Fantastic.  Here is the May 1952 Imagination.  Here are some images from the Grapefruit Moon Gallery (the stern man with a staff is HM’s cover for Empire of the Atom).  See Di Fate’s note on him in Infinite Worlds.  The Quaker Oats man has his face. (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born July 11, 1913 – Cordwainer Smith.  Forty short stories; even the titles are strange – “Scanners Live in Vain”, “Golden the Ship Was – Oh! Oh! Oh!”, “Think Blue, Count Two”.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish.  Under another name (and he used others too) he was Sun Yat-sen’s godson, earned a Ph.D., knew six languages, studied brainwashing and psychological warfare.  We may understand him some day.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born July 11, 1920 Yul Brynner. The Gunslinger in Westworld and its sequel Futureword.  He would also play Carson, a human warrior in the post-apocalyptic The Ultimate Warrior. I don’t think we can consider The King and I genre or even genre adjacent…  If we do, he played Prince Mongkut in the short-lived Anna and the King as well. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born July 11, 1925 David Graham, 95. The voice of Daleks in the early years of Doctor Who including two non-canon films, Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.; his voice work made him a sought-after worker and he’d be used on ThunderbirdsAsterix & Obelix Take On CaesarTimeslipMoomin, Stingray and even the recent Thunderbirds Are Go. (CE)
  • Born July 11, 1954 – Sarah Prince.  Ceramicist, photographer, graphic designer.  Voice and handbell choirs.  Co-chaired Ditto 6 (fanziners’ convention, named for a brand of spirit duplicator – I’ve used it myself and “spirit duplicator” still sounds fantastic).  Here (Mark Olson photo) she is at Boskone 28.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 11, 1956 Amitav Ghosh, 64. Author of the absolutely brilliant The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Really just go read it and we’ll discuss it over a cup of chai masala. (CE)
  • Born July 11, 1958 – Alan M. Gutierrez, 62.  A hundred sixty covers, forty interiors.  Here is the Spring 1983 Rigel.  Here is The Infinite Sea.  Here is the April 2005 Analog.  Here is Fuzzy Ergo Sum.  Here are some starship concept sketches.  [JH]
  • Born July 11, 1959 Richard James Bleiler, 61. Genres breed academics. One of them is this bibliographer of speculative fiction, crime, and adventure fiction. Among his papers are “The Fantastic Pulp Fiction of Frank Belknap Long” which appeared in Gary Hoppenstand’s Pulp Fiction of the ’20S and ’30S and “Forgotten Giant: A Brief History of Adventure Magazines” which was published in Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy. (CE)
  • Born July 11, 1976 T.L. Morganfield, 44. She is as she says “An Aztec geek; whether it’s history or mythology, I devour it all. It’s a love affair that began in college and has taken over my fiction writing life.” And that’s why I’m recommending her Bone Flower trilogy which is at genre adjacent if not genre. Her Aztec West series bring the Aztec gods into the Old West and is quite entertaining in a weird sort of manner. (CE)
  • Born July 11, 1984 – Marie Lu, 36.  Nine novels, five New York Times Best Sellers, some adapted to graphic novels and video games; they are young-adult futuristic dystopias.  Here is a January 2020 interview for The Writer.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows a suspicious case of news not going viral.

(11) MOVING IN A NEW DIRECTION. “Julia Sawalha ‘devastated and furious’ at Chicken Run sequel ‘ageism'” reports BBC.

Actress Julia Sawalha has said she is “devastated and furious” at not being in the Chicken Run sequel, claiming she was told her voice sounds “too old”.

Sawalha, who played Ginger the chicken in the 2000 animated original, said she felt she had been “unfairly dismissed”.

The actress said she had “officially been plucked, stuffed & roasted” after being told the role was being recast, but wished the film “the best of luck”.

The BBC has asked Aardman Animations and distributor Netflix for comment.

In an open letter, the Absolutely Fabulous and Cranford star said she had been “informed out of the blue” that the producers of Chicken Run 2 were recasting Ginger.

“The reason they gave is that my voice now sounds ‘too old’ and they wanted a younger actress,” she wrote.

Sawalha responded by filming herself speaking some of her old dialogue and sending the video to the sequel’s producers.

She said she had received a “very kind” response from an unnamed “creative” – who said the recasting would still go ahead.

(12) SHE ADORES THE DOCTOR. BUT NOT THAT DOCTOR. Galactic Journey’s Lorelei Marcus will tell you “This is how I fell hard for handsome, clever, talented teen idol of the century: Tony Randall.” [JULY 10, 1965] “SINCE I FELL FOR YOU” (A YOUNG TRAVELER’S CRUSH).

… He’s at his best though, when he is playing Dr. Lao; specifically when he drops the stereotypical façade of a foolish Chinese man and becomes the traveled scholar underneath. Suddenly he is standing straight and tall, almost regal in his confidence. His voice is deep and carrying, but his demeanor is kind, wise, and gentle. He speaks in a perfect and precise manner and his words discuss the magical secrets of the universe. I hadn’t known it at the time, but despite all the makeup and effects, this role was one of the closest to Randall’s true self.

At this point, I was awed by Randall’s performance in the movie, but felt little beyond that. Dr. Lao was a few thousand years too old for my tastes, and I had yet to see the man behind him more clearly. Then my father’s and my weekly Password viewing happened to feature a very special guest. I was quite excited, not necessarily because it was Tony Randall on Password, but simply because it was an actor that I recognized and admired. At least, that’s how it started.

I was folding laundry while watching the TV, and I found my attention frequently drifting away from my linens and to the man on screen (no, not host Alan Ludden.) Randall was fascinating to watch. He always sat with perfect poise and spoke with wonderful rich tones. And he was absolutely erudite, forcing me to pull out a dictionary a few times. His brilliance aided in his gameplaying as well, as I believe he is the only player in Password history so far to win four games in a row!

(13) LANSDALE INTRO ONLINE. Joe R. Lansdale, in “The Missing Link Between Golden Age Detectives, Hardboiled Noir, And Hallucinogenic Adventure” on CrimeReads, has an introduction to a new edition of Joel Townsley Rogers’s The Red Right Hand. a novel Lansdale says is “a genre slider, a brain teaser, a liar and a truth-teller at the same time.” 

… Clues and odd impressions pile up like plague victims, and from time to time the answer to the riddle seems close at hand, as if you could reach out and grasp it. Then the answer that seemed so clear wriggles from your grasp like an electric eel and slithers into darkness.

(14) STARRING ATTRACTION. At The Eloquent Page, Pablo Cheesecake entertainingly reviews “Random Sh*t Flying Through The Air by Jackson Ford”.

Please note, this is a direct sequel to The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind. It is entirely possible that if you have not read book one in The Frost Files series then this review will contain something akin to minor spoilers. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

Teagan Frost’s life is finally back on track. Her role working for the government as a psychokinetic operative is going well and she might even be on course for convincing her crush to go out with her. But, little does she know, that sh*t is about to hit the fan . . .

A young boy with the ability to cause earthquakes has come to Los Angeles – home to the San Andreas, one of the most lethal fault lines in the world. If Teagan can’t stop him, the entire city – and the rest of California – could be wiped off the map.

For reference, before we begin, I’m going to refer to this book henceforth as Random Sh*t. I can’t be bothered typing Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air all the time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a brilliant title for a brilliant book, but it’s wearing me out. The prospect alone of having to repeatedly type it out is giving me the fear.

(15) UNDER THE HARROW. Andrew Mather reviews a sequel in Harrow The Ninth – Sure, Ok, Yeah” at The Quill To Live.

God, it’s like assembling a fusion reactor without a manual. I am honestly surprised at my perceived commercial success of Tamsyn Muir’s The Locked Tomb series. Not that it is bad in any way – in fact, we gave book one a stellar review and listed the series as one of our top Science Fantasy books of all time. It’s just that these books are so confusing that you will literally never understand what is happening, which is usually a huge turn off for most readers. I am pleasantly surprised that the general public has collectively decided these books are worth the time and effort.

So, Harrow The Ninth, the second book in the series, is coming out soon. You might be sitting on your couch right now, browsing this review on your phone, and thinking “oh a Harrow review, maybe he will say the books get less confusing.” Well reader, no, unfortunately, I cannot say that because I don’t understand half the plot, and the other half I do understand is basically all spoilers.

(16) UNSEEN THINGS. Looks like Trump’s Space Force has a head start on the Border Patrol. The New York Times reveals “Beyond the Milky Way, a Galactic Wall”.

Astronomers have discovered that there is a vast wall across the southern border of the local cosmos.

The South Pole Wall, as it is known, consists of thousands of galaxies — beehives of trillions of stars and dark worlds, as well as dust and gas — aligned in a curtain arcing across at least 700 million light-years of space. It winds behind the dust, gas and stars of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, from the constellation Perseus in the Northern Hemisphere to the constellation Apus in the far south. It is so massive that it perturbs the local expansion of the universe.

But don’t bother trying to see it. The entire conglomeration is behind the Milky Way, in what astronomers quaintly call the zone of avoidance.

An international team of astronomers led by Daniel Pomarède of Paris-Saclay University and R. Brent Tully of the University of Hawaii announced this new addition to the local universe on Friday in a paper in Astrophysical Journal. The paper is festooned with maps and diagrams of blobby and stringy features of our local universe as well as a video tour of the South Pole Wall.

It is the latest installment of an ongoing mission to determine where we are in the universe — to fix our neighborhood among the galaxies and the endless voids — and where we are going….

(17) BEYOND ELEMENTARY. At Nerds of A Feather, Paul Weimer’s “Microreview [book]: The Sin In the Steel by Ryan Van Loan” points out a new book’s connection to a strong literary tradition.

…Going into the novel, I did not quite realize that this was going to be a twist on a Sherlock adventure, and it was a delight to meet Buc and Eld on Holmes and Watsonian  terms. The author takes this further than I expected–giving Buc a use of a drug in order to focus and think in a productive way, and making Eld a veteran Who Has Seen Things.. The youthful nature of the protagonists (Buc is 17 and Eld a couple of years later) puts them between a “Young Sherlock Holmes” and a Traditionally aged Holmes and Watson.

(18) WOKE IN TIME FOR BREAKFAST. Vogue tells why “OffLimits Is a New Cereal Brand for the Conscious Breakfast Lover”.

Emily Miller, author of the cookbook Breakfast and host of “Breakfast Club,” which hosts tours of famous breakfast spots around New York City, is launching a new cereal brand today called OffLimits. There are two flavors: DASH, which is made with Intelligentsia coffee and cacao, and ZOMBIE, a recipe that includes relaxing adaptogens like pandan, vanilla, and ashwagandha. The flavor’s names also represent fictionalized characters created by Miller. They represent moods and emotions like anxiety and depression. She crafted these personas in order to humanize cereal branding, which—despite how sugary or fattening it may be—has often shouted eat this and you will be better and stronger! DASH is also the very first female cereal character ever created in the industry.

(19) TUCKERIZED. Fanac.org has posted Part I of the Bob Tucker Interview that Dick Smith conducted for Chicon 2000.

Dick Smith’s interview of Wilson “Bob” Tucker was done for the 2000 World Science Fiction Convention, Chicon 2000 (with videography by Tom Veal, chair of Chicon 2000!). In this low key conversation, Tucker tells wonderful stories about 60 years of fandom, from Chicon 1 in 1940, to his only stint as convention Artist Guest of Honor, to the origin of the Tucker Hotel, to Claude Degler and more. There’s history. There’s “smoothing”. There are intriguing hints of stories not told. Here’s your chance to sit down with a ghiant of fandom, and listen to Dick Smith draw out his stories of our fannish past.

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

Capricon 40: The 40th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back

Recorded and Archived by Chris M. Barkley: In October 2019, I was invited by Tammy Coxen to be a program participant at Capricon 40, an annual sf convention held in the Chicago area. The author Guest of Honor was Tobias Buckell and the 2020 theme was “The Tropics of Capricon” – exploring SF from Central and South America and other balmy climes, and the science of climate change. 

Among the most exciting items on the schedule was a panel on the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes back, considered by many to be the best of all the Star Wars films AND one of the finest movie sequels of all time.

I remember the memorable evening I saw a preview of Empire in a local Cincinnati, packed with fans, radio station ticket winners and local media. It was a rollicking, fun night as the audience was thrilled amazed…and then ultimately shocked by a story revelation that, so far in my opinion, no filmmaker has managed to match in the decades since.

The panel was held on Thursday, February 13 at 3:30 p.m., which was very early in the programming schedule. I and the other panelists, our moderator, Shaun Duke, and local fans Toni Bogolub and Megan Murray, were worried that the attendance would be sparse, at best.

AT-ATs advance, shooting laser bolts, toward the defending Alliance troops during the Battle of Hoth.

But, as it turned out, we all underestimated the interest in this panel and had well over fifty people in attendance.  

What has been documented here is the wild and undying love for Star Wars and our unbridled opinions about the best and worst of things about it.

I hope you enjoy our panel discussion: “40th Anniversary Empire Strikes Back.mp3”

(L) David Prowse (as Darth Vader; voice: James Earl Jones), (R) Mark Hamill (as Luke Skywalker)

Pixel Scroll 5/22/20 Is A Palindrone An Unmanned Craft That Can Fly Backwards As Well As Forwards?

(1) LETTING THE GENE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. One of the field’s most esteemed writers delivers Whatever’s recurring feature today: “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress”.

At parties in my city—environmentally conscious, crunchy-granola, high-tech and socially activist Seattle—it is easy to start a flaming argument. Just walk up to a group, tilt your head, and say inquiringly, “What do you think of GMOs?” Then stand back to avoid being scorched.

Genetically modified organisms have passionate denouncers and equally passionate supporters. This is especially true for GMO crops, since the genemod bacteria and animals are usually hidden away in labs, ranches, or manufacturing facilities. But there is GMO food right out front on your table, plated in front of your kids. Everybody has an opinion.

Including me.

But I didn’t want my new novella from Tachyon, Sea Change, to be a polemic for one side of the controversy. I wanted to explore in a balanced way both sides of the myriad questions involved….

(2) HARRY POTTER READINGS. This edition is really cool.

(3) KEEPING AN EAR ON YOU. Mara Hvistendahl’s article “How a Chinese AI Giant Made Chatting—and Surveillance—Easy” in the June WIRED reports that iFlytek does a really good job of translation — and also allows Chinese authorities to track users by the sound of their voices.

When I mentioned iFlytek’s work to a friend in Shanghai, she said it reminded her of the story ‘City of Silence’ by the Chinese science fiction writer Ma Boyong.  The story is set in a future society where speech is tightly controlled.  The people are clever at adapting to each new limit, turning to homonyms and slang to circumvent censors, and in time the authorities realize that the only way to truly control speech is to publish a List of Healthy Words, forbid all terms not on the list, and monitor voice as well as text.  Anytime the protagonist leaves the house, he has to wear a device called the Listener, which issues a warning when he strays from the list of approved words.  The realm of sanctioned speech dwindles day by day.

Eventually the protagonist discovers the existence of a secret Talking Club, where in an apartment encircled by lead curtains, members say whatever they want, have sex, and study 1984,  Feeling alive again, he realizes that he has been suppressing ‘a strong yearning to talk.’  This brief encounter with hope is squelched when the authorities develop radar dishes that can intercept signals through lead curtains.  By the end of the story, there are no healthy words left, and the hero walks the city mutely, alone with his thoughts.  ‘Luckily, it was not yet possible to shield the mind with technology.’ Ma writes.

(4) EMPIRE AT 40. “Star Wars drops 40th anniversary poster for ‘The Empire Strikes Back'”Yahoo! Movies UK shared the image and some other interesting links.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.

Considered by most to be the blockbuster franchise’s finest moment, the second Star Wars film stunned audiences around the world with a killer twist and the ultimate downbeat ending.

To celebrate the film’s 40th year, Lucasfilm and Disney have gone all out, uploading a wealth of content to StarWars.com including a brand new interview with series creator George Lucas.

(5) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. Inverse has already mined that Lucas interview for a post: “George Lucas reveals a shocking connection between Yoda and Baby Yoda”.

Frank Oz, the original puppeteer and voice behind Yoda, also created several Muppet characters along with Jim Henson. You don’t think of Oz’s Miss Piggy as a puppet, you think of her as a pig. And, it’s the same with Yoda and Baby Yoda: We think of them as whatever it is they are supposed to be, not as a kooky fake thing.

But, it turns out, that creating that illusion requires a very specific philosophy. And in a new interview celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas touched on one fascinating connection between the original Yoda in 1980 and Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian.

Over on the official Star Wars website, George Lucas is talking about The Empire Strikes Back. For diehards, there’s not necessarily a ton of new information in this interview, after all, people have been meticulously documenting the making of Star Wars movies since Star Wars began. But, in talking about the director or The Empire Strikes Back —Irvin Kershner — one detail about how Yoda was shot on set will raise your eyebrow if you’ve been following all the behind-the-scenes action on The Mandalorian.

From StarWars.com:

“Kershner treated Yoda like an actor on set, sometimes talking to the prop instead of addressing Oz down below.”

This is significant because nearly 40 years later, the exact same thing happened on the set of The Mandalorian. In the behind-the-scenes documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, director Deborah Chow confirmed what was cropping up in several reports already; cinematic legend Werner Herzog spoke directly to Baby Yoda puppet on the set, and, like Kershner did on Empire, treated the puppet exactly like an actor….

(6) AURORA NEWS. Members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association will want to know: “Aurora Awards – Voter Package Downloads now available”.

Awards voting opens June 20 and ends July 25 at 11:59:59 EDT.

(7) CASTAWAYS WITH ETIQUETTE. James Davis Nicoll lists “Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies for Tor.com readers.

…It turns out that even castaway kids will flout convention, as this Guardian article reveals. With no regard for the feelings of authority figures, six Tongan boys spent over a year marooned on a deserted island without even one brutal murder. Instead they cooperated and survived; they even cared for one of the boys who broke his leg…. 

(8) MARTIAN MUD PIMPLES. The German Aerospace Center suspects there are “Lava-like mud flows on Mars”.

Laboratory experiments show that at very low temperatures and under very low atmospheric pressure, mud behaves similar to flowing lava on Earth.

Results suggest that tens of thousands of conical hills on Mars, often with a small crater at their summit, could be the result of mud volcanism.

(9) MOVING TARGET. The paradigm shifts! And CNN tries to sort it out — “J.K. Rowling stupefies fans by revealing the truth around the origins of ‘Harry Potter'”

The news came after a fan posted a picture on Twitter of the Elephant House, a coffee shop in Edinburgh which on its website describes itself as the place “made famous as the place of inspiration to writers such as J.K. Rowling, who sat writing much of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle.”

The fan asked Rowling to explain “the truth about this ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter.”

Rowling, who is known to drop various bombshells and unknown tidbits about the franchise on Twitter, explained that the real “pen to paper” birth of Harry Potter himself, happened in her flat.

“If you define the birthplace of Harry Potter as the moment when I had the initial idea, then it was a Manchester-London train,” Rowling tweeted.

“But I’m perennially amused by the idea that Hogwarts was directly inspired by beautiful places I saw or visited, because it’s so far from the truth.”

(10) CHECK YOUR SHELVES. “Harry Potter first edition found in skip sells for £33,000”. No, J.K. Rowling’s revelation above is not the reason that book got chucked. It happened a long time ago. And hey, the librarian was just doing their job when they dumped that worn-out volume!

A hardback first edition Harry Potter book which was found in a skip has sold for £33,000 at auction.

The rare copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was discovered by a teacher 12 years ago along with two paperback first editions.

The anonymous seller found the books outside a school while tidying its library before an Ofsted inspection.

After the paperbacks went for £3,400 and £3,000, the seller said: “To say I’m pleased is an understatement.”

They were sold during an online auction at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire earlier.

Only 500 hardback first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were printed in 1997, most of which were sent to schools and libraries.

(11) RITA RETIRED. The Guardian’s take on RWA’s new award, “The Vivian” — “Romance Writers of America aims for happy end to racism row with new prize”.

Romance Writers of America is attempting to turn the page on a damaging racism row, abolishing its top literary prizes and replacing them with awards in a new format it hopes will show “happily ever afters are for everyone” and not just white protagonists.

The association of more than 9,000 romance writers is developing proposals to encourage more diverse winners, including training for its judges, an award for unpublished authors and processes to ensure books are judged by people familiar with each subgenre.

The RWA has been at the centre of an acrimonious debate about diversity, criticised for the paucity of writers of colour shortlisted for its major awards, the Ritas, as well as its treatment of Courtney Milan after she called a fellow author’s book a “racist mess” because of its depictions of Chinese women.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 22, 1981 Outland premiered. It was written and directed by Peter Hyams with production by Richard A. Roth and Stanley O’Toole.  It starred  Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking,  Kika Markham and Frances Sternhagen. According to the studio, it literally broken even at the Box Office. Critics in general liked it (“High Noon in Outer Space”) but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are meh on it giving a soft 54% rating.
  • May 22, 2012 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise, it directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett,  Karen Allen,  Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 60% rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner.  His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), TannhäuserThe Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater.  Complicated life and opinions less admirable.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1859 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Famous for Sherlock Holmes, in SF he wrote five novels, sixty shorter stories, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish.  In fact his surname from birth records to his knighting was only Doyle.  (Died 1930) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1907 Hergé. He is best remembered for creating The Adventures of Tintin which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is much less remembered for Quick & Flupke, a short-lived series between the Wars, and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko which lasted well into the Fifties. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra.  In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the SpacewaysSpace Is the PlaceStrange Celestial Road.  Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman.  Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958.  Fourteen short stories in F&SF, one more in collection Feensters in the Lake, translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese.  With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine” , a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1930 – Robert Byrne.  Editor of Western Construction.  Amateur magician, member of Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians.  Billiards and pool teacher and commenter; Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool & Billiards sold 500,000 copies; columnist for Billiards Digest; seven instructional videos; Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.  Eight anthologies of funny things people have said.  Three novels in our field, five others.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1938 Richard Benjamin, 82. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short-lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally, he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips.  Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance?  Ten credited film appearances.  For us, six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1956 Natasha Shneider. Her entire acting career consisted of but two roles, only one of interest to us, that of the Soviet cosmonaut Irina Yakunina in 2010: Odyssey Two. Her other genre contribution was she wrote and performed “Who’s in Control” for Catwoman. Cancer would take her at far too early an age. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1968 Karen Lord, 52. A Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right. 
  • Born May 22, 1978 – Tansy Rayner Roberts.  Ph.D. in Classics from U. Tasmania.  Hugo as Best Fan Writer 2013, Ditmar as Best Fan Writer 2015; nine more Ditmars, three of them Athelings (for SF criticism).  George Turner prize for Splashdance Silver.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) Small Press Award for “The Patrician”.  A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories.  Served a term as a Director of SFWA (no one made SFWA into Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Australia; directors were no longer region-specific).  Crime fiction as Livia Day.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1979 Maggie Q, 41. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio references Harlan Ellison.

(15) SPEAK, MEMORY. So does Liza Fletcher McCall:

(16) HUMANITY IS NO LONGER ON TOP. Titan Comics has revealed the Horizon Zero Dawn issue #1 covers. The series, based on the award-winning game by Guerrilla, brings back characters Aloy and Talanah in a new story set after the events of the game. The series launches August 5, 2020.

Set on a far future Earth, where nature has reclaimed the planet but massive, animal-like machines now rule the land, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy, an extraordinary young woman whose quest to solve the riddle of her mysterious origins takes her deep into the ruins of the ancient past.

Titan’s new comic book series – co-created by Anne Toole, one of the writers of Horizon Zero Dawn, with artwork by fan-favorite artist Ann Maulina – takes place after the events of the game as Talanah, a strong and determined hunter, struggles to find purpose after her trusted friend Aloy disappears. When a mysterious threat emerges in the wilds, she sets out to hunt and to defeat it, only to learn that a whole new breed of killer machines stalk the land!

(17) NEW VIEWS. Nerds of a Feather hears about “6 Books with Rowenna Miller”.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?
How about a book that changed my mind? I’ve never been big on nineteenth century lit—there were books I liked here and there but so often they were just…dull. There, I said it. But I read Dickens’ Hard Times a couple years ago and it was such fun—witty and tongue-in-cheek, with obvious but not moralistic commentary on ethical issues—and found families and the circus! I’m finding that some of the lesser-known, non “canon” lit, and especially short fiction, from that period ticks more of my boxes than I realized.

(18) RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES. Joe Sherry and Aidan Moher are on the party line in “The Modern Nostalgia of Dragon Quest XI: A Conversation” at Nerds of a Feather.

Aidan: Silent protagonists come under a lot of heat, but they’ve never really bothered me in older games. As the level of fidelity and detail grow, however, they make less and less sense, and it feels particularly odd in Dragon Quest XI. With so much voice acting in the game, every time the protagonist (who I’ll call Eleven) responds by awkwardly staring into space or making a weird little gasp feels uncanny. The characters all behave as though he’s this magnetic hero type, but so much of that is personality and charisma—and Eleven has none of that.

I recently replayed Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (and a bit of Grandia before that) and one of the things that really stood out to me in those games was the personalities of the protagonists really shining through. By emphasizing their personalities, they felt like much more engage and proactive heroes, compared to, say, Crono from Chrono Trigger or Eleven from Dragon Quest XI. Those silent types require others to push the story forward and they act as sort of a… defining element for the protagonist’s actions and motivations. It’s almost like they’re the splash of paint revealing the invisible protagonist.

(19) IT’S ONLY NATURAL. CNN reports “A parasite that feeds off of the reproductive organs of millipedes is named after Twitter, where it was found”.

Biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum said in a press release that she was simply browsing Twitter when she came across a photo, shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech, of a North American millipede.

Nothing unusual there. But then she looked closer….

(20) A NEW TWIST. “Jason Momoa is a Vampire and Peter Dinklage is Van Helsing in Action-Horror Movie ‘Good Bad & Undead’”Bloody Disgusting has the details.

Check out this wild plot synopsis, billed as “Midnight Run in a Bram Stoker world“:

“Dinklage will play Van Helsing, last in a long line of vampire hunters. He develops an uneasy partnership with a Vampire (Momoa) who has taken a vow never to kill again. Together they run a scam from town to town, where Van Helsing pretends to vanquish the Vampire for money. But when a massive bounty is put on the Vampire’s head, everything in this dangerous world full of monsters and magic is now after them.”

Momoa and Dinklage are also set to produce.

(21) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. In addition to SpaceX’s planned launch, “Virgin Orbit hopes for rocket flight this weekend”.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

Virgin Orbit, based in California, will put satellites above the Earth, using a rocket that’s launched from under the wing of a jumbo jet.

The maiden mission, to be conducted out over the Pacific Ocean, could take place as early as Saturday.

Assuming this demonstration is successful, Virgin Orbit hopes to move swiftly into commercial operations.

It already has a rocket built at its Long Beach factory for a second mission.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

(22) COPYCATS. There’s no telling what’s likely to come over the transom these days –

(23) VASTER THAN EMPIRES, AND MORE SLOW. “Herd-Like Movement Of Fuzzy Green ‘Glacier Mice’ Baffles Scientists”.

In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something completely unexpected.

“What the heck is this!” Bartholomaus recalls thinking. He’s a glaciologist at the University of Idaho.

Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. “They’re not attached to anything and they’re just resting there on ice,” he says. “They’re bright green in a world of white.

Intrigued, he and two colleagues set out to study these strange pillow-like moss balls. In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herd-like fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.

“The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions,” Bartholomaus says. “Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks.”

In the 1950s, an Icelandic researcher described them in the Journal of Glaciology, noting that “rolling stones can gather moss.” He called them “jökla-mýs” or “glacier mice.”

This new work adds to a very small body of research on these fuzz balls, even though glaciologists have long known about them and tend to be fond of them.

(24) KEEPING BUSY. “Bumblebees’ ‘clever trick’ fools plants into flowering”. Yes. Let’s call this “Plan Bee.”

Scientists have discovered a new behaviour among bumblebees that tricks plants into flowering early.

Researchers found that when deprived of pollen, bumblebees will nibble on the leaves of flowerless plants.

The damage done seems to fool the plant into flowering, sometimes up to 30 days earlier than normal.

(25) STINKERS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never heard of some of these. And that’s a good thing. “The Worst Sci-Fi Movies Every Year Of The Decade (According To IMDb)” at ScreenRant.

8 Area 407 (2012) – 3.6

Who’d have thought a sci-fi-horror found footage film released in the year 2012 could possibly be a critical failure? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Area 407 turned out to be.

Arguably the most obscure movie on this list, the fact that barely anybody saw this one is likely no accident. The film was reportedly shot without a script, being entirely ad-libbed by its actors during the movie’s suspiciously lean five-day shoot. Whether or not this was down to sheer laziness or a failed attempt to recapture the magic of classic found footage movie The Blair Witch Project is up for debate – but the movie is terrible, regardless.

(26) SEE SPOT HERD. “Robot dog tries to herd sheep” — video.

A robot dog designed for search and rescue missions has had a go at herding sheep in New Zealand.

Technology company Rocos is exploring how the Spot robot – made by US-based Boston Dynamics – might be put to work in the agricultural industry.

(27) MORE BITS, SCOTTY! BBC rushes to judgment! “Australia ‘records fastest internet speed ever'”.

Researchers in Australia claim they have recorded the fastest ever internet data speed.

A team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities logged a data speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps).

At that speed, users could download more than 1,000 high-definition movies in less than a second.

According to Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed currently is around 64 megabits per second (Mbps) – a fraction of that recorded in the recent study.

(28) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Fire (Pozar)” on YouTube is a weird film written, animated, and directed by David Lynch in 2015.  (I can’t describe it–it’s just weird!)

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

Pixel Scroll 5/21/20 Six Out Of 14 Duchies Vote OK To Release The Dragons In Two Weeks

(1) CALIFORNIA GETTING BACK IN BUSINESS – CASE BY (BOOK) CASE. “For booksellers in L.A., a partial reopening brings hope and anxiety” – the LA Times has the story.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Hillary McMahon pulled up into a parking spot in Pasadena, where a sign attached to a traffic cone read: “Reserved for Vroman’s Curbside Pickup. Space 1.” She dialed the number listed below the sign and let the store know she was ready for her book.

McMahon, 72, of La Cañada Flintridge, got out of her car, opened the trunk, hopped back inside and put on her blue mask. Minutes later, an employee wearing sunglasses, blue gloves and a mask walked out of the empty bookstore on an eerily quiet Colorado Boulevard, brown paper bag in hand, and dropped into the trunk a copy of Claudio Saunt ’s “Unworthy Republic.”

Vroman’s , with locations in Hastings Ranch and Pasadena, is among L.A.’s many independent bookstores — including Stories, Pages and Chevalier’s — that have started offering contactless, curbside service since Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed some retailers to reopen May 8 within strict guidelines for limiting the spread of the coronavirus….

…On May 14, the California Independent Booksellers Alliance held a virtual town hall for booksellers featuring a special guest — a nurse.

In advance of the meeting, nurse Jean Taylor-Woodbury distributed information on the state’s guidelines: site-specific protection plans; disinfecting protocols; training and screenings of employees and a detailed risk assessment.

Over the course of the call, which went over an hour, 72 booksellers from across the state asked Taylor-Woodbury a variety of questions: How long does the virus stay on paper and cardboard? How do you disinfect money? Do we have to disinfect books after browsers touch them? (The answer was “yes”.) How do you disinfect books? What do we do if customers won’t wear masks? Is there a better way to access testing? How long will someone test positive? …

(2) NO ALBACON THIS YEAR. Add Albacon 2020 to the roster of cancelled conventions. The event, which was to have been held in Albany, NY in September, has been postponed to 2021.

Due to the ongoing issues with Covid-19 health and safety, the Albacon Committee has decided to postpone the convention until Fall of 2021. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have agreed to attend as Guests of Honor. Memberships will roll over, but, given the situation, we will make an exception to our usual policy and give refunds on request.

(3) I SOLEMNLY SWEAR. This is wild. “This ‘Harry Potter’ Mask Reveals the Marauder’s Map as You Breathe”.

…Hook told Insider that she created these masks to “bring some magic” into the real world. While the masks were created using simple tools— an inexpensive sewing machine, standard sewing supplies, licensed cotton fabric, elastic, and of course the special color-changing pigment — the design process was lengthy. Each mask took her about 17 hours to create start to finish. “The majority of the time is waiting for the treatment to set into the fabric,” she told Insider.

(4) STAR PERFORMER. “NASA Names Dark Energy Telescope for Nancy Grace Roman”. The New York Times tells what the late astronomer did to earn the honor.

NASA announced Wednesday that one of its most ambitious upcoming space telescopes would be named for Nancy Grace Roman, who pioneered the role of women in the space agency.

Dr. Roman joined the agency in 1959 when NASA was only six months old, and rose to be its first chief astronomer. She is credited, among other things, with championing and spearheading the development of the Hubble Space Telescope. Around the agency and in astronomical circles she is known as “the mother of Hubble.” She died in 2018.

The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, as it is now named, is being designed to investigate the mysterious dark energy speeding up the expansion of the universe and to scan space for exoplanets belonging to distant stars. The project to build the telescope has survived several attempts by the Trump administration to kill it, and is now slated to be launched later this decade.

Until now it has been known by the decidedly uncatchy name of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or Wfirst. The acronym had a double meaning: “W” is the name for a crucial parameter that measures the virulence of dark energy, thus giving a clue to the fate of the universe.

“It is because of Nancy Grace Roman’s leadership and vision that NASA became a pioneer in astrophysics and launched Hubble, the world’s most powerful and productive space telescope,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said in a statement issued by the space agency.

(5) TOWEL DAY. It will be time to celebrate again on May 25, and BookRiot’s contribution to the festivities is —“Quiz: How Well Do You Know The Hitchhiker’s Guide Trilogy?” I scored 13/15, and talked myself out of yet another right answer, so you may suspect it’s not that hard.

Traditional Towel Day celebrations primarily involve carrying a towel everywhere you go. (A towel, after all, “is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”) Last year, I celebrated with a Which Hitchhikers Guide Character Are You? quiz. For Towel Day 2020, I decided to put together a different sort of quiz, this time to test your knowledge on this zaniest of franchises. In this quiz, I’ll lob you 15 questions about all five Adams-penned Hitchhiker’s Guide books (no disrespect, Mr. Colfer, but today is literally not your day), plus one or two about the numerous adaptations.

(6) TRIFFIDS REDUX. The New York Times reviews Kenneth Oppel’s Bloom: “A Few Brave Kids Battle a Toxic World”. (May be paywalled.)

If flu-pandemic books make cold sufferers anxious and zombie books make agoraphobics jittery, here’s something to rattle the Zyrtec set.

You name an allergy, and adolescent Anaya in Kenneth Oppel’s BLOOM (Knopf, 320 pp., $16.99; ages 10 and up) has it. Gluten, eggs, milk, smoke, dust — all of these things aggravate her acne. Anaya’s gorgeous ex-BFF Petra doesn’t have zit issues, but her allergy is a rare and lethal one: water. New kid Seth is allergic to life in general: Being shuttled between foster families who don’t want you sucks.

Then rain falls upon their Canadian home of Salt Spring Island. A peculiar rain. It clears Anaya’s skin and Petra isn’t allergic to it. In the hours that follow, the farm Seth tends with his current fosters, Mr. and Mrs. Antos, sprouts an invasive species of tall, black, spiky grass.

Soon it’s popping up all over the world, outgrowing even kudzu. Picture the xenomorph from “Alien,” only leafier. It destroys lawn mower blades. Cutting it releases acid. Burning it generates toxic fumes. And everyone seems to be allergic to it — except Anaya, Petra and Seth, who haven’t felt this lively in ages.

…There is nothing especially deep to this story. But these are deep times, and readers will have no choice but to overlay their current Covid-19 experiences on Oppel’s chillingly prescient details: the initial blaming of China, a shrinking work force gutted by sickness, closed schools, stay-at-home orders, overloaded hospitals and the omnipresence of medical masks.

It is a helpless situation with which readers will powerfully identify. How cathartic to imagine a few brave kids might turn it all around. This makes “Bloom” the perfect book right now for young readers searching for hope, strength, inspiration — and just a little horticultural havoc.

(7) TRAILER PARK. IGN reports “Tenet: New Trailer Premieres Tonight on Fortnite” – so it will already be available by the time you see today’s Scroll.

For anyone excited for Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated new movie, Tenet, you will be able to watch the brand new trailer on Fortnite starting tonight.

In the latest collaboration with Epic Games’ popular battle royale shooter, Warner Bros. is premiering the brand new Tenet trailer on Fortnite’s virtual big screens. The new Tenet trailer will premiere at the top of every hour starting at 5 pm PT/8 pm ET tonight, May 21.

What did I say?

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 21, 1980 — Yoda made his debut appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, which was released in the United States on May 21, 1980. He has since appeared in over 50 films and TV shows.
  • May 21, 1981 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior premiered. Directed by  George Miller and produced by  Byron Kennedy, the screenplay was by Terry Hayes, George Miller and Brian Hannant. Australian New Wave composer Brian May is responsible for the music.  It stars Mel Gibson and the Australian outback. It was extremely well received by critics, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 87% rating currently. 
  • May 21, 1985 Ray Bradbury Theater premiered on HBO.  It ran for two seasons on there from 1985 to 1986, and then for four additional seasons on USA Network from 1988 to 1992. All 65 episodes were written by Bradbury and many were based on works he had previously written. The Ray Bradbury Theater site has the best look at the series. You can watch the first episode, “Marionettes, Inc.“ here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 21, 1471 – Albrecht Dürer.  Engravings, paintings, watercolors, woodcuts; printmaker; theorist.  The 15 Apocalypse pictures, or Knight, Death, and the Devilor Melencolia I, are each enough to make him an immortal fantasist.  (Died 1528) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1688 – Alexander Pope.  Second most quoted author in English (after Shakespeare); e.g. “damning with faint praise”.  Mock-heroic epic The Rape of the Lock (“lock” i.e. of hair; “rape” meaning “carry away by force”, same root as “raptor”) has sylphs.  Superb translations – if you are mainly looking for what wonderful English poetry he could make, not accuracy, because you know enough Greek to read the original, as Sam Johnson did, or don’t care – of Homer’s Iliad and (with collaborators) Odyssey, each being superb fantasy.  (Died 1744) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1889 Arthur Hohl. He’s Mr. Montgomery, the man who helps Richard Arlen and Leila Hyams to make their final escape in Island of Lost Souls, the 1932 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, which is considered the first such filming of that novel. Genre adjacent, he’ll show later in The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Three Musketeers and The Devil-Doll. (Died 1964.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1903 – Manly Wade Wellman.  Wrote for AmazingAstoundingPlanetStartlingStrangeUnknownWeird Tales.  Best-known characters, John the Balladeer (“Silver John”; I’ve always been fond – if that word may be used – of the story “Vandy, Vandy”) and the two occult-phenomena investigators Judge Keith Pursuivant and John Thurstone.  Comics: wrote the first issue of Captain Marvel, contributed to The Spirit and Blackhawk.  Sixteen novels, two hundred shorter stories, in our field, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish; detective fiction, a Western, histories of the Old South.  World Fantasy Award for life achievement.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1911 – Virginia Haviland.  Librarian, author, folklorist, student of children’s literature.  Reviewed for The Horn Book thirty years.  Sixteen volumes of Favorite Fairy Tales, one each for France, England, Russia, India, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Spain, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Scotland, Denmark, Japan, Greece, Italy, Norway.  Founded Center for Children’s Literature, U.S. Library of Congress.  Kate Greenaway Medal for The Mother Goose Treasury.  Regina Medal.  Grolier Award.  Simmons University gives a Virginia Haviland scholarship.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1917 Raymond Burr. Speaking of lawyers, we have the Birthday of the man who played Perry Mason. It looks the 1949 film Black Magic with him playing Dumas, Jr. was his first genre performance. Bride of the Gorilla was his next with Lou Chaney Jr. co-starring and  Curt Siodmak directing. He goes on to be Grand Vizier Boreg al Buzzar in The Magic Carpet before being Vargo in Tarzan and the She-Devil. And finally he’s in a Godzilla film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! To be precise, as Steve Martin. And unfortunately, he played the same role in Godzilla 1985 which earned him a Golden Raspberry Award. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1918 Jeanne Bates. She’s Diana Palmer in the Forties The Phantom serial, possibly the first one done. Her first genre role was as Miss Norcutt in The Return of the Vampire, a unauthorized sequel to Lugosi’s 1931 Universal Studios film Dracula. Most of the films she’s known for are horror films such as The Soul of a Monster and Back from the Dead. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1935 Bill Williams. He appeared on Science Fiction Theater in five different roles, and played The Millionaire on Batman in “Fine Finny Fiends” and “Batman Makes the Scenes”. He also made an appearance on The Wild Wild West in “Night of the Casual Killer“ as Marshal Kirby. He also did a lot of seriously pulpish SF films such as Space Master X-7. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1945 Richard Hatch. He’s best-known for his role as Captain Apollo in Battlestar Galactica. He is also widely known for his role as Tom Zarek in the second Battlestar Galactica series. He also wrote a series of Battlestar Galactica franchise novels co-authored with Christopher Golden, Stan Timmons, Alan Rodgers and Brad Linaweaver. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1951 – Broeck Steadman, 69.  Eighty covers, two hundred sixty interiors, for AnalogAsimov’s (see here), Realms of FantasySF Age; books, see herehere; postage stamps, see herehere; murals, see herehere.   Keeps bees.  Twenty years running an art school with up to forty students a week.  Has done art for liquor bottles, soda cans, cars, jet planes, computers, toothpaste, chocolate.  [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1953 Trevor Cooper, 67. He plays Takis in the Sixth Doctor story, “Revelation of the Daleks“, and then will show up as Friar Tuck in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Robot of Sherwood”.  He’s currently playing Colin Devis in Star Cops, and he was Simeon in the Wizards vs. Aliens series before that. (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1958 – Jeff Canfield.  Photographer, system-software specialist, Formula Vee racer (he drove a Viper, which ought to count).  Recruited Kevin Standlee.  One of four founding directors, San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc.  Deputy vice-chair of 51st Worldcon, editor of its Program Book, timekeeper of its Preliminary Business Meeting, and its Speaker to Dr. Evil.  See here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1984 – Jackson Pearce, 36.  As You Wish, young-adult urban fantasy; four fairy-tale-retelling books based on Little Red Riding HoodHansel & GretelThe Little MermaidThe Snow Queen.  With Maggie Stiefvater, Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures, two more.  Tsarina (as by J. Nelle Patrick), historical fantasy.  YouTube channel with 200 videos, 13,000 subscribers.  Her Website says “Young Adult 58%, Middle Grade 42%, Baked Goods 85%, Glitter 100%”.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BOOKING THE DATE. “Iam pervenimus usque ad umbilicos”. I don’t know what the title means even after running it through Google Translate, however, the results forced me to discard my bellybutton theory. Whatever it means, Steve J. Wright was in the room where it happened:

Well, I did it.  What did I do?  I uploaded two of my novels to Amazon’s Kindle publishing system, and within the past couple of minutes, I hit the button marked “Publish”.  There’s a review process, which is currently very slow because of the ongoing plague, so the books won’t actually be available for at least two weeks… but, at the end of that time, I presume a jet of light will shoot out of my head, as I level up from “deservedly obscure blogger” to “deservedly obscure indie author”.  (Yes, I’ve been spending too much time in MMORPGs.)

So, anyone who has said to themselves, “Bah and tcha!  This Steve person is full of criticism for other writers, going on about how to present sympathetic characters and how to construct your plot structure, but how well could he do it himself, eh?”… well, any such person will shortly be getting the chance to find out.  I’m not really in a position to be objective, myself – I mean, obviously I think I’m wonderful, but I’m aware that this opinion may not be universally shared.

Hey – forget about waiting, they’re already available. Take Martial’s word for it: “Ohe! iam satis est, ohe! Libelle”.

(12) SORRY, WRONG NUMBER. “She Gets Calls And Texts Meant For Elon Musk. Some Are Pretty Weird” reports NPR.

There are a lot of people trying to reach celebrity entrepreneur Elon Musk. Sometimes, though, they get Lyndsay Tucker, a 25-year-old skin care consultant.

Tucker, who works at a Sephora beauty store in San Jose, Calif., had never heard of the Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO until a couple years ago, when she began fielding a steady stream of calls and text messages intended for him.

“I asked my mom, ‘Hey, I keep getting these text messages’ — and I was also now starting to get phone calls — ‘for this guy Elon Musk. I don’t know who this is,’ ” Tucker said. “And my mom’s jaw just dropped.”

Turns out, Tucker’s cellphone number used to be registered to Musk. On any given day, she receives at least three calls or texts intended for Musk, whom she has never met.

If the maverick billionaire stirs controversy, as he is wont to do, her phone blows up with a torrent of messages. (Full disclosure: I reached out to Musk during one of those controversies, when he threatened to sue the California county that is home to Tesla’s headquarters over its coronavirus-related restrictions. Instead, I got Tucker.)

She has accidentally intercepted far more interesting calls than mine, however. One woman volunteered to go to space with SpaceX. Another person sent a blueprint for a bionic limb. “Which is, No. 1, really cool,” Tucker said. “But I have no idea how it’s built.”

(14) WHY. Today, Yahoo! Entertainment thinks they know the answer to “Why ‘Batwoman’ Star Ruby Rose Left the CW Series”.

…According to multiple sources, Rose was unhappy with the long hours required of her as the series lead, which led to friction on the set. It was thus decided by her and the network and studio, Warner Bros. Television, that they would part ways.

(15) THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. And Ars Technica thinks they might be able to fill in a blank about another previously unexplained departure:“Here’s why NASA’s chief of human spaceflight resigned—and why it matters”.

Why did Doug Loverro resign?

He made an error during the procurement process of the Human Landing System, during which NASA selected bids from Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX to build lunar landers as part of the Artemis Program. In his resignation letter to employees on Tuesday, Loverro admitted he made a “mistake” earlier this year. Multiple sources have suggested that he violated the Procurement Integrity Act.

It’s worth noting that on March 25, 2020, NASA’s inspector general announced an audit of “NASA’s acquisition strategy for the Artemis missions to include landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024.” It seems plausible that this audit may have involved some action taken by Loverro.

The article tells what he may have done, and assesses the implications of his departure on NASA’s hopes to meet the 2024 target.

(16) ARTIFACT. “Expedition To Salvage Titanic’s Wireless Telegraph Gets The Go-Ahead”.

In the final hours it took the R.M.S. Titanic to sink, wireless telegraph operators issued a series of increasingly frantic messages calling for rescue.

They went from detailed to desperate.

The last transmission — issued just a few minutes before the “unsinkable” ship disappeared below the surface of the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg — was just five words: “Come quick. Engine room nearly full.”

The messages offer a poignant record of the final moments of chaos and tragedy aboard the Titanic in April 1912.

And this week a federal judge ruled that the wireless telegraph set may be recovered from the wreckage.

U.S. Judge Rebecca Smith said retrieval of the Edwardian technology — the most advanced of its time — “will contribute to the legacy left by the indelible loss of the Titanic, those who survived, and those who gave their lives in the sinking,” the Associated Press reported.

The decision is a victory for RMS Titanic Inc., a private company with exclusive rights to salvage artifacts from the ship. It has been waging a decades-long legal battle to gain the right to extract the equipment and other artifacts from the ship.

In 2000, an earlier judge denied the company permission to cut into the shipwreck or detach any part of it. But Smith appeared swayed by RMST’s argument that remnants of the luxurious vessel are rapidly deteriorating.

“While many items that remain in and around the Titanic wreckage have the ability to enlighten generations on the lives of its passengers, only one item holds the story of all of the survivors,” Bretton Hunchak, president of the company said in a statement on Facebook.

(17) HOW ABOUT A NICE GAME OF CHESS? “Years Before The Pandemic, War Games Predicted A ‘Global Tempest'” says NPR.

One day in early March, as the coronavirus was spreading across the country, Margaret McCown was in her office at the Pentagon figuring out how her staff could work from home.

As McCown went over the logistics, she began to feel a sense of déjà vu.

A pandemic. Government on alert. Schools and offices closing. It was a scenario she had seen before. Just not in real life.

“That was that uncomfortable moment where you find yourself a little bit living in your own war game,” McCown said.

Starting in 2006, when she was a war gamer at the National Defense University, McCown spent two years running pandemic simulations for senior policymakers. The scenario: A novel flu strain is racing across the planet. The virus is deadly and highly contagious; U.S. officials are trying to contain the outbreak before it hits the United States. (Spoiler: They don’t succeed.)

McCown called the first exercise “Global Tempest.” In the office that day in March, she dug out an article she’d written about it for a defense journal. The title was “Wargaming the Flu.”

“As I looked through it, I was realizing the extent to which it had really identified some of the things that we were living and some of the debates I was seeing on TV,” she said.

In McCown’s simulations, as in several others in the early 2000s, participants foresaw an overwhelmed health care industry struggling to respond to unprecedented demand. McCown’s teams worried about the number of ventilators and hospital beds.

What’s more interesting to McCown is that the gamers also identified the many ways a pandemic could disrupt ordinary life.

(18) NO FIGHTING IN THE WARP ROOM. Everybody loves this house — the link is circulating widely: “480 Rainier Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 15239 – 3 Bed, 1 Bath Single-Family Home – MLS# 1445093 – 24 Photos” at Trulia. The goodies are in the middle of the photo deck, so keep flipping.

Do you like Fun & Adventure? See this One of a Kind Brick Ranch, Converted into a 2 Story. Enter the Door to a 13th Century Castle Décor Sunken Living Rm, w/ Dramatic, High, Oak Beamed Ceiling, Hardwood Floor, Brick Fireplace, a Ladder to an Elevated Library. Time Travel at Warp Speed to the 25th Century Starship. A Talking Space Alien greets you as you walk toward the Floor to Ceiling, Outer Space Wall Mural. The Dining Rm Command Center Rear Wall opens up to the Spaceship Main Bridge-Working Computer & Controls from an Apache Helicopter, Speakers & a 55 Inch Screen (TV works)…. 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/1/20 Do Ansibles Dream Of Electronic Beeps?

(1) NEW MARVEL COMICS ON THE WAY. Today, Marvel Comics announced its plans to resume releases for its comics starting Wednesday, May 27. Said a press releasem “True Believers everywhere will now be able to escape back into the Marvel Universe and continue following their favorite Marvel stories and characters.”

Over the next few weeks, Marvel will keep a balanced release schedule for its comics and trade collections as the industry continues to restart distribution and comic shops begin to reopen and adapt to current social distancing policies. Stay tuned for more information as Marvel continues to release new comics in the most thoughtful way we can for fans, creators, and the industry during these unpredictable times.

(2) THINGS COVID-19 MAKES UNPREDICTABLE. Fantastika 2020 today announced that they have optioned March 19-21, 2021 as a backup in case their first deferred date – October 23-25 this year – doesn’t pan out. All four guests of honor — Adrian Tchaikovsky, Aliette de Bodard, Peadar Ó Guilín, and Eva Holmquist — are planning to come to Fantastika 2020 in October, but right now no one knows if they will be able to come next March.

(3) A CERTAIN CONVENTION CASUALTY. Pittsburgh’s furry fandom Anthrocon, which was to be held July 2-5, announced on April 27 that they have cancelled this year’s event:

(4) AN UNEXPECTED OMEN. Tor.com’s Emmet Asher-Perrin directed fans how to eavesdrop on an exchange between two favorite characters: “Crowley and Aziraphale Weather the Lockdown on Good Omens’ 30th Anniversary”.

It’s the 30th anniversary of Good Omens’ publication, so Neil Gaiman, David Tennant, Michael Sheen, and the other folx involved with last year’s miniseries have offered up a brand new scene. As a (literal) treat.

(5) MEREDITH MOMENT. Barbara Krasnoff’s mosaic fantasy novel of the past and future of two Jewish families, The History Of Soul 2065, is available today for only 99 cents at Amazon & other venues! — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, itunes, Kobo, Google Play. Read Daniel Dern’s January 27 File 770 review of the book.

(6) ABOUT JEMISIN’S AUDIOBOOK. AudioFile has posted a Behind the Mic video with Robin Miles and her Earphones Award winning performance on N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became.

AudioFile Magazine’s review begins —  

Robin Miles gives voice to everything New York in this fantastical celebration of the city’s spirit. As the novel opens, New York City is going through a transformation–it’s becoming sentient, embodied by six human avatars who represent the city’s five boroughs plus New York as a whole…. 

(7) A SHAGGY DOG STORY. Margaret Lyons, the New York Times television critic, asks “How Much Watching Time Do You Have This Weekend?”

Robbie Amell on “Upload.” The dog is his character’s therapist.

‘Upload’
When to watch: Starting Friday, on Amazon.

“Upload” feels like a hybrid of “The Good Place,” “Black Mirror” and “Idiocracy,” a cheeky, cynical but still lyrical sci-fi romantic dramedy. Robbie Amell stars as Nathan, a tech bro in 2033 whose consciousness is uploaded to a chichi but bizarre afterlife. Corporate greed is a defining pillar of modern life, and on “Upload” it’s a defining pillar of death, too, where the indignities of being advertised to, of always feeling shaken down, of being little more than a revenue stream, can endure for eternity. But hey, free gum! If you like big, imaginative shows with bite, watch this.

(8) HOPS TO IT. The bibulous Camestros Felapton shares the results of exhaustive testing in “Beers and Hugos: what to pair with your novel finalists”.

What to drink as you sit in your favourite reading spot with a good book is a vexing question of no import whatsoever. Wine has its advocates but I think drinking beer or slowly sipping spirits is a better a match for novels.

But what to match with this year’s Hugo Finalists for Best Novel?

So many factors to consider about each book! For example —

The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley. Do we need a high-strength beer here to match the mind-twisting plot or something with more flavour and less alcohol so we can concentrate and try to work out what is going on? I’ve drunk Chocolate Fish Milk Stout before which is a suitably disorientating car-crash of nouns but I don’t think that is the right tone for this novel. I want something that is sharp but very much not what it seems to be — a drink that makes you want to know what is going on and why? Perhaps something with a hint of a terrible experiment gone wrong… …

(9) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. HBO dropped a teaser trailer. The series debuts in August.

HBO’s new drama series, based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff of the same name, debuts this August. The series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he joins up with his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams). This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback.

(10) MORE BUDRYS. David Langford says, “Research for the recent Budrys SF essay collection Beyond the Outposts uncovered a mass of material that didn’t fit the scope of that already oversized book. I’m happy to report that the Budrys family liked the idea of my releasing a free ebook of other writings by our man — from a tasty 1960 fanzine to his final editorials in Tomorrow SF.”

Now you can download free A Budrys Miscellany: Occasional Writing 1960-2000 at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund Free Ebooks page – and please consider making a donation to TAFF.

(11) IT WASN’T THAT LONG AGO. Onward came and went with good reviews but an otherwise muted reception placing it much lower than Pixar’s more beloved films. YouTuber 24 Frames of Nick gives it a reappraisal. “You’re wrong about Onward.”

(12) TODAY’S DAY.

SPACE DAY is celebrated annually on the first Friday of May. An unofficial educational holiday created in 1997 by Lockheed Martin, Space Day aims to promote the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields among young people.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 1, 1953 Tales of Tomorrow’s “The Evil Within” episode first aired. A scientist has perfected a chemical that unleashes the beast within, but before he can create an antidote, his wife takes it when he takes a sample home to keep it refrigerated. It was directed by  Don Medford from a script by David E. Durston and Manya Starr. It starred James Dean, Margaret Phillips and Rod Steiger. It was Dean’s only genre role.  You can watch it here.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 1, 1905 E. Mayne Hull. She was the first wife of A. E. van Vogt and a genre writer in her own right with two novels to her credit, Planets for Sale and The Winged Man (which is co-written with her husband), and about a dozen stories. The Winged Man is a finalist for the Retro Hugo this year. She does not appear to be available in digital form. (Died 1975.)
  • Born May 1, 1923 Ralph Senensky, 97. Director of six Trek episodes including “Obsession” and “Is There in Truth No Beauty?“ which are two of my favorite episodes. He also directed episodes of The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleThe Twilight Zone (“Printer’s Devil”), Night Gallery and Planet of the Apes.
  • Born May 1, 1946 Joanna Lumley, 73. No, she was no Emma Peel, but she was definitely more than a bit appealing (pun fullly intended) in the New Avengers as Purdey. All twenty-six episode are out on DVD. Her next genre outing was In Sapphire & Steel which starred David McCallum as Steel and her as Sapphire. If you skip forward nearly near twenty years, you’ll  find her playing The Thirteenth Doctor in The Curse of Fatal Death in the 2017 Comic Relief special. Yes, she played the first version of a female Thirteenth Doctor. 
  • Born May 1, 1952 Andrew Sawyer, 68. Librarian by profession, critic and editor as well being an active part of fandom. He is the Reviews Editor for Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction. I’ve also got him doing Upon the Rack in Print, a book review column in Interzone and elsewhere and contributing likewise the Rust Never Sleeps column to Paperback Inferno as well. He hasn’t written much fiction, but there is some such as “The Mechanical Art” in the  Digital Dreams anthology.
  • Born May 1, 1955 J. R. Pournelle, 65. Some years ago, I got an email from a J. R. Pournelle about some SF novel they wanted Green Man to review. I of course thought it was that Pournelle. No, it was his daughter. And that’s how I came to find out there was a third Motie novel called, errrr, Moties. It’s better than The Gripping Hand.
  • Born May 1, 1956 Philip Foglio, 64. He won the Hugo Award Best Fan Artist at SunCon and IguanaCon 2. He later did work for DC, First and Marvel Comics including the backup stories in Grimjack. He and his wife are responsible for the totally ass kicking Girl Genius series
  • Born May 1, 1957 Steve Meretzky, 63. He co-designed the early Eighties version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy video game with the full participation of Douglas Adams. ESF also says that he did a space opera themed game, Planetfall and its sequel A Mind Forever Voyaging in the Eighties as well. He did the definitely more erotic Leather Goddesses of Phobos as well. 
  • Born May 1, 1972 Julie Benz, 48. I remember her best as Darla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but she’s had other genre roles such as Julie Falcon In Darkdrive, a very low budget Canadian Sf film, Barbara in the weirdly good Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th, and Angela Donatelli in Punisher: War Zone. 

(15) COMICS SECTION.

  • Reality Check tells how one robot family overcame its hereditary medical problem.
  • Reality Check also demonstrates the importance of grammar when instructing one’s fairy godmother.
  • Speed Bump describes a drug with questionable effects.

(16) THE LAST OF SHE-RA. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Final Season Trailer.

(17) HISTORY IMPROVED UPON. David Doering wonders if this is where the tradition of fabulous meeting minutes began for the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society:

“Bruce A. Yerke’s position as the most entertaining Secretary the LASFS ever corralled, and as founder and editor of Imagination (the magazine which precipitated the  unprecedented hordes of LASFS publications on the fan world ), is doubtless well known to most fans, but it wouldn’t do to forgo mention of his fabulously hilarious minutes. Those priceless documents were probably the indirect cause of the attendance of many otherwise uninterested persons, who came around solely to discover whether they had been libeled or praised, and to writhe or bask in a flow of words as the minutes were read.”

“The Damn Guy” in Fan Slants, Sept. 1943

Some of Yerke’s other attempts at jocularity in 1943 were more sophomoric.

“I was resting on a couch in one corner of the LASFS clubroom, dozing contentedly. Yerke entered, espied my recumbent form, and concluded that this was a splendid opportunity for some real fun. Producing an enormous sheet of wrapping paper, he tucked it about me, and then gleefully set fire to it. Luckily I came to my senses at this point and prevented an uncomfortable experience. When I demanded an explanation for his unseemly conduct, he replied, ‘I was giving you a hot-torso!’” 

(18) CIRCULAR FILE. James Davis Nicoll shares the addresses in “Put a Ring On It: Potential Planetary Ring Systems and Where to Find Them” at Tor.com.

… The mediocrity principle would suggest that other ring systems exist—systems that may be even more spectacular than Saturn’s. Recent discoveries hint that this may be the case. Data from the star 1SWASP J140747—have I complained yet today that astronomers are terrible at naming things?—suggests that its substellar companion may have a ring system that could be 180 million kilometers wide. That is about 30 million kilometers more than the distance from the Earth to the Sun. If Saturn had a ring system like that, it would be naked-eye visible.

(19) THE NAVY VS. THE DAY MONSTERS. Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait tells SYFY WIRE readers: “So, Those Navy Videos Showing UFOs? I’m Not Saying It’s Not Aliens, But It’s Not Aliens.” He gives a kind of Reader’s Digest condensation of the work done at MetaBunk.

On 27 April 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense officially released three unclassified videos, footage taken on Navy fighter jets. These videos, leaked to the public in 2007 and 2017, appear to show three unidentified flying objects moving in weird and unexpected ways. The Navy had already acknowledged the videos were real, but pointedly did not say what they show.

Do these videos show alien spaceships? If you do a lazy search on Google for them, the results might give you the idea they do. A lot of electrons have been spilled claiming these show alien vehicles making impossible maneuvers, are surrounded by a glow indicating some sort of advanced tech like a “warp drive,” and are clearly beyond our own miserable human technology.

But is any of this actually true?

Yeah, no. I mean, sure, the objects in the footage are unidentified, but something being a UFO doesn’t make it, y’know, a UFO….

(20) LINNAEUS NEVER HEARD OF THESE. Maybe you want to know, maybe you don’t, but you’re about to find out! “The 7 Strangest Real-Life Species Named After Star Trek Characters” courtesy of StarTrek.com.

Ever since Gene Roddenberry’s seminal sci-fi series blasted off in 1969, scientists across Earth have been naming newly-discovered species after the franchise’s characters and cast. Which animals share names with Star Trek’s most beloved and why? We’ve energized the etymology behind seven real-life Star Trek species into one handy databank below.

First on the list:

Ledella spocki (named after Mr. Spock)

At first, naming a mussel after Leonard Nimoy’s Science Officer may seem highly illogical. However, when tasked to title a newly-discovered mollusk in 2014, Spanish researchers led by Dr. Diniz Viegas opted to pay homage to Spock. The reason? They noted the shape of the mussel’s valves resembled the pointed ears of Star Trek’s most famous human-Vulcan hybrid.

(21) OPINIONS — EVERYBODY’S GOT ONE. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber earns his check this week arguing“Why The Empire Strikes Back is overrated”.

…This might come across as a contrarian hot take, but it seems obvious to me that the best film in the Star Wars series is, in fact, Star Wars. (I know we’re supposed to call it ‘A New Hope’ these days, but it was called Star Wars when it came out in 1977, so that’s good enough for me.) What’s more, it seems obvious that The Empire Strikes Back is the source of all the franchise’s problems. Whatever issues we geeks grumble about when we’re discussing the numerous prequels and sequels, they can all be traced back to 1980.

…My grievance with The Empire Strikes Back isn’t that it sticks to the winning formula established by Star Wars: that’s what most sequels do, after all. My grievance is that it also betrays Star Wars, trashing so much of the good work that was done three years earlier. My un-Jedi-like anger bubbles up even before the first scene – at the beginning of the ‘opening crawl’ of introductory text, to be precise. “It is a dark time for the Rebellion,” says this prose preamble. “Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy.”

Haaaaang on a minute. “Although the Death Star has been destroyed”? “Although”? The sole aim of the heroes and heroines in Star Wars was to destroy the Death Star, a humungous planet-pulverising spaceship of crucial strategic importance to the Empire. One of their big cheeses announced that “fear of this battle station” would keep every dissenter in line. Another hailed it as “the ultimate power in the universe”. But now the Rebels’ demolishing of the ultimate power in the universe is waved aside with an “although”? That, frankly, is not on. And it’s just the first of many instances when The Empire Strikes Back asks us to pretend that Star Wars didn’t happen….

(22) LITTERBUGS. “High microplastic concentration found on ocean floor”.

Scientists have identified the highest levels of microplastics ever recorded on the seafloor.

The contamination was found in sediments pulled from the bottom of the Mediterranean, near Italy.

The analysis, led by the University of Manchester, found up to 1.9 million plastic pieces per square metre.

These items likely included fibres from clothing and other synthetic textiles, and tiny fragments from larger objects that had broken down over time.

The researchers’ investigations lead them to believe that microplastics (smaller than 1mm) are being concentrated in specific locations on the ocean floor by powerful bottom currents.

“These currents build what are called drift deposits; think of underwater sand dunes,” explained Dr Ian Kane, who fronted the international team.

“They can be tens of kilometres long and hundreds of metres high. They are among the largest sediment accumulations on Earth. They’re made predominantly of very fine silt, so it’s intuitive to expect microplastics will be found within them,” he told BBC News.

(23) IT’S SAD TO BE ALL ALONE IN THE WORLD. Or so I remember someone telling Mary Tyler Moore in Thoroughly Modern Millie. “Animals in zoos ‘lonely’ without visitors”.

A number of zoos around the world are reporting that their animals are becoming “lonely” without visitors.

Zoos have had to close to members of the public due to Covid-19.

At Phoenix Zoo, keepers have lunch dates with elephants and orangutans, and one sociable bird needs frequent visits. Primates have gone looking for missing visitors.

Dublin Zoo said animals were also “wondering what’s happened to everyone”.

Director Leo Oosterweghel said the animals look at him in surprise.

“They come up and have a good look. They are used to visitors,” he told the Irish Times.

…Without visitors, some animals lack stimulation, Paul Rose, lecturer in animal behaviour at the University of Exeter, told the BBC.

“Some individuals, such as primates and parrots get a lot of enrichment from viewing and engaging with visitors. It is beneficial to the animal’s wellbeing and quality of life. If this stimulation is not there, then the animals are lacking the enrichment,” he said.

It’s not just the mammals: “Garden eels ‘forgetting about humans’ need people to video-chat”.

Keepers at Toyko’s Sumida Aquarium, which has been closed since 1 March due to the coronavirus pandemic, are starting to worry about their garden eels.

The sensitive little creatures had become used to seeing hundreds of faces peering into their tanks.

Now the aquarium is deserted they’ve started to dive into the sand whenever their keepers walk past.

This makes it hard to check they’re healthy.

The aquarium says the eels are “forgetting about humans” and is making what it calls an “emergency plea”.

“Could you show your face to our garden eels from your home?”

Yes, they’re asking people to call in for a sub-aqua video chat and remind the eels that humans are friendly.

(24) COMIC STALK. Marvel Entertainment announced today the launch of a brand-new digital series, Marvel Presents: The World’s Greatest Book Club with Paul Scheer, a six-episode weekly series celebrating your favorite comics and the community around them. This fun, light-hearted series is hosted by actor and comedian Paul Scheer, who will be joined by celebrity guests including Damon Lindelof, Gillian Jacobs, W. Kamau Bell, Phil Lord, Yassir Lester, and Jason Mantzoukas. The series is produced in partnership with Supper Club with Paul Scheer, Jason Sterman, Brian McGinn, and David Gelb as executive producers.

For fans, comic shops have and always will be the heart of the comic book community; a place for new and longtime fans to come together and share their passion, fandom, and appreciation for the artform while learning about something new. As a lifelong lover of Marvel comics, Scheer will look to capture some of that comic shop experience by diving into the personal origin stories with comics and beyond with each guest in the series. Scheer will be joined by Marvel New Media Head of Content Stephen Wacker to provide an inside look into some of Marvel’s most-read classics and unlock forgotten treasures from the Marvel vault.

In the first installment, Scheer and special guest Damon Lindelof and Marvel’s Stephen Wacker take an inside look into some of Marvel’s most-read classics and forgotten treasures, discussing Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk (2005) #1, New Mutants (1983) #1, and The New Mutants Marvel Graphic Novel (1982).

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

Pixel Scroll 12/14/19 Gort Pixel Barada Nikscroll

(1) ONE QUESTION. The Hollywood Reporter is there when “‘Rise of Skywalker’ Cast Answers Questions About Final Film, Baby Yoda on ‘The Late Show'”.

 “Hey Daisy, how did you figure out how to do alien accent?” another staffer asked.

“You mean this British accent?” Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, responded.

After a staffer asked what he would do with the Force, Billy Dee Williams (who plays Lando Calrissian) mimicked a choking action like the one used by Darth Vader in the Skywalker saga. The staffer then pretended to be choked.

(2) ANOTHER SECRET THEY KEPT. Entertainment Weekly checks in with Lawrence Kasdan in “‘I am your father’: The Empire Strikes Back writer looks back on iconic twist”.

Filming the scene was made even more challenging by the use of loud wind machines. Hamill not only couldn’t hear Vader body actor David Prowse say his lines, but couldn’t even hear himself and had to go off visual cues of Prowse moving in his suit. In fact, Hamill says that one of the biggest Star Wars original trilogy secrets is that more than half the dialogue was recorded in post-production due to all the intrusive noises from smoke and wind machines, prop effects, and even clunking robots. “C-3PO doesn’t sound like metal, he sounds like fiberglass,” Hamill notes.

After filming the scene, the fake twist — that Obi-Wan killed Luke’s father — leaked to a British tabloid. “These newspapers were offering 20,000 notes for anybody that got a good Star Wars leak,” Hamill says. “We couldn’t even keep that [the fake twist] a secret for a week. I was secretly delighted.”

(3) CUBISM. Learn “How ‘Missing Link’ Filmmakers Blew Up an Ice Bridge in Stop-Motion Animation” in The Hollywood Reporter.

…The sequence starts with an encounter on the bridge that was shot mostly in camera with puppets and full-scale components of the bridge built on a soundstage (one of roughly 110 miniature sets, including a full miniature bridge, that were constructed for the movie). The bridge was built of clear casting urethane resin in order to achieve the look of the ice without its turning yellow, explains production designer Nelson Lowry.

As the pursuit heats up, the bridge collapses. There were 64 individually rigged ice blocks that could be independently controlled for the shot in which the bridge begins to break. The actual destruction of the bridge was digitally created in the computer, and the puppets were composited into the action. Before it’s over, some are dangling from a rope, trying to gain safe footing. Butler says this was one of the toughest scenes Laika has ever tackled, and the artistry and heart-racing story have garnered Laika a slew of nominations, including multiple Annie Awards and a Golden Globe.

(4) WATTS ASSEMBLAGE. Tachyon Publications offers “The complete PETER WATTS IS AN ANGRY SENTIENT TUMOR previews”, from a collection of the author’s blog posts. The previews include:

(5) DECADE’S TOP SFF PICTURES. The Daily Dot picked only one Marvel production for its list of “The 10 most important sci-fi films of the 2010s”, leaving plenty of room for less obvious selections like this one –

6) High Life (2018)

Want to feel disturbed and alarmed? Well, High Life is the film for you. Acclaimed French indie director Claire Denis ventured into sci-fi territory for her English language debut, casting Robert Pattinson as the lead in a gut-churning thriller about a group of convicts in a claustrophobic spaceship. Pattinson plays the convict Monte, co-starring with Juliette Binoche as the ship’s creepy and sexually aggressive doctor, along with an ensemble cast including Andre 3000, Mia Goth, and a baby. Although if you sign up for this film based on the posters showing Robert Pattinson hanging out with an adorable toddler, you’ll be in for a nasty surprise. This gripping drama features sporadic but intense violence, explicit sex, and a dread-inducing descent into certain death. Both a commentary on incarceration and a straightforward space thriller, High Life riffs on the tropes of other trapped-in-a-spaceship movies like Alien and Event Horizon, while still feeling thoroughly memorable in its own right.

(6) #ET TOO. At CrimeReads, Damien Angelica Walters explored “How Women Authors Are Reshaping the Horror Genre” — “The boogeyman in the closet isn’t an amorphous shape in the dark—It’s someone we know and trust.”

The Monsters We Pass on the Street

I mentioned earlier that more than half the women killed in 2017 were murdered by their intimate partners or family members. Not a day goes by where I don’t see an article about a woman being abused, assaulted, or killed. It’s terrifying and what’s even more frightening is how commonplace it is. Violence against women by men is the backdrop to countless books, television shows, both fictional and not, and movies.

In My Sister, The Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite turns this on its head, creating feminist catharsis with her unexpected reversal. Korede’s younger sister, Ayoola, is beautiful and charming. She also has a penchant for killing her boyfriends, relying on Korede to help her clean up the mess. Korede doesn’t have to fear Ayoola, but she protects her. Until the doctor Korede works with and is secretly in love with meets and falls for Ayoola, forcing Korede to make a choice: do you stand by the monsters when they’re one of your own?

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

Shoot, this was a big day for sff in 1984!

  • December 14, 1984 1984 premiered in limited released in the art house circuit. It would get a general circulation release the next year. Starring John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton  and Cyril Cusack, critics loved it with Ebert calling saying Hurt was “the perfect Winston Smith”.  It currently has a 71% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 14, 1984 Runaway premiered. Starring Tom Selleck, Cynthia Rhodes and Gene Simmons, it faired quite poorly as it was up against The Terminator, The Search for Spock, and 2010: The Year We Make Contact. It got not so great reviews from critics and garnered a 44% rating from reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 14, 1984 Dune premiered. Directed by David Lynch of later Twin Peaks fame, starring Francesca Annis, Linda Hunt, Sting, Kyle MacLachlan and a cast of thousands, it did poorly at the box office and was treated badly by critics. Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes however give a 66% rating. It would place in fourth in AussieCon Two voting with 2010: Odyssey Two winning that year.
  • December 14, 1984 — John Carpenter’s Starman premiered. Starring Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen, it did very well at the box office and critics loved it as well.  Bridges earned was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, making this the only film by Carpenter to receive an Academy Award nomination.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge *yay*]

  • Born December 14, 1916 Shirley Jackson. First gained public attention for her short story “The Lottery, or, The Adventures of James Harris” but it was her The Haunting of Hill House novel which has been made her legendary as a horror novelist as it’s truly a chilling ghost story.  I see that’s she wrote quite a bit of genre short fiction — has anyone here read it? (Died 1965.)
  • Born December 14, 1920 Rosemary Sutcliff. English novelist whose best known for children’s books, particularly her historical fiction which involved retellings of myths and legends, Arthurian and otherwise. Digging into my memory, I remember reading The Chronicles of Robin Hood which was her first published novel and rather good; The Eagle of the Ninth is set in Roman Britain and was an equally fine read. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 14, 1929 Christopher Plummer, 90. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does. That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly no one saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time.  Now Dreamscape was fun and well received.   Skipping now to General Chang in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang.  I see he’s in Twelve Monkeys which I’m not a fan of and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. 
  • Born December 14, 1960 Don Franklin, 59. He’s best known for his roles in seaQuest DSV as Commander Jonathan Ford, Seven Days as Captain Craig Donovan, and as one of The Young Riders  as Noah Dixon. No, the last isn’t remotely genre but it was a great role.
  • Born December 14, 1964 Rebecca Gibney, 55. She was in Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, and was also in King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes mini-series. She also had one-offs in Time Trax, Farscape and The Lost World, all of which were produced either in Australia or New Zealand, convenient as she’s New Zealand born and resident.
  • Born December 14, 1965 Theodore Raimi, 54. Though he’s known for being in whatever his brother Sam Raimi has done including a fake Shemp in The Evil Dead, a possessed Henrietta in Evil Dead II, and Ted Hoffman in the Spider-Man film franchise, I remember rather him from him being Joxer on Hercules and Xena, a role I wasn’t that fond of. 
  • Born December 14, 1966 Sarah Zettel, 53. Her first novel, Reclamation, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award in 1996, and in 1997 tied for the Locus Award for the Best First Novel. Writing under the alias of C. L. Anderson, her novel Bitter Angels won the 2010 Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original novel. If you’ve not read her, I’d recommend her YA American Fairy Trilogy as a good place to start. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld goes Christmas shopping with a bookworm at The Guardian.

(10) SEQUELS. Mental Floss challenges “Can You Match the Classic Book to Its Not-So-Classic Sequel?”. I hit only 8 out of 14 of these. You’ll do much better.

(11) WALL TO WALL BOOKS. Brick bookshelves, but not the kind you may have had in your first apartment.“LEGO unveils its latest Creator Expert set, a 2,500-piece modular bookshop” – get the lowdown from 9to5toys.

While in the most recent few years LEGO has strayed from the theme’s roots with unique garage and diner builds, this year the company is going back to the basics for a delightful multistory bookstore. Comprised of 2,504 bricks, this model was inspired by houses in Amsterdam, bringing the European aesthetic into brick-built form in a distinct way.

Doubling down on the modular nature, this set features to independent buildings that can be rearranged throughout your city. Fittingly for this LEGO kit’s namesake, the bookstore is the larger of the two Creator Expert models. It sports a brick-like brown facade complemented by stonework accenting.

(12) GROOVE TUBE. “The London Underground’s logo gets an inspired redesign”FastCompany has photos.

London’s underground transit system, known as “The London Underground” or “The Tube,” started running in 1863. Its iconic symbol, a patriotically colored bar-and-circle roundel, was first plastered on the city’s subterranean walls in 1908 and has gone through several iterations since. Until now, each new draft of the logo has been a variation on the same theme—all solidly red and blue, with only slight changes to the proportions and weight of the letters. Recently, however, British-Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong has reimagined the traditional transit symbol to reflect the rich and diverse African diaspora that makes up roughly 44% of London’s population.

This large-scale logo redesign is a public commission from Art on the Underground, a visual arts showcase funded by Transport for London, which “seeks to consider the possibilities of alternate histories,” according to a statement. “Pan African Flag for the Relic Travellers’ Alliance” exists as a part of the showcase’s 2019 program “On Edge,” which encourages artists to create works that explore themes of unity, utopia, and belonging, inspired by the United Kingdom’s likely departure from the European Union…

(13) TRUE GRIT. Where else would you look for science fiction news than Men’sHealth? — “Oscar Isaac Says Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Movie Will Be ‘Shocking’ and ‘Nightmarish'”.

…Dune takes place on a desert planet called Arrakis, one of many feudal worlds ruled over by galactic stewards, and the only natural source of a highly valuable substance known as “spice.” Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) will also star as Isaac’s on-screen son Paul Atreides, while Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Fallout) will play his concubine Lady Jessica. The wider ensemble cast will include Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Josh Brolin (Endgame), Zendaya (Euphoria) and Jason Momoa (Aquaman).

“There are some things that are — for lack of a better word — nightmarish about what you see,” Isaac continued. “There’s just this kind of brutalist element to it. It’s shocking. It’s scary. It’s very visceral… And I know that definitely between Denis and myself and Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson as the family unit, we really searched for the emotion of it. I’m beyond myself with excitement. I think it’s good to feel cool, unique, and special.”

(14) HO HO HO. “Longleat Safari Park chipmunks sent hundreds of socks” – BBC explains why.

A wildlife park has been inundated after putting out an appeal for “chipmunk worthy socks” to help keep the rodents warm over Christmas.

The family of chipmunks at Longleat Safari Park, in Wiltshire, use the socks to nest in during the winter.

Following an appeal on Facebook, the park has received hundreds of pairs from as far afield as New Zealand.

Longleat’s Alexa Maultby said: “There’s now a sock mountain and we’re looking for other uses for them.”

(15) TOHO DID IT BETTER. — But they used effects: “Octopus and eagle square off at Canadian fish farm” (BBC video).

The duelling animals were found floating in the waters off Quatsino, British Columbia. Crews freed the bird from the clutches of the sea creature.

(16) FEAR ITSELF. FastCompany shares a flashback to the computer Armageddon writers warned about: “The weird, wonderful world of Y2K survival guides: A look back”.

For a brief period in the late 1990s, it was one of the busiest categories in book publishing.

As the decade wound down, more and more people became agitated about the Y2K bug—also known as the millennium bug and the year 2000 problem–which stemmed from programmers having conserved precious bytes by storing years as two digits. (For instance, “80” instead of “1980.”) When 1999 turned into 2000, aging software reliant on such space-saving dates wouldn’t be able to tell the new year from 1900. And that raised the specter of much of the code that ran the world failing—possibly, the theory went, in disastrous ways. Power grids might be knocked out. Banks could fail. Food shortages and mass unemployment might lead to riots. Any semblance of normalcy could take years to return.

Enter a profusion of books dedicated to helping people plan for this techno-doomsday….

(17) CLASSIC COVERS. See “The Avon Fantasy Reader Covers – A Gallery” at Darkworlds Quarterly.

The Avon Fantasy Reader was an important Pulp reprint anthology (taking its contents from Weird Tales, Thrilling Wonder, The Blue Book, Adventure and Wonder Stories) that ran for eighteen issues from 1946 to 1952. It had a Science Fiction companion that ran for three issues before both were combined into The Avon Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader for two more final issues. Edited by Donald A. Wolheim, it featured many Sword & Sorcery tales by Robert E. Howard and others. It also ran Cthulhu Mythos Horror and Space Opera style Science Fiction. For Complete Contents.

The covers for the series were also important, as they were some of the best Fantasy art to appear besides the original Pulps….

(18) BEHIND THE GOLD MASK. Bill Bradley, in “Anthony Daniels On That NSFW ‘Star Wars’ Image And Why He Wanted C-3PO To Die” on Huffington Post, has an interview with Daniels, who gives his thoughts on Baby Yoda, the naughty C-3PO trading card, and how he’s satisfied but of course can’t explain what happens to his character in Star Wars:  The Rise of Skywalker.

Since you were around when Yoda was originally created, what are your thoughts on Baby Yoda?

Ah, Baby Yoda. It had to happen. It had to happen just before Christmas. Baby Yoda is the thing, maybe the toy of the month, the year, whatever. Yoda is such an adored character created by Frank Oz, and obviously now we are looking back at origins.

Do we need a smaller wookiee? I don’t know. I love the inventiveness with “Star Wars,” the creative inventiveness that “Star Wars” has fostered over the years, whether it’s with the technicians or with fans. And of course, some of the fans now work on the movies because their abilities are so great. Baby Yoda is cute, gorgeous, but I would warn the public that Baby Yoda is not just for Christmas. It’s a responsibility.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Santa Claus” is an episode of Good Bad Flicks where they revist the 1959 classic Mexican film where Santa lives in a castle in outer space, has Merlin as his sidekick, and beats Satan by shooting him in the butt with a dart from a blow gun.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/12/19 Pixel Less, Scroll More

(1) CELEBRATING “BLOB FEST” THIS WEEKEND. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] This weekend, fans from all over the world will converge upon The Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania to commemorate the arrival upon our planet of a gelatinous intruder whose ravenous appetite inspired the birth of girth, and shamed The Cookie Monster into both seclusion and retirement. The historic theater, itself a performer in the classic Paramount release, plays host each Summer to “Blob Fest,” and will be the preferred destination for all self-respecting horror fans from Friday to Sunday, July 12th, 13th, and 14th.

Some years ago, I was invited by my beloved friend, Wes Shank, to his home to meet his nefarious tenant. Wes left us, sadly, a year ago … but his protege continues to mystify, charm, and entertain millions of adoring fans.

What follows is the link to a hopefully entertaining chronicle of one of my less successful show business associations…with one of filmdom’s “largest” screen personalities, and a creature that only Jenny Craig could love. Celebrating the sixty first anniversary of “The Blob.” — “How I Met… The Blob” at The Thunderchild.

(2) “HIGHLY CLASSIFIED” TV COMMERCIAL. Ad Astra comes to theaters September 20.

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.

(3) THE MAD MEN WHO SOLD THE MOON. FastCompany lines up “The best and worst ads that celebrated the Apollo 11 Moon landing”:

…The most interesting ad on July 21, 1969, came from Brillo steel-wool scrubbing pads. Brillo offered Times readers a poster-size color map of the Moon, from Rand McNally. The ad was a striking one-third of a page, showing the Moon, with a coupon. It was a typical late sixties promotion: Fill in your address and mail the coupon, with two “proofs of purchase” clipped from boxes of Brillo pads to get that map. “This map is only available from Brillo,” the ad touted. “Let Brillo send you the Moon. Free.”

Brillo, to be clear, had no connection to the Moon landings.

The advertising blossomed on the day after Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong successfully and safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. On that day, in fact, the ratio of news coverage to advertising in the New York Times completely reversed.

The paper itself was 88 pages that Friday, July 25, 1969. It contained 15 full-page ads about Apollo, and another half-dozen ads that were a half-page or bigger. In all, there were more than 22 pages of advertisements about the Moon landings. The coverage itself that day was only six pages.

(4) PREPPING FOR DUBLIN. The third in Anne-Louise Fortune’s series “What is Worldcon” aims to enlighten the YouTube generation. “Three Essential Elements” covers the business meeting and site selection, among other things.

(5) I AM NO MAN. Nicole Rudick reviews The Future Is Female anthology in “A Universe of One’s Own” at The New York Review of Books.

“Write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.” This was the challenge the influential science-fiction editor John Campbell famously issued his authors in the 1940s. It was aimed at producing aliens as fully formed as the interstellar human travelers who encounter them. Isaac Asimov thought the best example was a creature named Tweel from Stanley Weinbaum’s “A Martian Odyssey,” a story from 1934 that preceded the dictum. But the instruction also has the feel of a riddle, and neither Campbell nor Asimov considered its most obvious answer: a woman.

Three years before Weinbaum’s Martian adventure, Leslie F. Stone published “The Conquest of Gola” in the April 1931 issue of the science-fiction pulp magazine Wonder Stories. This was not Stone’s first published story, but it became her best known. Gola is a planet ruled by a gentle civilization of telepathic nonhumanoid females with movable eyes and sensory functions available on all parts of their round, golden-fur-covered bodies. The males of the planet are docile pleasure-consorts. Into this edenic world plunges a cadre of Earth men who desire “exploration and exploitation.” The queen rejects their plea for trade and tourism. She isn’t just dismissive of what she feels are the Earthlings’ barbarian mentality and low-grade intelligence; she simply can’t be bothered to take them seriously. “To think of mere man-things daring to attempt to force themselves upon us,” she says. “What is the universe coming to?” Rebuffed, the Earth men launch a full invasion; the Golans (who narrate the tale) obliterate them. End of story. A case study in thinking better than men but not like men.

“The Conquest of Gola” is one of the twenty-five SF tales written by women that are collected in the enjoyable new anthology The Future Is Female, edited by Lisa Yaszek…

(6) BEGGING THE QUESTION. BookRiot thinks readers should already know the answer: “So You Want To Bring Back Dystopian YA? Well, Here’s Why It Never Left”.

With the announcement of a prequel to Suzanne Collins’s popular young adult trilogy The Hunger Games, there has been a wealth of discourse on why it’s finally time to bring back dystopian YA. It’s a trend that dominated both the YA scene and the box office in the early 2010s, with the success of The Hunger Games seeing major film production companies competing in a fierce battle for the next big blockbuster hit.

…But what about the books? Is Suzanne Collins bringing back dystopian YA? Is the trend finally rising from the ashes, allowing us all to relive our best 2012 selves? Well, you can’t bring back something that never really left.

Despite the apparent decline of dystopian YA movies in Hollywood, a steady stream of young adult novels in recent years has kept the genre afloat for teens who still wanted to consume these stories outside of the adaptations.

Some of the most popular series, like An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, both written by authors of colour, were first published during the dystopian craze of the early 2010s, and subsequent books continue to be published without the marketing push that saw the likes of The Hunger Games and Divergent driven to success.

(7) FLAME OUT. At a Warner Bros. studio in the UK, fire claimed a set used in numerous genre productions: “Warner Bros Studios fire: Crews tackle blaze for 15 hours”.

Crews were called to the site in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, at 23:29 BST on Wednesday.

The fire service said the set involved was not being used at the time and there had been no reported injuries.

All eight Harry Potter films as well as other movies including James Bond, Fast and Furious and the Mission Impossible franchises have filmed at the studios.

The fire service confirmed shortly before 15:00 on Thursday the fire was out, although some crews remain at the scene.

A spokesman for Warner Bros said the fire had occurred on a sound stage being used for the television production Avenue 5, but all productions were able to continue working.

Avenue 5 is an HBO space tourism comedy by The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

July 12, 1969  — [Item by Steve Green.] Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek‘s debut on British television, where it occupied the Saturday afternoon slot on BBC1 traditionally occupied by Doctor Who. Unlike NBC and its US affiliates, the BBC opened with ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’, the second pilot and the first to feature William Shatner as James T Kirk. As one of those captivated viewers, this means July 12, 2019 is also the fiftieth anniversary of my becoming a Star Trek fan.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 12, 1895 Buckminster Fuller. Genre adjacent and I don’t believe that he actually wrote any SF though one could argue that Tetrascroll: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, A Cosmic Fairy Tale is sort of genre. You will find his terminology used frequently in genre fiction. (Died 1983.)
  • Born July 12, 1912 Joseph Mugnaini. An Italian born artist and illustrator. He is best known for his collaborations with writer Ray Bradbury, beginning in 1952. Through an amazing piece of serendipity, there’s an interview with him talking about working with Bradbury which you can listen to here. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 12, 1923 James E. Gunn, 96. H’h, what have I read by him? Well there’s The Joy Makers and Future Imperfect, not to mention The Magicians. I’m sure there’s more but those are the ones I fondly remember. Which ones do you recall reading? 
  • Born July 12, 1933 Donald E. Westlake. No, I didn’t know he did genre but ISFDB says he, hence this Birthday note. Transylvania Station by him and wife is based on Mohonk Mountain House-sponsored vampire hunting mystery role-playing weekend. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 12, 1945 James D. Allan, 74. A rather prolific writer and author on the subject of Tolkien linguistics. He is primarily known for his book, An Introduction to Elvish. His most recent contribution to the field is “Gandalf and the Merlin of the Arthurian Romances”, published in Tolkien Society’s Amon Hen number 251. 
  • Born July 12, 1946 Charles R. Saunders,73. African-American author and journalist currently living in Canada, much of his fiction is set in the fictional continent Nyumbani (which means “home” in Swahili). His main series is is the Imaro novels which he claims are the first sword and sorcery series by a black writer.
  • Born July 12, 1970 Phil Jimenez, 49. Comics illustrator and writer. He was the main artist of Infinite Crisis, a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths. He also did the awesome first issue of Planetary/Authority: Ruling the World, and was responsible for the first six issues of Fables spin-off, Fairest.
  • Born July 12, 1976 Anna Friel, 43. Her best remembered genre role is as played Charlotte “Chuck” Charles on Pushing Daisies, but she’s been Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Elizabeth Bonny in Neverland, not to mention Lady Claire in Timeline, an SF virtually no one has heard of. 
  • Born July 12, 1976 Gwenda Bond,  43. Her Blackwood novel won a Locus Award for Best First Novel. (Strange Alchemy is the sequel.) She written three novels featuring DC character Lois Lane, and her Cirque American series with its magic realism looks interesting. She also wrote the “Dear Aunt Gwenda” column in the Lady Churchill’s Robot* Wristlet chapbooks that Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link did for awhile over at Small Beer Press. 

(10) RESISTANCE ON HOLD. Hugo Martin, in “Disneyland delays 2nd ride at Star Wars land” at the LA Times, says “Rise of the Resistance will open Jan. 17 instead of this year.”

The Anaheim theme park had previously said the Rise of the Resistance ride would launch this year.

The ride is designed to put parkgoers in the middle of a fierce battle between resistance fighters and the evil forces of the First Order. An identical ride will open in December at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge , the largest expansion in the park’s history, opened May 31 with only one ride in operation, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run…

Bob Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney Co., had previously promised Disney fans that Rise of the Resistance would open in 2019.

Instead, Disney said on its website Thursday that the much-anticipated Rise of the Resistance will open first at the Florida park before the Christmas holiday vacation and then at Disneyland in January, when families will have returned to work and school after the winter break.

Disney’s website suggested that the California attraction would open later than the one in Florida because Disney engineers and ride developers can open only one ride at a time…

(11) JAPAN SCORES TOUCHDOWN. “Hayabusa-2: Japanese spacecraft makes final touchdown on asteroid” – BBC has the story.

A Japanese spacecraft has touched down on a faraway asteroid, where it will collect space rock that may hold clues to how the Solar System evolved.

The successful contact with the Ryugu asteroid was met with relief and cheering in the control room at Japan’s space agency, JAXA.

It is the second touchdown for the robotic Hayabusa-2 craft, which grabbed rocks from the asteroid in February….

(12) TRUE ACCOUNTABILITY. Somebody had to say it.

(13) TEA OR TOR. Bonnie McDaniel takes her turn at reviewing the lot: “Hugo Reading 2019: Best Novella”.

The novella (17,500-40,000 words) has had something of a resurgence in recent years, mainly due to Tor’s excellent novella line. (I know the ones I’ve bought are taking up nearly a full shelf in one of my bookcases.) This time around, five of the six nominees are from Tor; the only exception (Aliette de Bodard’s The Tea Master and the Detective) was published by Subterranean, a niche publisher that puts out lovely limited collectible editions. (Which also take up a not-inconsiderable amount of my own shelf space.) For a lot of stories, the novella is the perfect length, and I’m glad to see its growing popularity.

(14) AREA CODE. CNN reports “Thousands of people have taken a Facebook pledge to storm Area 51 to ‘see them aliens'”.

Stretch those quads and prep that tinfoil hat!

Over 300,000 people have signed on to a Facebook event pledging to raid Area 51 in Nevada in a quest to “see them aliens.”

The event, titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” is inviting users from around the world to join a “Naruto run” — a Japanese manga-inspired running style featuring arms outstretched backwards and heads forward — into the area.

“We can move faster than their bullets,” the event page, which is clearly written with tongue in cheek, promises those who RSVP for September 20.

(15) INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY. It only takes one.

(16) CRAWL VARMINT, CRAWL ON YOUR BELLY LIKE A REPTILE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is this movie—about oversized alligators terrorizing people trapped in a crawlspace during a massive storm—genre? Well, it is horror of a sort, perhaps only one or two steps removed from movies about shark-filled tornadoes.

Having seen a TV advert for Crawl, I absolutely knew I would never want to go see the movie in a  theater (though YMMV). On the other hand, the review itself is a hoot: The Hollywood Reporter: “’Crawl’: Film Review”

No sensible person goes to see a movie about killer alligators and then complains that it was silly and over the top. So it’s puzzling that Paramount would refuse to hold critics’ screenings for Alexandre Aja’s Crawl, a film that, despite some ludicrous action scenes and risible dialogue, might well have been helped more than harmed, on the whole, by reviews. After all, not every Snakes on a Flesh-Eating Sharknado delivers on its schlocky promises, and savvy consumers like to be told they won’t get burned this time. Consider this a measured endorsement for the kind of action-packed B picture where Serbia stands in for coastal Florida, and nobody notices, and they wouldn’t care if they did.

(17) KEEPING UP WITH THE PHILISTINES. In Science Advances, “Ancient DNA reveals the roots of the Biblical Philistines”. “The Philistines appear repeatedly in the Bible, but their origins have long been mysterious. Now genetic evidence suggests that this ancient people trace some of their ancestry west all the way to Europe.”

The ancient Mediterranean port city of Ashkelon, identified as “Philistine” during the Iron Age, underwent a marked cultural change between the Late Bronze and the early Iron Age. It has been long debated whether this change was driven by a substantial movement of people, possibly linked to a larger migration of the so-called “Sea Peoples.” Here, we report genome-wide data of 10 Bronze and Iron Age individuals from Ashkelon. We find that the early Iron Age population was genetically distinct due to a European-related admixture. This genetic signal is no longer detectible in the later Iron Age population. Our results support that a migration event occurred during the Bronze to Iron Age transition in Ashkelon but did not leave a long-lasting genetic signature.

(18) ON STRIKES. For your edification, ScreenRant screens the “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back Pitch Meeting.”

Empire Strikes Back is known not only as one of the best Star Wars movies, but one of the best sequels of all time. Despite it’s amazing reputation it still raises a few questions. Like how did that Wampa freeze Luke’s feet to a cave ceiling? Why was Yoda making him do so many flips? What’s up with the AT-AT strategy on Hoth? Why did Leia kiss Luke? To answer all these questions and more, step inside the pitch meeting that led to The Empire Strikes Back!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Dann, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Doug.]